Translated by Vivian of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Xiahou Lian looked upward inch by inch along the blade in front of his eyes——the right hand holding the hilt of the saber, the stiff arm, and the pale face and lifeless eyes. Faintly shining silk was wrapped around his hands and feet, with meteorite steel rings where they connected. They were embedded deeply into Tang Shiqi’s pale flesh, yet no blood flowed out.
Xiahou Lian and those empty eyes looked at each other, and he saw himself, shocked and grieved, in them.
“Your friend was very loyal. I coerced and bribed him, using all of my methods, but he still wasn’t willing to help us make a mechanism puppet.” Duan Jiu smiled as he looked at Xiahou Lian. “Oh well, I could only turn him into a puppet. How about it, Xiao Lian, how are you going to defeat him? Cut off his hands, cut off his feet, or his head? He’s just flesh and he isn’t as firm as steel, so cutting him apart is easy. However…” the arc at the corner of Duan Jiu’s lips became deeper and deeper, “by doing this, your friend will be the same as your mother, his head separated from his body, dying without a whole corpse.”
Duan Jiu abruptly pulled the Leading Mechanism Silk, and amid the humming of the silk, Puppet Shiqi suddenly moved, holding a grim and cold line of saber light and chopping toward Xiahou Lian’s face. Xiahou Lian’s hands trembled, and he retreated step by step from Puppet Shiqi’s slashes.
The other Eight Legions ran toward Shen Jue like owls, their black sleeves like fluttering moth wings and the cold lights of their blades hidden in their sleeves. Chi Yan rushed into the battle circle, standing back-to-back with Shen Jue.
“Go and help A-Lian!” Shen Jue panted.
Chi Yan didn’t move and merely said, “He can do it.”
In the gaps between the fighting, Shen Jue looked in Xiahou Lian’s direction. He was staggering backward under Puppet Shiqi’s saber, his body dripping with blood.
Shen Jue shouted through gritted teeth, “He’s about to lose!”
“He is a man, not a child.” Chi Yan indifferently cut off the blade that the Mahoraga chopped forward. “Life or death, victory or defeat, must be undertaken by yourself!”
Puppet Shiqi swung head-on again, and Xiahou Lian blocked it. In the corner, a piercingly cold saber light flashed again, like a venomous snake flicking out its red tongue in the corner of the darkness. Alarm bells went off in his mind, and Xiahou Lian swiftly dodged backward, though his abdomen was still sliced by the short saber in Shiqi’s left hand.
This was the fourth wound on his body. Blood soaked his clothes, and every inch of his flesh screamed in pain.
The pale-faced man impassively walked toward him, his arm twisting strangely as he raised his saber. A corpse’s body was too stiff, so in order to control it easier, Duan Jiu had broken his arms. Now, even if Xiahou Lian leaped behind Puppet Shiqi, it could still twist its arm without turning around or looking back and sent its saber into Xiahou Lian’s body.
Xiahou Lian flipped, dodging a chop, and held a tree as he stood up. Shen Jue’s shout sounded in his ears: “Xiahou Lian, attack!”
Shen Wenxing and Mingyue were also shouting from afar, “Sir Xiahou, attack!”
But how could he counterattack? How could he decapitate Shiqi?
He thought about how nice it would’ve been if he had been a little more careful. There were definitely secret rooms in the marquis manor, hidden in unknown corners. When he had been walking outside the walls, Shiqi had been panting in despair in the dark. There was heavy sorrow in his heart, as if thousands of bloodstained tombstones were weighing down on it. He thought about this round-faced man; he had always been a coward and scumbag, using his money and using his face to deceive women, even having a child. But how could he rather have died than surrender the blueprint for Zhaoye?
Idiot… He really was an idiot!
Puppet Shiqi’s saber sliced his chest, and pain spread across half of his body. He looked at the pale face through his vision that was blurry from sweat.
“Xiahou Lian!” Shen Jue shouted distantly. The Eight Legions had blocked Shen Jue’s way out, so he couldn’t break free.
