Xie An made a gesture, meaning to let Chen Xing speak. If Chen Xing wanted to prove his point of view, he needed to offer a strong argument to convince the masses.
“In my humble opinion.” After Chen Xing finished the last bit of tea in front of him, he said seriously, “Those who possess a Heart are human.”
All the scholars hissed in scorn, but after doing so, they suddenly fell silent again. No one was able to refute him.
Because the word “Heart” was a concept that was rather complicated to explain. Mencius once said,
“Fish is something I desire. Bear paw is also something I desire”, and cited the willingness to “sacrifice one’s life over principles” within as an example of Heart. However, according to what Chen Xing said, it was evident that the range this phrase encompassed was wider than what can be found in Confucianism.
“How would you explain the term ‘Heart’?” someone else said. “Are we going to start discussing that now? The wheel has come full circle, we’re just going around in circles, how...”
“No,” Chen Xing said. “The heart that distinguishes right from wrong, the resolution that remains unwavering in the face of outside pressure, a clear conscience not concealed behind selfish desires, an unfettered freedom, an innocent disposition that remains unswayed as it walks alone...”
After speaking up to this point, Chen Xing inadvertently glanced at Xiang Shu and realised that Xiang Shu had his attention focused on him from the start. When their gazes met for a brief moment, both of them looked away in awkwardness. Chen Xing almost forgot what he was about to say next.
“...En, so, it’s things like this that I can’t list out in detail right now. Everyone has read about it in books, so I won’t say more than what is necessary. It’s very difficult to outline clearly what ‘Heart’ means, but I believe everyone understands in your hearts, what ‘Heart’ is, that is, what is dictated by one’s Heart.”
“And thus, the problem arises,” Xie Xuan said. “So those who have lost their Heart can’t be considered human?”
“Of course.” Chen Xing smiled. From the corner of his eyes, he realised that Xiang Shu was still looking at him, so he could only pretend he hadn’t seen that. “When we castigate others for ‘being no different from animals’ or ‘you’re inhumane’, we shouldn’t have been saying that in jest, right?”
A young one from the Wang family spoke up, “So children who have not yet started schooling can’t be considered human? If that is so, I don’t agree.”
Chen Xing retorted with a question, “Who said children have no Heart? How would you explain the saying ‘simple and naive’? One’s Heart is like the bright lamp in one’s heart; what’s supposed to exist, will exist.”
“When the world descends into chaos,” someone else chimed in, “oftentimes there will be parents who exchange their children for food, and there will be those who acknowledge bandits as their fathers, can you say they’re not human? From what I can see, it’s merely that there are some who are kind by nature, while there are others who are innately evil.”
Chen Xing continued, “Those who are born evil, I think, even if I didn’t mention it, everyone would’ve already not considered them human, right?”
“What if, after one loses their Heart, they give up on evil and return to being kind?” Another young Xie member asked.
Chen Xing, “If you guys can forgive this person, then of course, boundless is the sea of bitterness, yet a man who repents can still reach the shore nearby, so they can be considered human again. That’s the so-called ‘customary convention’, right? That’s the way of defining ‘human’ through ‘Heart’.”
“So, with a Heart as proof of being human, one would be able to recognise a human from a distance. My brother here, Shulü Kong, has always been able to clearly distinguish right from wrong and has upheld righteous principles. He has never killed innocent people, let alone bore any enmity towards the Han. Amongst the Hu, there are those who would wantonly kill the innocent in order to satisfy their cruel desires, but there are also those who are benevolent, who would save their country and people. Otherwise, why would he follow me all the way to Jiankang, just to suffer from your frigid irony and scorching satire?”
After making such a big round, at last Chen Xing returned to the main problem at hand. He smiled as he looked at Xiang Shu. At this moment, Xiang Shu finally stopped avoiding him, yet his expression now seemed a little complex.
Everyone’s hostility towards Xiang Shu had been washed away quite a bit. Plus, after being tugged here and there by Chen Xing, they all felt a little dizzy now and didn’t know what to say. After a long bout of awkwardness, it was the host, Xie An, who broke the silence with a cough.
