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Xiang Shu glanced at Xie An. Chen Xing then said with a casual smile, “Although Fu Jian does govern Chang’an quite well, it still falls short in comparison to Jiankang.”
How could it just be considered ‘short’? Chang’an wouldn’t even be able to catch up with Jiankang even if it urged its horse to gallop at full speed. Fu Jian’s disadvantage resulted because the previous few Northern monarchs. Liu Yuan, Ran Min, Shi Chong, and the rest had killed too many people and chased all the Hans away. As a result, Chang’an was destitute when he took over, so could only build it up from scratch.
Chen Xing explained a little, meaning to say that Xie An’s identity was not that of an exorcist. Xiang Shu didn’t respond and just shifted his gaze to the houses by the street. One of the rows along the way had hundreds of large houses that were a lot more impressive than Tuoba Yan’s house in Chang’an.
Chen Xing felt like the buildings in Jiankang were much more luxurious than Chang’an as well, so he asked, “What is this place?”
“I don’t know,” Xie An casually replied. “These are houses belonging to those who are less well-off, please don’t mind it. We live in Wuyi Lane.”
Chen Xing, “...”
Xiang Shu, "......"
Xie An was over forty, but he was very well-maintained. A few wisps of beard hung from his chin, and he carried an ancient jade pendant tied at his waist. Unlike the excessive Hu who liked to hang all sorts of accessories over their bodies, everything on him seemed to be just right. He would always smile while engaging in discourse as well. Usually, when men reached his age and still bore the temperament of a twenty or thirty-year-old, they could only rely on two things if they still wanted to be young and handsome: studying and money.
“I’m mute,” Xiang Shu said coldly.
Just when Chen Xing was feeling awkward, Xie An suddenly burst out laughing. He seemed as if he wanted to pat Xiang Shu’s shoulder, but he paid special attention to not touch his body, then said with a smile, “Great music has the faintest notes, and a man of great wisdom often appears slow-witted. These are the principles of the world.”
Chen Xing looked at Xie An’s movements and knew that Xie An realised that Xiang Shu was a Hu. Hu men didn’t like being touched on their shoulders. Immediately after, Xie An seemed to fall deep into thought. He glanced at Chen Xing, his gaze deep and abstruse.
“Xiang Shu is my Protector,” Chen Xing explained.
“Looks like your journey has been very smooth,” Xie An said approvingly.
“Sort of, I guess.” Chen Xing didn’t know if he should cry or laugh and said, “This really fits the saying, ‘life is too short, it’s a long story’...”
Xie An continued, “Shixiong’s guessing that you probably have to linger for quite awhile in Jiankang, so take your time in recounting the tale, don’t worry. Come, we’ve arrived, let’s hold a welcome reception for you first!”
The carriage had arrived outside Wuyi Lane, only to see that the door was very small. Its lintel was a half-zhang long jade from Mount Kun. On the vermillion door were two “xie” characters, which were written in a straight and elegant manner. Chen Xing couldn’t help exclaiming in admiration. Xie An then turned around while smiling and said, “Youjun? My Shidi is praising you for your beautiful handwriting.”
Following behind Xie An was the person who wrote the words for Xie An, called Wang Xizhi. He immediately clasped his hands together to modestly decline the flattery, then said, “I’ll go home for a change of clothes first. I’ll come over later for tea.”
The Wang residence was located right opposite the Xie residence. Chen Xing cheerfully entered the Xie An. Xie An had assumed an official position in the imperial court and had purchased this residence himself, so he didn’t stay with the rest of the Xie family. The scholars who had welcomed him entered the Xie residence in an orderly manner. The door wasn’t big, but after entering, it became very spacious. It had everything, from pavillions to ponds and rockery. The main part of the residence occupied an area of several mu. One would not have been able to tell that there was so much space beyond a small door.
Xie An first arranged rooms for Chen Xing and Xiang Shu to rest in, then he invited him to have tea in the main hall.
Xiang Shu surveyed his surroundings. Chen Xing came over and knocked on the door.
“The two of you are very familiar with each other?” Xiang Shu asked with a frown.
“No,” Chen Xing admitted with a smile. He knew what Xiang Shu was thinking -- for him to offer such warm hospitality, he must be scheming something and after connecting it to what Chen Xing had experienced in Chang’an, Xiang Shu would have to be somewhat on guard.
Chen Xing explained, “When I was studying in Mt. Hua, he came to visit once. He had also mentioned that if any need arises, he would be willing to support us in any way he can.”
Chen Xing once saw Xie An talk to his Shifu. After that, he heard from his Shifu that Xie An had personally gone to their doorstep to find him. This man had always liked roaming about in the mountains and forests and visiting famous rivers and mountains. He was also filled with yearning for strange legends like cultivating, flying on swords, and capturing yaos.
Regrettably, Xie An was not from an exorcist family. After the Silence of All Magic, there was no more mana in the world, and a lot of exorcism stories turned into legends. His great undertaking of searching for cultivators in seclusion had grown more and more impossible as he grew older, but fortunately one day, he found Mt. Hua.
Originally, with the enthusiasm of wanting to become an exorcist, Xie An expressed his willingness to do all he could to support the restoration of the Exorcism Department to Chen Xing’s Shifu.
