Chapter 47 Guile—Part Two
Hey guys! Sorry for taking so long on this chapter. Life has been pretty busy for me and this also happens to be the longest GDC chapter you’ll ever read. Even though spring break has finally come, it’ll be rather difficult for me to translate as much as I want to, since I’ll be busy going around the States doing university visits and all that junior year havoc. The most important finals in high school are also right around the corner. So, since I’m assuming all of you want to eat up these chapters as soon as possible, here are some advice…
Good ways to help produce the chapters: being nice in the comments, reading the info and FAQ pages before asking any questions, waiting patiently, PM-ing me if I’m really really taking too long.
Bad ways to help produce the chapters: writing spoilers in the comments, asking questions that the ExR website can easily answer, spamming comments.
And that’s it! Even though I’ll be busy, I’ll still try my hardest to finish this (and maybe even pick up the author’s fourth novel). Now sit back, relax, and enjoy the 9500 word chapter!
The time of the Discussion Conference at Carp Tower came within the blink of an eye.
Most of the prominent sects’ residences were built in areas of beautiful scenery, but the LanlingJin Sect’s Carp Tower sat in the most flourishing part of Lanling City. The main road used to visit the tower was a carriage path more than half a mile in length. It only opened for important events such as banquets or the Discussion Conferences. According to the LanlingJin Sect’s rules, one must not walk at a fast pace here. Both sides of the path were covered in murals and reliefs, telling stories of the Jin Clan’s leaders and other distinguished cultivators. During the journey, disciples of the LanlingJin Sect would act as guides as they drove the carriages.
Out of all of them the four most famous sections about the current sect leader—Jin GuangYao—were respectively “disclosure”, “assassination”, “oath”, and “kind austerity”. Of course, the scenes showed how during the Sunshot Campaign Jin GuangYao hid in the QishanWen Sect and reported important information, assassinated the Wen Sect’s leader Wen RuoHan, became sworn brothers with the rest of the Venerated Triad, and rose to the position of Chief Cultivator. The painter was quite adept at painting people’s expressions. Although nothing seemed special at first glance, a more detailed look would reveal that even when his figure was executing the assassination, cheeks dripping blood, Jin GuangYao still had the hint of a smile over his face. One could feel their hair stand as they looked.
Immediately after it were Jin ZiXuan’s murals. Usually, in order to signify their absolute power, sect leaders would purposely lessen the number of murals for cultivators of their own generation or perhaps switch to an inferior artist, so that they wouldn’t be outshone. To these acts, everyone gave silent approval, showing their understanding. However, Jin ZiXuan had four murals as well, unbelievably standing on equal footing as Jin GuangYao. The handsome man in the paintings displayed both pride and vigor.
Hopping off the carriage, Wei WuXian stopped in front of the murals and stared for a while. Lan WangJi also stopped, waiting for him.
From not far away, a disciple declared, “Sect Lan of Gusu, please enter here.”
Lan WangJi, “Let us go.”
Wei WuXian didn’t reply. The two walked together.
Following the stairs up Carp Tower was a wide, brick-paved square, bustling with people. The LanlingJin Sect had probably been expanded and refurbished during the past few years. The extravagance was greater than what Wei WuXian had seen back then. To the far side of the square, an alabaster base sat over a flight of nine stairs in the ruyi style. On top of the base, a magnificent palace complete with a hip-and-gable roof overlooked the ocean of Sparks Amidst Snow.
Sparks Amidst Snow was the crest of the LanlingJin Clan, an exquisite type of the white peony. Not only was the flower fine, its name was fine as well. There were two layers of petals and the larger petals on the outside grew tier upon tier, becoming waves of churning snow. The smaller petals on the inside were thin and delicate, embracing golden strands of the stamen as though they were stars. If just one blossom was beyond splendid, how could one ever describe the grandeur of thousands blooming at once?
Multiple paths were situated before the square. Sects entered incessantly, yet in an organized manner.
“Sect Su of Moling, please enter here.”
“Sect Nie of Qinghe, please enter here.”
“Sect Jiang of Yunmeng, please enter here.”
As soon as he showed up, Jiang Cheng shot a sharp glance at them. Walking over, he spoke in an indifferent tone, “ZeWu-Jun. HanGuang-Jun.”
Lan XiChen nodded as well, “Sect Leader Jiang.”
Both of the two seemed preoccupied. After a few words of small talk, Jiang Cheng asked, “HanGuang-Jun, I’ve never seen you at Carp Tower’s Discussion Conferences before. Why have you gained the sudden interest?”
Neither Lan XiChen nor Lan WangJi replied. Luckily, Jiang Cheng didn’t intend for this to be a serious question in the first place. He had already turned to Wei WuXian, speaking as though he’d spit out a sword and impale the latter anytime he wished to, “If I remember correctly, wasn’t it that you two never took needless personnel with you when travelling out? What’s the situation this time? Once in a blue moon? Now who is this renowned cultivator? Could someone please introduce him to me?”
Suddenly, a smiling voice appeared, “Brother, why didn’t you tell me beforehand that WangJi was also going to come?”
The owner of Carp Tower—LianFang-Zun, Jin GuangYao—had personally come out to greet them.
Lan XiChen returned him a smile, while Lan WangJi a nod. Wei WuXian, on the other hand, carefully observed the chief cultivator of all sects.
Jin GuangYao was born with quite an advantageous face. His skin was fair, and he had a vermillion mark embellished on his forehead. His pupils were distinct against the whites of the eyes, appearing lively but not frivolous. His features appeared rather clean, attractive yet also ingenious. The shadow of a smile that always perched by the corners of his lips, and his brows, revealed at once his clever character. Such a face was enough to earn the love of women, but still wouldn’t evoke the vigilance or aversion of men; the elderly would think of him as sweet, while the young would think of him as amicable. Even if one didn’t like him, they definitely wouldn’t hate him either, which was why his face was “advantageous”. Although his figure was a bit small, his calm demeanor was more than enough to make up for it. Donning a cap made of black gauze, he wore the LanlingJin Sect’s formal uniform, a blooming Sparks Amidst Snow crest over the front of his round-collared robe. With a nine-ringed belt at his waist, liuhe boots at his feet, and a right hand pressing down on the hilt of the sword hung by his side, he let out a powerful aura of inviolability.
