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Translated by Vivian of Exiled Rebels Scanlations

Editor: KarateChopMonkey


Xiahou Lian’s disease repeated, sometimes good and sometimes bad. Frequently when Shen Jue was finished with court discussion and had just stepped out of the threshold of the west courtroom, he would see Shen Wenxing hurry over and tell him that Xiahou Lian had vomited blood again. The group of imperial doctors were no longer useful, so Shen Jue instructed the Eastern Depot to gather famous doctors everywhere. The faraway ones temporarily couldn’t rush over, so all of the ones in the Beijing and Tianjin area were taken into the capital by underlings in the dead of night to diagnose and treat Xiahou Lian.

The doctors came and went like flowing water, and there was practically a sunken print on the threshold from being stepped on. The kitchen was permeated with the bitter smell of medicine, which didn’t disperse even after opening the window. He watched Xiahou Lian pour down bowl after bowl of bitter medicine, and at the end, he seemed to have lost his taste and could finish drinking the bitterest of medicines without even blinking. Every time, the doctor would either solemnly vow their guarantee or give a trembling promise that the ingredients in the medicine this time would definitely be effective. However, when the doctor had just left with their front foot, Xiahou Lian’s disease would take effect right behind them. He would sometimes bleed from the seven apertures and sometimes go into a coma, each time more horrifying than the last.

Shen Jue gradually lost trust in these quacks and moved the ancient books from the library to the seal-holder’s duty room to consult. If there were too many memorials to the throne to revise, he would often only have time late at night to read. “Record of Golden Mirrors,” “Prescriptions for Common Benefit,” “Annals of Zhongzhou,” “Annals of the Baiyue”… He flipped through book after book.

The starry night sank in the Imperial City in the dark, and only the corner of the Directorate of Rites was bright the entire night, never extinguishing its light. A candle was about to finish burning again, mottled wax landing in the tray, so Shen Wenxing cautiously replaced it with a new candle, using a silver stick to stir the wick. The dim light was like the slow and heavy twilight, reflecting Shen Jue’s lowered eyes. The toiling over days on end had made him a lot thinner, and the sharp edges of skinny bones could faintly be seen on the sides of his cheeks.

Shen Wenxing took out a bowl of hot soup from a small jet-black tray and pushed it quietly onto the desk, saying softly, “Father, drink some soup. You’ve read until late enough today, the rooster is going to crow in another two hours, why don’t you go to the daybed and lay down for a while?”

“Don’t be noisy.” Shen Jue frowned.

Shen Wenxing said with difficulty, “I said, Father, you also have to worry about your own health. Sir Xiahou isn’t thin, yet you’re becoming a bamboo pole first.”

Shen Jue stopped acknowledging him, so Shen Wenxing couldn’t do anything and could only leave him alone. When the sky was almost bright, Shen Jue was finally willing to rest, though he didn’t sleep more than a few tens of minutes before getting up to wash and dress, ready to go to the imperial court. He looked at himself in the mirror. He really seemed to have gotten a lot more haggard, and when he combed his hair, quite a lot of hair fell off. When he flipped his hair around to look, white strands were mingled in his black hair, strikingly silvery and bright.

He didn’t have time to care about these, and after going to the morning court, he went back to see Xiahou Lian. That guy was sitting in the corridor and making kites for the children in the manor. He had good craftsmanship, so the children all liked to play with him. He was most familiar with Li Miaozhen, whom he had saved in the past. That girl had been living in the manor for a few months and wasn’t as shy as she had been when she first came. Shen Jue let the girl look after his daily life, and she wasn’t bad at doing so.

After ten days, the doctors from the Jiangsu and Zhejiang area had also arrived. They similarly entered like flowing water and exited like flowing water. The prescriptions became more and more crooked, and he didn’t dare to use some. Medicine was poured into bowl after bowl, and there was black and greasy medicinal liquid under the dripping eaves. After the doctors from Jiangsu and Zhejiang left, ones from Guangdong and Guangxi came; after the ones from Guangdong and Guangxi left, ones from the Northwest came. Later, he heard that there was a doctor in Lu Mountain with very high seniority, and that he had even stayed in the Miao area in his early years. He personally welcomed him into the manor and patiently listened to him swear and talk about mysterious medical principles. The old doctor spent a long time taking Xiahou Lian’s pulse, flipping his eyelids and looking at his tongue, and then checked the blood he had vomited in the past few days. Finally, he went to the outer room and told Shen Jue, “Fate is constant, men cannot defy it. My condolences.”

The sentence was like a blow to the head, and Shen Jue heard the sound of the sky collapsing.

He had never believed in fate, and after seeking fame and fortune for over ten years, and to get to his current glory, he had relied on decisive and resolute steps to advance, not by resigning himself to fate. But at this moment, it seemed that he had to believe it. It turned out that even the power of covering the sky with a hand couldn’t be exchanged for a person’s life.

He turned around and looked at Xiahou Lian through the room’s window. He was sitting at the table for eight and drinking medicine. He had to drink up to five large bowls a day of that black concoction. Actually, it only had the effect of clearing heat and relieving toxins, but he kept feeling that drinking it would be a little better. He first looked at the bowl of medicine anxiously while Miaozhen encouraged him from the side. “Hurry and drink it, Uncle Xiahou, the governor will return soon.”

