Chapter 69: Departure—Part One
Translated by K of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
It was autumn in the hunting grounds of Phoenix Mountain.
Hundreds of thousands of cultivators chose a place where demons and beasts often lurked. They were to fight for the prey within an allocated period of time. This was what the hunting referred to. Throughout many miles, there were quite a lot of prey. It was one of the three most well-known hunting grounds and had hosted many large hunting competitions. Such a significant event was not only for sects both large and small to display their skills and recruit talents, but also for rogue cultivators and new disciples to make themselves known.
Phoenix Mountain was a vast square before and around the square ten tall watching towers. On top of them, heads could be seen moving around. Their excited whispers crowded the air. The most quiet tower was naturally the tallest, most embellished one. Those who sat there were mostly elder cultivators, sect leaders, and their families. In the back, rows and rows of maids carried either canopies or large fans. The women in the first rows all covered their faces with smaller fans, reservedly looking down at the hunting ground.
However, when the riding formation of the GusuLan Sect arrived, their reservation couldn’t be seen anymore.
In night-hunts, horses weren’t actually needed when actually hunting down the prey. However, horsemanship was one of the arts that clan disciples were required to study. In events of such formality, entering the grounds on horseback was not only a symbol of respect, but riding formations could also create an atmosphere of grandeur quite beautiful in appearance. Boiled down, it was for nothing but ‘rules’ and ‘aesthetics’.
Lan XiChen and Lan WangJi sat in an upright posture on two snowy steeds as they led the GusuLan Sect’s riding formation slowly forward. The two both wore swords at their waists and arrows on their backs. White robes and forehead ribbons flying in the air, they seemed to be deities themselves. Their snow white boots were so immaculate that it could even be cleaner than the other peoples’ clothes. The Two Jades of Lan truly were a flawless pair of jade, almost as though they were carved out of ice. As soon as they entered, even the air seemed to have become refreshing.
Many female cultivators had fallen for this. The more reserved ones only let down their fans, their eyes a bit more urgent. The more daring ones, however, had already run to the edge of the watching towers, tossing over the buds and blossoms that they had prepared beforehand. A rain of flowers immediately scattered down from the sky. To toss flowers at beautiful-looking men and women in expression of admiration was a tradition. Since the GusuLan Sect’s disciples came from a distinguished clan, their appearances were all excellent. They had long since become used to this. Lan XiChen and Lan WangJi especially had been accustomed to this ever since they were thirteen. The two looked completely calm. Nodding at the watching towers in display of respect, they didn’t stop and continued to move forth.
However, Lan WangJi suddenly raised his hand, stopping a flower tossed over from behind him.
He looked back. Over at the side of the YunmengJiang Sect’s riding formation, which hadn’t departed yet, Jiang Cheng clicked his tongue impatiently, seated at the front. However, the person beside him sat on a horse with black, gleaming hair. His elbow was at the head of the horse as he looked to the side as though nothing happened, talking and laughing with two slender-bodied maidens.
Lan XiChen saw that Lan WangJi had drawn the reins and ceased to move forward, “WangJi, what happened?”
Lan WangJi, “Wei Ying.”
Wei WuXian finally turned around, face full of surprise, “What? HanGuang-Jun, did you call me? What’s up?”
Holding the flower, Lan WangJi seemed to be quite cold. His tone seemed cold as well, “Was it you?”
Wei WuXian immediately denied it, “No, it wasn’t.”
The maidens beside him spoke at once, “Don’t believe him. It was him!”
Wei WuXian, “How could you treat a good person like this? I’m getting angry!”
Giggling, the maidens pulled their reins and went to the formations of their own sects. Lan WangJi lowered the hand that he held the flower with and shook his head. Jiang Cheng spoke, “ZeWu-Jun, HanGuang-Jun, apologies. Don’t pay attention to him.”
Lan XiChen smiled, “That is fine. I will thank Young Master Wei’s kindness behind the flower in place of WangJi.”
When they slowly rode into the distance, carrying with them the clouds of petals and fragrance, Jiang Cheng glanced at the colourful sea of handkerchiefs waving on the watching towers before turning to Wei WuXian, “Why are you throwing out flowers along with the girls?”
Wei WuXian, “I think he looks nice. Can’t I throw a few as well?”
Jiang Cheng pointed his nose into the air, “How old are you? Who do you think you are, still playing tricks like that?”
Wei WuXian looked at him, “You want one too? There’s still a lot left on the ground. Should I get one for you?” As he spoke, he pretended to bend down.
Jiang Cheng, “Get lost!”
At this point, Jin GuangYao’s voice rang above the square, “The QingheNie Sect’s riding formation enters!”
Nie MingJue was very tall. When he stood, he gave people an extreme sense of pressure. On horseback, he had to him even more pressuring dignity, as though he could look down the entire square. When men who were high up on the list of cultivators entered, almost all of them couldn’t be spared from being showered with a faceful of flowery rain.
As the one ranked seventh, Nie MingJue, however, was an exception. If Lan WangJi was ice amid coldness, surpassing both snow and frost, Nie MingJue was fire amid coldness, as though he could start burning with rage at any moment, making him even more difficult to approach. Due to this, even if the maidens could already feel their hearts bursting from their chests, clutching in their palms sweat-soiled flowers, they didn’t dare toss them out no matter what, afraid that they’d anger him and his saber hacked into the watching tower. However, many of the male cultivators who admired ChiFeng-Zun cheered for him. The cheers almost brought pain to the ears. On the other hand, Nie HuaiSang, beside Nie MingJue, was dressed with as much care as always. He wore both his saber at his waist and rings of jewelry, waving a paper fan. At first glance, he was quite the dandy amid the chaos. However, everyone knew that his saber never really got the chance to be unsheathed. Afterward, he’d probably only stroll around Phoenix Mountain, enjoying the view.
