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Translated by Vivian of Exiled Rebels Scanlations

Editor: KarateChopMonkey

 

The dense forest whirled, wind blew past, and waves rolled straight to the horizon. This forest was very old, and the tree trunks in it were as thick as a bucket, needing two or three big men holding one together to hug it completely. Leaves were stacked on branches and branches were stacked on leaves, fitting together tightly, and only occasionally did a tiny bit of sunshine filter down.

Xiahou Lian jumped around in the forest, and even monkeys didn’t seem to be as smooth in their movements as him. He knew very well in his heart which branch he should land on in the next step and which overhanging branch and leaf his hands should hang onto next were, and he wouldn’t fall even if he had closed his eyes.

Soon, he came to a cemetery.

The cemetery was very big, and there were hundreds of tombstones and hundreds of old sabers. They were densely packed in the forest. Some had their backs to big trees, and the tops of them were covered by bird droppings and fallen leaves; some tombstones had already broken into two halves, rotten fruits scattered sparsely next to them; and although some were well-preserved, no one cared.

It was a saber graveyard.

Past Garan assassins whose bones could be found were buried here, and the number of people they had killed in their life, who they had killed, and for whom they had killed were engraved on their tombstone. Their sabers were inserted into the ground beside the grave. When they had been alive, the sabers had killed for them, and when they died, the sabers also followed next to their masters, exposed to the wind and sun. The majority of the sabers were already so rusty they were shapeless, and it seemed that one light motion was enough to break them apart.

When he was younger, he had been very scared of coming to this place. The people buried here were all fiends and shocking villains, and every saber had fully tasted blood. He had always felt that quite a few ferocious ghosts with heavy killing intent were definitely floating here, or there were wronged souls who had floated here from outside to demand repayment. In short, it wasn’t a good place.

Later, he had realized that this was only a dilapidated cemetery.

Most Garan assassins didn’t have fathers, mothers, sons, or daughters, and they didn’t even have people who came to worship them and sweep their graves. The entire cemetery had never been repaired or swept, and was even worse than wild graves by the sides of roads.

Xiahou Lian jumped down from a tree and properly kowtowed three times outside the saber graveyard.

“Cousins and brothers, heroes and brave men, seniors and old friends, I am Xiahou Lian under the twelfth generation of abbots, Buddha Shi Xin. At present, I’m about to set off soon to go to Huizhou Prefecture to assassinate an old general. I don’t have a weapon at hand, so I can only come here to borrow a saber. As the saying goes, meeting in the martial arts world makes people brothers, not to mention we’re all Garan’s people. I hope everyone can excuse me and won’t take offense! I’ll definitely treat your saber well. I’ll wipe it in the mornings and nights, and at night, I’ll offer it fine dishes. Sorry, sorry!”

After worshiping, Xiahou Lian stood up and walked a circle around the outer ring of the cemetery. He didn’t need to look inside, as he didn’t know how many years ago the sabers were from. If it broke on him with a crack while he was fighting the enemy, then it really was game over.

The outermost ring had a new grave, and the saber next to the grave had a single groove, a straight blade, an ebony hilt, and a reserved light. The name of the grave’s owner was Tang Lan, and he had died in the first month of last year. He hadn’t been assassinated, he had died after being surrounded and killed by his enemies. Xiahou Lian had seen him a few times before during the New Year, and his impression of him was that he had been a serious and unsmiling man. There had been a rumor that he was a traitor of the Tang sect, and had joined Garan after being saved by the abbot.

In a glance, Xiahou Lian settled on this saber. First, he kowtowed three times in front of this grave and then said, “Senior Tang Lan, if I may be so bold as to borrow your saber and use it. In the future, I’ll definitely sweep your tomb and offer you sacrifices. Right, this is a packet of incense paper I brought. Don’t treat yourself badly under there, buy a few maids and whatnot. If you want to eat something, appear in my dream or something and make a request, and I’ll definitely burn it for you.”

