Translated by Vivian of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
In an instant, a great sorrow pressed down on Shen Jue’s heart, heavy and like a tombstone covered in dust. Shen Jue’s tongue contained an indescribable anguish, as if a full jar of bitter tea had been poured into his chest, so bitter that even his tongue was withered, and his heart was also withered.
Moonlight penetrated the water dripping from the eaves and spread on the bluestone ground, touching Shen Jue’s feet and climbing onto his knees along the gold thread of his yesa robes, finally resting on his hands, cold like a block of ice. At this time, Shen Jue instead slowly calmed down, and the surging bitter tide in his heart returned to silence. He took a deep breath.
Xiahou Lian saw that he wasn’t speaking, so he turned to look at him. A tear still hung at the corner of his eye, a transparent and crystalline drop, meandering down on the side of his cheek. He reached out, wanting to wipe it for him, but Shen Jue tilted his head, avoiding his hand.
Xiahou Lian was stunned.
Shen Jue said, “I see that you’ve made up your mind. You don’t want to live anymore, right, you want to listen to fate, right?”
Xiahou Lian saw that his expression wasn’t right, and he felt perturbed. He reached out to tug his sleeve, but Shen Jue retracted his hand abruptly and sat a little farther away from him.
“…” Xiahou Lian felt slightly at a loss. “What happened…”
Shen Jue lowered his eyes, so Xiahou Lian couldn’t see his expression clearly and only knew that he was definitely angry right now. After a moment, Shen Jue said, “Okay, you can die. You don’t care about your life, so why should I worry in vain?” Shen Jue sneered and continued, “But listen up, Xiahou Lian, if you die, I’ll immediately commit suicide in front of you——No, when you’re about to die, I’ll make you watch helpessly as I commit suicide.”
Xiahou Lian was a little helpless. “Young Master, don’t be so petty.”
“What pettiness?” Shen Jue looked at him coldly. “You think I won’t do it?”
“…” Shen Jue really could do this kind of thing. Powerlessness surged in Xiahou Lian’s heart; had this guy read too many storybooks and his brain rusted by the romantic themes, so he could even think of this matter of committing suicide out of love.
“Young Master…” Xiahou Lian pulled the front of his robes sadly.
Shen Jue impassively pulled his robes away. “Don’t overthink it, I’m not committing suicide out of love for you. After death, don’t even think about me wanting me to take the road to the netherworld with you. In my next life, I’ll stay far away from you. If you’re reincarnated in the Central Plains, I’ll be a southern barbarian or a Russian. All in all, I want to be at opposite poles from you and to never see you again.”
“…” For a time, Xiahou Lian didn’t know what to say. Only after a moment did he say, “This is so unfair to you, I heard that it’s always flooding in the southern barbarian areas, so several thousand people die at once.”
“Good,” said Shen Jue, “thanks to you, I’ll die young in this life, and I’ll also die young in my next life.”
Xiahou Lian sighed deeply and was completely hopeless about him.
How could there be this kind of person, his method of threatening him was actually to commit suicide in front of him, and also to not see him in their next lifetimes. On one hand, he felt that it was ridiculous, but on the other, he felt anguished. He was usually such a capable person, yet he was being foolish right now. However, this indeed was the best revenge. Just thinking about that scene, his heart seemed to be cut by a saber. Xiahou Lian called for him again and cautiously inched next to him.
Shen Jue abruptly stood up and avoided his touch, saying coldly, “I think that we shouldn’t see each other anymore starting from today. When you’re on your deathbed, I’ll commit suicide in front of you, and our matter will be finished.”
After saying this, he turned around to leave, not even looking back. Xiahou Lian saw that he was being serious, so he instantly panicked and chased behind him, calling “Young Master” several times in a row. Shen Jue ignored him, walking outside without making a sound. He stepped out of the festooned gate and turned into a winding corridor, not knowing where he was going as he walked around randomly. The servants were stunned upon seeing them, and they all dodged to the side, not daring to speak. The two of them stepped on the moonlight, one person walking silently and one person chasing the other. They finally arrived in the back garden, and Xiahou Lian ran a few steps to catch up to him, tightly embracing him from behind.
“I was wrong, Young Master, I was wrong.” Xiahou Lian encircled his waist and buried his face at the side of his neck. “I was wrong, I was really wrong.”
“Get lost.” Shen Jue pried his hands off.
“I won’t get lost, I’ll stick to you.” Xiahou Lian didn’t let go.
“Get lost,” Shen Jue repeated, gritting his teeth.
“Young Master, are you cruel-hearted? Look, I’m sick, ah——My legs are weak again, I’m going to faint.” Xiahou Lian clung to his body, not moving.
The sparse shadows of leaves struck their bodies, the cold and desolate moonlight filtering between them. Dew dripped from the eaves, slowly and drop by drop, reflecting crystalline light. Shen Jue stopped struggling and held the tree, not making a sound. Xiahou Lian turned him around and gazed fixedly into his eyes.
He turned his face away, purposely not looking at Xiahou Lian.
Xiahou Lian smiled. “Are you still angry? Say, how can I be so bad, I always make you angry. Angering you in our childhood was okay, but I still anger you even when we’ve grown up.”
Shen Jue made a low humph and said, “It’s good that you know.”
