"My family’s Protector is really strong!"
Editor(s): Amelea, Juurensha
Within an instant, Xiang Shu grabbed the bag of gold ingots from the counter, but Chen Xing had already run outside.
A group of soldiers just so happened to pass by outside. There were a lot of refugees, and their most pressing concern was people taking advantage of the chaos in the city to start looting. With this one shout from Chen Xing, dozens of people immediately blocked the entrance to the bank until not even a drop of water could trickle through. Meanwhile, the instigator, Chen Xing, had already strode away quickly to hide in the opposite alley.
Wait, no! Chen Xing suddenly remembered a grave issue -- that guy seems to be a devil who could kill without even blinking an eye! Wouldn’t causing such a din get those Jin soldiers killed?
Yet Xiang Shu remained calm and unperturbed as he came out with a bag of gold ingots. He was immediately surrounded by the Jin soldiers; everyone nocked their bows, denounced him indignantly, and asked Xiang Shu to put down the money he had stolen.
Chen Xing thought as he hid in the alley, please don’t kill those soldiers, and also resolved that if Xiang Shu really started fighting and killed someone in front of his eyes, he wouldn’t use this Protector no matter what.
“Hey.” A voice suddenly rang out behind him, “Do you know how many people died because of Dongzhe Bank Joint Venture’s greed for wealth? Why are you being such a busybody?”
Chen Xing abruptly looked back and realised that a tall and solidly built man was standing behind him; he wore a bamboo hat that covered most of his face, and a knife scar was visible amidst the untidy stubble on his slim side profile. His hands were hidden in his sleeves as he leaned against a wall in the alley, and his attention had apparently been drawn as well.
Chen Xing didn’t answer and just looked back. There were more and more soldiers now. They all had their bows nocked as they pointed them at Xiang Shu, who stood at the entrance of the bank. If the commander gave the order, all of them would release their arrows, and Xiang Chu would be pierced by so many arrows that he would turn into a sieve on the spot. He couldn’t help but worry about Xiang Shu’s safety.
However, all he saw was Xiang Shu whistling once. The commander had threatened him several times, but it was all useless. Just as he was about to order the soldiers to release their arrows, Xiang Shu shook the bundle in his hands, and within an instant, gold blotted out the sky as they flew out with a whoosh; with the strength of meteors, the golden bullets glimmered brightly as they rained down on people who screamed tragically. Xiang Shu flipped onto the warhorse that had rushed over from a long street, and without so much as a glance, flicked his wrist at Chen Xing, who was hiding in the alley.
Using hidden weapons, mounting the horse, and swiftly taking Chen Xing down all happened in such a fleeting instant; Chen Xing was still thinking, my family’s Protector is really strong! His reaction was delayed for a moment, and right when a gold ingot was right in front of his face and about to knock him unconscious, the martial expert next to him wearing a bamboo hat suddenly threw his hand out, whipping out a dark and heavy iron wine bowl and caught the gold ingot in it with a clang. It buzzed as it rotated around the bowl for half a day.
Chen Xing, “Wait!”
Chen Xing ran out of the alley to give chase, but Xiang Shu had ridden the horse away and left in the blink of an eye. No trace of him could be seen anymore. People who were looting the gold ingots streamed in as he passed through, and the intersection was so crowded that not even a drop of water could trickle through. On the other hand, the soldiers all had their heads struck by the golden rain and lay sprawled on the ground unconscious.
Chen Xing gritted his teeth, but he was unable to do anything about this new Protector of his; he couldn’t best him in a fight or catch up to him, so what else could he do?
“Your enemy?” The martial expert walked out of the alley, grasping the wine bowl in his hand. He motioned for Chen Xing to retrieve the gold. Chen Xing just waved his hand, so the martial expert said, “You don’t even want gold? I’ll take it then.”
Chen Xing has never had the habit of saving money. In any case, just by relying on how Iuppiter was in his fate, he was so lucky that even he couldn’t believe it himself. Whenever he lacked money, the heavens would naturally bestow him with some to spend and wouldn’t allow him starve to death. So he nodded at the martial expert and thanked him for his help, then went into the bank by himself. The martial expert stroked his cheek, revealing half of his unkempt and handsome face. He chuckled before heading to the government office in Mai City.
At noon, a new, white notice appeared outside the government office: Wanted: Robber to be Captured Across the Seven Seas. A description of Xiang Shu’s attire and appearance could be found on the notice; to the one who catches the culprit, Dongzhe Joint Venture will give a reward of 50 taels.
