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Translated by Vivian of Exiled Rebels Scanlations


Xiahou Lian was in the imperial prison observing the company commander of the South Administrative Court interrogating a Garan spy. The methods of combing and spine-breaking had all been gone through, and they had done everything save for taking out his spine, but the spy was still keeping his mouth tightly shut and not speaking. The cell was filled with the smell of blood, and blood dripped down from the assassin’s body like strings, forming a pool below the torture rack. Red and sticky, it looked like rouge cream inside a cosmetics box underneath the candlelight.

Xiahou Lian felt uncomfortable as he watched, and he wanted to go outside several times to get fresh air, but he still tolerated it. Although the Embroidered Uniform Guard and Eastern Depot were both Shen Jue’s lackeys, they belonged to different yamens after all and secretly didn’t get along, so he couldn’t let them laugh at him. These kinds of scenes were already a common sight for the Embroidered Uniform guards, and even Xiahou Lian’s own subordinates were also impassive. Only Xiahou Lian had just taken office for not too long, so he still wasn’t used to such a brutal interrogation method.

The spy finally gave them the layout of the Garan spies in the Beijing and Tianjin area, but since he had been caught, it was very likely that the layout had already changed. Xiahou Lian asked him what communication method Garan used, and the spy looked up, more dead than alive as he said, “Lip reading. We never meet up, we only use lip reading from a distance to respond.”

It was another new method Xiahou Lian hadn’t heard of before. After Duan Jiu had assumed his position, he had reformed many links, so Garan already wasn’t the Garan from before now. “Where is Tang Shiqi?” Xiahou Lian asked.

“I don’t know, he was taken away by Mr. Duan a long time ago,” said the spy, panting.

Xiahou Lian slowly clenched his fists and asked in a low voice, “Do you really not have secret dens?”

“Not anymore,” said the spy. “Mr. Duan said that dens are like waiting for people to come and catch them all in one go. True hiding is like salt in water, so we now work in proper shops.”

“Is Chi Yan in Garan?”

“I haven’t heard of him before.”

“How many spies are still in the city?”

“I don’t know.” The spy paused for a moment before saying, “I only know that there are a lot.”

“A lot to what degree?”

The spy looked up and smiled strangely at Xiahou Lian. “If you go outside, you’ll encounter them.”

It became silent in the imperial prison. It was icy and damp in the dungeon, so it was as if everyone was soaked in a tank of cold water. They looked at one another, their faces ashen from being soaked. Xiahou Lian suddenly recalled that day when Duan Jiu had said that the country and underworld were of the same breath and branch. Only by connecting the shadows into one expanse could they be everywhere. His heart slowly sank, and it was as if he saw Tang Shiqi in the deepest part of that darkness, hopelessly looking at him.

“Company Commander!” An Embroidered Uniform guard hastily ran inside.

The company commander frowned and glared at him. “What are you in a panic for? Can’t you see that Sir Xiao Shen is here?”

The guard glanced at Xiahou Lian and paused in his footsteps for a time, not knowing if he should speak.

The company commander glared at him again and scolded, “The Eastern Depot and Embroidered Uniform Guard are one family, who are you doing your stammering sissy act for!”

The Embroidered Uniform guard quickly saluted with clasped hands and said, “Something happened in Yanzhi Alley. Platoon Commander Yan brought people to check for assassins, but he accidentally ran into the Marquis of Linbei, and…” he snuck a glance at the company commander, swallowed, and said, “his right hand was nailed by the Marquis of Linbei.”

The depot guards were all taken aback. Ever since Wei De had been in power, no one had dared to be so rude to a depot guard. The company commander slapped the table in anger, and the teacup clattered from being shaken. “The Marquis of Linbei is a poor little marquis from what corner? This is looking down on our governor!”

Xiahou Lian glanced at him and said, “The governor has always instructed us to act cautiously and not to create more troubles. Sir, you should be careful.” He turned his head toward the Embroidered Uniform guard and said, “Your words don’t have a start or finish. There are so many brothels in Yanzhi Alley, which house did the incident happen in? And why did Platoon Commander Yan run into the Marquis of Linbei? According to what I know, the Marquis of Linbei is just a girl, how come she nailed the hand of a seven-foot tall man?”

