After three long days, the first winter snow of the year showed no signs of slowing down. By the third day Ye Sa City, which was permeated by such a lifeless atmosphere all year round, began to liven up.
Today was New Year’s Day, and the day that had birthed a new epoch. At the end of the last century, the demon race1 had wreaked complete havoc across the continent. The first warrior on the mainland, Xia Zuo-You Liya, and his wife, Princess Asil, joined hands to resist the invading forces. Although much of the civilization of the last era was still destroyed by the force majeure, they were able to persevere and usher in a new era of relative peace and stability.
Since then, the third day after the first winter snowfall of each year was designated as New Year’s Day. This day was as important for the people of Hong Yue as New Year’s Day was for the citizens of the Celestial Empire2.
This year was no exception. Watercraft of all kinds criss-crossed the canals in far greater volume than usual, becoming more and more crowded. The business conducted by these vessels was also much better than before. Each face coming was haggard and pinched, while those going were more or less relieved—even happy; an entire year’s worth of built up stress was released on this day.
Despite the outwardly festive atmosphere, a wild and decadent undertone wound its way through the streets.
Zeno was actually quite fearful of this pervasive feeling. Zeno had no desire to be out in this city—it was a decadent and morbid city; like a decrepit building without a foundation, even the slightest jostle would bring it down. The people seemed to understand this truth, and all of the ugliness had been exaggerated and enlarged, set loose and unrestrained.
However, Zeno did not dare to act rashly. Sometimes, it was not a good thing to open God’s perspective3 and try to meddle. Even though he understood that in a matter of three years, Xi Wei would leave this place and start his legendary adventure, as well as his pathway to suffering.
It was just a matter of time until they left.
The pure white, crystal snowflakes continued falling. The build up of snow thus far was already larger than in previous years by New Year’s Day. The depth of the snow was such that it reached all the way to Xi Wei’s calf. They were lucky, because although their shelter was terribly simple, it was not buried beneath the heavy snow. Every day on his way to the Mercenary Guild, Xi Wei would see a new face fall into the snow—never to stand up again.
However, Xi Wei did not have the extra capacity for compassion to give to others. Everyone in this world had to be responsible for his own life. It was sad if someone lacked the ability to go on living, but it could only be fate.
Their own situation was not optimistic either. With the heavy snowstorms over the past days, the Mercenary Guild had far fewer tasks that were appropriate for Xi Wei to complete. Therefore, the young boys often had to go back home early, and go to bed hungry.
Xi Wei clutched Zeno tightly as he hurried down the street. As he turned a corner something grabbed his ankle—when Xi Wei glanced down his leg, he caught sight of an emaciated hand that had caught hold of him. The owner of the hand spoke as if he only had a few breaths remaining, and prayed weakly to Xi Wei, “Give me something to eat, I beg you, give me something to eat.”
Xi Wei showed only a wooden expression.
He pulled his foot back, but he was not able to break the beggar’s hold on his ankle. Given Xi Wei’s high level of physical fitness, if he could not escape this man’s grip, it was clear that this man was not weak like someone who was starving, but much stronger.
Zeno looked up to see that his protagonist’s face had grown cold, and that he was clearly unhappy. It was clear that this person was not like the others they had passed before. Rather than lying in the snow, he was on top of it, and the amount of snow on his body had just barely started to build up. It was not at all like many who had walked long distances in despair, only to starve to death. His time spent outside would not likely exceed five minutes—even Xi Wei and Zeno were covered in more snow than he was.
The man only saw Xi Wei’s expression of indifference, and did not know that he had already been exposed, so he cried again, “Give me something to eat.”
Xi Wei put more force into his efforts to free his leg, but he was still unable to break out. He did not want to commit any drastic actions, and was unexpectedly put into a situation where nothing could be done.
The man’s eyes flickered when he received nothing, and he jumped up with lightning speed. A sharp object was pressed against Xi Wei’s waist, “Kid, hand over your money and food, or you and this little guy will pay with your lives.”
Xi Wei’s eyes flashed with cold light, and he remained unmoved.
Zeno shocked by his sudden attack; he had thought it was just a pathetic deception, but it turned out he was a wolf in sheep’s clothing! Looking at him carefully, Zeno recognized his appearance—it turned out to be old George.