Xiahou Lian saw that he wasn’t angry anymore and let go, leaning against the tree as he stood. A few steps ahead, there were steps and white marble railing, and even farther down was a pond. The ripples sparkled, and a few rockeries emerged, round and brilliant. Xiahou Lian picked up a stone and threw it into the water, causing dazzlingly bright water sprays to splash out from the pitch-black pond. He sighed and said, “Foolish Young Master, I also don’t want to part with you, but what if, I’m saying what if, this disease can’t be cured and I accidentally kick the bucket, you always have to think of a way to escape. Before when I was in Garan, the assassins would write a last letter before departing. I’ve also written several letters before, and only later when my mother died was I too lazy to write them anymore.”
“I’ve left my words here anyway, you can figure it out yourself,” Shen Jue said stiffly.
“Okay, okay, I promise you.” Xiahou Lian surrendered and reached his pinky out toward Shen Jue’s. “Let’s pinky promise, okay? I’ll have my disease properly treated, and even if I can only hold one breath, I’ll hold it until you’re ninety-nine.”
Under the moonlight, the lake water reflected their hooked fingers. The chill in Shen Jue’s eyes finally dispersed a bit, and he nodded without saying anything.
“However, you also have to promise me something,” said Xiahou Lian.
Xiahou Lian lifted his hand and brushed the red corners of his eyes as if wiping a layer of light rouge, containing an unprovoked prettiness.
“Don’t cry anymore in the future,” Xiahou Lian murmured. “If my mother were to see, she’ll definitely say that you’re a crybaby.” As he said this, he laughed. “I married a crybaby as my wife.”
“…” He had shed tears for this bastard, yet his bastard called him a crybaby. Shen Jue was so angry his vision turned black, and he gritted his teeth. “How about you? You think I don’t know, you’re your Garan’s King of Urination.”
As if a bolt of lightning had struck the top of his head, Xiahou Lian was stunned from head to toe. “How do you know?”
“‘Garan’s Pedigree.’ Garan’s abbots and assassins from past dynasties all have short biographies recorded in it. The person who wrote it probably had a grudge against you, so they wrote in all of the embarrassing things from when you were young to old.” Shen Jue said coolly, “Do you really want to go back and burn it? There’s no use, I never forget things, I know everything about you.”
What was this? It was as if his fig leaf had been lifted completely in front of Shen Jue, and his entire body was in clear view. He had been very mischievous in his childhood, and past matters he couldn’t bear to think about couldn’t even be counted on his hands and feet together. Xiahou Lian faced the lake water as he covered his face and wailed, “The face I’ve saved over this lifetime has all been lost, I’m not living anymore.”
Shen Jue propped his head up as he looked at his grimacing appearance, and he felt a bit better. However, he instantly felt gloomy again. It was easy to say that he would live on, but where should he search for the doctor that could cure him? Garan rebels, the war in Liaodong, increasing taxes in Jiangnan… Layers of burdens weighed on his shoulders, and Shen Jue felt that he couldn’t breathe.
Just as he was feeling dismal, Xiahou Lian inched over and embraced his shoulders. “Ah, Young Master, you know all of my embarrassing things now, in the future when I shit or fart, do I not need to avoid you anymore?”
Shen Jue: “…”
Xiahou Lian laughed twice and squatted down, saying, “All right, we’ve been at this the entire night. There’s still some time before five in the morning, let’s go back and sleep properly, I’ll carry you.”
“I have my own feet.” Shen Jue frowned. “You’re still sick, don’t act blindly.”
“My disease is sometimes fine and sometimes bad, you have to take advantage of when I’m fine to use me vigorously.” Xiahou Lian squatted down, wanting him to get on his back.
Shen Jue couldn’t help it and did as he said, going onto his back. Xiahou Lian held the backs of his knees and slowly walked back. Lights spread the entire way, and as Shen Jue laid on his back, exhaustion assaulted him, so he reluctantly closed his eyes. He still felt worried and asked in a murmur, “Am I heavy?”
“A little.” Xiahou Lian bounced him a little up. “We’re almost there.”
“I’ll carry you next time,” said Shen Jue.
Xiahou Lian made a mn, and within a few steps, Shen Jue fell asleep. He knew that Shen Jue was tired. He had to take care of such a large country, and he also had to protect his deteriorated body. He was afraid that, in this world, only Shen Jue had this ability. If it were someone else, he was afraid that would’ve already collapsed.
Entering the room, he put Shen Jue on the bed and took off his clothes and black riding boots for him. He pushed him inside, tucked in the blankets, blew out the light, and also laid down himself. He turned his face to the side to look at his sleeping face. His long eyelashes were slightly curled, casting shadows underneath his eyes. The night was indissolubly thick, and looking out the curtains, it was like an empty expanse where all was still. He laid in the darkness, thinking wildly, his thoughts spreading in the silence.
He had regrets and many unfinished businesses. However, if he were to write down his last wishes, there were thousands upon thousands, and he actually didn’t know how to start.
He hadn’t found Shiqi, nor had he found Chi Yan. He took out a pouch from under the pillow and poured the earring inside into his palm. It was a small crystalline and clear drop, like a tear. He recalled that young man playing the xun in the night wind, his pupils black and big, filled with the resplendent daylight. He clearly looked foolish, but he would actually lie for him and go alone to the North. However, the last thing he had said to him was: “I would kill you.”
The affairs of humans were like this, never going as one wished. He lifted the corner of his mouth sadly.
He was an exhausted traveler; to him, death wasn’t traveling a long journey, it was returning home. Obeying fate and dying in retribution seemed to be his best choice. But… He touched Shen Jue’s fair cheek and slowly approached, planting a light kiss on him like a dragonfly skimming the water.
But, how could he bear to abandon Shen Jue in this barren world by himself? He had to work hard to live on, not for himself, but for Shen Jue, for Chi Yan, and for all those who had not yet passed.