Translated by Vivian of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
The sky was dark, and it was very rainy and windy. There was a dark and gloomy expanse in the forest, and the troops were dense and dark shadows. Tree branches shook wildly as if they had gone crazy, and leaves hit their faces, swept by the wind. Straw hats were already useless, and icy raindrops pattered as it struck their faces. Xiahou Lian practically couldn’t open his eyes, and he quietly followed the horses in front of him as they ran.
King Fu’s carriage sank into a mud pit, so everyone dismounted their horses and pushed the carriage, and Xiahou Lian helped push the rear wheels. In the heavy rain, everyone shouted together to synchronize themselves. In the carriage, King Fu stretched his fat and white face out from inside the curtains, and was hit back by the rain. King Fu’s carriage had a thick and solid base frame and was extremely heavy, so they pushed it a little with great difficulty. Xiahou Lian gritted his teeth and used all of his strength to push it forward. The wheels turned, all of the mud droplets splashed onto his face, and the carriage smoothly went out of the pit.
He didn’t have time to wipe his face and he hurriedly climbed up his horse. When Situ Jin passed by, he handed him a handkerchief. There was indeed no way to hurry on with their journey, and they fortunately arrived at a village. King Fu ordered them to rest here and Shen Jue made no comment, so the group of forty people entered the village. The richest landlord in the village received them, but the house with three entrances and three exits was still not big enough. Xiahou Lian and the underlings made beds on the floor in the ancestral hall, and only Shen Jue and King Fu had separate rooms.
The rain became heavier and heavier, and mountains lay dormant in the night like beasts. The tiles on the roof pattered noisily as if they were shattering, and the entire ancestral hall shook in the wind and rain. Xiahou Lian couldn’t sleep soundly, so he opened his eyes and saw that everyone couldn’t sleep and was tossing and turning on their beddings. Xiahou Lian felt uneasy, so he stood up and walked to the door. When he pushed the door open and looked, the water outside was already deep up to his ankles, and he could wash his feet if he sat on the threshold.
“I’m afraid it’s going to flood, which of you are going to tell your eunuch-in-charge?” asked Xiahou Lian.
“It won’t,” someone said. “Landlord Chen said that their village is like this every year, and they’ve never flooded. Perhaps it’ll stop in a bit, wait some more.”
“What’s the terrain like here?” Xiahou Lian asked again. “If a flood comes, it’ll submerge the entire village in an hour, so we have to know which way to run.”
“I don’t know, it was too dark, we didn’t see clearly,” replied another underling.
The night was very dark, and it was as if everywhere was covered by a layer of gauze. He could only see tree shadows swaying on the ground, and the entire world pattered with heavy rain. Xiahou Lian hesitated for a while, but he still decided to put on his clothes and go to find Shen Jue.
Just when he went out the door, he happened to bump into Situ Jin. Xiahou Lian apologized, and Situ Jin nodded slightly before going inside and called on some people. “The eunuch-in-charge has orders that the rain is too heavy, the terrain here is too low-lying, and the water level seems to be rising. Lead the horses onto the mountain and go east. The terrain is high there, so find a safe place and camp there. Make sure to save the horses.”
The underlings replied with yes, and Situ Jin spoke again. “The remaining people, come with me to help His Highness onto the mountain.”
“Are the mountain paths too narrow so the carriage can’t go?” Xiahou Lian followed behind Situ Jin and asked.
Situ Jin nodded and knitted his brows. “Horses also cannot carry him, so he can only be carried by people.”
From front to rear, eight people were carrying a bamboo chair, and King Fu was holding an umbrella and sitting on top. From a distance, it looked like the eight people were carrying a mountain. Shen Jue was wearing a straw raincoat and walking on the side, and his complexion looked very bad. Chilly raindrops flowed along the gaps in his straw raincoat and into his clothes. Shen Jue felt irritable, and he wished he could cut off the skin and flesh on King Fu’s body and then bring him onto the mountain.
