Zeno began growing nervous. Some familiar elements from a plot line in “Curse” were beginning to emerge. After his powers developed in the novel, there was a story about Xi Wei as a mercenary. He was on a mission to investigate a village where, for no reason, many citizens were going insane without any determinable cause. Xi Wei’s mercenary squad was almost annihilated, but the protagonist escaped due to the protection of the ring he wore. Not only was he able to escape, but he also found an extremely talented young girl.
As for what happened between the young lady and the protagonist after that event, that was something to be discussed later. The main point was that the self-proclaimed dark magician, Gray, was not deceiving Xi Wei—what he said was true.
Even though he gained his own golden finger in the form of incredibly powerful mental power, Zeno did not feel happy if the price of having this gold finger was being separated from the protagonist. Rather, he felt an inexplicable sense of loss.
Yes, the protagonist had his ring, and so he did not have to worry about being affected by Zeno’s mental power, but only Zeno knew this—and he could not just tell anyone. Since he could not tell, Xi Wei had no way of knowing he was protected.
For Xi Wei, this was a life-or-death decision, not just a casual choice to make.
But if they were separated for a few years, would the protagonist give Zeno the same trust and kindness when they reunited as when he was a small child?
As he grew older, Xi Wei would eventually become more and more indifferent. He would continue to build walls around his heart, and ultimately, he would destroy himself and everything along with him.
Gray did not urge him, but instead continued to fiddle with his pile of strange gadgets, looking very confident.
Xi Wei bowed his head and silently pondered, his eyes falling onto the cracked and worn straw sandals that barely managed to cling to his feet at this point. He did not know what was causing him to hesitate. Although Gray looked strange, there was no question that he was indeed very formidable. That type of indescribable gulf was an entire world apart from a small beggar such as Xi Wei.
If Zeno goes with Gray, not only could he live as a noble, he would not have to work himself to death, or worry about which cold and icy lane he might starve to death in next winter, or whether the tattered little wooden boat would make it through another season.
There was no need to ask why Gray would not bring Xi Wei with him. Xi Wei, who grew up in Ye Sa City, knew very well that while a Noble may be willing to take in a gifted child, no such allowances would be made for an ordinary beggar.
Xi Wei slowly exhaled and lifted his face, his eyes clear and once again indifferent.
Xi Lun, who was watching him to see if he thought it over well, asked Xi Wei, “Boy, did you think about it? How many crystal coins would you like? I will tell you right now that a top talent wizard is worth more than you can imagine, so think of the highest value possible. To tell you the truth, Gray does not wish to separate the two of you, but it can’t be helped since the place they’re going after is not suitable for you.”
Xi Wei closed his eyes and thought of the snowy night that he picked up Zeno. His mother’s words still rang clearly in his ears. If the enemy had not been too powerful, and the woman had not been so desperate, what loving mother would hand her child to a small beggar who could guarantee neither safety nor stability?
If Zeno was allowed to return back to the aristocratic world, then while he may be able to become a so-called magician, his mother’s enemies may also find him. He could avoid death if he was lucky, but Xi Wei never believed in luck.
“I don’t want money.” Xi Wei repeated the same words.
“I will not go crazy either,” He answered, his voice clear and full of confidence.
Neither Xi Lun nor Gray spoke for half a day; neither of them expected that Xi Wei would reject the huge benefits offered to him, and choose the troublesome path instead.
Xi Lun could not not help asking, “Boy, are you already crazy now? Do you know the consequences? Do you see that drunk Bob? Do you want to blow up the front of your face like that?”
Xi Lun suddenly fired out four questions, showcasing his agitated mood.
Xi Wei was not scared by his intimidation. Although the protagonist could only look up at Xi Lun now, his imposing manner at this moment did not lose to the adults around him. With the clear articulation of his words, there was no hesitation in his intentions.
“If it is dangerous, I’ll kill him.”