Jin Ling followed Jin GuangYao out here. He still didn’t dare meet Jiang Cheng alone. Hiding behind Jin GuangYao’s back, he mumbled, “Uncle.”
Jiang Cheng replied harshly, “So you still know that I’m your uncle!”
Jin Ling quickly tugged at the back hems of Jin GuangYao’s robe. Jin GuangYao seemed as though he had been born to resolve conflicts, “Now, Sect Leader Jiang, A-Ling realized his mistake a long time ago. During the past few days, he’s been so scared you’d punish him that he hasn’t even been eating well. Children just like to make mischief. I know you love him the most. Let’s not bother him about it so much.”
Jin Ling hurried, “Yes, yes. Uncle can prove it. My appetite’s been bad these days!”
Jiang Cheng, “Your appetite’s been bad? Looking at how well your complexion is, I wouldn’t say you missed too many meals!”
As Jin Ling was just about to speak again, he glanced behind Lan WangJi and finally saw Wei WuXian. Temporarily astounded, he blurted, “Why are you here?!”
Wei WuXian, “To get a free meal.”
Jin Ling was somewhat angered, “How dare you still come?! Didn’t I warn…”
Jin GuangYao rubbed Jin Ling’s head, pushing him behind himself, and smiled, “Why not? You’re our guest now that you’ve come. I don’t know about anything else, but Carp Tower definitely has enough food.” He turned to Lan XiChen, “Brother, have a seat first. I’m going to check over there and make arrangements for WangJi as well.”
Lan XiChen nodded, “There is no need for the trouble.”
Jin GuangYao, “How is this trouble? Brother, you don’t have to be so polite now that you’re at my place. Really.”
Jin GuangYao could remember the name, title, age, and appearance of a person after just one encounter. Even after a few years, he’d be able to greet them without any fault, often carrying out solicitous conversations as well. If he had seen someone more than twice, he’d remember all of their likes and dislikes, therefore able to cater to their needs. This time, since Lan WangJi came to Carp Tower without advance notice, Jin GuangYao didn’t arrange for his table. At the moment, he was immediately on the way to do so.
After entering Glamor Hall, the guests strolled down a soft, red carpet. Beside the sandalwood tables on both sides of the carpet were fair-faced maids, adorned with hoops, jades, and each with a genuine smile. With full bosoms and dainty waists, even their figures were similar, appearing both uniform and pleasing to the eye. Wei WuXian had never been able to help himself from looking a while longer when he came upon fair women. After he had been seated, he smiled at her when the maid was pouring him liquor, “Thanks.”
Yet, as if she had received a shock, the woman snuck a glance at him, but quickly blinked and looked away. Wei WuXian initially found this strange. He immediately understood, though, when he looked around him. As he had expected, this wasn’t the only peculiar pair of eyes. More than half of the Lanlingjin Sect’s disciples had strange expressions on their faces when they looked at him.
He had temporarily forgotten that this was Carp Tower, where Mo XuanYu harassed somebody from his own sect and was kicked out. Who would’ve expected that he’d return with such conspicuity, as if he knew no shame. He even slipped into a high-ranked seat along with the Two Jades of Lan…
Wei WuXian shifted toward Lan WangJi’s side, “HanGuang-Jun, HanGuang-Jun.”
Lan WangJi, “Yes?”
Wei WuXian, “Please don’t leave me. There’s probably a lot of people here who know about Mo XuanYu. If somebody decides that they want to talk about the good ol’ days with me, I’ll have to keep on playing the fool and spouting nonsense. Please don’t mind if I end up losing your face.”
Lan WangJi looked at him and replied in a tepid tone, “As long as you do not provoke others on purpose.”
At this point, with a woman dressed in lavish robes by his arm, Jin GuangYao stepped into the room. Although the woman seemed rather dignified, a trace of innocence was blended into her expression. Even her graceful features appeared somewhat childlike. This was the official wife of Jin GuangYao, the mistress of Carp Tower—Qin Su.
The two had been the representation of loving couples in the cultivation world for the past few years, holding mutual respect for each other. Everyone knew that Qin Su was born into the LaolingQin Sect, a subsidiary clan of the LanlingJin Sect. Qin CangYe, the leader of the LaolingQin Sect, happened to be a subordinate who had followed Jin GuangShan for years. Although Jin GuangYao was Jin GuangShan’s son, the two were originally somewhat ill-suited for each other due to his mother’s status. However, during the sunshot campaign, Qin Su had been saved by Jin GuangYao. She fell in love with him and never gave up, insisting that she wanted to be his wife. In the end, they finally drew the period on such a romantic story. Jin GuangYao didn’t let her down either. Even though he held the important position of Chief Cultivator, his behavior was drastically different from his father’s. He never took in any concubines, much less had a relationship with any other woman. This was indeed something that many wives of sect leaders envied.
Wei WuXian silently agreed with such rumors as he looked at the hand that Jin GuangYao held Qin Su’s in. Jin GuangYao’s expression brimmed tenderly with care, as though he even worried that she’d accidentally trip over the jade stairs.
After the two sat before the foremost table, the banquet had officially started. The one sitting at the table of the next-highest rank was Jin Ling. When his eyes landed on Wei WuXian, they glared at once. Wei WuXian had always been used to being watched by others. During the entire time, he pretended that nothing was going on, eating and drinking among toast and chatter within Glamor Hall. It was quite a merry scene.
Night had already fallen when the banquet ended. The Discussion Forum would officially begin the next morning. In groups of two and three, the crowd slowly exited the hall, walking toward the guest chambers that disciples had directed them to. Since Lan XiChen seemed rather absent-minded, Jin GuangYao looked as though he wanted to ask what the matter was. Yet, just as he approached and called out, “Brother,” another person threw himself over and wailed, “Brother!!!”
Jin GuangYao almost stepped back from the force. He quickly fixed his cap with one hand, “HuaiSang, what’s wrong? Let’s calm down first.”
Such an unbecoming sect leader could only be the QingheNie Sect’s Head Shaker. And, of course, the drunk Head Shaker was even more unbecoming. With a ruddy face, Nie HuaiSang refused to let go, “Oh Brother!! What do I do?! Can you help me again? I promise that this is the last time!!!”