After burning the incense paper, Xiahou Lian wiped his hands on his body and stood up to pull the saber out. This shabby saber had a little weight, and it was inserted quite deeply. Xiahou Lian cautiously lifted the saber up. Suddenly, somehow, he actually accidentally moved the hilt. A cold needle as thin as an ox hair shot out of the end of the hilt, brushing past Xiahou Lian’s nose and shooting into the branches above him.

Xiahou Lian was greatly startled, and he hastily let go, falling in front of Tang Lan’s grave. The two characters “Qianji 1” on the blade came into view.

“Senior, it can’t be helped if you don’t want to lend me your saber, but there’s no need to take my life, right? However, I really do have a stubborn temperament. If you won’t give it to me, I must have it!” Xiahou Lian jumped up and rubbed his hands, forcibly twisting the hilt until all of the silver needles inside it had been shot out. Only then did he pull the saber out, put it into the cowhide bag he had brought, carried it on his back, and returned using his original path.

The mountain was very big, and it reached high into the blue dome of the sky. Garan Village was at the foot of the mountain. Farmers and children who were learning the saber lived in it, and sometimes, assassins would go down the mountain and replenish their supplies there. Going along Yangchang 2 Mountain Path, one would reach the mountainside, which was Garan Mountain Temple, and the assassins’ huts were scattered sparsely around the mountain temple. Looking down from the mountain at night, they were like stars scattered on the horizon in the vast, dark night, and under every lamp, there was an assassin holding a saber. However, most of the time, there was no one on the mountainside besides the abbot and Xiahou Lian. It was as if the entire mountain temple had been silenced, not a single fire to be seen. Xiahou Lian drifted in the empty mountain like a wandering crow, searching for a place with a wide field of vision so he could look at the stars all over the sky. When he got tired from looking, he slept, and when he woke up, it was daytime again.

Now, the mountain temple was lying quietly in the dusk, and its dark and heavy old tiles had been tinted with a layer of gold. It was the middle of the year, so most assassins were rushing about outside, and some might have already died in some nook. The mountain temple was alone and surrounded by ancient trees, like a clumsy old man who couldn’t speak. Half of the building was already dilapidating, revealing its crude ebony skeleton, and one could faintly see the traces of burns on it.

It had been burned by him. When he was younger, he had set off firecrackers, and the firecrackers had leapt to the haystacks in front of the mountain temple. The abbot had happened not to be there, as he had gone down the mountain to beg for alms. When he had come back, half of the temple had already turned into ashes. Xiahou Lian had been suspended under the mountain gate and blown by the wind for a night, and since then, he had never dared to touch firecrackers again.

He hunted a pheasant on the way, climbed the mountain path, passed the mountain gate of the mountain temple, went around a stretch of thorn bushes, and ran toward his own home. His home was a bamboo house built out of bamboo. It didn’t have a place to entertain guests, and the main room had been separated into two halves, one half each for Xiahou Pei and Xiahou Lian. The only wing room was used to pile miscellaneous items, and the kitchen was under the shed.

Xiahou Pei still hadn’t gotten out of bed, so Xiahou Lian plucked the pheasant of its feathers, washed it clean, and put it into the pot. He and this pot were old acquaintances. From the age of eight, he had mastered standing on the stool and maintaining a precarious balance, as well as the knack of holding a large spoon of stir-fry in his hands and being able to not fall down headfirst and getting cooked by the big pot.

He had been raised by Xiahou Pei like a cat or a dog, and it really hadn’t been easy to safely and smoothly grow up to now. Before the age of eight had been his happiest time. At that time, Xiahou Pei had felt worried about him staying on the mountain by himself, so she would bring him every time she went down the mountain. When Xiahou Pei had gone to assassinate, he would be left in the care of the manager of an inn or restaurant. After he woke up from a sound sleep, Xiahou Pei would be back, and she would often bring him roasted sweet potatoes. The two of them, one big and one small, would squat beside a threshold and nibble on potatoes. Xiahou Lian’s mouth was tender and the sweet potatoes were hot, so he would often have to blow on them for a while before daring to eat. However, Xiahou Pei wasn’t scared of getting burnt, so she would trick him and say that she was going to help him blow on it. The result was that she opened her mouth, and half of the sweet potato would be gone. Xiahou Lian would cry very loudly, and Xiahou Pei would fall over laughing. As if performing a magic trick, she would pull out a sweet potato from behind her back and hand it to Xiahou Lian.

