Jiuxi City was the closest city to the Da Xiao Kingdom, and it had also become very lively recently.
Even though it was night, there were still lanterns hanging on the roadside, and there were still countless children curled up in the street corners of the city to keep warm. Fortunately, although the autumn nights were chilly, it was not too cold, and a blanket could still manage to keep out the cold.
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The government soldiers patrolled up and down the streets, and whenever they saw a suspicious figure, they would go over and arrest them first .
The hawkers and peddlers walked along the streets selling their goods including food, attracting the longing eyes of the poor people curled in the corners.
Every time it was the Dragon and Phoenix Selection, it was always a time for them to make a lot of money, and no one was willing to close their business just because of the arrival of night. Even merchandise usually sold during the Lantern Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival, and Dragon Boat Festival, and not usually at this time, would be displayed for sale——those travelers from the countryside who had never seen the world would always buy some souvenirs back.
An old man with gray hair and a skinny physique carried a big gourd with him to a street vendor who sold food made from wheat flour. After many good words, he exchanged a coin for a full gourd of hot soup and a steamed bun, and then went back to the street corner where he doled out the hot soup one by one to the dozen children there, all of whom had maple leaves in their hair. Clearly they had all come to participate in the Selection.
When the hot soup was divided, each child only had a few mouthfuls, but they were not picky. After thanking the old man, they took out their prepared rations, and ate it with the hot soup.
The old man sighed, reached out and touched the forehead of a teenager who was a little feverish next to him, and wrapped his own blanket around the other.
“Thank you,” although the teenager was a little feverish, but he was still clearheaded, “Let’s use it together.”
“I’m already at this age and can stand it.” The old man frowned, “It’s not that I don’t want you to come, but your body is too weak, so how can you resist the cold.”
On the way, the young man did not complain and only gritted his teeth to keep up with the rest, but just as soon as they entered the city, he started to get a fever, causing the old village head to worry.
“You are also a clever child. I heard that clever children are the most likely to be selected,” the village head rambled. “I also want there to be someone in the village who can be selected. Even if in the end they fail the exams and have to come back, they can still be accepted by the government and become a not-so-small official, as well as bring three years of tax exemption for the village. Just have a look at our downstream village the Zhang Family Village, only one was selected. And although he came back the next year, he can still go and catch fierce beasts! These years, life in his village has become so much better. And if the child selected can become an immortal, it will be even more remarkable. Everyone in the village will be able to live in a large brick house, and afford an education for the village children…..”
The village head rambled on with a look of hope and longing in his old eyes, and the teenagers and children who sat listening next to him were also moved in their hearts, as if they could imagine themselves being selected.
An autumn breeze blew by, the children shrank tighter, and the old man tightened his clothes, but he still mumbled on how good the Selection was.
At this time, several tall figures approached them.
“This is the Hundred Families Blessing for our young master. Come, each of you touch it, say a word of good wishes, and we’ll give you a string of coins, hurry up!”
The darkly tanned man at the head took out a walnut-sized jade ball and arrogantly said to the poor people in the corners.
A string of coins was enough to buy a big steamed bun, and many teenagers walked over automatically, gathering in crowds around that group of people.
After getting the money, a child sneaked in again and wanted to get another sting of coins, but was found out by the darkly tanned man, who dragged him out and beat him up, the pained scream sounding again and again.
Many children and teenagers who had the same thinking retracted their thoughts and obediently made a blessing then retreated.
This scene landed in the eyes of passers-by, but they all directly ignored it.
A passing youth in green robes glanced over and sighed.
“Why, don’t you want to go over and help?” Paper Man Shizum lay on his shoulders, raising his head and asking curiously.
“If I can’t take them away with me, then it’s better not to help.” Feng Qingxiu shook his head. He also came from similar experiences, and knew the ins and outs, “Otherwise, you not only won’t invoke gratitude, you will end up creating enmity.”
