Chapter 9: Not Embarrassed to Ask
Within the next year, young Fan Xian began studying the science of poison and all related knowledge from Mr. Fei, the teacher from the Capital City. Occasionally, he would use his spare time to go out of the town and into the wilderness, into the mountains to look for natural poisons from plants such as Nux Vomica, Barbados Nut, and the kind. He also tasted a variety of fungus and mushrooms, resulting in innumerable incidents of stomachache. He would probably have died many times if it weren’t because of the poison master guru by his side.
Of course, in order to master the science in-depth and thoroughly, under the guidance of Teacher Fei, the baseborn son of the Count of Southernland committed numerous bloody murders. Countless small white rabbits and wandering toads died miserably from those two slim and tender hands.
That year, Fan Xian turned five.
Strangely, ever since Fei Jie came to Port Danzhou, Five-Bamboo at the small grocery store no longer avoided Fan Xian deliberately. At least each time when Fan Xian snuck into the grocery store to drink liquor, something for sure that was not readily available to little kids, Five-Bamboo would always cook a few simple dishes for him to go with the wine.
Sometimes Fan Xian did wonder. If Five-Bamboo was really his mother’s servant, how come he was never bothered by Fan Xian’s consumption of alcohol?
Fan Xian knew that his mother certainly could not have been an ordinary person, and that explained why she had such a faithful servant, also one with incredible powers. But Fan Xian was not sure whether this blind Kung Fu master would just keep staying by his side and protect him, keeping him out of harm’s way.
Without noticing it, he had gradually grown accustom to always having Five-Bamboo guarding him not far away, to seeing, from time to time, that piece of black cloth around Five-Bamboo’s eyes in a nearby corner, such as under the bamboo bush at the end of the alley, or by the tofu stall at the front of the street, so on and so forth.
During the past year, the inner energy inside Fan Xian also grew slowly but steadily. Vaguely, Fan Xian could feel that the development of his cultivation was approaching an important milestone. However, the defiant inner energy he had accumulated during his sleep started becoming somewhat unstable, which began affecting his temper negatively.
He knew there would be many unknown dangers awaiting him in this still unknown world. For instance, he was sure that there were many unfamiliar issues at the Count of Southernland’s mansion in the Capital City.
He had set himself a clear goal after his first awakening in this strange world, “Stay alive and live a good life!”
With such a “grand” goal, he became obsessed with Kung Fu training and energy cultivation to help him stay alive, so that he could later work on his three even “grander” life missions.
Moreover, because he had a neuromuscular disorder in his past life and was restricted to his bed, when he could suddenly move about at will in this life, he truly cherished this ability. He would get up early every morning to exercise, climb low and high, and so diligently that even Fei Jie found it a bit terrifying.
Unfortunately he couldn’t get hold of a decent manuscript for physical training, even though he was probably more diligent than any other kid his age in history. “As a twenty some year old lad, of course I’ve got to work harder than those snot nosed kids,” he would always comfort himself.
No one really knew the truth: he wasn’t born a diligent one; he was just hyperactive. After having to lie still for over ten years, any lazy bum wouldn’t want to stay still any longer.
It was night, and Mr. Fei Jie stayed in his private room. The oil lamp on the table flickered from time to time but still lit up the room. He leaned against the edge of the table. His grizzled hair actually seemed to have turned darker compared to when he first came to Port Danzhou. Holding a goose quill in his hand, he appeared to be writing something on the white letter paper.
Someone knocked on the door. “Come in,” Fei Jie said softly without turning his head around.
Fan Xian pushed the door open. He stepped over the high threshold, scratched the back of his head a few times, and then moved closer with a big grin.
“What are you writing, Teacher?”
Fei Jie didn’t appear to be bothered. He casually pushed the letter aside and then turned around.
“What’s the matter?” he asked kindly.
After spending an entire year with the baseborn son of the Count of Southernland, for some unknown reason, this Empire Bureau of Investigation poison master, someone dreaded by countless government officers and underworld criminals equally, actually felt a trace of warmth and joy in his heart when he laid his eyes on the little kid. This little guy, although still very young, showed great endurance and diligence in his study. He also showed no sense of disgust towards the subject of poison, unlike the kind of contrived detest shown by most people, which especially pleased Fei Jie.
Most importantly, Fan Xian was very intelligent and sensible, sometimes making people forget that he was only a five-year-old kid.
“Teacher,” Fan Xian raised his buttock high, and with some extra effort was finally able to push himself on top of a chair. “I really want to know what kind of people my parents are.”
This was actually the fourth time within the year Fan Xian had asked about the past story of the Count of Southernland and his mother, although Fei Jie completely ignored him the last few times.
“You father…is an incredible man,” Fei Jie replied this time. “And of course, your mother is even more incredible.”
These were truly meaningless words. The Empire Bureau of Investigation had always been a terrifying agency that held the power to scrutinize government officials and conduct major investigations of criminal activities of the Qing Empire. Fei Jie was one of the first bunches to join the bureau at the agency’s very early stage, who later served as the Assistant Director of the Third Division at the bureau, an important and powerful post, dreaded and feared by everyone even in the Capital City, a place of crouching dragons and hidden tigers.
Such a terrifying poison master had to travel far to the remote Port Danzhou to teach the baseborn son of the Count of Southernland simply because the Count had said so. Even if Fan Xian thought with his toes instead of his brain, he could still easily imagine the kind of terrifying power and influence the Count of Southernland had in the Capital City. The only thing he wasn’t sure was whether the power was publicly known or secret.
And when it came to his mother who died on the day he was “born”, although Fan Xian didn’t know anything about her, his intuition told him that the woman could not have been ordinary. For some reason, maybe it was because of the same bloodline, he vaguely felt that he really missed the woman who he had never met and whose name he was still unaware.
Fei Jie seemed to have no interest in carrying on the topic, and only asked casually, “Now that the Count’s concubine had given birth to a son, naturally you have no chance inheriting the estate of the Count. What are you going to do then?”
“Teacher taught me how to use poison and how to neutralize poison. These are all good knowledge of the medical profession. Worst comes to worst, I could be a doctor,” Fan Xian replied with a sweet smile.
“That’s of course. When it comes to the art of leechcraft, even the royal doctors in his Majesty’s imperial palace are no better than your teacher. You are the only student I have. You’d be more than enough to qualify for a doctor,” Fei Jie said conceitedly as he stroked his long beard contently.
The teacher and his student talked about the career option of a doctor, but deep in their hearts, both of them knew very well that such an outcome was only a wild dream.
“Teacher, my inner energy cultivation seems to have run into some problems. That’s why I came over tonight so I could ask for Teacher’s advice,” Fan Xian suddenly exclaimed.
Fei Jie always considered himself the best poison master in the entire world. He never taught Fan Xian anything else besides the art of poison and always told Fan Xian that:
“There is a limit to one’s life, but no limit to the methods of killing. Therefore we must devote our limited life to the limitless pursuit of the most effective method of killing.”
And in Teacher Fei’s mind, poison was undoubtedly the most effective method of killing.
Now that Fan Xian already had the best poison teacher he could ever have, why bother with inner energy cultivation?
But today was the first time Fan Xian had ever brought up the topic in the entire year. Fan Xian’s curiosity grew. He placed two fingers gently on top of Fan Xian’s wrist and checked his pulse, and then his face turned pale.