Bursts of thunder came from the mountain, like huge wheels driving on the horizon. Shen Jue’s expression instantly changed, and all of the houses around them opened. Villagers ran out from inside, and some weren’t even wearing clothes or shoes, running up the mountain desperately. Someone beat a gong and roared loudly, “The water’s coming! The water’s coming! Everyone, hurry and run!”
The underlings struggled to rush forward, but they really couldn’t run fast while carrying something. The road was narrow and there were also many people, so they squeezed around. At the furthest their eyes could see, a white line appeared in the haze and daze, and the line pressed over with a turbulent momentum. Only when it got close did they discover that it was actually like a wall, toppling mountains and overturning seas, surging over as if destroying withered woods and weeds. All of the houses with thatched roofs and mud walls collapsed, and even Landlord Chen’s big house couldn’t escape. Trees fell in a heap, and chickens, ducks, pigs, and cows were swept out, flinging feathers and hooves as they crashed into the crowd.
The underlings were scattered, and there was no trace of King Fu. Shen Jue was also wrapped by the torrent of the flood, and water surged into his mouth, making him unable to breathe. It was dark in the water, and in the dimness, there were shoes, wooden boards, and even people’s shadows. Shen Jue reached out to grab wildly, but he couldn’t grab anything and could only sink down, alarmed and at a loss.
A dark shadow lunged over, and his clothes were vigorously grabbed by something. Shen Jue was dragged up, and when his head emerged from the water, he coughed several mouthfuls of water and finally caught his breath.
“Shen Jue! How are you!”
When he opened his eyes and looked; it was that guy who was an eyesore. Shen Jue wiped his face, turned around, and plunged into the water.
However, his collar was grabbed by that person, and Shen Jue angrily turned his head back and shouted loudly, “What are you doing!”
Xiahou Lian also roared, “I was going to fucking ask you what you’re doing! Go east! What are you swimming west for!”
“King Fu! King Fu is still in the water!”
“That damned fatty is so heavy, how would you save him!” Xiahou Lian was practically going to break down. “Your brain is also flooded!”
Shen Jue gritted his teeth and roared, “I must save him!”
After he said this, he turned his head around and swam west recklessly. He didn’t swim a section before another burst of the flood charged over, and he once again lost his balance. In the current, his waist was tightly held by one hand, his head and face were tightly pressed by another hand, and the back of his head was tightly against a chest behind him. In the water, all sounds seemed to be distant, but it was as if he could hear a heart beating next to his ear, again and again, very steady and very strong.
Xiahou Lian’s back seemed to bump into something, he heard Xiahou Lian grunt, and then they stopped drifting. Xiahou Lian held him up, and he wiped clean the water on his face and effortfully opened his eyes before he saw that Xiahou Lian’s clothes had hooked onto a tree branch that was jutting out, which had happened to save them.
Xiahou Lian let him go onto the tree first, and followed closely in climbing up himself. This was an ancient tree and was already withered, with only bare branches. However, it was thick enough and sturdy enough, so it hadn’t been knocked down by the floodwater. The tree trunk was rough and uneven, but after being washed by the rainwater, it was as if a layer of oil had been wiped onto it, shining brightly.
Xiahou Lian squatted on the branch and wrung the water from his clothes. The flow of the water gurgled under his feet, and there were continuous wooden boards, extinguished lanterns, bamboo baskets, and even the corpses of people and animals passing by underneath. Lifting his eyes and gazing out in the dark night, water covered everything, sparkling, and occasionally, a few remaining roof tiles emerged like lonely boats, trembling in the cold wind.
Shen Jue was squatting next to him, and his expression had been very somber the entire time, though he had finally given up on the idea of entering the water to find that fatty.
“King Fu is here,” Xiahou Lian suddenly said.
Shen Jue was stunned, and he looked down along the direction Xiahou Lian was pointing. A fat corpse passed by along the water flow underneath the tree. The corpse was bloated from being soaked, twice as big as his original body, and the features of his swollen, white, and round face couldn’t be seen clearly.
Shen Jue: “…”
King Fu was dead, the most important link in his plan had broken.
