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Translated by Vivian of Exiled Rebels Scanlations

Editor: KarateChopMonkey

 

National mourning.

Funeral bells tolled in temples everywhere in the capital, struck from morning to night, over thirty thousand times, buzzing and seemingly ringing in people’s ears. The streets were filled with white flags, and the incense paper that had been left behind as offerings along the way of the funeral procession were still fluttering in the air like dancing white butterflies. They landed on people’s faces and shoulders, and they were everywhere. During the national mourning, drinking wine and eating meat were forbidden, so the street vendors by the streets were gone. Pig butchers also went home and laid down, and people of the Five City Warden Department patrolled every day.

Yanzhi Alley was as bleak as a cemetery. The doors of every house was open, revealing the pitch-dark shop rooms; bawds and male prostitutes leaned on the doors, sighing at each other. They were probably the most sad in the capital city for the emperor.

The new emperor was the second prince, and it was said that he was a ten-year-old little child. The common people weren’t very interested in who would be the emperor, they only looked forward to the ascension of a new emperor to the throne so there could be a general amnesty and tax relief. 

The one most talked about in the marketplaces was Shen Jue. It was said that the day when people everywhere had been taken in the night turned out to be King Fu taking Wei De along to force the emperor to abdicate. At the critical moment, Shen Jue had summoned the Three Great Battalions into the palace to rescue the emperor. They happened to have caught up to King Fu raising his saber and chasing the second prince, and he was shot dead with one arrow from Battalion Commander Situ, who was under Shen Jue. Wei De had also been executed, and the empress had gone mad. The old emperor had been mentally and physically exhausted, so he had passed away on the spot after giving the final edict to Shen Jue. 

Some said that Shen Jue had good faith, virtue, and patriotism, and there were also some that said that he had encountered great luck. But no matter what, he had already now become the seal-holder of the Directorate of Rites, as well as the governor eunuch of the Eastern Depot. He was second to one person and above thousands of people, and everyone in the middle palace 1 and front court followed his lead. The day of the funeral procession, he had ridden on a white horse, dressed in plain yesa robes. Among the crowd of dark mourners, his tall and elegant figure and the desolate sides of his face stood out the most.

Of course, it was possible that only Xiahou Lian thought so. In any case, when he scanned the long line of civil and military officials, he had found Shen Jue right away. Shen Jue was unscathed and had even been promoted. He felt at ease and clasped his hands behind his back as he slowly slipped back to Yunxian Building.

The wound on his body was just about healed, so the matter of Hengbo must be put onto his agenda. He went to the blacksmith shop to buy a saber. The money he had saved wasn’t enough, so he could only buy the cheapest goose quill saber. The blade was white and shiny, and the blade began slowly becoming wider at the crossguard, and then narrowed. It collected into a bit of congealed light at the point of the saber, flat and thin, the entire saber a shiny white strip.

He hid at the gate of Shen Manor for three days. The vermillion gate was closed all day long, and two white lanterns hung under the eaves before the gate. They shone dimly at night, like will-o’-the-wisps. Shen Jue never came back, which was expected. He was sitting in the top spot among the eunuchs, so what matters inside the palace didn’t he have to manage? The emperor had just passed away and the new emperor had just ascended the throne, so it must be him watching over all matters, how did he have leisure time to rest outside the palace.

He was relieved and picked a night to flip inside over a wall. He had snuck into Shen Manor three times, and he had entered this way three times. It was for nothing else, just for finding his way around. The first time he had gone left and the second time he had gone forward, but he hadn’t felt his way to Shen Jue’s study and bedroom. This time, he should go right.

It was pitch-black all around, and there was never even a lantern. In the shadows, rockeries piled by Taihu stones 2 could be seen, circling a small lake in the center. The sounds of ducks flapping their wings came from inside. Passing through on a dark path were black tiles and white walls, and in every section of the path, a fan-shaped hole in the wall had been dug out, revealing the shadows of flowers and leaves on the other side. In the night, the white walls were dark gray, and the flowers and leaves were dark black; all of it was a world shrouded in shadows.