The Embroidered Uniform guard hurriedly knelt and said, “Sir, the incident happened at Yunxian Building. Platoon… Platoon Commander Yan was with the popular prostitute A-Chu in Yunxian Building, and the little marquis saw. For some reason, she got angry and stabbed Platoon Commander Yan.”

“A-Chu?!” Xiahou Lian was shocked, and he pulled the guard to ask questions while walking outside, calling in between, “Prepare a horse!”

He directly left the South Administrative Court, took the reins from an underling’s hand, and mounted the horse, swinging the whip to rush toward Yanzhi Alley. These damned officials protected each other; no wonder Shen Jue’s reputation was so poor, it had been ruined by these bastards. Xiahou Lian was so angry his chest hurt, and he was also worried about A-Chu. When he had first entered the Eastern Depot, he would still go to Yunxian Building to drink, but later, he had been scolded by the higher-ups. They had said that he wasn’t allowed to play during the national mourning, so he hadn’t gone again. He hadn’t expected that he would go again today under these circumstances.

The crowds surged on the street; riding on a horse and looking over, they were all dark heads. The shop’s posters on both sides of the street stretched into the air, fluttering in the wind. Xiahou Lian spurred his horse past and below Xisi Archway 1, but the crowd was blocking the way. Only when underlings shouted strenuously in the front did the people slowly make a pathway. Xiahou Lian looked at the people below; everyone’s mouths moved continuously as if there were reeds inside, and countless people’s gazes mingled together in the air, so he was unable to distinguish exactly who was a Garan spy.

He inexplicably felt as if he was being spied on, as if the gazes of Garan spies were all around him, sticking on his body, unable to be dodged or shaken off. They were using lip language to communicate, telling their companions that he was going to Yanzhi Alley.

He dismounted his horse in front of Yunxian Building’s gate and ran directly to A-Chu’s courtyard. From a distance, he saw a group of Embroidered Uniform guards standing there, as well as a group of people who looked like personal servants standing opposite of them; they were probably the Marquis of Linbei’s servants. 

Xiahou Lian walked over, and underlings pushed the two groups apart, making a path for Xiahou Lian. Xiahou Lian stepped on the stone path, but he suddenly stumbled on something. Looking down, he saw that it was an embroidered spring saber stained with blood. He turned his head and saw a few injured Embroidered Uniform guards standing by the flowerbed, grimacing in pain as they bandaged one another. Looking back at the Marquis of Linbei’s servants, their bodies were clean, none of them injured.

Xiahou Lian frowned, but he didn’t have time to overthink it and directly went into A-Chu’s room. Upon entering the room, he saw a little girl who looked to be twelve standing next to the yellow square pear wood table for eight. She was gripping a dagger inlaid with gold, and a man’s hand was stabbed underneath the dagger. The man was stout, and his clothes hadn’t been put on properly, the dirty thing partly hidden and partly visible underneath the front of his robes. There was also a man wearing flying fish clothes standing on the side, begging for mercy.

A-Chu was sitting next to the floor-to-ceiling screen and wiping her tears. Two stains in the rouge on her face had been soaked by her tears, red and white, making her look very wan.

When Squad Commander Zhang saw Xiahou Lian, his eyes lit up as if he had seen his savior, and he hastily walked over, saying, “Sir Xiao Shen, you came! Hurry and help us persuade the little marquis to let Platoon Commander Yan go. Look, this hand has been stabbed and he’s been taught a lesson, didn’t we just… didn’t we just want a prostitute? Is it worth getting into a fight like this? The harmony was hurt for no reason.” He turned and bowed toward Baili Yuan. “We’re all people who work for the chief officer, I expect that you also don’t want to make things difficult for the governor, right?”

Xiahou Lian saluted with clasped hands toward Baili Yuan. “I ask you to raise your hand in mercy and let me take him back to be dealt with.”

Squad Commander Zhang chimed in from the side, “Yes, yes, taking away his monthly salary or demoting him can be used.”

