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Chapter IIChapter II
Life of the Eight Chosen MenLife of the Eight Chosen Men
Everyone was secretly relieved when they saw that it was just a blind man.
“His presence is just what we need right now. I think you must fully understand the rules of worship.” Chu Huairou said.
“Hey, I'm still not finished eating. You can't waste food, you know.” The fat man muttered and grinned.
The blind man stopped walking and I heard his voice echo in the temple. “Friends, can you let me inside your humble abode? The rain is still pouring in heavily."
“You should. Hurry, come in.” Lu Pingchuan said authoritatively, obviously trying to make his voice sound like an adult.
“Thank you.” The blind man said, as he stamped the wooden stick and continued to walk. When he entered the hall, he fumbled with the stick and leaned against the wall.
The bonfire was still lit. Through its light, everyone had the opportunity to see how he truly looks like. He is not that tall. In fact, he looks very strange. It's like a cloud of mystery is all over him. Although his eyes are closed, one can clearly see that his eyes have shrunk and deformed maybe because of old age. His complexion is very dark and rough as he was always outdoors.
His clothes were completely soaked. After sitting down, Nanfeng unloaded the baggage on my back and reached inside. He has prepared some extra clothes and an old pair of shoes. A paper bag with two slices of bread were also inside.
The blind man took out a piece of the bread and ate it. He chewed on it slowly.
Everyone here has seen almost everything. They have experienced being with all kinds of people. Therefore, the appearance of the blind man did not bother them that much. In fact, they already knew what he was here for. The tea was already boiling so Nanfeng went to get it and gave it to the blind man. He expressed his gratitude for it and then took another bite at the bread.
When he returned to his seat, the Nanfeng, who is also known as the 'south wind', observed the blind man again. When he gave him the tea, he found that the teeth of the 'scorpion' were very neat and there was no tartar stain. It was really unusual considering how rugged his appearance is. This is contrary to common sense. Not all old men have the same clean teeth that young people have.
After the man finished eating the bread, Lu Pingchuan approached him and respectfully asked for his knowledge regarding the rules of worship. The way the blind man talks was not that fast, but was not slow, either. The words were clear, and his voice was cool to the ears. It's like he was really used to speaking in front of many people.
After listening to the scorpion’s instructions, everyone started to move. Lu Pingchuan helped Mo go out and make a fragrant yellow paper candle. Nanfeng accompanied the fat man out to find the cock. Actually, they will not find a cock, but steal one. Naturally, they have to. They don't have any money.
Nanfeng and the fat man left the temple first. It is still raining outside, but it is not as strong as earlier.
“Give me a drink. I need it. Otherwise, I'll get tired quick.” The fat man reached for the jug Nanfeng is holding.
“What?” said the south wind.
“Pass me the wine, please.” The fat man was already begging.
Nanfeng shook his head no. “There is not much here. You have to keep and save it for worship.”
“Just a tiny sip won't hurt!” The fat man continued to beg.
Nanfeng shook his head no again.
“Hey, I'm already suffering here. You should have pity on me and let me drink alcohol!” He tried to be radical.
The south wind just ignored him and walked east. He knew that his companion would stop talking eventually.
The fat man didn’t get what he wanted so he became very depressed. His slouched his back as he was walking.
After walking a few more steps, Nanfeng stopped, and he handed over the jug to his comrade. “Well, just a sip." The
fat man agreed and promised before he excitedly grabbed the jug.
Seeing that the fat man was not putting down the jug, he hurriedly reached for it but it was already too late.
He shook the jug. It is already empty.
Seeing that Nanfeng is already getting angry, the fat man tried to reason out. “But I just took a sip. I thought the jug was still full.”
He was sure that there was not enough wine anymore so he just gave it back to the fat man. “This is not why we are here. We have to steal the chicken. I will go and make a pot.”
“Oh, OK.” The fat man happily grabbed the jug. “Right. Have you talked to Chang Le?"
“Chang Le seems to have some difficulties. I asked him what is wrong but he would not say.” Nanfeng was obviously discouraged.
The fat man nodded. “He is not doing good right now. When you were away, Master Chu fed him medicine. He lost his temper and knocked the bowl away. It was so unusual of him.”
“When I have the chance, I will ask him again. I won't take no this time.” He paused to look around. “I am going south. I'll meet you here later." The
fat man waved his hand and went east.
The wine is made of grain. The food was not enough for them. Obviously, the wine is just a luxury. The pub and the inn hid their wines with great care. It is very difficult to steal it from them, but the wine was not his target. He knew better than that. He didn't plan to take the wine from the store. Instead, he targeted those that were already bought by the guests.
Late autumn was always very cold and it got even colder when it rains. Most of the guests who stayed in the store had to drink wine to drive away the cold. After half an hour, he succeeded in his mission. It was easy for him. He was born for this and stealing is a life skill that he put importance to. Begging for food and money just won't cut it.
When he returned to the meeting place, the fat man was already waiting for him. He was shirtless already, and he was nestling a chicken in his arms.
The two immediately returned to the temple. Lu Pingchuan and Mo Li were already there, too. The open space in front of the statue was cleaned. It was a big event. Everyone washed their face from the water well behind the temple.
