Translated by Vivian of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
In the end, Xiahou Lian had Xie Jinglan lie on his back, and he used his hands and legs to crawl back to Qiuwu Courtyard.
Aunt Lan and Lian Xiang were standing at the door, looking around anxiously. When they saw two people crawling in the distance, one on top of the other, they mumbled about how there were such strange people in this world. When they carefully looked again, wasn’t it the young master lying on top?
The two of them rushed up and frantically picked Xie Jinglan up. Lian Xiang touched his forehead and exclaimed, “It’s so hot!”
Aunt Lan carried Xie Jinglan on her back and ran to the courtyard as she shouted to Lian Xiang, “Hurry up and find the doctor!”
Xiahou Lian collapsed on the ground like a dead fish and shouted, practically with his dying breath, “Don’t forget about me! I also have a fever…”
Before he could even finish, his vision turned black, and he fainted.
When he woke up again, he discovered that he was lying in a woodshed.
How come he was here?
He was muddled for a bit, and when he thought back to returning to Qiuwu Courtyard, there was a blank, and he thought for a long time but couldn’t recall anything.
He was terribly thirsty, and it felt like there was a shard of iron lodged in his throat, a metallic, rusty taste rising in his throat that he wanted to cough out but couldn’t. Xiahou Lian crawled to the door and pushed it forcibly, but the clanging of an iron lock sounded.
The door was locked.
Exactly what was going on?!
The woodshed was drafty, and the cold made Xiahou Lian shiver and his teeth chatter. He had taken off his cotton coat and given it to Xie Jinglan, so he only had two unlined layers of clothing on him. He shrank into a ball like a cat and shivered continuously.
“Xiao Lian! Xiao Lian!”
Xiahou Lian opened his eyes abruptly, and Lian Xiang’s round face appeared in the little window in the wall. When Lian Xiang saw that Xiahou Lian was awake, she stuffed three steamed buns through the gaps in the window lattice.
“Sister, I want to drink water!” Xiahou Lian lifted his head and shouted as he crawled over and picked up the steamed buns.
Lian Xiang wanted to stuff in a flask of water, but the gap was too small and the flask was too big, so it didn’t fit at all.
“I’ll pour the water in, open your mouth under to catch it.”
Xiahou Lian did as he was told. As the column of water dripped down patteringly, he opened his mouth strenuously and drank two or three sips with difficulty.
“Did you drink it?” Lian Xiang asked worriedly as she held the bars of the window lattice.
“I did, I’m fine.” Xiahou Lian grabbed a steamed bun and took a sloppy bite. “Exactly what is going on here? Why am I here?”
“Just when you and the young master returned to the courtyard, the madam sent people to take you away. They said that you spoke rudely and even instigated the young master into making trouble, so she wanted to lock you up. Lan Xiang from the study told us that you were here, so I came in secret.” Lian Xiang held back tears as she said, “You brat, I told you long ago not to make trouble, and look, retribution came! Hey, has your fever receded yet, do you feel better?”
I’m afraid not. Xiahou Lian didn’t need to touch his face for him to know that it was red and a mess, and he felt that it was hot enough to incubate an egg.
“I’m afraid that old crone doesn’t want me alive anymore, she doesn’t have any way to touch the young master for now, so she’s punishing me as a warning. Lian Xiang-jie, think of a way and see if you can find Mr. Dai, and ask him to save me.”
Mr. Dai wasn’t in the manor, and the sky was very dark, so where could she go to look for him? Lian Xiang opened her mouth, but in the end, she didn’t say the truth. “Okay, wait here. People say that scourges live for thousands of years, so a big scourge like you better hang in there.”
“Don’t worry, I’m like a cockroach, I won’t die that easily.”
When Lian Xiang left, Xiahou Lian didn’t stay idle. He finished the steamed buns and felt that he had regained some strength, and he dragged his sore and weak limbs to clear out part of the ground. He picked up a few pieces of dry firewood and piled them together, then hand-drilled the wood to make a fire. The skin on his hands were abraded before a tiny spark jumped up, and he persevered and rubbed for a long while before the firewood finally caught fire.
Only with the fire burning did he feel himself come back to life, and he curled himself up into a pile again.
The fire was a little small, and his back was still very cold. Xiahou Lian was a little worried. He wouldn’t really die here, would he?
He was a formidable assassin of Garan of Seven Leaves, and dying at the hands of a woman who didn’t even have enough strength to tie up a chicken really was shameful.
