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Chapter 13: Who’s this salt peddler, Old Xin?

 

 

The birds in the garden were chirping incessantly early in the morning; having finished cleaning the manor, the servants began to prepare breakfast. Now that the Count of Southernland’s daughter, Fan Ruo-Ruo, has already returned to the Capital, leaving behind a little master, there was not much left to be done. (The word 半主 directly translates to “half-master” referring to him being small. Another meaning would be that he’s an illegitimate kid who’s their master, but let’s not go there. ~MCM)

 

Having completed all their chores, the Eldest servant girl, Dong-er, went to wake Fan Xian up. She was utterly shocked by what she saw. Thinking the boy had fallen severely ill, she rushed to call for the physician. When the doctor arrived and checked the pulse, he told her that there were no serious problems. Perhaps it was something he ate recently; his body was slightly heaty. (The Chinese used to describe foods as heaty and cooling. Heck, we still say shit like that now. ~MCM) After prescribing some medications and collecting his payment, the doctor left.



 

Ever since Fei Jie arrived at the Count’s Manor, the fan of ancient prose style, Xixi-sensei (His teacher before Fei Jie ~MCM), had quietly resigned from teaching. The morning breeze flowed into the study; Fei Jie stared at the boy with the heavy eye-bags and guffawed. “They say that the young’s disposition is like a morning sun – they are unable to comprehend the sorrow of life. What is it this time that cost you a sleepless night? Even the doctor was called!”

 

Fan Xian was deliberating for the entire night whether he should continue to cultivate the inner energy within him. Although he treated the kungfu practice as an entertainment, now that he knew it may cost him his life, it was important to be cautious.

 

The result of having too little sleep was an utter lack of attentiveness. Having heard his teacher’s sentence about the sorrow of life, he began to mutter, “The young knowest not the tang of sorrow; they live their lives in blissful ignorance. Though they live in bliss, they carve odes of grievance merely to create new poetry. Yet, having tasted grievance, they know not how to express it anymore. And so, though they live in sufferance, they could only speak of joy and beauty.” (Yea, it kinda became gibberish when translated, so I decided to paraphrase its meaning.

The actual translation from Wikipedia goes:

In searching the feeling of sadness in my youth,

I liked to climb pagodas.

Climbed up the pagodas,

For the sake of writing new verse, I talked much about melancholy.

Yet now that I've known in full melancholy's taste,

I hesitate to mention it.

Hesitate to mention it,

Rather I blabber, the weather's cold, a fine autumn. ~MCM)

 

……

 

……

 

The room was instantly silent; not a sound was made for a long while. Fan Xian pried his sleepy eyes open and unsuccessfully stifled a yawn. “I didn’t get much sleep last night, Teacher. Please don’t get angry.”

 

Fei Jie stared slack-jawed at him. Reaching out absentmindedly to stroke his beard, he accidentally stabbed himself on the chin with the quill he still had on his hand, breaking him from his trance. “Th-those words… Wh-who wrote them?” He stuttered. (He thinks they’re deep, too deep for a 5 year old ~MCM)

 

“The poor Old Xin.”

 

Fan Xian mentioned Xin Qi Ji’s title instantly without thinking. It was only until that moment that he realised what a grave mistake he had committed. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xin_Qiji ~MCM)

 

Looking straight into Fei Jie’s strange stare, Fan Xian began to lose his fluency. “O-Old Xin was the peddler f-from the West City (Cheng Xi ~MCM) w-who came to collect the sea salt last month,” he stammered.

 

“Oh! That was actually pretty well-written. To think a merchant could have written something of such quality. What was his name again?”

 

“X-Xin… Qi Ji.” Fan Xian looked away slowly.

 

Fei Jie’s surprise eventually faded and he began the lessons. Apart from Biology and Toxicology, he also needed to teach a variety of other topics, which was rather taxing.

 

……

 

……

 

 

After lunch, Fan Xian returned to his bedroom and went back to that complicated question. Should he continue to cultivate this potent and dangerous inner energy?

He gripped the yellow book in his hand tightly, troubled.

 

However, before that, his first priority was that poem he let slipped accidentally in the study.

