"Shall I play the qin for everyone?"
Editor(s): juurensha, namio
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The atmosphere inside Shouyang's seat of government was tense all around. Xie Xuan spread out the map. Everybody had made preparations beforehand; there was no way Shouyang could resist Fu Jian's cavalry. Just like Xiangyang three years ago, sooner or later, it would be broken through, and another massacre was bound to happen. So, as soon as the Beifu Army established their camp in Shouyang, Xie An had firmly issued his wisest move so far: evacuate nine out of ten citizens to Moling, leaving behind only conscripted workers and a small number of craftsmen.
This military order was issued at the same time Zhu Xu had come to persuade them to surrender earlier, and the few civilians left in the city had all been evacuated.
When Xiang Shu came back, out of every ten rooms along the city road, nine were already emptied out.
"At tonight's third night period," Xie An said, "the remaining Beifu Army will also pull back to Luojian, 70 li away from Shouyang, to look for an opportunity to fight them hand-to-hand and exhausting the number in their vanguard. Great! Martial God, sure enough, you've come back!"
And so, people decided to talk while eating, having a chat in the hall with food. All kinds of Shouyang's delicious delicacies were cooked; they were as fancy as duantou meals.
"On my way back, I ran into General Liu Laozhi," Xiang Shu said. "He was preparing for an ambush in Luojian. How many men did he bring?"
Xie Xuan responded, "5,000 men. I hope Laozhi moves quickly." Saying so, he turned to face Xie An and continued, "This battle has the greatest number of people participating in it since ancient times."
Chen Xing: "......"
Recalling historical records, they suddenly discovered that this was indeed the largest scale battle in history... During the past hundred years, only Chibi was worth mentioning in the same breath as this war, but even in the Battle of Chibi, Cao Cao only had 500,000 men by his side.
Xie An replied, "Seems like it ah, uh-huh."
Chen Xing commented, "You all talk like it's someone else's war."
Xie An responded, "Little Shidi, don't look at Shixiong like I'm just an observer. In fact, everybody here pretty much lacks confidence right now."
Everyone burst out laughing, and Chen Xing felt exasperated. Wang Xizhi asked, "Will the Martial God follow us into the battle?"
"I have more important things to do," Xiang Shu replied. "You guys are on your own."
Xie An said to Chen Xing, "Since the Martial God has returned, Shixiong may have to ask for a leave of absence from you... It is reasonable to say that Shixiong can't ignore Little Shidi's problem regarding Qianjun and Xiao Shan, but in the face of national disaster, if you have to perform an exorcism, Shixiong really can't help..."
Chen Xing was driven mad. "Fight your war! Why are you still thinking about exorcisms at this time!"
Another burst of laughter resounded. Xiang Shu soon finished eating, but after the meal, everyone paused their conversation and looked at him. They were expecting him to say something or bring out the news that could turn the tide of war.
However, Xiang Shu only said, "I'm taking a bath. Chen Xing, keep talking with them."
Then he got up and left.
Chen Xing had wanted to ask him something, but since the man had already come back after all, he had all the time to ask him later. And so, he continued chatting with Xie An, Wang Xizhi, and the others. Xie An saw that the day had turned night and remarked, "All right, everyone, please take a rest now. We still need to retreat when the third night period begins, ne. Little Shidi, Shixiong will take you back to your room."
Chen Xing knew that either he had something to say to him or he wanted to see Xiang Shu. He saw Wang Xizhi get up, smiling as he did so, and follow behind Xie An. Soon, Xie Xuan also went along with them. Huan Yi, who had been with them on their mission to Luoyang, returned to the hall after finishing his military affair. He drank some tea and tailed behind them as well.
Chen Xing, "???"
Thus, Chen Xing followed this large group of people. Xie An just chatted with Huan Yi, while Wang Xizhi, on the other hand, sighed in sorrow —— he lamented about how Shouyang had such nice scenery, but sadly it was all going to be ruined by the Hus. Chen Xing thought in his heart, You guys are only looking for Xiang Shu, but following me in such an overbearing manner, you all look like you're about to start a fight instead.
The courtyard outside of Chen Xing's bedroom was actually filled with dazzling light. Xie Daoyun gave Xiang Shu a lantern, which he then hung on a treetop.
"Wow!" Chen Xing saw that lanterns were hanging all over the courtyard as they shone in brilliance; they were even brighter than those during the Lantern Festival. There were also several flat couches with a tea table that was full of fresh fruit and refreshments.
"Come, come," Xie Daoyun smiled as she said.
Standing under a tree, Xiang Shu looked at Chen Xing.
Chen Xing said, "What are you guys doing?! Celebrating a festival?" He thought to himself, Since you guys are going to abandon the city and retreat, you're taking out all the good stuff to drink and eat mindlessly ba?
