Chapter 13: Don’t be afraid, Moxi
As soon as I woke up the next day, Accountant Liu had come to see me. He pulled me to a pile of empty jars and looked as though he wanted to cry but simply couldn’t.
I heaved a sigh while slapping on a helpless look: “White wine isn’t very popular among the customers anyway. Let’s sell yellow wine.”
Seeing that even the owner herself didn’t really care, Accountant Liu naturally had nothing more to say.
I was still upset enough not to go home, and remained the entire day at the tavern. And when I didn’t see anyone coming to look for me, I got even more peeved. The stubbornness of a rock kept me at the tavern for another night.
On the third day, I loitered outside the pub for an entire morning with a sour face on and ended up scaring all our customers away. Half pulling and half dragging, Accountant Liu begged me to go back inside. I found a corner to drink. At times I felt angry, and then at times I felt sad. After consuming some alcohol, the idea that perhaps something had happened to Moxi began to nip at me. I could hardly stood still because of this fear. I got up and was about to go home when, without any warning, a small figure flew into my arms and clung onto my waist.
I looked down. Moxi?! Hugging me, his face was firmly pressed against my stomach. He was out of breath, and after a while, still didn’t calm down.
He ignored my call. I had to call a few more times before he would nod his head against my stomach to show that he heard me. “What’s wrong?”
He only now looked up from my arms with reddened eyes. He signed to tell me that he thought I had left and hadn’t wanted him anymore.
I frowned, unable to help myself from grumbling: “You’re the one who doesn’t want me!”
His eyes reddened again as though he was going to cry when I said this to him. He hastily gestured something to the effect that yesterday, Bai Jiu took him to the outskirts to practice martial arts and he also didn’t return for the day. This morning, they got back only to find me gone. He thus quickly came over here to look for me. He asked me not to chide him or to get angry with him. “Since Sansheng doesn’t like Master, Moxi won’t learn from him anymore,” he wrote onto my palm after some deliberation.
When I saw him like this, my anger, no matter how bad, also vanished.
I couldn’t but sigh. I crouched down, ruffled his hair and asked, “Why do you like Bai Jiu so much? Is he prettier than Sansheng?”
He resolutely shook his head. Pleased, I smiled. “Then how about we find another master for you?”
He kept still for a moment before writing on my palm: “Moxi wants to learn martial arts.”
My brows raised in surprised. I didn’t expect Moxi to have such thoughts. As I was about to ask him why, I suddenly heard a crass male voice shouting in front of the store: “No white wine? You run a tavern but you’re actually telling me you have no wine? I don’t give a damn. I have to drink today!”
Accountant Liu profusely apologized to him.
I scowled and told Moxi: “Stay here. We’ll go back together after I take care of this.”
Moxi nervously tried to pull me back. I patted his head to reassure him and then walked out. I frowned upon seeing the person in question. The third young master of the Guan family that ran the capital rampant had actually picked my tavern to crash today. The world is full of wonders, indeed. The third young master’s father was a first-rank official in court, his older sister was the Imperial Consort, and his entire family was favored by the emperor. Normally, anyone who came across them would need to show some minimal courtesy. This third young master was a notoriously rotten dregs. He never worked, and was always found at various entertainment establishments. He loved women, money, and alcohol – a classic player exemplar.
It surprised me beyond words that such an infamous man was suddenly making an appearance at my little-known tavern.
Accountant Liu was still apologizing to him. I stopped Accountant Liu and said to the third young master: “Our store doesn’t have white wine today. If you must have some, sir, I believe there are several large restaurants at the main intersection ahead.”
The third master looked me up and down with his squinted eyes – eyes so vulgar I just wanted to gouge them out. He rubbed his chin, smiled and said, “Just now on the street, I heard that the owner of this tavern is a widow with a kid, but that she wasn’t old in the least, and even rather pretty. I didn’t believe them… but it turns out the rumor wasn’t wrong. You are quite a fetching woman.”
I lightly replied: “I guess half of that is true.”
He didn’t get mad nor angry. For a second there, he forgot how to reply. By the time he recovered, the smile on his face grew even more leering. He went up to me and grabbed my hand. “Haha! They forgot to tell me that this sweet lady was also a lonely little slut! Why don’t you let me give you some love and care today?”
I eyed him more deliberately, wondering whether to cut his tongue off first or to claw his eyes out first, or to simply neuter him and hang his winkie above the city gate tower as a favor to every woman in the world and as a warning to everyone else.
