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Translated by Vivian of Exiled Rebels Scanlations

 

Carrying a lantern and walking at night, the light red lotus lantern illuminated a square inch of field underneath their feet. Xiahou Lian and Shen Jue walked aimlessly and somehow walked onto a narrow cobblestone path. There were dirt walls on both sides, and dustpans and bamboo poles were piled along the path. Shen Jue was wearing a scarf on his head and couldn’t see the path clearly, so he wanted to take it off, but he was also afraid of his face being seen by people. With the governor wandering around the night market, crowds of people would come to watch in a bit. He cautiously walked for a while on the uneven path, but he stepped on a dustpan and staggered, and Xiahou Lian held his arm.

“I’ll pull you along,” said Xiahou Lian. His hand slid to his wrist as he led him.

The two of them continued walking in the dark, not speaking the entire way. Xiahou Lian hadn’t spoken much since contacting Tang Shiqi. Sometimes, he would smile and explain to him what a small thing at the side of the road was, but he could still tell from Xiahou Lian’s eyes that he was absentminded. They were old friends in the end, and how could a friendship be broken off just by saying it was? He sighed inwardly. He hadn’t thought this one through; Xiahou Lian had grown up in Garan and had many friends, so he originally shouldn’t have let Xiahou Lian interfere in this matter.

He pulled his hand back, and Xiahou Lian’s hand slid downward, landing in his palm. He noticed Xiahou Lian’s hand stiffen for an instant, but he didn’t break away in the end and let him hold it. Xiahou Lian’s hand held sabers all year round, so it was very coarse, like sandpaper for sharpening sabers. As they walked deeper and deeper, people gradually disappeared. The depot guards followed distantly behind them, so only the two of them remained in the silent and narrow lane. He still didn’t let go of Xiahou Lian’s hand, and Xiahou Lian didn’t let go of his; the two of them walked slowly like this.

In the silence, Shen Jue suddenly said, “Garan’s matters should still be turned over to another lead officer.”

“No!”

Xiahou Lian abruptly paused in his steps and turned around. Shen Jue didn’t stop and bumped into Xiahou Lian. Xiahou Lian staggered backward and couldn’t help but hold Shen Jue’s waist. He was still holding the lantern pole in his hand, and the pole pressed against Shen Jue’s waist. The lantern shook continuously under the pole, and the dim light leapt on their faces. Separated by a thin layer of black gauze, they could see each other’s eyes.

Xiahou Lian’s heart skipped a beat, and he hastily stepped backward, pretending to be calm as he asked, “You aren’t hurt, right?”

Shen Jue subconsciously wanted to say no, but the words turned when they reached his mouth “It hurts.”

“Huh? Where does it hurt?” Xiahou Lian looked down at his arms and body. It was the middle of winter so he was wearing thick clothes. That collision from just then hadn’t been severe, so how come he had gotten hurt?

Shen Jue didn’t have time to think, so he randomly made up, “My leg hurts.” He regretted it after saying it; he hadn’t hit his leg at all, and one would know he was lying upon hearing it.

Xiahou Lian smiled. “Are you tired from walking? Let’s rest for a while then.”

Shen Jue nodded. Xiahou Lian placed the lantern on the ground and squatted down to help him rub his legs. He lowered his eyes and looked at the top of Xiahou Lian’s head, saying, “Giving it to someone else to handle will be good for you and for the Eastern Depot.”

“Are you afraid that I’m softhearted and am missing the big picture, Young Master?”

“I’m also afraid that you’ll feel bad.”

“There are some things I’m going to have to face.” Xiahou Lian stood up and said, “I can’t avoid or escape it anymore, nor do I want to avoid or escape it.”

“Do you have to torment yourself?” Shen Jue still didn’t approve.

“Young Master, I’m begging you,” Xiahou Lian looked at him and said, “I want to personally settle the matter of Garan.”

Shen Jue looked at him silently and finally sighed. “If your shidi is willing to come over and pledge allegiance, let him into the Eastern Depot. However, if he insists on not…”

“Then let me,” Xiahou Lian slowly clenched his fists underneath his narrow sleeves, as if he was using all of his strength to speak, “kill him myself.”