After the QingheNie Sect, it was the YunmengJiang Sect.
Wei WuXian and Jiang Cheng entered on horseback. Instantly, another rain of flowers had fallen. Jiang Cheng’s face darkened, but Wei WuXian bathed within it, feeling quite comfortable. He waved his hand at the tallest watching tower. The best seat on the tower was for the LanlingJin Sect’s Madam Jin. The one who sat beside her was Jiang YanLi. Before this, Madam Jin had been holding her hand, talking to her with a loving expression. Jiang YanLi usually had on an almost bland face, her features mild. However, as she saw her two younger brothers wave at her, her face immediately lit up. She lowered her fan. Shyly saying a few words to Madam Jin, she walked to the edge of the watching platform and tossed out two flowers at them.
This used up as much strength as she could muster. For one second, Wei WuXian and Jiang Cheng were even worried that she’d fall off. Seeing that Jiang YanLi steadied herself, they finally relaxed. Both of them reached out and caught the flowers, giving her the same soft smile. Head lowered, she returned to Madam Jin again. Suddenly, a row of cultivators wearing white, gold-lined robes rushed out, dressed in light armor and riding on broad stallions. The frontmost person had handsome features, protected by the same armor. It was the sect leader, Jin GuangShan.
Madam Jin immediately patted Jiang YanLi’s shoulder. Holding her hand, she dragged her to the edge of the watching tower again, pointing to her the riding formation of the LanlingJin Sect.
Among the neighs, suddenly, one horse went forward and ran in a circle around the square before the reins were drawn. The person atop the horse had a striking figure. Wearing snowy white robes, his features were more vibrant than even the mark of vermilion between his brows. Drawing his bow, he gave off even more of a handsome air.
Immediately, fervor rushed through the crowd on the watching towers. The person glanced in the direction of the watching towers, intentional or not. Although he tried hard to keep his face stiff, unconcealable pride still leaked from the corners of his eyes.
On his horse, Wei WuXian sneered, almost laughing to death, “I really can’t believe him. He’s like a peacock.”
Jiang Cheng, “Watch it. Sister is still watching from the tower.”
Wei WuXian, “Don’t worry. As long as he doesn’t make shijie cry again, I don’t even want to pay him any attention. You shouldn’t have brought her in the first place.”
Jiang Cheng, “The LanlingJin Sect insisted on it. I didn’t have the face to refuse.”
Wei WuXian, “More like Madam Jin insisted on it. After this, she’d definitely find some way to urge shijie and that male princess to one place.”
As they spoke, Jin ZiXuan had already rode to the target arena. The row of targets was an obstacle before the official entry into the mountain. Those who intend on hunting in the mountain could only become eligible to enter if they were able to shoot a target from a certain distance away. There were seven rings on the targets, in accordance with the seven paths of entry. The closer that the arrow was to the center, the more advantageous its respective entry path was. Without dropping his speed at all, Jin ZiXuan took out an arrow and shot. It landed right in the center. Cheers came from all around the watching towers.
Seeing how much Jin ZiXuan flaunted his excellence, neither Wei WuXian nor Jiang Cheng showed any emotions on their faces. Suddenly, a loud sneer came from somewhere near. Somebody shouted, “If anyone here remains unconvinced, then feel free to try if you can shoot better than ZiXuan!”
The person was tall and broad, his skin somewhat dark and his voice booming. This was Jin GuangShan’s nephew and Jin ZiXuan’s cousin, Jin ZiXun. Before this, during the LanlingJin Sect’s flower banquet, an argument broke out between Wei WuXian and Jin ZiXuan.
Wei WuXian smiled and he noted the enmity. Jin ZiXun was there to provoke him. As Jin ZiXun saw that he didn’t answer, he seemed to be pleased. When the YunmengJiang Sect’s riding formation reached the target arena as well, Wei WuXian turned to the Two Jades of Lan, who were drawing their bows on their horses, “Lan Zhan, want to help me?”
Lan WangJi glanced at him. He didn’t reply. Jiang Cheng asked, “What are you up to this time?”
Lan WangJi, “What?”
Wei WuXian, “Can I borrow your forehead ribbon?”
Hearing this, Lan WangJi immediately tore his gaze away and didn’t look at him anymore. Lan XiChen, on the other hand, laughed, “Young Master Wei, you may not know this, but…”
Lan WangJi, “Brother, there is no need.”
Lan XiChen, “All right.”
Jiang Cheng almost wanted to slap Wei WuXian off his horse. He knew that Lan WangJi wouldn’t lend it to him but just had to ask. He could do anything when he was bored. If not for that the situation didn’t allow it, he swore that he’d do exactly just that. He spoke, “Why do you want his forehead ribbon? To hang yourself and commit suicide? I can lend you my belt, you’re welcome.”
Wei WuXian took off the black ribbon on his wrist guard as he replied, “You can keep your belt. I don’t want it even if I don’t have his forehead ribbon.”
Jiang Cheng, “You…”
Before he could finish speaking, Wei WuXian had quickly tied the ribbon over his eyes to cover his sight. He positioned his arrow, drew his bow, and released—it hit!
The series of actions was both smooth and fast. The others didn’t even realize what he wanted to do. They couldn’t even see his movements clearly before the center of the target had been pierced through. After a moment of silence, overwhelming cheers rang throughout the watching towers, with even greater intensity than those for Jin ZiXuan.
