Volume 2——Roaming in Rainy Nights for Ten Years with Solitary Lights
Chapter 55: Roaming in Rainy Nights
Translated by Vivian of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Night; wind and rain sweeps across the dim sky.
Day had turned its face away, and it was pitch-black all around. Thunder and lightning hurried, wind and rain howled, and the originally brightly lit and noisy streets resulted in the panic of scattered people and disorderly horses. Vendors hurriedly packed up their stalls, and peddlers leaned on their carrying poles as they took shelter from the rain under teahouses, buying a bowl of steaming tea while they were at it. A coachman hastily rushed their carriage, and the carriage wheels ran over a dustpan that was rolling in the center of the street. Passersby used their sleeves to cover their heads as they ran, their entire bodies thoroughly drenched in a little while.
In a small courtyard behind Fuxiang Temple on Jinggong Lane, Shen Jue held hot tea as he sat under the eaves, an oil paper umbrella leaning by his feet. The falling leaves in the yard fluttered as they flew down, and he quietly listened to the crowd rushing about outside, the rain sounding as if it was boiling.
Among the wind and rain, he faintly heard the sounds of horse hooves that rumbled like thunder become louder and louder. That was a group of black-clothed underlings wearing straw raincoats running over in the rain. He let out a low sigh, and his gaze as he looked at the center of the courtyard was as quiet and solitary as the moon.
It had been ten years. Counting from when he had left the cold palace, he and Xiahou Lian had already parted for ten years.
Initially, he had still been able to hear news about Xiahou Lian as the Nameless Ghost who had inherited Hengbo was Garan’s promising youth. He brought his puppet, Zhaoye, and walked in the dark night, killing silently. Later, he had heard that Xiahou Lian had gone back and forth in Suzhou’s and Hangzhou’s brothels, singing loudly without restraint and forgetting himself in the indulgence, singers and prostitutes obtaining glory with his favor. Even later, news had come from the spy in Garan that Xiahou Lian assassinated Shi Xin alone. There was internal disorder in Garan, and Xiahou Lian had gone missing since then, no one hearing from him ever since.
Xiahou Lian was like a drop of morning dew that had evaporated under the sunlight, disappearing without a shadow and without a trace.
A year ago, his subordinates had unexpectedly discovered Hengbo being auctioned in Taizhou’s black market. He had interrogated the auctioneer, and the seller had confessed that Hengbo had been picked up from among a pile of corpses after Japanese pirates had attacked Taizhou. But that also did not prove that Xiahou Lian had ever been to Taizhou. Actually, three fifteenths of the seventh month had already passed since Xiahou Lian had left Garan, so there was no chance of his survival.
At the beginning, Shen Jue had still been holding onto hope, but the more time passed, the more uncertain his hope was, until today. Perhaps it was time for him to face reality. Perhaps that Xiahou Lian, that assassin, had already died on the day he had assassinated Shi Xin, or perhaps he had died on some night when Mid-July had taken effect. His corpse was rotting in dust and had been nibbled on by vultures and bitten by maggots. In the end, Bliss had not been sent into Xiahou Lian’s hands.
From this moment on, besides the next life, there was no possibility of him and Xiahou Lian meeting ever again.
Wind, rain, and falling leaves filled the courtyard, and he looked down at the gurgling water that slipped down from the eaves and leaves that swirled. He reached out and caught a raindrop that fell down from the tiles, making his palm icy. The wind blew past, and it was also icy on his face.
Now, the old emperor was critically ill. Medications had been prescribed in a series, yet there had been no signs of recovery at all. He had finally broken from Wei De, pushing himself into a situation beyond redemption. Half of the court’s civilian and military officials had delighted in his misfortune and looked on unconcerned, and half had added fuel to the flames, wishing he would die sooner.
Xiahou Lian was gone, so he had no hope and could finally put everything aside and do things without restraint. In this battle, regardless of success or failure, life or death would be because of the heavens.
The sounds of horse hooves stopped at the gate, and someone knocked the door with thumps. He didn’t respond, and the door opened itself. Qian Zhengde held an umbrella as he swaggered in, wearing crimson yesa robes embroidered with pythons. Under his hat embroidered with gold thread was his fat and white face, and his eyes were squeezed into slits by the flesh on his cheeks.