Xi Lun choked, and he was suddenly unable to find any words to describe the feeling of this moment. Xi Wei’s eyes were neither vicious nor hostile. He was actually too calm, as if discussing a way to keep the rain off of his clothes, instead of talking about killing his own child. But, Xi Lun could no longer bring himself to argue.
Gray chuckled and a strange smile crept onto his face, “Kid, your character really suits my tastes, but you have too little magic talent, or I’d rather favour someone like you, such a good little seedling ah. Since you do not want to give this child to me to nurture, you will need to be responsible for his future. There are many places on the mainland where you can learn magic, but only the Prault Institute1 and the Temple have suitable teachers for him.”
Without waiting for a response from Xi Wei, Xi Lun added to Gray’s words, “Boy you have to think clearly, Prault Institute’s entrance fee is 10 crystal coins, and the temple only receives Dark Knights. For you, neither of these things are possible.”
Xi Wei did not say a word. He turned away to leave, and answered any lingering questions with his actions.
Xi Lun, depressed, touched his nose, wanting to see if there was any ash on it2.
Shortly after, another door in Gray’s house, piled high with bizarre magic supplies, opened and Xiao Wu finally emerged. She took a look at the situation, and wondered aloud, “Baba, the bigger boy and the little one aren’t here?”
Xi Lun answered softly, “They went back.”
Xiao Wu did not seem to care about it and gave only a cursory “oh” in answer. She ran over quickly and held something in front of Gray, asking curiously, “Grandpa Gray, what is this?”
Gray to helped her smooth her braid, and his withered smile bloomed like a flower, “Looks good, Xiao Wu can take it to play if you like.”
Xiao Wu cheered, and then continued on her treasure hunt again. Zeno, at this time, was experiencing some serious heart palpitations—his protagonist terrified him.
Recently, Xi Wei had treated him too warmly, and the reader almost forgot about his indifferent nature. Despite that, he did not actually feel resentment towards what he said? Zeno pondered; those recent headaches must have broken his brain somehow.
Zeno, naturally, was not worried about their own lives, the gold finger in the body of the protagonist meant that he was immune to the mental attacks. Even the Prault Institute was a possible destination of the future for the protagonist. The main inconvenience, in the end, was that he still could not see from his left eye.
Due to his knowledge from the novel, Zeno was aware that his headaches were because of the awakening of his mental powers. According to “Curse”, proper rest was enough to restore his health, but he never read that it could also lead to blindness ah!
The girl in the original novel with mental powers was also afflicted with the same symptoms, in addition to driving lot of people insane. However, she did not get turned into Cyclops, this was just plain unscientific!
The plot was truly a cruel mistress. Just because he was a man Zeno had such different treatment; I’ll leave a bad comment!
Despite thinking about it, Zeno never considered telling Xi Wei. Xi Wei could not even deal with a fever, not to mention blindness—this was a ‘serious illness’.
Back from Fenhong Street, nothing happened for the next two months. Zeno felt many times in his heart that this confirmed that because of the body tempering by, and protection from, the ring—the danger had passed. Since nothing happened, and there were no immediate concerns, it seemed that the alarm could be lifted temporarily.
So this should be around the time that we skip to four years later right? However, this was not a book any more. This was Zeno’s real life.
Ah, following the protagonist really was a “eat husks and weeds” type of life. In his past life, a girl from the same orphanage as Zeno said something that always stuck with him, “If you can find the one you really love, you’ll stay together even if you have nothing to eat but bran and veggies.”
Whether the girl eventually had to eat this type of meal with one she loved, Zeno did not know, but he was certain that he was absolutely the true love of the protagonist ah3!
However, true love still had to eat.
Ye Sa City had a high population of beggars, and every day new people joined their ranks by becoming homeless in some way. Trash was not suitable for scavenging like in the winter. The heartleaf along the river still grew, but Xi Wei still had to walk farther and farther each day, and the amount of food was also stretched more and more thinly.
