Chapter 54 Courage—Part Four
Feeling that they were probably far enough away for their location to be safe, Wei Wuxian spun around and laid Lan WangJi gently onto the ground.
His leg injury wasn’t completely healed to begin with, and now that it had been bitten by the beast’s fangs and soaked in water. Lan WangJi’s white clothes were dyed red by smears of blood everywhere. It could be seen with the physical eye, the rows and rows of punctures from the fangs. He couldn’t stand at all, falling to the ground as soon as he was let go of.
Wei WuXian bent down for a moment to inspect the wounds. Standing up again, he circled the cave a few times. A couple of shrubs could be found growing underground. Having finally found a few thicker, straighter branches, he rubbed the grime off the surface using a corner of his clothes and squatted before Lan WangJi, “You have a rope or a ribbon? Hey, your forehead ribbon might do the trick. Come on, take it off.”
Before Lan WangJi could respond, Wei WuXian quickly reached out and took off his forehead ribbon. With a flick of his wrist, he used the forehead ribbon as a bandage, straightened up Lan WangJi’s leg, and fixed it firmly onto the branch.
Suddenly robbed of his forehead ribbon, Lan WangJi opened his eyes wide, “You…!”
With nimble hands, Wei WuXian had already finished tying the knot. Patting his shoulder, he consoled, “What do you mean ‘me’? Let’s not worry about it, given our current situation. No matter how much you like the forehead ribbon, it can’t be more important than your leg, can it?”
Lan WangJi leaned back, either too tired to sit up or simply angered speechless by his words. Suddenly, Wei WuXian caught a faint, herbal scent. Reaching into his lapel, he fished out a small sachet of perfume.
The wet sachet hung from its tassels, delicate yet somewhat pitiful. Recalling how MianMian said that it was filled with medicinal plants, he opened it up at once and found that there were indeed herbs, along with a few small flowers, half-dried and quite chopped up. He urged, “Lan Zhan, Lan Zhan, stop sleeping. Sit up for one second. There’s a perfume sachet here. See if there are any herbs that we can use.”
Dragging and tugging and refusing to give up, he eventually made Lan WangJi sit up, however exhausted he was. After looking through the herbs, they really did find a few that could stop blood or remove poison.
Wei WuXian spoke as he picked them out, “I can’t believe that the girl’s perfume sachet ended up so useful. I’ll have to thank her properly when we go back.”
Lan WangJi responded coldly, “Are you sure you do not mean to harass her properly?”
Wei WuXian, “What are you talking about? It doesn’t count as harassing if I’m the one doing it. It only counts if the one doing it looks as greasy as Wen Chao. Go on, strip.”
Lan WangJi frowned slightly, “What?”
Wei WuXian, “What do you think? Strip your clothes!”
He did exactly what he said. Hands grabbing each of Lan WangJi’s lapels, he peeled them to the side, revealing a chest and shoulders the color of snow.
Lan WangJi had suddenly been pushed onto the ground, shirt forcibly stripped. His face was almost green, “Wei Ying! What do you want to do?!”
Wei WuXian took off all of his clothes and tore them to shreds, “What do I want to do? Right now, we two are the only ones here. I’m already making it so obvious—what do you think I want to do?”
As he finished, he stood up and drew away his belt sash. As though reciprocating out of courtesy, he revealed his own chest as well.
With deep-set collarbones, the lines of his torso flowed smoothly. Although it almost flaunted its adolescence, it was full of youthful energy and strength.
Watching his movements, Lan WangJi’s complexion switched between pale, dark, and flustered. His blood seemed to boil to the point of having to burst out from between his lips. Wei WuXian smiled and walked one step closer. Right in front of Lan WangJi’s face, he took off his own drenched coat. He raised it up with one hand before releasing his grip, letting it fall to the ground.
Wei WuXian shrugged, palms facing out, “Now that the shirts are gone, it’s time for the trousers.”
Lan WangJi wanted to get up, but his leg was injured. Due to the fight that they had gone through and the fury within him, the more anxious he was, the more he couldn’t do it. His entire body felt worn out. With an intense rage, he really did cough up a mouthful of blood.
Seeing this, Wei WuXian immediately squatted down and tapped a few of the acupoints on his chest, “Alright, the bad blood is out. No need to thank me!”
After the mouthful of blackish blood had been spat out, Lan WangJi immediately felt the pain and irritation within his chest lift away. Looking back on what Wei WuXian did, he finally realized.
As they climbed up Dusk-creek Mountain, Wei WuXian found that Lan WangJi looked worse than usual. It must’ve been that an energy of gloom had collected within his chest, so he purposely tried to scare and provoke him, so that he could let out the blood that he had been holding in.
Although he knew that it was out of good will, Lan WangJi still seemed a bit annoyed, “… Can you not make this kind of joke again?!”
Wei WuXian protested, “It’s very unhealthy for blood like this to be held in. It gets out with just a scare, though. Don’t worry—I don’t like men, I won’t take advantage of the opportunity and do anything to you.”
Lan WangJi, “Ridiculous!”