Out of the blue, a tiny figure dashed over and fiercely pushed him to the ground.
While I was still stupefied, a jug had hit the third young master and bathed him in yellow wine.
Silence all around.
Moxi’s anger appeared to not have cooled down. He went behind the counter, looked for a piece of paper and wrote a huge ‘SCRAM’ on it, then threw it at the man.
Apart from the time he threw a fireball at me in the underworld, I had never seen him this furious. Maybe he had also been this furious, but he was a mature adult who knew how to control himself. As a child presently, his temper just broke loose.
I saw the onlookers quickly dispersing out of the corner of my eye. Accountant Liu looked as though an apocalypse had arrived. The helpers in the pub also turned ashen. Everyone knew what sort of retaliation was in store for us.
But I was not scared even if they were.
I was about to praise Moxi when, at the same time, he pulled me down and hugged me tight. He patted me on the back as if to give me comfort, as if to say: “It’s okay, Sangsheng, don’t be afraid. Moxi will protect you.”
I was so touched despite not knowing whether I should laugh or cry at his action. While I was squeezing him in my hug, I suddenly saw the third young master climbing up, then slamming a piece of broken shard onto Moxi’s head.
My mind went blank that instant. All I could think was that nobody must ever hurt my Moxi. I immediately pressed Moxi’s head into my chest, myself leaning forward. A sharp sting pricked my head. Even though I was the spirit of a stone, the fierce blow blackened my sight and made me dizzy for a moment.
Moxi was petrified in my arms. He outstretched his hand to gingerly touch the warm and sticky blood that was slowly trickling down my forehead. Shock and fear gradually filled his eyes.
“Don’t be afraid, Moxi.”
His face was blanched.
The third young master complained of a headache and then menaced to have our heads chopped off as compensation.
Incensed, my desire to kill rose from within.
I had never been treated this way in the past one thousand years. This third young master of the Guans was really the first. At this point, I seriously wanted to snip his little wiener off, stir-fry it, feed it to him, and see whether he could grow another one. Compensation? Like hell that’d happen!
Yanwang wouldn’t let me kill in the human world, but there are plenty of ways to make people suffer living deaths.
Wrath condensed in my eyes as I drew the forces of darkness to my fingertips. If he took another step, I shall directly maim his family jewels.
Just then, a figure suddenly yanked the third young master’s arm away and forced him into an awkward fall onto the ground. That person seemed to not have cooled down, for he stepped over and gave him a hard kick. “Why are there such scum in broad daylight?!”
This voice sounded very familiar. I wiped my blood away to take a closer look at him.
I pursed my lips, then turned around to look at Moxi only to find him in joy. Jealousy crept up inside of me. I covered my head and pretended to weakly fall against Moxi, feebly saying: “Moxi, it hurts so much…”
Moxi panicked and wrapped his arms around me. His round eyes reddened, but he did not dare to cry.
I leaned against Moxi while giving Bai Jiu a provocative glance. But how could he find the mood to be vindictive with me right now?
That third young master was a real useless piece of thrash. He actually passed out from a single kick! Arguing with this bully was one thing, being immature with him was one thing, fighting with him was one thing, but knocking him out cold was an entirely other issue.
Bai Jiu’s eyes swept to the far distance before he said to Accountant Liu: “We’re closing shop today!” Then he came over and asked me: “Can you still walk?”
Now that the third young master got beaten this badly, his father would never it let go. Offending a big official wasn’t a good thing for Moxi in this lifetime. The only way left was to quickly make our escape before soldiers could come to find us. We ought to flee the capital, change our identities, and then think of what to do next.
I dropped my weakling act and wiped the blood on my head. “Just some scratches. Nothing to worry about.”
Bai Jiu arched an eyebrow and said nothing.
After returning home, I had wanted to quickly pack and escape before all, but Moxi insisted on helping me bandage my wounds first, refusing to go anywhere.
In this lifetime, I had never used magic in front of Moxi. At this point, I naturally did not dare to expose myself. The only thing I could do was wait for Moxi to slowly clean and dress my wound with shaking hands.
I thought that no matter how scary the third young master was, he was just a rich kid. I didn’t expect soldiers to come until the next day at the earliest.
Unexpectedly, soldiers came that very night to search.
