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Translated by Vivian of Exiled Rebels Scanlations

Editor: KarateChopMonkey

 

The next day, sure enough, the meal was spoiled. Liu Deyi’s face had been hurt, so he refused to see anyone. When a little eunuch handed the food box to Shen Jue, Shen Jue quietly stuffed him a handful of small pieces of silver. The little eunuch weighed the silver and smiled. “Eunuch Shen has always been a clever person.” With this, he took out a smaller food box from underneath the table and handed it to Shen Jue, and then set aside half of the money and gave it back. “When you come tomorrow, I’ll still prepare it for you. I don’t need your silver, I’m just giving you a portion for one person.”

Shen Jue carried the food boxes and went back. Consort Gao was squatting on a garden stool with a headful of colorful chicken feathers, looking exactly like a flamboyant rooster. Shen Jue had gotten used to the unusual, and he still served the meal. Consort Gao happily held a pair of chopsticks and took a bite. Right when she put it in her mouth, she spit it onto the ground, cursing, “You’re such a little son of a bitch, do you want to poison me?!”

“These are all there is, make do with it and eat,” said Shen Jue. He picked the small food box up and turned to leave.

Consort Gao followed next to him, flailing, and exclaimed, “You have no conscience, you want all the good food to yourself! I won’t go along with it, I won’t go along with it!”

Shen Jue glanced at her coldly and said, “If you dare to talk nonsense in front of Xiahou Lian, I’ll tear your mouth.”

Consort Gao shrank her neck, and her headful of chicken feathers that had originally been held high in pride suddenly died down and drooped on her head. Although Consort Gao didn’t dare to provoke him, her heart was still unconvinced, and she desperately made a face behind Shen Jue’s back. 

Shen Jue ignored her and directly passed through the flower corridor. Yesterday when Xiahou Lian had been hitting, he had split the wound in his shoulder again. When Shen Jue had seen his wound seeping blood, his face had instantly darkened, and he had ordered that he wasn’t allowed to go out anymore and to stay in the room to recuperate.

After turning past a moon gate 1, he distantly saw Xiahou Lian leaning against a pillar, tilting his head and looking at him with a smile, his eyes containing glimmering sunglow.

Xiahou Lian’s smile had always been ruffian-like and looked secretly crooked, yet it had an alluring strength. He was wearing the mask of Si Xi’s very ugly face, but it still couldn’t cover the aura of roguishness and romance that was brought out from his bones. He had been born as a bad egg, but he also had a sweet smile smeared with honey. If he stood on the streets, there would be countless young women scrambling to get close to him.

Shen Jue had seen his ability to flirt with girls, and the image of the girl Lan Xiang in Xie Manor calling him Lian-gege with a soft voice was still vivid in his mind to this day. When he thought about these, Shen Jue instantly became upset, and he stuffed the food box into Xiahou Lian’s arms, saying sulkily, “Leaning against the door and smiling at passersby, if you stick a few of Noble Consort Gao’s chicken feathers on your body, the girls in the Royal Academy 2 can’t even compare with you.”

Xiahou Lian grinned. “You flatter me, you flatter me. In terms of beauty, I can’t compare with you, Young Master.”

As he said this, he opened the food box and looked inside. Inside, it only contained a bowl of white rice and a bowl of red braised pork belly. This standard wasn’t only a little bit of a difference from before, and he immediately understood that it was Liu Deyi making things difficult for Shen Jue. However, he didn’t think that this little bit that wasn’t even enough to fill the gaps in one’s teeth had still been bought by Shen Jue using real money.

Xiahou Lian asked, “Have you eaten?”

“I already ate. Eat well, I’ll come and get the food box later.”

Xiahou Lian agreed and turned, going back into the room. Consort Gao was holding a basin decorated with lotus flower and fish tightly and salivating as she looked pitifully at Shen Jue. Shen Jue said helplessly, “Stop looking, I’m also eating spoiled food with you.”

Consort Gao glared angrily and said, “Little bitch who brought shame to the family, never mind you serving that gigolo. You even use chaff to stall me off, you’ve got some nerve!”

Consort Gao fumed with anger as she plucked off the chicken feathers from her head, threw them all over Shen Jue, and turned around, running out of the courtyard.