Jin GuangYao, “Wasn’t last time’s situation dealt with by the people I found you?”
Nie HuaiSang cried, “Last time’s situation was done, but this time there’s a new situation! Brother, what should I do?! I don’t want to live anymore!”
Looking at how it seemed like something few words couldn’t explain, Jin GuangYao could only turn to Qin Su, “A-Su, you can go back first. HuaiSang, let’s find somewhere and sit down. There’s no need to hurry…”
He started walking outside with Nie HuaiSang leaning on him. When Lan XiChen came to see what was going on, he was also dragged along by the drunken Nie HuaiSang.
Qin Su saluted Lan WangJi, “HanGuang-Jun, I don’t think you’ve come to Lanling for the Discussion Conferences since quite some years ago. I apologize if the reception was inadequate in any way.”
Her voice was soft, truly befitting for such a sweet beauty. Lan WangJi nodded in return of the salute. Qin Su’s gaze landed on Wei WuXian next. After a moment of hesitation, she whispered, “Then, please excuse my leave.” With this, she left with her maid.
Wei WuXian pondered, “The way that everyone at Carp Tower looks at me is so strange. Just what did Mo XuanYu do? Publicly show his love while naked? What’s special about that? The LanlingJin Sect’s people really haven’t seen things.”
Lan WangJi shook his head at Wei WuXian’s nonsense. Wei WuXian continued, “I’m gonna go ask someone. HanGuang-Jun, watch Jiang Cheng for me. It’s best if he doesn’t come find me. If he does, help me hold him back a bit, won’t you?”
Lan WangJi, “Do not go too far.”
Wei WuXian, “Got it. If I end up going far, let’s meet in our room at night.”
His eyes searched throughout Glamor Hall, but didn’t find the person he wanted. Raising a brow, he continued searching after he left Lan WangJi. When he passed a small pavilion, someone suddenly appeared from within the rock garden on the side, “Hey!”
Wei WuXian thought to himself, Ha! Found him. He turned around and spoke in a feeble tone, “What do you mean ‘hey’? How rude. Weren’t we all lovey-dovey when we parted? We meet again and you’re as heartless as ever. Now I’m sad.”
Jin Ling felt goosebumps climb over his body, “Shut up right now! Who’s all lovey-dovey with you?! Didn’t I warn you already not to mess with our sect’s people? Why have you come back?!”
Wei WuXian, “Honestly, I’ve always been following HanGuang-Jun properly. I’m this close to making him grab a rope and tie me to his body. Where have you seen me mess with your sect’s people? Your uncle? He’s the one messing with me, alright?”
Jin Ling was enraged, “Go away! My uncle’s only suspicious of you! Don’t talk nonsense. Don’t think I don’t know that you haven’t given up and still want to…”
Suddenly, a few shouts came from around them. About half-a-dozen boys wearing the LanlingJin Sect’s uniform leaped out from the garden. Jin Ling stopped talking at once.
The boys slowly approached them. The one leading the group was a boy of around the same age but a wider physique than Jin Ling, “I thought I saw wrong. So it really is him.”
Wei WuXian pointed to himself, “Me?”
The boy, “Who other than you?! Mo XuanYu, you still have the face to return?”
Jin Ling frowned, “Jin Chan, why did you come? It’s none of your business here.”
Wei WuXian, I see. It’s probably one of the kids from Jin Ling’s generation. And, looking at the way of things, this was a group of children who weren’t on good terms with Jin Ling.
Jin Chan, “It’s none of my business, but is it any of your business? Why do you care about me?”
As he spoke, three or four of the boys had already come over, as though they wanted to hold Wei WuXian down. With a sideways step, Jin Ling put himself in front of Wei WuXian, “Don’t mess around!”
Jin Chan, “Mess around? What’s wrong with teaching a lesson to an indecent disciple of our sect?”
Jin Ling snorted, “Wake up! He’s been kicked out a long time ago! He isn’t our sect’s disciple no matter how you see it.”
Jin Chan, “So what?”
The “so what” sounded so self-assured that Wei WuXian was flabbergasted. Jin Ling replied, “So what? Have you forgotten who he came with today? You want to teach him a lesson? Why don’t you ask HanGuang-Jun first?”
Hearing the name “HanGuang-Jun”, the boys all seemed nervous. Even if Lan WangJi wasn’t present, nobody dared to claim that they weren’t scared of HanGuang-Jun at all. After a while of silence, Jin Chan responded, “Ha, Jin Ling, didn’t you also use to hate him? How come today is so different?”
Jin Ling, “How do you have so many things to say? Does whether or not I hate him matter to you?”
Jin Chan, “He shamelessly harassed LianFang-Zun, and you’re still talking in favor of him?”
Wei WuXian felt as though he had been struck with thunder.
He harassed whom? LianFang-Zun? Who was LianFang-Zun again? Jin GuangYao?
He couldn’t believe it—the person Mo XuanYu had been harassing was LianFang-Zun, Jin GuangYao!
As he was trying to overcome the shock, on the other hand, after Jin Chan and Jin Ling exchanged a few more words, they’d somehow gotten to the point of seeking a fight with each other. Neither of them saw the other in a good light to begin with. The fuse was ignited at once. Jin Ling asserted, “If you want a fight, then let’s have a fight. You think I’m scared of you?”
One of the boys shouted, “Why not? He’s only gonna call a dog to help him anyways!”
Jin Ling heard this just as he was about to whistle. He clenched his teeth and roared, “I can beat you up even if I don’t call Fairy!!!”
Although his tone was ample with confidence, two fists were hardly a worthy opponent to four hands. After he started to fight, it was clear that his abilities began to fall short. He appeared to be losing ground, forced closer and closer to Wei WuXian.
Jin Ling seethed when he saw that Wei WuXian was still standing at the same place, “Why are you still standing around?!”
Wei WuXian suddenly grabbed his hand. Before Jin Ling had the chance to yell, he felt an overwhelming force press onto his wrist. He couldn’t help but collapse onto the ground. Enraged, he shouted, “Do you want to die?!!”
As he put down Jin Ling, who had been protecting him, Jin Chan and the others were startled. Yet, Wei WuXian asked, “You got it?”
Jin Ling was also startled, “What?”
Wei WuXian turned his hand again, “Have you understood?”
