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Translated by Vivian of Exiled Rebels Scanlations

It was already spring in the South, but snow still drifted in the North. The weather in the North was always cold, and of the four seasons in the year, only summer seemed to be a little warm. Snow covered everything, and lifting the curtains and looking out, the fields on both sides of the main road were a vast expanse of snow. In the distance, a few thatched cottages stood abruptly, like lost children. There weren’t many people on the road, and one would only occasionally see a few farmers toting firewood, walking in the snow with alternating heavy and light steps, their backs stooped deeply. The world was silent, and Mingyue was riding on a carriage. Only the grinding of the carriage wheels could be heard, as well as the clops of the guards’ horses’ hooves, and the world of wind and snow was filled with a desolate aura.

There was a house built with dirt walls ahead, and there were two black wooden doors in the center of the dirt wall. There was a door god pasted on the door, and it was also very brightly colored, so one could tell it had been newly pasted at the end of last year. They stopped the carriage, and Captain Yun of the guards dismounted his horse to knock on the door.

“Is anyone there? Let us borrow your place to drink a bowl of water and rest our feet!”

Mingyue got down from the carriage and turned back to carry Yu-jie’er. Yu-jie’er was wrapped in a scarlet cloak, and her small, fair face was half-buried in the rabbit fur collar. She was still holding Situ Jin’s spirit tablet in her hands, and when she exited the carriage and faced the cold wind, it blew on her face icily. She suddenly asked, “The wind is so strong, will Daddy be cold?”

Mingyue put her on the carriage’s armrest. “Then help Daddy put on more clothes.”

Yu-jie’er crisply responded okay and crawled into the carriage as she held the spirit tablet. When she came back out, the spirit tablet was already wrapped in her own small coat. 

Someone came out of the house and opened the door; it was a round-faced woman, and she was wearing a light blue cloth coat and had a patterned apron fastened around her waist. There was also a dark-faced man squatting on the dirt steps behind her, and he was holding a pipe in his hand, spitting out a few round gray circles from his mouth.

The woman attentively invited them inside; their clothes made them look well-off, so she wasn’t afraid that they were bad people. Upon entering, there was a square courtyard, and there was a short shed against the wall, a corner of the dirt wall next to the shed sinking. Looking out along the hole in the dilapidated wall, one could see their family’s field, white and covered in snow. 

“Come in and warm up by the fire.” The woman led them into the central room. The room was bare, and a pit had been dug in the center where a small stove was burning. There was a crescent table placed against the wall, and there were several broken crocks and messy stems piled next to it. 

The woman dragged out a few ebony benches from below the table for them to sit on and then took out an old armchair painted red from inside a room for Mingyue. The central room wasn’t big, so with over ten full-grown men inside, it instantly became packed. A few captains simply didn’t go inside and squatted at the doorway, making conversation with the man who was smoking.

“Where are you all from? It’s poor here, so it’s been so long since outsiders have come,” the woman asked.

Before Mingyue had time to answer the woman, the woman lifted her head and shouted toward the back room, “Bao’er! Boil a pot of water and roll out some noodles!”

Someone responded from the back room.

Mingyue gratefully thanked her and held Yu-jie’er as she bowed and said, “We come from the South and are going back to Daomaguan 1 to visit relatives. My husband was from Daomaguan.”

The woman caught a glimpse of the spirit tablet Yu-jie’er was holding in her arms and understood everything in her mind. She sighed and said, “Daomaguan is even poorer than this place, your husband didn’t have it easy.” She picked out a malt sugar candy from a basket and gave it to Yu-jie’er. “How old is your child?”

“I’m four years old!” Yu-Jie’er replied loudly.

The woman had a natural closeness with children and Yu-jie’er looked especially cute, so the woman pitied her and pulled a stool up next to Mingyue and asked her all kinds of questions. Mingyue smiled as she answered them one by one, and just when they were making small talk, that child named Bao’er brought out noodles to hand out to everyone. They originally thought that this place was poor so they could only eat something paste-like, but they hadn’t expected that it was real wheat flour.

