Translated by Vivian of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
The roof of the cell was broken, and the residual water on the eaves tiles flowed in along the gaps and dripped onto the ground, soaking an area of the ground. There was a window high in the wall, with bars made out of iron, and every bar was as thick as Xiahou Lian’s wrist. Dim light shone in from there, making it so that it wasn’t to the point where Xiahou Lian stretched out his hand and couldn’t see his fingers. There were stone walls on all four sides, and there was a short door in the corner. The walls were very thick, and besides the sounds of the wind that came in from the skylight, there was no sound, as if he was the only one in the entire prison. Sometimes, he seemed to faintly hear clatter of chains dragging on the ground from other cells, but they were soon gone again, as if they were illusions.
The night was already deep, and the darkness enveloped his entire body. Only a bit of light penetrated in through the skylight, and he curled up under that beam of light, looking at the fluttering dust in the light that was like countless bugs spinning around mindlessly.
He couldn’t remember the time. Five days seemed to have passed, but it also seemed that seven days had passed. When he woke up, the wounds on his body had already been bandaged. They were very sloppy, and it was clear that the person who had bandaged them only didn’t want him to bleed to death. The side of his head hurt a lot, so he tentatively touched it. Actually, he didn’t need to look to know that his nose must be bruised and his face swollen now, too horrible to look at.
He thought that he wouldn’t ever have the opportunity to take revenge, as Liu Guizang must be preparing a beheading assembly. He had been able to live until now because the faraway righteous martial arts circles needed time to rush to Liuzhou. In the end, the saber he had practiced for four years and the leading silk puppet technique he had intensively studied for four years hadn’t been able to defeat Liu Guizang. He had even been reduced to Liu Guizang’s stepping stone, helping him to once again ascend to the top throne of the martial arts world.
Joke, he really was a joke.
The sounds of firecrackers suddenly sounded outside, and fireworks exploded in the horizon like thunder. Xiahou Lian lifted his head and saw colorful fireworks rise in the slightly purple curtain of night in that direction. He had almost forgotten that today was the Ghost Festival.
He thought of his mother. One time on the Ghost Festival, Xiahou Pei had taken him to climb the Great Bao’en Temple’s 1 high tower in Suzhou. That tower had nine floors, and the topmost layer could overlook the entire Suzhou City. Gazing down from the top, there were rows upon rows of cyan-black tiles and white walls, like small checkerboards, and people and carriages were like ants as they walked around. Brilliant lights connected into an expanse, and the entire city’s starry night seemed to be burning. He had happily shouted and yelled, clinging to the railing and saying that he wanted to fly. Xiahou Pei had picked him up. This woman was scarily strong, and she had effortlessly picked up five-year-old Xiahou Lian with one hand and suspended him outside the railing. Xiahou Lian had been frightened out of his wits and had immediately started to cry loudly. Xiahou Pei hastily brought him back and said with a headache, “Don’t you want to fly? I let you fly, so why are you crying?”
Xiahou Pei was just like that; besides killing people and setting fires, she wasn’t reliable for doing anything. Xiahou Lian had lived until now, but he hadn’t ever seen a mother like her. But it was this mother that had let him sit on her shoulders in a sea of people to watch young women singing opera on stage, held him inside boats with dark awnings to listen to monks strike bells in Hanshan Temple 2, and taken him to go to temple fairs, all the way until the last peddler packed up their stall.
Before, someone had told him that there were a lot of doors in the world, and that there was a room behind each door and a family in every room. At the time, he was still young and not sensible. He saw that other people had both parents, and some even had more than one mother, but only he had just one mother who was better than nothing. He had lost his temper about this to Xiahou Pei and ran all over Garan Village, house to house, asking who his father was and where he lived. No one knew, or no one dared to say. He hadn’t received an answer, and he had later settled the matter by leaving it unsettled. Only now did he understand that this room actually only had him and his mother, and that it was a home.
But it was too late; his home was already gone.
A strong sourness surged up in his nose, and tears overflowed in his eyes. He covered his eyes, and tears flowed out from between the gaps of his fingers. He had sworn that he wouldn’t cry again. He was twenty-one years old, so he originally shouldn’t have cried again, but every time he recalled the past, he couldn’t hold it back no matter how he tried.
