This chapter has been brought to you by me, and larkspur.
Chapter 12: You Want Your Family Destroyed?
The second day was the main day of the temple festival. Right from dawn, people were selling fried dough along the streets. 1
The Zheng people’s diet was very different from the Qin’s. The Qin liked to eat flour-based foods, but the Zheng liked to eat food made from rice flour.
This fried dough was made with sticky rice flour kneaded and pressed with a stone overnight. Then it was rolled into egg-size balls and fried in oil before being coated with a layer of red sugar.
This kind of food was too sweet for people in Changling and Guangzhong. They would likely smash their bowls due to the food sticking to their teeth.
Ding Ning did not dislike this kind of sweet food. He asked for two but when he prepared to pay, the woman who sold the fried dough determinedly refused. “Since you are guests of Old Master Feng, we cannot accept money for these two unworthy things,” she said bashfully.
Ding Ning frowned slightly. He looked at this woman who had a thick Zheng accent. He asked, “How do you know we are guests of Old Master Feng?”
“It spread through the city yesterday. Two old Old Master Feng’s guests from Changling are staying in the inn. You clearly have a Changling accent, and you are just as described. You will not be anything else.” The woman explained honestly.
“It seems we are fated to be disliked today.”
Chewing the sticky rice ball, Ding Ning watched the bashful woman leave. He turned to Xue Wangxu and said, “Now, the Zheng City people all feel that we are guests of Old Master Feng. When we, the guests, make trouble for Old Master Feng, we will be very detestable in their eyes.”
Xue Wangxu smiled. “It’s a good feeling sometimes when people detest you but cannot do anything. Especially when you do not need to care about their opinions.”
Fire signified prosperity. The Zheng worshiped the kitchen god so their kitchen fires would burn, they could eat a full meal, and also so their days would grow more prosperous.
The ceremony was held at noon, when the sun was at its peak.
The festival also included trading of items. Since early in the morning, Zhushan District grew livelier as carriages streamed in and a sea of people formed.
When there was still an hour until noon, a boom sounded in the east and west of Zhushan District and drums and music started. People in strange clothing, wearing multicolored masks, sang and danced along the streets.
These were the jumping shamans of the Zheng. Supposedly, this method could communicate with the ghosts and gods. They could ask for health and peace.
Soon, a host of people carrying tall tables with all kinds of tribute items followed.
Traditionally, after the tribute team set off, there would be a group of men at the kitchen god temple to carry the kitchen god out of the temple in a procession on the streets. Then, the kitchen god would be brought back to the Fire Virtue Hall of the Kitchen Temple to be worshipped. After that, the major families of the Zhushan District and the people of high status would take turns burning incense.
The table with incense was already prepared in front of Fire Virtue Hall. Dozens of redwood chairs were placed on the sides.
A handsome youth in grand clothing stood in an empty place near the table. This was the only grandson of Old Master Feng, Feng Qinghan.
Feng Futang walked quickly to Feng Qinghan and whispered. “Xue Wangxu and that youth called Ding Ning have not shown signs of leaving the inn.”
“They said they would leave today, but they haven’t yet left the inn. It appears they do have other plans.” Feng Qinghan sneered disdainfully. “If they really have other ideas, then they are inviting trouble for themselves.”
At the same time, dozens of carriages were waiting near a serene manor.
There was an elegant tower in the courtyard. Two female attendants were helping a man who looked to be in his fifties wash and dress.
One female attendant placed a warm towel soaked in medicine on the man’s face and gave a gentle massage. The other female attendant was using an agarwood comb to tease his dark hair roots.
This man was unusually patient as he waited for the heat in the towel to soak into his skin.
As the towel cooled and the female attendant switched for a clean wet towel to help him wash his face and neaten his hair, he asked the middle-aged man who had been standing at the doorway, “Xue Wangxu said he was leaving but hasn’t yet?”
The middle-aged man who had waited showed no signs of discontent. His reply was crisp and quick. “He shows no signs of leaving.”
“He’s really waiting for me?”
“He, Xue Wangxu, can disregard the rest of his life, but I, Feng Qianzhuo, have a great undertaking. Why should I lower myself to the same level as him?”
“When I appear, make sure he doesn’t appear.”
This man that was enjoying the servitude of the two female attendants was the old master of the Feng Family, the beloved Feng Qianzhuo of Zhushan District. He looked at the middle-aged man and commanded. “To avoid any accidents, have Eighth Mistress follow. Do not arrange a seat for her, just let her wait with you.”
The group of dancing shamans had almost reached the Zheng Kitchen God Temple.