Shen Jue: “…”

When the capital had more overcast and rain, it was comparable to Jiangnan. The continuous drizzle fell day and night, striking the cyan-black eaves tiles and pitter-pattering, as if someone’s flatware had hit the ground. Ever since there had been assassins in the imperial palace, the night patrol of Feathered Forest guards had doubled, and every quarter of an hour, they walked back and forth along the patrol route, stopped by neither wind nor rain. The light stands on the palace roads cast faint halos, and the patrolling guards were like phantoms drifting in the wind and rain. The copper sheets on their armor struck one another, emitting a tinkling sound that sounded in small bits and pieces across the misty curtains of rain. 

Liu Deyi’s waist was bent as he snuck from the east gate of Qionglin Garden 3 into the back garden. Tree shadows loomed, and the twisted tree trunk of the old pagoda trees were like the withered bones of an old man. The colors of the floral leaves seemed to have been washed clean by the rain, a gray as heavy as death. Liu Deyi muttered inwardly in his mind that he had never seen the palace’s back garden be so sinister during the day before, yet it looked as if it was haunted at night.

He went underneath a light stand. The lamp holder was half the height of a person, and the spun yarn that had been brushed by tung oil covered a small light, which shone dimly. Liu Deyi looked around for a while, then turned around and walked northward. He hadn’t walked many steps when a red shadow swept past behind a few pagoda trees not far away, nearly frightening him so that he fell to the ground. When he had composed himself and then carefully looked, there was already nothing there. He walked a few steps forward and leaned against a tree, meowing a few times. Then, he lowered his voice and called, “Shen Jue?”

No one answered. Liu Deyi angrily scorned himself. He must have seen wrong and was scaring himself.

He walked forward for a while again. A few connected pavilions came into view, cyan-black tiles and eaves curving upward, and the decorated bridge like a flying cloud across water waves. Liu Deyi couldn’t hold back the joy and excitement in his heart, and he anxiously quickened his pace and arrived at the bridge. He bent his waist and looked around through the curtains of rain, only looking forward for the person in his mind to quickly appear.

He wanted for a long time, but no one came. Liu Deyi’s heart fell slowly, and an evil fire leapt up. He must have been tricked. That damned Shen Jue, not only had he hit him, he even dared to trick him!

Although the rain wasn’t heavy, standing for a long time was still enough to turn him into a drenched chicken. Coldness penetrated his soaked clothes, and traces of it seeped into his skin. Liu Deyi crossed his arms and shivered violently. He was just about to go back home when he glanced and suddenly saw that there was something placed on the railing at the other end of the bridge. It was a dirty yellow and seemed to be a cloth bag.

Could Shen Jue have placed it there to play a guessing game with him?

Liu Deyi exulted in his heart again, and he hurriedly walked over. He would reach that cloth bag in a moment, but he suddenly stepped on something slippery, and he instantly lost balance, colliding with the marble railing. Who could have imagined that this section’s railing had already been filled with cracks, so when Liu Deyi collided with it, the marble instantly broke into pieces, and he and the stones fell into Lianhua Pond 4.

Under an old pagoda tree on the other end of the pond, Shen Jue indifferently watched the scene on the bridge before turning and crossing a small path.

The night gradually deepened, and the number of Feathered Forest guards increased. Shen Jue stood in the connected shadows of the floral leaves and silently counted the time. A pair of Feathered Forest guards had just passed through a surrounding corridor 5, so Shen Jue walked out of the flowering shrubs and climbed onto the corridor, walking with small, hasty steps. The map of the back garden emerged in his mind, and he knew that he just had to pass through a flower-viewing pavilion to return to Fourth Qianxi Premises.

The lanterns in the winding corridor swayed from the wind, the lights flickering and iron horses clanking, and the sound was a long series of fine bits and pieces. Shen Jue was just about to turn a corner when a pair of hands reached out from behind him, covered his mouth, and dragged him into a nearby room.

Shen Jue’s heart sank to the bottom of a valley, and he subconsciously wanted to counterattack. The person behind him huffed in a low voice, “Little bastard, coming out to fool around in the middle of the night, did you go to steal a girl!”

It was Noble Consort Gao!

Shen Jue was just about to say something, but Consort Gao suddenly covered his mouth again and reached out to point outside. The two of them moved to the door very slowly and very lightly, and heard two Feathered Forest guards pass by outside.