Time elapsed, bit by bit, and the sounds of firecrackers outside gradually became smaller and disappeared, the world returning to silence. The sky brightened, bit by bit, and he heard distant rooster crows. Daylight spilled in from outside the window, white and dazzling. It was split into grids by the window lattices, covering the ground.
The lock on the short door was being opened by someone, and he could hear the sounds of the key being poked into the keyhole.
He knew that he was about to be put onto the Evil-Punishing Scaffold, and that Liu Guizang would cut his head off in front of people all over the world. His blood would spray onto the scaffold, mixing together with the large amount of blood that had soaked under the soil. He was going to die, and his ghost would step into the netherworld. He wondered in a daze, Will I see my mother again?
He suddenly understood why people would believe in something like the underworld. It turned out that all desires about reincarnation and hell converged with the ardent wish of reuniting with loved ones after death.
Garan’s southwest courier house.
In the drawing room, the atmosphere was noisy and turbid, crowded with sitting people. Some were merchants smuggling salt southwest, some were murderers wanted by the government, and some were prostitutes who couldn’t keep making transactions in the Central Plains and had changed to solicit customers in the Southwest. Flies flew randomly in the air, wandering hesitantly on the tables that were covered with oil stains from time to time and reaching their dirty legs into the beef in plates, though they were soon driven away. On most of the hands that drove them away, the part between their thumb and index finger and their palms were covered with callouses; they were hands that held a saber all year round.
“Everyone!” A round-faced man suddenly jumped onto a big table in the middle of the drawing room, and he roared at the top of his voice, “Everyone, be quiet! I’m Tang Shiqi. Everyone, please listen to me for a bit.”
No one paid any attention to him. Those who ate ate, and those who chatted chatted.
Tang Shiqi stomped his foot. “Whoever fucking listens to me talk, I’ll give them a tael of silver!”
The courier house immediately quieted down, and everyone looked at him eagerly.
Tang Shiqi waved his hand, and Shu Qing and workers of the courier house brought in a big box, starting to give out money from table to table. When Tang Shiqi saw this, his heart throbbed in pain, but he couldn’t care about it.
Forget it, it was Xiahou Lian’s silver anyway, so what was he distressed for!
“Does everyone know about the beheading on the Evil-Punishing Scaffold in two days?” Tang Shiqi looked around and shouted loudly.
“Of course we know!” Someone responded, “It’s spread all over the martial arts world. That old cuckold Liu Guizang posted notices everywhere saying that he caught the Garuda’s son, the Nameless Ghost, and that he’ll behead him two days later on the Evil-Punishing Scaffold in the outskirts of Liuzhou!”
“Since everyone knows, how can you still drink wine and eat meat at ease here!” Tang Shiqi made an appearance of righteous indignation.
“What does him beheading the Nameless Ghost have to do with us! Garan itself won’t save him, are they counting on us?” Someone laughed in ridicule. “Ah, Garan assassins are really pitiful. I heard that Garan has rules, don’t save those who are certain to die, don’t save those who have been captured, and don’t save traitors. The Nameless Ghost can only obediently wait for death!”
“You all are confused!” Tang Shiqi stomped his foot, his heart and head hurt, and his spittle flew as he spoke. “Since the establishment of the Evil-Punishing Scaffold, how many of us righteous people in the underworld have been beheaded! Last month, Heart-Digging Old Monster Yang was beheaded, and he was one of our underworld’s best martial artists. Since his debut, he’s dug out one hundred twenty-eight human hearts, and he made the colors of the faces of righteous people change upon hearing him! The month before last, Left-Handed Saber Second Master Liu was beheaded. He once single-handedly challenged seventy-two righteous people and his right hand was cut off, so he practiced the saber with his left hand and still became prosperous. What a hero! Not to mention Eldest Son Gao, Saber in Wind, and Lone Mountain Guest! They were all first-class heroes, yet they died on the Evil-Punishing Scaffold!”