Xiahou Lian stared at the flames groggily, and there seemed to be stones hanging from his eyelids, making them sink down uncontrollably. In his daze, the door seemed to open, and a hunchbacked old man walked in. Someone pried open his mouth and poured an extremely bitter medicinal concoction into his throat. Xiahou Lian suddenly opened his eyes and grabbed the large hand that was like an iron plier, struggling effortfully.
“This is medicine for treating wind chill, what are you struggling for? Do you want to die?” The old man let go and looked at him sulkily.
The hair on the old man’s temples was completely white, and he had a huge aquiline nose. One of his eyes was gray and cloudy, as if a membrane had been stuck on it. He usually lowered his head, but at this moment, he was looking straight at Xiahou Lian with a revealed ruthlessness in his eyes. As long as one saw these eyes, no one would think that this was an old geezer.
Some said that people who have killed are different from ordinary people.
Xiahou Lian knew that the difference was in the look in their eyes.
People whose hands had been stained with blood had an indelible bloody ferociousness in their eyes. They had killed before and knew the fragility and vulnerability of people about to die. In their view, there was no difference between people and chickens, ducks, fish, or dogs, and with the slit of their throat, they too keeled over with two legs in the air.
Xiahou Lian suddenly came to a realization. “It turns out you’re Garan’s spy. I was presumptuous, I hope you won’t blame me.”
The old man put down a meal box and examined Xiahou Lian from the bottom up. Every time his eyes moved up an inch 1, he would sigh. Finally, his gaze landed on Xiahou Lian’s face, and he looked as if he was looking at a pile of mud that couldn’t stick onto a wall 2 and despairing for Garan’s bleak future.
Xiahou Lian felt as if his clothes had been taken off and that he had been turned side to side to be looked at. He was a little uneasy, so he turned and hurriedly drank the medicine.
Only when he had finished drinking the medicine did the old man sigh slowly. “Xiahou Lian, I’ve heard your name before. Sure enough, as I had expected, you are a lot like the Garuda.”
“Of course.” Xiahou Lian grinned.
The old man added, “But I didn’t expect that you flawlessly learned all of the Garuda’s shamelessness and roguishness, yet you’ve learned none of her greatness.”
Xiahou Lian: “…”
“Listen to my word of advice, you’re not made for being an assassin at all. Assassins need to know their place and blend into the crowd, before they can deceive people. Apart from this, it is even more important for assassins to disown everyone they’re close to and kill any god or Buddha they encounter. You are unruly and still kindhearted, and these two both don’t conform. That Xie Jinglan is nothing more than a little young master who is doomed to die in the back of the courtyard, yet you are so attached, so how could you kill others?”
The old man was so animated that spittle flew from his mouth, and when concluded in one sentence, it would be: Brat, you better go back to the mountain as early as possible and farm, don’t lose face for Garan.
“I don’t believe it, and if you believed that assassins need to disown everyone they’re close to, then why would you save me? Why would Uncle Duan look after me? My saber will kill whoever should be killed, and behead whoever needs to be beheaded!”
“I didn’t kill you because you aren’t my prey; I’m looking after you because Duan Xiaolou entrusted me to. If someone bought your life, hmph, I’d kill you all the same! Brat, you have a Bodhi saber 3, yet you don’t have the intent to kill. An assassin without the intent to kill will be doomed sooner or later!”
Xiahou Lian straightened his neck and retorted, “Who says I don’t? Give me a saber and I’ll slaughter that old crone! As I lift my hand, my saber will cut down, and I guarantee it will be very clean.”
“That is not the intent to kill, that is the intent of revenge. Of course killing someone you resent is as easy as turning over the palm of your hand, but what if you had to kill a complete stranger or even a loved one? For example, can you steel yourself and kill Xie Jinglan right now?” The old man’s muddy eyes stared at Xiahou Lian, and his gaze could almost be described as strict. “If Mrs. Xiao went to Garan and bought Xie Jinglan’s life, I can guarantee that your mother, the Garuda, will kill him without hesitation.”
“But my mother definitely wouldn’t kill me.” Xiahou Lian looked down and said dully, “No one can disown everyone they’re close to.”
The old man laughed in ridicule. “Your personality is quite stubborn. All right, I’ll give you two choices right now, and you also know your current situation. Mrs. Xiao has targeted Xie Jinglan like he’s a thorn in her flesh. When she steps, it won’t only be one ant that dies, you’re the one who will die along with it. As long as you give up on becoming an assassin, I’ll take you out. Garan has a rule that once an assassin falls into enemy hands, they must take their own life. If you’re not an assassin, then I can save you.”