Feeling a numbing pain travel from his wrist to his entire body, Jin Ling cried again. Before his eyes, however, he could recall Wei WuXian’s swift, subtle movement. Wei WuXian spoke once more, “Again. Look carefully.”
One of the boys just happened to rush over. With one hand behind his back, Wei WuXian used the other hand to snatch at the boy’s wrist. He brought him to the ground in the blink of an eye. This time, Jin Ling saw what was going on. The aching part of his wrist also told him which acupoint to send his spiritual energy to. Springing to his feet, he seemed to be in high spirits, “Yes!”
The situation was reversed in an instant. Not long later, the boys’ frustrated cries sounded throughout the garden. In the end, Jin Chan fumed, “Jin Ling, just you wait!”
A trail of curses followed as the boys fled in defeat. Jin Ling, on the other hand, split his sides laughing behind them. When his laughter finally seemed to die, Wei WuXian spoke up, “Look at how happy you are. Your first time winning?”
Jin Ling spat, “I’ve always won one-on-one fights. But Jin Chan calls a bunch of helpers every single time. He’s got no face.”
Wei WuXian was just about to say that he could also find a bunch of people to help him. Fights didn’t have to be one-on-one. Sometimes, the number of people in one’s group could make a life-and-death difference. However, he realized that he had always seen Jin Ling go out alone, without any same-age disciples from his sect following him around. It was likely for Jin Ling to have no helpers to choose from, and thus he decided not to say anything.
Jin Ling, “Hey, how did you learn the move?”
Wei WuXian shoved the responsibility to Lan WangJi’s shoulders without showing even a hint of shame, “HanGuang-Jun taught me.”
Jin Ling didn’t doubt this at all. He had already seen Lan WangJi’s forehead ribbon tied to Wei WuXian’s hands anyways. He simply mumbled, “He even teaches you these things?”
Wei WuXian, “Sure he does. This is only a small trick, though. It’s your first time using it and they haven’t seen it, so the results are neat. They’ll eventually get it if you use it too many times. It won’t be so easy next time. How was that? You want to learn a few more moves from me?”
Jin Ling glanced at him and couldn’t help but answered, “Why are you like this? My younger uncle has always advised against this, but you’re egging me on.”
Wei WuXian, “Advised you? Against what? Don’t fight and get along with others nicely?”
Jin Ling, “Pretty much.”
Wei WuXian, “Don’t listen to him. Let me tell you—when you grow older, you’ll find out that there are more and more people you want to beat up, but you’ll have to force yourself to get along with them nicely. So, since you’re still young, go beat up all the people you want. At such an age, if you don’t have a few proper fights, your life won’t be complete.”
Jin Ling’s face betrayed faint yearning, yet he still sounded contemptuous, “What are you talking about? Uncle’s advice is for my own good.”
After he spoke, he suddenly remembered that the past Mo XuanYu had always regarded Jin GuangYao as a deity. He definitely wouldn’t have disagreed with Jin GuangYao in any way. Yet, now, he was saying “don’t listen to him”. Was it that he really didn’t hold any improper thoughts toward Jin GuangYao anymore?
Looking at his expression, Wei WuXian could guess what he was thinking of. He responded without any hesitation, “Looks like I can’t keep it from you anymore. That’s right. I’ve fallen for someone else.”
Jin Ling, “…”
Wei WuXian’s face was as dynamic as his tone, “During the days that I was gone, I thought about it seriously and finally decided that LianFang-Zun was neither my type nor somebody who suited me.”
Jin Ling backed away.
Wei WuXian, “In the past, I couldn’t understand my own heart, but after I met HanGuang-Jun I’m certain.” He took in a deep breath, “I’m already incapable of leaving him. I don’t want anyone else aside from HanGuang-Jun… Wait, why are you running away? I haven’t finished yet! Jin Ling, Jin Ling!”
Jin Ling turned around and sprinted in the opposite direction. Wei WuXian shouted a couple of times from behind him, but he didn’t even turn around. He was rather proud that, thinking to himself that this time Jin Ling definitely wouldn’t keep on doubting that he held any improper thoughts about Jin GuangYao. However, as he turned around, he saw a snowy-skinned figure stand under the moon, its robes whiter than frost. About than thirty feet away, Lan WangJi stared directly at him, looking as calm as ever.
Wei WuXian, “…”
If these were the days when he just revived, he could say things ten times more embarrassing than what he just did in front of Lan WangJi. Now, however, as Lan WangJi gazed at him, he actually felt a subtle sense of shame, one that he hadn’t felt in two lifetimes.
Wei WuXian quickly suppressed the seldom-felt shame. Walking over, he spoke as naturally as he could, “HanGuang-Jun, you’re here! Did you know? Mo XuanYu was kicked out of Carp Tower because he harassed Jin GuangYao. So that was why everyone looked at me so weirdly!”
Lan WangJi didn’t say anything. He simply turned around and walked alongside him. Wei WuXian continued, “Neither you nor ZeWu-Jun knew about this. You didn’t even know who Mo XuanYu was. It seems like the LanlingJin Sect had been keeping the whole thing hushed. Now this explains why. After all, Mo XuanYu had the sect leader’s blood in him. If Jin GuangShan really didn’t want such a son, he would’ve never taken him back. If it was as simple as harassing someone from the same sect, he would’ve gotten away with a few scoldings. It wouldn’t have been enough for him to be kicked out. But if the one he harassed was Jin GuangYao, things would’ve been a bit different. This wasn’t only LianFang-Zun, but also Mo XuanYu’s stepbrother. It truly was…”
It truly was a scandal. The matter had to be entirely uprooted. Of course, it was impossible to do anything to LianFang-Zun, so they could only chase Mo XuanYu away.
Wei WuXian remembered that earlier on, during their encounter in the square, Jin GuangYao looked as though nothing had happened. The way that he conversed so politely made him seem as if he didn’t even know who Mo XuanYu was. Wei WuXian couldn’t help but approve of his skills. On the other hand, Jin Ling’s attitude couldn’t be hidden at all. The reason he was disgusted at Mo XuanYu was not only that he was a cut-sleeve, but likely also that the one Mo XuanYu harassed was his own uncle.
Thinking of JingYi, Wei WuXian sighed in silence. Lan WangJi asked, “What is wrong?”