Duan Jiu stood under the moonlight, watching Xiahou Lian with Buddha-like pity in his gaze.
“Xiao Lian, do you know why you’re such a failure?” He sighed and whispered, “Because you’re still a child. You’ll never learn what a man should learn. You have too many weaknesses. You can’t let go of friends, you can’t let go of relatives, you can’t let go of lovers, and you can’t even let go of people that are already dead. The more things you carry on your back, the slower you are, and the easier it is for you to be killed.”
As Duan Jiu spoke, he tightened the Leading Mechanism Wire, and Puppet Shiqi’s twisted right hand lifted again.
“Xiao Lian, since you can’t let them go, then go and see them.”
Xiahou Lian suddenly felt very tired. Along the way, he had thought that if his saber was sharp enough, it could cut through the vast night. But it turned out that after cutting through the first layer, there was a second layer, and after cutting through the second layer, there was a third. This night was boundless, with thousands upon thousands of layers. But no matter how sharp his saber was, there would be a day when it rusted.
For the first time, he felt doubt about the saber in his hand. It turned out that even if this saber was invisible, it still couldn’t be all-conquering.
Another swing fell, as the puppet’s attacks were ceaseless. He was already so tired he practically couldn’t lift his saber, and when the two sabers collided midair, the vigorous rebound made him lose his balance. The puppet kicked his abdomen, and he covered his mouth, spitting out a mouthful of blood as he fell to the ground.
Am I going to die? This time, am I finally going to die?
Shiqi had died because of him, so perhaps he should return this life to Shiqi.
Moonlight spilled onto his shoulders, and at some point, his head had gotten wounded, as he had even forgotten himself. Blood flowed down, blurring his vision, and in his eyes, the world was a blood-red expanse. He had fallen into a pile of corpses, and the puppet was walking step by step toward him.
Suddenly, in the bloody mud in front of him, he saw a slip of paper. Had it fallen off of someone in the fighting? He reached out and grabbed the slip of paper, opening it before his eyes.
The ink was soaked in blood, and he saw a blurry sentence——
“Boss, send me on this last journey, set me free.”
His entire body was shocked, and he looked up blankly. Under the moonlight, Shiqi’s face was pale, and his dark eyes were empty, yet deep sorrow was clearly hidden in them, like candlelight in the dark night, pulsating with a glow.
Duan Jiu tightened the Leading Mechanism Wire again. He knew that this child was already almost done, as no one could withstand this kind of psychological attack. The people he loved were his fatal burdens, and there would be a day in which they dragged him down. Today was such a day. He had once felt regretful; he had watched this child grow up, yet in the end, he had to personally send him to step onto the road to the netherworld.
The puppet finally arrived in front of Xiahou Lian. The corners of Duan Jiu’s lips tensed, and he clenched his fists, the Leading Mechanism Wire vibrating like cicada wings. The puppet’s entire body spasmed as it raised its saber, like the dancing of a sick person that had gone mad. The sharp blade fell down toward the top of Xiahou Lian’s head, yet Xiahou Lian’s head was lowered, without the intention of resisting at all.
“We will not meet again, Xiao Lian,” Duan Jiu said in a low voice.
He was about to collect the silk, yet he discovered that the silk wasn’t moving at all. He made a “huh” in surprise and looked up, yet he saw Xiahou Lian holding Puppet Shiqi’s blade. Blood dripped onto the ground with patters along the gaps between his fingers, yet it was as if he didn’t know pain. He gripped it tightly, not letting go, and slowly stood up.
“Duan Jiu, you wouldn’t understand.” Xiahou Lian said softly, “They are not burdens, nor encumbrances. It is because of them that I am even stronger.”
In his hazy vision, it was as if he saw many years ago, when he and Qiu-shifu had been sitting under the eaves, gazing at the brilliant red sunset in the distant mountains. The side of Qiu Ye’s face was gentle and tranquil, like the quiet years flowing silently.
