Chapter 66: Tenderness—Part Four
Translated by K of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Down the mountain path, they left the Cloud Recesses through a discreet shortcut. They walked farther and farther, until they had finally left the the GusuLan Sect’s disciples’ usual area of activity. Wei WuXian suddenly exclaimed, “Ow, my stomach hurts.”
Lan WangJi stopped immediately, “Rest. Apply new ointment.”
Wei WuXian, “It’s fine. I’ll just go sit over there.”
Lan WangJi, “Sit.”
Wei WuXian’s expression seemed miserable, “But the movement of getting on the donkey is too big. I’m scared that it’ll affect the wound.”
His wound had healed long ago. This was clearly being shameless. Lan WangJi stopped, turned around, and looked at him. He suddenly reached out. Making sure not to touch where he had been injured, he picked him up by his waist, lifted him gently, and placed him onto the back of Lil’ Apple.
Of the two, one sat on the donkey while the other pulled the rein. On the back of Lil’ Apple, Wei WuXian grinned with curving eyes.
Lan WangJi asked, “What?”
Wei WuXian, “Nothing.”
Like he had played a trick on someone, he felt somewhat pleased with himself.
Although he didn’t remember much of the things that had happened when he was young, there was one scene that had always been blurrily imprinted within his mind.
A narrow path, a little donkey, and three people. A man in black gently lifted a woman in white. He picked her up and placed her onto the donkey’s back. Then, he raised a small, small child way up high and put him on his shoulders.
He was the child, not yet the height of a person’s legs. Sitting on the shoulders of the man, he was suddenly very tall, very majestic. Sometimes he pulled the man’s hair, sometimes he rubbed his cheeks. He shouted things, swinging his legs about. The woman in white sat on the donkey’s back, her back swaying. Watching them, she seemed to smile. The man had always been quiet. He didn’t talk much. He only pushed him a bit higher, for him to be taller, steadier. One of his hands picked up the donkey’s rein. The three of them were squeezed onto the same narrow path, walking slowly forward.
It was one of the rare pieces of memory that he had.
Those were his dad and his mom.
Wei WuXian, “Lan Zhan, pick up the rein, won’t you?”
Lan WangJi, “Why?”
Lil’ Apple was quite clever. It wasn’t that it didn’t know to follow a person. Wei WuXian said again, “Give me some face and pick it up, won’t you?”
Although he still didn’t understand why Wei WuXian’s grin was so bright, Lan WangJi listened and picked up Lil’ Apple’s rein anyway, holding it in his hand.
Wei WuXian spoke to himself, “Hm. Now all that’s left is a little one.”
Lan WangJi, “What?”
Wei WuXian chuckled, “Nothing. Lan Zhan, you really are a good person.”
With this journey to Yiling, it was clear that their future was still unclear, even somewhat dangerous. Wei WuXian couldn’t get himself to feel nervous at all. Sitting on a donkey with Lan WangJi holding the rein, leading them down the path, his entire heart was fluttering, feeling as though he was walking on air. Even if a bunch of sects suddenly attacked from beside the road, aside from destroying the scene and spoiling his mood, he thought that he wouldn’t find it too bad. He even had the spirit to enjoy the fields under the moonlight, pulling out the bamboo flute at his waist. As natural as ever, he played a tune.
The flute had a limpid timbre. Lan WangJi’s footsteps hesitated slightly as Wei WuXian felt something inside of him suddenly light up.
He spoke, “Lan Zhan! Let me ask you, back then, under the Xuanwu cave in Dusk-Creek Mountain, the song that you sang me, what was its name?”
Lan WangJi looked at him, “Why do you suddenly remember to ask about this?”
Wei WuXian, “Just say it. What was its name? I think I might’ve guessed how you recognized me.”
On the night at Dafan Mountain, the tune that he somehow played was precisely the one, when he had been fevered under the Xuanwu cave in Dusk-Creek Mountain, Lan WangJi had hummed beside him!
Lan WangJi refused to say anything. Wei WuXian hurried him, “Say it, what song is it? Who composed it?”
Lan WangJi, “I did.”
Wei WuXian, “You composed it?!”