Wei WuXian, “HanGuang-Jun, have you noticed that Jin Ling was alone every single time he went out to night-hunt? Don’t tell me that Jiang Cheng always accompanies him. His own uncle doesn’t count. He’s about fifteen already, yet there’s nobody his own age following him around. When we were young…” The tip of Lan WangJi’s brows lifted slightly. Seeing this, Wei WuXian immediately changed his words, “Alright. Me. It was only me. When I was young, wasn’t I like this?”
Lan WangJi replied indifferently, “That was you. Not everyone is like you.”
Wei WuXian, “But all children like it where there are lots of people, right? HanGuang-Jun, would you think that Jin Ling’s really distant and has no friends in his own sect? I don’t know about the YunmengJiang Sect, I don’t think any of the Jin Sect’s juniors like to play with him. He just fought a few a while ago. Don’t tell me that Jin GuangYao has no son or daughter, or anyone around his age who’s close to him.”
Lan WangJi, “Jin GuangYao once had a son. His life was taken at a young age.”
Wei WuXian wondered, “He was the young master of Carp Tower, though. How could his life have been taken away?”
Lan WangJi, “The lookout towers.”
Wei WuXian, “And why was that?”
Back then, in order to build the lookout towers, Jin GuangYao not only faced quite a number of opposers, but also displeased a handful of sects. One of the opposing sect’s leaders lost the arguments, and went into a murderous rage, killing Jin GuangYao and Qin Su’s only son. The boy had always been a good child and he couple had always loved him dearly. Under resentment, Jin GuangYao tore down the entire sect in revenge. Qin Su, however, was overcome with grief. She hadn’t been able to bear another child ever since.
After a while of silence, he replied, “With Jin Ling’s temper, he offends other people whenever he opens his mouth, he pokes at the hornet’s nest whenever he raises his hand. Your sect’s JingYi calls him Young Mistress—well, he’s right. The many times before this, if it weren’t for how we protected him, he’d have no lives left. Jiang Cheng isn’t at all someone who knows how to teach children. Jin GuangYao, on the other hand…”
Remembering why they came to Carp Tower, Wei WuXian’s head ached again. He pressed his fingers onto his temples. On the other side, Lan WangJi looked at him quietly. Although he didn’t give any words of comfort, he had always listened, answering each question. Wei WuXian sighed, “Nevermind. Let’s go back inside first.”
The two returned to the guest residence that the LanlingJin Sect arranged for them. The room was rather spacious, and rather ornate. A set of exquisite liquor cups made of smooth white porcelain had even been placed onto the table. Wei WuXian sat down on the side, and started to admire the set. He only stopped when it was already late into the night.
Searching through the drawers, he found a pair of scissor and a stack of paper. With just a few cuts, he created a paperman. The paperman, with a round head and unusually long sleeves that resembled butterfly wings, was only as tall as an adult’s finger. Wei WuXian took a brush pen from the table and painted a few strokes. Tossing the brush away, he drank a mouthful from a liquor cup, and immediately lay down onto the bed. The paperman, on the other hand, suddenly twitched. With a few trembles, its wide sleeves lifted its weightless body into the air, as though they were wings. It flitted about and landed on the tip of Lan WangJi’s shoulder.
Lan WangJi looked to the side, at his shoulder. The paperman threw itself onto his cheek. It climbed upward, all the way to his forehead ribbon, and tugged at it, as though the ribbon was its favorite thing in the world. Lan WangJi let the paperman wriggle on his ribbon for some time. Just as he reached out to take it down, the paperman slid its way down as fast as it could. No matter intentionally or not, it bumped its head once against his lips.
Lan WangJi’s movements paused for a moment. Using two of his fingers, he finally caught it, “Do not fool around.”
Softly, the paperman rolled its body over his slender finger.
Lan WangJi, “You must be careful.”
The paperman nodded and flapped its wings. Clinging flat onto the ground, it climbed through the door slit and snuck out of the guest room.
Carp Tower was heavily guarded. Of course, a large, living human wouldn’t be able to travel freely around. The good thing was that Wei WuXian had once learnt a certain technique of the dark arts—the paper metamorphosis.
Although it was indeed useful, it had a number of restrictions as well. Not only was the time strictly limited, the paperman must also return as it were, after it had been released. There mustn’t even be a single scratch on it. If, on its way, it was torn apart or broken in any way, the soul would receive the same degree of harm—from a year of unconsciousness to a whole lifetime of lunacy. Thus, one must be extremely careful.
Wei WuXian possessed the paperman’s body. At times, he stuck to the hem of a cultivator’s robe. At other times, he flattened himself to pass through closed doors. At times, he unfolded his sleeves and looked down at the ground, pretending to be a piece of used paper, a butterfly that danced amid the night sky. Suddenly, still airborne, he heard faint sounds of crying come from below him. Looking over, he saw one of Jin GuangYao’s residences, Blooming Garden.
Wei WuXian flew below the roof and saw three figures sitting in the living room. With Lan XiChen in one hand and Jin GuangYao in the other, Nie HuaiSang cried in a drunken state, complaining about things unknown. Behind the living room was a study. Seeing that nobody was inside, Wei WuXian went in to look. Sketched designs annotated in red covered the entire desk. On the walls were the four sceneries of spring, summer, autumn, and winter. In the first place, Wei WuXian didn’t intend to pay them any attention. After he glanced at them, however, he couldn’t help wanting to praise the artist’s skills. Both the colors and the brushstrokes were gentle, yet the landscapes appeared vast. Although only one scene resided on each paper, thousands of miles seemed to extend from it. Wei WuXian thought to himself that such skills were almost comparable to Lan XiChen’s, and couldn’t help taking a few more looks. Only afterward did he realize that the artist of the four sceneries indeed happened to be Lan XiChen.
Flying out of Blooming Garden, from a distance, Wei WuXian could see a grandiose five-ridged palace. The roof of the palace was covered in glazed, gleaming tiles. Outside of the palace, there were thirty-two golden pillars. The scene was magnificent. This was probably one of the most guarded areas of Carp Tower, the bedchamber of each of the LanlingJin Sect’s leaders, the Fragrant Palace.
Aside from the cultivators dressed in robes of Sparks Amidst Snow, Wei WuXian could also feel that arrays had been packed into the space above and below the palace. Flying toward the base of a pillar, also carved with the peony, he rested for a moment. He only slipped into the door slit after a while of huffing.
