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The girl's tattered leather robes were slightly thin. They were crushed beneath the heavy elongated rock, and it looked like they would break into pieces together with her tiny frame. One could not help but worry when they saw this.
A ragged looking man in tattered robes stood beside the bench. His expression was wooden and his eyes were filled with fear. He lifted the hammer in his hands up high, but did not seem like he could bring himself to lower it.
The crowd watching turned their heads away, not daring to watch. Some people tried to stop him concernedly while some could not speak due to nervousness. Others stared at the sight excitedly.
The white dog beneath the bench sprawled on its front legs.
"Smas.h.i.+ng a rock on her chest?"
Chen Pipi watched the scene that was happening and said incredulously. Ning Que was also surprised. Smas.h.i.+ng a rock on one's chest was rarely seen in Chang'an City nowadays, because it was rather common. However, the person performing the act was a young girl, which made it rare.
Chen Pipi said worriedly, "Let's not talk about how the hammer will land downwards. That rock is about to crush the girl. This won't do. We have to stop it. It's too dangerous."
With that, he squeezed through the crowd, wanting to stop the act from happening. However, before he could walk over, the girl on the bench glared at the man, and the man's hands went slack from the scare, causing the hammer to fall.
Suddenly there was a m.u.f.fled thud.
The heavy rock on the girl's body shattered into numerous pieces. They clattered from the bench, some landing on the white dog by it. The dog shook its head.
All were silent on the streets of the Southern City. Everyone looked at the motionless girl on the bench and wondered if she had died from the impact. Some people looked on pityingly.
It was then when the girl flipped up cleanly. She dusted herself off and looked at the man beside her in annoyance. She said, "I chose you from that run down temple because you were strong. What's the point if you don't dare to use your strength? You mustn't do this next time."
The crowd gathered around finally came to themselves. They looked
at the girl who looked very young and saw her nonchalance before they realized that nothing untoward had happened to her. They applauded excitedly and the sounds of cheering and whistling sounded through the streets.
The girl took off her leather cap and walked towards the crowd. Her black plaits that had been stuffed in the cap before swung around her knees as they fell.
The girl's smile was innocent and adorable. She was also well articulated. The citizens of Chang'an were already in awe of her when they saw her act of smas.h.i.+ng a rock on her chest. There was no reason not to give her money after seeing how adorable she was. Before long, her cap was filled to the brim with bronze coins.
She smiled happily as she held her hat that was heavy with coins.
Some kind-hearted citizens of Chang'an even lectured the ragged looking man. They told him that they shouldn't allow his young sister to do something so dangerous no matter how poor they were. They even said that if they saw him allowing the girl to break rocks on her chest again in Chang'an, they would have the Chang'an Local Government bring him back for an interrogation.
The girl tossed the shard of rock that had gone through a hole from the front of her robe and walked up to the side of the ragged looking man. She patted her little chest and smiled at the ma.s.ses. She explained smilingly, "Thank you all for your concern, but I am fine. I have been practicing this since I was young."
The act of patting the chest was extremely heroic, but she was a young girl whose palms and chest were both small. This action made her look even more adorable, causing the crowd to laugh kindly.
Chen Pipi stared at the scene with his mouth wide opened. He looked at the girl like a startled idiot and said, "This girl is tough. Is she not worried that her chest would be flattened and that she won't be able to feed her child in the future?"
His gaze landed on the girl's chest and he said with sudden realization, "It's not like she had much of a chest in the first place."
Ning Que lowered his head slightly to glance at Chen Pipi's chest.
Chen Pipi knew that Ning Que was implying that he only had a large chest because he was fat. He turned around, ashamed.
Ning Que looked at the plaza and suddenly stiffened.
The act of shattering rocks on one's chest had surprised him. However, he was shocked speechless when he saw the girl's child-like features.
"Take Sangsang to the Academy. I still have something on and will go there later."
He said to Chen Pipi.
Chen Pipi looked at him in confusion and reminded him, "Do not bathe, perfume and change."
Ning Que smiled and said, "I won't."
Chen Pipi emphasized, "You have to meet the teacher eventually. Do not think of running away."
Ning Que sighed, "I understand. Even an ugly wife has to meet her in-laws eventually."
In a quiet alley beside the Vermilion Bird Avenue, Ning Que lowered his head and looked at Tang Xiaotang in front of him. He lamented, "I wonder if you are mad to appear in Chang'an City."
The girl who had shattered a rock on her chest was Tang Xiaotang. Was there any other girl in the world who was as strong as the girl from the Devil's Doctrine?
Tang Xiaotang raised her head and looked at him. She said, "My brother told me to come to Chang'an."
Ning Que froze slightly and asked, "Then your brother is crazy."
Tang Xiaotang said displeasedly, "You are the crazy one. I have already told you at the Hulan Sea that I would look for you in Chang'an and play together. Why are you like this just as we have met up?"