The corners of Wei WuXian’s lips curved slightly. Spinning the bow within his hands, he tossed it back. On the other hand, as Jin ZiXun saw how his popularity now surpassed Jin ZiXuan’s, he snorted loudly. It seemed that he was displeased on both the outside and the inside. He spoke again, “This is only the opening archery event, and you’re onto such ostentatious things. You have your eyes covered right now, but can you keep them covered throughout the entire hunt? Later, on Phoenix Mountain, we can show our real abilities and see who’s really the better one!”
Wei WuXian, “Sure.”
Jin ZiXun waved his hand, “Let’s go!”
All of his cultivators rushed forward, as though they wanted to be the first ones inside to have the first chance and quickly take all of the high level prey. As Jin GuangShan saw that his riding formation was rather well-trained, he was quite proud. Seeing that Wei WuXian and Jiang Cheng were still on their horses, he smiled, “Sect Leader Jiang, Young Master Wei, what, you aren’t entering the mountain yet? Watch out that ZiXun might steal all of the prey.”
Wei WuXian, “No need for the hurry. He won’t be able to.”
Everyone around them paused in surprise. As Jin GuangShan pondered over what ‘he won’t be able to’ meant, he saw Wei WuXian dismount his horse and tell Jiang Cheng, “You can go first.”
Jiang Cheng, “Take it easy. Back down when it’s good enough.”
Wei WuXian waved his hand. Drawing his reins, Jiang Cheng led the YunmengJiang Sect’s people away.
Wei WuXian, with his eyes covered, walked with leisure in the direction of Phoenix Mountain’s path of entry. It was as if he wasn’t here to hunt, but rather strolling around his own sect’s garden.
The crowd grew confused. Could it be that he really wasn’t going to take off the ribbon over his eyes until the hunt ended? How could he participate in the hunt like this?
They looked at one another. In the end, they felt that it was none of their business and would simply be a good show to watch. Each of them set off.
As Wei WuXian walked for sometime, he finally found a spot deep into Phoenix Mountain that was comfortable for resting.
It was a branch that was extremely thick, growing out of a tree trunk that was even thicker, blocking his path. Wei WuXian slapped the dry, wrinkled bark a couple of times. He felt that it was quite sturdy and easily hopped up.
The noise of the watching towers had long since been blocked from the mountain’s forests. Wei WuXian leaned against the tree. Under the black fabric, he closed his eyes. The sunlight poured onto his face through in between the leaves.
He held up Chenqing and blew into it, fingers shifting. The clear sound of the flute rushed into the sky as though it was a bird, lingering as it echoed through the mountain.
As he played his flute, Wei WuXian dangled one of his legs down and swayed it softly. The tip of his boots brushed against the grass under the tree. He didn’t mind that it was dampened by the dew on the blades of the grass.
After the song finished, Wei WuXian crossed his arms and leaned against the tree in a more comfortable position. The flute was between his arms, while the flower was still at his chest, emitting a crisp, quiet fragrance.
He didn’t know how long he had been sitting for. He had almost fallen asleep when he woke up with a start.
Somebody was approaching.
But the person had no killing intent. Thus, he remained slanted over the tree, too lazy to get up. He didn’t even have the energy to take off the ribbon over his eyes. He only tilted his head.
A few moments later, having received no answer, Wei WuXian couldn’t help from speaking up voluntarily, “You’re here for the hunt?”
The person didn’t answer.
Wei WuXian, “You won’t be able to get anything good from around me.”
The person was still silent, but walked a few steps closer.
Now, Wei WuXian’s spirits were lifting. Most cultivators were somewhat afraid when they saw him. They didn’t really dare approach him even when many people were around, much less being in the same place as him alone and even approaching. If not for how there was no killing intent on the person, Wei WuXian would definitely think that they had hidden intent. He straightened up his body a little and tilted his head, looking in their direction. Curling his lips, he smiled. Just as he was about to say something, he was suddenly pushed forcefully.
Wei WuXian’s back smashed against the tree. Just as his right hand was about to pull off the ribbon, his wrist was twisted back. The force was quite strong; he couldn’t even struggle out of it, but there was still no killing intent. Wei WuXian’s left sleeve shifted. As he was about to shake out the talismans, the person noticed his intent and caught him like before. They pressed both of his hands onto the tree, movements stiff. Wei WuXian raised his leg and was about to kick when he felt a warmth on his lips. He immediately froze.
The touch felt both strange and unfamiliar, moist and warm. In the beginning, Wei WuXian couldn’t even understand what was going on. His mind went entirely blank. When he finally realized, he was shocked.
This person, holding his wrists back, was pressing him onto the tree and kissing him.
He suddenly struggled, wanting to fight out of it and pull away the ribbon, but he failed. He wanted to move again, but he somehow stopped himself.
The person kissing him seemed to be shaking softly.
Wei WuXian couldn’t struggle anymore.
He thought to himself, It seems that even if the maiden is quite strong, her personality is both fearful and easily embarrassed? She’s already so nervous. Or else, she wouldn’t have chosen to sneak up to him at such a time. She probably mustered up all of the courage she could find inside of her. Besides, it seemed that her cultivation wasn’t low, meaning that her self-esteem was even higher. If he pulled off the ribbon and accidentally saw her, how ashamed would the maiden feel?