This wasn’t the only bad thing Xiahou Pei had done before. She seemed to frighten Xiahou Lian for fun. Since childhood, he had been told that if children drank tea, they would turn black, and if they drank wine, they would turn stupid. If they didn’t wash away the soap bubbles on their body when they bathed, they would grow sores, and if their teeth fell and didn’t grow back in time, all of the teeth in their mouth would fall out. Just like this, Xiahou Lian had grown up to now, filled with fear, and he would even often have nightmares that all of his teeth had fallen out.

These were all past events. After he had turned eight years old, Xiahou Pei hadn’t taken Xiahou Lian down the mountain again.

The aroma of mountain pheasant got Xiahou Pei up. She hadn’t tied up her hair, so her shiny black long hair was let down behind her body like splashed ink. She was wearing clogs on her feet as she walked up to the pot, and she reached her big hand out, tearing off a drumstick.

“Your saber skills are no good, but your cooking skills aren’t bad. One of these days, I’ll talk to that old geezer to let you be a cook in the village.”

“Get lost!”

Xiahou Lian stir-fried two more dishes and put out a small jar of wine, and Xiahou Pei ate in content. She was satisfied by the wining and dining, and Xiahou Lian saw that the opportunity was about right. He said tentatively, “Mother, I want to…”

Xiahou Pei didn’t wait for him to finish and waved her hand. “No, stop wanting.”

“I haven’t even said it yet!”

“I know what you’re going to say.” Xiahou Pei picked her teeth as she said, “You want your mother to go with you to get that little young master out, right?”

“You really are worthy of being my mother. Sure enough, we mother and son are of one mind.” Xiahou Lian flatteringly poured wine for her.

“Forget it, you. He doesn’t want to come out at all.”

“That’s him momentarily acting like he’s possessed. Mother, you don’t know, he was born to study. That Dai Shengyan, Mr. Dai, you’ve heard of him, right? He praised him as a ‘beautiful character and good talent’ and that ‘his writing catches up to Han and Liu 3, and his poetry compares to Li and Du 4.’ Isn’t it a pity if he doesn’t study?” These were actually words Dai Shengyan had used to praise this dynasty’s great master, Li Dongyang, but Xiahou Lian planted them on Shen Jue, hoping that Xiahou Pei would agree.

Xiahou Pei was unmoved.

“I’ll find Qiu-shifu to go with me.” Xiahou Lian put down his chopsticks.

“You think Qiu-laodi 5 will agree?” Xiahou Pei made a “hmph.”

Xiahou Lian: “…”

“If you’re capable, go by yourself. What does it count for if you find seniors to help you pave the path?”

Xiahou Lian was silent for a while before he tilted his head and said, “What path have you paved for me? From when I was young to old, you’ve never cared about me. The year I turned eight, if it weren’t for Qiu-shifu taking me back, I would’ve starved to death here already.” When Xiahou Lian was eight years old, Xiahou Pei had left him on the mountain by himself. He hadn’t known how to do anything, so he had sat in his room, crying muddledly, until he was so hungry he couldn’t even make a sound. He had happened to bump into Qiu Ye returning to the mountain, and he had picked him up back to his own courtyard to feed him water and food, so he hadn’t starved to death.

Xiahou Pei perspired out of shame and said, “When I was eight years old, I could get by by myself, so I thought you could also do it. Before I left, I even taught you how to stir-fry and cook, didn’t you do a pretty good job?”

“And my brother.” Xiahou Lian looked down and pinched his fingers. “If the Mahoraga didn’t say it, I wouldn’t even have known that I have a twin brother.”