 ———————————————

The moonlight tonight was white and cold, and the snow reflected the chilly light onto Baili Yuan’s face that was the size of a palm, as pale as a porcelain doll. She was smiling, but there was clearly a sorrowful aura. Chi Yan looked down at her. After a long while, he said very seriously, “Baili, do you have a wish?”

“A wish?”

“Mn, I can help you,” said Chi Yan.

“What if my wish is for you to be buried with me?” Baili Yuan said softly, “Would you still be willing to help me realize it?”

Chi Yan hesitated.

Baili Yuan clenched her fists, and her pupils gradually became vicious as she said in a low voice, “Sure enough… they’re all lies!”

“I can take your ashes with me,” Chi Yan suddenly said, as he took out a pouch from the fold of his clothes. He poured out the mere three copper coins that were inside and put it on the windowsill for Baili Yuan to look at. “I will use this to store them.”

It was a pouch that was very old from being used. It had originally been azure blue, but the color had faded over time, and it had become a light blue. Some of the viciousness in Baili Yuan’s eyes dissipated, and she asked, “Why use this one?”

“My little brother sewed it for me.” Chi Yan said, “He has not given me many things, and I even lost some later, so there is only this pouch left.”

Baili Yuan stared at the pouch. She had always known that Chi Yan missed his twin a lot, and she didn’t want for her own ashes to be stored in the pouch that that person had sewn for him at all. She ground her teeth in anger and turned around, fiercely kicking a big tree a few times. Her stomach hurt even more, and she felt gurgling blood flow down along her thigh.

She kicked a few times and stopped, turning her head to say loudly to Chi Yan, “Are you an idiot! How can such a small pouch fit my ashes!”

Chi Yan was taken aback.

Baili Yuan wanted to leave, but she felt that she was very weak right now. She had forgotten to put on a scarf when she went out, so the piercingly cold wind poured into her collar, and her body was cold from outside to inside. Her stomach was hurting more and more, and she felt that she could no longer stand. A man with messy clothes appeared at the corner ahead, having come out to go to the lavatory. He saw Baili Yuan, with her white face and petite appearance. His heart instantly floated up, and his eyes lit up as he ran over, staggering.

Baili Yuan frowned in disgust, reached into the fold of her clothes, and held the dagger that was hidden at her waist.

“Get lost, what do you want to do!” A-Chu sprang out of somewhere and held a broom, hitting the man hard in the face. This woman was like a vixen when she was fierce, and even her originally enchanting makeup became sharp.

The man cried out in pain as he ran away. A-Chu threw away the broom and lifted her skirt as she ran to Baili Yuan and said, “You child, didn’t I tell you not to come to the front?”

Baili Yuan looked at her with dark and heavy eyes, not speaking. She looked to the side; Chi Yan was squatting on the windowsill and looking at her. Just then, he had probably wanted to jump down to stop that hooligan. The two of them were both foolish. She sighed and picked up Baili Yuan’s hand, wanting to lead her away. Suddenly, she saw the blood on the ground and asked in shock, “Whose blood is this?”

Baili Yuan said, “Mine.”

Chi Yan also pointed at her. “Hers.”

A-Chu grabbed Baili Yuan’s shoulder and asked panickedly, “What happened to you? Where are you injured?”

“My stomach hurts.” Baili Yuan said, “I seem to have been poisoned.”

A-Chu was stunned and asked, “Your stomach hurts? Are you bleeding at your thigh?”

Baili Yuan nodded.

A-Chu understood and sighed deeply again. She suddenly knew what it felt to raise children. She looked down at Baili Yuan; the girl was sickly, like a paper person that had been fished out of water: pale, limp, and strengthless. She took her hand and walked to the backyard, not forgetting to instruct Chi Yan, “Boil a bowl of brown sugar water.”

“Can brown sugar water detoxify the poison?” asked Baili Yuan.

A-Chu laughed so hard she couldn’t catch her breath. “Yes, yes, not only can it detoxify the poison, but it can also maintain beauty.”

