“Five silver leaves,” the dealer replied. Judging from the boy’s thin, weak figure, the dealer felt this boy wasn’t capable of much labor so five silver leaves was more than enough.
“That’s too little.” Feng Xi pulled Han Piao’s face towards the dealer and began bargaining, “Look, think of how handsome this child will be once he comes of age. He’s got big eyes, long lashes, skin smooth as water, he’s even more beautiful than a girl. If…..” Feng Xi oddly lowered her voice and continued, “If a rich fellow was to buy him…..I’ll surely get at least forty silver leaves. But I don’t need forty silver leaves, I’ll give you a discount, how about just ten silver leaves?”
“This… this…” the dealer looked at Han Piao’s face and indeed the child was a handsome boy. But seeing his pair of angry, resentful eyes glaring back at him, the dealer became somewhat intimidated and averted his gaze as he said, “Alright, ten silver leaves.”
“Deal.” Feng Xi nodded and urged the dealer, “Quickly open, my bet’s on Big!”
The dealer began to shake the die as more than a dozen eyes concentrated on his movements. After some time, he finally placed it down on the table as the surrounding people stared fixedly at his hand resting on the lid covering.
“Come on, open it! Open quickly!”
“Big! Big! Small! Small!”
Hearing the gamblers’ fervent roars, the dealers finally opened the lid and revealed the die inside.
“Ha ha… It’s Big! I won!” Feng Xi laughingly exclaimed as her hands reached for her winnings without any courtesy whatsoever.
“Ugh I lost!” someone shouted dejectedly.
A number of people jumped for joy while others were left disappointed by the results.
“Again! Again!” Feng Xi exclaimed excitedly with the mannerism of a typical gambler. If people previously thought she resembled a deity with an air of refinement to her, that thought had soon dissipated by now.
Feng Xi continued to play, but it was uncertain whether it was by sheer luck or the dealer paying her special care, no matter where she placed her wager, once the hand was revealed, she would always win. After only a few rounds, a pile of silver leaves had accumulated in front of her.
“I sure am lucky today!” Feng Xi exclaimed as she stuffed her winnings in her pocket before proceeding to say with a bright smile, “Apologies, I have something I must attend to so I shall leave first.”
“You…you’re leaving?” The dealer questioned in disbelief.
“Yes, I’m very hungry, I’m going to eat and shall come back and play another day,” Feng Xi explained as she looked back with a beaming smile, a smile that made her face look exquisite as a flower, leaving everyone momentarily entranced as she proceeded to grab hold of Han Piao and quickly make her escape.
Once they reached the main road, Feng Xi finally unsealed Han Piao’s accupoint.
“Sis…sister you use me as a wager? You want to sell me off?” Han Piao angrily shouted as soon as he got his voice back, disregarding the looks the people coming and going along the street casted their way.
“Shh!” Feng Xi said as she placed a finger on her lips and looked at Han Piao with a meaningful smile. “Piao’er, do you want your accupoint sealed again?”
With her single question, Han Piao did not dare to continue shouting but he was still so mad that his whole body began shaking and his eyes welled with tears. He was still unwilling to drop the matter as he complained, “My trust has been wasted on you. I treated you as my own sister but you used me as a wager to gamble and even wanted to sell me off to someone rich!”
“Piao’er, the situation was urgent and it was only temporary, no need to worry about it now,” Feng Xi said as she patted him on the head like he was a disobedient little dog.
Naturally, Han Piao did not believe her and said, “What if you had lost? Were you really going to sell me off?”
“No way!” Feng Xi firmly denied.
“So you do have a conscience afterall,” Han Piao said with a snort.
But little did he expect her to continue and say, “Piao’er, you don’t know me very well.” She then took a step back and proudly shared, “I’ve been to numerous gambling houses over the past ten years and I’ve never lost, not once. With my ability, if I want Big, it’ll be Big, if I want Small, it’ll be Small. There’s no way I’d lose.”