“Ma’am, your harvest from last year isn’t bad.” Captain Yun smiled as he said, “The houses we rested in before only had steamed buns that were as hard as iron, and they practically cracked our teeth.”

“Yeah, we simply just didn’t eat later, we have to keep them to fight bandits,” a captain next to him added.

“There’s no choice, we’re poor.” The woman covered her mouth as she smiled. “You wealthy families don’t know, but it’s very cold here in the North, so it’s difficult for seedlings to grow in the ground. Before, we also ate iron steamed buns, and only later when we planted Craze-Bringer could we eat flour.”

“Craze-Bringer?” The captain turned his head and looked at the field outside. “I thought you were planting wheat seedlings.”

The man outside laughed raucously. “Wheat can’t make money.”

The woman took down a basket hanging from the top beam and showed it to Mingyue and the others. Inside were sun-dried flowers with a rusty red color, and the stamens were curled like small clenched fists. Getting close to them, there was a special fragrance, and Mingyue took one and sniffed it, surprise arising in her eyes.

Seeing that Yu-jie’er also wanted to take one, the woman lightly slapped her hand and purposely made a fierce expression. “Children aren’t allowed to touch them.”

Mingyue had a captain take Yu-jie’er and smiled. “It just looks like an ordinary flower, why is it even more precious than food?”

“This flower is very extraordinary.” The woman smiled as she said, “It can be rolled into pills or burned like this, and when one smells its scent, their entire body will feel comfortable, as if they have become immortal. We can’t afford it, but the masters in the city like to use it.”

“Masters? Which masters, magistrates of counties and prefects? Or officers stationed in guard facilities?” asked Mingyue.

“Ah, how can I say this clearly, masters are masters,” She used her chin to point at the spirit tablet in Yu-jie’er’s arms. “, the same as the master in your family.”

Mingyue exchanged a glance with the captains and smiled again. “Hearing your implication, you originally didn’t grow these flowers.”

“Yes, a few years ago…” The woman looked down and thought for a moment, shouting toward the man outside. Was it the year you twisted your ankle?” The man replied yes, and the woman said, “Yeah, five years ago, a group of martial artists came down from the North and wanted us to change to growing Craze-Bringer. We didn’t agree at first, saying that Craze-Bringer couldn’t be sold for money. They gave every household five taels of silver and even said that they would send people here to buy them every year, so everyone agreed. Well, there really are people who come down every year to collect them, and it’s a good price every year. Those who originally ate iron steamed buns now eat wheat flour, and those who originally ate flour built new houses, it was all good fortune.”

“Ma’am,” Mingyue looked sadly at the woman, “look, I just lost my husband, and I still have to raise Yu-jie’er. I’m afraid that remarrying will be bad for Jie’er, so I want to come out and make a living myself. Your flowers are so easy to sell, can you tell me who those martial artists are, I’ll get some acres of land and also plant these flowers, and ask them to collect them.”

“It’s not that I won’t tell you, I also don’t know who they are. They wear black clothes every time they come and some even wear masks. They’re very strange and don’t look too proper. However, they come down every New Year. Why don’t you come back next year to take a look, maybe you’ll even be able to run into them.”

“Okay. Ma’am, thank you.”

“Mingyue looked back and glanced at Captain Yun, and the captain took out a handful of silver from the fold of his clothes and shoved it into the woman’s hands. “Don’t regard us as outsiders, we thank you for your hospitality. Keep it and buy something fun for your kid.”

At first, the woman refused it, but she later couldn’t resist and kept it. Seeing that Mingyue was about to leave and that she couldn’t make them stay after trying a few times, she hastily had Bao’er tidy out a bundle of flour steamed buns for them, insisting that they take it with them. Mingyue thanked her and left, going into the carriage. The carriage gradually became distant, and she looked back, seeing the woman stand in the snow for a while before turning and going inside.

