Translated by satellite of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Shamal and Jesse lay on the bed, their bodies stiff as blocks of wood, each waiting quietly for something to happen.
But Jesse didn’t make a move to do anything at all. Instead, he asked calmly. “You’ve mastered wood magic then?”
Shamal hesitated before answering honestly. “Yes.”
“So you’ve decided to transfigure yourself into a block of wood with magic?”
“No.” He moved his elbow about as if confirming it before his shoulders were pressed down.
Suddenly, Jesse was above him, and Shamal’s pupils widened as he looked up.
Jessed slowly leaned down and pressed a gentle kiss again his forehead. “Goodnight, Lion.”
Shamal’s rapid breaths were suddenly cut short.
How could he have forgotten? They had met as ‘Lion.’ They’d begun on a lie.
“Goodnight.” Only long after Jesse lay back down did he allow himself to reply quietly in his heart.
The next day, Shamal was summoned by Jesse at the first glimmer of dawn.
“Breakfast is on the table. Meet me at the herb garden in three minutes.” (1) Jesse threw a grey workers’ uniform over his head.
Shamal reached for the clothes sleepily, then stared at them.
This was the uniform he was given on his first day here as a slave. As Jesse first described, they were durable, tear resistant, and rather ‘easy on the eyes.’ And it was indeed easy on the eyes, for no matter how you looked upon it, it left you with only one impression– dismal and grey all over.
The herb garden was where they cultivated all types of plants necessary for warlock potions and concoctions. Tending to it was also one of the many jobs he used to have here.
Jesse wasn’t there when he arrived. He stood outside the garden, but when he tried to take a look inside, people immediately spotted him.
“What are you doing here!?” A massively tall warlock walked out with a pair of scissors in hand.
Shamal remembered this guy. He was called Nikola, and he had never much liked him. “I’m waiting for Jesse.”
Nikola sneered. “You wouldn’t happen to be here to steal our secret recipes now, would you?”
Shamal gave him a cold glance from the corner of his eye before replying. “If I wanted to steal those, I would have done it a thousand years ago.”
“That’s right, a thousand years ago.” Nikola gritted his teeth. “Who knows what you’d already stolen from us back then?”
Shamal felt his entire body grow cold. If he were in Jesse’s shoes, if Jesse was the one who had arrived in the faerie world and tried to approach him, he would be suspicious of any ulterior motives as well.
Then for Jesse, was he still thinking the same thing?
“Hey!” Nikola suddenly gave him a shove, causing him to stumble. “Why aren’t you saying anything? Too scared?”
Shamal raised his eyes and replied. “If you’ve got proof I’ve stolen anything then bring it out now. Stop bitching otherwise.” (2)
Nikola wasn’t quite sure what he meant by ‘bitching’ but he could tell from Shamal’s tone and expression that it couldn’t be anything good. “Hmph! Why do you think our Lord brought you back? Do you think he’ll let you run about like you used to, causing trouble everywhere? If that’s so, then I’m afraid he may not be our leader for much longer!”
Shamal was stunned. “What did you say?”
“This is the realm of warlocks, where even our leader must bow to the will of the clergy.” (3) Nikola lifted his chin and stared down at him. “You know who my father is?”
Elder Shepard. Shamal answered silently in his mind.
Nikola, noticing his silence, assumed he was afraid now. He was just about to continue his tirade, but when he saw the face of the man standing behind Shamal, he instantly shut his mouth. Lowering his head, he hurried back into the garden.
He was leaving just like that? Shamal, who was still trying to find words to counter with, watched in astonishment.
“You’re two minutes late.” Jesse spoke from behind him.
Shamal head suddenly bowed back down. Back then, whenever he was late, Jesse would punish him with laps. He’d be running laps around the entire village. Ever since, he learned that warlock villages covered rather enormous areas. He turned around slowly and forced a smile. “I’m sorry.”
Jesse’s eyes seemed to darken. He gripped his hoe in hand and began walking as he spoke. “That’s not the correct answer.”
Shamal stared after him as he walked into the garden. He stood in place and thought hard to himself, muttering quietly. “The correct answer he wanted…it wouldn’t happen to be…the bed was too hard, my dreams were too deep, the sun rose too early?”
The garden was divided into four sections.
Nikola and the others were in charge of three sections, leaving only one perfectly square plot filled with three shades of violet, coral, and fuschia.
“Pull out the violet flowers, roots and all, and place them in the empty flower pots over there.” Jesse instructed.
“Why?” Shamal couldn’t help but ask.
Jesse paused and gave him a look.
“……Yes sir.” Shamal turned back down and began uprooting the flowers resignedly. Before, whenever he came here with Jesse, he was only allowed to till, weed, and water. Could he consider this progress?
After Jesse saw him working seriously, he turned back down to weed.
He thought he’d be rather out of touch with something he hadn’t done in over a thousand years. But as soon as his hands sank into the dirt, Shamal realized his muscle memory had held firm. Once he had a task to focus on, his jumbled thoughts gradually settle down.
The time flew by quickly.
After lunch was dinner. Since all the plants that grew here in the warlocks’ realm were either poisonous or had a variety of other effects on the body, warlocks developed a strong distaste for vegetables. Fortunately, they didn’t give him meat.
Shamal even snuck a peek at Jesse’s bowl and was surprised to see vegetables inside. Remembering what Jesse had said last time, when he was forced to eat meat paste, Shamal suddenly found a new appreciation for the bland and rather unpalatable vegetables in front of him.
The sun set.
Nikola and the others had already put their tools away and retired.
Shamal watched as Jesse stood.
“Okay.” Shamal lifted a hand and was about to push the bangs out of his eyes when Jesse suddenly stopped him. “It itches though.” He complained unhappily before realizing that the words came out like a childish whine.