Hungry ~ Hungry ~
Zeno was so hungry he could not stand; he just wanted to bury himself in bed, trying to pass his time spent hungry while sleeping. He did not want to go with Xi Wei to gather food, because he knew; the protagonist was hungrier than him.
Then, Xiao Wu pinching his little nose awakened Zeno; his eyes whipped open, framed by his flushing features.
Xiao Wu smiled and places a gummy candy into his mouth, the sweet taste stopping the protests of Zeno’s stomach.
Zeno kept the sweets in his mouth, and attempted to speak around them, “Jiejie4.”
Xiao Wu kneeled on the floor with one hand by Zeno’s knees, and the other hand petted his little bald head. At first she was very opposed to the little one’s shaved hair, but with some time she found that this little one without hair also had a cute charm. Not only that, she also liked the feeling of touching that cute, bald little head.
Zeno’s protests were invalid, and he had to tearfully accept this reality. As for Hua Li? His small, hairless head became the permanent residence of the Elven Queen.
Zeno heard that today there was a troubadour famous across the mainland passing through. Xiao Wu has been excited about it for days. How could she have the time to be wasting here?
Sure enough, Xiao Wu quickly explained, “Little one, I am just here to deliver something while I wait to go watch the telling of the legendary story. Your baba refused to take you out so I have no choice, do remember to give it to him, will you?”
After she finished speaking, she passed a small wooden box to Zeno and indicated that its contents were for Xi Wei.
Zeno quickly understood. Xiao Wu is not actually interested in looking at the protagonist, nor was she willing to get to know Xi Wei. In fact, she always treated him as an invisible person—this time by refusing to hand the box over with her own hands. Once again, Xiao Wu confirmed that she really would not come to like the protagonist, and Zeno cried.
Xiao Wu dropped off a bag of candies and then left. His hunger led Zeno to quickly eat two, and then he took a look at the remaining two. His protagonist had not eaten, and Zeno was distressed, wondering how he would convince him to eat the candy.
Xi Wei never touched the small snacks Xiao Wu brought them. No matter which way Zeno rolled to sell meng, he did not eat what he says he would not eat. Once his own protagonist stared at him long enough with those unemotional eyes, Zeno would eventually silently retreat.
However, an empty sack cannot stand upright5; he really needed to eat.
Today, looking at the candy in his hand, Zeno got ready to take measures into his own hands. A few days ago, he remembered when Xi Wei had first fed him by softening his food for him, and a flash of inspiration hit—that should be feasible. As for his moral integrity, Xi Wei could starve to death, was he going to eat this moral integrity?
So he gripped a candy carefully in his mouth, and cautiously climbed Xi Wei’s leg, taking advantage of the fact that the protagonist did not understand what he wanted to do. When he reached his lap, he put his mouth directly over the other’s to push the candy over.
Perhaps it was too surprising, and things were happening too suddenly, but Xi Wei actually allowed the candy into his mouth.
Zeno smiled, “Sweet.”
Xi Wei blankly stretched his arm out to pick up Zeno, holding him to the side, and opened the box brought by Xiao Wu. Nestled inside was a gold badge, which bore a simple pattern of crossed swords.
Zeno glanced, mouth wide open, and then muttered, “The junior mercenary badge.”
There were a lot of notes for this chapter.
- In some translations this came up as ‘proletariat’ college. Proletariat basically means for the common man. I’m not sure if there’s any deeper meaning to this name. ↩
- This probably means something, like he got burned. I dunno, I didn’t feel like looking it up. I seriously have the worst footnotes lol. ↩
- So from what I could gather from the context/opinions of others, this is not a serious confession, but more of a—if this is what the girl said, that’s definitely what’s here. In any case, I can’t say how much of this he means, although we do know that Xi Wei is number one in his heart. ↩
- This should be mispronounced. Just imagine saying it with a mouth full of food I guess. ↩
- One can’t function on an empty stomach ↩