When Drunken Bob kidnapped Zeno, it left a deep impression on his psyche. After the pain to his head, Zeno had fainted, and was already safe when he woke up. He swiftly left his experiences with the two kidnappers behind him—perhaps unintentionally, he just wanted to forget the bloody mess made by Bob4.
Zeno did not expect that old George would not have ended up with Bob, and that they would somehow end up being robbed by him.
Although old George could not beat Bob, he felt that he was probably strong enough to deal with two small children easily. He had observed Xi Wei for a few days. He seemed to perform odd jobs for the Mercenary Guild, and who didn’t know that the guild required a gold coin in order to join? For those wandering the streets, the amount was simply astronomical!
With those greedy thoughts, old George’s eyes took on an ominous glint, and he applied pressure on the tip of the knife and pressed it in. Xi Wei took a breath and sucked in his abdomen—he could feel the dull pain of the knife tip piercing his skin, but his face was calm. In addition, as if he was not the one with a knife held against him, the hands he held Zeno with were both steady and strong.
Old George’s eyes widened, and Xi Wei stared straight back at him, causing a chill to run down his spine. He felt that he might have underestimated this seemingly useless little beggar.
The Mercenary guild was full of uncouth characters, they would call him to come and shout at him to go. Xi Wei could never deny them; he could only quietly complete his tasks. No matter what kind of pressure was put on him, he made no complaints and showed no dissatisfaction.
Never having known any better, this was already the best life that a small beggar could hope for, and Xi Wei cherished it.
Their confrontation was mainly psychological in nature. Usually, the victims of robbery were naturally full of fear, and the thieves were able to feel a sense of control. If the victims did not display even the slightest panic, then that could sometimes cause the thief to experience an increased level of tension.
Old George was definitely the latter case. Faced with Xi Wei’s indifferent eyes, he wondered if the boy had even understood what he was after. Or was he just misreading the situation due to his own nervousness?
Zeno did not dare move. If it was only himself, the protagonist could easily take down old George within a matter of minutes. Having to deal with this situation while holding Zeno was restricting him greatly.
Xi Wei closed his eyes for a moment, looked away from Old George, and told him, “I don’t have any money or food on me.”
Old George, no longer holding onto Xi Wei, urged him, “Take me to it, quickly.”
Xi Wei nodded, and despite being taken hostage by Old George, maintained complete silence as they walked in the direction of the boat.
Old George did not relax the knife he held against Xi Wei’s waist. As they moved, under the cover of the snowy weather, there were very few people. Their troublesome situation was not found out, but in this cold and dangerous city, even if anyone saw, they would pretend they had not seen anything.
Who cared about the life and death of two little beggars?
As they drew closer and closer look at the small broken boat, Zeno grew increasingly anxious. How could they have any money and food? The Mercenary Guild tasks barely paid enough to cover their food. With a heavy winter on them, who would be willing to spend money to hire them so easily?
Old George was blinded by the stories he had heard about wealthy mercenaries, and their gold coin entry fee. He did not even doubt its veracity.
The closer they moved down the river, the larger Old George’s cruel smile grew—the river was always a good place to kill someone.
When they finally reached the top of the arch bridge that sheltered their humble home, Xi Wei stopped.
Old George threatened, “Boy, your life is in my hands, don’t play tricks!”
Xi Wei’s shoulders began shaking, and his voice trembled as he spoke, “The stuff is hanging under the bridge.”
Old George glanced at the little beggar, who was finally wearing the proper ‘scared’ expression. The restlessness in his mind dissipated. Of course, he would not fetch it himself, and barked, “You, give me the child in your arms, and then go down and get it for me.”
Seeming like he had no objections, Xi Wei set Zeno down in front of Old George as he watched vigilantly, and rested his hand on the boy’s neck. On top of the bridge, the snow mantle was a bit lighter, and it barely reached Zeno’s knees. Zeno had an unusually grave expression on his small face, and when Old George reached for his arm, he shouted, “Old George!”
When people are mentally distressed while committing a crime, and then a supposed stranger calls out their name, there is bound to be a short period of shock. Of course, old George had not cultivated his courage to any level, so this holds true for him as well.