Only after leaving the village did she feel chills all over her body. Lifting the curtain and looking out, snow covered the azalea flower seedlings as far as the eye could see, spreading to the horizons, seemingly endless. If the weather became warm, the flowers would bloom, and they would fill the wilderness with dark red, like a raging fire burning destructively to the horizon. How many villages like this were there? How many officials in the North were consuming Bliss Fruit?

Mingyue’s hand holding the edge of the carriage trembled a little. “Captain Yun, don’t go to Daomaguan anymore, make a round trip immediately back to the capital.”

Captain Yun bowed from on top of his horse and said, “Miss, that would be too slow. Let’s go to a posthouse and have a posthouse official go on a fast horse to deliver the message to the governor.”

“No.” Mingyue said resolutely, “Captain Yun, do you still not understand? The depot guards claim that complex, trivial, and indecent matters of families can’t escape their notice, so why have azalea flowers been blooming in the North for five years, yet the governor has never heard?”

Fear slowly arose in Captain Yun’s eyes.

“That’s right,” Mingyue said softly, “more than a thousand guard facilities have fallen into enemy hands.”

The group of underlings looked at one another, and the cold wind whistled as it came from all around, like an approaching demon. Someone shuddered and dismounted their horse, uneasily stepping on the snow.

Mingyue hugged Yu-jie’er and Situ Jin’s spirit tablet tightly. The spirit tablet pressed against her heart, and a faint warmth seemed to come from it.

A-Jin, you’ll protect me and Yu’er, right?

Mingyue closed her eyes and ordered sternly, “From now on, change horses and repack, we’ll return to the capital at top speed.


Shen Jue had stayed in the palace for ten days in a row without coming out. For days on end, there would continuously be scouts hurrying into the capital from Liaodong, all of them with dirty and gray faces. If one didn’t look closely, they would think that they were victims of a calamity from the Northwest. Xiahou Lian had received today’s newspaper; it said that the battle situation on the frontlines was not good, and that they had nearly let the barbarians break into the city a few times. The imperial court planned to move troops from the South to the North, but the national treasury was empty, and there weren’t enough military funds. Shen Jue overrided the majority and increased taxes in Jiangnan, and half of the court officials sent up memorials impeaching Shen Jue. If the memorial contained sprays of saliva, Shen Jue would’ve already drowned in the seal-holder’s duty room. 

Xiahou Lian wanted to go into the palace and see him a few times, but on one hand, he missed up and on the other, he was angry. Xiahou Lian’s backside had been hurting faintly for several days in a row, and it was even uncomfortable to ride horses. At the very beginning, he had even bled in the latrines, and he practically wished he could press down Shen Jue’s head and ruthlessly punch him a few times. He had a sharp mind now, so Shen Jue shouldn’t think of trying to touch him again in the future.

However, the most crucial thing was that they were still hindered regarding Garan’s matters, so he was too busy. Recently, they had caught those in the capital’s underworld that specially made fake household registrations. They had been colluding with subordinate officials in the Ministry of Revenue, who were helping illegal households without household registrations be put into the yellow booklet. Xiahou Lian had followed the trail, arresting people according to the register of fake households. He had caught many Garan spies, but unfortunately, there was still no information about Shiqi.

As the sun set in the west, Xiahou Lian was in a bad mood. He rode his horse, stepping on the orange sunlight as he returned to the manor. Throwing the reins to a servant, he passed the festooned gate by himself. Strolling aimlessly, he arrived at Shen Jue’s study. He opened the door and leaned against the doorframe, looking inside. Sunlight filtered through the window grid’s curled patterns, shining on Shen Jue’s desk and ebony official-hat chair. Dust swirled in the light like small fluttering fireflies and butterflies. He recalled Shen Jue’s appearance when he sat there reading with his hair down, his fair cheeks, and his tranquil expression. The years flowed slowly between them, seemingly endlessly.

For no reason, he suddenly particularly wanted to see that bastard.