Lan WangJi, “Mn.”
Wei WuXian had thought that it was a secret song of the GusuLan Sect. Now that he knew, he was both surprised and overjoyed. What he was surprised about was quite obvious. What he was overjoyed about, though, he couldn’t really tell. He guessed, “If you really did recognize from just this, it must’ve meant that—this song, you’ve never let anyone else hear it?”
Lan WangJi, “Never.”
Wei WuXian was so happy that he kicked Lil’ Apple. Lil’ Apple shouted in anger, kicking its hind legs as though to shake him off its back. Just in time, Lan WangJi pulled the rein tight. Wei WuXian hugged Lil’ Apple’s neck, “It’s fine, it’s fine. That’s just how it is. It only kicks a few times. Let’s continue. Then, really, what is it called?”
Lan WangJi, “What do you think?”
Wei WuXian, “What do you mean what do I think? Just does it have a name or not?” In his heart he muttered. Would Lan WangJi’s style of naming things be the same as Jiang Cheng’s? That’d be impossible! He asked, “Are you asking me for my opinion? I think that why don’t you call it…”
After the more than eighty names he had come up with were all refused by Lan WangJi, Wei WuXian’s spirit finally began to dwindle.
In case they ran into any cultivators searching the area if they walked on main paths, the two of them only chose remote, countryside paths on their journey. A day later, Wei WuXian felt somewhat tired and thirsty. As they happened to see a farmhouse by the side of the road, Lan WangJi halted Lil’ Apple.
After they had knocked, nobody answered. When they pushed, the door opened on its own. A handmade wooden table was in the center of the yard, and a bowl of beans that hadn’t been entirely peeled was on the table. A tall mountain of straws stood by the dirt wall, a rake sticking out of it. All over the ground, chicks chirped as they picked at the rice, running around.
Wei WuXian saw a few melons piled up in a corner of the yard. He walked over and picked one of them up, proposing in all seriousness, “The owner isn’t here. HanGuang-Jun, let’s suit ourselves.”
Just as Lan WangJi was about to put coins onto the table, the sound of footsteps came from outside of the wall. One in front and one behind, they were probably the owners who had just come home. Wei WuXian didn’t know why, but as he heard the footsteps, he quickly pushed Lan WangJi down, behind the stack of straws.
Fortunately, Lan WangJi had always been calm and collected that he didn’t make a single noise even after having been pushed down. Despite this, he clearly didn’t understand why they had to hide. Wei WuXian also realized, Right, why are we hiding? These villagers from the countryside can’t possibly recognize us. Can’t we just be honest and say that we’re here to buy food? Maybe I’ve done too many bad things and got used to it.
However, with the push, he pushed Lan WangJi’s entire body down onto the soft stack of straws. The somewhat forceful position evoked a strange feeling of excitement within him. He decided to not get up. Purposely putting up an act, he raised his index finger, gesturing for Lan WangJi not to make a sound. Then, he pretended that this couldn’t be helped. Comfortably, he lay on top of Lan WangJi, full of a secretive delight that couldn’t be brought to words.
The sound of pushing wooden stools came from the yard. The two owners of the farm seemed to have sat down before the table. The sound of a woman spoke up, “Er-Gege, I can hug him.”
Hearing the ‘Er-Gege’, Lan WangJi paused slightly.
A man’s voice spoke, “You can just peel the beans.” Then came the sound of a child murmuring in his sleep.
It seemed that it was a young couple. The wife was preparing dinner while the husband was hugging the asleep child.
With a grin, Wei WuXian winked his left eye at Lan WangJi, whispering, “What a coincidence. The owner of the farm is an ‘Er-Gege’ as well.”
The tone at the end of his words lifted up, its teasing intent more than obvious. With heavy eyes, Lan WangJi swept a look at him before turning away. Wei WuXian felt his heart melt. He lay beside his ears and called in a low voice, “Lan Er-Gege.”
Lan WangJi’s breaths seemed to have stuttered. The eyes he looked at him with seemed to hold a hint of a warning.
In the yard, the wife chuckled, “You don’t know how to hug him properly. Later, if you make him wake up, I’ll need to be the one who cheers him up again, won’t I?”