Compared to the Blooming Garden, the Fragrant Palace was a classical building of Carp Tower. Sumptuously ornamented, the building was almost majestic. Inside the palace, layers and layers of gauze curtains cascaded onto the ground. The beast-shaped incense burner sat on top of its stand, exuding clouds of aromatic smoke. Amid the extravagance, there was a sweet yet languid sense of decadence.
Jin GuangYao was with Lan XiChen and Nie HuaiSang in the Blooming Garden, which meant that the Fragrant Palace was empty, conveniently allowing Wei WuXian to inspect the area. The paperman flew around the interior of the palace, searching for anywhere that roused suspicion. Suddenly, Wei WuXian saw an agate paperweight on the table. An envelope was under the paperweight.
The envelope had already been opened. Nobody’s name was written on it, not even any crests. Yet, seeing from its thickness, it obviously wasn’t an empty envelope. Flapping his sleeves, he landed on the table, wanting to take a look at whatever was inside the envelope. But even as he attempted at dragging out the envelope, his “hands” holding onto the edge, the envelope remained still.
His present body was a piece of paper, almost weightless. He could do nothing to move the heavy paperweight.
Paperman WuXian walked a few more times around the agate paperweight. He shoved and kicked, hopped and leaped, yet it still refused to budge. Unable to do anything, he could only give up as of the moment, then go to check if there were any other places of suspicion. Suddenly, a side door of the palace was pushed slightly open.
Alarmed, Wei WuXian swept off the table, motionless against a corner of the table.
The one who entered was Qin Su. Wei WuXian finally realized that it wasn’t that the palace had been empty, but that Qin Su was quiet within her room.
The fact that the mistress of Carp Tower appeared in the Fragrant Palace was nothing unusual. However, right now, she looked as abnormal as one could. Her face was paler than snow, drained of all blood. Her figure was also on the verge of collapsing. She looked as though she had just received a substantial shock, like she had just awakened from a swoon and could swoon again.
Wei WuXian thought to himself, What happened? Her countenance was clearly great when she was in the banquet hall, just a while ago.
Leaning against the door, Qin Su stood blankly for a moment before she found her way over, hand on the wall. Staring at the letter under the agate paperweight, she reached for it, as if she wanted to grab it, but still took her hand back. Under the firelight, Wei WuXian could see the obvious trembles of her lips. Those elegant features could almost be described as twisted.
Out of the blue, she let out a scream, and snatched the envelope, throwing it onto the ground. Her other hand spasmed as it dug into the front of her robe. Wei WuXian’s eyes lit up, but he stopped the urge of darting over. If Qin Su was the only one who saw him, he’d be able to deal with it, but not if Qin Su shouted and brought over other people. His soul would be affected if the piece of paper received the slightest damage.
All of a sudden, a voice echoed through the palace, “A-Su, what are you doing?”
Qin Su’s head spun around. A familiar figure stood just a few feet behind her. No different from usual, the familiar face smiled at her as well.
She immediately dove to the ground, grabbing the letter. Wei WuXian could only cling tightly to the corner and watch the letter move once again out of his sight. It seemed as if Jin GuangYao stepped forward, “What’s in your hand?”
His tone was as kind as ever, as though he really didn’t notice anything, neither the strange letter in Qin Su’s hand nor the distorted expression on Qin Su’s face. It sounded like he was merely asking about a trivial matter. Still gripping the letter, Qin Su did not reply. Jin GuangYao asked again, “You don’t look too well. What’s wrong?”
His voice was brimming with care. Qin Su held up the letter and spoke through her trembles, “… I met with somebody.”
Jin GuangYao, “Who?”
Qin Su seemed as though she didn’t hear him, “This person told me a few things, and gave me this letter.”
Jin GuangYao couldn’t help but laugh, “Who did you meet with? Are you really going to believe whatever things people tell you?”
Qin Su, “It couldn’t have been a lie. Definitely not.”
Wei WuXian also thought, Who was it? He couldn’t even tell whether the person was a man or a woman.
Qin Su, “Are the things written on here true?”
Jin GuangYao, “A-Su, if you don’t let me see the letter, how can I know what’s written on it?”
Qin Su showed him the letter, “Fine. Go read it!”
In order to see the letter with clarity, Jin GuangYao walked another step forward. With the letter in Qin Su’s hand, he scanned it rapidly. His expression didn’t change at all. Not even the single trace of a shadow had fallen over his face. Qin Su, however, was almost screaming, “Speak to me, speak! Tell me that none of this is true! That all of these are lies!”
Jin GuangYao replied with certainty, “None of this is true. All of these are lies. This is complete nonsense, words of false charges.”
Qin Su bursted out crying, “You’re lying! Things are already like this and you’re still lying to me—well I don’t believe it!”
Jin GuangYao sighed, “A-Su, you were the one who told me to say so. Now that I’ve said so, you refuse to believe me. This is indeed quite troubling.”
Qin Su threw the letter onto the ground and covered her face, “Oh Heavens! Oh Heavens, oh Heavens! You, you really… You truly are scary! How could you… How could you?!”
She couldn’t continue to speak, backing off to the side with her hands still covering her face. Holding onto a pillar, she suddenly started to vomit.
She heaved as though she was going to let all of her intestines out. Seeing such an intense reaction, Wei WuXian was shocked speechless, She was probably also throwing up when she was inside. Just what in the world is written in the letter? Jin GuangYao killed someone and dismembered them? But everyone knew that Jin GuangYao killed countless people during the Sunshot Campaign. There were quite a few lives in her father’s hands, as well. Maybe it was the thing with Mo XuanYu? No, it was impossible that Jin GuangYao had anything for Mo XuanYu. It was likely that Mo XuanYu being kicked out of Carp Tower was precisely his doing. Anyways, no matter what, her reaction wouldn’t be so extreme that she was disgusted to the point of throwing up. Although he wasn’t familiar with Qin Su, they had met a few times in the past, both being the descendents of prominent clans. Qin Su was the beloved daughter of Qin CangYe. Her personality was naive, but she had lived a comfortable life and was taught excellent manners. She’d never act in such a mad, violent way. It really didn’t make sense at all.
