Chapter 3.1: Sunrise
Muddy Bottle Lane was not small by all means. At least six hundred families lived here. Chen ping knew most of the poor families in town, but as for the rich well-to-do families, their threshold were too high and knowing of their status and name was nigh impossible.
He had yet to step foot inside the houses of the rich families but already the outside street pavements were paved with large pieces of limestones. If ever rain poured in full, he would have no need to step into the mud and cause a splash everywhere.
The four rich family names were Lu, Li, Zhao, and Song–all were considered big names in Muddy Bottle Lane. The school not far away was funded by one the four big families. Most of them even owned two or three large dragon kilns at the outskirts of the town and even the previous kiln supervisors hailed from one of the big families.
Coincidentally, the ten letters Chen Ping was sending today all belonged to the big families notorious for their wealth. It was a reasonable thought. A dragon breeds a phoenix and a mouse breeds a hole in the ground. The faraway traveler must serve one powerful family if they warranted enough reason to send the four big families a letter. Reasonable.
Chen Ping looked up the grand and majestic place and sighed deeply. His family background wasn’t too bad else he’d never find the bravado to enter such place. Of the nine letters, one was sent to Fork Way Street and Peach Blossom Lane.
When he first stepped on the flagstone that was as big as a bed, the youth, Chen Ping, grew slightly disturbed and slowed down his steps. He felt ashamed, inferior and could not help but feel that his sandals only dirtied the flagstone.
The first letter Chen Ping sent out was from the Lu Family—the one that received the Emperor’s Jade Gift from their ancestors.
As the youth stood at the front entrance door, he grew increasingly anxious and uneasy.
Even if they were rich, there were many ways to deal with them if ever they gave the youth a difficult time.
Not to mention the Lu Manor, there were two stone lions erected proudly and arrogant at the two sides of the door. They were tall and overbearing.
Chen Ping did not know what it was but he was curious. The lion’s mouth was as tall as the height of the average man and it seemed to contain inside a round stone orb. How was this carved? Chen Ping resisted the urge to touch the stone orb as he walked up the steps and knocked on the bronze lion-like door.
Very soon, a young man opened the door and walked out upon hearing that it was the “letter” he expected. He grabbed the letter and twisted the corners of the envelope before turning around and walking back into the manor.
Afterwards, the rest of the delivery seemed ordinarily normal. There was a house on the corner of Peach Blossom Lane that did not have much of a good reputation. The person who opened the door was a kind, short old man.
“Would you like to come in and have a hot drink of water?”
The youth smiled bashfully, shook his head, and ran off.
The kind old man gently placed the letter into the hem of his sleeve. He was in no hurry to return back to his house as he raised his head and gazed deeply into the distance with a cloudy look.
His gaze shifted from high to low, from far to near. He even looked at the peach blossom tree on both sides of the street.
The old man turned around and left.
Not long after, a cute little yellow sparrow stopped at the branch of the peach blossom tree.
By the time Chen Ping delivered the last letter, there was one more—the teacher at the school. On the way to, he passed by a fortune-telling stall where a young Daoist donned in old Daoist robe sat at the table with back straight and dignified.
The young Daoist quickly greeted the youth. “Young man, don’t miss this chance to draw a lot when you pass by. This humble Daoist will help you in calculating your fortune and foretell the future of your good fortune.”
Chen Ping did not stop his footsteps, only turning his head slightly and waving his hands.
The young Daoist was unwilling to give up. He leaned forward and raised his voice, “Young man, this humble Daoist allows the people to draw a chance for a lots at ten taels but today, I will make an exception. I will only charge you three taels! Of course, if you’re able to draw a lot, you’ll pay nothing and if your luck is good, then I’ll even pay you. What do you say?”
The young Daoist had long stood up and struck the iron while it was still hot and loudly said, “Early in the morning… young man, you are a leader. As long as you sit down and draw a lot, this humble Daoist will write some yellow paper inscriptions to help pray for your ancestors and to accumulate merits yourself. With my ability, I dare not say that you’ll be rich, but I will try.”
Chen Ping was stunned for a short moment. He turned back and sat on the bench in front of the stall with a dubious expression.
A simple and young Daoist priest and a shabby looking youth, one big and one small sat facing each other.
The Daoist laughed and stretched out his hand, slowly gesturing the youth to pick up the canister to draw lots.
Chen Ping hesitated and suddenly said, “I won’t draw a lot. You only have to write a set of yellow paper inscriptions for me. Is that alright?”