Wei WuXian found out long ago that Lan WangJi’s temper was especially bad today. He didn’t protest any further and waved his hand, “Okay, okay. Ridiculous it is. I’m ridiculous. I’m the most ridiculous there is.”
As he spoke, the cold, underground air climbed up his spine, causing him to shudder. He immediately stood up, gathered a pile of dead leaves and branches, and drew the fire talisman on his palm again.
The leaves and branches crunched into flames, letting off a few sparks once in a while. Wei WuXian ground up the herbs that he had picked out. Ripping the trouser leg open, he sprinkled them evenly over the three hideous holes that had just barely ceased to bleed.
Suddenly, Lan WangJi raised his arm and stopped him. Wei WuXian asked, “What’s wrong?”
Without speaking a word, Lan WangJi took out some of the herbs from his palm and pressed them onto Wei Wuxian’s chest.
Wei WuXian’s entire body trembled as he exclaimed, “Ah!”
He had forgotten that there was a fresh wound on himself as well, created by the iron. It was also still bleeding and had also been soaked in water.
Lan WangJi took his hand away. Wei WuXian hissed a few times, then peeled away, bit by bit, the herbs that had been pressed onto his chest, tossing them onto Lan WangJi’s leg again, “Don’t mind me. I get hurt a lot, and I play in Lotus Lake as usual even when I’m hurt. I got used to it a long time ago. How many herbs can there be inside a small perfume sachet? There isn’t enough to begin with. I think that those three holes of yours need them more… Ah!”
Lan WangJi’s face was dark. A moment later, he replied, “If you know that it hurts, do not be so rash next time.”
Wei WuXian, “It’s not like I had any other choice, right? Do you think I enjoy being burned? Who would’ve known that Wang LingJiao is so heartless. She almost pressed the iron into the eye. MianMian is a girl, and quite a pretty girl, at that. If she was blind in an eye or such a thing gets onto her face, it wouldn’t be able to come off for the rest of her life. How bad would that be?”
Lan WangJi spoke in a thin voice, “The thing on your body right now will not be able to come off for the rest of your life either.”
Wei WuXian, “That’s different. It’s not on the face. And I’m a man—what am I scared of? In a man’s life, how can he not get a few wounds and earn a few scars?”
His upper body bare, he was squatting on the ground as he picked up a branch and poked at the flames for it to burn brighter, “And, if you think from another perspective, even though this won’t be able to come off, it represents the fact that I protected a maiden. And the maiden will definitely remember me after this. She won’t be able to forget me for the rest of her life. Now that I think about it, it’s actually quite…”
Suddenly, Lan WangJi shoved him hard, raging, “So you also know that she will not be able to forget you for the rest of her life!!!”
Collapsed on the ground, he broke into a cold sweat from the pain, moaning with his neck stretched forward, “… Lan Zhan, you… Have I done something to you?! … This would be enough revenge to pay for killing your father!”
Hearing this, Lan WangJi clenched his fists.
A moment later, he relaxed, seeming as if he wanted to help Wei WuXian up. However, Wei WuXian sat up on his own and shrunk backward a couple of times, “Fine, fine! I know you don’t like me. Then I’ll sit farther away. Don’t come here! Don’t push me again. It’s so painful.”
The wound was on his left side, so it began to hurt whenever he raised his left arm. Wei WuXian shrunk to the side. Picking up the white clothes that had been torn into strips, he tossed them toward Lan WangJi using his right hand, “You can bind it yourself. I’m not gonna go over.”
Then, he moved the clothes that he had taken off to the fire for them to dry up.
A while had passed, and neither had spoken. Wei WuXian began again, “Lan Zhan, you really are so strange today. You’re so rude. And you aren’t talking like yourself either.”
Lan WangJi, “If you do not have those intentions, then do not flirt with others. You are doing as you please, yet others will be in turmoil.”
Wei WuXian, “It’s not like you’re the one whom I’m flirting with, so it wouldn’t be you who’s in turmoil either, unless…”
Lan WangJi asked harshly, “Unless what?”
Wei WuXian, “Unless, Lan Zhan, you like MianMian!”
A moment later, Lan WangJi replied in a cold voice, “Please do not speak nonsense.”
Wei WuXian, “Alright, then, I’ll speak one-sense.”
Lan WangJi, “Is it amusing, trifling with empty words?”
Wei WuXian, “It’s very amusing. But, believe me, my words are as much a trifle as my moves are, which means not at all.”
“…” Lan WangJi muttered to himself, “Why am I sitting here having such a useless conversation with you?”
Somehow, Wei WuXian had moved beside him again and sat down, speaking without a care for the consequences, “Because there’s no other choice. We’re the only two unfortunate souls left here, aren’t we? If you don’t have useless conversations with me, then who will you have them with?”
Lan WangJi glanced at him, who seemed to forget all past pain as soon as the wounds had healed. Just as Wei WuXian was about to give him a large grin, he suddenly saw Lan WangJi lower his head.
Wei WuXian wailed, “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh stop!!! Stop stop stop!!!!!!”