Everyone was silent upon hearing this. Tang Shiqi drank some water and continued, “Don’t you all know what idea Liu Guizang is coming up with in his heart? He’ll kill us underworld masters one by one, unify and righteously command the martial arts world, and he’ll be able to ruthlessly hunt us all down! When the time comes, do you think that you’ll still be able to sit here and drink wine and eat meat at ease, playing with women and listening to songs!”
Everyone looked at each other and didn’t say anything. Someone mumbled, “But the Nameless Ghost killed more than…” Before he finished speaking, someone immediately covered his mouth and quietly dragged him down.
Tang Shiqi beat his chest and said in grief and indignation, “Everyone, since the establishment of the Evil-Punishing Scaffold, we, the underworld, are even inferior to a rat crossing the street! Let me ask, how many bad things has that old cuckold Liu Guizang done to us, and is everyone just going to close their eyes and pretend they can’t see them? Lao Li, say it, what did Liu Guizang do to you?” He pointed his finger. A man with a wide face was called on, and he frantically stood up.
“Liu… Liu Guizang, he…” The man stammered and looked bitterly at Tang Shiqi.
Tang Shiqi glared at him and squatted down beside him, warning him in a low voice, “Son of a bitch, you took three taels of my silver, so if you don’t say shit, I’ll make you pay me back with three hundred taels!”
The man shivered and blurted out, “Liu Guizang raped my mother!”
Everyone was shocked, and Tang Shiqi was also stunned. There was much discussion everywhere, and someone asked, “May I ask how old your mother is?”
The man’s lips trembled, and he stammered for a long time but didn’t answer.
However, they suddenly heard an angry roar. Shu Qing lifted up a teapot and threw it to the ground, where it cracked into pieces. He roared with crimson eyes, “This bastard Liu Guizang doesn’t even let an old lady go!”
Tang Shiqi reacted and also shouted, “This brute!”
“Yeah, that bastard even caught my little brother a few days ago. My little brother is only sixteen years old, and he only stole some kingfisher feather 3 hairpins from a jewelry shop, but he was beaten to death on the spot by Jingdao Mountain Village’s people!” someone cried.
“And my brother!” Someone followed and said, “My father was beaten to death by people from a neighboring village so my brother went to get revenge, but he was caught by Jingdao Mountain Village’s people. They have people that came from the neighboring village, and they put my brother into a private prison and haven’t let him out yet. Our family sells smuggled salt, so we can’t go to the government and seek justice. What can I do!”
Everyone was infected, and they followed in cursing, “Bastard Liu Guizang! Brute Liu Guizang!” The cursing gradually joined together and rose one after another like tidewater, and everyone’s eyes were red.
Tang Shiqi took the opportunity to pull his saber out of its scabbard and raised it high above his head, shouting loudly, “In that case, why don’t we we take advantage of the beheading of the Nameless Ghost in two days, kill Liu Guizang, and save the Nameless Ghost! Raise the might of our underworld and shake the prestige of our underworld!”
“Kill Liu Guizang and save the Nameless Ghost!”
“Raise the might of our underworld and shake the prestige of our underworld!”
Blood boiled in Garan’s courier house. Smugglers, murderers, robbers, thieves, swindlers, and even prostitutes stood up, pulling their sabers out and raising it above their heads. The blades were like snowflakes as they reflected the sunlight, and the unison war cry was deafening. Tang Shiqi looked at Shu Qing in excitement, and the latter’s eyes were bright in the crowd as he nodded to Tang Shiqi.
Two days later soon arrived, and Xiahou Lian was in a topless carriage. Liu Guizang had ordered him to be paraded through the public and then taken to the Evil-Punishing Scaffold in the outskirts. The two sides of the streets were densely packed and surrounded by people. People had taken their families along, and three generations from families came out to watch Xiahou Lian’s parade. The crowd was like mountains and seas, filling the streets, and the windows on the second floor of shops on both sides were also opened, layers upon layers of people’s heads poking out from inside. The topless carriage started moving, and Xiahou Lian leaned on the carriage railing, looking through the gaps of his messy hair at the unfamiliar cheeks by the carriage. Some of the expressions in their eyes were curious, some were excited, and some were scared. Even more were scornful, disdainful, and hating.