After Shen Jue’s fall from power, he had been promoted and had become in charge of the Eastern Depot, becoming an imposing and powerful governor who had a lot of prestige. The saying that every dog has its day made a lot of sense. Shen Jue had been glorious for so many years, better than him in all areas, and now it was finally his turn. He stepped into the courtyard and looked down at Shen Jue from a height. The thin and red corners of his mouth hooked upward slightly, and he smiled. “Eunuch Shen, I hope that you are well.”
Shen Jue also nodded. “Thank you for your concern, Eunuch Qian.”
Shen Jue was sitting in a rosewood round-backed armchair, holding tea in his hands. He was unmoving, talking and smiling freely, as if the person who was down-and-out and had lost power wasn’t him, but someone of little importance by the road. Qian Zhengde looked coldly and sneered inwardly at his feigned airs.
“His Majesty issued a decree, he ordered you to guard the mausoleum in Nanjing, and for you to set off today. In the end, the old ancestor 1 is kindhearted and merciful, and he sympathizes that at least you have followed the grand old man for ten years’ time, so he specially sent me to send you on your journey.” Qian Zhengde bowed and smiled. “Nanjing is a good place, and I heard that there is playing and singing on the water of Qinhuai River every night, a lot more satisfying than the capital. Eunuch Shen, you will have a good life there, so it can be regarded as a good thing.”
“Usually, it is already not bad for eunuchs who go to Nanjing to guard the mausoleum to have an old horse to ride instead of walking. I am a good-for-nothing with no power, yet I humble you to escort me personally, I really am overwhelmed by this unexpected favor.” Shen Jue looked down and stroked the celadon teacup in his hands, and the corners of his mouth tugged. “I am afraid that the one you are sending isn’t Shen Jue, it’s Shen Jue’s corpse. If I haven’t guessed wrong, that assassin who came to assassinate me the day before yesterday is also my godfather’s doing. I, Shen Jue, have no virtue and no ability, yet I have made my godfather so fearful.”
Qian Zhengde lifted his head and laughed loudly. “Shen Jue, ah, Shen Jue, why do you have to lay bare something that you know fully well? Flowers in a mirror and the moon in water, although they’re flickering phantoms, as long as you don’t touch them, they’ll still be pleasing to the eye. I originally wanted to wait for you to set off, add something into your food, and let you leave easily. Now, it seems that there is no need.”
As he said this, he shook his head. “When the tree falls, the monkeys will scatter. But in the end, a big tree with dense branches and luxuriant leaves has winding roots underneath, unable to be sorted and unable to be cut. The old ancestor fears your former followers and cannot sleep at night, so only when you see Yama will the old ancestor be able to sleep soundly. Ah, you’re a sensible person, yet you’re also the biggest idiot. You were doing well as the governor of the Eastern Depot, so why did you have to challenge the old ancestor? You actually fell into such a situation.”
Shen Jue didn’t answer and looked at Qian Zhengde with a faint smile, yet he asked, “May I ask the venerable age of my godfather this year?”
“The old ancestor is eighty-one.” Qian Zhengde didn’t understand Shen Jue’s intention, so he replied offhandedly.
“Eighty-one…” Shen Jue murmured softly. His eyes were lowered and his eyelashes were curved, but when he lifted his eyes again, they had a heavy haze. His forehead and the corners of his eyes secretly stored wind and thunder, and he practically spoke through gritted teeth. “Eighty-one, his declining age is like a candle in the wind. Who can guess exactly what day and what time he’ll die? But how can I make him die a natural death in his bed?!”
“You…” Qian Zhengde pointed a trembling finger at him. “You really are crazy!” He shouted loudly, “I didn’t expect that you harbored such evil intentions. It seems that today, you shouldn’t even think about leaving this gate. Guards! Kill this brute!”
Many jet-black arrows reached out over the courtyard walls. Underlings were standing on the shoulders of their colleagues and putting crossbow arrows on top of the wall, aiming at the Shen Jue under the eaves, and a bit of a cold and stern silver light congealed at the sharp points of the arrows. Shen Jue didn’t move at all. The tea in his hands was already cold, the rain fell very heavily, and the full and plump hydrangea flowers at the corner of the wall were struck and scattered all around.