 

“The Ugly Slave, the Wall on the road to Shu Bo Mountain” (This was a shitty direct translation heh heh ~MCM) was written in a fit of melancholy by Xin Qi Ji after he was banished. It was a poem Fan Xian was really familiar and he did not consider the troubles he   could have gotten himself into when he blurted it out. He wondered if he managed to convince Teacher Fei with that crappily made up story. Having seen Fei Jie’s expression, it seems he really did believe that the original author of the poem was a salt peddler.

 

Fan Xian was not excessively particular about morality; a little plagiarism here and there was not such a big deal. In his opinion, since these poems are only known by him in this world, it would be a waste if he does not make full use of them.

 

Having arrived in this world a few years ago, he has had enough time to contemplate how he wanted to live in this world. Getting a promising career while unrelentingly executing his other plans, he aimed to secure the three highest positions one could possibly attain in this land.

While plotting, he has repeatedly told himself that he was not just a regular Joe – He was a messenger, a preserver, an advocate of free knowledge.

 

He was, however, reluctant to merely copy the works and claim it for himself. At the very least, it was only right for him to use the actual names of the original author from the previous world.

 

Which was what this five year old child should have done today in the study; if he really felt the urge to plagiarise, he should have at least copied Luo Bin Wang’s cheery “Goose, Goose, Goose”, which was way more age-appropriate for the little genius Fan he had pictured of himself.

And yet, as a kid, he had unwittingly recited the words “And so, though they live in sufferance, they could only speak of joy and beauty”.

 

This type of verse did not belong to a boy genius. It belongs to a world-weary traveler who looks fine, but has had three hundred and fifteen cracks upon his heart, with every crack holding a sorrowful story of each seasons. (I paraphrased the last sentence, which was literally “every crack has the four seasons written on it, sorrowful as hell.” ~MCM)

 

(Nah, I kid. “Sorrowful as demons” ~MCM)

 

Fan Xian began to fall prey to his biological clock while he was day-dreaming and slip into a sweet sleep. Like usual, he entered a meditative trance and started training the inner energy that Fei Jie disapprovingly deemed to be infinitely dangerous and extremely potent.

 

And it was then that Fan Xian gave up. Since sleeping was equivalent to training, then what the heck? Let’s just wait and see; we’ll only talk about it when I really do explode.


 

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………


 

As Fan Xian was taking his afternoon nap, Teacher Fei was continuing his unfinished letter from the night before.

 

There were already a few lines with dried ink on the paper which must have been from last night.

 

“……This child is prettier than most, braver than most, more intelligent than most, more determined than most and even more mature than most. If such a five year old boy was to stand amongst his peers in the Qin nation, he would hide in the furthest part of the crowd, but he would also be the quickest to identify. From the past year’s experience, I have judged that Master’s inheritance would be most suitable if bestowed unto him. What a pity; the biggest issue now is the situation of his birth……” (Because MC is an illegitimate kid ~MCM)

 

The sentence trailed off there. He had only written until that point when Fan Xian came over to consult him over the problem of his inner energy.

 

Recalling the poem he heard Fan Xian recite in the study that morning, he sighed deeply. Focusing once more on his letter, he continued to write.

 

“……”though they live in sufferance, they could only speak of joy and beauty”. Having lived all these years, I find it difficult to believe it was uttered by a five year old, much less written by a mere merchant. Also, the young master was really flustered and hesitated to maintain eye contact when he told me that story, which was unusual throughout the entire time we have been together. The most curious question would be that, though I am with him every day, I have yet to see how this Xin Qi Ji could have met him in secret.”

 

As a postscript, he wrote, “Ask the men on the Eastern Mountain road to investigate the identity of the salt peddler known as Xin Qi Ji and why he chose to interact with the young master. Also, find out why the young master was particularly flustered over the poem. This is a very urgent matter, make haste.”

 

Fei Jie finished by signing at the bottom of the page.

 

A few days later, there was a massive mobilisation of operatives from the Capital’s Empire Bureau of Investigation seeking a particular salt peddler. A large number of illegal salt peddlers were rounded up as a result and brought before the High Court of Qin. Yet, that specific salt peddler Xin was not found. According to the rumours from the Capital, the widely feared Director of the Empire Bureau of Investigation was extremely incensed by this matter and punished the entire Bureau for three months. Not even the field operatives were spared.

 

……

 

……

 

God pity the fool who is also named Xin Qi Ji in this world…


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