Translated by Vivian of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
They had just returned to the Eastern Depot and their behinds hadn’t even warmed up from sitting yet when Embroidered Uniform guards visited.
The commander of the Embroidered Uniform Guard, Yang Zhaohe, personally came to get them, saying that Shen Jue had bombarded Guangling Temple, shocking the palace chambers, extremely audacious, seemingly plotting a rebellion. The emperor had handed out a note from the palace gate that night, wanting the Embroidered Uniform Guard to put Shen Jue into the imperial prison. Results had also come from the case from before of Mrs. Yao and her son. Word had come from the Ministry of Justice that Shen Jue had indeed allowed his subordinates to hurt people without error. The emperor had ordered the Three Judicial Departments to choose a day to hold the court trial for a joint trial of Shen Jue. Xiahou Lian and Situ Jin had also been arrested; Situ Jin was an accomplice, and Xiahou Lian was an accessory. Yang Zhaohe had also revealed that someone had reported that Xiahou Lian was the Garan assassin Nameless Ghost, so the hat of colluding with a rebel of the martial arts world, planning illegal activities, had also been added on Shen Jue’s head.
Wan Bohai had secretly been taken away by Shen Wenxing. Xiahou Lian and Situ Jin had entered the imperial prison together and were locked in one cell. Shen Jue’s treatment was different from theirs, as Yang Zhaohe had tidied a wing room in the garrison for Shen Jue to stay in.
Yang Zhaohe was an old man in the officialdom, and mixing in it up to now, he already knew one must not jump to conclusions before matters had gotten to the final moment. Perhaps Shen Jue could still turn the tables. After all, he had toppled Wei De, so he couldn’t be easily underestimated. Not to mention, he had received a lot of grace from Shen Jue, so he normally would consider himself as Shen Jue’s supporter. On the surface, he was enforcing the law impartially, but privately, he still had to save him some face.
However, Xiahou Lian and Situ Jin didn’t have such good luck. The two of them were sitting on the straw mat in the cell, and above their heads was a skylight, filtering down a beam of daylight in the dim cell. Behind them was a wall, extremely thick, and it made banging sounds when they slapped their palms on it, having the feeling of slapping cliff rock.
Xiahou Lian was a little worried about Shen Jue, though that guy never fought battles he wasn’t certain of, not to mention they still had Wan Bohai in their hands. However, Xu Ruoyu was a big scourge. That guy knew a lot of Shen Jue’s secrets, and they didn’t know what troubles he would cause. He hoped that that guy was already dead.
When they had just parted, Shen Jue had wanted him to be relaxed, saying that there were still a few matters he had to take care of and wanting him to sleep at ease. Xiahou Lian thought that Shen Jue was probably sitting in the garrison right now, a styrax perfume lit on the table, and a bowl of warm ginseng soup next to his hand. Outside, lines of officials were waiting for him to meet them and to listen to his orders, and tomorrow, everyone would knock over the empress dowager together. Perhaps, Xiahou Lian could happily go back home and sleep the next day, and in the future, he would go to work, catch thieves, and search people’s houses to confiscate property as usual.
Xiahou Lian slowly laid down and put his hands behind his head. Moonlight penetrated through the skylight and shone on his body, containing a bit of a taste of lingering affection. He suddenly missed Shen Jue a little, wondering what he was eating and looking at right now, and if he was sleeping, what kind of bed he was sleeping in. That brat’s body was frail, even more precious than a missy’s. Was he used to sleeping on the garrison bed? Xiahou Lian recalled the time they had been at Guangling Temple before. It had been too embarrassing, he had inexplicably laid on Shen Jue’s shoulder and cried like a sissy. Fortunately, that brat Shen Jue hadn’t laughed at him, otherwise he would have had to burrow himself into a crack in the ground.
Xiahou Lian thought for a while and suddenly felt strange. They clearly hadn’t been separated for over two hours, yet he had already started missing him.
Situ Jin was sitting on the ground, and half of his face was hidden in the darkness. The shadows outlined his grim and resolute silhouette, like the sharp edge of a rock. He didn’t know Situ Jin very well. On one hand, it was because his rank was too low, so besides Shen Jue, he usually couldn’t see any important people. On the other hand, it was because Situ Jin didn’t like to talk. He was like Chi Yan, an extremely silent man. However, Chi Yan didn’t speak because he had stayed for too long on Black-Faced Buddha by himself and didn’t really know how to speak. Situ Jin was silent because he didn’t talk nonsense.