Qian Zhengde roared, “Shoot the arrows!”
Arrows were released in reply, and tens of crossbow arrows sliced through the sinister dark night, plunging into the heavy curtains of rain. Shen Jue’s long and curved eyelashes quivered, and in his vision, the fat eunuch kneeled heavily onto the ground, and then fell facedown, revealing the densely packed jet-black short arrows on his back. He had practically been stabbed into a hedgehog, his eyes widened in disbelief as blood spread out underneath his body and mixed with the rainwater. They soaked the cold green moss and flowed into the underground drains by the walls.
Shen Jue put down the porcelain cup, opened the oil paper umbrella, walked on Qian Zhengde’s blood and past those fat and white cheeks, and stepped out the gate. The underlings were standing in the rain. Rainwater had drenched their black crossbows, and underneath their straw raincoats, the embroidered qilin 2 on their black yesa robes had bared fangs and brandished claws, glaring. Situ Jin put a straw raincoat onto Shen Jue’s shoulders, and Shen Jue grabbed the reins, nodding toward the underlings.
“Thank you very much, brothers.”
“Governor, you speak too strongly! Three years ago, if it weren’t for you uncovering the Embroidered Uniform Guard’s unjust verdict, I would have already died in the imperial prison!” an underling shouted loudly.
“Governor, you only promote people with talent. If it weren’t for you, I would still be an unknown captain!”
“Wei De appoints people by favoritism. If it weren’t for you, we wouldn’t have been able to make it at all!”
All of the underlings knelt onto the ground uniformly and said, “We are willing to battle on horseback for the governor and pledge allegiance with our lives!”
“Without all of you brothers, there would also be no Shen Jue!” Shen Jue flipped onto his horse and gazed in the direction of the imperial palace. “The day I return to the capital is when Wei De perishes!”
In the frigid wind and rain, the cavalrymen were like a turbulent undercurrent as they ran in the heavy curtains of rain.
The sky had just brightened, an overcast blue, with a bit of the whitish color of a fish’s belly in the east. Yanzhi Alley 3 was silent, far from being full of prostitutes and with colorful lanterns filling the alley. In the woodshed of Yunxian Building 4, Xiahou Lian got up from a bed of hay and walked out with bleary eyes. He fetched water from the well and brushed his teeth, rinsed his mouth, and washed his face, and then passed through the side gate to go to the kitchen to boil water. On the way, he bumped into other servants, nodding their heads at each other, which was considered as a greeting. He carried water buckets one by one to the west wing room in the backyard and placed them at the door. A wooden plaque hung on the door of the wing room, on of which there were two large words dripping wet from being written by brushes——”Wenrou Town 5.” Inside, it was silent, so he thought they were still sleeping.
Xiahou Lian carried the water into the side rooms and poured them into the jujube wood bathtub. It was messy all around, and there was a shoe embroidered with balsam flowers on the ground and a pale rose-colored shirt underneath the incense stand, wrinkled like a rag. The washbasin had fallen to the ground, and a porcelain square bottle had also fallen. The water inside it had already been drained, and the tuberose had been stepped on, the petals miserably crushed on the ground. He could tell that there had been a “war” here last night.
Xiahou Lian pretended not to see. He poured all of the water in and then sprinkled rose petals, making sure to cover the water completely.
This was the rule of Yunxian Building’s top plaque, A-Chu. Every day, she would have to bathe in water petals, without change. Xiahou Lian had come to Yunxian Building four months ago, and he had carried bathwater for A-Chu for four entire months. He put the empty wooden bucket by the door and went to the kitchen to get a clay oven roll, five white flour steamed buns, and a jar of water, sitting in the corridor as he ate slowly. He didn’t have much work, so he didn’t need to worry.