“Xiao Lian!” Lian Xiang passed by the second door. “The young master sent a letter, it’s on the table, remember to read it.”

Xiahou Lian responded and went to the desk to take a look; sure enough, there was a fancy paper pressed underneath a paperweight. There weren’t many words written on it, and it only said: “I passed by Fourth Qianxi Premises the day before yesterday, and the birchleaf pairs were like rain in the courtyard. If you put them in your sleeves overnight, the sleeves will produce a fragrance, so I specially looked for several flowers for you.”

There was a sachet next to the paper, so Xiahou Lian opened the sachet. There were a few pear flowers inside, dazzlingly white and very beautiful. However, Xiahou Lian didn’t understand Shen Jue too well; he had never had the habit of wearing a fragrance, so why would he give him this?

He kept feeling that a man wearing a fragrance was sissy-like…

“Xiao Lian!” Lian Xiang said from outside the window, “I forgot to say, the young master said that you must write a letter back to him.”

“Okay, I see!” Xiahou Lian replied.

Did this mean they would send letters to each other from afar? Two men doing this thing was embarrassing. He touched Shen Jue’s fancy paper, on which uneven patterns of flower veins were printed. How gaudy; Xiahou Lian felt helpless.

Xiahou Lian took out a paper and brush, and the tip of the brush was suspended in the air for a long time without landing. This matter really was difficult for him, as he was usually used to holding a saber. He didn’t even have to think about fighting and slashing, he knew what position and strength to use even with his eyes closed. However, he really wasn’t good at writing words, especially writing letters. What should he write? What had he eaten today again, he had eaten a tray of pork buns for breakfast and braised pork knuckles and scallion pancakes that Lian Xiang had made for lunch. But writing this seemed to be like a menu, so why would he write it?

Xiahou Lian held his chin in his hand and thought for a long time before writing: Eat properly, don’t eat less than half a bowl all day, it’s like a chicken pecking rice. You’re a grown man, so you have to eat at least three bowls per meal.

After writing for a while, he still couldn’t get away from food, so Xiahou Lian felt that it wasn’t okay and rolled up the paper, throwing it behind him and changing to write on a new one. This time, Xiahou Lian reported the affairs about pursuing Garan, and he even talked about the recent demotions in the Eastern Depot. However, these things would naturally be reported to him in the Eastern Depot’s documents, so saying it in the letter would be unnecessary.

He racked his brains and thought for a long time, but he didn’t know what to write about. It gradually became dark in the room, and the setting sun silently moved by his hand. The night became dense, and the moonlight had entered the room at some point. It landed on his fingertips, as if he was touching Shen Jue’s icy hand. Xiahou Lian pulled his hair and turned his gaze, glancing at Shen Jue’s sachet that was on the desk. It was quiet, and a short wisp of fragrance drifted to the tip of his nose.

He held his head and smiled faintly as he poked the sachet. Finally, he picked up the brush again and the dense ink marks landed on the paper.

“I miss you so much, when are you coming home?”

He blew the ink dry and spread the rice paper flat on the desk, holding his face as he looked. Moonlight spilled onto the paper, outlining his handwriting. These were practically the best words he had written in his entire life.

The jade bells sounded desolately outside the window, a long and finely broken series, drifting out along the wind. He suddenly recalled matters of many years ago: the two tanks of withered lotuses in Qiuwu Courtyard, the glittering light of sabers in Fourth Qianxi Premises, and the bloody storm of ten years were like fate. There were invisible silk threads in the unseen world, leading them to be together. He picked up the sachet and put it in the fold of his clothes, blew out the candle, and stood up, about to go to the saber furnace to forge iron for a while. Zhaoye was almost complete, and after using meteorite to cast her entire body, she would be an unparalleled killing weapon.

The instant he got to the door and his hand touched the door panel, his legs suddenly went weak, and he nearly knelt down. He was barely able to hold onto the door and stand up, yet his calves couldn’t exert strength no matter what, and that section seemed to turn into a lump of soft mud, gradually losing feeling. He didn’t know what was happening, so he trembled and teetered as he walked back, holding curio shelves, tables, and chairs as he returned to the arhat bed, lying down with difficulty.

