Translated by Vivian of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
In the silent candlelight, the corners of Shen Jue’s eyes were red, as if a thin layer of rouge had been wiped on. Xiahou Lian’s heart ached, and he imprinted his lips on the corner of his eye, then trailed downward along his icy cheek, landing on the light red corner of his lips. His lips had been moistened with Shen Jue’s tears, so they were bitter and astringent.
“Young Master, only now do I understand why Shi Xin would retreat from the battle at the time,” Xiahou Lian pressed against his forehead as he said.
No matter how bitter this world was, because of a person in one’s heart, flowers would bloom in the bitterness.
It was silent in the study, and the cyan curtains undulated along the night wind that swept inside, the moonlight forming ripples on it. Shen Jue said, “I’m not revising orders anymore.”
“Are you tired, you’ve been sitting for the entire day, you should rest.”
“I’m not resting.” Shen Jue put his hand on his firm chest muscles. “There are only ten more days, we have to make the best use of our time.”
“…” Of course this brat was having lustful thoughts. Xiahou Lian recalled the last time when he had been tossed about by Shen Jue so that he couldn’t even walk steadily, and he felt a little afraid.
“One word, will you give it to me, hm?” Shen Jue leaned next to Xiahou Lian’s ear, his voice low and husky. His hand slid downward along the muscles on Xiahou Lian’s waist and abdomen, causing shivers wherever he passed.
Their faces were pressed together, and Xiahou Lian turned his head to the side. The flush at the corners of Shen Jue’s eyes crashed into his eyes, containing a unique brilliance under the dim candlelight. Heavens have pity; he, Xiahou Lian, a firm and unyielding man, originally should be on top. But now… ah, forget it… Xiahou Lian closed his eyes and said in resignation, “Yes.”
Shen Jue was satisfied and kissed his ear, pulling him to sit down on the arhat daybed. Moonlight leaked onto the entire bed, and Shen Jue pressed him down, undoing his belt and cross collar. His wheat-colored chest was revealed, and his hands pressed onto it softly, the sharp and hard point on his chest against his palm, like a pecking bird’s beak. Shen Jue leaned down, their skin imprinting on the other, and the two of them gradually began panting. Moonlight filtered through the window lattices, and they drifted and swayed amid the moonlight.
The night was tranquil, with a kerria flower stretching into the moon gate, blooming scorchingly.
The grass was green, and willows hung over the entire embankment. When the spring breeze stretched for ten miles, Xiahou Lian and Chi Yan left the city, and Zhang Zhao came to see them off. Shen Jue had entered the palace early this morning, so they didn’t know if he could rush over. They had been very happy these past ten days, and Shen Jue had pushed off a lot of matters to leave time to stay together with Xiahou Lian. The two of them had planted flowers and grass together, and at night, they laid on the eaves to count the stars. However, that guy Shen Jue was very particular and felt that the roof was dirty, so he had insisted on putting a mat underneath.
It was better if he didn’t come. Xiahou Lian looked down and kicked a stone on the road. These ten days had been enough, and they had stopped abruptly when they were happy, so it was okay if they didn’t taste the sorrow of parting.
The accompanying men to be sacrificed had put on disguises, pretending to be traveling merchants, all of them wearing small hats and large-sleeved robes. However, there was solid chainmail underneath their outer robes, and there were cold two-foot short sabers at their waists behind their backs, containing hidden and deeply ingrained killing intent everywhere. Above their cross collars, every face was as cold and harsh as steel.
Xiahou Lian had put his black linen clothes back on, and for a time, he seemed to have returned to years of the past. The glint of sabers and swords and bloody storms had accompanied him through more than ten years of cruel time, and he was now taking the last step. Perhaps he would die in the North’s snow, buried together with all of Garan’s ancestors. From now on, he would leave, never to return, all the way until he walked past the opposite shore of this mortal world.
Falling leaves swirled. The thirty sacrificial men stood in the forest, Xiahou Lian and Chi Yan at the very front of the troop, and servants poured everyone a bowl of wine. Sunlight shone into the hard liquor, glistening and sparkling, and Xiahou Lian looked down, seeing his own face. Zhang Zhao was saying something, spittle flying and his spirits high, and there was surging passion in all of the sacrificial men amid his voice. However, Xiahou Lian didn’t even hear a single word clearly. Chi Yan also wasn’t listening, and was staring blankly at the birds in the horizon. Xiahou Lian turned his head to gaze in the direction of the palace, the tall and majestic Guangqu Gate 1 at the end of his vision. Shen Jue was inside there, in the centermost place. Perhaps he was riding on a sedan chair on Tian Street, or perhaps he was sitting in the seal-holder’s duty room and revising orders, or perhaps he was standing by the young emperor’s side, looking down upon the officials.
He always had that high and unreachable appearance, like someone who had descended from the sky. But this kind of person had finally come to Xiahou Lian’s side. He really couldn’t bear to part with him. Xiahou Lian lowered his head, looking at the wine in his bowl, and he saw the deep grief at the bottom of his own eyes.
He finally profoundly felt the pain that had belonged to Chi Ru at the time; this pain went deep into his bones, difficult to relieve.
He really wanted to stay.
Even if the final result was that he could only die in Shen Jue’s arms.
Zhang Zhao roared in front of him, “You all will travel far, perhaps without a way to return. Do you have any regrets?”
“Your enemies are the evil spirits among ghosts, do you have any fears?”
“I, Zhang Zhao, respectfully send all of you forward. All who live will be Great Qi’s brave warriors, and all who die will be Great Qi’s heroic spirits. I empty my bowl first in respect for you!” Zhang Zhao drained his entire bowl with one gulp and threw the the porcelain bowl onto the ground, and with a clatter, the porcelain bowl fractured into pieces.