Baili Yuan’s dark eyes stared at Xiahou Lian; this was her first time seeing Xiahou Lian, the little brother who Chi Yan missed dearly. He had extremely sharp features, long and thick eyebrows, black and deep eyes, and his skin was a little dark, tanned from rushing about under the sun all day long, and when he frowned, there was a faint aura of killing. That was the indelible mark of an assassin.

“Sir Xiao Shen, it’s a pleasure to meet you.” Baili Yuan said indifferently, “Dealt with, how will he be dealt with? Will you kill him?”

Xiahou Lian didn’t know if it was an illusion, but he saw a faint hostility in this girl’s eyes. He frowned slightly and saluted with clasped hands, saying, “I cannot give orders for an execution, I have to let yamen have a trial to come to a decision.”

A-Chu looked at Xiahou Lian, and she began feeling sad and apprehensive. Hearing Xiahou Lian’s words, it seemed that he wasn’t about to help her seek justice, and her heart instantly became dismal. Right, he was an official now, so how could he make enemies with others because of her, a prostitute? Besides, it wasn’t as if he hadn’t helped her before. However, she still felt stifled and panicked, as if thousands of large rocks were pressing down in her heart, and sobs escaped from her throat.

When Baili Yuan heard A-Chu’s sobs, she instantly felt restless.

“Shen Lian, sure enough, you’re just as detestable as your godfather.” Baili Yuan said coldly, “In that case, I’ll do it for you!” Right after saying this, she abruptly pulled her dagger out. Platoon Commander Yan’s face contorted in pain, the flesh on his fat face spasming in waves, like crumpled cardboard. Baili Yuan didn’t stop. Her dagger turned and stabbed toward Platoon Commander Yan’s face, and Squad Commander Zhang screamed in fear. 

A-Chu also shrieked, “A-Yuan!”

However, when the dagger was an inch away from Platoon Commander Yan’s face, it stopped abruptly. Baili Yuan looked up; Xiahou Lian had stopped her wrist.

“The governor is not my godfather.” Xiahou Lian looked at her eyes. “Little Marquis, you’re returning to your fief soon, so it’s better if you don’t cause trouble before then. Killing an Embroidered Uniform guard will bring nothing but harm to you.”

Baili Yuan stared at him impassively.

“If you trust me, give him to me to deal with,” Xiahou Lian continued to say.

Baili Yuan’s eyes stared unblinkingly at Xiahou Lian, and Xiahou Lian also looked at her. The two of them looked at each other for a long time, and the ruthlessness on Baili Yuan’s face slowly faded. She withdrew her hand and said, “Very good, take these two people away. However, you have to watch them closely, it’s best if there are no leaks at all. Whether they can keep their lives will depend on you, Sir Shen.”

Squad Commander Zhang wiped his sweat and helped Platoon Commander Yan up from the table. When Platoon Commander Yan passed by Xiahou Lian, he paused and said, “Another day, I’ll prepare some food and drinks to thank you for saving us, sir. When the time comes, please be sure to accept the invitation.”

“I won’t be accepting the invitation,” Xiahou Lian said. Platoon Commander Yan’s expression froze, as he clearly hadn’t expected Xiahou Lian’s words. He heard Xiahou Lian say, “Come, escort these two bastards to the Eastern Depot prison to await trial!”

Now, everyone was stunned. A-Chu and Baili Yuan both turned to face them, their eyes containing surprise.

Although the Eastern Depot and Embroidered Uniform Guard were one family, going to the Eastern Depot wouldn’t be as reassuring as going back to the Embroidered Uniform Guard. Besides, hearing Xiahou Lian’s words from just then, he kept feeling that his tone wasn’t good. Squad Commander Zhang felt perturbed and perspired as he said, “Sir Xiao Shen, what do you mean? Going back to the Embroidered Uniform Guard is the same, let’s go to the Embroidered Uniform guard to wait to be dealt with. Sir Xiao Shen, what do you think?”

“Did I not speak clearly enough?” Xiahou Lian enunciated, “Seize. Them!”