He was using the fake imperial edict to deceive King Fu into uprightly and openly enter the capital. A vassal king entering the capital without being summoned would definitely be taken into custody, and the fake imperial edict would be found, giving King Fu the criminal charge of intent to rebel. Although the old emperor had given the tiger tally to him, wanting him to make sure the second prince ascended the throne, King Fu was the eldest son after all, so how could the old emperor bear to steel himself to abandon this son. But if King Fu didn’t die, how could the second prince steadily sit high on the imperial throne? As long as the charge of rebelling spread up, the old emperor would consider that he couldn’t let him off lightly even with their father-and-son relationship, so King Fu would never be freed.
Besides, if the old emperor died and King Fu also died, Wei De would have no more backers to rely on.
But now, all of his plans were in vain.
Shen Jue’s expression was so somber, water could practically drip out. It was the hot summer, and although it was raining, it was still stiflingly hot. However, squatting next to Shen Jue, Xiahou Lian felt very cold.
“Eunuch-in-Charge,” Xiahou Lian wrung the hem of his clothes as he said, “if you want to run away, I can help you. I have experience, and I can make sure you get out of Great Qi without a problem. When the time comes, it’s up to you whether to go down to Southeast Asia or to Japan.”
Shen Jue glanced at him and said, “Why are you helping me? I treated you like this, you should seize the opportunity to kill me. If you kill me, you’ll be free.”
Xiahou Lian said, “I’ve killed too many people in my early years, so I’m afraid I’ll go to hell after I die. I’m accumulating some virtue now, and saving a few is saving a few. You happened to run into it, so you should be considered lucky.”
“There is no hell in this world.”
“There is if you believe in it.” Xiahou Lian finished wringing the hem of his clothes and wrung his trouser legs. “Why wouldn’t there be? If there isn’t hell, then there’s no netherworld, so once our loved ones are separated by death, we won’t be able to see them ever again. So, it’s still better if there is.” Xiahou Lian smiled desolately. “Don’t you agree?”
Shen Jue looked at him silently.
“Your name is Shang Erlang, right?”
Xiahou Lian nodded.
“Shang Erlang,” Shen Jue held the tree trunk and sat down, asking, “In these years, when Xiahou Lian was still alive, how was he doing?”
Xiahou Lian gazed at the dark water surface below them and thought about it before saying, “It was quite difficult. His father killed his mother, so he killed his father. His brother is gone and his shifu died, all of it is a human tragedy.”
Shen Jue’s fists that were by his side clenched. It was the same as the tip-offs he had received; sure enough, Xiahou Lian had been suffering in a sea of bitterness the entire time, yet he had been powerless.
“Did he blame me?” Shen Jue said, “I was clearly the governor of the Eastern Depot, but I didn’t save him.”
Xiahou Lian glanced at Shen Jue in surprise and said, “What would he blame you for? What do these things have to do with you? It should be him telling you sorry, lying as second nature and making promises easily but seldom keeping them. What you said was right.”
Xiahou Lian paused and said in a low voice, “Sorry.”
Shen Jue’s heart was shocked. When this man said “sorry,” it was as if he really heard Xiahou Lian apologizing. Such similar intonations and such similar breaths, he nearly couldn’t distinguish them. His hand clutched the tree trunk, and even when his fingertips broke, he didn’t feel anything. The place of his heart was stuffy, as if he was being suffocated. He felt agonized and stood up, as if this would make him feel better.
He looked down and saw Xiahou Lian’s back. There was a ferocious wound spanning across his back, still dripping with blood, but this person had been completely at ease just now, as if there wasn’t any wound on his body.
“You are injured.” Shen Jue knitted his brows.
“A minor injury, it doesn’t matter.” Xiahou Lian was indifferent.
“Take off your clothes. It’s not good to be wrapped in wet clothes.”
Xiahou Lian refused. Shen Jue urged him with a few sentences, but he just wouldn’t take them off. Shen Jue knitted his brows and didn’t say anything else.
He wasn’t willing to take them off, and it wasn’t as if Shen Jue could rip his clothes off. He didn’t want his own life, so it couldn’t be helped.