The two sets of thin lips turned from side to side, careful yet inseparable. Wei WuXian hadn’t even decided what to do when the soft lips suddenly became aggressive. Wei WuXian’s teeth weren’t clenched, allowing the other to intrude inside. He was suddenly powerless. He felt that it was a bit difficult to breathe, wanting to turn his head away, but the other person squeezed his face and turned it back. Between the swirls of the lips and the tongues, he felt dizzy as well, until the other finally bit down on his lower lip. After a moment of lingering, the lips finally left reluctantly, and he finally managed to recover.
From the kiss, Wei WuXian’s entire body felt limp. Energy came into his arms only after he leaned against the tree for some more time.
Raising his hand, he ripped the ribbon away only to be stung by the glare of the sudden sunlight. He finally managed to open his eyes, but nothing was around him. Bushes, trees, grasses, vines—no second person.
Wei WuXian was still somewhat confused. He sat on the branch for a while longer. When he jumped off, he felt weakness under his legs, almost light-headed.
He supported himself on the tree trunk at once, cursing at how useless he was in silence. He had been kissed so hard that his legs were giving out. Looking up, he glanced around the area, but there was no trace of another person. The previous scene seemed to be an absurd yet erotic daydream. Wei WuXian couldn’t help but think of the legends of those mountain creatures.
But he was certain that it wasn’t some mountain creature. It had to be a person.
Recalling what it had felt like, formless tickles crawled up all the way to the tip of his heart. Wei WuXian touched his chest with his right hand, but found that the flower that had been there was gone.
He searched the ground for a while. It wasn’t there either. It couldn’t have disappeared out of thin air, could it?
Wei WuXian remained paused for a long while. He touched his lips unconsciously, finally managing to say a while later, “How could this be… This was my…”
He didn’t see anyone even after he looked around the area. Wei WuXian didn’t know whether to laugh or worry. He knew that the person was most likely hiding from him and wouldn’t appear again, so he could only give up on searching. He began to walk randomly around the forest. After a while, he heard a loud noise from in front of him. As Wei WuXian looked up, he saw a slender figure clothed in white. Whom could it be but Lan WangJi?
Yet, although he clearly was Lan WangJi, what he did didn’t seem like what Lan WangJi would do at all. When Wei WuXian saw him, he thrust his fist into a tree, with such force that the tree snapped in half.
Wei WuXian found it strange, “Lan Zhan! What are you doing?”
The person spun around. It was Lan WangJi after all. However, right now, his eyes were bloodshot, his expression almost frightening. Wei WuXian was startled, “Wow, so scary.”
Lan WangJi’s voice was harsh, “Go!”
Wei WuXian, “I just came here and you want me to go. Do you really hate me that much?”
Lan WangJi, “Stay away from me!”
Except for the couple of days spent in the cave of the Xuanwu, this was the first time that Wei WuXian had seen Lan WangJi lose his composure so badly. But back then, the situation was special, and it was still understandable. Right now, everything’s well, so why would he be like this?
Wei WuXian walked a step backward, ‘staying away’ from him. He continued to ask, “Hey, Lan Zhan, what’s wrong? Are you okay? If you’re not okay then say you’re not okay, yeah?”
Lan WangJi didn’t look him in the eye. He unsheathed Bichen. A few rays of blue light slashed across the trees around the area. They collapsed a moment later.
He stood still for a while, clenching his sword. His grip was tight, exerting so much strength that his knuckles grew white. As though he had somewhat calmed down, he suddenly looked over again, his gaze pinning Wei WuXian.
Wei WuXian felt a strange, unexplainable sensation. His eyes had been covered by the ribbon for over two hours. The sunlight was still a bit too dazzling for him. After he took off the ribbon, his eyes keep on tearing up. His lips were somewhat swollen as well. Wei WuXian felt that what he looked like right now must be terrible. Being stared at so hard, he couldn’t help but touched his chin, “Lan Zhan?”
Lan WangJi, “Nothing.”
With a clang, the sword was unsheathed. Lan WangJi turned around to walk away. Wei WuXian still found that something was wrong with him. After he thought about it, just in case, he followed him, lunging in attempt to feel his pulse. Lan WangJi dodged to the side and looked at him coldly.
Wei WuXian, “Don’t look at me like this. I just want to see what’s wrong with you. You really were too strange. You really haven’t been poisoned? Or has something happened to you during night-hunts?”
Lan WangJi, “No.”
Seeing that his expression was finally returning to normal and that he was most likely fine, Wei WuXian finally stopped worrying. Although he was curious about what had happened, it wouldn’t be good if he intervened in it too much, and thus he began to chat. Lan WangJi refused to talk in the beginning. Afterward, he finally replied a few short words.
A hint of heat and a swelling sensation on Wei WuXian’s lips kept on reminding him he had just lost the first kiss that he had been guarding for twenty years. He was kissed until his head was dizzy, but he didn’t even know whom the other person was and what she looked like. Just how could it be?
Wei WuXian sighed slowly. He suddenly spoke up, “Lan Zhan, have you ever kissed someone?”
If Jiang Cheng were here, hearing him ask such a frivolous, ridiculous question, he’d throw his fist over for sure.
Lan WangJi stopped in his tracks as well. His voice was so cold that it sounded stiff, “Why are you asking this?”
Wei WuXian grinned, face full of understanding. He closed his eyes, “You haven’t, have you? I knew it. I was just asking. You don’t need to be so angry.”
Lan WangJi, “How do you know?”
Wei WuXian, “What do you think? With such a stiff face wherever you go, who’d dare kiss you? Of course, I wouldn’t expect you to initiate a kiss either. I think that you’ll have to keep your first kiss until the end of your life, hahahaha…”
He gloated alone. Lan WangJi’s face was still expressionless, but he seemed to have relaxed somewhat.