“Why is this?” Paper Man Shizun sat up, and in order to avoid attracting attention, leaned close against his disciple’s neck.
“Every affluent family in every place is interconnected with each other in some way. There are too many subtle ways to bully ordinary people. And it’s not like we can stay here forever.” Feng Qingxiu understood very well. “They won’t go too far, they will only give a lesson to the offender.”
“This kind of superstitious method seems to be very popular.” Seeing that the child had only a bruised nose and a swollen face without any internal injuries, the paper man turned his attention to other places, and saw several people asking for cloth pieces from the children one by one, also giving each a string of coins.
“That is the Hundred Families Cloth. It is an undershirt that is made of hundreds of children’s clothes. Putting it on can increase one’s chances of being Selected.” Feng Qingxiu smiled, “When I attended the Dragon and Phoenix Selection, my mother personally sewed one for me. She sewed the Thousand Families Cloth for me. Every eligible child in the town had a piece of clothing cut out by her.”
Ji Yunlai imagined a short little Xiao Qing wearing a colorful patchwork of clothes, and couldn’t help laughing out loud.
“But this is also one of their incomes.” Feng Qingxiu said with a serious face, “Every time at this time, the affluent and aristocratic families will bring a lot of money to beg for a good sign, and these young people will also get this small amount of money to support them in queuing up to the turn. Otherwise, it will be difficult for the poor children to hold on to the end.”
“That’s also a good thing. Although superstitions can’t save or change one’s life, this kind of golden period is also beneficial for the poor.” Ji Yunlai nodded, “I really want to see Xiao Qing wearing patchwork clothes.”
“Maybe in the next life.” Feng Qingxiu coldly rejected his Shizun’s unreasonable request.
Paper Man Shizun smiled and continued to stick close to his disciple’s neck, waiting for his disciple to make their way to the Heart Asking Stone in this city.
There was quite heavy traffic, roadside vendors and poor people curled in the corners occupying most of the road. It was crowded with people, and there would be noisy quarrels from time to time, but they did not brush even a hem of the young people as they passed by.
Very soon they arrived at the Immortal Worship Temple in the city, which was also blocked by huge crowds of people.
Feng Qingxiu was about to go in, but suddenly heard someone shout, “Fire!”
Then they saw thick smoke rising in the backyard, followed by a burst of crackling noises. A group of soldiers in full armor quickly dragged out an 18 or 19-year-old boy, dragging him away like a dead dog.
“Actually daring to make trouble in the Immortal Worship Temple, beat him to death!” Many people rushed over angrily.
Feng Qingxiu was silent for a moment, sympathy in his eyes.
“What is that?” Ji Yunlai asked curiously.
“That’s a ‘lost pearl’.” He explained with a bit of disappointment, “Back when you set up the Heart Asking Stone, you said that anyone under fifteen had a chance, but over the years, everyone had tested countless times on the Heart Asking Stone. Children under seven have a limited ability to analyze and can’t draw down the runes even if they could see it, and those around fifteen also have opportunities, so the age limit was changed to ages seven to seventeen.”
Ji Yunlai waited for him to continue like he was listening to a story.
“Kun-Lai’s resources are limited, so the affluent and aristocratic families limited the age to seventeen. Every time Kun-Lai selects exam students up to the mountain, Kun-Lai always needs time to do so. Therefore, this gap in time will cause the last seven-year-old child to lose out on the opportunity.” Feng Qingxiu smiled bitterly, “These children are ‘lost pearls”. I have a cousin who also happens to have his age stuck at this juncture and could not be selected.”
When that cousin looked at him, it was always with a look full of jealousy and hatred.
“Then why not just avoid giving birth to children in those two years?” Ji Yunlai asked casually.
“After all, there are only a few people who can be selected, and it’s not like the pregnancy can be aborted for such a reason.” Feng Qingxiu shook his head, “Parents don’t hold wild expectations, but there are always some people who can’t get over it.”