“Will someone discover that we relieved ourselves here?”

“Discover, my ass. With this rain washing it away, there won’t be any smell left, what are you scared of?”

Their footsteps gradually grew distant. Shen Jue was inwardly frightened. It turned out that just then, these two people had been going to the lavatory at the other end of the corner. If Shen Jue had turned the corner, he could have bumped into them head-on.

Shen Jue turned his head. Consort Gao was also listening to the sounds outside very alertly. The light was very dim, so Shen Jue could only faintly see Consort Gao’s red coat 6 that was embroidered with branches and flowers. Her bosom was bulging and seemed to be twice as big as usual. Consort Gao lifted her eyes and happened to see him staring unblinkingly at her chest. She raised her hand and slapped him, scolding, “Foul rascal!”

Shen Jue had been inexplicably slapped, and he glared angrily, saying, “What are you doing!”

“You looked at my chest!”

“…”

Shen Jue was actually speechless. Forget it, in any case she had saved him just then, so he wouldn’t fuss with her. Shen Jue took a deep breath and asked calmly, “What are you storing in the fold of your clothes?”

Consort Gao’s gaze flashed, and she said stutteringly, “Nothing, I’m not storing anything, I’ve just gotten fatter recently!”

“Tomorrow, you’ll be able to eat good food and good dishes again.” Shen Jue said patiently, “If you don’t show me, don’t even think about eating well tomorrow.”

“Hmph, I don’t believe you! Men’s mouths are deceitful ghosts! You’re fooling that stupid gigolo in your room, and you even want to fool me?”

Shen Jue’s calm mood from just then had collapsed again from a few words by Consort Gao. He said with gritted teeth, “What am I fooling him about?”

Consort Gao made a “bah” toward the ground and said, “Don’t look at me like I’m stupid, my mind is completely clear! You’re fooling him into playing with you, toiling for you, and even accompanying you to sleep!”

The worry weighing on Shen Jue’s mind had been poked, and there was a lump in his throat, making him unable to say anything. He hadn’t told Xiahou Lian that the Garuda had come to the palace to look for him, and even further, he had used the matter of being bullied by Liu Deyi to make Xiahou Lian agree to stay. He didn’t know when it had started, but he had gotten used to playing tricks and scheming. As long as it could make Xiahou Lian stay, so what if he hid things from him and lied to him? Would Xiahou Lian know about this? If he knew, would he hate him?

It’s okay, he told himself. As long as he didn’t say anything, who would know that he had run into the Garuda?

However, he hadn’t expected that the watertight matter he had concealed so that even wind couldn’t leak out had been seen through clearly by this lunatic. Shen Jue sneered, “I think your mind is getting more and more confused, I should go to the Imperial Medical Bureau tomorrow and get a chief physician 7 to take a good look at you.”

Before he finished speaking, Consort Gao didn’t wrap them properly herself, and several glossy steamed meat buns rolled out of her clothes, rolling several circles on the ground before stopping.

Shen Jue: “…”

Consort Gao tearfully picked up the steamed buns as if her children had died. She pouted and wailed in mourning, “My steamed buns! It’s all your fault! You’re a bad guy!”

The rain had stopped at some point, and the dark clouds that had been there for days on end dispersed, revealing the moon that was like a big round plate. Water had accumulated on the ground and the moonlight was sparkling, as if a layer of small pieces of silver had been scattered on it. The two of them entered the threshold of Shunzhen Gate 8, quietly closed the palace gate, and stepped on the ground covered in moonlight that was like frost and snow as they walked in. Consort Gao was holding the dirty steamed buns, the tears in her eyes on the verge of falling.

Shen Jue sighed deeply, walked to the small kitchen, held out a small box of pastries, and handed it to Consort Gao. He said, “This is my own private savings, I only have these, eat them sparingly.”

Consort Gao was overwhelmed by the unexpected favor and hurriedly put the pastries in the fold of her clothes, her eyes brimming with tears as she said, “I was wrong, you’re a good person!”

Shen Jue was very speechless, and he ignored her, turning around and walking back to his room. His body was a little wet, so he stood outside the door first and wrung out the rainwater on his body before pushing the door and walking into the room. It was too late, and he was worried about waking Xiahou Lian, so he didn’t even take a bath. He took off his clothes and laid down on the small daybed. In the dark, Xiahou Lian, who was on the bed-stove, rolled over and asked with a slur in his voice, “Young Master, where did you go this late?”