However, he had also heard a lot of gossip in the Eastern Depot. Some said that Situ Jin was henpecked and didn’t dare to go against what his wife said. He also spoiled his daughter, as an underling had seen his daughter riding a horse in circles around the yard at his house, and Situ Jin was the horse. He didn’t know whether it was true or not.
The two of them were still silent. Xiahou Lian was a little bored, and he reached out, seeing the moonlight pour down from between the gaps of his fingers.
After a while, Situ Jin suddenly said, “Are you thinking about the governor?”
Xiahou Lian was stunned and asked, “How did you kn…” Only when he was halfway through did he realize that he was telling the truth, so he hastily swallowed down the last word and said, “Why do you say so?”
“I guessed. Out of the people you know who are still alive, I only know the governor,” said Situ Jin.
Xiahou Lian sat up and said, “I’m not asking about this, I’m saying, how did you know I’m thinking about someone?”
“When people look at the moon, they’re always thinking about the person they miss most. Before, the governor would frequently look at the moon, and he would look for a very long time whenever he did.” Situ Jin said, “Later, you came back, and he stopped looking.”
Xiahou Lian sighed in his heart. That guy Shen Jue was stubborn, he reckoned he was the only one in this world who would be this nostalgic. Arranging the courtyard of Shen Manor to be the same as Qiuwu Courtyard, and bringing Lian Xiang back, and wanting to find him, persisting for so many years. But Xiahou Lian understood Shen Jue. Through distant years, the past had dissipated like smoke, and he only wanted to bring back the time in the past, nothing more.
Xiahou Lian was silent for a while before he patted Situ Jin’s shoulder and said, “You’re actually also thinking about someone, right. I know, is it your wife? Your wife is home alone and has nothing to do, did you send someone to go home and let her know that you can’t come home tonight.”
Situ Jin nodded and said, “Before I left, I said that it would be very easy to stay out all night when investigating cases, so she’s already used to it.” He looked down and rubbed the center of his eyebrows. “But sometimes, she complains that I don’t come home. Ever since we had Yu-jie’er, she always suspects I have a mistress outside.”
“Women, it’s inevitable they’re suspicious of everything. She sits at home all day with nothing to do, so she can only think a lot, you have to understand your wife.” Xiahou Lian said, “Actually, it’s quite nice to have someone waiting for you to come home. Don’t look at your brothers always saying that staying single is good, leisurely and carefree. Actually, if one can get married, who wouldn’t want to. Only having someone in one’s home will it have liveliness, and only when it has liveliness is it a home.”
“Then why haven’t you gotten married?” Situ Jin asked, “Is it because you like the governor?”
Xiahou Lian: “…”
Did all people who didn’t like to speak this frightening when they did speak? Xiahou Lian was greatly embarrassed and said, “What are you talking about? I’m a man.”
“There are a lot of people in the capital who mess around with entertainers, I know several,” Situ Jin said indifferently.
“Don’t say this to the governor.” Xiahou Lian had a slight headache as he said, “He was bullied by this type of people when he was younger, so he’s very against this.”
Situ Jin was stunned and said, “I thought he liked you.”
Xiahou Lian: “…”
Situ Jin frowned. “To be exact, I thought you two liked each other.”
Xiahou Lian looked at Situ Jin with mixed feelings for a long time. Situ Jin had no expression, and his face was still indifferent, as if he had said something trivial like “today’s moon is very nice” just then. Xiahou Lian finally said, “Situ-laoge 1, did you read a lot of storybooks with your wife?”
Situ Jin said that he hadn’t. “She doesn’t really read those, she usually reads medical books.”
Then why was he thinking about these kinds of things? Xiahou Lian touched his own face gloomily; did he look like a cut-sleeve? He sighed and said, “You’re thinking too much. The governor and I are just good friends, we suffered a lot together in our childhood, and my mother even taught him the saber. Brothers through hardship, friends through life and death, you understand?” He crossed his arms and smiled unrestrainedly. “It seems that living to my age, it’s normal to have liked one or two women before. Even if I haven’t, I should have a fling, otherwise I really would be quite easily misunderstood as a cut-sleeve. But I was busy with revenge in my early years, so I didn’t have any time to think about these things. I also don’t know what kind of feeling love is.”