Xiahou Lian seemed to summon all of his resolve to pick up the bowl of medicine and drink it in one gulp, grimacing from the bitterness. Miaozhen smiled as she gave him a malt sugar candy, and then put the bowl back into the tray. Shen Jue felt astringent in his heart; it turned out that Xiahou Lian had always been afraid of the bitterness, yet he always had a relaxed appearance when drinking medicine in front of him.

Shen Jue continued flipping through medical books, and many people came to present famous doctors and traditional remedies to him. Supervisor Li of the Directorate of Imperial Horses said that there was a master of Qigong 1 in Zhongnan Mountain who was very good at treating diseases. A ten-year-old brother in his family had gotten a strange disease and something was growing in his stomach, making it seem like he was ten months pregnant. He had gone to Zhongnan Mountain to be aerated by the master for half a day, and he had returned back to normal by night. Shen Jue sent five lead officers to hurry there to invite him, and Xiahou Lian had originally wanted to say that this was a deception. He had seen this kind of person when he had wandered the martial arts world, but seeing Shen Jue’s face filled with persistence, he compromised. The master aerated Xiahou Lian for three days, and in these three days, Shen Jue served him with good food and drinks, each meal in the manor a banquet of delicacies from the land and sea. The master wanted to experience the tricks of the showgirls in the capital, so Shen Jue let showgirls enter the manor for the first time ever.

The third day when he was being aerated, Xiahou Lian’s disease took effect again. He laid unconscious in the green gauze bed curtains. Shen Wenxing quietly walked in to tell Shen Jue, and the underlings found that the master was Supervisor Li’s distant nephew. 

Shen Jue didn’t say anything and merely told Shen Wenxing to get out. He lifted the bed curtains and sat beside Xiahou Lian’s bed, leaning down to hear his quiet heartbeat. Somehow, Shen Jue began crying, his tears dampening the front of Xiahou Lian’s robes and leaving behind light marks. He thought, This is indeed retribution. He had sinned too much and the heavens wanted to punish him by sending Xiahou Lian back to his side, yet wanted him to watch helplessly as Xiahou Lian died. It was like holding gravel in his palm, losing it faster the tighter he gripped.

He wiped away his tears and straightened up, happening to see the Bodhi beads on Xiahou Lian’s wrist. He stroked the icy string of beads and recalled the days and nights he had waited before in the palace. He had been full of hope, looking forward to reuniting with Xiahou Lian, repeatedly counting Bodhi beads and as he prayed for Xiahou Lian to return safely from the killing field. If Buddha could grant his wish before, could he give him another chance now?

He asked for leave from the young emperor and drove a carriage to Lutan Ancient Road. There was fine and fragrant dust on the path, and the mulberry trees were dense. Shen Wenxing thought Shen Jue wanted to go to Guangling Temple to offer incense, so he was just about to tell the depot guards to go down and clear the way. Shen Jue stopped him and said, “Will clearing the way make Buddha feel that I’m not sincere enough?”

Shen Wenxing was taken aback and touched his forehead. “No…”

Shen Jue was silent for a while without speaking and directly got down from the carriage. Shen Wenxing wanted to say that they had only arrived at the entrance of the ancient road, and that they were still several miles away from Guangling Temple. Before he had time to say it out loud, he saw Shen Jue stand alone under the daylight, face the direction of Guangling Temple, and lift his robes, kneeling down.

There weren’t many carriages on the ancient road, and they rolled past Shen Jue, so no one noticed this person performing three kowtows and nine prostrations. Shen Wenxing watched Shen Jue blankly, even forgetting to stop him. The lone figure prostrated in the dust, kowtowing three times every step, and moved forward toward the Buddhist chanting amid the indistinct smoke and dust.

“Father, what are you doing?” Only then did Shen Wenxing come to his senses and jump down from the carriage to kneel down next to Shen Jue, imploring, “Say, this is… If other people were to see…”

Shen Jue didn’t make a sound and firmly kowtowed three times before continuing to move forward. Shen Wenxing knelt where he was, watching him slowly move forward. His hairnet loosened a little when he kowtowed, and a few strands of hair hung down, sticking to his pale cheeks. Under the desolate daylight, there was no sorrow or joy on his face.

Shen Wenxing finally understood that this person couldn’t be stopped. He wanted to kowtow all the way to Guangling Temple and beg Buddha to save that critically ill man. Shen Wenxing sighed and turned back to the carriage to take out an oilpaper umbrella, holding it above Shen Jue’s head. The depot guards followed silently, no one making a sound and no one trying to persuade him anymore. On the long ancient road, they were like a line of slowly moving ants, quietly moving forward amid the dust and frosty wind. 

The sun rose to the center of the sky, and people going to offer incense slowly increased. Some people saw Shen Jue and stopped their carriages to stretch their necks out to look. The depot guards’ yesa robes and icy scabbards couldn’t drive them away, so there were more and more onlookers. Some of them were traveling peddlers, and some were even princes and nobles; someone recognized Shen Jue and let out a cry of surprise.