He made his way over. It was extremely desolate in Shen Jue’s manor, and the rooms he had passed along the way were dark and quiet, with no one living in them. He turned past a moon gate and bent into a winding corridor before he gradually heard voices. The lights were on in a few rooms ahead, probably where the servants lived. There were sounds of coughing and spitting, and a shoe’s sole rubbing back and forth on the ground, wiping the spit. There were also women and children talking in whispers. The children’s voices were crisp and the women’s voices were soft, sounding indistinctly and unable to be heard clearly.

He squatted in the darkness for a while and distantly walked around. He passed through a hallway and saw a few tightly shut doors. He had already passed the servants’ quarters, so this should be the master’s residence. He listened at the door for a while, ascertained that there was no one inside, opened the lock, and bent his waist as he silently felt his way in.

After adjusting to the darkness in the room, he could slightly see the situation inside clearly. It was probably Shen Jue’s study. There was a black-painted rosewood flat desk in the center, and there was a white porcelain bottle placed on top of it. Behind it was a sandalwood bookshelf, on which scrolls and books were placed meticulously. On its two sides were small square tables supported on a frame and with four legs, and a small incense burner coated with gold paint was on one of them, a basin of flowers on the other. Shen Jue was from Jiangnan, and even after going through hardships in the capital, he still hadn’t gotten a bit of the aura of northerners, his bones still containing delicate and exquisite elegance. It was as light as a literati’s landscape painting, largely blank, with only a few scattered ink spots adorning the corner, and it was desolate and chilly, containing an immortal aura.

He groped around and searched high and low, bit by bit, but he didn’t even see Hengbo’s shadow. It seemed that it wasn’t in this room, so he went out from another door. He passed through a narrow corridor and entered another room. This was probably for setting aside miscellaneous items, as there were many treasure shelves in the open space, on top of which many objects had been placed. Xiahou Lian walked over and took a look. There were crossbow mechanisms, daggers, sleeve arrows… Did Shen Jue also have the habit of collecting weapons? Xiahou Lian felt mystified. He turned, and there was a person’s figure five steps ahead of him. Xiahou Lian froze.

When had this person come in? He actually hadn’t detected them at all. Xiahou Lian’s palms perspired, and he placed his hand on the hilt of the saber at his waist. However, this person had probably already been in this room. Xiahou Lian inwardly blamed himself for being careless as he slowly backed away. The person didn’t move, so Xiahou Lian turned around and ran. He ran to the door, but there wasn’t a bit of movement behind him, and the person hadn’t caught up. 

Xiahou Lian felt strange, and he stood in place for a while before going back. The pitch-black figure of the person was still standing by the wall and hadn’t moved a single bit; even their posture had never changed. Xiahou Lian went over boldly and relied on the dim light. The person became visible bit by bit. They were wearing a dress with wide sleeves, a white porcelain mask, and had glossy braids.

It was Zhaoye.

Xiahou Lian: “…”

He turned back and examined the objects on the treasure shelves. The light was dim so he hadn’t recognized just then, but all of these weapons were actually his own. There was even a rack with his mechanism notes, saber scrolls, and even the erotic illustrations he had collected for many years. Many trunks were piled up against the wall, all of them with cloud clusters and copper bolts. Xiahou Lian opened them one by one; they were full of his clothes. Black linen clothes of the same style were neatly stacked inside, folded like tofu cubes. Besides these, his coats, plait-line robes, and even underpants and sweat towels could all be found.

This really was as if he had seen a ghost… What was wrong with Shen Jue? Specially picking up his worthless things? Xiahou Lian used his finger to hook out a sweat towel, and he put it under his nose to smell it. It had even been fucking washed.

It seemed that his secret dens were basically exposed. These things had originally been put in his secret dens; the crossbow mechanisms and Zhaoye had originally been in his secret den in Liuzhou, some of the clothes were from the one in Hangzhou, and some of the clothes were from Jinling. The Eastern Depot’s ability to track people down really wasn’t boasted. He wondered how that guy Tang Shiqi was doing; he hadn’t been caught by the Eastern Depot, had he?

Xiahou Lian thought for a while and started looking for Hengbo.

 ———————————————

Shen Manor gate.

