Chapter 25 Malice—Part Three
However, having taken only one step back, his ankle twisted, and he seemed as if he almost collapsed on the ground. With a change in expression, Lan WangJi hurried over and tightly gripped his wrist like what he did last time, back in Dafan Mountain. After Wei WuXian had been steadied, Lan WangJi knelt down on one knee to examine his leg. Wei WuXian was rather shocked, “N-n-no, HanGuang-Jun. You don’t have to do this.”
Lan WangJi raised his head slightly, the pair of light-colored eyes boring into him, then looked down again and continued to roll up the leg of his trousers. Still under his grip, Wei WuXian could do nothing except to look up at the sky.
His entire leg was covered with the black bruise of the Curse Mark.
After staring at it for a while, Lan WangJi spoke in a bitter voice, “… I only left for a few hours.”
Wei WuXian shrugged, “A few hours is a long time. Anything could have happened. There, there. Straighten up.”
He backhandedly pulled Lan WangJi up, “It’s only the average Curse Mark. We can just kill it when it comes to find me. HanGuang-Jun, you’ll need to help me. If you don’t, I won’t be able to handle it. Have you caught the person? Is it him? Where is he now?”
Lan WangJi looked in the direction of a signboard that stood in front of a shop far down the street. Wei WuXian continued, “Let’s deal with the stone castle issue first.” He then walked toward the shop. He didn’t notice before, but his leg felt a bit numb, probably from Zidian. It was a good thing that Jiang Cheng controlled Zidian’s force so that he wasn’t made into a scorched corpse that had been struck by lightning.
Lan WangJi stood behind him. He suddenly called out, “Wei Ying.”
Wei WuXian’s figure paused. A second later, he pretended as if he didn’t hear the name, and answered, “What?”
Lan WangJi, “This was transferred from Jin Ling’s body, was it not.”
It wasn’t a question, but a statement.
Wei WuXian didn’t say anything. Lan WangJi spoke again, “You met Jiang WanYin.”
It wasn’t hard to figure out due to the mark that Zidian left on top of the Curse Mark. Wei WuXian turned around, “As long as both of us are alive in this world, we’d meet for sure, sooner or later.”
Lan WangJi, “Do not go…”
Wei WuXian, “If I don’t go, how am I supposed to leave? Are you gonna carry me on your back or something?”
“…” Lan WangJi looked at him in silence. Wei WuXian’s smile froze on his face, just as a foreboding feeling crossed his mind.
If it were the Lan Zhan from back then, he would definitely be shocked speechless by these words, and either leave with a cold face or completely ignore him. However, it’d be hard to say how the Lan Zhan now would respond. As he had expected, hearing these words, Lan WangJi walked in front of him, as if he really was going to bend down, kneel, and carry Wei WuXian on his back, despite his honorable status. Shock came upon Wei WuXian once more, “Stop, stop. I wasn’t being serious. It’s only numb because I got hit by Zidian a few times, not that it broke. It’d look bad for a full-grown man like me to be carried on somebody else’s back.”
Lan WangJi asked, “Would it look bad?”
Wei WuXian replied, “Would it look good?”
After a moment of silence, Lan WangJi responded, “But you have also carried me on your back before.”
Wei WuXian, “Did such a thing ever happen? Why don’t I remember?”
Lan WangJi answered in an indifferent tone, “You never remember such things.”
Wei WuXian, “Everyone says that I have a bad memory. Alright, fine. Anyways, I’m not letting you carry me on your back.”
Lan WangJi, “Are you sure?”
Wei WuXian replied in a resolute manner, “I’m sure.”
The two stayed silent for a while. Suddenly, one of Lan WangJi’s arms wrapped around his back and, as Lan WangJi bent down slightly, another went toward the back of his knees.
Wei WuXian was both shorter and lighter than him. Therefore, he was picked up easily, his body was embraced in a pair of firm arms. Wei WuXian didn’t expect his answer to lead to this at all. Both in his past and current lives, it was the first time that he had been treated like this by anyone. He was horrified, “Lan Zhan!!!”
Carrying him, Lan WangJi both walked and replied to him steadily, “You said that you didn’t want to be carried on my back.”
Wei WuXian, “I didn’t say that I wanted to be carried like this either.”
Fortunately, it was already late into the night. There weren’t any people walking on the streets, so it wasn’t that embarrassing. Wei WuXian wasn’t someone with a thin face either. Having been carried for a few steps, he quickly relaxed. He grinned as he played with the front of Lan WangJi’s clothes, pretending to tug at it, “So you want to see whose face is thicker?”
The cold scent of sandalwood enveloped him. Without paying him attention, Lan WangJi looked straight forward and made no reaction, maintaining the righteous, serious expression. Seeing that nothing could affect him, Wei WuXian thought to himself as he continued to play with Lan WangJi’s clothes, It seems that Lan Zhan’s heart for revenge is actually quite strong. He’s going to make me pay for however many times I‘ve teased him in the past and take the fun away. This is such an improvement. Not only has his level of cultivation improved, his face also improved.
Wei WuXian asked, “Lan Zhan, you’ve known that it was me ever since we were at Dafan Mountain, right?”
Lan WangJi, “Yes.”
Wei WuXian wondered, “How could you tell?”
Lan WangJi looked down at him, “You want to know?”
Wei WuXian declared, “Yes.”
Lan WangJi, “You told me yourself.”
Wei WuXian, “Myself? Because of Jin Ling? Because I summoned Wen Ning? None of these, right?”