Immediately, a few underlings came forward and held the two people’s shoulders and arms. Platoon Commander Yan shouted hoarsely, “Hold on!”

He panted as he said, “Sir Xiao Shen, we’re Embroidered Uniform guards, so even if we’re put on trial, we should be escorted to the South Administrative Court, tried by the company commander, checked by the battalion commander, and approved by the commander. You’re the senior lead officer of the Eastern Depot, so you should just take care of your Eastern Depot’s matters. What’s the reason for escorting us to the Eastern Depot?”

Xiahou Lian pondered for a moment before nodding and saying, “You’re right, I got it wrong.”

Just as Platoon Commander Yan was sighing in relief, Xiahou Lian spoke again. “Come, escort them to the prison in the Ministry of Justice.”

Platoon Commander Yan’s expression changed. “Sir!”

“Officials who commit crimes are escorted to the Ministry of Justice, this is right. Even if your Embroidered Uniform Guard wants to seize someone, you should go to the Division of Justice to get an authorizing arrest order.”

“You!” Platoon Commander Yan’s eyelids trembled, and he said, “Sir Xiao Shen, how about raising your hand high in mercy and letting us go this time? She’s just a prostitute, why bother so much? My uncle is the brush-holding eunuch of the Directorate of Rites, Eunuch Yao, and he’s worked with the Chief Officer for seven years. Even if you’re the Chief Officer’s godson, so I indeed am not as close as you are in terms of relative status, but you still have to give my uncle some face. Otherwise…” Platoon Commander Yan sneered, “my uncle and the chief officer meet frequently in the palace, and I can’t guarantee my uncle won’t chat a bit about you.”

Xiahou Lian walked in front of Platoon Commander Yan, looked down and adjusted his collar for him, and then patted his face, sneering, “How many times do I have to say it, the governor is not my godfather. As for you wanting to complain, go ahead. If I say I’m afraid, I’ll write my name backwards.” He looked up and roared again, “Come, take them away!”

The Embroidered Uniform guards outside were dumbstruck as they watched Platoon Commander Yan and Squad Commander Zhang being escorted away, underlings pushing them as they followed. Xiahou Lian told them to leave first before looking back at A-Chu. A-Chu was wiping her face with a handkerchief, and the rouge on her face had already been smeared together. Baili Yuan was also on the side and lifting her hand to help her wipe. The two of them, one big and one small, were squatting on the ground, a very pitiful appearance.

Xiahou Lian stood for a while by the threshold. The sun was shining on his back, slightly hot.

“A-Chu, don’t worry, I’ll definitely help you seek justice, but I still have to follow regulations.” He said, “This kind of person definitely has a lot of criminal records, he’ll certainly get the death penalty.”

“Never mind, Xiahou, don’t make enemies with them. When the time comes, Eunuch Shen will blame you,” said A-Chu.

“The governor is my brother, he won’t blame me.” Xiahou Lian saw that she was still very dejected, so he hesitated for a while before saying, “Do you want to take a bath, I’ll fetch water for you.”

A-Chu wiped her tears and said, “Xiahou, thank you. You’ve saved me twice.”

“What are you thanking me for? It’s no big deal.”

Xiahou Lian rolled up his sleeves, walking toward the back kitchen with familiarity. He had gone this way frequently when he had been living here before, and when he got up in the early morning and his eyes were still bleary, he could close his eyes and still not go wrong. Some plum blossoms had bloomed next to the narrow lane, thick and light, embellishing the blue-gray wall. Sunlight shone on top, rolling on a circular gold edge. Footsteps sounded behind him, and he originally thought that it was a servant of Yunxian Building, so he cleared the way. However, the footsteps were following him closely, so he looked back and saw Baili Yuan walking silently behind him. When she saw him look over, she bared her white teeth at him.

“Why did you come, Little Marquis?” asked Xiahou Lian.

“Leave me alone.” Baili Yuan clasped her hands behind her back and walked next to him.