He turned his head, smiling gently. “Xiao Lian, do you know why Garan has so many children, yet I hoped the most that you would succeed my legacy? It’s because I saw starlight in your eyes.” He shaded his eyes with his hand, looking out at the gradually darkening dome of the sky. Stars lit up one after another, like boundless lights in the night. “Remember, even in the deepest night, there must also be the brightest star.”
The one he loved most was his star.
Xiahou Lian gripped Puppet Shiqi’s blade and swung his black saber with his right hand. Bursting string sounds sounded in the air as streaks of silver light flashed one after another around Shiqi and then disappeared. Shiqi’s body slumped inch by inch, and he finally fell into Xiahou Lian’s arms. Xiahou Lian put him onto the ground and then stood up, walking toward Duan Jiu.
His steps became faster and faster, turning into a sprint at the end. His black saber was wrapped in the sorrowful wind of the long night, rolling out a desolate and long low howl, like the whispers of countless souls. At that moment, there seemed to be countless souls reviving in him in the unseen world. Duan Jiu was surprised to discover that countless familiar eyes seemed to open in the bottom of Xiahou Lian’s eyes, their gazes scorching like winter flames.
Xiahou Lian was sprinting, and the shadows of trees whirled past under his feet, as if countless souls were whooshing past under his feet. In his daze, he heard the deceased whisper in his ears; it was Qiu Ye, Mr. Dai, Shiqi, and his mother——Xiahou Pei.
“Xiao Lian——we’ll go together!”
Countless hands gripped Bushenglian at the same time, swinging the saber together with Xiahou Lian. The light of the saber exploded brilliantly, like the hazy halo of the moon released in the air. Xiahou Lian and Duan Jiu passed each other, and for an instant, the desolate light of a wave flowed past the entire world, glittering as it moved.
The saber stopped.
Xiahou Lian stood under the moonlight and looked up at the dome of the sky, standing silently. The night wind flowed past his ears, and the calls of the deceased grew distant, unable to be heard clearly.
A short blade was stuck upside-down in the ground; it was Duan Jiu’s “Yanguilai 1.” The instant Duan Jiu had drawn his saber, it had been cut off by Xiahou Lian, flipping before getting lodged into the ground.
A few steps away from Xiahou Lian, Duan Jiu looked down and touched the dripping wound on his waist. “What is this move called?”
“Glittering Heart’s Blade • Night-Cutter.” Xiahou Lian said, “It’s not Garan Saber, I created it myself.”
“No wonder I couldn’t receive it.” Duan Jiu let out a low laugh. “You are a true man now, Xiao Lian.”
He slumped and fell to the ground. At the end of the mountain road, there suddenly were deep and majestic sounds of hooves, and firelight illuminated half of the dark night. They heard the striking of armor and the heavy shouts of the soldiers. The assassins’ expressions suddenly changed, and they didn’t continue fighting. Stepping on their companions’ corpses and blood, they fled into the mulberry forest like owls.
Black riding boots stepped past Duan Jiu’s eyes, and his eyes gradually became lifeless.
He was old, and couldn’t remember many things clearly. Just then, the moment Xiahou Lian had swung Bushenglian, he seemed to have seen someone he hadn’t seen in a long time. Many years ago, that overwhelmingly strong assassin had also once swung his saber like this, blood flowing past the point of the saber and dripping onto the ground, a lotus at each step.
They had once been bosom friends.
“Chi Ru 2…”
He still remembered that blizzard that blotted out the sky and covered the earth, with Du Xin’s and the Eight Legions’ corpses gradually becoming icy in the snow. He had been next to the unconscious Chi Ru, bowing his head toward the Yama. “He has a wife and children in Garan, he’s the most suitable candidate for abbot. Yama, please spare his life!”
“In order to repay the great kindness of the Yama, I am willing to become the Yama’s secret eye. From now on, I will kill all who betray the Yama!”
He carried Chi Ru on his back, moving forward with difficulty in the blizzard. The snow was too deep, so it submerged his ankles and calves. They fell into the snow together, their entire bodies icy.
Chi Ru opened his eyes on his back. “Why are you here…”
“I was worried about you all, so I quietly followed you here.”