His hands were icy, so Shen Jue breathed warm air on them, and said, “Relieving myself.”

“Wow, so long. Young Master, you don’t have constipation from too much yang, do you? You might get hemorrhoids. I’ll make you some bowel-freeing medicine to drink tomorrow?” Xiahou Lian was a little more clear-headed and made a big fuss over nothing.

Shen Jue raised his eyelids and glanced at Xiahou Lian, ignoring him.

“How come you’re sleeping on the daybed?” asked Xiahou Lian.

Shen Jue recalled what Consort Gao had said in the back garden, “even sleeping with you,” and his heart jumped fiercely. That lunatic Consort Gao only talked nonsense. Closing his eyes, Shen Jue said, “Two people sleeping together is inconvenient, so I’ll just sleep here.”

Xiahou Lian was a little puzzled. Shen Jue’s thoughts had always been curved and not straightforward. The two of them had been sleeping just fine, and he didn’t know what he had offended him about.  They were just going to sleep in separate beds now? Because he had been sleeping in the same spot as Shen Jue, Xiahou Lian had obediently bathed everyday, cleaning himself up. Did Shen Jue dislike that he was dirty, dislike that he was smelly, or dislike that he had Si Xi’s face and looked ugly?

Never mind, he admitted defeat, he could do whatever he liked. Xiahou Lian sat up from the bed and stepped on the ground with bare feet. He walked to the side of Shen Jue’s daybed, not even calling out to him at all, and directly picked up the whole of Shen Jue. Shen Jue was shocked and scratched wildly in Xiahou Lian’s arms, shouting, “What are you doing!”

Shen Jue lived with hardship in the palace, and he was so skinny he only had a handful of bones left, so picking him up didn’t have any weight. Xiahou Lian easily carried him to the bed-stove and said, “How can the young master sleeping on the daybed and the bookboy sleeping on the bed-stove make sense?” After saying this, he returned to the daybed without even looking back and dove into the blanket.

Shen Jue was silent for a moment, covered himself with his blanket, and also slept. 

The next morning at daybreak, the masters were still sleeping in their covers, and the servants had already started bustling about. Those who hung up lanterns hung up lanterns, those who sweeped the floor swept the floor, and those who made breakfast made breakfast. Fourth Qianxi Premises was outside of the palace’s civilization, so the servants usually slept until late morning before getting up. Ever since Shen Jue had arrived, although he didn’t require them to get up as early as the other palace gardens, they had to at least be up in time for breakfast.

Because they could eat breakfast, no one complained, and in addition to Shen Jue always being strict with rewards and punishments and treating others with kindness, everyone knew Shen Jue’s goodwill, so they didn’t speak out of turn. When Xiahou Lian had been injured, he hadn’t cared about these and had been shut in the room and slept muddledly day and night. Now that his wound was healed, he consciously got up to work. He was young and had enough strength to diligently take on sweeping the courtyard and other chores.

The eunuchs who swept with him also weren’t very old, and their ages were twelve or thirteen, just the time when they were lively. When the few of them saw each other, they began casually whispering again. 

“Hey, Si Xi-ge, just now I went to the imperial kitchen to get breakfast. Guess what I ran into?”

Before Xiahou Lian replied, someone else scrambled to ask, “What did you see? Could it be the new women in the emperor’s harem who entered the palace? I heard that they’re all like goddesses who descended to earth, and that it was difficult for the emperor to choose!”

“Bah, you’re missing a piece of your crotch, can you still think about women?” A little eunuch narrowed his eyes at that person and continued, “Last night, someone fell into the water of Yuqing Pond 9 and died a terrible death. His whole body was like risen dough, and if you poke down, it’ll leave an indentation.”

Someone said dismissively, “Didn’t he just drown? Since the founding of our Great Qi kingdom until now, how many people have drowned in Yuqing Pond? Palace consorts, eunuchs, maids, cats, and dogs, there have been as many as you could want, how is this strange?”

The little eunuch said, “So he’s very unlucky. A Feathered Forest guard said that this person stole golden cups and silver bowls from the imperial kitchen in the middle of the night. I reckon he was planning on bringing them to Liuli Factory 10 to sell them. Who would’ve expected that he was walking carelessly, slipped, a piece of the bridge railing happened to crack, and he fell down.”