It had rained heavily last night, the ground was still very wet, and there was water in the gaps between bricks. The flowers and plants in the terrace were wilted, and the two pots of bush lilies that A-Chu loved the most had already died, the white and tender petals scattering all over the ground. He had forgotten to take the flowers inside last night, so in a while when A-Chu saw them, she would make trouble again. There was a noisy quarrel in the neighboring courtyard. It was a homosexual brothel, and the people who lived there were all male prostitutes. One of the men had a bad temper, so the servants would often be beaten half to death by him and would run to complain to Xiahou Lian.
Time flew; it had already been three years since he had left Garan. That day in Garan, he had thought that he would die from excessive blood loss. However, he had woken up just fine, and he had thought quietly for a long time. In the end, he had gone to Qixia Mountain to find Qiu Shan. Qiu Shan was the abbot of Qixia Temple, and he had let Xiahou Lian stay in the temple and be a Buddhist monk with hair. He had helped him cut his bones and flesh, changing his head and replacing his face. He had swept the ground in the temple with a head full of bandages for five months, and every time the worshippers in the temple saw him, they would give him some silver with pitying expressions, as they probably thought that Xiahou Lian had been disfigured.
The day he had taken off the bandages, he had looked at his new face in a brass mirror. It was plain and ordinary, and one wouldn’t be able to find it if it was thrown into a crowd. But it was still quite able to be looked at repeatedly, as his eyes and nose hadn’t been cut. His eyes were deep as usual and the bridge of his nose was high, so he was very satisfied. However, there was no way of getting rid of the scar above his eye, so he had used powder to cover it, and if one didn’t look carefully, they wouldn’t be able to tell.
His enemies didn’t recognize him, and when Eastern Depot underlings walked past him, their heads didn’t even turn. He had gone to Jinling to pay off Chi Yan’s debt, and then toured scenic spots. He had walked through and listened to everything Chi Yan had said: the courier bells in Fengqiao, the evening bells in Hanshan Temple, and the folk songs of Wujiang. At Canglang Pavilion 6, he had burned Chi Yan’s last letter and scattered the ashes into the babbling water. Since then, Chi Yan wouldn’t miss any of the hundreds of scenes of mountains and rivers and everything in the world.
On the fifteenth of the seventh month, he had dug a grave for himself behind Qixia Temple and used the last of his silver to buy a thin coffin. He had laid in the coffin, closed the coffin cover himself, and quietly waited for death. It had been very dark inside the coffin, and he had begun thinking wildly. Later, he climbed out and went to the outhouse few times. Once, he frightened a woodcutter who had been passing by behind the mountain, and he apologized repeatedly and laid back in, dazedly falling asleep. When he woke up, the sky was already bright, and he hadn’t died. He stepped on red maple leaves that covered the ground as he returned to Qixia Temple.
Qiu Shan was sitting under the eaves and drinking tea. When he saw his confused appearance of being at a loss, he said, “The heavens did not kill you, so live a good life.”
“But I’m a sinner.”
“A thought of enlightenment, a thought of doing good, and an icchantika 7 can cross eternity and become a Buddha, not to mention you?”
Xiahou Lian had bid farewell to Qiu Shan and began wandering everywhere. He had no permanent residence, so where he went was where he went. But what was troublesome was that he didn’t have a household identification or registration, so he was a refugee. Government officials were very strict about catching refugees, so once he was caught, he would be either listed in the register of outcasts and locked into prison, or he would be deported to the frontier to guard the border. He hid and also had to think of ways to make money to keep himself alive, so it was indeed very hard.
When he had come to Taizhou, he had run into a siege by Japanese pirates. The barracks had been recruiting troops, and they didn’t ask his place of birth. He was indeed poor, so he had been drafted and stayed an autumn in the barracks. However, in a street fight, a Japanese pirate had sent Hengbo flying, yet after he had killed that Japanese pirate, he hadn’t been able to find Hengbo no matter what. Later, he saw it in an auction market, but he hadn’t had money to redeem Hengbo, so he had watched helplessly as people from the Eastern Depot took Hengbo away.
