As the fire broke out, even the air breathed in had a pungent, burnt smell. Under immense pain, he surmised that death was imminent for him. In fact, he did die. When he opened his eyes again, he realized he had become a toddler in a certain country of another world. Beside him was an even younger toddler lying in bed.
His current identity was a prince of that country, and the child lying beside him was his younger brother to the same mother. Previously, he was just a normal and ordinary college sophomore, born in a peaceful era, living in a happy family. However, he was now in the glamorous but dark royal family, standing right in the center of the whirlpool of all power fights.
In only a week, he gave up on useless weaknesses and luck. No longer was he a blissful student; for his younger brother and himself, he had to survive. His concubine mother had died of poisoning from the power struggles in the palace just as he awakened. The reason why he could start his life anew was probably because the original owner of the body had passed on as well, and he, instead, was able to live on by borrowing his body.
The moment he opened his eyes, the first thing he saw in this unfamiliar world was that child. Perhaps it was the laughable imprinting trope, perhaps he merely wanted to find a reason to live on, but he instinctively treated that child as his only redemption; his only reason in this unfamiliar world.
He used thirteen years to teach the young child how to survive in this glamorous cage, using various unscrupulous tactics and dirty schemes to get rid of all competitors. At last, only the two of them were left in the enormous palace. When the debauched king had finally succumbed to death, the throne was, of course, inherited by the best candidate in his heart.
He never needed the throne or longed for power and wealth. The reason for bringing his younger brother, the person he treasured the most to the highest position, the throne, was simply because he assumed that doing so was the only genuine way to protect him.
During over ten years’ time, both of them were like young animals, relying on each other and cuddling up to each other for warmth. They never trusted anyone else, except for themselves – or so he thought. He thought their minds were alike.
Therefore, when he was suddenly sent to the palace prison, he even thought it was a joke on his younger brother’s part. When he was mercilessly whipped, he thought that child was probably duped by schemers, but would eventually know what was actually in his older brother’s mind. When the Bronze Toaster1 was used on him, he could only hypnotize himself, telling himself that his younger brother would understand, his younger brother would understand…
In the end, with a face scratched messily and a body full of severely decaying wounds, he was thrown into the boundless ocean like a dumped corpse. Only then did he realize he was wrong. Before losing his consciousness from the suffocation, as though being released, he mocked himself in his heart.
The soul that should have died long ago was given another chance in the unfamiliar world, but it gained nothing. Ultimately, it had only dyed its previously pure white hands with blood to create a paranoid, wilful and tyrannical king. Finally, everything was over… The one that I wanted to protect ended up not even needing my protection at all. And I am finally going to return to where I should be.
However, fate decided to play yet another massive joke on him.
Upon opening his eyes, he found out that he was still alive; still living in the other world with that battered body and deformed face. Well, in truth, after being caged in darkness for countless years, he had already forgotten what he initially looked like. And slowly, he began to forget his previously peaceful life. Insecurity and fear will always occupy a larger part of a human’s soul than happiness and stability. He was still living nonetheless, through an ugly shell, a soul riddled with countless wounds, in a half-human half-ghost state within this already unfamiliar world.
Following his suffocation, he was miraculously swept along the ocean currents, which carried him along to some extremely rural small town in another country. It wasn’t known how many inconceivable routes he had passed by, but somehow, he was able to land on the river bank of a small town extremely far from the sea where only rivers passed through.
He was settled in an awfully cramped and shabby room. At a glance, it was filled with a worn out table and chairs, along with paint-peeling furniture, appearing rather dilapidated. The fading white thin door curtain was lifted open. Carrying a paint-peeling medicine box, an old man with a small moustache and waxy yellow complexion walked in.
Not even shocked that he had woken, the old man raised his eyelids and casually swept his eyes over at him. He adeptly pulled at his arm, disregarding his gruesome wounds as he touched his wrist. “You’re awake?” the old man asked nonchalantly.
He kept silent for quite a while before asking, “Mister, may I ask where is this?”
“Guang Tian County,” the old man answered drily before opening his medicine box and applying medicine on him.