The husband, “He’s played too hard today. He must be very tired. He won’t be able to wake up.”
The wife peeled the beans as she spoke, “Er-Gege, you really need to discipline A-Bao. He’s only four and he’s already like this. What would he be like when he grows up? How many times has their child cried? He said that he doesn’t want to play with A-Bao anymore.”
The husband, “But he still comes back to him every single time. He says he doesn’t want to, but in his heart he clearly wants to play with A-Bao very much.”
Wei WuXian laughed with a pfft, “Lan Er-Gege, what are your thoughts on this? Do you agree?”
Lan WangJi, “Stop speaking.”
At that volume, average people wouldn’t be able to hear them at all. The couple chatted about the usual things while on the other side, right next to Lan WangJi’s ear, Wei WuXian had already relentlessly repeated ‘Lan Er-Gege’ over half a dozen times, softly and lightly. Lan WangJi seemed to have finally run out of patience. He suddenly flipped around.
His movement was both quick and steady. The straws didn’t move at all, but Wei WuXian was already underneath him.
Lan WangJi’s voice was low, “Anymore, and you will be silenced.”
Wei WuXian reached out toward his face, but Lan WangJi caught his hand at once. Wei WuXian’s tone was serious, “HanGuang-Jun, there’s a straw on your forehead ribbon.”
Hearing this, Lan WangJi’s hands finally relaxed. Wei WuXian helped him pick off the thin straw, presenting it in front of his eyes as he gloated, “See? I wasn’t lying, was I?”
Before he could gloat for too long, he heard the young wife speak again, “But even if this is true, we shouldn’t let A-Bao just bully others.”
Her husband spoke calmly, “Let him be. Boys, don’t they bully other people only because they like them? They just want others to look at them.”
Hearing this, Wei WuXian’s smile froze.
At this point in time, it seemed that the young child had woken up. He mumbled something in a creamy voice. The couple hurried to cheer him up together. A while later, the child fell asleep again. The young wife spoke, “Er-Gege, I told you to discipline A-Bao not only because of this. It’s also because these days it isn’t too safe. Tell him not to play around outside too much and get home earlier.”
The husband, “I know. Is it the thing with the old graves around the village having been dug out?”
The wife, “I heard that it’s not just around our village. Even among the people in the city there are many who had something happen to their ancestors’ graves. It’s just too strange. A-Bao should play at home more. He shouldn’t go outside so often.”
The husband, “That’s right. It’d be awful if he runs into that YiLing Patriarch.”
Wei WuXian, “…”
The young wife spoke softly, “I’ve been listening to the YiLing Patriarch’s story ever since I was young. I’ve always thought that ‘if you don’t be obedient the YiLing Patriarch will return to find you and take you back to feed his ghouls’ was only the adults teasing the children. Who would’ve known that such a person really exists? And he really came back?”
The husband, “Yeah. As soon as I heard about digging graves open I thought of him. It’s true indeed. The rumors have been spreading all over the city.”
To the fact that he was tied together with the act of ‘digging graves open’, Wei WuXian couldn’t do anything aside from feeling helpless. To be honest, he really had done many of these things in the past. The most famous time was during the Sunshot Campaign, when he dug deep into the earth to flip over all of the cemeteries of the QishanWen Sect’s ancestors and turned all of the corpses into puppets. And for every one of the Wen Sect’s cultivators whom he killed, he made them into puppets as well before controlling them to kill the friends and family they had before they died.
During the Sunshot Campaign, all of these things were praised, used to inspire the people. However, the further the Sunshot Campaign became, the more fearful the people were when they mentioned it again. Not only others, even when he, himself, thought about it afterward, he felt that he had done a bit too much. Along with how his identity had just been revealed a few days ago, it wasn’t the fault of other people that they thought it was the YiLing Patriarch when they heard of somebody digging graves open everywhere.
Er-Gege: And the comments section told me that Er-Gege would sound more intimate than Brother… Thank you all for commenting ^^
A-Bao: A-Bao is a name that parents often call babies. This could be either an actual name or just ‘baby’ or ‘precious’.