“The emperor built a new Leopard House 11 in the west garden, so he hasn’t come to the back garden for a long time. The eunuchs and maids didn’t take sweeping and repairing these seriously, so no one discovered that the railing had cracked. Fortunately, the one who died was a little eunuch who stole things. If it was some noble who encountered this bad luck, there would be a bunch of people with bad luck!”

Xiahou Lian interrupted, “You talked for a long time, but you still haven’t said who died.”

The little eunuch touched his head and said, “Ah, I forgot to say. It was Eunuch Liu from the imperial kitchen.”

Xiahou Lian was suddenly taken aback, and he fell silent, his heart agitated. Last night, Shen Jue had gone out. That didn’t have anything to do with this, did it?

No matter how Xiahou Lian thought about it, he felt that this matter most likely had something to do with Shen Jue. Hadn’t Si Xi been killed by him because he had molested Shen Jue? Shen Jue was small-minded and was from a well-known clan, and he had read the Four Books and Five Classics and the Three Fundamental Bonds and Five Constant Virtues since childhood. Even as a servant, his proud and arrogant temperament couldn’t be changed, so how could he tolerate this kind of shame? Not flaying a layer of skin off of that damned eunuch was already light.

How could this person be so bold? Even Xiahou Lian himself would have to think over moving his saber under the emperor’s nose. 

Xiahou Lian put down the work in his hands and began looking around for Shen Jue. Shen Jue wasn’t an idle person, he had a basketful of bits and pieces of things to do, and he didn’t know where he had gone now.

He wandered for a long time and finally ran into him in a winding corridor. Shen Jue had just come from the Needlework Service 12, and he was holding the noble consorts’ summer clothes. The people in the palace always treated people differently, such as how in places like Zhongcui Palace 13 and Yonghe Palace 14, eunuchs would send over summer clothes early. Only in Fourth Qianxi Premises, this kind of place that people disliked and dogs ignored, did Shen Jue have to go and urge them three or four times to be able to get them.

He bumped into Xiahou Lian head-on, but he didn’t have time to acknowledge him. However, Xiahou Lian followed him and said in a low voice next to him, “Liu Deyi died, did you know about this matter?”

Shen Jue glanced at him and said, “I did, what’s the matter?”

Xiahou Lian looked at his indifferent expression and couldn’t tell if this matter had something to do with him or not. He said hesitantly, “Did he really fall into the water by himself?”

“Of course not,” Shen Jue’s reply was straightforward, “I did it, so what? I couldn’t tell you even had this benevolence, running here to denounce me for my crimes?”

“It really was you!” Xiahou Lian pulled his wrist and said, “Do you want to die? This matter was so risky, why didn’t you discuss it with me?”

“I can do it myself. You relax and recuperate from your wound, and leave me alone!” Shen Jue shook Xiahou Lian off and turned, leaving.

Xiahou Lian followed by his side, step for step. He said with gritted teeth, “What kind of talk is that! You don’t regard me as your brother and you don’t want my help, then what are you making me stay for, to be a flower vase 15, to be a furnishing that’s good-looking for you to look at?”

When Shen Jue heard this, he was stunned for a while. Were they brothers or master and servant, Shen Jue himself couldn’t even tell. He seemed to have never regarded Xiahou Lian as his brother, but he had also never regarded him as his servant. To him, exactly who was this person, Xiahou Lian?

Shen Jue couldn’t understand, and he was confused and upset. He was afraid he would continue asking, so he said hastily, “Who gave you the audacity? Do we have the same father or the same mother, you’re my brother?”

Xiahou Lian was stunned, and he stopped, staying where he was for a while. Right, Shen Jue had never said that he regarded him as his brother before, it had all been feelings made up by himself. He thought about it for a long time, and he also felt that it was ridiculous. He looked up and saw that Shen Jue had already walked far away. He hurriedly ran over and said, “Never mind if you don’t regard me as your brother, but you can’t kill people!”

“Who do you think you are? You can but I can’t?”

Shen Jue was thinking foolishly when he heard Xiahou Lian speak again, “You’re different!” His voice became astringent. “How can your hands that are for holding brushes be stained with blood?”

One sentence, ordinary and unremarkable, was like a sharp blade, cutting open the wound on Shen Jue’s heart that had scabbed, causing fresh blood to drip out.