When Chen Xing went to the authorities to obtain the customs clearance document and saw that his Protector had become a wanted criminal once again, he felt rather conflicted. His medicine bag and travel expenses had all been snatched by Xiang Shu, and he didn’t have much in the first place, so did he rob the bank for travel expenses? Where was he planning to go? From the looks of it, he was heading north. Does he want to return to his tribe?”
“You can’t head north!” The official instructed, “All the roads have been sealed. Next!’
Chen Xing, “I have to go to Chang’an no matter what. Here are the documents issued by Lord Xie An of the Ministry of Official Personnel Affairs, could I trouble you to please do me this favour?”
“It’s not that I won’t let you go,” The official said, “Xiangyang City has fallen, won’t you just die if you head north?”
“There is a plank road in Mt. Longzhong to the west of Xiangyang City.” A man’s voice rang out from behind, “After leaving the mountains, keep heading north, leave Xingzhou, pass through the Wu pass, and you’ll be able to enter the Central Plains. If you head northwest from there, you’ll be able to reach Chang’an.”
Chen Xing looked back and saw that it was the strong man wearing the bamboo hat again. The strong man bowed down slightly to look at him; his bamboo hat shielded his face from the sun, so Chen Xing wasn’t able to see his face clearly.
The official pursed his lips, then signalled for the two of them to look at the white notice posted in the government office’s courtyard——
“In Mt. Longzhong, a thousand-year-old tomb has been plundered and excavated. The thieves have occupied the mountain and are wreaking havoc there, so the plank road is currently impassable. To those journeying through Xingzhou Jianghu, we request for people of great insight to excise thieves.”
The official said, “Just two days ago, a team of people were dispatched to investigate, but none of them have returned. Don't just walk to your death, listen to my advice. What do you want to do at Chang’an at this time? The two countries are engaged in a vicious war. If you, a Han, went to Chang’an, you would just be steamed by the Hu people and get treated as a two-legged lamb. It wasn’t easy for your parents to raise you, just head south.”
Eventually, Chen Xing wore the official down. The official wasn’t able to convince him, so he had to stamp a customs clearance document for him.
The martial expert said, “I’m going to Chang’an too, add me in as well. My name is Feng Qianjun.”
I’ve finally met someone normal. Chen Xing took the document and left, and the martial expert took off his bamboo hat under the warm spring sun.
Within a split second, a spring breeze blew by, clouds dispersed, the thick layers of clouds unfurled, and the long-lost sun cast out several rays of warm, heavenly light from the gap. All one could see was the bright countenance of the martial expert, his high nose bridge, his vermillion lips that were as red as a dot cinnabar, and his fair skin. Although his blue robe appeared shabby, it contained the subtle nobility of a robe that belonged to princes. He had his arms crossed as he stood in front of the government’s office, illuminated by the light cast down on him -- it made Chen Xing feel warm in his heart, as if he was being bathed in a warm, spring breeze.
That martial expert casually rubbed the indistinct beard on his cheeks again, “Meeting by chance means it’s fate. I’ll have to trouble this little brother to take care of me on our journey. Let’s go, we’re not in a hurry to set off, so let’s get some wine first that we can drink on the way. May I know how you’re addressed in Jianghu?”
“Let me introduce myself. My name is Chen Xing. I’m 16 years old this year, 7 chi 9, 130 jin……”
“Then Yuxiong will also introduce myself. I’m 22 this year, 9 chi 1, not sure how many jin I am, I haven’t weighed myself in a long time……”
Feng Qianjun has a refined appearance, and his words carried a tinge of chivalrous spirit in them. After getting two jin of wine, he placed them in his horse’s saddle while Chen Xing bought a horse from the market. He carried the dog that was wagging its tail and placed it into the saddle bag as well. The dog peeked out of the saddle bag, and they departed for Mt. Longzhong with this newly acquainted friend. Feng Qianjun was an easy-going person who had a witty conversational style. He was from Huainan, carried a broadsword on his back, and always took a wine bowl along with him. He was a young man who practiced martial arts and was exceptionally skilled.
Chen Xing thought, why isn’t he my Protector?
“What’s the name of your dog?” Feng Qianjun asked.
At first, Chen Xing wanted to say that he had picked it up along the way so it didn’t have a name, but he suddenly changed his mind, “It’s called Xiang Shu.”
“It even has a surname.” Feng Qianjun said.
Chen Xing, “Un ah.”