After returning to the temple, everyone looked at Lu Pingchuan. He once again asked the blind man sitting by the wall. “Sir, would you please help us again?" The
old man heard what he said. His arm immediately rose. “This is an important event in your life. According to tradition, it is necessary to sacrifice three animals, prepare the wine, recall and tell your lives and pray for the gods to swear to the heavens and the earth.” The
old blind man finished, and everyone stared at each other.
“Sir, we find that hard to understand. Can you be more simple with your words?” Lu Pingchuan frowned.
“Is it a child’s play?” The old man shook his head.
Lu Pingchuan replied, “Sir, we have a few men here who are brothers by origin. Today, one of us is very sick. We need help from the gods.” The
old man did not immediately replied. He became silent for a moment. "Fall in line and face the statue. The oldest should be in the left and the youngest should be in the right."
After he said this, everyone began to move. Chu Huairou was at the far left, Lu Pingchuan was at second, followed by the fat man. The rightmost one was the little boy named Mo Li, followed by the Nanfeng. The mute girl was in the middle.
“Chang Le, come here now.” Lu Pingchuan rushed to the wooden pillar in the hall and waved.
Changle just glanced at Lu Pingchuan and did not move.
Lu Pingchuan raised his tone. “Come up here and kneel down.”
Seeing that Lu Pingchuan was already angry, Changle buried his head deeply. “I don’t want to hurt you.”
“What is the problem?” Lu Pingchuan glared at him.
“Chang Le, come on,” Chu Huairou walked over to him. “We are a family. How can we talk about your problem if you would just ignore us?”
Changle looked at Chu Huairou, and then looked at the angry Lu Pingchuan. He stood up straight, and squeezed himself between the fat man and the mute girl.
“Now, tell of the lives of the eight chosen men.” The voice of the scorpion echoed in the temple.
“I am Chu Huairou from Lingxi Village, Yinan County. I am 14 years old.” Chu Huairou was the first one to speak. He has handsome features. He was tall and strong.
“I am Lu Pingchuan and I came from Chang’an. I am the former Dali Temple priest Lu Zhenggan’s son.” Lu Pingchuan said loudly. He has the senses of a brave lion. There is a god living in him and he is intelligent and witty.
“Big brother, what should I say?” The fat man looked around.
Lu Pingchuan looked back at the fortune teller. “Sir, we are all orphans. Some of us didn't know our parents since birth. They don't know their names. What should they say?"
“Anything." The fortune teller said this so casually that it looked like the sacred ritual is just something of a farce to him.
“I am Fat Man, 13 years old. I think I am from the Linxian area." The fat man said hesitatingly. He has heavyset features and is physically strong. In addition, his eyes are large, but he lacks agility.
“I am Gongsun Changle, 13 years old, born at noon on the 18th of June.” Changle said. Although he is still very young, his physical features are already shaped well. He has a stronger body than Lu Pingchuan. His cheekbones are high and his brows were thick.
The mute girl with the big eyes said nothing. Beside her, Nanfeng made a gesture to her to help her say what she wanted to.
The south wind cleared his throat, and said, “She doesn’t have a name. We all call her big eyes. She's also thirteen.” She
can’t hear any sound, and she doesn't know how to read lips. She looked at Nanfeng with gratitude. But when he turned and smiled at her, she hurriedly looked away.
“Twelve years ago, I was thrown into the temple. It was an old man who saw me. He saved me. The day I was saved, a south wind was strongly brewing. That's why I have this name.” Nanfeng said in a determined voice.
“Fortunately, there was no northwest wind on that day.” The fat man pouted and smirked.
Lu Pingchuan glanced at the fat man and turned to say something, “Mo, it's up to you.”
“My name is Mo. I originally had the ancient jade with me. There are two important words on it, but that jade is gone now. In the past, the fat man got very sick. The jade was taken out to heal him. It is yet to be redeemed and given back to me. Right now, I am eight years old.” Mo is still young and naïve.
Then, the fortune-telling
blind man spoke again, “Now, swear.” Lu Pingchuan looked around, waiting for everyone to nod and speak, “On this very day, we are seven brothers and sisters. Blessed with the same happiness, blessed with the same problems."
“Incinerate the candle paper.” The blind man once again instructed.
The people got up and burned the paper.
“Blood.” The blind man said in an eerie tone.
Everyone didn’t know what it meant, but Lu Pingchuan and Chu Huairu eventually understood. Chu Huairou looked at the fat man. “Go out and bring the cock inside.” There
is not much wine, but it was enough to fill a bowl. After the wine was poured, Lu Pingchuan urged the fat man. "Take it.”
“Big Brother.” The fat man outside the door was looking strange.
“What just happened to you? You look sick." Lu Pingchuan asked.
“No, I'm still alive and well.” said the fat man.
“What are you waiting for? Take it." Lu Pingchuan reminded.
“This, this, I can’t see clearly. The bonfire…” The fat man squatted and didn’t go inside.
“He must have caught a hen, not a male one.” Nanfeng laughed.
“But it's still a chicken…"
Just as the fat man was getting more uncomfortable, the fortune teller gave him a solution. “There are women among you. It's okay to use a female one.” When the
fat man heard this, he grabbed the animal. He went inside with the hen.
Lv Pingchuan pulled out the dagger from his waist, cut the neck of the hen, and dropped a few drops of blood into the bowl. He let everybody take a sip of it, and when everyone took their turns, he looked at the south wind. "Drink as much as you can with the rest of the wine and then break the wine bowl."
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