After he had laughed enough, Lan WangJi spoke up, “What about you?”
Wei WuXian raised a brow, “Me? Of course I’ve had lots of experience.”
Lan WangJi’s face, having relaxed a moment earlier, was immediately covered in a layer of snow and frost.
Out of the blue, Wei WuXian became quiet, “Shush!”
Vigilant, he listened attentively for something before pulling Lan WangJi behind one of the bushes.
Lan WangJi didn’t know what he was doing. Just as he was about to ask, he saw that Wei WuXian stared in a certain direction. Following his gaze, he saw two figures, one white and the other purple, walk out from below the clouds.
The person in front had a slender physique. Although he had fine looks, an air of arrogance surrounded him. With a mark of vermilion between his brows and gold outlining his white robes, the jewelry he wore glimmered with even greater vibrance, especially along with his lofty chin and pompous expression. It was Jin ZiXuan. On the other hand, the one behind him had a more petite physique. With small steps, she held her head low and said nothing, creating stark contrast with Jin ZiXuan who was in front of her. It was Jiang YanLi.
Wei WuXian thought to himself, I knew that Madam Jin would tell shijie and that peacock Jin to come out alone.
On the side, as Lan WangJi saw his contempt, he lowered his voice, “What has happened between you and Jin ZiXuan?”
Wei WuXian snorted.
To ask why Wei WuXian hated Jin ZiXuan so much would require a lengthy explanation.
Madam Yu and Jin ZiXuan’s mother, Madam Jin, used to be the dearest of friends. The two promised each other a long time ago that if both of their children were sons, they’d become sworn brothers; if both were daughters, they’d become sworn sisters; if one was a son and one was a daughter, then of course they’d become husband and wife.
The mistresses of the two sects had a close relationship. They knew what each other was like, and their backgrounds were suitable as well. Such a marriage was as good a match as possible; almost everyone called them a match made in heaven. However, the two involved felt otherwise.
Ever since he was born, Jin ZiXuan had been a moon worshipped by the stars. He was born fair-skinned and delicate. With a mark of vermilion on his forehead, along with his elite background and exceptional intelligence, he was loved by almost everyone he met. Madam Jin had brought him to Lotus Pier a couple of times. Neither Wei WuXian nor Jiang Cheng liked to play with him; only Jiang YanLi wanted to feed him the food that she made. Jin ZiXuan, however, didn’t really like to pay her any attention. This made Wei WuXian and Jiang Cheng yell with anger in a few instances.
Back then, Wei WuXian stirred up trouble in the Cloud Recesses and wrecked the marital engagement between the Jin and the Jiang Sect. After returning to Lotus Pier, he apologized to Jiang YanLi, but Jiang YanLi didn’t say anything, only stroking his head. Thus, Wei WuXian and Jiang Cheng both thought that the matter passed. To end the engagement would grant everyone satisfaction. However, the only understood afterward that Jiang YanLi must’ve been feeling quite dejected on the inside.
In the middle of the Sunshot Campaign, the YunmengJiang Sect had been to the Langya area to assist the LanlingJin Sect. Because they were short of hands, Jiang YanLi went to the battlefield along with them.
She knew that her cultivation wasn’t high, so she did what she could, busying herself with the meals of the cultivators. In the beginning, neither Wei WuXian nor Jiang Cheng agreed, but Jiang YanLi had always been adept at cooking. She felt happy, had good relationships with others, didn’t force herself either, and was actually quite safe, which was why the two didn’t find it such a bad idea.
Due to the difficult conditions, the meals were very bland. Jiang YanLi worried that her two brothers wouldn’t get used to the meals because of their usual luxuries, so she’d secretly make two extra bowls of soup for Wei WuXian and Jiang Cheng. However, apart from her, nobody knew that she had been making an extra third bowl for Jin ZiXuan, who was also at Langya at the moment.
Jin ZiXuan didn’t know either. Although he really enjoyed the soup and felt grateful for the cook’s intentions, Jiang YanLi had never left her name. Nobody knew that another low level female cultivator had seen all of this. The cultivator was a servant of the LanlingJin Sect. Since her cultivation wasn’t high, she did the same job as Jiang YanLi did. She had fair looks and knew to take opportunities. Out of curiosity, she followed Jiang YanLi for a few times before she was able to guess what was going on. Keeping her composure, she loitered outside of Jin ZiXuan’s house after Jiang YanLi brought the soup, purposely letting Jiang ZiXuan see her shadow.
Jin ZiXuan had finally managed to catch the person, so of course he was going to ask questions. Cleverly, the woman never acknowledged anything, but instead denied it ambiguously, her cheeks flushed, making it sound as though she was the one who did it, but didn’t want Jin ZiXuan to know how much trouble she went through. And thus, Jin ZiXuan didn’t force her to admit it any longer. However, in action, he had began to respect the cultivator. He began to pay attention to her, even raising her from a servant to a guest cultivator. For a long time, Jiang YanLi didn’t realize that something was wrong. This went on until one day, after Jiang YanLi brought the soup, she ran into Jin ZiXuan, temporarily there to pick up a letter.
Naturally, Jin ZiXuan was going to ask what Jiang YanLi was doing in his room. Jiang YanLi didn’t dare say it in the beginning. However, hearing that his tone sounded more and more doubtful, no matter how anxious, she had to tell him the truth.
Yet, somebody had used this reason already.