“Everyone’s dead… all dead…”
“It’s okay,” he gripped Chi Ru’s shoulders tightly, gazing into his dull and heavy eyes, “we’re still alive. A-Ru, we have to work hard together… to live on!”
He also remembered later on the mountain, amid the hazy drizzle, when he had been leaning against a round cushion smoking tobacco, and Shi Xin was knocking on a wooden fish with thunks.
Sparks glinted in his pipe bowl, and he said hoarsely, “Old guy, have you really decided?”
“I’ve decided.” Shi Xin closed his eyes. “Chi Yan is the sharpest saber in Garan’s history.”
“What if he fails?” He sighed as he said, “A-Ru, perhaps submitting to the Yama is the best way.”
“Then I’ll forge Xiahou Lian, and if Xiahou Lian is destroyed, I’ll select someone from Garan Village. There will always be a saber that will succeed.”
“If you want to turn Xiao Lian into a second Chi Yan, Xiahou Pei won’t agree.”
The sounds of the wooden fish suddenly stopped, and in the pattering sounds of the rain, Shi Xin sighed deeply. “Old friend, I’m going to walk the path of an Asura, will you help me?”
The sparks in the pipe bowl flashed and went out, like a fleeting firework. He was silent for a long time and finally said, “I will. We’re friends, Shi Xin.”
His vision gradually dimmed, and he suddenly thought, If I hadn’t betrayed Shi Xin at the time, perhaps everything would be different? Unfortunately, this was the path of an Asura, so it was difficult to turn back for all of them. His hands and feet turned icy inch by inch, like a stone. It turned out that this was what death felt like. When Shi Xin died, did he also feel this way?
He suddenly felt grief in his heart, and this grief was like an icy sea tide, submerging his head. He couldn’t help but think, If I cross to the opposite shore, can I be forgiven?
Likely not, as he had been forsaken by friends and allies long ago. He reached out toward the darkness, yet he couldn’t grab anything.
Suddenly, a warm hand held his hand. He opened his eyes with difficulty and saw Chi Yan’s tranquil eyes.
“We will not meet again, Mr. Duan,” said Chi Yan.
A tear slid past the corner of his eye, and he smiled, closing his eyes.
“We will not meet again.”
i don’t know what to say tbh, i’m bawling my eyes out bc of shiqi 😦 and i can’t bring myself to hate duan jiu because his story seems so similar to shen and lians in their devotion, but still man, ugh i can’t really say much, sorry, i love chapters that leave me speechless but i don’t like being speechless.
thanks so much for the chapter
Tragedy, when you lose control then you got no soul. ( Adopt from The Bee Gees )
Wow… too heartfelt of a chapter, poor Shiqi, I was hoping he would survive… DJ died alone… his pain although he betrayed his friends was heartfelt, he made a promise to protect his friend that he had to keep…. Sad all around. Thank you for the translation and editing.
Thank You for the new chapter (♡ ὅ ◡ ὅ )ʃ♡
I knew it. I knew Shiqi was loyal.
That bloody note from him. Hnnng my heart. I teared up a bit..
Why is it that Duan Jiu has a redeeming backstory at the end huh. Huh?
I so love this story
Happy ending is near (please)
Poor Tang Shiqi; he didn’t deserve to end up like that; brutalized to defeat XL ~ except he won in the end and still saved XL, by his heartbreaking request.
Duan Jiu’s memory did nothing for me in his favour; he saved Shi Xin only to have him killed by his own son later; killed XL’s mother; tried to have brother kill brother; then best friends destroy each other. Hateful, deluded, devil. Hope his soul is eternally tormented!
XL & SJ must have peace now; please!
This author is amazing!
Can’t believe the Duan Jiu was actually best friends with the abbott! DJ should have just betrayed Yama and not his friend!!!! A bittersweet ending for him.
Poor Shiqi! His note for XHL had me in tears. Even XHL realized that Shiqi wasn’t that great of a person but was a truly loyal friend. 😢
Thank you for the chapter!