It seemed as if something had sent ripples through Lan WangJi’s eyes. Yet, the slight waves faded immediately, and his eyes were a still pool of water again.
He spoke in a serious tone, “Think.”
Wei WuXian replied, “I only asked you because I can’t think of the reason.”
This time, no matter how he asked, Lan WangJi refused to answer. With Wei WuXian in his arms, he stepped into an inn. Aside from the front desk clerk who choked on some water, none of the bystanders acted strangely. As they arrived at the door of the room, Wei WuXian spoke, “Okay. We’re here. It’s time for you to let me down. You don’t have a third hand to open the door…”
Before he finished his words, Lan WangJi did something that was extremely impolite. It was possibly the first time in his whole life that he had ever done such a rude act.
Carrying Wei WuXian, he kicked the door open.
The two doors sprang open, and the person who sat nervously inside instantly wailed, “HanGuang-Jun, I don’t know, I don’t know, I…”
After he realized in what posture the two of them came inside, he stared blankly at them, barely managing to finish the last sentence, “… I really don’t know.”
It really was the “Head Shaker”.
Acting as if he didn’t see anything, Lan WangJi carried Wei WuXian inside and put him on the bamboo mat. Nie HuaiSang’s seemed as if he couldn’t bear to look at the scene, and immediately opened his fan, covering his face with it. Wei WuXian walked around the fan to examine him. Even after so many years, his past classmate didn’t bear many changes. He looked the same as he did back then. Although he was born with an elegant, attractive face, his expression made him seem as if one could do anything to him. His stylish outfit showed a fine taste in clothing, which meant that he definitely put plenty of thought into it. Compared to the leader of a sect, he further resembled a wealthy idler. Even if he wore an imperial robe, he wouldn’t seem like a prince; even if he held a saber, he wouldn’t seem like a cultivator.
He denied it no matter what, so Lan WangJi put the piece of fabric that the spiritual dog had bitten off onto the table. Nie HuaiSang felt for his sleeve that lacked a certain scrap, then replied miserably, “I just happened to pass by. I really don’t know anything.”
Wei WuXian, “If you don’t know, I’ll talk. As you listen to me, maybe you’ll figure that you do know some things after all.”
Nie HuaiSang opened and closed his mouth a few times, unable to provide a response. Wei WuXian proceeded, “In the area of Qinghe’s Xinglu Ridge, there have been rumors of the ‘Man-Eating Ridge’ and ‘Man-Eating Castle’, but there haven’t been any actual victims, which is why it’s mere hearsay. The hearsay would make it so that normal people avoid the Xinglu Ridge. Thus, its real function is to act as a defense line—the first one, in fact.
“If there’s a first, there must be a second. The second defense line is the walking corpses on the Xinglu Ridge. Even if someone who’s not scared of the Man-Eating Castle rumors either purposely or accidentally went inside the ridge, after they see the walking dead, they will definitely flee. However, these walking corpses are small in number and weak in terms of power, so they won’t cause any real harm.
“The third defense line is the maze array by the stone castle. The first two are to defend against normal people; only this one is to defend against cultivators. But, nevertheless, it only works against average cultivators. If a cultivator who holds a spiritual weapon or dog and specializes in maze arrays comes, or a cultivator as powerful as HanGuang-Jun, this defense line will have to be broken.
“The three defense measures exist in order for the stone castle on the Xinglu Ridge to remain hidden from the public. The identity of the people who built the stone castle is quite clear. This is the Nie Sect’s area. Aside from the Nie Sect, nobody else is capable of easily setting up these three obstacles in Qinghe. And, moreover, you happened to appear near the stone castle and leave evidence.”
“What exactly is the QingheNie Sect’s goal of building the Man-Eating Castle on the Xinglu Ridge? Where did the corpses in the wall come from? Were they eaten? Sect Leader Nie, if you don’t give us a proper explanation here, I’m afraid that, after the secret is exposed, all of the sects and clans come here to interrogate you. When the time comes, even if you want to explain things, there won’t be anyone to listen to or believe in you.”
Nie HuaiSang replied desperately, as if he had given up, “… It isn’t a Man-Eating Castle at all. It’s… It’s just my sect’s ancestral burial ground!”
Wei WuXian questioned, “Ancestral burial ground? Whose ancestral burial ground buries sabers instead of corpses?”
Nie HuaiSang responded with a sullen face, “HanGuang-Jun, before I explain things, can you promise me something? Seeing that our two sects have known each other for long and that our older brothers have sworn, no matter what I say after this, you… and the one beside you, must not tell anyone. If the secret is exposed in the future, I’d greatly appreciate it if the two of you can say a few good things as witnesses. You’ve always been true to your words. If you promise, I’ll believe you.”
Lan WangJi, “As you wish.”
Wei WuXian asked, “You said that it’s not a Man-Eating Castle after all, so does it mean that it hasn’t eaten anyone?”
Nie HuaiSang clenched his teeth and answered obediently, “… It has.”
Wei WuXian, “Wow.”
Nie HuaiSang immediately added, “But it was only once! And the one at fault wasn’t our sect, and it was dozens of years ago! The rumors of the Man-Eating Castle on the Xinglu Ridge also started since then. I… I only fanned the flames and magnified the rumors.”
Wei Ying: In case anyone has forgotten (aka people like Addis the Editor), Wei Ying is Wei WuXian’s birth name. One’s birth name could only be called by a close friend/family member, or else it would have been considered rude. Lan WangJi calls Wei WuXian Wei Ying because they were classmates once.