Hands that are for holding brushes? These few words whirled in Shen Jue’s ears, and his hands that were holding the summer clothes suddenly tightened, clenching out deep wrinkles on the clothes. How long had it already been since he had touched a brush? He was a eunuch, and he didn’t even have a distribution of brushes and ink. Since entering the palace, he had touched brooms, poured chamber pots, and washed clothes, but he hadn’t held a brush.

How ridiculous, thought Shen Jue. Xiahou Lian really is an idiot, does he think I can go back to the past?

“Xiahou Lian, Xie Jinglan is already dead. The one standing in front of you right now is Shen Jue,” Shen Jue said slowly, his pale face indifferent like autumn frost. “Shen Jue is a eunuch, a servant, a dog raised by masters. What brush can I hold?”

“You!” Xiahou Lian’s heart ached, and he wanted to say something, but he also didn’t know what to say. There was a lump in his throat for a long time before he said with difficulty, “Young Master, you’re different from me. I’m an assassin, and the life debts I bear now can be counted to be two or three, so having a few more doesn’t matter. In the future, if you want to kill someone, just leave it to me, I’ll help you. I’ll help you kill the people who bully you, and I’ll help you behead the scoundrels who insult you!”

“What’s the difference?” Shen Jue smiled in ridicule. “Is holding a brush different from holding a saber? You’re too naive, Xiahou Lian. Holding a saber in hand can take someone’s life; holding a lot of power can exterminate a clan; not to mention when the emperor is angry, there are millions of lying corpses and blood that flows for thousands of miles! Brushes, inks, and the emperor’s seals are this world’s filthiest and foulest things! Do you think the lives you assassins bear are the most? No, the person who should go to hell the most is the one sitting on the throne in Fengxian Hall 16, that person who enjoys the worship of all the people!”

“I-I know, but…” Xiahou Lian was clumsy at speaking, and his mind was a mess. He scratched his head, not knowing what to say.

“You just don’t want me to go down this path, right?” Shen Jue asked indifferently.

“Yes, that’s right!” Xiahou Lian didn’t want to care about how the emperor was at all. He only knew that Xie Jinglan had said before that when the eunuch faction was there, he would retire to a prefecture, and when the chaos with the eunuchs subsided, he would help the country. How could Shen Jue become the eunuch faction that Xie Jinglan had spoken about!

Xiahou Lian took a deep breath and said, “Young Master, you don’t understand. Once your hands have been tainted with blood, you can’t look back anymore. Killing is addictive. After you’ve killed once, there will be a second time, and when there’s a second time, there will be a third time. You’ll disregard human lives more and more, and you’ll feel that there’s no difference between people and grass. If they die, they die, and if they’re gone, they’re gone. Young Master, do you really want to be like this?”

He waited for Shen Jue’s answer. Shen Jue’s expression was still indifferent, like a layer of ice had formed on it. He turned his head and gazed at Xiahou Lian, asking slowly, “Oh? Why not?”

Xiahou Lian widened his eyes in disbelief.

“Xiahou Lian, let me ask you,” Shen Jue’s eyes were as calm as still water, “why do you kill?”

Xiahou Lian was stunned. “In order to live.”

“Then, me too.” An extremely light smile rose at the corners of Shen Jue’s mouth, and he said in a low voice, “I’m already on this path, and even if I’m eternally doomed and crushed to death, I won’t hesitate. I’m going to avenge Aunt Lan, I’m going to kill Wei De, I’m going to take charge of the Eastern Depot, and I’m going to be the seal-holding eunuch of the Directorate of Rites. If you aren’t willing to see me like this, then go.”

After Shen Jue said this, he smoothed the wrinkles on the summer clothes and stepped out of the winding corridor without even looking back. The blue dome of the sky was vast, unmeasured and boundless, and he walked under it all by himself with only his shadow, appearing a little isolated.

Xiahou Lian looked at the view of his back and had no words for a long time.

After that, Shen Jue and Xiahou Lian didn’t speak for several days. Shen Jue did things quietly, no matter what Xiahou Lian thought or how he saw. Xiahou Lian also wasn’t idle, and he hadn’t seen signs of him these few days and didn’t know what he was busy with. The two of them met each other at night, and as usual, extinguished the lights and slept, not saying anything.