Looking at the time, Xue Wangxu brushed off the peanut shells that had fallen onto his clothes. He looked at Ding Ning, who had no interest in this third plate of salted water peanuts and stood up.
Most of the pedestrians had followed the shamans so the streets around this inn were slightly deserted.
As Ding Ning took a dozen steps after Xue Wangxu, dozens of men dressed in grey robes walked out of the surrounding alleys. Reflective metal lights shone on the building roofs all around them.
A thin and strong man with dark skin gingerly walked in front of Xue Wangxu and Ding Ning. Before he could speak, Xue Wangxu glanced at him coolly. He felt the other’s gaze hit his mind like two giant hammers.
His knees buckled and he almost sat on the ground.
“Your Feng family doesn’t have many accomplished people. No one can stop me unless Feng Qianzhuo comes in person,” Xue Wangxu said with little interest.
This dark-skinned thin man spat out blood. He had bitten his tongue so the pain could give him clarity.
“We cannot stop you, but we can die.”
This dark-skinned man was fearless. He bled from the corners of his mouth as he pulled out a dagger and held it across his throat. He sneered. “What will spread after today will be Cave Master Xue committing a slaughter here for a personal grudge.”
Pausing, the man looked at Xue Wangxu and coldly said, “I know that Cave Master Xue is powerful, but I fear you cannot stop all of us from committing suicide. I must also remind Cave Master Xue we are all Zheng people. Even if Cave Master Xue doesn’t fear Her Highness’ anger, if the fuss is great, I think White Goat Cave will pay a greater price.”
Looking at the vicious gazes of this man and the surrounding people, Xue Wangxu frowned slightly. He had considered that Feng Qianzhuo would stop him from meeting but not that Feng Qianzhuo would use such a method.
“You are members of the Feng family. Are you rebelling?” Ding Ning said calmly as Xue Wangxu hesitated.
The dark-skinned man and the surrounding people who could sacrifice themselves for the Feng Family looked in puzzlement at this Changling youth. They did not understand Ding Ning’s words.
“Originally, we had no interest in this temple festival. But yesterday, we heard your steward mention that this festival is different from previous ones. Most importantly, the empress’ calligraphy and painting will be worshipped in Fire Virtue Hall. We are going there now to revere Her Highness’ calligraphy and painting.” Ding Ning looked calmly at the surrounding people and spoke, slowly but clearly. “Even if you do not admit it now, if you die and there is an investigation, they will easily find your connection to the Feng family. We are going to revere Her Highness’ calligraphy and painting, but you will not allow us even to the point of death. You Zheng people want to stop us Qin from revering the empress’ calligraphy and painting. The Feng Family wants to rebel, and you Zheng … want to die, and your family exterminated?”
As he spoke, Ding Ning tugged at Xue Wangxu’s sleeve, and continued to walk forward without another look at these people.
Xue Wangxu cast an admiring gaze at his disciple and walked forward without a word.
The dark-skinned man with the short sword and the remaining Zheng people were thrown back at Ding Ning’s words. Cold sweat surfaced on their skin and soaked them through in this cold weather.
“No wonder Wang Taixu admires you so much.” Xue Wangxu looked at Ding Ning and said softly with a smile. “You have the ability to part the mists and see clearly. You are also skilled at speaking cleverly and use righteousness to pressure others.”
Ding Ning smiled coldly. “How can people of wild places like this compare to Changling in playing with power and using righteousness principles to frighten people?” he said, disdainfully.
Xue Wangxu laughed out loud and said, “I just do not know what other tricks the Feng Family has.”
“We will deal with them as they come.” Ding Ning looked at him. “I heard the best quarreller is one that doesn’t give the other a chance to speak.”
Xue Wangxu thought for a moment and said, “That’s true.”
The moment he spoke, a gentle wave of primal energies of the universe came out of his body.
He and Ding Ning walked in the same way as usual, but in the next instant, their figures were unimaginably fast. The pedestrians only felt wind blow past their heads. In the blink of an eye, they saw two faint figures fly like cranes.
Translator Ramblings: Xue Wangxu and Ding Ning are more friends than teacher and student.
Have some fried dough.
- Sword Dynasty Volume Seven Chapter 16 “That Inconspicuous Person”
- Sword Dynasty Volume Seven Chapter 15 “The Best in the World”
- Sword Dynasty Volume Seven Chapter 14 “Marquis”
- Sword Dynasty Volume Seven Chapter 13 “Gold Dagger”
- Sword Dynasty Volume Seven Chapter 12 “Behead”
- This is essentially flour mixed with other seasonings and then deep-fried. ↩