He turned his head to look at this girl. She was wearing a blue satin apron and plain silk coat, and her face was white, her eyes jet-black; she was quite tranquil when she wasn’t talking. Xiahou Lian had heard of her before, since the people working in the Eastern Depot more or less knew the basics of the nobles in the capital. She was the only female marquis in Great Qi and also the only young marquis. Unfortunately, her family had died early, so she had lonesomely come to the capital to congratulate the emperor by herself. Shen Jue had mentioned her once, saying that this girl was very violent, which suited her name very well 2.

“I still need to thank you for the matters with A-Chu just then.” Xiahou Lian said, “Although, don’t be so reckless next time.”

Baili Yuan snorted coldly and didn’t say anything.

“Little Marquis, why are you here?” Xiahou Lian was a little curious. She was a girl and also a relative of the emperor, but she had actually appeared in Yanzhi Alley.

“I came to play.” She pointed at the foot of the wall on the other side. “There’s a dog hole there, I go in often. I encountered a bad guy once, and A-Chu-jiejie saved me.”

Coming to this kind of place to play; Xiahou Lian smiled, as he understood her very well. Children without parents were just like this, and so had he, and he had been ever bolder than her. Climbing walls, going up on roofs, and stealing money: he had done all kinds of bad things. He asked, “So this time you also saved her?”

“Mn. She’s my big sister.” Baili Yuan looked up at Xiahou Lian. “My brothers and sisters all died. A-Chu-jiejie treats me well, so she’s my big sister.”

Her words sounded very bitter, and Xiahou Lian inexplicably thought of Chi Yan. He looked up ahead; the egg-yolk yellow sunlight was striking the withered branches that hadn’t yet bloomed, and everything was a pale yellow, containing a desolate sorrow. They were silent the entire way, and they turned around the winding corridor, happening to pass by the woodshed he had lived in before. He glanced at it; the door was shut, and there was a large basin of clothes that hadn’t been washed clean yet in front, so it was probably where the new servant was staying.

When Xiahou Lian passed by outside, Chi Yan was inside, pasting a kite. Duan Jiu was sitting on the bed-stove and watching him. Chi Yan’s head was lowered as he pasted the kite paper onto bamboo strips bit by bit. Xiahou Lian had taught him this craft. Xiahou Lian was very good at making things, especially things like this that children played with. It was said that he had been lonely as a child and had learned it himself. He thought about how his little brother really was very smart; he had also been lonely as a child, but he hadn’t learned this. Xiahou Lian had taught everything to him, and he had trained for a very long time, but the things he made were seventy or eighty percent as good as Xiahou Lian’s. Sometimes, he paused to rub his hands, and the noises outside came in hazily. At first, there were the sounds of a few men quarreling, and then there were disorderly footsteps. It slowly quieted down, and he heard someone pass by the corridor in front of his room.

Is it those Embroidered Uniform guards who hit people? he thought. At first, he should’ve won, but later Duan Jiu had suddenly brought the marquis manor’s assassins and also taken him away. Actually, he had had the opportunity to kill Baili Yuan, as he had gotten the embroidered spring saber. As long as he had a saber, he had the means to kill Baili Yuan. However, if he killed Baili Yuan, he would also be killed by the other assassins. He could kill everyone, but he had no way of retreating in one piece. He was a little selfish, as he still wanted to see Xiao Lian again, even if it was just once. He had hesitated, and in just that instant, he had lost his best opportunity. The saber had been taken away by Duan Jiu, and he once again became Garan’s prisoner.

He stopped and became blank. Duan Jiu’s pipe bowl flickered in the darkness, like fleeting fireworks.

Xiahou Lian fetched hot water back and filled a bathtub for A-Chu, and then was about to return to continue to work. It was inconvenient for A-Chu because of her health, so Baili Yuan sent him out. When they got to the stone lions at the gate, a servant led a horse over, and Xiahou Lian took the reins.

“Do you have brothers or sisters?” Baili Yuan suddenly asked him.

“I have a big brother,” said Xiahou Lian.

“Where is he?”

“I don’t know. I looked for a very long time but I couldn’t find him.” Xiahou Lian looked down and rubbed the sand under his feet. “That guy is foolish, I’m really worried that if he was sold by someone he’d even count the money for that person.”

“You have a new brother, why do you still have to look for him?”