Xiahou Lian didn’t even think before he said, “Then you can go, I’ll just stay here.”
Putting aside being an assassin or not, he couldn’t help but worry about that brat Xie Jinglan.
Who cared, even if this old man wouldn’t save him, Uncle Duan wouldn’t sit back and do nothing.
The old man glared at him and kept shouting “stubborn donkey,” before angrily taking a few breaths and pulling out a roll of paper from the fold of his clothes. He threw it at Xiahou Lian and said, “I’ll give you several minutes to memorize this map, and you have to remember every word of what I’m about to say next.”
Xiahou Lian shivered and straightened up.
Did this mean he wanted him to work? Had he finally become an official Garan assassin?
He hastily unfolded the roll of paper. It turned out to be a map of Xie Manor marked with corridors, pavilions, footpaths, and even the doors and windows, rockeries, and trees had labels. These past few days, Xiahou Lian had strolled around and familiarized himself with more than half of Xie Manor long ago. He also had a slightly photographic memory, so several minutes to memorize the map was more than enough.
“If you can get out, seize an opportunity to sneak into Xie Bingfeng’s study, find his letters, and make a list of names of the people he’s corresponded with. Remember, be careful in everything and don’t expose yourself. If there is an unforeseen event, keeping yourself safe and withdrawing comes first. If you don’t succeed, there will naturally be someone else to replace you.”
“Don’t worry, this will be a piece of cake.”
Xiahou Lian knew that Garan had always had the rule that if the planned fatal blow didn’t hit its mark, then they had to retreat. Garan didn’t need to go to any lengths to kill their target because training an assassin usually required ten to twenty years, so Garan couldn’t afford to lose one.
So far, Xiahou Lian had seen no more than twenty assassins on the mountain.
As Xiahou Lian touched the map, suspicion arose in his mind. “Why do we want this list of names? Will this… have some bad impact on the Xie clan?”
The old man snorted, clearly exasperated that he hadn’t lived up to his expectations. “I told you you weren’t made for this, you’re worried about this and worried about that, are you even going to be an assassin? Don’t worry, it shouldn’t be a big deal. This Xie Bingfeng simply offended someone in the officialdom, so someone wants to find something they can use against him and say that he formed a faction 4 to seek private gain.”
Formed a faction to seek private gain? Xiahou Lian combined his narrow knowledge and analyzed it, feeling that it didn’t seem like a serious crime. In storybooks, the officials who were put to death had either colluded with the enemy and committed treason or messed with the emperor’s concubines. He hadn’t heard of one being killed because they made friends.
“This person is sanctimonious and a hypocrite, so it’s not a pity if he’s dismissed from office.” Xiahou Lian patted his chest and said, “Leave it to me!”
The old man took back the map and threw a blanket to Xiahou Lian before picking up his box, walking out of the woodshed, and locking the lock once again.
“Brat, why don’t you use this spare time to study saber techniques properly. The way I see it, you’re not even as good as Xie Jinglan, he recites poems even when he’s going to the lavatory.”
Xiahou Lian looked up. The door crack was very small, and the man stood outside the door, glancing at him through the crack. Xiahou Lian could only see that gray and cloudy eye, and for some reason, Xiahou Lian felt that his gaze looked like he was looking at a dead person.
He recalled how Uncle Duan had said that if he had his plaque hung up, he definitely wouldn’t live past the age of twenty.
Bah, Xiahou Lian thought, unconvinced, they all fucking have eyes but fail to see. Don’t look down on people so much, and as the saying goes, don’t bully the young and the poor!
Xiahou Lian unfolded the blanket; a Garan saber scroll was lying in it.
He had flipped through this saber scroll countless times, but every time, he had skipped past the first page to go directly to the saber techniques at the end. As if he had been possessed by a ghost, he didn’t hurry to the saber techniques at the end this time, but instead flipped open the first page.
There was only one sentence written on it:
“I bestow upon you a Bodhi saber, kill to become a Buddha 5.”
- Actually “cun,” or Chinese inch. It’s around 1.312 inches.
- Represents a hopeless and incompetent person.
- Bodhi is Sanskrit for “awakening” or “enlightenment.”
- Refers to any amount of people with the same interests, usually political.
- Bodhi is Sanskrit for “awakening” or “enlightenment. A Buddha is an enlightened person.