“Perhaps, love is a very warm feeling,” Situ Jin lifted his head and said.
“Warm?” Xiahou Lian repeated it in a murmur.
Situ Jin nodded. “I’m an orphan, so I’ve lived alone since I can remember. I’ve lived in charities, dilapidated temples, caves, and haunted houses where people have died and others didn’t dare to live in. I’m a northerner, and winters are very cold in the North. The small town I lived in was very poor, some families couldn’t even afford charcoal. But at least they had a family and could hug each other to keep warm. But I couldn’t, I could only hug myself. Later, I came to the capital, took the imperial examination on military knowledge and skill, had a rank, and even had a small house and courtyard. But I was still an orphan. Every day, I went to work alone, I ate alone, I went home alone, and I sat under the eaves and looked at the moon alone. I had no one to miss, and no one missed me. In winter, it was still as cold as before.”
“But later, you had a wife,” said Xiahou Lian.
“Right.” Situ Jin smiled faintly. “I have Mingyue, and everything was different. Like you said, when a house has liveliness, there will be steaming hot rice and soup when you come home. You’re also not afraid of the cold in winter anymore, since two people hugging each other is very warm, even if there is no charcoal fire. When looking at the moon, I have someone to miss, and someone misses me. Only at this time do I feel that in such a huge capital, in such a huge world, there is a place that belongs to me, because there is a person who belongs to me there. She’s waiting for me to come home and waiting for me to eat. She’s the reason I’m standing here.”
Xiahou Lian looked at him silently. When this resolute man talked about that woman named “Mingyue,” his expression had become gentle at once, as if steel had become soft around one’s finger. Even the contours of his face had softened. He smiled and put his hands behind his head as he said, “Situ-laoge, you got it wrong. This isn’t the feeling of love, it’s the feeling of relatives. I’ve also experienced it before when my mother and brother and shifu were here, though they didn’t cook for me.”
Situ Jin shook his head and said, “Your mother and your brother have a blood relation to you, you’re naturally close. Your shifu watched you grow up and taught you skills, so he was like a father to you. But Mingyue and I are different, she and I don’t have a blood relation, yet I still want to keep going with her for a long, long time, never separating. A person wouldn’t want to stay together forever with a friend. Wanting to stay together must be a husband and wife.”
Xiahou Lian was stunned for a long time. Was wanting to stay together liking someone?
He actually hadn’t thought about this before. From childhood to adulthood, he had never encountered a woman he had wanted to spend a lifetime with. However, he suddenly couldn’t help but suppose, what if it was with Shen Jue? He recalled the steaming hot rice and soup Situ Jin had said. He hadn’t seen Situ’s wife before, but she must be a very gentle woman, probably with a falling-off-the-horse bun, bright moon pearl earrings, and wearing a moon-white shirt and an azure apron. Situ Jin would ride a horse home in the wind and snow, push open the door, and that gentle woman would greet him with a smile, asking warmly whether he was cold. In a daze, the man coming home became himself, and the person greeting him became Shen Jue.
No, Shen Jue didn’t know how to cook! Xiahou Lian bit his tongue forcibly and came back to his senses. He shook his head and said, “Then I really haven’t encountered it before.”
Situ Jin reached out to touch the moonlight. “Moreover, the person you like is definitely the best person you’ve met in this life. Mingyue is the best girl I’ve ever met.”
Xiahou Lian thought about himself again; he hadn’t met any good girls. What about Shen Jue? That guy had the temper of a missy, and he didn’t know how to sew, cook, or clean. If he married him, that would be marrying a big Buddha to provide for. But providing for him also seemed quite nice. He knew how to sew, cook, and clean anyway, and if they had money, they could also hire servants. Xiahou Lian couldn’t help but think of Shen Jue’s gorgeous features, and his heart skipped a beat in a daze.
The sounds of the night watches came from outside the cell, knocking, sound after sound, following a tight rhythm and happening to startle him awake. No, no, Shen Jue was also a man, and even though he was a eunuch, he was still a man, so how could he marry him? He shook his head forcibly, flinging these unclean thoughts out of his mind. He turned his head to look at Situ Jin. His head was lifted and he was gazing at the moon outside the window, probably thinking of his wife.