Xiahou Lian looked around the crowd and couldn’t help but wonder whether Tang Shiqi would be in it and whether Shu Qing would be in it. He knew that he had already been abandoned by Garan; he had fallen into enemy hands, so no one from Garan would come to save him. Chi Yan had gone to the Oirats, Qiu-shifu was far away in the North, and Uncle Duan was in the Western Regions. Perhaps the abbot would receive the news, but he definitely wouldn’t send people. Even if Shu Qing and Tang Shiqi wanted to come, they would be stopped.
But he didn’t feel sorrow in his heart, as Garan wasn’t his home. His home was already gone. He didn’t belong to Garan, and he had always been alone.
He had been alone to take revenge, and he would die alone.
His prison carriage passed through the huge crowds of people, going straight to the outskirts of Liuzhou. Stands and the execution ground had already been set up in the outskirts. Disciples of various sects crowded outside the fence, and there were hundreds of people. This beheading was regarded as a martial arts event, and in order to accommodate more people, Liu Guizang had specially moved the Evil-Punishing Scaffold to the outskirts. Liu Guizang stood on the high platform, and five heads of various sects sat by him, looking down together at Xiahou Lian.
Xiahou Lian was pushed by two disciples onto the beheading scaffold. He lifted his eyes, gazing coldly at Liu Guizang on the high platform.
Liu Guizang frowned and sneered disdainfully.
Xiahou Lian’s shoulders were pressed down. The disciples wanted him to kneel down, but Xiahou Lian firmly kept himself up, not kneeling. The back of his knee was kicked, and Xiahou Lian finally couldn’t hold on and knelt down, but he still used all of his strength to lift his head up, looking coldly at Liu Guizang.
“Sure enough, he’s an assassin. Look at his eyes, he looks so much like an arrogant and unyielding lone wolf, vicious and bloodthirsty,” praised the sect leader of Raging Tide Sect of East Sea.
Liu Guizang knitted his brows and said, “He’s the same as his mother, disgusting.”
The Evil-Punishing Scaffold boiled like the sea. All of the disciples’ faces were overflowing with joy, and Xiahou Lian heard someone shout loudly that he was a “villain,” and someone else shouted that after his head was cut off, they would use his head as a ball to kick.
Xiahou Lian was impassive, as he already wasn’t afraid of death since long ago. For those who were in the business of making transactions of human lives, the more afraid of death they were, the easier it was to die. He thought that he was indeed a villain; his hands were covered in blood and his crimes were inexpiable. Qiu-shifu had said, If you create a karma of killing, you will be killed in retribution. This was the retribution he deserved, and he had understood it long ago, so he wasn’t afraid of death.
He only hated his own incompetence. Why was he so useless? If he had Shen Jue’s resourcefulness or Chi Yan’s saber skills, how could Liu Guizang be standing there proudly! His mother’s tattered skeleton once again emerged in his mind, and he gritted his teeth in pain.
It was a quarter past noon and the sun hung high in the sky, the warm sunlight shining so that people couldn’t open their eyes. The saber hung above Xiahou Lian’s head. Xiahou Lian looked at his own shadow and forcibly clenched his fists.
He was going to die, he was going to die. His revenge wouldn’t ever be taken, and he would die alone and humiliated. Xiahou Lian’s head hurt in bursts and flames of fury burned in his heart, licking his burning hot nerves. If they gave him a saber, gave him a saber! Xiahou Lian stared viciously at Liu Guizang on the high platform. He could definitely kill that bastard!
Suddenly, a sharp arrow flew out obliquely with a sharp whistle, piercing between the eyebrows of the disciple holding the saber as if it carried wind and thunder, and his scream didn’t even have time to leave his mouth. Xiahou Lian heard a thump behind him as the disciple fell down behind him. He was stunned and turned his head to look. On a hillside, Tang Shiqi was carrying Hengbo on his back and holding a long saber in each hand, leading a group of people to rush down together with Shu Qing.
They roared at the same time, rushing into the crowd of righteous people. Disciples of various sects were swiftly rushed into a disarray, and they all turned around, drawing their sabers. Even more disciples swarmed over, cutting off the path between Tang Shiqi and Xiahou Lian.
