Jing Yi told his parents, what Qiu Ling had said about the letter’s content. The Zhong’s discussed and started packing their belongings the same day, intending to head towards the capital the next morning. There wasn’t much they had to take with them. Some clothes, the little stash of copper coins, they had saved up, something to eat for the first days on the road. They were done soon, so they went outside to bid farewell from the other villagers. Who knew, if and when they would see each other again?
Mister and Madam Zhong looked quite serious, which garnered the attention of Mister Pi and Madam Pan at once.
„Mister Zhong, what has happened?“, Mister Pi couldn’t help but ask.
„My cousin sent a letter from the capital.“
„And you need help reading it? Just say the word! I’ll tell you immediately, what he wrote.“ He extended his hand, but no letter was placed on it. Mister Pi lifted his eyebrows. „What’s wrong?“
„Thank you, but no need. We already know, what he wrote.“ Mister Zhong smiled wryly and patted his son’s head. He still felt like it would be the hardest for Jing Yi. He was still so young, after all. Would it really be alright, to move somewhere else with him?
Madam Zhong saw her husband trailing off and cut in: „They invited us to the capital, so we’ll be leaving tomorrow morning.“
„Leaving?“ Madam Pan furrowed her brow. „Then when are you coming back?“
„They want us to help them out with their stall, so we might stay there, if it goes well.“
„Stay there?!“ Madam Pan looked at Jing Yi. She still wanted him to marry her niece, when he grew up!
Madam Zhong could imagine, what Madam Pan was thinking about, so she nudged her husband to say something. Mister Zhong tensed. „We’ll certainly miss the village and everyone, but I can’t just leave my cousin hanging, no? It’s family, after all.“
Madam Pan sighed. If the Zhongs weren’t good people, their child probably wouldn’t have turned out that well. So that was to be expected. Why did my children turn out so disobedient? Must be my husband’s fault! I should have done it like Madam Zhong and let them tag along with me!
Before the Zhongs had the opportunity to tell the other villagers, Madam Pan’s downcast expression lured a lot of people over.
„Aiya, Madam Pan! What happened? You look so serious!“
Madam Pan sighed again. „It’s the Zhongs. They’re going to leave …“
„Leave?“ Madam Shen lifted her brows. „Where to?“
Mister Pi saw, that it was his turn to explain this situation to the villagers, who were gathering over. „To the capital. It’s like this: Mister Zhong’s cousin met with a mishap, so he asked his distant relatives for help.“
Mister Zhong wanted to speak up, but his wife nudged him again. „Don’t mind it. We’ll be gone by tomorrow. They’re going to say whatever they want anyway.“
Mister Zhong nodded. Unfortunately, that was true.
The villagers crowded around Mister Pi to find out more.
„Then what are they going to the capital for?“ Madam Shen couldn’t really believe it. „Wouldn’t it be better to just send some money?“
„Send some money!“ Madam Fa snorted. „What are you even saying? How would they send money? You can’t trust those merchants coming by!“
„What would they even send?“, piped Madam Ouyang up. „Do the Zhongs look like rich people to you? They’d probably have to spend all their money, before they even reach the capital!“
„True, true.“ Madam Pan nodded and hurried over to her neighbor. „Then what do you think, they’ll be doing there? They don’t know anything about business!“
„How would I know? Shouldn’t you ask Mister Pi?“ The two women looked over.
Mister Pi straightened up. „Isn’t that obvious? Of course, they’re going to work! You don’t need to know about business for quite a few things. Their family only needs some more helping hands.“
„Oh, so it’s like this!“ Madam Pan felt enlightened.
Madam Qiguan, who had come by to visit her brother’s family, couldn’t help hearing about the Zhongs. She was delighted, that they would leave the village, but she didn’t like, that they would go to the capital. What kind of place was the capital? There were wealthy merchants, ministers and generals and even royalty! If you could get to know such people, you’d have a life in riches! What kind of luck did the Zhongs have, to deserve something like that?
Thinking of that, she crossed her arms and lifted her chin. „What going there to help? Do they even need to do that? Why don’t you ask that mighty daoist immortal? Shouldn’t someone like him be able to help your family with a wave of his hand?“
Mister Zhong looked at his wife, feeling that it still would have been better, if he had just explained at the beginning, that his family wasn’t in trouble, but doing quite good instead. But Madam Zhong didn’t pay him any attention. Instead, she turned around to Madam Qiguan and smiled.
„Don’t you worry about that, Madam Qiguan. A mighty daoist master like him, of course he could do so! In fact, he wouldn’t even need to wave his hand, a flick of his finger would be enough. It’s not like he’s a beginner, after all.“
Madam Zhong didn’t let her say anything and just continued: „But, you know, we’d never ask him. A real daoist master uses his powers to help the people in need. He certainly doesn’t use it to do business. And helping the family is still our own matter. How could we trouble our savior with that?“
Madam Qiguan couldn’t find anything to rebut her, which only managed to anger her further. Someday! Someday she’ll surely make them pay! They would have to watch on, when her Cheng Da was famous in the whole empire and their son was still nothing!
Unfortunately for Madam Qiguan, her son Cheng Da was, unbeknown to her, still only part of the outer sect and his cultivation base hadn’t progressed by much. In fact, in the last half a year or so, it even seemed to have stagnated, not budging even a hair’s breadth. He was far, far away from ever being famous even in his sect, to say nothing of the whole world.
„Aiya, then I hope he’ll still watch over you, when you’re in the capital. I heard there are really vicious people there.“ Madam Pan looked at Mister Pi for confirmation.
Mister Pi nodded and stroked his chin. „Indeed, indeed.“ He had heard about that from the merchants! „In the capital, you have to always be on your toes. Every person you come across could be a crouching dragon or a hidden tiger. It’s best not to anger them.“
Crouching dragon? Qiu Ling furrowed his brow. What was that supposed to mean? Shouldn’t it be the other way round? Which dragon would crouch? And even in the mortal world … He shook his head. Who knew, where he had heard that from?
But going to the capital would most probably benefit Jing Yi. It was a better environment than this village, where everything remained the same day in and day out. In the capital, he’d have the opportunity to learn new things. It was just that … new people would bring new problems. He’d have to be vigilant, lest someone snatched his Jing He away.
„We’ll be cautious“, promised Mister Zhong. He couldn’t really imagine how he could offend people in the capital, though. Wouldn’t he just be working at his cousin’s stall?
„Ah, when you’re free, you have to come back, yes? Bring Jing Yi along then. The other children would certainly love to see him again.“ Madam Pan gestured to her sister, but unfortunately, she hadn’t brought her daughter along. Madam Pan could only give up for now and hope, that Jing Yi wouldn’t be so shy anymore, when his family brought him home sometime in the future. Mn, following him to the capital would also greatly benefit her niece. Maybe it wasn’t that bad, that the Zhongs left.
„Of course we will, if there’s time.“ Mister Zhong patted his son’s head again. He’d certainly miss his home, no? If there was time, they really should return. Unfortunately, though they didn’t live that far from the capital, one still needed some weeks without a horse or carriage. The Zhongs definitely weren’t people, who could afford something like that, so they’d have to walk the whole way.
„Ah! We can’t let you go just like that!“ Mister Pi motioned to the other villagers. „Come on, come on. Get something to eat and drink. We’ll bid farewell to the Zhongs this evening!“
„It’s still Mister Pi, who knows what to do best!“
The villagers agreed and went to get everything ready. With that, the whole village and some of the people from the surrounding villages, sat together, eating and drinking and retelling all those old stories from the past years.