He could only enter the capital. It especially wasn’t easy living under the Eastern Depot’s nose. In the capital, their investigation of refugees was extremely strict, and every few days, places like dilapidated temples, ancestral temples for village gods, and charities where refugees often huddled would be checked once. The Eastern Depot was heavily guarded like an iron bucket, and there was no way to begin at all. In the second month last year, he had been shivering from the cold in the forest in the capital suburbs, and his stomach had also been empty. He hadn’t died in an enemy’s hands and he hadn’t died in Garan’s killing fields, yet he was going to die from hunger and cold in the forests of the capital suburbs. When he was in the underworld, he was afraid his mother would die laughing at him.
By chance, A-Chu had been coming back from offering incense in a Buddhist nunnery and had taken him back to Yanzhi Alley. A-Chu had told the old bawd that he was her cousin who was coming to her for shelter, and she kept him in Yunxian Building. He had a place to stay in, so it had finally taken care of the problems of food, clothing, and accommodation. A-Chu was a beautiful woman, with eyebrows like distant mountains and misty eyes. When she narrowed her eyes at people, she had a beauty as enchanting as a demon’s. However, her chin was a little skinny and her lips were thin, making her appear a little fierce. But some men just liked women who looked fierce like this, and when they saw her be sweet and pleasing, they had a pleasure of conquering.
A-Chu was Yunxian Building’s most popular courtesan, and there would be wind when she wanted wind and rain when she wanted rain, as the old bawd always indulged her. If men wanted to sleep with her, she would have to have twenty or thirty taels of fine silver. Sometimes when A-Chu’s temper flared up, she wouldn’t be willing to receive guests and would stay inside her room, making the bawd knock at the door with earthshaking sounds. But A-Chu was A-Chu, the best famous prostitute in the capital, and in the North, she was the only one who could compete with the harlots in the South. The bawd still had to indulge her, rushing Xiahou Lian to line up to buy the small pastry in pastry shops for her and braised pork feet from Chu Building.
Those clients didn’t know that the demon-like A-Chu in their eyes liked to hold braised pork feet with her bare hands and gnaw on them while drinking wine with Xiahou Lian. When she was happy, she acted like a lunatic, but she would suddenly sink into low spirits sometimes, caressing a mirror and asking Xiahou Lian whether she was old.
Regarding a crazy woman like A-Chu, Xiahou Lian wouldn’t be able to figure them out in his entire life. For example, for the question just mentioned, she wouldn’t believe it when Xiahou Lian said that she wasn’t old, and she would be angry if he said that she was old. Xiahou Lian could only pretend not to hear and drink wine by himself. The days he spent in Yunxian Building were very cozy, and besides buying pork feet for A-Chu, Xiahou Lian didn’t go out much.
But he still had to think of a way to get Hengbo back. He guessed that Hengbo was with Shen Jue. Shen Jue was the governor of the Eastern Depot, so if the Eastern Depot obtained something of his, they were bound to hand it to Shen Jue.
Sometimes on the streets, he would be able to distantly see Shen Jue’s carriage drive past rattlingly. The carriage curtains were decorated with tassels, the shafts had ornamental carvings, and big black and white horses pulled the carriage. Two lines of Eastern Depot underlings followed behind it, and it really was a spectacle like mountains and seas. While waiting for pork feet in Chu Building, he had run into Shen Jue twice. Both times, he had kneeled on the ground in unison with the people on his side to wait for Shen Jue to pass by, the skirt of his brocade yesa robes sweeping across before his eyes, the luster of the gold thread gorgeous and resplendent. After Shen Jue walked past, with his head against the ground, he would secretly tilt his face and gaze at Shen Jue’s lonely and cold back. He disappeared step by step into the distance, blurred, and disappeared from sight.
He knew that he and Shen Jue were already two strangers in different worlds. He was a servant who mixed in entertainment venues, as lowly as dust, and Shen Jue was the dignified governor of the Eastern Depot, the eunuch with authority and great power. The recollections of ten years ago were tinged with a dull yellow, and the matters with Shen Jue in Xie Manor and the imperial palace were like experiences of his previous life. Those faraway memories had returned to Xiahou Lian’s mind through reincarnation, making an indescribable feeling arise in his heart.