Everyone followed in drinking their wine and throwing their bowls. Xiahou Lian thought disinterestedly, They’re scoundrels who have murdered and committed arson, yet now they’ve become heroes. Chi Yan held his bowl and was at a loss, as he didn’t drink alcohol. Xiahou Lian finished drinking his own and then took Chi Yan’s, also drinking it. He threw them onto the ground together and roared, “Let’s set off!”
Everyone roared in response, “Set off!”
Just as Xiahou Lian was about to mount his horse, the scattered sounds of hooves came from the distance. He turned his head to look at the path; someone riding a horse was galloping toward him, stepping on the morning light. He still had a tall figure and a vigorous body like a sturdy pine. Even when that guy was riding a horse, he was still more distinguished than others.
Xiahou Lian gazed at him, and his hands pulling the reins didn’t move. He suddenly had a sad and apprehensive feeling in his heart. Why did you come? Xiahou Lian thought. He had finally said “let’s set off” resolutely and he had finally given up everything, but Shen Jue had come, and his entire heart was collapsing.
But in the end, it was impossible for him to turn back.
Shen Jue dismounted his horse, and Xiahou Lian walked over. The others were tactfully silent, waiting for them to say goodbye. Shen Jue was very calm, no sorrow and no joy in his eyes, still having the same appearance that was as calm as still water. The two of them looked at each other, yet they were both silent. In the silence, only the wind rustling the leaves could be heard, and the shadows of trees whirled above their heads. Daylight filtered down, like stars that had fallen over their entire bodies.
“You came to see me off.” Xiahou Lian pinned his hair behind his ears for him; his horse had been galloping too hurriedly, so his usually flawless bun was a little messy.
“Guess what I went into the palace to do this morning?” said Shen Jue.
“What else could you be doing? Going to the imperial court.” Xiahou Lian smiled. “Did the young emperor annoy you again?”
Shen Jue shook his head. “I went to request permission to resign.”
Xiahou Lian was stunned and asked blankly, “Everything was going fine, what happened? What do you want to do?”
Shen Jue lowered his eyes, his long and curved eyelashes casting down a layer of shadows below his eyes. He said, “I told the emperor that I’m going to the North to kill Baili Yuan and that I might die there and not return. I told him to find someone else to revise orders for him, but in any case not to look for me.”
Instantly, it was as if something had fallen from the sky, making Xiahou Lian’s heart collapse into a disarray. Xiahou Lian’s nose ached, and he pushed him forcibly. “What are you doing! Hurry and go back, properly be the governor.”
“He didn’t agree,” said Shen Jue.
Xiahou Lian sighed in relief. “Okay, hurry and go back, I’ll leave after I see you go.”
Shen Jue looked up, gazing into Xiahou Lian’s eyes. “But I don’t care anymore.”
After saying this, he began taking off his yesa robes and pulled open his collar, revealing the black linen clothes inside. They were Xiahou Lian’s, as Xiahou Lian had a trunk of linen clothes that were exactly the same; this was his first time wearing Xiahou Lian’s clothes. Everyone looked at him, dumbstruck, but he didn’t care. He undid his gold buttons, then began pulling his belt. Xiahou Lian restrained his hand and stared at him, saying, “Young Master, you’re crazy!”
“I’m not crazy!” Shen Jue’s eyes were red. “I want to go too!”
“No!” Xiahou Lian roared in a low voice.
Zhang Zhao hastily said, “Governor, hang on!”
All of the other people were also calling, “Governor!”
Shen Jue turned a deaf ear and pulled his own belt. “I want to go!”
“You can’t go!”
“Then tell me what to do!” Shen Jue forcibly tried to break free from Xiahou Lian’s hand, his eyes red from the struggle. “Xiahou Lian, tell me what to do? In eleven years, my only wish was to find you. Besides going together with you, what other choice do I have!” He didn’t know where his strength came from, but he actually pried off Xiahou Lian’s hand pulling his sleeve, and pulled off the ring of the emperor’s seal that hung on his broad belt, throwing it onto the ground with one hand. He tore open his yesa robes woven with gold with his other hand and also flung it to the ground.
What seal-holder of the Directorate of Rites, what governor of the Eastern Depot, he didn’t want them anymore, he wouldn’t be them anymore. He took off the ring on his finger and took off his gold-traced black gauze hat. He was only left with coarse black clothes and the eighteen Bodhi beads on his wrist. He wanted to keep it, as it was his own wish.
Xiahou Lian lowered his head, gripping his collar tightly, his hands trembling like withered leaves in the wind. He didn’t understand; was this guy’s mind sick? Why would he do this for him? If he couldn’t make him stay then so be it, just let him go. Why do this? This fool, idiot! Could he not live without him?
But he understood it clearly, no one understood it better than him. Because he was the same.
In this world, because of Shen Jue, flowers bloomed in the bitterness. If this world didn’t have Shen Jue, it would be a barren expanse, thousands of miles of ruins.
But, how could he let Shen Jue accompany him to that Asura killing field?
He lowered himself and knelt heavily on the ground, kowtowing his forehead in the dust.
“Young Master, please go back!”
The sacrificial men also knelt down, saying in unison, “Governor, please go back!”
Amid the fluttering rain of leaves, Xiahou Lian was pulled up by Shen Jue and embraced in his arms. Shen Jue pressed the back of his head, saying softly, “A-Lian, you know you can’t stop me. Whether we live or die, we will… go together!”
Author’s note 2:
Everyone knelt down to ask Shen Jue to go back.
Chi Yan quietly tugged on Zhang Zhao’s sleeve. “Do I have to kneel?”
Zhang Zhao: “…Whatever you want.”
Chi Yan made an “oh,” turned his head, and continued to stare blankly.