One could easily guess what Jin ZiXuan’s reaction was after he heard this.
And so, right then and right there, he ‘exposed’ Jiang YanLi’s ‘lie’. Jiang YanLi hadn’t expected something like this to happen at all. She had never been the type of person to show off; not even many people knew that she was a daughter of the YunmengJiang Sect. In the short amount of time, she couldn’t find any strong evidence. She tried to protest, but the more she did, the more she felt cold at heart. In the end, stiffly, Jin ZiXuan told her, “Don’t think that just because you come from a powerful sect that you can steal and trample other people’s feelings. Some people, even if they come from poor backgrounds, their character are much better than the former’s. Please watch your conduct.”
Jiang YanLi could finally tell a few things from Jin ZiXuan’s words.
From the beginning, Jin ZiXuan had never believed that a maiden like her, born from a noble sect but had low cultivation, could do anything on the battlefield or help with anything at all. To put it simply, he thought that she just wanted to find a reason to approach him, that she was just here to add to the trouble.
Jin ZiXuan had never understood her, and hadn’t ever wanted to understand her either. Due to this, of course he wouldn’t believe her.
After he said a few harsh words to her, standing where she was, Jiang YanLi had burst into tears. When Wei WuXian returned, this happened to be the scene that he saw.
Although his shijie had an easy temper, except for how they cuddled and cried together the day the three of them reunited after Lotus Pier was destroyed, she hadn’t really shed many tears in front of others, much less cry so loudly, so pitifully in front of so many people. Wei WuXian was filled with panic. As he tried to ask her, Jiang YanLi was crying so badly that she couldn’t even speak properly. Then, when he saw Jin ZiXuan standing on the side, astonished, he fumed with anger, wondering to himself why it was the dog of a person again. With a kick, he pounced on Jin ZiXuan. The fight between the two would have alerted the Heavens. All of the cultivators around the base came to break up their fight. Amid the ruckus, he finally understood what was the cause of all this, and became even more angered. He spread his tough talk, saying that one day he’d definitely make Jin ZiXuan die in his hands, he told people to drag out the cultivator woman.
A round of questions later, the truth emerged, and Jin ZiXuan’s entire body was frozen. No matter how much Wei WuXian continued to curse at him, he returned neither words nor fists, his face dark. If not that Jiang YanLi held up her hand a while later, while Jiang Cheng and Jin GuangShan came to pull Wei WuXian away, it was likely that even now Jin ZiXuan wouldn’t be able to attend the hunt of Phoenix Mountain.
Afterward, although Jiang YanLi continued to work at Langya, she only did her own things. Not only did she stop bringing Jin ZiXuan soup, she wouldn’t even give him a proper look. Soon after, the crisis of Langya was solved, and Wei WuXian and Jiang Cheng brought her back to Yunmeng. However, Jin ZiXuan, on the other hand, began to ask more and more about Jiang YanLi after the Sunshot Campaign ended, either out of guilt or having gone through Madam Jin’s scoldings.
Those who knew about this all said that it was only a misunderstanding. What was wrong now that it had been clarified? Yet, Wei WuXian didn’t feel the same way. He hated Jin ZiXuan to the extreme, who was to him a conceited male princess, an ostentatious peacock, a blind man who only looked at appearances. He didn’t at all believe that a narcissist like Jin ZiXuan could realize his mistake and suddenly take interest in Jiang YanLi. He’d probably been hurried and scolded too much by Madam Jin, and thus the reluctant completion of his tasks.
But no matter the hatred, to not let Jiang YanLi feel difficult, Wei WuXian could only stop himself from coming out. Lan WangJi turned to look at him as if he was confused, but Wei WuXian didn’t have the time to explain to him. He put his pointer finger on his lips, gesturing for silence, and continued to look over there. The gaze from a pair of light eyes landed on the full, moist lips for a brief moment before turning away.
On the other hand, Jin ZiXuan brushed the bushes away to reveal the thick corpse of a snake monster. He bent down for a while before speaking, “It’s dead.”
Jiang YanLi nodded.
Jin ZiXuan, “The Measuring Snake.”
Jiang YanLi, “What?”
Jin ZiXuan, “A beast from the Nanman area. It’s only that when it sees someone, it’ll suddenly straighten itself and compare who’s the taller one. If it’s taller, it’ll devour the person. It’s not a big deal. It only looks scary.”
It seemed that Jiang YanLi didn’t understand why he’d begin to explain such things to her out of the blue. Logically, at such a time, it was probably best to say a few superficial words like ‘Young Master Jin is so well-learned’ or ‘Young Master Jin is so calm’. However, what he just said was the most common of common sense. It was nothing but finding words when there were none. Such obviously fake flattery, it was likely that Jin GuangYao was the only one who could say them with a straight face. Jiang YanLi could only nod again. Wei WuXian guessed that she had been nodding on their whole way.
What followed was another while of silence. The awkwardness went through the grass and blew directly onto the two behind the bushes. A few moments later, Jin ZiXuan finally took Jiang YanLi in the direction that they came from. Even as he walked, he continued, “Scales can be seen on this Measuring Snake, and its fangs are longer than its jaw. It’s probably a mutant. Most people would find it difficult to deal with. They wouldn’t be able to shoot through the armor of scales either.”
After a pause, he added with a nonchalant tone, “But it’s not much anyways. None of the prey on this hunt are difficult. They can’t hurt the people from the LanlingJin Sect at all.”