A plain carriage with white horses slowly stopped. Shen Wenxing placed a low stool next to the carriage, and Shen Jue came out from the curtain, stepping on the low stool as he got off the carriage. The night was cool, and he was wearing a cloak with floating clouds on a black background, setting off his face to be even paler.

Shen Wenxing walked in front with a crimson gauze lantern. The red light that faded around the edges illuminated a section of the path, as if a thin layer of rouge had been spread on the ground. Shen Jue stepped on the ground covered in rouge as he walked slowly. There were few people in the manor, so it was silent. His manor wasn’t like the houses and courtyards of northern households, with tall walls and thick tiles, simple and heavy. He still had the habits and taste of southerners. When the manor was first built, he had specially kept an eye on the craftsmen to build it according to gardens in the South, with small bridges over flowing streams, pavilions, and water pavilions, making sure that it was as beautiful and exquisite as the Jiangnan landscape.

But in the end, he didn’t come back often, as there were many things in the palace, so he was frequently so busy his feet hardly touched the ground. He didn’t necessarily come back to this house even a few times a year. The moonlight was vast and the courtyard was empty, like a large water tank, and the moonlight was the cold water in the tank, seeping so that the people were also cold. Most of the garden was sealed and had dense vegetation; in the end, it was missing a bit of a lively aura.

The new emperor had ascended the throne, and the matters in the palace had mostly been handled. The few bits of things left could be handed over to his subordinates. He had taken a moment of leisure to come back, planning to wake up early in the morning tomorrow to worship his ancestors. Wei De had been executed, so he wanted to tell Aunt Lan so she could rest in peace. He passed by the study and was just about to go to his bedroom, but his footsteps suddenly paused. Under the shadows of the corridor, the door of the study wasn’t locked.

Shen Wenxing knitted his brows. “These servants are too inattentive. Godfather, you don’t come back often, so they don’t work hard!”

Shen Jue lifted his hand, motioning for him to shut up. Shen Wenxing became silent and shrunk his neck as he stood. Shen Jue walked over and slowly opened the door, his figure submerging into the darkness inside the room. Shen Wenxing knew that there was something wrong, so he hastened to call people.

 ———————————————

Xiahou Lian was squatting on the ground, his left hand holding up a flame stick and his right hand rummaging through trunks. There were too many trunks, so it took a lot of effort to search. This was the first time he knew he had this many clothes, and they were all black linen clothes, pressed in the trunks as a pitch-black expanse. He still hadn’t found Hengbo, and he pulled his hair fretfully. If Shen Jue hadn’t put Hengbo here, where else could he have put it?

Suddenly, a dark cloud seemed to float past the top of his head. A dark shadow shrouded over him, and it was instantly dark all around. Xiahou Lian shuddered and slowly turned his head back, happening to see Shen Jue lowering his eyes and looking down at him toweringly. The light of the flame stick illuminated the lower half of Shen Jue’s face, golden like a statue of Buddha coated in gold paint. The other half was concealed in the darkness, and his eyes, nose, and lips were covered with a layer of shadow. He had no expression and was staring fixedly at Xiahou Lian, who had a sense of fear for no reason.

Xiahou Lian swiftly blew out the flame stick, and the room was immediately pitch-black. Xiahou Lian stood up and ran, and the sharp whistling of a saber cutting through the air sounded behind him. Xiahou Lian drew his saber and turned back to block it. With a snap, his newly bought goose quill saber broke into two pieces and fell to the ground with a clatter.

Xiahou Lian: “…”

The black saber seemed to follow him like a shadow, coming instantly. There was no light and he couldn’t see his fingers if he stretched out his hand, so Xiahou Lian could only rely on his hearing and instinct to dodge Shen Jue’s saber. The darkness gave Xiahou Lian an advantage. He was an assassin, and the darkness was his home. Walking through mountains of sabers and seas of blood all year round had trained his keen sense of smell for danger, and the air around him was his most sensitive feeler. No matter which side was sliced by the blade, he could immediately react.

Shen Jue noticed, so he didn’t desire to continue fighting and instead withdrew from the fight. The two of them lay dormant in the darkness, and Xiahou Lian rolled sideways, hiding among rows of treasure shelves. Shen Jue’s side suddenly lit up. A candle ignited faintly, illuminating most of the room. He held up the gleaming light, the expression in his eyes indifferent and lonely.