“Village Leader Liu!” The sect leader of Gentleman’s Saber stood up.
Liu Guizang lifted his hand and shook his head. “They’re just a disorderly group. Let’s see how the soldiers of Jingdao Mountain Village deal with them!”
Ecstasy flashed past Xiahou Lian’s heart. A disciple rushed up to press him down, but he bit the disciple’s hand, dragging him onto the ground. He locked his throat with his legs and with a forceful twist, there was a crack, and the disciple’s neck drooped down weakly. Xiahou Lian turned around and roared at Tang Shiqi and Shu Qing. “Shiqi! Shidi 4!”
Tang Shiqi brandished the double sabers like a ferocious beast, plunging headfirst into the crowd. Shu Qing followed closely, and between the two of them, one person opened a path and one person brought up the rear, back-to-back as they cut widely in circles. Tang Shiqi’s dual-wielded sabers continuously glinted in flesh and blood, taking out burning hot blood and shredded pieces of flesh. From afar, they looked like a moving vortex, and all of the righteous disciples that got close to them were pulverized.
He had been cowardly for his entire life, relying on women to eat and not daring to avenge his sixth uncle. This was his first time doing something so big. He was going to save Xiahou Lian, that fool who could destroy himself to avenge his mother!
“Boss! You’re so awesome! Don’t die in front of a good-for-nothing like me!” Tang Shiqi roared loudly. He pulled out Hengbo from behind his back and struggled to throw it out toward Xiahou Lian.
Xiahou Lian leapt into the air and caught Hengbo, plunging into the dense crowd like an owl and joining Tang Shiqi.
The three of them were back to back as they faced the crowd. The corners of Xiahou Lian’s mouth hooked up into a ferocious arc. “Thanks, brother!”
“Remember to give me more money!” Tang Shiqi laughed.
The crowd surged up, one after another, and the three of them chopped continuously. Severed limbs flew in the air, and blood sprayed like rain. Xiahou Lian’s bloodstream swelled, and his chest heaved fiercely, every breath delivering a large amount of air. He heard the sounds of flesh, blood, and bones tearing, the screams of the righteous disciples, and the howling of the wind in his ears.
Swallow Slant followed by Moon-Cutting, after Moon-Cutting was single-saber circular chops, and after the circular chops was a horizontal cut. No one could withstand Xiahou Lian’s offensive, and he soon brought out a path of blood that was like a scar dripping with blood, spanning across the crowd.
The various sect leaders observed unhurriedly from the high platform, and the sect leader of Raging Tide Sect of East Sea twirled his beard as he sighed. “What terrifying saber skills! Even if it were me, I’m afraid I would also have no way of withstanding such a ferocious saber.”
The sect leader of Gentleman’s Saber said in a low voice, “That is Hengbo. In the Garuda’s hands, it drank all blood, it’s already learned to drink blood itself.”
Liu Guizang scoffed. “So what, no matter how strong someone is, they can’t withstand thousands of troops.”
Xiahou Lian and the others were still fighting!
There were more and more enemies, yet there were less and less people of the underworld. Lao Li, who had said before that his mother had been raped by Liu Guizang, screamed and was submerged in the crowd. His body was soon stepped on by countless feet, and his brains were dashed out. Tang Shiqi looked at his head that had been flattened and gritted his teeth, continuing to kill. However, the more he used his strength, the smaller it became, and he soon practically couldn’t keep up with Xiahou Lian’s pace. Shu Qing was also panting, and he didn’t fall behind only because Tang Shiqi was pulling him.
“Boss! We don’t have any more people!”
Xiahou Lian held Hengbo tightly. The three of them and the remaining underworld brothers were heavily surrounded by righteous disciples, and there was already no path to go on.
“Boss, I really didn’t fucking think that I would actually die together with you!” Tang Shiqi threw away the saber in his left hand and changed to holding a saber in both hands, smiling in exhaustion. His face was covered in blood, and one practically couldn’t see his original likable round face. “I still fucking wanted to die on the bed of a beautiful woman!”