They gathered outside the yard, reluctant to come in. From the sound of their heavy footsteps, I knew that this was no ordinary infantry. It they were here only to capture a woman and a small child who had injured the third son of the Guans, then they were making too big of a fuss. I turned and looked to Bai Jiu who was standing in the yard. His back was turned against me, his figure solitary.
Thus when I heard these shouts from outside the yard: “Rebel Bai Qi! Resistance is futile!” I was not surprised in the least. When I saved him, I already knew this man wasn’t simple. I just didn’t think he’d be this problematic.
Bai Qi was the treasonous general. It was said that when he became dissatisfied with the emperor’s appointment of corrupt officials, implementation of severe policies, and surrender to barbarians of the east, he turned against the court and intended to overthrow the government to become the emperor himself.
Such was the character we ran into. No wonder the capital was placed under curfew for so many days; no wonder soldiers came to us so soon.
Moxi grabbed onto my sleeves, shaking badly. I patted his head and warmly said, “It’s okay! Sansheng’s right here.”
But he shook his head, writing onto my palm: “Moxi will protect Sansheng.” His eyes shone bright in the dark.
Putting aside my and Bai Jiu’s conflict, this master of his had actually done his due diligence. What Moxi learned in a month with him was probably more than what he learned at school in three years.
If Bai Jiu were to continue teaching him, with Moxi’s studious and diligent disposition, there was no limit to what Moxi could achieve in his future.
The thought of saving Bai Jiu flashed in my mind, but then I wondered: if I revealed magic in front of Moxi at this time, how would he be looking at me? And how would Bai Jiu be looking at me?
Not giving me much time to ponder, Bai Jiu had strode out.
He opened the courtyard’s gate. Outside, the armed soldiers were all clad in black armors, stinging my eyes with the fire light reflecting off of their blades. In addition to the fire glaring against our faces, there was also an overwhelming energy in the air that made me ill at ease.
I looked to the distance past the gate where a bright yellow palanquin sat behind layers of encircling soldiers.
My brows raised in astonishment. I didn’t expect the famous tyrannical king to place enough importance on Bai Qi to personally come and capture the fugitive. I unconsciously let out a sigh. This time, I feared I couldn’t help him even if I wanted to.
Spirits of the underworld were born with a natural fear for rulers’ inherent royal energy. Even the royal energy emitting from an imbecile emperor was enough to suppress little underworld beings from lifting their heads. Even though I wasn’t suffering so bad that I could not lift my head, the strength in my body had mostly been subdued.
“Rebel Bai Qi! You’ve betrayed His Majesty by surrendering to the enemy and killing our own people! Now you even dare to assassinate His Majesty! Your crimes are unpardonable…” the eunuch condemned his crimes in a pitchy voice.
Bai Qi icily growled: “What a load of bull! If you want to arrest me, then come on over.”
Hearing this, a tremor ran through Moxi as he wanted to step out. I quietly stopped him with a shake of my head.
I, Sansheng, had always been a selfish creature. I drew the lines of friendships very clearly. The friendship with Bai Jiu wasn’t enough for me to sacrifice Moxi and myself in order to save him. For Moxi, offending the emperor had no benefits in this lifetime.
The eunuch grunted: “Go! Why haven’t you arrested the criminal?!” Soldiers instantly rushed forth.
Bai Jiu’s expression frosted up into a sneer as he directly twisted a soldier’s arm, seized his spear, flipped his hand and thrust the weapon into another soldier’s chest. “Arrest me with your ability?” he said with a laugh.
I guess it wasn’t an urban legend when they said the great general was brave and fierce, and had matchless martial arts.
The eunuch’s face couldn’t help but crumble. He looked toward the bright yellow palanquin where two gentle claps sounded.
I knitted my brow, sensing the murderous intent in the yard suddenly thickening. By the time I looked up, the walls had been lined with archers, their bows raised and strings drawn. Ordinarily, I’d have already shot them down one by one before they could even climb the wall. But the emperor’s presence had seriously impeded my senses today.
I took Moxi into my arms while secretly pooling dark forces into my palm.
Bai Jiu narrowed his eyes, glancing across the soldiers that were surrounding the small courtyard. He raised his voice and spoke to the palanquin: “This doesn’t concern them. I’ll come with you, let them go.”
The eunuch placed his ears next to the palanquin and quietly listened for a moment. He next waved his hand. The surrounding archers immediately lowered their bows.