Ning Que could not understand the rationale and logic of the siblings from the Devil's Doctrine. He breathed in deeply and said, "You have come to Chang'an to play? Are you in your right mind? This is the Central Plains, the Tang Empire, Chang'an City. And you, Tang Xiaotang, are the legendary descendant of the Devil's Doctrine."
Tang Xiaotang looked at him in confusion. She asked, "So what?"
Ning Que looked at the entrance of the alley alertly. He
alertly. He walked around a tree in the alley annoyedly before turning around to stare at her. He said, "The appearance of a descendant of the Devil's Doctrine in Chang'an is like a bunny running to the side of a big black bear who is p.o.o.ping. It's like a moth flying into flames."
Tang Xiaotang smiled and comforted him. "So you are worried about this. Do not fear. We disciples of the Enlightenment Doctrine do not have any ripples in our aura. The cultivators here cannot see through us. So many seniors from the Enlightenment Doctrine had hidden in the Central Plains then and nothing happened to them."
Ning Que looked at the girl's childish face and did not know what to say. He forcefully tempered down the anger in his chest and explained seriously. "It is different now. There are indeed not many who would think that someone from the Devil's Doctrine would dare to hang around here in the open. But what did you do just now? You tried to perform shattering a rock on your chest! Do you think that the Imperial Center Administration would not check up on your past when you become famous in Chang'an?"
He continued, "Even if those guys in black from the Divine Hall's Judicial Department cannot enter Chang'an to capture you, do you think n.o.body would make a move on you? Those citizens of Chang'an who pitied and admired you can applause for you now. But when they find out that you are from the Devil's Doctrine, they would eat you alive. Do not forget, that the Tangs believe in Haotian as well."
Tang Xiaotang laid out her hands innocently and looked extremely adorable. She said, "The journey from the Wilderness to Chang'an was too long. I spent all my money when I got to Capital Cheng. I have begged my way here, and I thought that if I did that, I would embarra.s.s the Academy and you guys, so I figured I would perform to earn some money."
Ning Que was slightly startled. He only realized then, that Tang Xiaotang's leather robes were more tattered than when they had met in the Wilderness. Her leather boots had also cracked opened. She must have endured much difficulty on the long journey.
Ning Que could not help but think of those times when he and Sangsang drifted around in the world when he saw the girl. He could not bear to scold her anymore, and he felt a little odd. So what Tang Xiaotang had said about embarra.s.sing someone had gone over his head.
Tang Xiaotang smiled. "The Tangs are really quite nice. There were many people who gave me directions and helped me look for the governor's office. When I begged for food, there were many times when they cooked fresh food for me. n.o.body tried to hurt me, and you are also good to me. You have never thought of killing me before."
Ning Que was not interested in getting rid of the Devil's guards. What's more, he had joined the Devil. In other words, the girl before him was one of his own. He had no intentions of killing her.
After a moment of thinking, he pulled out some taels of silver from his robes and pressed them in Tang Xiaotang's palms. He urged her, "Go to the Building of Pines and Cranes and have something to eat. When I return..."
Suddenly, he thought about that sly old man at the Building of Pines and Cranes who had a wooden rod hidden in his sleeves. He thought that was a rather dangerous place as well. Instead, he pa.s.sed his keys to her.
"There is a shop called the Old Brush Pen Shop on the Lin 47th Street in the Eastern City. It belongs to me. Wait for me there. Let me remind you, do not jump in from over the walls. You have to use the doors. Do not touch anything once you get in."
The Headmaster was waiting for him in the Academy, and he didn't have time to say anything more to Tang Xiaotang. After he had instructed her on what to do at his fastest speed, he ran towards the Southern Gates like the wind.
Tang Xiaotang held the taels of silver in one hand and keys in another. She stared at Ning Que's retreating back and wanted to tell him that she had somewhere to go. However, since it was late, she just shrugged her shoulders cutely.
The Big Black Horse had been abandoned at the back of the mountain of the Academy and allowed to roam freely. Ning Que did not ride a horse or take a carriage. Instead, he used the strength and muscles that knew no tiredness since he joined the Devil, and started running after he walked out of the Southern Gates of Chang'an and into a thicket by the path.
Winter gra.s.s that was full of vitality and even stronger bugs slapped into his cheeks from time to time. He squinted and ran, and arrived at the side entrance of the Academy before long.
On the state highway not far away, a convoy of carriages rolled towards the south slowly.
Ning Que looked at them, and guessed that they were the girls from the Great River Kingdom who were leaving Chang'an.
He was silent for a long time as he stared at the retreating carriages. Then, he turned around and walked towards the Academy.
He saw a girl standing in the gra.s.s by the path.
He had just parted with the girl at Chang'an, and they have quickly reunited.
Tang Xiaotang gasped in the gra.s.s. She looked at him and said, "You run really fast."