Listening to the noise that she made, Jin GuangYao bent down in silence and picked up the pieces of paper that had scattered onto the ground. With a raise of his hand, he dipped them over the nine-lotus branched candle stand, and allowed them to slowly burn.
Watching the ashes fall to the ground bit by bit, he spoke in a somewhat dejected tone, “A-Su, we’ve been husband and wife for so many years. We’ve always respected each other in peaceful harmony. As a husband, I’d like to think that I treat you well. The fact that you’re acting like this really hurts my feelings.”
Qin Su had nothing left to vomit. She whimpered on the ground, “You treat me well… You do treat me well… But I… I’d rather that I never met you! No wonder you never… ever since… ever since then… You did such a thing—why don’t you just kill me?!”
Jin GuangYao, “A-Su, before you knew of it, didn’t we live perfectly fine? You only felt uncomfortable and began to vomit today, now that you know. We can see that this isn’t anything at all. It won’t be able to do any physical harm to you. Your mind is the only thing doing all this.”
Qin Su shook her head, her face ashen, “… Tell me the truth. A-Song… How did A-Song die?”
Who was A-Song?
Jin GuangYao was startled, “A-Song? Why are you asking me this? Haven’t you known of this since a long time ago? A-Song was killed. I’ve already destroyed the one who killed him in revenge. Why are you mentioning him, all of a sudden?”
Qin Su, “I did know. But now, I’m starting to think that everything I knew was a lie.”
Jin GuangYao’s face began to show fatigue, “A-Su, what are you thinking of? A-Song is my son. What do you think I’d do? You’d rather believe someone who’s been hiding this whole time, a letter from an unknown person, than believe in me?”
Qin Su pulled at her hair, shrieking, “You’re scary precisely because he is your son! What do I think you’d do? You could even do something like this, so what couldn’t you have done?! And now you still want me to believe in you? Oh Heavens!”
Jin GuangYao, “Stop thinking nonsense. Tell me—who did you meet today? Who gave you the letter?”
Qin Su held onto her hair, “What… What are you going to do?”
Jin GuangYao, “If the person could tell you, then they can also tell other people. If they could write one letter, then they can also write a second, a third, a countless number of letters. What do you intend on doing? Allow such a thing to be leaked? A-Su, I’m begging you. Please, no matter for which feelings that have existed between us, tell me where the people mentioned in the letter are. Who was the one that told you to come back and read the letter?”
Who was it? Wei WuXian also wanted to hear Qin Su say just who on Earth it was. Someone who could approach the Chief Cultivator’s wife and earn her trust, someone who uncovered a hidden story of Jin GuangYao’s. The letter couldn’t have been something as simple as murder. It could make Qin Su so disgusted or scared that she vomited, and it remained so unspeakable even when the two of them were the only ones present. During the questioning, they still talked vaguely, not daring to be explicit. But, if Qin Su really decided to be honest and tell him whom had given her the letter, then she’d be truly foolish. If she said it, aside from dealing with whomever it was, Jin GuangYao would also silence Qin Su, either by fair means or foul.
Fortunately, although Qin Su had always seemed innocently ignorant since a young age, even to the point of being somewhat dense, she didn’t trust Jin GuangYao anymore. She stared blankly at Jin GuangYao, who sat still before the table. He was the Chief Cultivator above tens of thousands. He was her husband. As of right now, under the candlelight, he looked as calm and as picturesque as ever. He stood up, as though he wanted to help her up, but Qin Su slapped his hand away. Bent over on the ground, she couldn’t help another retching fit.
The tip of Jin GuangYao’s brows twitched, “Do I really disgust you so much?”
Qin Su, “You’re not a person… You’re a madman!”
A mourning warmth filled the eyes that Jin GuangYao looked at her with, “A-Su, back then, I really didn’t have another path to walk. I wanted to keep you in the dark for your whole life. I didn’t want you to know about this. Now, though, it’s been entirely ruined by the one who told you. You think that I’m dirty. You think that I’m disgusting. All of these are fine, but you’re my wife. How would others see you? How would they talk of you?”
Qin Su buried her head into her arms, “Stop talking, stop talking, stop reminding me!!! I wish I never knew you, I wish that I’m not related to you at all! Why did you approach me in the first place?!”
After a moment of silence, Jin GuangYao answered, “I know that you won’t believe me, no matter what I say, but it was sincere, back then.”
Qin Su sobbed, “… You’re still speaking such blandishments!”
Jin GuangYao, “I’m speaking the truth. I’ve always remembered that you have never said anything about my background or my mother. I’m grateful for you until the end of my life, and I want to respect you, cherish you, love you. But, you have to know that even if A-Song hadn’t been killed, he had to die. He could only die. If we let him grow up, you and I…”
With the mention of her son, Qin Su couldn’t bear it any longer. With a raise of her hand, she slapped him on the face, “Then who’s the one that did all this?! Just what can’t you do for this position?!”
Without any avoidance, Jin GuangYao accepted the slap. A crimson handprint immediately appeared over his fair cheek.
Jin GuangYao, “What are you talking about? You must be feeling quite unwell. Your father has already gone to journey and cultivate. I’ll send you off sometime soon as well, and you can enjoy being in your father’s company. Let’s finish this quickly. There’s still quite a number of guests outside. There’s still the Discussion Conference tomorrow.”
Things were already like this, and he was still thinking of the guests outside and the Discussion Conference tomorrow!
Although he said that he was going to allow Qin Su time for resting, he ignored all of Qin Su’s pushes of refusal and helped her up. Wei WuXian didn’t know what he did, but Qin Su suddenly collapsed, robbed of all energy. Thus, just like this, Jin GuangYao half-dragged his wife into the layering curtains. Paperman WuXian snuck out from below the table and followed them. He saw Jin GuangYao, whose hand was placed over a full-length mirror made of copper. A moment later, his fingers somehow entered the mirror, as though they broke into the surface of a pool of water. Qin Su’s eyes were wide open, still crying. She could only watch as her husband dragged her into the mirror, unable to speak or shout. Wei WuXian knew that the mirror definitely couldn’t be opened by anyone aside from Jin GuangYao himself. Such an opportunity was now or never. Roughly calculating the timing, he quickly leaped inside.