“It is pretty late now,” Xie An said. “Why don’t we… continue this discussion another day?”
“Okay, okay.” Everyone wiped their sweat away. Seeing how calm and composed Chen Xing was while talking, if they gave him a table and a folding fan, they could probably continue talking until dawn of the next day, so they quickly dismounted their donkeys with the help of a slope and left one after another as the host thanked his guests.
Chen Xing quickly shot a glance at Xie An, signalling that he could wrap things up. Otherwise, after the guests left, they could snap out of their daze and come back in to continue their debate. He wouldn’t be able to ward them off then.
Xie An shot a glance back at Chen Xing, signalling for him to follow him to the study. Chen Xing glanced at Xiang Shu. Xiang Shu looked just like usual. Chen Xing had expected him to praise him, but Xiang Shu just looked as indifferent as ever, so he asked with resentment, “How was it?”
“I’m sleepy from all your talking,” Xiang Shu answered.
Chen Xing, “...”
In the study.
The words ‘thank goodness’ were evident on Xie An’s face. His gaze was fixed on Chen Xing, then he started loosening his robes and undressed. He took off his jade pendant and threw it aside. Dressed in only an unlined garment, he removed his shoes and socks before plopping down on the couch in the study, then picked up a pot and drank from it straight.
“Light intellectual conversation,” Xie An casually uttered. “The only thing they do all day is engage in light intellectual conversation, such a useless bunch!”
Chen Xing: “....”
“What are you in a daze for?” Xie An saw that Chen Xing and Xiang Shu were still standing in the study, so he said, “Sit ah! What do you want to eat for dinner? I’ll have them roast a pig and deliver it here?”
Chen Xing, “Uh...um...did I cause you trouble? Secretariat Xie?”
“Should be Secretariat Supervisor now.” Xie An cried bitterly, “Little Shidi, you’re really not easy to deal with. Never mind, let’s not mention that. How’s the situation? We have the time to properly talk about it now.”
Chen Xing held his forehead with one hand. “Lord Xie, uh, I thought about it really hard, but the two of us don’t seem to be fellow disciples.”
Xie An got up and said, “Last time I went to Mt. Hua and acknowledged Chivalrous Baili as my teacher, I made sufficient preparations after my return. Look, in all these years, I went around inquiring and was finally rewarded by the Heavens--”
Then Xie An turned around and pushed the shelf in the study to one side. With a "whoosh", shelves in a dark square appeared. The shelves were full of precious sabres and swords, bottles, jars, jade pendants, rings, and all 18 types of weapons could be found there. Chen Xing almost fainted at the sight.
Xiang Shu frowned. “What’s this?”
In all seriousness, Xie An replied, “After Baili Shifu exhorted me, these are the magical artifacts I exhausted all of my power in this lifetime to find for the Exorcists’ great undertaking.”
Chen Xing, “……………………”
Xie An motioned to Chen Xing. “Shidi, why don’t you come examine them?”
Chen Xing, “L...let me calm down for a bit.”
Xiang Shu walked over to the dark square shelves and picked up a halberd, scrutinising it.
Chen Xing said, “You should have mentioned this earlier! Why invite all those scholars over for tea and a ‘light intellectual discussion’? All it did was tire me out, couldn’t you have just brought us to the study for a proper talk?”
Xie An responded helplessly, “You don’t know this, but the descendents of the upper-class in Jiankang City now only play up to those in power. If I don’t hold a reception for you, who would know of your name? Now see, after all that has happened today, the Emperor will definitely summon you in a few days. Won;t your name then be spread far and wide by then on its own?”
“Lord Xie!” Someone outside informed, “Lord Wang is here.”
Xie An quickly threw his robes on, closed the cabinet, and after tidying up, looked like how he did before. “Come in.”
It was Wang Xizhi who had come, so Xie An smiled politely and nodded. “I’m having a nice chat with my little Shidi here.”