Kun-Lai had no opinion on this. It was better if fewer people were selected and occasionally they would also delay the time. After all, the population of the Western Continent was increasing more and more year by year, and they were also a little bit unable to handle the numbers either.
Twelve years was the time the Dragon and Phoenix Selection was held. The formal learning and teaching was just about ten years. During the first two years these students would definitely not be eating spiritual rice but ordinary rice, and then all sorts of screenings must be passed before they could enter the outer Sect and start enjoying the days of hell exams.
As he was speaking, Feng Qingxiu had already squeezed into the temple and saw the huge black stone that looked the same as the one in the capital of the Da Xiao Kingdom.
And his Shizun, who had been on his neck, had already flown over to press against the stone.
“Can’t Shizun scan it using divine consciousness?” Feng Qingxiu looked at the paper man sticking to the stone, and suddenly felt his fingers becoming a little itchy.
Really want to touch——no, as Shizun’s disciple, I can’t be so disrespectful.
Feng Qingxiu forcefully shook his disrespectful thoughts out of his mind.
“I am just a trace of divine consciousness attached to the paper and without any magic now. So my radar is definitely not as good as before. This stone was created in my heyday.” The paper man slowly said, pressing hard against the stone, feeling the stone in a particularly focused and deep manner, seeming to want to drill his paper head inside.
Feng Qingxiu wanted to touch even more, so he pinched his hand hard.
After a while, when the sun was in the middle of the sky, Paper Man Ji raised his head and said with a little pride: “I am indeed a genius!”
Feng Qingxiu looked at him in puzzlement.
“The previous spiritual measuring stones were very inflexible and only measured the spiritual roots but not one’s comprehension. This thing of mine, let me tell you…..” Ji Yunlai suddenly paused, and the paper man raised his head and looked up into the air.
A yellow leaf fluttered downwards, and a fat caterpillar that was about to make a cocoon also fell along with it.
The paper man silently raised his hand, forcefully issued a very miniscule amount of sword energy, and cut the caterpillar away.
Obviously this action had consumed a lot of energy from the paper man, so he flew into the arms of his disciple: “Shizun is tired, let’s take a break. There is no problem with this stone so let’s go to the next one!”
“Okay…..” The paper man sticking to his chest seemed a little warm, and Feng Qingxiu of course left obediently.
He thought of the pine forest on Zhaoyue Peak that used spiritual demons to eliminate insects to the extent that ordinary birds could not even survive in it.
Feng Qingxiu realized that he seemed to have discovered something incredible…..
He can’t think that Shizin is cute, Shizun is high and aloof! Completely out of reach!
Recently, it’s just Shizun at his inner demons period! ! !
Feng Qingxiu tried to convince himself.
Leaving the Immortal Worship Temple, Feng Qingxiu turned into a remote alley and was about to fly away.
“Help! Help!” But a sudden voice made him stop performing the hand seals. There was a young girl on the right, dragging a sickly and breathless young man as they rushed towards him. Behind them followed three strong men in black, each holding a wooden stick with nails as they chased the two fiercely.
The young man was the sickly young man who they had seen by the city gate before. At this moment, a wound on his back was overflowing with blood.
Seeing Feng Qingxiu, the girl suddenly gained strength and forcefully pushed the boy into Feng Qingxiu’s arms. She screamed: “A group of evil demons who rob other’s of their spiritual roots, if you have the balls then chase after me! Sooner or later you will come to a sticky end!”
She then rushed in another direction.
Feng Qingxiu caught the almost comatose teenager, and then lightly sealed his pressure points. At the same time, with a cold expression, he raised his hand and grabbed into the air!
The strong men and the girl seemed to be grasped by big hands invisibly, and they were pulled in front of him one after another, and then thrown to the ground.
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Paper Man Shizun excitedly crawled out of his neckline to join in the fun: “Is this a hero to save the beauty?”
Feng Qingxiu thought for a while, and then decided to commit the act of offending his superior by reaching out and stuffing his Shizun back inside.
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