s.

During festive times, the townsfolk found it acceptable to pay ten copper to try their luck with this taoist.
Of course, if one was short on money, they would not make such an unprofitable transaction. 

It would be incorrect to call this taoist a scammer.
There were a lot of people in this town.
If the taoist was just a fake, scamming people for money, he would have been kicked out of the town a long time ago.
The main skill of this taoist did not lie in fortune-telling.
Instead, it lay in treating minor illnesses.
Many people had recovered from their illness after drinking a bowl of the taoist’s talisman-treated water.

The taoist shook his head and said, “I shan’t be deceived.
We agreed that I would only write talisman after you drew a stick.
You would then pay me five copper.”

Chen Pingan said in a soft voice, “You said three copper before.”

The taoist laughed.
“I mean, you’ll pay me five copper if you draw superb fortune.” 

Chen Pingan made up his mind and reached for the fortune sticks.
He then suddenly raised his head and asked, “How did you know I have five copper on me?”

The taoist straightened his back.
“This one has a keen eye when dealing with fortune and wealth.”

Chen Pingan drew a fortune stick. 

The taoist smiled.
“Don’t be nervous, young one.
Everyone’s destiny is different.
What is destined to be will be.
What is not will not.
Don’t force it.
View the abnormal as normal, and let fate take its course.”

Chen Pingan put the stick back where it was.
He said respectfully, “Sir taoist, how about I don’t draw a fortune stick? I’ll give you five copper, and, in exchange, could you make the talisman better?”

After thinking for a moment, the taoist, smiling as usual, nodded.
“Yes.”

A set of calligraphy tools were on the table.
The taoist asked Chen Pingan his parents’ names, birthplace, and birth date.
Then, he took out a piece of talisman paper.
In one fell swoop, he completed the talisman.

As for what the taoist had written, Chen Pingan had no clue.

The taoist put down his brush and blew on the ink.
“When you get home, stand by the door and burn the talisman.”

Chen Pingan took the talisman solemnly.
After storing it carefully, he took out five copper coins, placed them on the table, and gave the taoist a thank-you bow.

The taoist waved his hand, signaling to Chen Pingan to get along with what he was doing.

Chen Pingan ran to deliver the last letter.

The taoist leaned back in his chair, glanced at the copper coins, and reached out to collect them.

At that moment, a nimble tiny oriole flew down, landing on the table.
It pecked one of the copper coins.
Soon, it lost interest and fluttered away.

“The oriole wants peach blossoms which have yet to bloom.” The taoist flicked his sleeve and sighed.
“You can’t change fate.”

Two fortune sticks slipped from his sleeves on accident and fell on the ground.
The taoist let out an oopsie and picked them up quickly.
His eyes darted in every direction.
Then, after making sure no one was looking, he breathed a sigh of relief and hid the two fortune sticks in his loose sleeves.

The taoist coughed, put on a serious expression, and waited for his next customer.

He lamented, It’s easier to make money from those women.

Among the two fortune sticks hidden in the taoist’s sleeve, one was a superb fortune stick, while the other was a bad fortune stick, used for special moments.

This was one of his little secrets.

Chen Pingan took light steps, as he ran towards the school.
He arrived outside the school, the nearby bamboo lush and vibrant.

Chen Pingan slowed down and heard the mellow voice of a middle-aged man from inside the building.
“Repeat after me, ‘Sun’s rising, a hero dons their robe, searing, upright, bright’.”

Then, the clear voice of a boy entered Chen Pingan’s ear.
“‘Sun’s rising, a hero dons their robe, searing, upright, bright.”

Chen Pingan looked up, seeing the sunrise in the east.
It shined brightly.
He was mesmerized.

When he awoke from his stupor, the schoolboy was shaking his head while reciting the passage the teacher requested with ease.
“Spring bloom, the world shakes, living beings awake, sleep soon, awake early, stroll out, and free yourself with what this world brings about.”

Chen Pingan stood at the entrance of the school, hesitant to speak.

Dressed in a cyan robe, the middle-aged scholar, his hair turning gray, turned his head and then walked out of the room.

Chen Pingan presented the letter to him and said respectfully, “This is a letter for Sir Qi.”

The scholar, a practitioner of Confucianism, took the letter and said warmly, “Feel free to come here and listen when you have time.”

Chen Pingan felt a little awkward.
He would probably never have time to come here and listen to the scholar’s teachings.
He did not know what to say.

The scholar smiled and said in understanding, “No matter, despite the teachings being in books, humans, in the end, act outside of books.
May you be on your way.”

Chen Pingan breathed a sigh of relief.
He bid his goodbyes and left.

After running a fair bit of distance, Chen Pingan suddenly got shivers down his spine.
He turned his head around and saw the scholar was still standing at the gate.
The scholar’s figure was bathed in sunlight, resembling that of an immortal.

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