Wang Xizhi was holding a document in hand as he smiled. “Qingming festival will be held in a few days. I would like to invite little brother Tianchi and Brother Xie to Nanping Mountains for a spring hike. After writing this invitation, I thought that sending someone to deliver it would be too impolite, so I thought it would be better if I came down in person to express my sincerity.”
“Good, good,” Xie An said with a smile.
Chen Xing quickly saw Wang Xizhi off and closed the door to the study. Xie An removed his robes again and sat back down on the couch, asking, “Where were we?”
Xiang Shu, “To be so different in public and private, don’t you feel tired?”
“I am!” Xie An said in earnest. “But I can’t help it. The imperial court is filled with civil and martial officials who only know of effete language without substance and how to look pretty, so what else can I do?”
Chen Xing, “It shouldn’t be that bad?!”
Xie An pointed to the north. “Fu Jian’s about to cross Yangtze River. Everyone’s in danger now, what do you think?”
“That won’t happen so soon,” Chen Xing said. “He’s too busy with his own affairs… but Brother Xie, you...”
Chen Xing looked Xie An up and down before sitting down by the side as well. He explained, “So it’s like this...”
Chen Xing narrated the course of events in Chang’an and Chi Le Chuan. Xie An listened quietly, then nodded after he was done and sighed. “I actually didn’t get to witness such a scene!”
“You’re fortunate for not having had to witness it, okay?!” Chen Xing turned frantic. “If something like that happens in Jiankang, everything’s over!”
Xie An pondered over it, then seemed to make up his mind in the end. “Staying in Jiankang isn’t a good makeshift strategem. The day I received your letter, little Shidi, I was considering whether to just cut the hemp knot right away and be done with it. I’ll resign right now and follow you to...”
“Stop!” Chen Xing interrupted. “Don’t even think about it! Shixiong, you’re over forty! I don’t know what Shifu said to you. I’ll leave aside the problem of whether this body of yours can fight yaos, the key now is that silence has fallen on all magic, so it’s impossible to train as an exorcist!”
Xie An said sternly, “Can you let Shixiong see your Heart Lamp?”
Xiang Shu was speechless as he faced Xie An. Chen Xing could only light up his Heart Lamp. Xie An was instantly lost in a daze as he stared at Chen Xing’s hand and held his wrist.
“Lord Xie!” The housekeeper outside informed again, “Another guest has come who wants to visit...”
Chen Xing kept the Heart Lamp. Xie An immediately tidied himself up and opened the door. “Who is it?”
The housekeeper glanced at Chen Xing, then lowered his voice to whisper to Xie An.
Xie An amicably said, “I have no money, please ask him to go back.”
“Let me take another look?” After the housekeeper left, Xie An turned back to Chen Xing and asked in earnest.
Chen Xing, with no expression on his face, lit up the Heart Lamp again to let Xie An study it as he pleased.
“So this is magic,” Xie An exclaimed. “This is magic that can move mountains, fill seas, and switch out the day in secret!”
“I would also like to move mountains, fill seas, and switch out the day in secret,” Chen Xing said. “Why don’t you tell me, Shixiong, other than finding water to drink in the middle of the night, what other use does this Heart Lamp have?”
“There must be,” Xie An said. “This is truly a miracle on earth!”
“Enough!” Chen Xing said, “Why don’t you come save the world from its demise and go eliminate Chiyou! I don’t even want to be an exorcist! Why do you want to be one so fervently...”
Xie An pulled Chen Xing over to see a shelf filled with his collection. “Slowly look over these first, see if what I found is of use. In the time to come, the two of us can study them slowly.”
Chen Xing faced the shelves full of books and ornaments. Most of them were useless antiques, but there were one or two that looked like magical artifacts, but it was just that Chen Xing couldn’t tell which era they came from.
Suddenly, he saw a bamboo slip. It was the slip missing from the Exorcism Department in Chang’an’s mirror world - even the way it was tied together was the same.
Chen Xing unfolded the slip, and saw the first column of words written on the left: Exorcise and kill yaos, Budong Rushan.
Zryuu: SORRY FOR THE DELAY!! This chapter gave me nightmares-
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Caro.