Xiahou Lian suddenly discovered that he was wrong. In the darkness, he hadn’t discerned the direction and had rolled to the wrong position. Now, Shen Jue was guarding the door, so if he wanted to escape, he would have to defeat Shen Jue.

“Who are you?” asked Shen Jue.

Xiahou Lian didn’t speak. He covered his face, so Shen Jue couldn’t recognize him.

“A remaining member of Wei De’s faction?” Shen Jue put the candle down and walked over leisurely. The skirt of his yesa robes swayed as he walked, the light of the golden threads flowing dimly.

Xiahou Lian picked up a saber that was on a treasure shelf. It was a Japanese saber he had collected, and its name was Guiku 3. It was said that it was incomparably sharp and could even cut metal and stone. When killing, it would cry shrilly, the howls of the dead souls who had been beheaded by the saber. Xiahou Lian had used it a few times. The crying was deceptive, but the sharpness was real.

“An inside thief?” asked Shen Jue, and he pulled out his saber again. The pure black blade slowly left its scabbard, reserved and without light, yet it was as cold as a ghost.

It was Jingtie.

He still used Jingtie. Xiahou Lian was slightly stunned. Why? He clearly hated him, so why did he still use Jingtie?

“Neither?” Shen Jue lifted his eyes coldly. “Exactly who are you?”

The momentum of his saber was like a mountain! Shen Jue held the saber in both hands, brazenly chopping horizontally. The black saber cut open the glimmering candlelight that filled the room, containing desolation that was like sorrowful frost as it came head-on. Xiahou Lian swiftly drew his saber, and the moment the blade left its scabbard, the blade was like water, the light like a beast! Xiahou Lian ducked and cut obliquely, blocking Shen Jue’s fatal blow. The two of them were shaken back at the same time by the force of the two blades colliding.

Xiahou Lian spun and changed moves, holding his saber in a reverse grip as he stepped forward. The line that the arced saber moved on was winding and smooth, containing a bloody beauty. The blade approached very quickly, but Shen Jue dodged it. He bent backward with his face up, and the blade sliced past an inch above the tip of his nose. The two of them met and then separated, only using the time it took to take one breath.

The instant they separated, there was a coolness on Xiahou Lian’s face. Shen Jue’s hand had bypassed the Japanese saber and grabbed his veil away. But it didn’t matter, as he had disguised his face to be completely prepared, so he wasn’t afraid of being exposed.

“Japanese saber skills.” Shen Jue threw away the veil and asked, “Are you a Japanese pirate?”

He spoke a sentence in Japanese, but Xiahou Lian couldn’t even understand a single word.

“Not a Japanese pirate.” Shen Jue looked at him in contemplation and smiled coldly. “You’re Shang Erlang.”

Xiahou Lian was shocked. He could even guess this!

“I guessed right,” Shen Jue saw his expression and said with certainty.

“Governor, please have a heart,” Xiahou Lian smiled placatingly, “and return Hengbo to me.”

“Return?” Shen Jue smiled very gloomily and coldly. “Hengbo is mine, so why should I return it? Shang Erlang, I’ve given you a chance to live, but since you don’t want it, it can’t be helped!”

Xiahou Lian turned around and ran, and Shen Jue chased behind him. A sharp whistling came from behind him, and Xiahou Lian ducked his head. A short jet-black arrow flew past above his head, piercing into the door ahead of him. When Xiahou Lian rushed into the study, Shen Jue caught up to him, and their short weapons met once again. Both of them acted in concert without prior agreement and used quick, circular chops. In the narrow room, their blades turned crazily. The moonlight outside the window shone on Xiahou Lian’s Japanese blade, and the reflected light swayed around the entire room. The bookshelves, tables, and chairs were inevitably destroyed, and bits of wood flew. The momentums of their sabers were like downpours in a gale, dense, and the clattering of the blades colliding were like a pipa being plucked wildly, big and small beads falling onto a jade plate.

