to bring you some good news.
This news is worth far more than some broken bed!”

Chen Pingan raised his head.

LIu Xianyang said smugly, “My master Ruan left town and went to the bank of a stream in the south.
He said that he needed some help digging.
We didn’t have enough people, so I brought you up and said that you were pretty strong despite how you look.
Master Raun agreed.”

Chen Pingan stood up and was about to say his thanks.

Liu Xianyang stretched his hand out.
“Stop, stop! I don’t need your thanks.
Thank you isn’t going to cut it for the huge favor I did for you.
You owe me big time!”

Chen Pingan smiled awkwardly.

Liu Xianyang looked around.
There was a fishing rod in the corner of the house, a slingshot lying by the window, and a wooden bow hung on the wall. 

He strode out of the door, paying attention to avoid the ashes of the talisman.

Chen Pingan looked at the back of Liu Xianyang’s large figure.

Liu Xianyang suddenly turned around and looked at Chen Pingan.
He crouched and planted his feet on the ground.
Then, he charged forward and threw a hard punch.
After straightening his waist, he let out a laugh.
“Master Ruan told me that I only need to practice this fist art for one year.
Then, I’ll be able to punch people to death!”

Feeling it did not show off enough, Liu Xianyang performed a strange kicking motion with his feet.
He smiled and said, “I call this the crotch-kick.”

Liu Xianyang pointed at his chest and said proudly, “I’m quite the talent.
You know how I basically mastered Yao’s pottery ‘switchblade’ art, right? Well, something similar is happening with the fist art Master Raun taught me.
Master Raun said I was a once-in-a-century martial arts genius! If you stay by me, you’ll be living that good life in no time!”

When Liu Xianyang saw that Zhi Gui, the maid, had entered the house, he suddenly lost interest in acting cool.

He said to Chen Pingan casually, “Oh yeah, I passed some old man calling himself a ‘storyteller.’ He said he had all sorts of interesting stories to share.
You can check him out when you have time.”

Chen Pingan nodded.

Liu Xianyang walked away from Muddyrun.

This untamed youth who traveled alone was the subject of many of the town’s rumors.
He liked to say that his ancestors were generals that led soldiers into battle, so his family had a suit of armor that had been passed from generation to generation.

Chen Pingan had seen this suit of armor personally once, but the armor was hideous.
It was twisted and warped like the knots of trees.

Also, Liu Xianyang’s peers told a different story.
They said his ancestors were, in fact, deserters.
They had deserted the army, escaped to this town, and settled down, fortunate to escape the government’s pursuit.
The final nail in the coffin was that some people claimed to witness with their own eyes how Liu Xianyang’s ancestors ran from the battlefield and fled to this town.

Chen Pingan crouched at the door, lowered his head, and began blowing away the ashes.

At some point in time, Song Jixin had arrived at the yard’s wall, his maid Zhi Gui by his side.
He shouted, “Want to come to the locust tree to play?”

Chen Pingan raised his head.
“No.”

Song Jixin smirked.
“So boring.”

He turned his head to Zhi Gui and smiled.
“Zhi Gui, let’s go! Let’s buy you a jar of peach pollen fit for a king!”

She smiled shyly, “A small jar will do.”

Song Jixin put his hands behind his back, his head held high, chest pumped up.
He took big steps forward.
“My Song family, elegant and pomp, the bells ringing, officials for generations, our tassels swinging.
For what shall we bear the disgrace of being stingy?”

Chen Pingan sat on the doorstep and rubbed his forehead.
When Song Jixin didn’t say weird nonsense, he really wasn’t that bad.
However, at times like this, if Liu Xianyang was present, he would definitely say that he would smash Song Jixin in the back of the head with a brick to shut him up.

Chen Pingan leaned against the door of the house, thinking of tomorrow.
It will be mostly similar today.
The day after tomorrow will also be similar.

The cycle would repeat.

It seemed he, Chen Pingan, would be like this for the rest of his life.

Before finally being swallowed by earth.

Just one blink, and before he knew it, he would be in his next life.

Chen Pingan looked at the straw sandals on his feet and burst out laughing.

Stepping on limestone is really different from stepping on mud.

Liu Xianyang left Muddyrun and passed the fortune-telling stall of the taoist.
The taoist called out to him.
“Come, come, this one sees that your complexion is burning up, which does not bode well.
You mustn’t be afraid, for I have a way to purge your misfortunes.”

Liu Xianyang was a little surprised.
This taoist told people’s fortunes but had never actively solicited business.
People would come to the taoist on their free will, curious about their fortune. Could the closing of the kilns cause this taoist to go broke? He’s down on his luck and needs food, so he’s trying extra hard to get customers, ah? Liu Xianyang said with a mocking smile, “Profiting off misfortune, hmph.
Trying to bankrupt me, trying to cheat me of my money? In your dreams! Just fuck off.”

The taoist was not annoyed.
He shouted to Liu Xianyang, “Beseech a hundred years of fortune, yet disaster strikes.
To seek safety, burn the incense… burn the incense…”

Liu Xianyang turned around and ran towards the fortune-telling stall, cracking his knuckles.
“Burn the incense? I’ll burn your stall first!”

Spooked, the toaist got up, wrapped both arms around his head, and scurried off, not caring about the stall.

At the stall, Liu Xianyang looked at the state the taoist was in and chuckled.
He looked at the cup of fortune sticks on the table and shoved it over.
The fortune sticks slid out of the cup, making a fan shape.

Liu Xianyang pointed at the taoist who had stopped in the distance.
“I’ll beat you up the next time we meet!”

The toaist clasped his fists and bowed, entreating for mercy.

Liu Xianyang decided he had enough.

The taoist waited until Liu Xianyang was far away before going towards his stall.
He sat in his stall and sighed.
“The world has changed, people more difficult.
It’s not easy for this little one to make a living.”

Suddenly, the taoist’s eyes lit up.
He shut his eyes quickly and shouted, “Frogs ribbit in a pond, chaotic, one’s heart stinging, fame drifting, unstable, as wind sweeps the world!

A boy and girl pair had clearly heard the taoist’s words but had no intention of stopping.

The toaist opened his eyes slightly.
Seeing he was about to lose business, he slammed the table and raised his voice, screaming, “Good fortune awaits one, any position a possibility, in tune of Tao, spirit, essence, vitality, flourish!

Song Jixin and Zhi Gui continued moving forward, not stopping.

Disheartened, the taoist muttered, “Today’s not my day.”

Song Jixin turned his head without warning and flicked a copper coin to the toaist.
He beamed and said, “A thank you for the blessing.”

The taoist caught the coin hurriedly and opened his palm.
He looked at it and frowned.
Such a small amount of money, a single copper coin.

But.

The taoist placed the copper coin on the table.
In a blink of an eye, an oriole swooped down and landed on the table.
It lowered its head and pecked at the copper coin.
Then, it picked it up with its mouth and looked up at the taoist.
The oriole’s eyes showed sparks of intelligence, no different from that of people.

The taoist said softly, “Go on, you shouldn’t stay here long.
It’s not safe.”

The oriole vanished.

The taoist looked around, his gaze finally landing on the stone archway in the distance.
His gaze just so happened to focus on the plaque with the phrase “A sword rages, clashes” inscribed on it.
The taoist sighed, “A pity.” 

He then added, “If I sold that outside, wouldn’t it be worth 1,800 silver?”

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