After waiting for a long time, the water gradually lowered by a lot. In the distance, there were figures of some people rowing boats. Their cries of “Eunuch-in-Charge! Eunuch-in-Charge! Where are you?” distantly came along the wind. Xiahou Lian shouted loudly and waved, and they only discovered them when they were close. What they were rowing wasn’t a boat; it was a large wooden board, and the paddles in their hands were long wooden bars.
Xiahou Lian and Shen Jue were saved. Situ Jin paid silver, letting them temporarily stay overnight in a few hunter’s homes on the mountain. The village below had become a vast expanse of water, dim and hazy under the dome of the sky, yet the water shone. In the dreary world, there were only a few faint lights on the mountain. The villagers lamented to the skies and knocked their heads on the ground, as many people had lost their relatives and friends overnight.
When his feet had just landed on solid ground, this guy Shen Jue turned on him and forced Xiahou Lian to disguise an underling, wanting to disguise him as King Fu’s appearance.
“Impersonating a prince is a felony! How long can disguising be concealed? Besides, that’s a fatty and he’s a thin person, so when he takes his clothes off to sleep at night, the cotton will be revealed and everything will be exposed!” Xiahou Lian earnestly persuaded, “Look before you leap, this is no joke.”
Shen Jue held hot tea and said indifferently, “Of course I know. There’s no need for you to be troubled, you only have to help disguise him.”
“I won’t do it.”
Shen Jue sneered, “What, you narrowly survived in the flood and aren’t scared of being combed and your spine being broken anymore?”
“Eunuch-in-Charge, I saved your life.” Xiahou Lian laughed in anger.
“Oh?” Shen Jue glanced at him. “I was frightened and caught a chill, so I’ve forgotten almost all of yesterday’s matters.”
In the end, Shen Jue used Zhu Shunzi’s life to threaten Xiahou Lian and made Xiahou Lian help disguise the underling. Xiahou Lian didn’t know exactly what idea Shen Jue had, but by the looks of it, he was definitely going to make this underling impersonate King Fu and enter the capital to seize the throne. This person Shen Jue really didn’t want his life!
He had always been like this. Once he used all of his strength and all of his effort, no one could beat him. Xiahou Lian still remembered how he had worked hard to study in his childhood, and how he had practiced the saber in the palace. That youth who was like cold frost never rested at night and never stopped in severe winter. There was no doubt that time could change someone, but some things had already been carved into his bones long ago, unable to be grinded out and extinguished.
The delicateness and frailty of his body also hadn’t changed. Even though he had drunk many cups of hot tea, Shen Jue had still fallen ill and laid in bed for a day. Situ Jin and the underlings went to each house to ask for herbal medicine and boiled them into bowls of bitter tea for him to drink. Xiahou Lian looked inside through the window. A bundle that was like a grave bulged on top of a simple and crude shelf bed, and Shen Jue was sleeping inside, his face flushed from the fever.
Shen Jue laid in the cotton-padded quilts. It was the hot summer and he was even wrapped in cotton-padded quilts, but he still felt cold. There was the smell of hay all around the thatched cottages of the hunters on the mountain, and there were trunks placed against the wall and a wooden table that had been bitten full of holes by insects by his feet. The small room was packed to the brim with miscellaneous things, and sleeping inside it, he was also like a randomly discarded object. The blankets had covered someone else before, so it had an indescribable odor, and he felt uncomfortable.
The night was endless, and a hazy light penetrated through the window. Outside the window screen were sinister tree shadows, and the occasional sobbing of a village would sound, like ghosts howling as they wandered.
He felt thirsty and wanted to drink water. But there was no one beside him to serve him. Situ Jin and the others were his subordinates, not his servants, so they wouldn’t follow closely at his side and wait upon him carefully. After they finished giving him medicine, they felt that they had finished, so they would wait for daybreak when he woke up and continued issuing orders.
He could only endure it. Time elapsed bit by bit, and the night seemed to be stretched, seemingly endless. Someone held up his back and fed him water. It was sweet and refreshing, the taste of well water. The handkerchief on his forehead was also changed, coolly covering the burning hotness on his forehead, and he felt the temperature of his cheeks lessen a little.