Guang Tian County…? Where is that? There was no such place with that name in his memory. Forced by his environment, he had memorized the names of nearly every places in his country. He was sure that there was no such name in his memory.
“This is Jun Yao country. Where are you from?” the old man asked casually, as if trying to strike up a conversation, though he was still dexterous with his hands
The medicine’s effects made him feel the sharp twinge from his wounds, agonizing him. Jun Yao Country… So he, indeed, was still there. The reply amused him. Exactly what kind of coincidence made him arrive from the northernmost part, Fang Jun Country, to the southernmost country of this world? Moreover, to travel there, one needed to pass quite a few continents.
Maybe fate hasn’t toyed with me enough? So it still wants me continue lingering on feebly?
“This is the governmental guest room. You need to rest for a month to fully recover, and can leave after that.” although there wasn’t a reply back, the old man didn’t ask further. After finishing his sentence, He closed his medicine box with a thump, “I’ll be back tomorrow.” In a clear-cut manner, the old man lifted the curtains and left.
He spent a long time immersed in his train of thoughts, only realizing what the old man had said after coming back to reality.
Government… guest room? Such a worn out guest room? And it even belongs to the government?
He suspected the old man was spouting nonsense. It was not as if he had never visited a commoner’s house. Due to the need to know more about how civilians lived, he made incognito visits to a few remote towns in the past. The décor of this so-called government guest room was definitely no better than the houses of the poor.
Maybe he thinks I looked too hideous, so he said that to humor me. He mocked himself cynically in his heart.
Thus, he was able to understand why he only received vegetables for his meals, and was able to accept the fact that he could only find little pieces of minced meat among the vegetables sometimes.
Even though the meals were plain, that doctor’s medicine was indeed effective. After half a month, he felt he was able to take care of himself. After yet another half a month, as predicted by the doctor, he had fully recovered. Of course, the hideous and frightening scars on his face and body were impossible to heal.
He thought that it was miraculous too, since he had a clear idea about his own condition too; he was almost at the brink of death. Moreover, he was able to be swept along the ocean currents and arrive in a small town that even he had never even heard of in the southernmost country. In such a state, somehow, he was able to recover fully using merely a month. Even the best doctors in Fang Jun couldn’t do that!
Finally, when that old man announced that he had already recovered, and that he could leave, he was at a loss. First, he couldn’t believe how skillful the old man was in medicine. Second, he really had no idea where he could go. Although situated in such a huge world, there was not a single place he could return. Or should he say, the only place that he thought he belonged wouldn’t accept him anymore.
“What is it?” the old man packed his items nimbly while casting casual glances at him, “Nowhere to go to?”
The question muted him.
After packing up, the old man studied him, before snobbily turning his nose up with a hmph, “There’s no salary.”
“Hah?” He was stupefied.
“Even though your injuries are fully healed, your heel bone is damaged and can’t be cured. You cannot do any heavy work, and it will stay this way from now on.” the old man replied.
He was silent again. He knew that on the surface, the wounds on his body seemed to be recovered, but in truth, his vital essence was horribly ruined. Even if he survived, the days from now on wouldn’t be great. He won’t be able to withstand heat during the summer, or the cold during winter. A slight cold could get him bedridden, or even lead to his demise. After all, it was already a miracle for him to survive the three years of imprisonment and abuse in an eternally lightless, dank water dungeon for three years.
“You will only die if you leave anyway,” the old man continued, “Mo Shu-xiansheng2 had mentioned that the government office still requires helpers. You can stay if you’re willing to. Food and residence will be provided, but there’s no salary. You can leave if you wish to, or stay and work if you’re not leaving. What do you think?”
He dazed for quite a while before nodding, “Alright.”
From the words of the constable that brought him his meals, he knew that the old man in front of him was the only doctor in the city, and Mo Shu-xiansheng is the county’s town’s official. Somehow no one ever addressed that Mo Shu as ‘Magistrate-Daren3 ’, but instead addressed him as Mo Shu-xiansheng.
1 A torturing method created by Daji :https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creations_of_Daji#The_Bronze_Toaster.5B1.5D
2 Chinese equivalent of Mr.
3 Used to address someone of a higher ranking, something like ‘Sir’