# 42. The Lesser Sage and His Wife
The cold and bleak mountain wind swept through the forest, making a mournful whistle going through the dry tree branches,
On the limestone paved path, Xu Qi’an tilted his head, looking at Xu Xinnian, with his hair and long sleeves dancing in the wind. This younger cousin of his, with a face that would make others jealous, was like an immortal that had landed in the mortal realm.
He pointed towards a waterfall far away, and said “This is the place where one of the Academy’s elders thinks about the Dao. Beside the waterfall is a stone stele, recording that elder’s life.”
The water levels were low in winter, and that waterfall was thin and frail looking, falling down into the pool below with hardly a hint of energy. The pool was clear, so clear that one could see the bottom.
Beside the pool stood the stele, and a bronze statue of a cross-legged person. On the stele recorded the life of a scholar named Qian Zhong. This person lived six hundred years ago, and lived during the rise of the Feng dynasty.
That time, the emperor of the previous dynasty was addle-brained and weak, his officials had rotted to the core, and the rich ate and abused the poor. All across the central plains the smoke of rebellion rose, as warlords split the land.
That dynasty then, the dynasty of Zhou, waged a war of several decades against these warlords and rebelling armies, and the lives of the common people who lived at the bottom of society were arduous and difficult.
Qian Zhong, of the Confucian second rank Great Scholar, travelled the country for three years, and saw with his own eyes the suffering of the common people. With a heart full of rage and sadness he brought their anger to the capital, and used his own flesh and blood to strip the Zhou of what little fortune they had left.
Then, the Feng rose, and calmed the country, and peace came to the land.
“Is a Great Scholar rank this powerful?” Xu Qi’an’s face looked doubtful, “Why have I not seen any ‘Niubi’[^1] from those three great scholars?”
Xu Xinnian did not know what “Niubi” quite meant, but undoubtfully it was vulgar language. Considering the fact that his big brother had just wrote a poem and brought their family safety, he resisted mocking him, and answered:
“Who told you that the teachers were second rank Great Scholars? They are fourth rank Junzi[^2].”
Xu Qi’an was in disbelief, “Then how do they have face to call themselves great scholars?”
Xu Xinnian crouched down by the pool, rinsing his hands, and explained “‘Great Scholar’ has two meanings. One refers to those scholars who have studied deeply, and have recognition in their field. The other refers to the Confucian second rank. Our ‘great scholars’ of the academy belong to the first kind.”
*To take the common people’s anger, and scatter a country’s fortune, even during the dying breaths of a dynasty, was not a thing an ordinary person could do. How powerful were the second ranks of the Confucianists? How about first rank?*
Xu Qi’an became deep in thought, and after a long time, said with a respectful tone, “Does the Cloud Deer Academy have second rank Great Scholars?”
Xu Xinnian shook his head, sighing in pity, “Two hundred years ago, the most that ever emerged was third rank. The third rank of the Confucianists is called Mandate Seeker. I also only just heard it from my teacher that day, when seeing off Ziyang Jushi. Our academy’s dean is a third rank Mandate Seeker.”
Xu Qi’an’s tone of voice suddenly became more relaxed, as he casually remarked, “Not bad.”
Those three old teachers’ personalities, seemed to be somewhat shallow and not righteous, and lacked a sense of steadiness and grandeur. Xu Qi’an told his thoughts to Xu Xinnian.
The latter hesitated for a moment, “They weren’t like this earlier. After Junzi, comes Mandate Seeker… perhaps this has something to do with it.
“Mm, Ziyang Jushi was also like this before, but recently he suddenly changed personalities, as if he was replaced with a different person. I heard my teacher say, that Ziyang Jushi is merely half a step away from Mandate Seeker.”
The two brothers wandered the Academy with no goal in mind, Xu Xinnian took him to look over some famous historic sights. As an Academy with a history over 1200 years long, if not for the fact that they normally did not allow outsiders, owing to that disturbing the students’ study, Qingyun mountain would certainly become a tourism hotspot.
“Brother…” as they walked and walked, Xu Xinnian suddenly called out to him with a low tone of voice.
Xu Qi’an stopped his tracks.
Xu Xinnian looked at him, and then turned his head, pretending to look at the scenery surrounding them, “I thought for a long time yesterday. If it were not for you, then dad would already be beheaded, the women would already be sent to the Jiaofangsi.
“If not for you, then the Xu family would still be languishing within the feeling of life after disaster, only to one day be extinguished.”
Afterwards, he walked ahead with quick steps, waking a dozen or more metres out, and silently said: *Thank you.*
Hall of the Lesser Sage.