The young master of the Xie clan with a short temper from before no longer existed. Now, the one sitting in the carved carriage drawn by four horses was the enigmatic governor of the Eastern Depot, producing clouds and rain with a flip of his hand. Eastern Depot underlings hunted down Garan assassins everywhere, and none of the assassins who had fallen to the Eastern Depot had survived. Xiahou Lian’s arrest order hung at the top of the list, and they were everywhere in the city, in big streets and in small alleys. Over the years, the old ones had rotted and new ones had been posted, year in and year out. He and Shen Jue were separated by an abyssal chasm, with no way of getting close.
There were no approaches, as he couldn’t get the map of Shen Jue’s house, so he had secretly snuck in twice. Both times, he had gotten lost and came out, crestfallen. The matter of Hengbo had been delayed, and he really couldn’t do anything about it.
After eating a flatbread and a steamed bun, he clapped his hands and picked up the petals of the bush lilies, burying them in the mud. A-Chu suddenly rushed out from inside the room. Her clothes were still messy, and her large, white, and delicate breasts were exposed.
Xiahou Lian: “…”
“Xiahou!” When A-Chu saw him, it was as if she had seen her savior. She ran over and was out of breath. “I… I-I killed someone!”
Xiahou Lian was a little disbelieving. “You can kill?”
A-Chu was a little embarrassed, and she stammered, “He died on the bed…”
This meant that he had died from having sex too much.
Xiahou Lian: “…”
A-Chu pulled Xiahou Lian inside, and only when she furtively glanced around to make sure that there was no one else in the courtyard did she close the door and say, “Who knew that this impressive-looking but useless person would be such a good-for-nothing! I just let him come twice, and he was still fine last night. This morning, when I saw him lying still, I even laughed at him for being weak. But when I lifted the blankets and looked, it nearly scared me to death!”
Xiahou Lian pulled open the bed curtains. Inside, an ashen face was revealed, his mouth and eyes half-open and bleeding black blood. Xiahou Lian recognized him; he was a little underling of the Eastern Depot, and his name was Yan Xiaobei. He had originally been a poor wretch, but he had somehow made a small fortune, slapped those silver certificates onto the bawd’s table, and hugged A-Chu for a night.
“He’s an officer from the Eastern Depot and he died on my bed, what do I do! In the boundary of the Eastern Depot, people walk in there and are carried out dead. How can a weak woman like me withstand the cruel punishments in prison?” A-Chu wrung her handkerchief and stomped her foot in anxiety.
“You indeed can’t withstand it.” Xiahou Lian nodded in agreement.
“Why don’t I run? I have some savings, so eating won’t be a problem. Xiahou, help me, take me out of the city!”
Xiahou Lian shook his head and said no. “The Eastern Depot’s ears and eyes are everywhere, in courier shops, inns, and carriages, where are there none of the Eastern Depot’s people? Unless you leave Great Qi in one go, don’t think about living in peace.”
“Then what do I do?” A-Chu said with difficulty.
Xiahou Lian thought for a while. A-Chu was considered the savior who had saved his life, so he couldn’t not save her. He sighed and said, “Lend your rouge and powder to me.”
Xiahou Lian wanted to say something else, but a little maid under the window outside said in a small voice, “A-Chu-jiejie, Officer Zhu has come to find Officer Yan. He’s waiting in the front yard, please call Officer Yan up.”
A-Chu stood up abruptly.
Xiahou Lian mouthed to her, “Answer her.”
“Oh, I’m coming!” A-Chu shouted through the window.
The little maid ran away with taps. A-Chu wrung her hands and said, “It’s Zhu Shunzi! He’s Yan Xiaobei’s buddy, what do I do now?”
“Go out and stall him first, leave this to me.”
A-Chu nodded, took a deep breath, tidied her clothes and hair, and lifted her head as she walked out.
Zhu Shunzi was a man whose mouth stuck out and had a chin like a monkey’s. His cheekbones were very high and there wasn’t much flesh on his face, so he looked like a chicken thief. In the end, Eastern Depot underlings were ruffians and hooligans who wore yesa robes. They didn’t do good deeds and would burrow around in the capital all day long, inquiring about other people’s private affairs. They were frequent guests at Yunxian Building, so A-Chu was very familiar with them. Usually, they were as good as a couple of immortals, but today, she felt upset when she saw him. A-Chu sat on a round-backed armchair as she waited. Zhu Shunzi was pacing back and forth over there, making her dizzy.