"Wishing you a happy birthday." Xie Daoyun was all smiling. "After waiting for three months, your family's Martial God has finally returned."
Xiang Shu had finished bathing. He had specifically cleaned himself up for the occasion and had changed into a navy blue martial official robe. With a pair of bright eyes, he looked at Chen Xing and said, "Today is the day, am I right?"
"Even if it's not today, let's celebrate it today," Wang Xizhi smiled.
"It is." Chen Xing's eyes were moist; he didn't expect that at this time of chaos and war, there still existed such a tiny part of the world with warmth in it.
"Today, your comrades are all here." Xiang Shu sat down on the couch. He looked sideways at Chen Xing by his side and continued, "You're no longer alone either."
Chen Xing felt very moved, but no words came out of his mouth. He then replied, "I really am not."
Xie An, Xie Daoyun, Xie Xuan, Wang Xizhi, and Huan Yi each looked for a seat. It was just, the ones closest to him, Feng Qianjun and Xiao Shan were not here, while Tuoba Yan was already dead. Chen Xing couldn't help but feel a little sad when he thought about this, but, knowing that he must not, by all means, be saddened at this moment, he gave out a smile and said, "Thank you, all of you."
"Tianchi is 19 years old today," Xie An laughed.
"Yes ah," Chen Xing replied. "19."
Xie Daoyun chimed in, "You'll be 20 next year, time for you to be capped."
Chen Xing hummed. "I'll invite everyone to come to my capping ceremony then."
Everyone sounded out an agreement.
Wang Xizhi said, "I've entirely forgotten what we were doing when we were 19."
Huan Yi said, "Probably carried a sword on our waist as we looked for immortals everywhere under the sky, being thick-skinned and shameless as we sought an apprenticeship from a master, ba."
Everyone couldn't help but laugh. Xie An then joked, "I didn't expect that after looking for a lifetime, not only did I actually find a great exorcist at this age, I also accompanied him to celebrate his birthday. This life is really full of surprises."
Fu Jian was about to lead an army of millions to raze Shouyang to the ground tomorrow, yet at this moment, those matters seemed to have been cast aside behind them. Xiang Shu interrupted, "Let's have a drink, I'm going to propose a toast to you all. Thank you all for taking care of Chen Xing over the past three months, and I will have to trouble you all in the future as well."
Xie An seemed to have sensed something but chose not to reveal anything, while Chen Xing didn't seem to hear it. He only saw Xiang Shu raise the pot, pour the wine, and personally distribute it to all of them.
Each raised their cup and proposed a toast. When drinking, it was as if there were tears in Xie Daoyun's eyes.
"Daoyun?" Chen Xing asked.
Xie Daoyun wiped at it casually and laughed. She shook her head and then said. "At this time, Qing'er must've already been reincarnated."
"People who have been reincarnated," Wang Xizhi said all of a sudden, "will we still be able to find them?"
Chen Xing pondered for a while before replying, "I don't know."
The pulse of heaven traversed all the way across the vault of the sky, while the earth veins circulated over and over for years uncounted. Outside Shouyang was Fu Jian's army of millions, yet inside of the city were bright, colorful lanterns that resembled the heart of the Divine Land, illuminating the entire world engulfed in this dark, gloomy night.
"But," Chen Xing thought for a moment and continued, "since heaven itself has allowed people to be reincarnated, in the end, there must be a reason why a person doesn't remember the person they were in their previous life no matter how much they clung to it before, and also why we won't be able to find them in their next life. As long as you know that somewhere, someday, she's still around and living happily, isn’t that good enough?"
Xie Daoyun nodded. Xie An said, "Little Shidi, please explain to us ba."
Chen Xing looked at the colored lanterns all over the courtyard, appearing spellbound. When he heard the words, he asked, "Explain what?"
"About the sky above our head," Xie An asked, full of emotions, "and the earth under our feet. It has been a long, long time since everyone has had the time to talk about the profound theory of the Dao."
Wang Xizhi said, "When I was a child, I always thought that I would be able to figure out the Dao, but while growing up, I gradually felt that I also wouldn't be able to figure out the Dao. But ah, up until now, I still have a shred of hope that perhaps, I will get to understand the so-called Dao as I get older, only, I'm not yet able to clearly pinpoint it."
"Is this what Kong Qiu meant with 'at 50, I knew what were the biddings of heaven'?" Chen Xing smiled and thought about it. "During my apprenticeship, I didn’t learn much regarding the Dao. For the most part, my lessons were about 'techniques' or 'artifacts.' This Dao, I feel like it's exactly the so-called 'true form' of the world, the place on this earth where common people live, as well as every feeling we feel during our stay there? This 'true form' includes the mandates of heaven, but it's not reserved only for the mandates of heaven. Generally speaking, it's just about where you come from, what you are, what you want to do, and where you're going. These things… if everyone doesn't mind me being long-winded, I'll chat about it. We still don't know what will happen after tomorrow, ne."