The moment their blades clashed together and light splashed, Shen Jue suddenly smiled. It was a smile that dripped with blood, containing a deeply ingrained killing intent, and Xiahou Lian’s heart chilled for an instant.

“I’ve figured out your saber,” Shen Jue said in a low voice.

In an instant, the momentum of his saber suddenly changed!

Jingtie turned into a ghost, and in a daze, the shadows of the black saber overlapped in a myriad. Under the concealment of the darkness, Xiahou Lian practically couldn’t see where Jingtie was. There was no saber light and no tearing sounds of it slicing through the air. Jingtie was hidden at the side of Shen Jue’s sleeve, following Shen Jue’s plunging footsteps. The instant the two of them met, it swept toward Xiahou Lian’s arm.

Blood streamed down, flowing along his wrist bone to between his fingers. Shen Jue was very strong, unbelievably strong. Xiahou Lian didn’t dare to believe it. Shen Jue’s saber techniques had clearly been taught by him, but what he faced today weren’t Garan’s saber techniques at all. But they were very familiar, as if he had seen them somewhere before.

“Stop fighting, Shen Jue.” Xiahou Lian said, “I don’t want to fight you.”

“Is that so?” Shen Jue smiled leisurely, the corners of his lips lifting into an arc that contained a threatening smell of blood. “But I don’t plan on letting you leave alive.”

Did they have to fight to the death? Even though he had fled to the streets and wasn’t a rebel of the martial arts world anymore, were they still inevitably opposed? “I don’t want to kill you, Shen Jue.” Xiahou Lian said softly, a deep sorrow hidden in his hoarse voice. “I only want Hengbo.”

Xiahou Lian adjusted his breath, and he bent his body and put his saber away, the fierce light he had been holding in his left hand retracting to the side of his chest. His entire body changed, as calm and restrained as water. The light of his saber pressed in his palm, hiding the blade and being inconspicuous.

After he finished his third breath, Xiahou Lian stepped forward. His black sleeves spread, and he plunged into the heavy darkness like a flying falcon. The sharp blade in his palm immediately appeared, the light of the saber splashing out of his black sleeves, like a beast spitting out its fangs.

Japanese saber skill • Tiger Dash.

Shen Jue leaned to the side and dodged, and the Japanese saber brushed past Jingtie’s blade as it pierced into the darkness, the amber sparks fleeting. His first stab had missed! Xiahou Lian swiftly withdrew his saber, and in the blink of an eye, the second stab was thrust! Shen Jue was clearly surprised for a moment, and Jingtie couldn’t block the second stab. The tip of the Japanese saber pierced into his left chest. Shen Jue grunted, but Xiahou Lian didn’t continue penetrating and instead retracted the saber and drew back. The blade lifted up, and the spine of the saber hit Shen Jue’s right hand, causing Jingtie to be thrown far away.

He had no way of fighting without a weapon, right!

“Stop fighting…”

Xiahou Lian was just about to speak, but Shen Jue drew a handbow from under his cloak. The trigger mechanism sounded explosively, and three crossbow arrows were fired together. Xiahou Lian missed the opportunity to dodge, and the arrows pierced into his arm. There was a pain in his arm, and the Japanese saber fell to the ground. In the next instant, Shen Jue’s fist hit his cheek, and Xiahou Lian’s entire body collided with a bookshelf. Then, he fell to the ground, and books and scrolls clattered as they hit his head.

Fuck!

One of Xiahou Lian’s teeth was knocked flying. He propped himself up and spat out a mouthful of blood. The blood dripped onto the booklet under his face, and he subconsciously looked over. It was an official document, and an edict was written on it in ink. The tiny text was densely packed and the page was yellowed, looking to be several years old. Under the moonlight, he saw writing that had been stained by his own blood:

The Eastern Depot’s lead officer of Hangzhou Prefecture, Xiao Zhong, acted on his own authority and disobeyed orders. He wanted to kill Xiahou Lian and was deployed to Jiaozhi 4, never to return.

Xiahou Lian should not be hurt in the slightest. If violated, there will be the same punishment.