“You…” Han Piao was so angry he was at a loss for words. He could only glare at her before finally deciding to ignore her and turn his head to the side as he proclaimed, “I’m not following you anymore! You’re no longer my sister! I won’t ….care about you ever again!”
“Piao’er! Piao’er!” Seeing him so angry, Feng Xi quickly pulled at his hand and gently assured, “Piao’er, don’t worry, I’ll never lose you, this was all just a joke. I really won’t lose you! Even if I did, I would steal you back! You should know, with my martial arts, even if it’s that black fox, he won’t be able to stop me!”
Han Piao gave an angry snort in response. Though he was being pulled at by Feng Xi, he refused to turn around and face her.
“Piao’er be good, I promise you, I’ll never use you as a wager to gamble again!” Feng Xi said, trying her best to comfort him with sweet words.
“You said it! You must keep your word! You can’t use me as a wager again!”
“Yes! I’ll keep my word!” Feng Xi nodded.
“In the future, you can’t use me to gamble no matter what! You can’t sell me! Can’t hate me! Also can’t…can’t abandon me!”
Once his words fell, he suddenly became choked with tears, his eyes turning red as a wave of fear seized him. He was afraid he would be abandoned, that he would once again be alone like that night of the fire, that no matter how hard he screamed, no one would answer back!
“Alright, alright, alright! I promise!” Feng Xi couldn’t help but let out a sigh at the sight of his overflowing tears and hugged him in her arms, no longer having the heart to tease him.
In truth, he was just a child, a child who ought to be pampered in the arms of his mother and father but unfortunately for him, he’ll never get the chance again. His future will be met with trials and tribulations as he roams the Jianghu. To him, she was like the sole piece of driftwood he could grab onto and stay afloat. He had already lost his whole family, should she also abandon him too, he wouldn’t be able to withstand the blow.
“Piao’er, I won’t leave you, I’ll take care of you until one day you’re able to soar alone across the great skies,” Feng Xi unknowingly promised.
“You said it! You must not go back on your word!” Han Piao said as he returned her hug, wrapping his arms around her tightly as if afraid that this warm embrace would suddenly disappear.
The people coming and going along the streets glanced at them, surprise in their eyes at the sight of a big person and small child hugging in the middle of the street. In the end, they couldn’t help but sigh and turn away, no longer having the heart to look any longer, nor could they bear to disturb them for the two of them looked like two lost swallows who had finally reunited after flying for thousands of miles.
“Alright then, let’s go eat. ” Feng Xi said as she let go of Han Piao and helped him wipe the tears on his face. “You’re a big boy now and still cry. When I had left home for the first time, I hadn’t even cried, it was my father who cried instead.”
Embarrassed, Han Piao used his sleeve to wipe away the tears as he said, “Okay.”
The two of them were going to go find a restaurant to eat when suddenly a large crowd of people appeared in front of them. There were large, small, old and young people, some were on cattle carts, some were walking the streets, some with large bags, others with small bags across their backs, their complexions ashen and their clothes were worn, covered in dirt.
The people along the street all gave way, one after another to them, including Feng Xi and Han Piao who moved to the side. They watched this group of people travel along the street and head straight towards the south gate of Tai City.
“Alas! More refugees!” Someone beside them remarked with a sigh.
“Old man, where are these people coming from? Where are they heading?” Feng Xi asked an elderly man by the road.
“Young Lady, you probably haven’t been in town for a long time, have you?” The old man looked at Feng Xi and was slightly taken aback by her fair appearance. “These people are from Yi City and Jian City. Several refugee groups have already passed through here. It’s because the King had sent the Great General Tuo Bohong to lead troops to attack Bai Kingdom.”
“Attack Bai Kingdom? When did this happen?” Feng Xi questioned in surprise. These past few days, she and Han Piao had traveled along the mountain roads and did not enter the city so she had not heard of such an important matter taking place.