Before Chen Xing descended the mountain, his Shifu wrote a letter, which obtained Xie An’s support very quickly. Not only that, but when he and his Shifu were cultivating in Mt. Hua, what they usually ate or used in their daily lives required money. Chen Xing’s Shifu was called Baili Lun, and he said that he was an assassin who was the recipient of the Chen family’s grace. But assassins ma, how could they farm and till the land? They could only kill corrupt officials once in awhile for the common people, which wouldn’t earn them a lot, so he ended up racking up a considerable debt instead.
Xie An came to visit once, and after learning that Baili Lun and Chen Xing were hard pressed for money, he dipped into his own pockets and paid off their debts without saying a word, and there was even a lot left over. After that, Shifu even praised Chen Xing a lot, but also added that Iuppiter entering his fate was truly exceptional, so it left a very deep impression on Chen Xing, and he remembered that Xie An had given his Shifu 3000 taels of silver.
Xiang Shu, “He wants to become an exorcist?”
Chen Xing said, “It’s a beautiful kind of yearning, I guess? That one would have when they’re young, like wanting to be chivalrous, fly around on swords, not be tied down by the secular world, capture and exorcise yaos, and fight against injustice.”
After Chen Xing was reminded by Xiang Shu about this, he thought that Xie An was a little overly enthusiastic as well. But he had nothing worth Xie An scheming for. If Xie An was part of Shi Hai’s group, since he knew who his Shifu was and where their sect was located, he could have plotted against him long ago and needn’t have had to wait until now.
“Let’s go ba.” Chen Xing now felt a little suspicious as well after hearing Xiang Shu, so he could only say, “We can only see what he says.”
The scholars in the hall have already been waiting for Chen Xing long ago. After the two of them settled down, Xie An first introduced his nephew Xie Xuan, followed by Wang Xizhi and the sons and nephews in the Wang family. With so many people coming up to him all of a sudden, Chen Xing couldn’t remember who was who and could only greet them one by one politely. The host raised his cup of tea, and everyone else started having tea. The tea was served in a large bowl, yet you could practically see the bottom of the bowl. On the side was a small snack served with the tea.
Chen Xing thought that Xiang Shu was probably cursing inwardly that the Han served such a small cup of tea that wouldn’t even suffice for one gulp.
After everyone had tea, they started socialising. Chen Xing first talked about his sect and Shifu, then everyone focused on Xiang Shu again.
“May I know...what’s the name of this beautiful man?”
People in the world have always judged others by their appearances. From the moment Chen Xing came ashore, people have been sneaking glances at Xiang Shu from time to time. Along the way, no matter if they were men, women, old or young, everyone couldn’t help sparing him a few more glances.
The younger generation of the Wang and Xie family saw how handsome Xiang Shu looked and the big sword on his back, which made him look like a chivalrous swordsman, so they naturally formed a favourable impression of him and wanted to ingratiate themselves with him. However, Xiang Shu has always been sitting next to Xie An, so it wasn’t convenient to do so. They kept trying to send him signals through their gazes, but Xiang Shu just treated it as if he didn’t see it. Presently, it was finally time for Chen Xing to formally introduce him, so everyone sat up right and still and smiled at Xiang Shu.
“He’s my...” Chen Xing saw that Xiang Shu didn’t seem to have the slightest intention of speaking, so he could only introduce him on his behalf. He had wanted to fabricate an origin for him, explaining “He’s my Protector, from the Xiang family in Kuaiji”. But when he was about to say it, he stopped for some reason. He recalled how Xiang Shu had mentioned his concerns about his background, and in this respect, Chen Xing felt like he understood what Xiang Shu thought. Thus, he respected his wishes and changed his words, “He’s my Hu friend, surname ‘Shulü’, name ‘Kong’. From under Chi Le Chuan’s Tiele tribe.”
The entire hall fell silent in an instant. Xiang Shu was a little surprised and glanced at Chen Xing, but there seemed to be a hint of a smile in his eyes. His lips moved slightly, and he mouthed something. Chen Xing understood -- he was mouthing the words “thank you”.
When Xie An heard that, he knew that it wasn’t good and quickly shot a glance at Chen Xing. As of now, the Hu and Han still bore great enmity against each other. The scholars of Yangtze River hated the Hu war prisoners of the North so much that they could feed on their flesh and sleep on their skin, yet Chen Xing poked stabbed right through the hornet’s nest once he was here? How could that be anything good?
Sure enough, the silence only lasted for about three breaths before the hall broke out into an uproar.
“How did a Hu get in? And he’s a Tiele too?”
“Report him! Report him to the officials now!!”
Xiang Shu frowned slightly and looked at Chen Xing. With his right hand on the hilt of his sword, he swept a glance through the hall. Someone looked as if they had been greatly humiliated and got up, wanting to leave. But there were also people who just frowned slightly as they didn’t mind the fight between the Hu and Han that much, and just wanted to see how Chen Xing would resolve the crisis he was facing.
Chen Xing didn’t expect that everyone’s reactions would be so much more intense than he had imagined. He immediately smacked his palm on the table and said, “Wait! Everyone, please stop!”
The scholars had already stood up. A flurry of thoughts sped through Xie An’s mind, and just when he was about to step in to persuade, he saw that Chen Xing took the initiative to speak, so he stopped.
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Caro.