What did this mean? Xiahou Lian was stunned for a moment, and then he reacted. Not be hurt in the slightest… Shen Jue wanted to find him, not kill him! His lips trembled, and he held the official document as he stood up. He remembered that Shen Jue’s saber skills and the saber skills of the assassin who had saved him in Liuzhou were exactly the same, like a ghost, changing and unpredictable. He had only seen such a strange saber technique this one time in his life. No wonder his clothes and weapons were here, no wonder Shen Jue was still using Jingtie.

Why was Shen Jue, this guy who had water in his brain, so hard-mouthed!

Xiahou Lian opened his mouth and wanted to shout Young Master. The word “Young” was just about to leave his mouth when the tip of his tongue began going numb, and his entire body began to go limp.

“I forgot to tell you, the arrows are coated with anesthetic,” said Shen Jue.

He struggled to steady himself and wanted to open his mouth. That man who was like lonely frost stood in the moonlight and looked at him indifferently, without any expression at all, his gaze as cold as a handful of snow. The footsteps of underlings sounded, and torches illuminated the courtyard. Half of Shen Jue’s face was reddened by the firelight, and the cold and white side of his face became slightly warmer. However, that expression in his eyes was still cold, able to be cold to the bone.

He walked out without even looking back, his black figure becoming further and further. The numbness finally spread to his limbs and bones, and Xiahou Lian knelt down, his body landing heavily on the ground. He still strenuously reached his hand out, his fingers stiffly reaching toward Shen Jue.

“Young…”

He was both happy and sad. It turned out that Shen Jue still missed him. He didn’t regard him as an enemy; they were still friends, they had always been.

This stubborn guy had been looking for him for ten years and had never given up. He felt that he was like a wandering soul and wild ghost going home to appear in dreams, but the night had been too dark and he had lost his way, drifting along and not knowing how many miles he had traveled, and he had finally found his way back home. He was too stupid. It wasn’t as if he didn’t know Shen Jue’s temperament. He said yes but meant no, and was as difficult to deal with as a fried dough twist. He had actually believed Shen Jue’s nonsense.

All of the faraway memories surged back like tidewater. Climbing walls together, studying together, practicing sabers together… Idiot, he scolded himself, hurry and stand up. Tell him that you’re Xiahou Lian!

But he couldn’t stand up. He was going to die, die in Shen Jue’s hands, his best friend’s hands.

His vision became more and more blurry, and the darkness descended on his head.

It was too late, it was too late…

Shen Jue walked far away, step by step, his cloak with floating clouds melting into the night. Xiahou Lian’s fingers lost their strength, and he was finally engulfed by the darkness. 

 

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Translator Notes:

  1. Where the empress lives.
  2. A kind of limestone produced at the foot of Dongting Mountain, close to Lake Tai. They have pores and holes, and are very popular in gardening.
  3. Lit. Ghost Cry.
  4. A historical region corresponding to present-day Northern Vietnam.
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Nabong_uwu
July 25, 2022 10:47 pm

This novel’s cliffhanger are so ahhhhhhh
Finish the sentence, call him Young Master and make him know 😭😭😭

Thank you so much for the chapter!!!

LicoLico
July 26, 2022 1:12 am

Thank You for the new chapter ♡ฅ(ᐤˊ꒳ฅˋᐤ)

loneplum
July 28, 2022 12:34 am

XHL finally realized that SJ doesn’t hate him! Finally!!

So heart-breaking to learn about Shen Jue’s collection of XHL’s stuff, and even washing them! Just want them to be together. 😢 The title of this chapter is so true.

Thank you for the chapter!

Springek
July 27, 2022 8:23 pm

Aaaagghhhh! The cliffhangers in this story are so intense!

Thanks for the chapter!

WangXian31
July 28, 2022 5:29 am

At last, XL knows the truth.
What now though? How will SJ feel when he realises this really is XL? I am a little surprised, given fighting style (XL noticed SJ’s sfter all) and the obsession with Hengbo, that SJ wasn’t far more suspicious.
These chapters are incredible.
Thanks for translating, the TNs and editing 🤗

Dio85
July 31, 2022 9:41 am

Finally the confusing is cleared! But left with this cliffhanger! Im so glad to catch up to the chapters! Amazing as always! Thank you for the translation and editing! ❤️❤️

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