Xu Qi’an followed his cousin up the stairs, passing the incense holder and entering the building. Red painted pillars seven metres tall rose to the ceiling, holding up a vaulted roof. The ‘Lesser Sage’ worshipped in the hall was the founder of the Cloud Deer Academy.
In the thin flame of many candles, that Lesser Sage wore a azure-blue Confucian robe, wore a tall Confucian headdress, with one hand behind his back, and one hand on his front waist, his eyes looking far into the distance.
Beside the lesser sage, was a lively and beautiful white doe, cloud patterns just visible within its white fur.
Xu Xinnian pointed to the white doe, saying “It is the origin of our Cloud Deer Academy’s name.”
Xu Qi’an said “Scholars are refined people; a white deer would make a good steed.”
Xu Xinnian gave his older cousin a look, and corrected “Not his steed, his wife.”
“!!!” Xu Qi’an looked the lesser sage up and down again, muttering “Not exactly wrong.”
*After all, he’s riding either way…* but this he did not dare say.
Xu Xinnian seemed to know what his brother was thinking, and said “Recorded in the Academy’s *Annals of the Cloud Deer*, this white deer is a yaoguai monster, who sat by the Sage and listened to him speak. Afterwards, it transformed into a person, and stayed by the Lesser Sage’s side. A human and a monster growing up side by side, naturally they developed a deep affection, and became husband and wife.
“In those times, romance between man and monster was a deep taboo… still today. But after the Sage found out, he did not beat and forcefully separate the two, but rather praised their marriage. The sage said: ‘True love has no barriers’. We can see that as long as there is love, then even man and monster can stay together and support one another.”
From ancient times there have been nicknames for human-yaoguai couples, like “Ghost Rider”, “The Outlaw Hero”, “Union of Heaven and Man”. Then, what would the nickname of the lesser sage be?
*To Make a Deer a Horse… A Horse Son’s Horse?* Xu Qi’an bowed and cupped his hands towards the statue of the Lesser Saint.
When Xu Xinnian was paying his respects as a disciple towards the Lesser Saint, Xu Qi’an’s eyes wandered around the hall, and discovered that on the left and right sides, stood a stone stele each.
One was blank, the other one had characters carved on it.
He walked to the stele, and read “To uphold justice and be faithful to morality and the monarch until death, to leave a mark for generations to come — Chen Hui.”
The characters were tidy, not flowy, not cursive, not exaggerated, giving off an aura of a Junzi’s reserved and righteous nature, their vast spirit.
“This is what the Imperial Academy’s Lesser Sage wrote.” Xu Xinnian walked over, standing side by side his older cousin.
“The Lesser Sage of the Imperial Academy… actually, I’ve always not really known much about the bad blood between the Imperial Academy and the Cloud Deer Academy.” Xu Qi’an was full of interest, the word “Eating Melon[^3]” written in his eyes.
Xu Xinnian looked left and right, seeing that no one was there, before he spoke, in a lone tone “This matter started two hundred years ago, during that struggle for national destiny.”
“Struggle for national destiny?” even if Xu Qi’an was an amateur at best in the field of history, this concept he did know about.
The Crown Prince, the National Destiny!
To fight for the national destiny is to fight for the place of Crown Prince.
“That time the Renzong emperor was on the throne, and the title of Crown Prince had been empty for over a decade. Two princes were the foremost contenders at that time. One was the eldest child of the Emperor and Empress Consort, and another was a noble descended from the Emperor and one of his concubines, but further in line to the throne. That concubine’s son was very beautiful and graceful, and Renzong loved him deeply.
“Renzong wanted to make this son the Crown Prince, but he was opposed by his entire court. Renzong gave out the order many times, but each time it was opposed in his cabinet and sent back to him. At that time, all the officials in court were the Cloud Deer Academy’s disciples.”
“The elder before the younger, the direct son before the concubines’, was the rule since ancient times, even an emperor could not break it. Brother, what you said was right, ritual is our scholars’ most well used dragon-slaying technique.[^4]
“In this succession crisis, neither side would let up, and both fought for a whole six years. In this time, the Senior Grand Secretary was swapped four times, the officials of court left in droves. In the capital and beyond, the number of officials who were affected reached over 200.”
[^1]: 牛逼, Common Chinese slang, used to express something is awesome or epic. Literally means cow vagina (for some reason). Often simplified to 牛 (Niu) which is more “family friendly”.
[^2]: 君子, the Confucian gentleman
[^3]: Chinese slang, which in the most general sense is describing spectators into some drama.
[^4]: Probably good to mention that Chinese Emperors are always metaphorically referred to as Dragons.