Today, Shen Jue was setting out dishes for Consort Gao. The imperial kitchen had changed supervisors, so their food and drinks had returned to normal, and Consort Gao joyfully rolled around on the ground. These few days, she was obsessed with rouge and powder again, and she had smeared her face into what seemed like a monkey’s behind. The white powder was also too thick, and when she spoke, it would float down. Nowadays, the extent of her madness could be called the acme of perfection. She was practically disliked by people and hated by dogs, and even the two other crazy noble consorts disdained to be associated with her, deeply afraid that they would fall from their own level of crazy. Only Shen Jue could talk to her calmly and gently.

After he finished arranging the dishes, he turned around and saw Xiahou Lian standing outside the threshold, looking at him.

“What do you want?” Shen Jue’s voice was cold.

Xiahou Lian pulled out a three-foot wooden saber from behind his back and held it flatly in his hands.

Shen Jue looked at the saber in confusion and thought irrelevantly, Could it be that Xiahou Lian thinks that I’m going to be a scourge in the future and that I have to be strangled in the cradle, so he wants to use this saber to stab me to death?

“I’m afraid you’re going to get yourself killed, so I’ll teach you a few effective moves. When the time comes, if you stumble and are sent to prison, you might be able to escape using unmatched saber skills.” Xiahou Lian pretended to sigh deeply. “Afterward, when you come to me for shelter, if you have skill, it would be easier for me to arrange a job for you.”

After saying this, Xiahou Lian held the saber in both hands, sliced out a neat arc, and lifted the point of the saber toward Shen Jue.

Shen Jue let out a short, cold laugh.

“What, you look down upon my skill?” Xiahou Lian raised a brow. 

Shen Jue strided past the threshold and passed by next to Xiahou Lian. He smoothly took the wooden saber from his hands and said, “Tonight at nine, I’ll see you by the palace wall.”

 

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Translator Notes:

  1. A circular opening in a garden wall.
  2. The official school for music, dance, and theater in China between the Tang and Ming Dynasty.
  3. Lit. Beautiful Forest Garden. One of the two imperial gardens on the west side of the capital.
  4. Lit. Lotus Pond.
  5. A common form of Chinese architecture in which the corridor goes around along the sides of the courtyard.
  6. Specifically beizi, an item worn in traditional Chinese attire and is typically a large and loose outer coat with long and loose sleeves.
  7. One of ten members of the Imperial Medical Bureau.
  8. Lit. Loyal Obedience Gate.
  9. Lit. Clear Jade Pond.
  10. A renowned colored glaze factory in a district that is now named after it. It made glazed tiles for the palaces, temples, and residences of officials.
  11. Places initially used to house exotic animals such as tigers and leopards for the emperor’s amusement, and later used to house beautiful women for his personal enjoyment.
  12. One of the twenty-four yamens.
  13. Lit. Palace of Accumulated Purity.
  14. Lit. Palace of Eternal Harmony.
  15. A derogatory term for people who have good appearances but aren’t smart or can’t do anything.
  16. Lit. Ancestral Sacrifice Hall.
Exiledrebelsscanlations

exiledrebelsscanlations

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Dio85
May 10, 2022 5:03 pm

Just so sad that SJ needs to go through this experience. I’m glad that XL is there, even if he can’t stop SJ from the path he is heading towards to. That sentence where XL stated that he is not meant to have stained hands was beautiful, it was so sincere! Loving this novel and looking forward to the next chapter ❤️❤️

LicoLico
May 11, 2022 8:21 am

Thank You for the new chapter ♡〜٩( ╹▿╹ )۶〜♡ 

Springek
May 12, 2022 5:53 pm

Thanks for the chapter! Waiting for the updates on this story is the best kind of torment!

Loneplum
May 12, 2022 9:30 pm

“Why do you kill?”
“In order to live”

😭

WangXian31
May 13, 2022 2:23 am

Shen Jue might be hiding stuff from Xiahou Lian, to keep him by his side, but at least he’s not using him and is willing to do his own dirty work; that says a lot.
Xiahou Lian, at the same time, still sees Shen Jue as Xie Jinglan. They have never been like other Master and Servant equivalents, so SJ’s words, though said in anger, must have hurt XL.
His own feelings were quite poignant.
Thanks for translating and editing.

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