Xiahou Lian thought for a while and felt that it was still better to not sleep with Situ Jin. He took a pile of straw from the ground, spread it across from him, and laid down. He tossed and turned for a long time, but he couldn’t fall asleep.
He turned his head and asked, “Do you know the governor’s plan?”
“I can’t say.” Situ Jin pointed at the wall, meaning he was afraid that the walls had ears. “Don’t worry, the governor will be fine.”
“Mn.” Xiahou Lian turned his head back and turned onto his side, facing the wall that was covered in moldy moss.
He actually wasn’t worried, he just suddenly really wanted…
He abruptly realized; he suddenly really wanted to see Shen Jue.
Three days later, Xiahou Lian and Situ Jin were escorted outside the main gate of the imperial palace. It was much colder; all of the leaves around had fallen, and the rustling autumn wind held the corners of people’s clothes, lingering and forgetting to return. I don’t know if Shen Jue is wearing enough clothes, don’t catch a cold again, Xiahou Lian thought silently.
Embroidered Uniform guards and their general had already lined up in a formation. The Minister of Justice, chief minister of the Court of Judicial Review, and left censor-in-chief of the Censorate were already sitting in the front, all of them old men with bright red-crowned crane official clothes 2, gray beards, pulling old faces and sitting upright at the top. A bright yellow screen barrier was set up behind them, and there was the indistinct figure of a woman with a high bun and robes.
“It’s the empress dowager,” Xiahou Lian said in a low voice.
Situ Jin nodded. “In a bit, don’t panic. If they ask you whether you’re the Nameless Ghost, just firmly deny it.”
As they were talking, Shen Jue came. Embroidered Uniform guards were gathered behind him, yet no one dared to hold him. He was still dressed in embroidered golden silk yesa robes and a gold-traced black gauze hat. Xiahou Lian and Situ Jin were both kneeling and could only see his smooth and beautiful jawline, a dark red necklace hanging underneath.
Xiahou Lian looked at him, and his gaze also swept past him. The moment they connected, it was as if they exchanged thoughts, and both of them were slightly reassured. Shen Jue retracted his gaze and clasped his hands behind his back as he stood in the center. There was natural disdainful arrogance between his eyebrows. That kind of straight back, tall figure, and such delicate features were naturally for people to look up at. Only looking distantly like this, in a fleeting moment, Xiahou Lian suddenly realized that that was the taste of adoration.
Shen Jue saluted toward the head seats, his voice as clear and bright as the striking of jade. “I, the guilty Shen Jue, greet all of you sirs.” He glanced at the screen barrier behind them and saluted again with clasped hands as he said, “I greet the empress dowager.”
“No need to be so polite, I just came to join the liveliness, don’t mind me. Sirs, you’d better hurry and start, don’t waste time.” The empress dowager spoke from behind the screen barrier.
All of the ministers and officials saluted with clasped hands toward the empress dowager. The Minister of Justice, who was in the center, said, “Summon Xu Ruoyu.”
Xiahou Lian was shocked; Xu Ruoyu was still alive!
A few Embroidered Uniform guards lifted a stretcher, lifting a lying person over. It was Xu Ruoyu. He had already lost both legs, as a section had been cut off, only leaving a short body and thighs. He struggled to get down from the stretcher and kowtow toward the ministers and officials.
“I, Xu Ruoyu of the Eastern Depot’s fifth division, report the seal-holder of the Directorate of Rites and governor of the Eastern Depot, Shen Jue, for colluding with the rebel Nameless Ghost of Garan, killing King Fu, driving the empress crazy, and conspiring to murder the former emperor!” Xu Ruoyu bit each word into his marrow. “For his crimes, he should be torn limb from limb by five horses, and his corpse should be thrown into the marketplace, exposed for a hundred days, and its flesh eaten by dogs!”
- Lit. Old brother. Used as an address for a man older than oneself.
- Different symbols are used on these clothes to differentiate between official positions. Birds represent civil officials, red-crowned cranes represent the highest rank of civil officials, beasts represent military officials, and qilins represent the highest rank of military officials.