As soon as Bai Jiu flung the spear in his hand away, the soldiers cuffed him with iron chains. I gazed after his back and sighed. Bai Jiu, Bai Jiu, you’re a great general, aren’t you? Humans are treacherous, how can you trust others like this?
Even if it were the emperor.
Not waiting for Bai Jiu to go far, the eunuch shrilly shouted: “Kill them!”
Bai Jiu, who was escorted by five or six soldiers, turned around in dismay and thundered: “Tyrant…” His voice had hardly landed by the time archers already let fly their arrows on command. Numerous sharp arrows pierced the air and flew at us. I hugged Moxi standing in the yard with nowhere to hide.
Die, or reveal my spiritual powers?
I chuckled. Did I even have to choose? Moxi was still here. If he hadn’t passed his tribulation, I’d never let him come into any harm.
I had long transferred dark forces from my palm to my abdomen. I closed my eyes to concentrate before giving off a scream. Dark forces shot out and deflected all the arrows backwards.
Instantly, a constant stream of terror rang into my ears. Many soldiers had been wounded by the backfiring arrows. They one by one fell off the wall. Even the ones who weren’t injured were scared stiff, all looking at me, aghast.
Silence, silence, and more silence.
With all eyes on me, I gave a bashful sigh: “I’m sorry for being so beautiful.”
“Demon!” Someone suddenly cried just as commotion took over the grounds.
I held Moxi’s cold hands as I gave his paled face a smile. I called to him like I usually called him home for dinner: “It’s okay Moxi, Sansheng’s right here.”
The blank look in his eyes stung my heart. At the thought of the last two lifetimes ending bleakly, I couldn’t help telling him: ”Don’t listen to their rubbish. Sansheng’s not a demon.”
But what time did I have to delay? I used what strength was left in my abdomen to leap to Bai Jiu’s side. While the crowd hadn’t yet reacted, I knocked the few burly soldiers guarding Bai Jiu unconscious, grabbed Bai Jiu’s arm, and then flew back beside Moxi.
Not looking at their shocked eyes, I lifted a finger and let the iron chains on his wrists break apart. I pushed Bai Jiu away while telling him: “Take Moxi with you. I’ll block them from behind.”
No matter how strong Bai Jiu was, he was still only a mortal. There were so many soldiers here, not to mention archers. Wanting him to block them was firstly not very safe, and secondly not very nice.
I had always been confident of my own ability. Even with only a fraction of my spiritual powers left, I still had full confidence. After all, everyone present was a mortal; the most they could do was give me some scratches. With that thought, I urged Bai Jiu to take Moxi away. I couldn’t flex my muscles with the two of them here.
Having witnessed the power of my scream, Bai Jiu did not bother asking me further. “Take care,” he simply said before he took off with Moxi.
Moxi struggled from his arms to grab onto my sleeve, showing that he was unwilling to let go and would rather die with me.
I was getting a headache. The troops on the emperor’s side suddenly reacted. “Capture the demoness and the traitor!” the eunuch shouted. “The bounty will be handsome!” But because the soldiers remembered how powerful I had been, they stalled for a long time without daring to advance. I took this opportunity to ruffle Moxi’s soft hair. “Moxi, don’t be afraid. Sansheng is very powerful. You two go on ahead and I’ll catch up to you soon.”
He stubbornly held on; panic and fear filled his eyes.
The soldiers on the other side were set to charge. Having no other choice, I steeled my heart and pried off each of his fingers from my sleeve.
Disbelief took over his eyes.
I could not bear to look. I brushed his hands off, turned my back and took two steps to the front, coldly saying, “Go!”
Moxi could not speak, and therefore I didn’t get to know how he left in the end. The tears he left on the back of my hand burned a hole in my heart. It’ll be all right, I thought, it’s not forever goodbye. Moxi and I will meet soon again.
The soldiers panicked to see Bai Jiu flee. A few bold ones rushed forward, wanting to jump over me to chase after Bai Jiu.
I smiled at them. “Hold it right there.”
At the same time I gave this gentle warning, I gathered dark forces to my fingertips and waved my arm. A long yet thin, deep yet narrow flash traced across the small yard and divided several other small courtyards nearby in two.
The soldiers were on one side; I was on the other.
I burst out laughing. My laughter carried the deadly energy I had cemented for a millennium from the Wangchuan River. “Whoever crosses this line is going to get his winkie cut off.”