Xiahou Pei didn’t speak for a long time, and Xiahou Lian looked up and glanced at her. She was holding the wine cup, and he didn’t know what she was thinking about. Xiahou Lian looked down again, curled his lip, and said, “I heard that he’s at the top of Black-Faced Buddha. I’m going to find him.”

There was a huge cliff to the south of Niubizi Mountain 6, and it was as if it had been carved by an ax and chisel. However, it hadn’t been cut into straight precipices, and instead faintly revealed a huge Buddha statue with its hands folded. The rocks and soil on Niubizi Mountain were all black, and the Buddha statue was naturally also black, so the assassins called it Black-Faced Buddha.

Xiahou Lian had only looked at that place from a distance. It wasn’t that he hadn’t had the idea to go up there and play; it was too steep, so he couldn’t go up at all. He didn’t know how his brother and the abbot went up or how they went down.

“Look at your reflection in some water, won’t you be able to see him?” said Xiahou Pei.

This bastard hadn’t even thought about going to find his brother! Xiahou Lian slapped the table and said, “Mother, how can you be like this? Aren’t you afraid that he’ll resent and hate you?”

“Probably not.” Xiahou Pei said, “Shi Xin has already taught and turned him into a fool. Besides using a saber, he doesn’t even know how to talk.”

“…”

Xiahou Pei turned her body to the side. She was still holding the wine in her hand, but she hadn’t drank even one sip. Fine hair blocked her eyes, so Xiahou Lian couldn’t see her expression and could only hear that her voice seemed to have become a lot older in an instant.

“So what if you go to see him? Xiao Lian, sometimes, mistakes are mistakes. Even if you try your best and do everything possible, there’s no way to make up for them.”

“I… I didn’t say you made a mistake, you’re just a little heartless.” Xiahou Lian scratched his head.

“No, giving birth to you two was my mistake.”

Xiahou Lian was stunned.

“Didn’t you say I don’t care about you? Brat.” Xiahou Pei stood up and moved a stack of documents out of the room and threw it into his arms. “I’ll take you along to this transaction.”

“Huh? Really?”

“I’ll guard the gate for you, and you’ll go in by yourself and fight with that general. No matter whether you win or lose, I won’t go in, and I won’t look back. I’ll only do one thing, and that’s to kill the people who want to go in.”

“Then what if I lose, and the person who comes out is him?”

“Simple.” Xiahou Pei hooked up the corner of her lips, her smile icy and arrogant in the wind. “Your mother will die together with you.”

 

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Translator Notes:

  1. Lit. Thousand Mechanisms.
  2. Lit. Sheep intestines.
  3. Famous writers in ancient China, Han Yu and Liu Zongyuan.
  4. Famous poets in ancient China, Li Bai and Du Fu.
  5. Cordial form of address for a man younger than oneself.
  6. Lit. Ox Nose Mountain.
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LicoLico
May 25, 2022 2:56 am

Thank You for the new chapter (๑°꒵°๑)・*♡

Jade
Jade
May 25, 2022 5:01 am

Thanks for the chapter. This novel is excellent and its translation is wonderful. ❤

Dio85
May 25, 2022 11:18 am

I just don’t know how to feel about XL’s mother! Really, I don’t! I’m split! This is a really well written novel, the translation is superb! I’m wishing good luck to XL! What will happen!

WangXian31
May 25, 2022 2:46 pm

I wish he wasn’t so hell bent on being an assassin; I understand his options are non-existent (be an assassin or never leave the mountain), but still. I just don’t feel it’s him.
Thank you for translating and editing this enthralling story.

Loneplum
May 26, 2022 12:20 pm

Did they really screw up his older twin brother??

Words cannot describe his mother – such an amazing character! Love her! ❤️

Nabong_uwu
May 29, 2022 8:50 pm

His mother… *Sigh* Really expresses her care in a unique way

Best novel on ExR (as voted by fans)

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