He dazedly opened his eyes and glimpsed a person’s figure at the head of the bed, sitting on the ground with his back against the bed frame.
Is it A-Lian? he thought.
His brain seemed to be muddled, and he seemed to go back to many years ago when he had still been in Xie Manor. He was Xie Jinglan and Xiahou Lian was his bookboy, sleeping below his alcove bed When he wanted to drink water, Xiahou Lian would bring it over for him.
Two days later, the water receded, and the damaged village was revealed. Few houses had survived, and they had all collapsed. The roads were filled with dead pigs, their jet-black bodies lying there stiffly. Fallen trees laid across them, and a few pale drowned corpses could be found under the dead branches.
Shen Jue ordered them to set off. He still wasn’t well yet; his fever had receded a little, but it was still slightly hot to the touch. But time didn’t wait for people, and he had to rush back to the capital before the old emperor died. He ordered the underlings to feed the horses and lead them out, packed the tents and luggages, and got everything ready, on schedule to set off two hours later.
Xiahou Lian frowned and came over, saying, “You’re still not completely well. Riding on a horse and being blown by the wind, do you want to die midway so all of your troubles will end?”
Shen Jue didn’t answer and asked back, “Was it you last night?”
Xiahou Lian was stunned and said, “You don’t need to thank me. I saw that no one was looking after you, so I just acted by myself and poured you a few cups of water.”
Shen Jue pinched his canteen tightly and said sharply, “You don’t need to worry about my business. In the future, if you dare to take half a step closer to me again, I’ll kill you!”
Xiahou Lian: “…”
This person’s brain is sick.
He ignored Shen Jue and confirmed with Situ Jin that they were setting off two hours later. He turned around and left, not forgetting to drag Zhu Shunzi along before he left.
Situ Jin looked at Shen Jue and asked, “Aren’t you going to send someone to follow him?”
Shen Jue closed his eyes and said, “Forget it. We’re rushing back to the capital on horses, so he won’t have the opportunity to get ahead of us. Since there’s no harm, just let him go.”
Xiahou Lian and Zhu Shunzi brought back a pile of scraps, among them the base frame of King Fu’s carriage. The carriage curtains and cover had already been washed away by the water, only leaving behind the carriage base frame with the four wheels. The underlings watched him curiously, and Xiahou Lian and Zhu Shunzi began to cut the wood and reconnect the shafts to the base frame. Some underlings understood what he was doing and spontaneously came over to help.
Xiahou Lian found four bamboo poles and a large oilcloth, which he used to build a shed with a flat roof on top of the base frame. The underlings wiped the water stains clean, but the wood had been soaked in water and was still damp. Xiahou Lian went to a hunter’s house and bought two blankets to spread on top. Then, he led two horses over, put on their yokes, and the extremely simple carriage was finished.
Shen Jue didn’t even look. When the two hours were up, he climbed onto his horse. He still wasn’t well, so his hands and feet were weak, and he spent a lot of effort before climbing up and sitting steadily.
Xiahou Lian called for him to get down and told him to sit in the carriage.
Shen Jue turned his head and saw the “carriage” with a flat roof and an oilcloth canopy. The cotton-padded quilts were someone’s newly made wedding quilts, so everywhere on the quilt were red peony flowers, extremely rustic. Shen Jue’s face was filled with disgust, and he said, “Set off immediately, everyone mount their horses!”
The underlings glanced at Xiahou Lian, but they didn’t dare to defy Shen Jue’s orders, so all of them mounted their horses. Xiahou Lian took a few deep breaths, not letting himself be on the same level as a patient who had water in their brain. After he finished exhaling, Xiahou Lian walked over in the underlings’ shocked gazes and firmly pulled Shen Jue down from his horse, scooping him into his arms.
A tall man with a straight waist and long legs carrying another equally tall man actually had a weird harmony.
“Let go of me!” Shen Jue gritted his teeth.
“If you want to fall to the ground on your ass, I’ll let go of you.” Xiahou Lian looked down at him.
Shen Jue smiled in anger and said, “It looks to me like you don’t want to live anymore.”