"Tell, tell, tell," Xie An said at once.
"I'd like to hear more about it," Wang Xizhi replied.
Huan Yi had wanted to get up and leave to do military business, but hearing this, he also couldn't help but continue to listen.
Numerous bright lanterns were reflected in Chen Xing's clear eyes. He slightly turned his head to look at Xiang Shu, smiling, then began to explain to everyone about what he had studied during his time with his master.
"Legend has it that when Pangu split heaven and earth apart," Chen Xing slowly said, "all existence came into being. Both of Pangu's eyes turned into the sun and the moon, while the first 'Oneness' between heaven and earth transformed into the Dragon God. When it opened its eyes, the day dawned, and when it closed them, the night fell. It set the heaven and earth veins in motion; they began to rotate, and thus, time was born…"
That night, Chen Xing began to slowly narrate the story, starting from when Pangu created the sky to the collapse of Mount Buzhou, regarding the Three Sovereigns and the Five Emperors, about the great war that swept clean mountains and seas thousands of years ago and the retreat of the gods, as well as how at the Battle of Muye, the Divine Land then belonged to mortals. It was as if they had all been removed from the current era and were standing in the flowing passage of time as they watched the rise and fall, the ups and downs of the Divine Land.
He soon started talking about the strange connection between the heaven and earth veins to the convergence and divergence of the world's hun and po, about the multitude of stars, the yaos' internal cores and the humans' secret techniques, as well as the spiritual qi of heaven and earth that had long ago disappeared.
In the end, the courtyard went still. Chen Xing said calmly, "So, what is the 'true form' of this world? I think everybody has a different opinion regarding this, ba? Although I've heard so many of them, there's still no one who can give me the one true answer. As a matter of fact, I think the so-called 'true form' is actually 'formless.' Flowers are flowers and trees are trees, these things are certain. But, if we're talking about the 'true form,' its innate nature is the fact that it is uncertain and also will stay uncertain. Inside our hearts, the little things we hold dear, the entire Divine Land, and even the heaven and earth veins, everything has a 'form,' but they only exist inside our spiritual knowledge. That, therefore, is where the Dao is."
"Is it that Heart Lamp?" Xie Daoyun asked.
Chen Xing smiled. "The Heart Lamp is its 'shape,' and I think everyone has their own Heart Lamp as well, it's not only me ba. Otherwise, why is everyone sitting in this place right now, ne?"
Chen Xing's meaning was very clear: the Hans, even Sima Yao who was far away in Jiankang, still held pride in their country, and even knowing that they were going to die, they would still give it their all in this battle. Just like a lamp swayed by the wind and rain during the night of Fu Jian's arrival in the South, it would illuminate through this period full of misery and shine in brilliance across four directions.
And Chen Xing had always felt that it wasn't just Zhu Xu, but Xie An, Xie Xuan, Wang Xizhi, Xiang Shu, Feng Qianjun, Xiao Shan, and many others also had things they clung to deeply in their hearts.
It was the same as the three hun and seven po that had always been attracted towards that speck of bright light. Once that brilliance sparkled, the Heart Lamp would be ignited to guide them throughout their lives.
"Shall I play the qin for everyone?" Chen Xing suddenly thought about it. He moved and came back with the qin, and after plucking it a few times, the melodious and mellow sound of the qin resounded —— it was that song, the "Fusheng Records." Everyone sat, quietly listening, yet Xiang Shu got up and went inside the room. He came out a moment later with the Qiang flute in his hand as he went to stand behind Chen Xing.
The music of the Qiang flute and the guqin reverbrated. The simple, clean sound of the qin and the ever-shifting sound of the Qiang flute blended and twined around each other. This "Fusheng Records" was different from what they had played before; it was as if they were inside a turbulent river, experiencing winds and rains of the world and witnessing azure seas turning into mulberry fields.
When the tune ended, everyone gently let out a sigh full of emotions.
"Well," Huan Yi started, "it's time for these old men to go, too. Leave them some time to be alone, ba."
The others got up one after another. Xie An said, "We'll gather at the back door in two shichen."
Xiang Shu nodded, and people dispersed.
Oh look, it’s Chen Xing’s birthday (again) ha ha ha ha /(ㄒoㄒ)/~~
In case anyone forgot, the song is that song Xiang Shu first played when he was in Karakorum, back then, he only referred to it as the Fusheng Melody…
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Elestrea.