“A month ago.” The old man sighed and said, “All for the Xuan Zun Seal, I wonder how many more lives will be lost because of it!”
“Xuan Zun Seal? It’s because the Xuan Zun Seal appeared in Bai Kingdom that the King of Nan sent troops to attack?” Feng Xi asked, the light in her eyes growing cold.
“Yes,” the old man replied with an expression of deep pity on his face. “Xuan Zun Seal ah, Xuan Zun Seal! I don’t know how many people have died for it!”
“It’s merely an excuse,” Feng Xi murmured with a sigh.
The Xuan Zun Seal had made an appearance in Bai Kingdom, its traces were lost thereafter. Most likely no one besides her knew that the seal had fallen into the hands of the prince of Huang Kingdom. Others naturally assumed the King of Bai had gotten a hold of it, and so the King of Nan attacked Bai Kingdom under the pretext of obtaining the seal, but in actuality, he’s just taking this opportunity to wage war and expand his territory.
“If they’ve arrived here, then they’re safe already, why are they heading elsewhere?” Han Piao asked, confused.
If it was just to avoid the war, then Tai City was already several cities past Yi City and Jian City. But Han Piao didn’t understand why those people continued traveling towards Er City which was also a border city.
“They want to head to Huang Kingdom.” The old man peered towards the end of the street where the south gate was located. Once one was out of the south gate, the road led directly towards Er City. “Bai and Nan Kingdom have been engaged in constant war over the years. But their strengths are equally matched. Each time there is a war, neither side is able to defeat the other. Don’t even mention those living in the Palace, it’s only the common people who suffer as a consequence of war. During tumultuous times, it’s hard for families to stay together, to be protected. Huang Kingdom is the most powerful among the six vassal states. There are few wars there, and they have made proper arrangements to aid refugees from all over. So for these refugees, Huang Kingdom is like a paradise.”
“Then why don’t they go to Feng2 Kingdom, Hua Kingdom or Feng1 Kingdom? Isn’t Hua Kingdom the richest of the six?” Han Piao asked.
“Little brother, Hua Kingdom is too far away.” The old man looked at Han Piao with a smile and said, ” Feng2 Kingdom and Hua Kingdom are too far away for the refugees from Nan Kingdom. Huang Kingdom is the closest and it isn’t any worse than those two other kingdoms so naturally they would head there. As for the refugees from Bai Kingdom, they probably headed towards Feng1 Kingdom. “
Han Piao nodded and looked back at Feng Xi, only to see her gazing ahead at the crowd of refugees.
Among the crowd, there was a little girl, about 6 or 7 years of age. She was seemingly hungry, pointing at the pancake stall by the road, crying as she stood there. Her mother, tired and haggard from the long journey, tried every means to comfort her but the girl continued to cry. Left with no choice, the mother begged the stall owner for some food, only to get pushed aside, falling to the ground.
The old man’s gaze also fell on them. He let out a deep sigh and said, “There are people like that every day. If that boor Hao gave out free food every time, he wouldn’t be able to make a living himself.” The old man sighed again and said, “In fact, all the common people really wish for is to have a filling meal. They don’t care whether it’s the Xuan Zun Seal or the Xuan Mo Seal that holds more power and authority.”
Feng Xi silently walked over to the woman on the ground and helped her to her feet. She then took out a few silver leaves from her pocket and handed it to the woman.
“Thank you, young lady! Thank you, young lady!” the woman expressed her gratitude again and again. Seeing such a large amount of money in her hands, she thought she had come across a deity.
Feng Xi shook her head and smiled faintly at the woman. She then turned around, went over to Han Piao and held his hand, saying, “Piao’er, let’s go eat.”
Peering up, Feng Xi noted the skies were still blue and the sun was still shining brightly as ever.
“In fact, it’s really simple, the common people just want to have a filling meal….just a filling meal,” Feng Xi murmured to herself with a sigh that held a sense of sorrow but also a trace of enlightenment.
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