“Shiqi!” Xiahou Lian roared, “Don’t give up! You came to save me, so I’ll definitely send you out! And you, Shu Qing, stand up!”
Shu Qing held his saber. “Shige! If you can get out, remember to help me take care of Liu Shao’er! And Shifu, I’ll entrust all of it to you!”
“Fuck you, take care of your people yourself!” roared Xiahou Lian, like a wolf in a desperate position, brandishing Hengbo and once again cutting off the crowd of people who rushed up.
His entire body was bathed in blood and his eyes were crimson, as vicious as a ghost’s. The disciples pointed the tips of their sabers at Xiahou Lian, but they actually didn’t dare to step forward.
Liu Guizang roared from the high platform, “Charge for me! Kill him!”
The disciples looked at each other, mustered up their courage, and raised their sabers once again.
But at this moment, rumbling horse hooves sounded from afar, like deep and majestic military drums being hit with all of one’s strength. The five sect leaders stood up and looked blankly at the distance.
It was a long line of troops. Everyone was dressed in black, wearing plain white masks, and holding long sabers in their hands, galloping out of the dense forest like black tidewater. The eyes of their horses were covered, and their iron hooves splashed up fluttering dust when they stepped on the ground. They were different from the disorderly group Tang Shiqi had led; they were well-trained and the ranks were in neat formation, cutting straight into the battlefield like a black arrow. Wherever they went, long sabers were stained with blood and people were plunged into the horses’ hooves, crushed into mud.
“Garan assassins… So many, so many Garan assassins!” muttered the sect leader of Heaven’s First Saber.
“They have three hundred people,” the sect leader of Gentleman’s Saber said in terror.
“No! They have five hundred people!” said the sect leader of Heaven’s First Saber.
Some people said that one Garan assassin was an army. Then, five hundred Garan assassins were no different from thousands of troops!
They saw the righteous disciples being swiftly collapsed by the Garan assassins like a mess of silt. Countless people’s necks were broken by sabers and blood sprayed like a spring. Five hundred Garan assassins were like evil Asura spirits emerging out of thin air, reaping lives in the killing field.
The cloak of the person leading them was covered in dust, and he rode the horse encountering little resistance, running straight to Xiahou Lian.
He reached out his pale right hand to Xiahou Lian. The hand had distinct joints and delicate and round fingernails, and the gaps between his fingers were clean.
“Xiahou Lian, don’t you want to take revenge? I’ll take you!”
He rode on the horse against the backlight, so Xiahou Lian could only see his lean and tall silhouette. He suddenly had a strange feeling in his heart. It was an unfounded trust, as if they had already known each other in a past life and this very moment was their reunion across time and space after being apart for a long time. Xiahou Lian put his hand in his palm. His hand was a little icy, yet it had an inexplicable warmth.
Xiahou Lian was pulled onto the horse by him, his left hand holding his waist.
“Sit tight,” he said in a low voice. “Let’s… take revenge!”
Shen Jueeeeee ahhhhhh
I was so sad with Xia Houliams acceptance of his death T^T
Thank you so much for the chapter!!!
The wait for the next chapter is going to kill me!
Thanks to the translator and editor for the chapter!
I like this novel very much. It becomes the most favorite for me so far. Thank you for the chapter.
Thank You for the new chapter ♡ฅ(ᐤˊ꒳ฅˋᐤ)
Thanks for translating and editing.
Ahhhhhh what a chapter. I knew my boy wasn’t going to die at the execution but I was shouting for him in my head. And then I actually yelled out loud in joy at their reunion. XHL’s thoughts at that moment, he couldn’t be more right.
YES! Kill them all!! Thanks for the chapter
YES!!!!! It’s Shen Jue!!!!
Thank you for the chapter!
SJ!!! Is it you!!! Oh my gosh! Epic!! Was so excited that LXL’s comrades came to help him although no other Garans would! Looking forward to next chapter!!
The best is about to come! Love this novel.
Exciting chapter thank you for your hard work
Idk what it says about me, but this is, imo, one of the most romantic things i’ve ever read. like rescuing your beloved assassin on the brink of death with troops wearing cool attire, and then helping him w his revenge? sigh. I’m so hyped!