Hearing how in the last two sentences, the air of pride rose up again, Wei WuXian found the situation quite irritating. However, he saw Lan WangJi stare at Jin ZiXuan expressionlessly. Wei WuXian thought that this was strange. Following his gaze, he was immediately speechless, Since when did Jin ZiXuan walk with the same hand and same foot?!
Jiang YanLi, “It’s best if hunts don’t hurt anyone.”
Jin ZiXuan, “What value are prey who don’t hurt anyone? If you go to the LanlingJin Sect’s private hunting grounds, you’d be able to see many rare monsters.”
Wei WuXian sneered in silence, Who’d want to visit your sect’s hunting grounds?
Yet, Jin ZiXuan had begun to decide the matter all on his own, “I just happen to have time next month. I can take you there.”
Jiang YanLi’s voice was soft, “Young Master Jin, thank you for your kindness, but there’s no need for the trouble.”
Jin ZiXuan paused in surprise, blurting, “Why not?”
How could she answer such a question? As though she felt uneasy, she lowered her head.
Jin ZiXuan, “You don’t like watching hunts?”
Jiang YanLi nodded. Jin ZiXuan, “Then why did you come this time?”
If not for the effort that Madam Jin spent in inviting her, Jiang YanLi certainly wouldn’t have come. But how could she say such a thing?
Seeing that Jiang YanLi was silent, Jin ZiXuan’s complexion switched between red and white. His expression was quite unsightly. A while later, he finally managed, “Do you not like watching hunts or do you just not want to be with me?”
Jiang YanLi whispered, “No…”
Wei WuXian knew she feared that Jin ZiXuan was only inviting her due to Madam Jin’s intentions and didn’t really want to have her with him, so she didn’t wish to trouble him. However, what could Jin ZiXuan know about this? All he knew that he’d never felt so ashamed in his life. It was not only the first time he’d been refused by a maiden, but also the first time he’d invited a maiden and was refused. Anger rose from within him. A moment later, he laughed coldly, “Fine, then.”
Jiang YanLi, “I’m sorry.”
Jin ZiXuan’s voice was ice, “What should you be sorry for? You can think whatever you want to. I wasn’t the one who wanted to invite you anyways. It’s fine if you don’t want to.”
The blood in Wei WuXian rushed to his forehead. He wanted to dash outside and start a fight with Jin ZiXuan again. However, after a second thought, he felt that it’d also be good to let his shijie see the man’s real character, so that she’d cast him away and never want him again. Thus, he suppressed his anger and wanted to bear it for a little while longer.
Jiang YanLi’s lips trembled, but she said nothing. She bowed to Jin ZiXuan, her voice low, “Please excuse me.”
She turned around to leave, alone and quiet. Jin ZiXuan stood still for a few moments, looking in another direction. Sometime later, he suddenly shouted, “Stop!”
However, Jiang YanLi didn’t turn around. Jin ZiXuan was even more enraged. He caught up to her in just three strides and was about to grab her hand when a shadow suddenly flashed before his eyes. Before he could see who it was, he received a blow on his chest. Jin ZiXuan swung his sword across and backed away.
When he finally could see, he raged, “Wei WuXian, why is it you again?!”
Wei WuXian blocked Jiang YanLi behind him, raging as well, “I haven’t fucking said it yet—why is it you again?!”
Jin ZiXuan, “Attacking because of nothing have you gone mad?!”
Wei WuXian struck with his palm, “That’s exactly what I’m doing! What do you mean because of nothing? What are you doing trying to grab my shijie just because of how ashamed you are?!”
Jin ZiXuan dodged to the side and returned to him a sword attack, “If I don’t grab her should I let her walk randomly around the mountain alone?!”
However, the sword glare was hit to the side by another glare, shooting into the sky. Seeing who it was, Jin ZiXuan was shocked, “HanGuang-Jun?”
Lan WangJi unsheathed Bichen. Standing between the three, he maintained his silence. Just as Wei WuXian was about to walk forward, Jiang YanLi grabbed Wei WuXian, “A-Xian!”
At the same time, a series of scattered footsteps came over. A massive, swarming crowd gushed into the forest. The person at the head shouted, “What happened?!”
It turned out that, back then, both Lan WangJi’s and Jin ZiXuan’s sword glares shot into the sky, startling the cultivators near them. They could tell at once that two people began a fight, which was why they hurried over and happened to see the strange deadlock of the four people in the forest. People often said that one could never avoid their enemy. The person at the head was nobody but Jin ZiXun. He spoke, “ZiXuan, is Wei making trouble for you again?!”
Jin ZiXuan, “None of your business, don’t worry about it for now!” Seeing that Wei WuXian grabbed Jiang YanLi and was about to take her away, he said again, “Stop!”
Wei WuXian, “You really want to fight? That’s fine with me!”
Jin ZiXun, “Wei, just what what do you mean by going against ZiXuan so many times?”
Wei WuXian looked at him, “Who are you?”
Jin ZiXun paused in surprise before fuming, “You don’t know who I am?!”
Wei WuXian mused, “Why should I know who you are?”
When the Sunshot Campaign first broke out, Jin ZiXun insisted on defending the back due to an injury. He didn’t have the chance to see what Wei WuXian was like on the front lines, with most of his knowledge of him coming from rumors. He didn’t care much for him, thinking that all of the rumors were simply exaggerations. However, a while ago, Wei WuXian had summoned all of the dark creatures in the forest with a whistle, calling away the fierce corpses that their group was about to capture, causing their efforts to be wasted. He was already displeased.