Just as she was feeling terribly anxious, a man walked out of the festooned gate. He had a tall figure, thin cheeks, and faint black stubble by his mouth. This wasn’t Yan Xiaobei, so who was it? A-Chu was dumbfounded, and she practically thought that Yan Xiaobei was a moving corpse.
“Ah, Lao Yan 8, you’re awake!” Zhu Shunzi put an arm around him and waved toward A-Chu. “Miss Chu, we’ll be leaving!”
“Take care! Take care!” A-Chu smiled stiffly.
Applying makeup as disguise was Xiahou Lian’s area of expertise, as it had been handed down directly to him from Qiu-shifu. Xiahou Lian looked composed as he glanced at A-Chu and went out the door with Zhu Shunzi.
“Lao Yan, the eunuch gave us another assignment!” Zhu Shunzi looked very excited. “Look, I just knew that we’ve obtained the eunuch’s favor! Not only did he tell us to assassinate Shen Jue, that ungrateful son of a bitch, he also told us to go to Jiading 9!”
Assassinate Shen Jue! Xiahou Lian’s heart jumped, and he suddenly looked up.
Zhu Shunzi sighed. “I didn’t expect that guy Shen Jue would also know martial arts! I thought that with his sissy and fragile appearance, he wouldn’t even be able to lift up a saber! Luckily, we narrowly escaped and slipped away when we saw that the situation was bad, or else we would’ve died there. Fortunately, Eunuch Wei is compassionate, and not only did he not investigate the cause, he gave us a money reward. This time, he even tasked us with such an important assignment! As the saying goes, a gentleman is ready to die for his bosom friends. Just for the appreciation of Eunuch Wei, we should pledge allegiance with our lives!”
Xiahou Lian made a “mn” and calmly asked discreetly, “How is Shen Jue now, is Eunuch Wei still going to send someone to assassinate him again?”
“No need! His Majesty issued a decree for him to go to Nanjing to guard the mausoleum, so he has no way to keep going. Eunuchs who guard the mausoleum will just be like that for their entire life, unable to make any waves!”
It was better than dying. Shen Jue was fine, so Xiahou Lian sighed in relief.
He felt unhappy in his heart. That brat had endured hardships and worked painstakingly for so long, yet he had fallen to this wretched situation. Shen Jue wasn’t like him. He was used to being listless and rolling around in mud. Such a proud person had finally climbed high in the clouds yet had fallen down again, and he didn’t know how he would be.
Ah, the heavens really played tricks on people.
All right, Nanjing wasn’t bad; after all, it was Shen Jue’s hometown. Drinking tea, walking his cat, playing with birds, spending his entire life away, and it would be considered over.
Xiahou Lian lifted his chin at Zhu Shunzi and asked, “What did you come and find me for?”
“Ah, how come I started talking about Shen Jue!” Zhu Shunzi took out a letter from the fold of his clothes and said mysteriously, “This time, it really is the reward after suffering. The emperor is about to pass away soon, and he’s still delayed in calling the vassal king into the capital. I’m afraid that he intends to pass the throne to the second prince. Eunuch Wei sent us to go to Jiading and quietly take King Fu 10 back to the capital. This will be meritoriously assisting the emperor, so when His Highness ascends the throne, we’ll be first-class meritorious officials!”
- A respectful name for an old person. In this case it refers to Wei De.
- A legendary hooved chimerical creature that appears in Chinese mythology.
- Lit. Rouge Alley.
- Lit. Cloud Immortal Building.
- Often refers to a place of relaxation with women.
- Lit. Azure Waves Pavilion.
- A deluded being who can never attain enlightenment.
- Lit. Old Yan. “Lao” is an honorific prefix for people one respects, and Lao Yan refers to Yan Xiaobei in this case.
- A suburban district of Shanghai.
- Since the emperor has multiple sons (in this case two) and doesn’t want them to fight over the throne, he sends the one(s) that aren’t designated as the crown prince to rule over vassal states. Here, King Fu is the eldest prince, and he isn’t as favored by the emperor.