The numbness wandered in his body like a snake, soon spreading to his arms. A warm fluid flowed down from his face, dripping onto the round cushion. He couldn’t see clearly in the dark, so he only saw the stains the size of a copper coin. He gradually understood; it turned out that the Mid-July hadn’t been cured, and Shen Jue’s prescription hadn’t worked. It had been lurking like a snake, and now it had come out, biting him heavily and catching him off guard.

He wanted to call for Lian Xiang, but when he opened his mouth, blood came out, and he couldn’t speak.

He reached out for the vase on the flower stand, but it was too far, and he couldn’t reach it. He swallowed blood painfully, and his throat was filled with the sweet taste of rust. The night was quiet, and he heard the jade bells jingling, slowly coming back to his senses. Was he going to die? But he still had a lot of things he hadn’t completed. He hadn’t found Shiqi, he didn’t know Chi Yan’s whereabouts, and the letter he had written to Shen Jue was still on the desk. However, he couldn’t do anything, it was over for him. He had a premonition in his heart that the darkness was silently closing in from all directions, and the retribution to repay for his sins had finally descended tonight.

He didn’t feel afraid, just a little regretful. If you create a karma of killing, you will be killed in retribution. He knew that he should’ve died a long time ago, and after fleeing for so long, the heavens had finally come back to their senses and sent Deity Wuchang 2 to collect him. He turned his head to the side and looked at the moon outside the diamond-patterned window. It was round and hung on the treetops, gazing at him quietly.

I don’t want to part with him…

He wondered why Shen Jue would like him. He had thought for a long time but hadn’t been able to understand. Originally, he had wanted to find a time to ask him, but it was a pity that he would never get the chance to. That fool, how blind did he have to be to be able to like him? But it’s so nice, he thought. Being liked by Shen Jue like this is the best thing I’ve encountered in this life.

He reached out, and the faint moonlight connected to his fingertips, as if holding Shen Jue’s longing that came distantly along the wind. There was a faint sorrow in his heart, but there was also deep sentimentality. Dark clouds drifted past, and the moonlight was silently restrained between the gaps of his fingers. His hand fell from the air, landing heavily on the bed.

In the quiet night wind, only the jingling of the jade bells remained.

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Translator Notes:

  1. Lit. Tumbling Horse Pass.
  2. Lit. Deity of Impermanence, a subordinate of King Yama.


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October 27, 2022 4:44 pm

what. WHAT WAS THE NEED, everything was going so well i’m sobbing what is going on 😭 a-lian don’t die please that will be my last straw.

god, hopefully it’s just a cliffhanger; anyway on another note, i loved how the beginning of this chapter was written, it’s particularly pretty. Also the fact that the letter a-lian wrote is so short but so idk genuine? it’s adorable. I love mingyue so much, hopefully nothing bad happens to her.

thanks for the chapter!!!! keep up the good work ❤

October 27, 2022 7:01 pm

I hope this mid July will have a cure! And now he is all alone, I hope someone finds him. And hopefully Situ Jin’s wife and daughter make it back safely in one piece…. Thank you for the translation and editing.

October 28, 2022 12:10 am

Thank You for the new chapter (•‾⌣‾•)و ̑̑♡

October 28, 2022 1:07 am

XL has never been able to stay mad at SJ for long.
This is not good at all. Someone, anyone, hurry to SJ’s study!
The worst cliff hanger .
Thanks for translating, the T/Ns and editing.

November 1, 2022 10:06 pm

Oh no!! Poor XHL! Hope they can get rid of his poison soon. 🤞🤞

And it’s such a surprise to see Ming Yue again! She was really smart about how she got information about the flowers and who was behind it all and to realize that all the officials in the North are already part of Garan’s network.

Thank you for the chapter!

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