Xiahou Lian was taken aback. “New brother? Where did I get a new big brother?”

“Shen Jue,” said Baili Yuan. “You said that he’s your brother.”

Xiahou Lian didn’t know what to say, so he said in resignation, “If you say so.”

“Since you have a new brother, you don’t need to look for your old brother anymore.” Baili Yuan turned back around and walked up the stone steps. “You saved my big sister today, so I won’t trouble you. Leave.”

Xiahou Lian was bewildered and baffled by her words. Perhaps children’s brains were different from adults’, as they were unpredictable. He didn’t say anything else and mounted his horse, leaving.

Baili Yuan sat on the stairs, watching Xiahou Lian’s back disappear at the end of the desolate alley. The end of the sky was white and the sunlight was a little dazzling. She put her hand above her eyes and looked for a very long time.

“Yama, is your heart soft?” Duan Jiu’s voice sounded from behind.

“No.” Baili Yuan said softly, “I was just thinking about why everyone likes him. My brother likes him, and my sister also likes him.”

“You shouldn’t have let him go.” Duan Jiu said softly, “Yama, do you know why Xiahou Pei died? She once was Garan’s strongest assassin, yet she died under the saber of sanctimonious hypocrite.”

“Wasn’t it because of your plan?”

“No, it was because she had a weakness. Yama, the path you’re going on is still long, and Garan’s future is in your grasp. You shouldn’t have a woman’s soft nature like this.” Duan Jiu put his hands in his sleeves and sighed deeply. “Forget it, if you want to repay this kindness, I’ll send a grand gift for you. Tang Shiqi said that Xiao Lian has coveted that little governor for a long time, and although it was nonsense, perhaps there was some truth in it.” He said slowly, “Though, I don’t know if that little governor knows his own loyal-hearted friend has these kinds of thoughts, or how he’ll react.”


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Translator Notes:

  1. Lit. West Fourth Archway.
  2. The “Yuan” in Baili Yuan means kite or hawk.


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October 9, 2022 5:33 pm

So happy and relieved that XHL came and made sure that A-Chu gets justice for those two power-abusing guard commanders!

And has Chi Yan been trying to kill Baili Yuan this entire time?? Wow! Too bad that he and XHL keep missing each other.

That Duan Jiu is truly the brains behind this whole Garan operation. So sinister.

I think Duan Jiu’s plan is going to help push SJ and XHL together. 😂

Thank you for the chapter!!

October 9, 2022 5:51 pm

i cant

it’s so funny to me how XHL kept correcting everyone saying the SJ isn’t his godfather but when baili yuan tells him that he doesn’t need to look for chi yan since he has a new brother XHL is like oh wait i did say that 🧍 , i suppose even he knows they aren’t really brotherly affectionate with each other.

also, god, chi yan you’re not selfish for wanting to see your ONLY family member left omg 😭😭😭

thanks for the chapter!!!!!

October 10, 2022 1:45 am

So, Chi Yan wants to kill Baili Yuan; that’s a surprise.
BY is actually Duan Jiu’s puppet and he’s delusional; blaming XL being his mother’s weakness, for her death, not himself & obviously purely wants revenge on XL for turning his back on Garan after killing Shi Xin, although Qiu Yi put him up to it.
Best of all, he thinks it’s XL who has lusty designs on SJ, when it’s the other way around 😆 The shock won’t be SJ’s if you reveal it, DJ!
Thanks for translating, T/Ns & editing.

October 10, 2022 3:39 pm

I think DJ will only help being SJ and XHL together if he even thinks that the feelings are not reciprocated! Such a shame that they keep missing each other! I think even BY realized there is something about XHL as to why everyone likes him, she could have killed him but she didn’t! DJ has other plans definitely! So sad they once again missed each other, he still keeps looking for him and never gives up! I hope TQ makes it! ❤️❤️

October 11, 2022 2:41 am

Thank You for the chapter ٩(*ゝڡ◕๑)۶♥

December 21, 2022 7:47 am

I’m really worrying about my baby Chi Yan, I love him so much. Author, you definitely can’t touch my baby sweetheart.

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