Jesse leaned down and gently blew his hair out of the way before placing a kiss against his forehead. “Still itches?”
“…No. No, not anymore.” The heat was now burning so intensely he wouldn’t be able to tell.
“We’ll come again tomorrow.”
“……Okay.” He looked down and unconsciously began drawing circles in the dirt below. An indescribable sort of anticipation filled his heart.
This simple and unchanging life continued for three days. But on the fourth day, Jesse began getting busier. On the rare occasion he came by the garden, he was always completely silent. Shamal wanted to ask him, but every time he saw Nikola’s staring at them, he remembered that he was a suspect here and forced his questions back down.
By the seventh day, Jesse had even stopped coming by at night, and Nikola’s glares only grew more hateful. No matter how slow he could be, even Shamal realized something had happened, something regarding the warlocks’ clan. But what happened? Did Feisha and the rest of them rescue Hughes? Or perhaps his imperial brother had come to save him?
He stared quietly at the slowly emptying plot of land before him and the many filled flower pots beside him. Somehow, he couldn’t work up even the slightest sliver of excitement at the thought.
As he sat there thinking in circles around himself, the sun continued hanging high in the sky above him. He suddenly realized that without Jesse here with him, the time seemed to stretch on forever, the seconds ticking by too slowly.
On the ninth day, the Elder Gul came by. His thick white hair, brows, and beard glowed under the bright sunlight and almost seemed to melt before the eyes.
“Have you been doing well here?” His kindly smile hadn’t changed. Since Elder Gul was still here smiling, things might not be too bad. Shamal breathed a small sigh of relief.
“Still miss home?” Elder Gul reached out and patted the dirt out of his sleeve.
Shamal forced out a smile as he replied. “Even if I wanted to go back, I wouldn’t be able to right?”
“What if you could?” Elder Gul asked.
Shamal was stunned. These past few days he had been so worried about Jesse and the rest of the warlocks that he hadn’t even spared a thought of returning home.
Elder placed a hand on his hair then spoke in his most profound voice. “Men should learn to cherish that which is before him, and not regret that which he has already lost.”
Shamal nodded in understanding. “Yeah, I really should be cherishing it.” Elder Gul was just about to praise his understanding when he continued. “The faerie realm is where I truly should be.”
“……” Elder Gul stroked his beard and remained silent for a long while before he finally coughed and said, “It’s already late, you should head back.”
“But it’s not time to go yet.”
“It’s okay, it’s just half an hour.” Elder said. “If Jesse dares give you a hard time over this, you tell him to bring the drawboard over to me.”
The drawboard was used to spank any warlocks that broke the clan rules. Shamal had no choice but to obey.
When he returned to his small hut, Jesse was already there.
Shamal had to hold back an inexplicable urge to smile, and whispered. “Why are you…”
Shamal’s smile suddenly vanished.
“Aren’t you going to wash up?” Jesse’s voice was completely indifferent.
Shamal made a small noise of affirment, then headed towards the bathroom. He washed as quickly as he could for he didn’t know how long Jesse would be staying for. But when stepped out of the bathroom, he found that Jesse was in the middle of lighting candles throughout the room.
“What is this?” Shamal stared in shock as he used a gust of wind magic to dry out his hair.
“Candles.” Jesse waved his hand and the rattan lamp hanging on the wall went out.
The sky outside had yet to darken completely, and with the flickering light of the candles, the entire room suddenly took on a warm glow.
“I know they’re candles, but…” Shamal looked at the food spread out on the table before him: corn tortillas, peanut pastries, tapioca pudding, blueberry jelly…all of his favorite foods.
Jesse poured two glasses of wine. The wine was crystal clear, like the purest spring water. But Shamal recognized this as the honeyed ice wine, the most potent of all the warlock wines.
“Don’t worry, I’ve mixed in some water.” Jesse placed a glass in front of him, then sat across the table.
Shamal hesitated before finally sitting down.
“Have something to eat before drinking.”
Shamal, noticing the exhaustion Jesse was trying to hide, decided to play along and begin eating.
After deciding he’d eaten enough to stave off the effects of the alcohol, Jesse raised his glass for a toast. “To a safe journey.”
Shamal’s hand froze as he picked up his glass. “What?”
Jesse had already downed his glass.
“What safe journey are you talking about?” A bad feeling began creeping its way into Shamal’s heart.
“Didn’t you want to go home?” Jesse’s lip curled upwards in a mocking smile.
Shamal brought his glass back towards himself. He licked his lips before forcing a smile. “Of course.”
“Cheers.” He gestured with his emptied glass.
Shamal brought the glass to his lips.
The glass was very cold, and the wine equally so. A cold feeling suddenly began seeping into his heart, but the fine wine immediately lit a burning fire as it scorched its way down his throat. All the heat from his body rushed up into his face.
Jesse watched as Shamal’s entire face went red as an apple, his eyes glazing over and his head swaying in dizziness. He commented in that indifferent tone. “I said I mixed in some water, but I never said how much.”
1) “药园” is more like a medicine garden than herb garden, but the former sounds a bit awkward so I went with the later wording.
2) “唧唧歪歪” is a slang term where the first part refers to the noises insects make and the second part refers to wandering askew/with no purpose. It basically boils down to making a lot of noise but not having much to say, ie whining…or bitching.
3) I’ve translated “长老会” as “clergy” but it could actually be one of two things. The term in Chinese refers very specifically to the Presbyterian Church, but that feels rather out of place in the context of this story. The meaning of the words themselves literally breaks down to something more like “council of elders”, which is likely what they meant. I decided to go with something in the middle with a vague religious implication but nothing too specific.