Lan WangJi was buried into the crescent of his elbow, biting firmly into his arm. Hearing Wei WuXian, not only did he not stop, his teeth sunk deeper inside.
Wei WuXian, “Are you gonna stop?!?! I’ll kick you if you don’t! Don’t think that I won’t kick you just because you’re injured!!!!!!”
Wei WuXian, “Stop biting! Stop biting! I’ll go away! I’ll go away!!! I’ll go away, I’ll go away if you stop, I’ll go away!!!!!!”
Wei WuXian, “Lan Zhan you’re mad today!!!!!! You’re a dog!!! You’re a dog!!!!!!!! Stop biting!!!!”
When Lan WangJi had finally finished his fit and felt satisfied, Wei WuXian sprang up and scrambled to the other side of the cave, “Don’t come over!”
Lan WangJi straightened his back slowly. Fixing his hair and his clothes, he spoke nothing, eyes looking down calmly. It was as if the certain someone who shoved and shouted and sunk his teeth into other people’s flesh had nothing to do with him. Wei WuXian glanced at the bite marks on his arm and squatted down, still shaken. Curled up in the corner, he continued to poke at the flames, not at all comprehending the situation, How could Lan Zhan do this? Even though he saved me, you can say that I saved him as well, didn’t I? It’s not that I want him to thank me or anything, but why is it that we still can’t be friends, even after so much has happened? Don’t tell me that… that I’m really as annoying as Jiang Cheng makes it to be?!
Just as he was doubting himself, Lan WangJi spoke up, “Thanks.”
Wei WuXian thought that he heard wrong. He looked at Lan WangJi, who was also looking at him. In all seriousness, he repeated himself, “Thanks.”
Seeing how he lowered his head slightly, Wei WuXian was scared that he might worship him by kneeling. He quickly darted to the side, “There’s no need, there’s no need. There’s a problem with me that I’m unable to stand it when others thank me, especially when people like you thank me so seriously. It’s so creepy that I’m even getting goosebumps. Kneeling worship, of course, is even more so unnecessary.”
Lan WangJi replied with indifference, “You are thinking too much. Even if I wanted to worship you, I would not be able to move.”
It seemed that he was finally back to normal, and he even thanked Wei WuXian two times. Wei WuXian was so delighted that he couldn’t help but want to move over again. He was the type of person who loved to be shoulder-to-shoulder with others, but the slight pain from the bite marks on his arm reminded him that Lan Zhan had just thrown a fit a moment ago, and maybe he’d be at it again just a moment later.
He gained control over himself at once and stared at the black ceiling of the cave, speaking in a straight voice, “Now that Jiang Cheng and the others escaped, it’d take them one or two days to go down the mountain. After they get down, they’d definitely return to wherever they live instead of reporting to the Wen Sect. But since their swords were taken, I don’t know how long it’d take for them to find help. I’d say that we’ll probably have to stay here underground for quite a while. We’d need to search for ways to solve a few issues.”
After a pause, he continued, “The good thing is that the monster stays in the pool and doesn’t chase after us. But the bad thing is also that it doesn’t come out. With it guarding the hole under the pool, we won’t be able to get out either.”
Lan WangJi, “It is perhaps not a monster. What does it look like, to you?”
Wei WuXian, “A tortoise!”
Lan WangJi, “There is one divine creature that takes on such a form.”
Wei WuXian, “The divine beast Xuanwu?”
The Xuanwu, also called the Nether Xuanwu, was a combination of turtle and snake. It was a water deity that dwelled in the North Sea. Since the Nether was also in the North, the creature was known as the God of the Northern Sky.
Lan WangJi nodded. Wei WuXian flashed his teeth, “How can a divine beast look like thiiis? It’s got a mouthful of fangs and eats human flesh. It seems a bit too different from the legends.”
Lan WangJi, “Of course it is not a the proper Divine Xuanwu. Rather, it is a semi-completed result of failing to rise to divinity and being transformed into a yao. In other words, it is a deformed Divine Xuanwu.”
Wei WuXian, “Deformed?”
Lan WangJi, “I have read of it in an ancient text. Four hundred years ago, a ‘fake Xuanwu’ appeared and rampaged amid Qishan. It was large in size and consumed live humans. One cultivator named it the ‘Xuanwu of Slaughter’.”
Wei WuXian, “The creature that Wen Chao led us to hunt is a four-hundred-years-old beast—the Xuanwu of Slaughter?”
Lan WangJi, “Its size appears larger than what is recorded in the text, but it should be the one.”
Wei WuXian, “It’s been four hundred years already, so of course it has grown. Hadn’t the Xuanwu of Slaughter been killed back then?”
Lan WangJi, “No. A few cultivators had joined alliance and prepared to kill it, but on one winter day that year, there happened to be heavy snowfall, and the weather was unusually cold. Then, the Xuanwu of Slaughter disappeared and was never seen again.”
Wei WuXian, “It was hibernating.”
All past pain as soon as the wounds had healed: This is a proverb that describes how quickly one forgets the past consequences that their actions had led to.
Xuanwu: In Chinese folklore, the xuanwu is a legendary black tortoise and one of the four deities that govern the sky.