Xiahou Lian smiled disdainfully. “I haven’t wanted to live for a long time. I also don’t care about your combing, digging out the abdomen, and whatnot, suit yourself. I’ve figured it out, I’ve already charged through mountains of sabers and seas of fire. Afraid, my ass. At worst, I’ll bite my tongue and commit suicide, so it’ll depend on whether your punishment or me closing my teeth is faster. How about it, are you going to sit in the carriage?”
“I won’t!” Shen Jue roared, “Are all of you dead? Hurry and arrest this lunatic!”
Who’s the fucking lunatic?
Shen Jue was so stubborn it gave him a headache, and Xiahou Lian was so angry he wanted to press his head to the ground.
“Shen Jue, you don’t consider yourself, but you have to consider this group of brothers, right! If something were to happen to you, it can’t be helped if you died, but this group of brothers went through fire and water with you, what would they do?”
The underlings dismounted from their horses and knelt in unison on the ground, saying, “Eunuch-in-Charge, please take care of yourself!”
Even Situ Jin didn’t move. Shen Jue finally became silent and turned his head in despair, letting Xiahou Lian see the cold and white side of his face.
Xiahou Lian put Shen Jue into the bedding. Shen Jue’s entire person was nested in the bright red cotton-padded quilts, and the bit of his pale face that was revealed was like white porcelain that had seized the moonlight.
The heavy rain passed, and the sky was as clear as brocade woven from Hangzhou silk, occasionally with a few extremely light clouds, dark flowers embroidered on satin. The pale daylight shone down, making the water droplets on the canopy crystal clear. The carriage was bumpy, and Shen Jue felt sleepy. Xiahou Lian was sitting by his head and driving the carriage, his shadow covering his head.
This man had the same eyes as Xiahou Lian, and he also had the same personality as Xiahou Lian, the same roughness and the same insolence.
It had been ten years. Xiahou Lian already shouldn’t be his fourteen-years-old appearance anymore. At least, when Shen Jue had seen him in Liuzhou three years ago, he had already become an assassin who killed any god or Buddha he encountered. That was an unparalleled killing weapon, invincible and unstoppable.
But this person was like that Xiahou Lian from ten years ago, braving the wind and rain and stepping across the long river of time to once again return to his side.
He couldn’t distinguish whether it was real or fake anymore. What Qian Zhengde had said was right. Even though it was the shadow of a flower in a mirror and the moon in water, as long as he didn’t puncture it, it was real. Under the cotton-padded quilts, his lips hooked into a ridiculing and desolate arc. Shen Jue told himself, Sleep, go to sleep. In dreams, anything is real.
What a chapter! I loved the way XHL took care of SJ not even listening to him and directly carrying him yo the carriage he built! I’m so glad they found each other again, otherwise SJ would have just continued to his death! Sad to see his plan crumbled when King Fu died however, I know things will work out! I’m excited to see this volume as now it’s with the both of them together reunited after years of separation. Thank you for the translation and editing, it’s superb!
I’m a little confused about his plan with the king. Even if he died before getting to the capital, the second prince will still be next in line. I’m guessing he has more to his plan than revealed to the reader.
This chapter was very cozy. Thank you for bringing it to us! I’m really glad that SJ doesn’t want to kill him since he was a ‘good friend’ to XHL ’cause there’s no way SJ would let anyone other than XHL to get away with things. I can see SJ pulling at XHL’s face again in frustration hah.
I absolutely love how Xiahou Lian treats and talks to Shen Jue. He doesn’t take any of his crap or prideful behaviour. SJ needs him around, the others are too scared of him to speak their minds.
Oh Shen Jue, you don’t need to dream. Everything you’re feeling and seeing about him is real! This really is killing me now! 😂
Thanks so much for translating and editing.
Thank You for the new chapter ( ˘ ³˘)♡
Super cute how XHL defies SJ to take care of him! Wonder how long it will take SJ to figure out it’s the real XHL. Hopefully soon? 🤞
Thank you for the chapter!
“In dreams, anything is real.”
OK, just STAB ME IN THE FEELZ, SHEN JUE. 😭😭💔
Thanks for the chapter!