Behind the copper mirror was a secret room. After Jin GuangYao entered, the oil lamps on the walls ignited on their own. The dim light illuminated shelves and cabinets of different sizes, covering the walls. On the shelves were books, scrolls, stones, weapons. There were also a few instruments of torture. Iron rings, sharp spikes, silver hooks—all seemed strange. Just looking at their appearance could make one shiver in fear. Wei WuXian knew that these were probably made by Jin GuangYao.
The QishanWen Sect’s leader, Wen RuoHan, had a moody, violent personality. He loved the sight of blood and sometimes took enjoyment in torturing those that offended him. Jin GuangYao was only able to capture Wen RuoHan’s interest by catering to his needs, making all sorts of cruel yet amusing devices.
Any sects owned a couple of treasury vaults. Thus, it wasn’t strange at all for the Fragrant Palace to hold such a room.
Aside from a desk, an iron table—dark to the eyes, cold to the touch, long enough for a person to lie—was also within the room. There seemed to be black, dried-up traces of something on the surface of the table. Wei WuXian commented in silence, This would be the perfect table to cut someone apart on.
Jin GuangYao gently helped Qin Su lie down on the table. Qin Su’s face was ashen as Jin GuangYao straightened out a few tangled strands of her hair, “Don’t be scared. You shouldn’t walk around in such a state. There’ll be a lot of people during the next few days. Why don’t you rest for a bit? You can come back as soon as you tell me who the person is. Nod if you’re willing to tell me. I didn’t seal all of your meridians. You should still be able to nod.”
Qin Su’s eyes rolled toward her husband, who was still so kind and caring toward her. Her pupils were filled with fear, pain, and despair.
Suddenly, Wei WuXian noticed that one of the shelves were blocked by a curtain. The curtain was covered in sinister, blood-red runes. It was a talisman of forbiddance, one of extreme power.
The paperman slowly inched upward, clinging to the wall. On the other hand, Jin GuangYao was still pleading with Qin Su in a soft voice. Suddenly, as if he noticed something, he turned around in alarm.
There was no third person in the room except for Qin Su and him. Jin GuangYao stood up. He only returned after finding nothing during his careful inspection of the room.
Of course he didn’t know that, just as he turned around, Wei WuXian had already reached a shelf of books. Just as he saw a slight movement at Jin GuangYao’s neck, he immediately inserted his thin, paper body into a book, as though he were a bookmark. His eyes were stuck right between two pages from a manuscript. Fortunately, even though Jin GuangYao was more alert than others, he wasn’t so alert as to flip open this book to see if anyone was hiding inside.
All of a sudden, Wei WuXian realized that the characters his eyes saw looked a bit familiar. After a while of scrutiny, he cursed in silence—how could he not find them familiar? They were his characters!
The comments that Jiang FengMian gave his handwriting was “careless, yet poised”. This was definitely his writing. After Wei WuXian looked at it with more care, he managed to make out the phrases “… different from possession…”, “… revenge…”, “… forced contract”, in addition to the vague or damaged areas. At last, he could finally conclude that the book he crammed himself into was his own manuscript. The content of the manuscript was an article on sacrificing one’s body, deducing from the information that he had gathered.
Back then, he wrote quite a few of these manuscripts. He wrote them as he threw them all over the place, especially the cavern on Burial Hill in which he slept. Some of these manuscripts were destroyed by the fires of the siege. Others, like his sword, were collected by various people as war trophies.
He had been confused as to where Mo XuanYu learnt of the forbidden technique. Now, he knew the answer.
This was the damaged manuscript of a forbidden technique, which was why Wei WuXian definitely didn’t believe that Jin GuangYao would let just anyone have access to it. It seemed that even of Mo XuanYu and Jin GuangYao weren’t in that sort of a relationship, they were still fairly close.
As he was thinking, Jin GuangYao’s voice came, “A-Su, my time is up. I’ll have to look after the guests. I’ll come see you afterwards.”
Wei WuXian had already squirmed his way out of his manuscripts. Hearing the voice, he immediately went inside again. This time, what he saw weren’t manuscripts, but… two title deeds for household and land?
Wei WuXian found this rather strange. How could title deeds hold such special value that they were kept in the same place as the YiLing Patriarch’s manuscripts? But, no matter how he looked at them, they were two of the average title deeds, without any tricks or codes. The papers were turning yellow and even had blotches of ink on them. Nevertheless, he didn’t think that Jin GuangYao placed them here at random. Thus, he took the time to remember the address, somewhere in Yunmeng’s Yunping City. He thought that he might find something there if he got the chance to do so.
After hearing nothing for quite a while, Wei WuXian began to climb up the wall again. He finally reached the shelf blocked by the talisman of forbiddance. However, before he could examine what was kept inside the shelf, the scene before his eyes suddenly lit up.
Jin GuangYao walked over and lifted the curtain.
For a split second, Wei WuXian thought that he had been exposed. After the faint firelight made its way through the curtain, he found that he was enveloped in a shadow. A circular object just happened to be in front of him.
Jin GuangYao stood still, as though he was staring into the eyes of whatever was inside this shelf.
After a moment, he spoke, “Were you the one looking at me?”
Of course, there couldn’t be any response. He was silent for a while, then let down the curtain.
Wei WuXian quietly attached himself to the object. Cold and hard, it seemed to be a helmet. He then turned to the front. As he had expected, he saw a pallid face. The one who sealed the head wanted it to see nothing, hear nothing, speak nothing, and so incantations had been crowded onto the waxen skin. The eyes, the ears, and the mouth were all sealed tightly shut.
Wei WuXian greeted it in silence, What an honor to meet you, ChiFeng-Zun.
(Great for making you look taller, as Jin GuangYao is the shortest male character in the story)
Liuhe boots: See picture above.
Tables: I don’t know much about such a setup either, but from what I can tell, Jin GuangYao and Qin Su are sitting at the end of a long hall, then the guests form two lines on each of their sides, facing one another. Jin Ling is sitting at one of the two tables closest to them.
Qin Su: Qin Su is a close homophone to qingsu, which means sentiment.
Rock garden: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/af/Zig-zag_bridge_and_rock_mountain_in_Dunedin_Chinese_Garden.jpg/800px-Zig-zag_bridge_and_rock_mountain_in_Dunedin_Chinese_Garden.jpg