“Tian Chi you……what do you do for a living?” Feng Qianjun looked him up and down and felt that Chen Xing didn’t seem ordinary. Nowadays, people who were on the run all looked unkempt, yet Chen Xing's appearance was tidy from head to toe, and even his dog was wearing a mink coat. Logically speaking though, if he was a pampered son of a rich family, it was impossible for him to not have someone following him in such troubled times. Otherwise, he could easily be murdered at any time.
“Don’t ask anymore,” Chen Xing said, “It’s all sad affairs, so it’s okay to not mention it. What about you?”
Feng Qianjun turned onto a small path and answered in earnest, “I’m a professional killer.”
Chen Xing, “……”
Why is it that all the people he has met along the way like to kill people? Chen Xing couldn’t help but get nervous, please don’t let him bump into another rabid dog like Xiang Shu.
“How many people have you killed?” Chen Xing asked worriedly.
“I haven’t killed anyone yet.” Feng Qianjun said, “It’s my first year as a professional killer. I’m currently rushing to my destination to complete the first job of my life.”
“Oh——” Chen Xing felt more at ease. Feng Qianjun continued, “Chang’an, to kill Fu Jian.”
Chen Xing, “I wish Brother Feng quick success in your mission! Wait, kill Fu Jian? How much would you be paid for that?”
Chen Xing thought that if it wasn’t expensive, then maybe he could hire Feng Qianjun to capture Xiang Shu as well? He didn’t require that he kill Xiang Shu, just tying him up would suffice. No wonder the Jin people wanted to torture him, even Chen Xing himself wanted to beat him up. By now, he had already tied Xiang Shu up and whipped him countless times over and over in his heart.
“A basket of steamed buns.” Feng Qianjun answered.
“Very good.” Chen Xing said, “I’ll pay you with two baskets of steamed buns, could you help me catch Xiang Shu?”
“Why do you want to catch your own dog?” Feng Qianjun was baffled, “Isn’t it here?”
Chen Xing explained to him that Xiang Shu was the one who robbed the bank, and Feng Qianjun immediately said, “Then it can’t be done.”
Chen Xing, “Three baskets of steamed buns.”
Feng Qianjun said, “It’s not about the number of steamed buns. I can’t beat him, so even if I tried I’ll just be embarrassing you.”
Chen Xing, “……”
Feng Qianjun began to explain to Chen Xing the concept of simply shaking a bundle to make over thirty gold ingots fly to their intended targets and knock all the enemies unconscious. At the very least, Feng Qianjun had seen that kungfu for himself, and his assessment of it was that he felt ashamed for being inferior to Xiang Shu. Also, when the tael of gold was flung towards Chen Xing, Feng Qianjun had used up almost all his strength just to stop it, even though he was also relying on the black iron wine bowl in his hands.
On the other hand, it was obvious that Xiang Shu had done all that with ease and was clearly on a different level than Feng Qianjun.
Chen Xing couldn’t comprehend martial strength at all. He pondered as he said, “Oh, is he that strong?”
Feng Qianjun murmured, “That man’s name is Xiang Shu? Where exactly did he come from?”
The two mounts entered Mt. Longzhong. After the cold spell in late spring, the ice on the gorges below the mountains had cracked, and the omnipresent snow that covered the treetops and branches had melted. All living things had revived and flourished, and the plants slowly woke from their slumber. Chen Xing held the reins of his horse in front of the ancient plank road that had existed since several hundred years ago and travelled with Feng Qianjun the entire way. He decided that he might as well not hide it from him anymore, so he came clean about everything that had happened on his journey.
When he heard about what happened in Xiangyang City, Feng Qianjun suddenly sighed, “Zhu Xu ah.”
“He’s a good man,” Chen Xing said, “But it’s a pity that didn’t help him in the end.”
It’s not that Chen Xing didn’t want to help Zhu Xu defend the city, but his mission as an exorcist was more important to him. Yet unexpectedly, Feng Qianjun said, “Zhu Xu, wu, he defected.”
“Ah?” Chen Xing was instantly rendered speechless. Zhu Xu was going to get cursed to death by the Jin court this time, but since ancient times, there have been many who defected to the enemy, so him joining the ranks wouldn’t make much of a difference.
“An exorcist.” Feng Qianjun contemplated for a long time and nodded, “So Xiang Shu is the Protector you selected.”
“You believe me?” Chen Xing was surprised.
“I do ah, why wouldn’t I?” Feng Qianjun said, “If someone was lying, their gaze wouldn’t be able to fool anyone. Now that your Protector has ran away, what are you doing going to Chang’an alone?”