Now, in front of his face, Wei WuXian was asking who he was, stirring up a strange sense of indignation within him—he knew Wei WuXian, yet Wei WuXian didn’t know him and even dared ask who he was in front of everyone. It was as if this had caused him to lose much face. The more he thought about it, the more irritated he felt. Just as he was about to speak, gold light glimmered in the sky above them. A second group of people had arrived.
The group of people descended on their swords and landed firmly. The one leading them was a middle-aged woman, her features orthodox, edges carrying a hint of rigidity. She seemed valiant on her sword, while elegant when she walked. Jin ZiXun called, “Aunt!”
Jin ZiXuan hesitated, “Mother! Why are you here?” Immediately after, he remembered that his and Lan WangJi’s sword glares had already broke into the skies. When Madam Jin saw from the watching towers, of course she wouldn’t have not come. He glanced at the LanlingJin Sect’s cultivators who had come along with his mother, “Why did you bring so many people over? You don’t need to interfere with the things of the hunt.”
Madam Jin, however, spat, “Stop thinking so full of yourself. Who told you that I’m here for you?!”
She saw Jiang YanLi from the corner of her eye, who had shrunken herself behind Wei WuXian, and her face relaxed at once. She walked over and took her hand, speaking in a gentle voice, “A-Li, why are you like this?”
Jiang YanLi, “Thank you, Madam. I’m fine.”
Madam Jin was rather sharp, “Did that damn little brat bully you again?”
Jiang YanLi hurried, “No.”
Jin ZiXuan shifted slightly. He looked as if he was holding back something. Of course Madam Jin knew what her son was like. She knew what was going on with just one guess. Immediately, she broke into rage, scolding her son, “Jin ZiXuan! Do you want to die?!! What did you tell me before you came out here?!”
Jin ZiXuan, “I!”
Wei WuXian, “No matter what your son told you before he came out, Madam Jin, it’ll be fine as long as he and my shijie walk separate paths from now on.”
He was in the middle of his temper, and so his words weren’t too polite. The good thing was that Madam Jin busied herself comforting Jiang YanLi and didn’t care for it much. However, even though she didn’t care, somebody else used this as an opportunity. Jin ZiXun shouted, “Wei WuXian, my aunt is your senior. Speaking like this is a bit too presumptuous, isn’t it?”
The others felt that this made sense. Everyone nodded in agreement. Wei WuXian replied, “It wasn’t directed at Madam Jin. Your cousin has regarded my shijie with harsh words over and over again. If the YunmengJiang Sect could tolerate it, then we wouldn’t deserve being called an elite sect! How is it presumptuous?”
Jin ZiXun sneered, “How is it presumptuous? How is any part of you not presumptuous? Today, in such an important hunt involving all of the sects, you really showed off your abilities, didn’t you? One third of the prey have been taken by you. You sure feel pleased, don’t you?”
Lan WangJi’s head tilted slightly to the side, “One third of the prey?”
Although over a hundred people who followed Jin ZiXun emitted strong resentment, as they saw that Lan WangJi, rumored to have a terrible relationship with Wei WuXian, speak up as if he was asking, somebody immediately replied impatiently, “HanGuang-Jun, you don’t know yet, do you? A while ago, when we were hunting on Phoenix Mountain, we searched for a long time and realized that not a single fierce corpse or resentful spirit is left in the grounds!”
“We only knew after we sent people to ask LianFang-Zun at the watching towers that less than an hour after the hunt began, a flute melody came from within Phoenix Mountain, and then all of the corpses and spirits walked into the YunmengJiang Sect’s side one by one and surrendered themselves!”
“Of the three main categories of prey on Phoenix Mountain, only the fay and the monsters are left…”
“As for the ghouls, Wei WuXian alone summoned away all of them…”
Jin ZiXun, “You care nothing for other people and only care about yourself—is this not presumptuous enough?”
Wei WuXian understood all of a sudden. At the end of it, this was the ulterior intent behind all of that. He laughed, “Weren’t you the one who said so? It was only the opening archery event; we could show our real abilities on Phoenix Mountain.”
Jin ZiXuan laughed with a ha, as though he found it ridiculous, “What you’re depending on is just a crooked path. They’re not what you’re really capable of. You’re just playing a few tunes on the flute. How could it count as showing our real abilities?”
Wei WuXian sounded confused, “It’s not as if I tricked or schemed, so why not? You can play a few tunes on the flute as well and see if if any corpses or spirits would like to follow you?”
Jin ZiXun, “With how much you disregard the rules, it’s not much better than tricks and schemes!”
Hearing this, Lan WangJi frowned. Madam Jin seemed as though she had just heard the quarrel that was going on over here. Her voice was indifferent, “ZiXun, that’s enough.”
Wei WuXian was too lazy to argue with him. He laughed, “Fine, then I don’t know what could count as real abilities. Please take it out and win against me so that I can see what it is.”
If he could actually win, Jin ZiXun wouldn’t be as frustrated as he was now. Speechless for a moment, the more he thought about it, the more indignant he felt. He mocked, “But it’s only natural that you don’t think you’re in the wrong. It’s not the first time that Young Master Wei has disregarded the rules. You didn’t wear your sword in both last time’s flower banquet and this time’s hunt. It’s such a grand event, and you care nothing for courtesy. In what regard to you hold us, the people who are present with you?”
Wei WuXian, however, didn’t pay him any attention. He turned to Lan WangJi, “Lan Zhan, I forgot to say. Earlier, when you blocked the sword for me, thanks.”
Seeing how Wei WuXian seemed to not care about him at all, Jin ZiXun clenched his teeth, “So the YunmengJiang Sect’s discipline is nothing more than this!”