Whispers rose and fell like the chirping of cicadas, and news that Shen Lian was critically ill was quietly spread. Some people gloated about his misfortune, and some were very interested. Shen Jue turned a deaf ear and kept kowtowing. His forehead knocked on the ground, emitting dull sounds. His face was tainted with mud and dust, and his yesa robes that were always clean were also stained. He didn’t know how many times he had kowtowed, but his forehead finally broke, and blood imprinted dazzling red marks on the ground. The red marks followed his steps and spread out, like blooming red lotuses, bearing the weight of endless grief. People subconsciously cleared out of that path of bloodstains, and no one stepped on it. Thus, a line was separated amid the crowd, and Shen Jue pulled that line forward.

Everything was blurry under the daylight, and he knelt down again and again, kowtowing again and again. His hands and feet hurt and finally became numb. The pain seemed to be separated by a layer, and he lost the ability to feel. He silently recited Xiahou Lian’s name in his heart, as if strength was hidden in these three characters, letting him not know exhaustion.

The scripture chanting neared, the murmuring sounding from the distant sky. Shen Jue finally kowtowed at the foot of the mountain steps, and cheers erupted in the crowd. “He’s there! He’s there!”

However, unexpectedly, Shen Jue didn’t stop. He crouched and knelt down again, kowtowing his forehead on the step, a red lotus blooming on the stone step that was covered in moss. The crowd finally became quiet, and they silently watched that man climb up the stone steps one at a time, heading toward the depths of the daylight. The people gazed at his back, following his slow movements, and they suddenly felt that he was no longer the usual superior governor of the Eastern Depot. Instead, he was an ordinary person as lowly as dust, just like everyone else.

The sun sunk in the west, and the distant mountains fell into dusk, the twilight enveloping the shoulders in the crowd. Shen Jue’s face was frighteningly pale, and his hands and feet were trembling. He lay prostrate on the mountain steps, panting, and looked up. Layers upon layers of stone steps spread up, disappearing in an expanse of sunglow. Someone couldn’t help but shout, “Chief Officer, stop kneeling, that’s enough! Buddha can see.” 

“Yes, forget it. Maybe Sir Xiao Shen is already better, go home and take a look!”

Shen Jue didn’t listen and continued to move forward. He didn’t stand up anymore and instead knelt while kowtowing, kneeling as he climbed the steps. A girl raised a water bag and shouted from across the wall of depot guards, “Chief Officer, drink some water!”

Shen Wenxing hastily took out the water flask he had brought himself. “Father, drink some, rest for a while and then kneel.”

Shen Jue closed his eyes and shook his head, prostrating and kowtowing.

Time trickled past, and every moment was so long it seemed endless. When the setting sun had restrained the last sliver of radiance, Shen Jue finally arrived at the top of the mountain. The deep and majestic scripture chanting came from the main hall, sounding in his ears like rolling thunder. He trembled as he stepped across the threshold. The room was filled with everlasting lights as bright as day, and he laid prostrate at the feet of the Buddha statue.

“All gods and Buddhas above, I, sinner Xie Jinglan, have come here to kowtow for my wrongdoings. Grant my wish, and I will be a vegetarian my whole life and do three thousand good deeds. Make Xiahou Lian as healthy as before. I burn my soul as proof. Buddhas, fulfill my wish, and I swear I will not violate them.”

He laid prostrate in the great Buddha’s icy gaze, like a desolate and withered leaf. Amid the low chanting of scriptures, no one answered him, and he heard his own tears strike the brick floor, emitting a crisp sound. He recalled Xiahou Lian’s warm gaze under the moonlight and his low voice; they seemed to trickle slowly into the desolate bottom of his heart, the last solace in his barren life. In an instant, that endless grief submerged him like an icy ocean tide. He put his head on the bricks and closed his eyes.

“Buddha, I beg you, the sins are mine, the retribution is mine. Punish me, do not punish him.

“Please, give him… back to me.”


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Translator Notes:

  1. A system of movement and meditation used for health and spirituality.


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November 2, 2022 2:15 pm

i was planning on writing about how deep xie jinglan’s devotion and love is for xiahou lian but i don’t think i can express it in words properly

i’ll just say, it’s beautiful, it’s nothing more really, just purely beautiful

thanks so much for the chapter i am speechless

Sue R
Sue R
November 2, 2022 4:02 pm

What a great love.😭😭😭😭

November 3, 2022 7:06 am

Thank You for the new chapter (´,,•ω•,,)♡

November 3, 2022 4:55 pm

Heartbreaking… that’s a deep love ❤️ I keep in mind this novel will have a very happy ending ❤️

November 4, 2022 1:21 am

Their love for each other is deeper than the ocean.
More tissues were needed.
If the author lied about a happy ending, I WILL hunt them down.
Thanks for translating, the T/N and editing.

November 16, 2022 7:56 pm

Their love and devotion moves my heart. ❤️❤️❤️

Thank you for the beautiful chapter.

February 27, 2023 7:33 pm

Omg!!! Tissues please !! A whole box !!

March 18, 2023 1:42 am

This novel never ceases to surprise me.

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