Chen Xing answered, “I need to find what remains of the Exorcism Department Headquarters from the Han dynasty, and I had even planned to fork out some money to hire bodyguards. But since you’ll be accompanying me on the road, I’ll be able to save on that sum.”
When the exorcism profession flourished during the Han Dynasty in Chang’an, they had once set up a yamen. Since there was a bureau to check, then there must have been some information left behind. This was originally the next step in Chen Xing’s plan after finding his Protector. He wanted to see if there were any clues he could follow regarding the ‘silence of all magic’ phenomenon that happened three hundred years ago.
“And I also wanted to advise Fu Jian to stop killing people along the way.” Chen Xing said, “But since you’re going to kill him, I won’t waste time trying to persuade a dead man.”
But Feng Qianjun’s heart was as clear as a bright mirror. He casually said, “Even if Fu Jian dies, the northern wars won’t stop, unless someone unifies the world.”
After chatting for a while, they began guessing Xiang Shu’s origins again. Chen Xing knew nothing about Central Plains’ Jianghu, and Feng Qianjun had no clue either. However, he was very curious and asked many questions about exorcists. When Chen Xing was studying at Mt. Hua, he learned quite a lot of magic from books, but of course it was all limited to theory. Spiritual Qi of the heaven and earth could be found in plentiful amounts everywhere in the human world; exorcists merely borrow it and convert it for their own use, which was why magic could exist. Now that silence had fallen on all magic, they naturally wouldn’t be able to use any magic.
“All I can do is emit some light.” Chen Xing demonstrated his light powers to Feng Qianjun, then continued, “I can provide you with some light when we’re walking at night so we won’t need to use lanterns. But if I use it for too long I’ll start gasping for breath and feel very drained.”
But Feng Qianjun didn’t seem very surprised. He said, “I’ve seen it in Huainan before. Someone could chop off his arm and put it back on again……and could even twist their head until it faced backwards. Can you……”
“Stop! Those are Jianghu arts!” Chen Xing quickly stopped Feng Qianjun’s attempt to twist his head to the back, “You can do it if you want, but once you twist it my neck will break!”
“Why do you want to carry such a heavy burden?” Feng Qianjun said, “Who are you doing this for?”
“Just listen to yourself.” Chen Xing answered, “Once Mara descends, the Divine Land will be destroyed, and such beautiful scenery and this world will be gone. Don’t you think it’d be such a pity?”
Just like how Feng Qianjun was going to kill Fu Jian for just a basket of steamed buns, Chen Xing had decided to shoulder this responsibility after his Shifu’s death without really thinking it through seriously. His reason was very simple as well -- at the very least, he didn’t want all these flowers, plants, birds, insects, fishes, and all the people who were alive to die of unnatural causes. People would always want to cherish beautiful things. Wouldn’t one feel upset watching them get destroyed for no reason?
They led their horses through the plank road; when they were passing by yixiantian, the path was extremely narrow. A torn piece of clothing belonging to a Jin soldier hung snagged on the rocks. Feng Qianjun suddenly said, “Wait.” Then he stopped to inspect the cloth. Not long ago, the troops dispatched by Mai City’s government to scout for news had also passed by this place.
As the day approached its end, the valley was absolutely quiet, and not a single sound could be heard. Chen Xing looked up and suddenly saw a human figure flash past the peak of yixiantian.
“Brother Feng?” Chen Xing suddenly felt that something was wrong.
Following which, Feng Qianjun suddenly grabbed Chen Xing’s collar and dragged him three feet back. From above yixiantian, two bodies fell straight down! Then a loud blare sounded, and the first person smashed directly into the weakest part of the wooden plank road. The impact immediately smashed the plank road, and he fell down the steep cliff that had no end in sight along with the broken pieces of wood!
The other person landed in front of Chen Xing and Feng Qianjun. Their horses neighed loudly from fright and wanted to flee, but Feng Qianjun immediately grabbed the reins and stabilised their mounts. Chen Xing almost shouted, but Feng Qianjun covered his mouth and whispered, “Don’t be afraid! He’s already dead!”
Chen Xing ** for a moment, and upon taking a closer look, he saw that the “person” in front of them was already a corpse that had blood streaming out of his seven orifices. Evidently, he had been thrown down from the top of yixiantian by someone.
Chen Xing, “……”
They looked up at the same time. Chen Xing wanted to start cursing, but Feng Qianjun raised his hand as a signal for him to keep silent.
“Somebody’s up there.” Chen Xing thought of the human figure that he had just seen flashing past.
Feng Qianjun said, “Let’s talk after we pass through this plank road.”
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Caro.