During this brief moment of astonishment, Xi Wei, no longer having to worry about a child in his arms, raised his foot and knocked away old George’s knife with an untrained, yet steady, front kick.
Old George was thrown to the ground by the force of Xi Wei’s kick. He clutched his arm, and cried out in pain.
Xi Wei was no longer pretending to be shivering in fear. He walked quietly toward Old George, and his growing body cast a shadow over Old George’s head.
Amidst the gently falling snowflakes, old George’s frightened eyes were fixed on the young boy as he raised his arm, the knife clenched firmly in his hand.
Xi Wei’s eyes remain indifferent—this would not be the first man he ever had to kill. At the young age of eight, Xi Wei killed the client who strangled his mother with his own hands. From that point, his hands were already stained with blood.
When he lacked the ability to resist, Xi Wei would choose to silently accept his lot in life. However, he would never hesitate if he could cut off the possibility of suffering himself.
Zeno ran two steps in the snow, but it was so thick that he fell down. Even his face was covered in snow, and the penetrating cold immediately caused him to start shivering.
Zeno looked up in time to witness Xi Wei lifting the knife up. His intention was clearly to stab the man in the neck; in a moment, evil old George would disappear from this world.
Zeno’s mind went blank; he opened his mouth, but no words would come out. Reason told him that Xi Wei was right—unless they left the city, they could not spare him. Otherwise, if they walk away from old George, they were only leaving trouble that would find them in the future.
Robbery, murder, and revenge—those were all normal occurrences in Ye Sa City. No one would help you. It was by luck people survived, and likewise no one could be blamed when a person died.
Zeno forced himself to open his eyes. Xi Wei would forever be Xi Wei, his favourite protagonist. He liked not only the gentleness of Xi Wei that dwelled under his cold exterior, but also his callous and formidable power.
The snowstorm grew fiercer, and Xi Wei plunged his hand down without hesitation. At exactly that moment, a snowball hit him on his wrist, and the tip of the knife was slightly redirected.
The knife pierced old George’s chest, but it was not a fatal wound.
Old George howled miserably. The blood flowed out quickly, and congealed just as fast due to frigid temperatures. It made it seem like it was not so terrible.
Xi Wei stepped back two steps and looked around warily, “Who?”
“A pity. It’s a bad omen to have blood spilled on New Year’s Day. It’s unlucky to start the New Year with death and bloodshed.”
Along with the voiced that travelled over to them, a young man in a short-sleeved shirt and cropped pants moved leisurely across the bridge. His face was completely relaxed and comfortable. It seemed as though he was walking on the snow, but did not leave behind a single footprint.
Xi Wei felt dread deep in his heart; it was different from the fear that he caused old George to experience. Faced with this young man, he could not help but tremble.
Xi Wei involuntarily took a few steps back.
Zeno brushed the snow from his body, and then stumbled through the deep snow to Xi Wei’s side. Holding his leg, he did his best to convey support with his small bit of strength.
Old George looked at the stranger. Although he had no idea why he had saved him, he finally recovered a little, clutched his injured chest, stood up, and ran.
Xi Wei wanted to chase after him, but found himself unable to move. He could only watch old George as he ran away.
The young man shoved his hands into his pocket. He seemed like he was slowly making his way over, but in the blink of an eye he was in front of them.
As he walked closer and saw the faces of two children, an astonished look crossed his face, “You are not blood related, yet you really do resemble one another.”
I could have finished this last night, but I was like a little hamster that got too easily distracted by other things. Hope you like it. Let me know any mistakes I made, I was falling asleep while I was proofreading.
MORE FAN ART FROM IMA!!!!!!! Sooo awesome. I made a page for this stuff, you can get to it from the table of contents.
- 魔族: Pinyin is Mozu. Translates more literally to devil race/clan. I didn’t want to have too much pinyin in the story because as you get along it gets hard to remember what means what. I will use demon/demon race interchangeably depending on what suits the context best. And I think demon sounds better than devil. ↩
- Pretty sure Celestial Empire is talking about China here? ↩
- God’s Perspective: this is kind of video game lingo when you can see everything from above, and is referring to his knowledge of the novel’s plot. ↩
- I don’t recall Zeno actually seeing this, but this is what the author wrote. ↩