A-Chu brought her to her own room, burned the basket of charcoal in the room, and then took out a menstrual cloth from the wardrobe. Baili Yuan picked up the menstrual cloth; it was a long red strip of cloth, bright red peonies were embroidered on it, and it was lined with cotton, so it felt soft. There were thin and long strips of white cloth on either side, but she didn’t know what they were for.

A-Chu taught her by hand how to use it, as well as the matter of menstruation. As Baili Yuan listened muddledly, A-Chu helped her fasten the cloth, and when her arms were bent around her, a faint scent of rouge wafted over, indistinctly enveloping her. She thought absentmindedly about where she had smelled this scent before. A lot of places seemed to have it, and the women in Honglou Brothel 1 always liked this scent of face powder. A-Chu gave her a hand warmer for her to warm her stomach. As she held the hand warmer, she suddenly realized that she wasn’t going to die. She was actually a little disappointed, as if she originally should have died.

Her cotton trousers were dirty, so A-Chu had her sit on the carved bed and wrapped the cotton quilt around her. The quilt was also red. She knew that brothels liked to use bright red quilt covers; this way, when the men and prostitutes went to bed, it was like going into a bridal chamber and had false joyousness.

A-Chu also dove under the covers and hugged her knees as she asked her, “You child, you don’t even know about menstruation, hasn’t your mother taught you before?”

“No,” Baili Yuan looked down at the flowers on the quilt, “my mother never spoke to me.”

A-Chu asked in confusion, “Why not?”

Baili Yuan said, “When I was a child, a fortune teller came to my house and said that I was the reincarnation of an evil spirit, and that I would kill my parents in the future. My parents were scared, so they sent me to the mountain to live in a nunnery. The fortune teller said that the Buddhist aura in the nunnery could suppress me and make me not a demon.”

“They believed the words of a fortune teller? When I was a child, an old blind man even said that I would be the empress in the future!” A-Chu looked at Baili Yuan and asked cautiously, “Then have you been living in the nunnery the entire time?”

“Mn. That place is very cold and it snows every day. There’s nothing at all, and only a type of red flower grows there. There are only two or three old nuns in the nunnery, and they pant when they walk. I could only play by myself. Sometimes, I would build snowmen, name them, and pretend that they were my good friends.”

“You haven’t gone back home once?” A-Chu asked her.

Baili Yuan said, “I have. Every festival and New Year, my father would send people to take me back to the manor. The nuns told me that I had many siblings and that I should treat them well, and only then would they let me stay at home. I went to the snowfield and caught a snow fox. The snow fox was hard to catch, and I set many traps in the snow. My fingers were frozen before I finally caught one. I put it in a cage and brought it to them. At first, they were quite happy, but Fifth Sister was naughty. She reached into the cage and was bitten by the snow fox. My parents said I was inauspicious, as I hurt my younger sister as soon as I returned, and they even killed the snow fox.”

“How could they be like this, it was her who reached in herself, what did it have to do with you!” A-Chu was outraged at the injustice on her behalf, and she was so angry her face turned red.

“Later, I made glutinous rice balls for them to eat, but they didn’t want it. They said that eating the things that an evil spirit made would make them sick. Actually, the glutinous rice balls were very good, I ate what I made myself, and I never got sick.” Baili Yuan placed her chin on her own knees as she slowly said, “The year I was nine years old, Second Sister pitied me and invited me to play with them. They climbed onto an artificial mountain, but I was afraid and waited for them below. Second Sister bumped into Ninth Brother, and he fell next to my feet and died. Second Sister was afraid that our parents would punish her, so she pushed the blame onto me. I said that I didn’t do it and that Second Sister had, but my parents didn’t believe me. I begged my other siblings to testify for me, but they all ignored me. They clearly saw it, but no one testified for me. From then on, my parents didn’t let me go back home.”

A-Chu felt agonized as she listened, but Baili Yuan’s expression was indifferent as she continued, “Only later did I understand that Second Sister is their sister, but I’m not. I’m an evil spirit, and evil spirits don’t have siblings, so they didn’t testify for me. Actually, my parents should’ve killed me. Since they didn’t like me, they should’ve killed me, why keep me alive?” Baili Yuan looked up and unexpectedly smiled. “A-Chu-jiejie, do you agree?”

“Bah, bah! What nonsense are you saying! They’re the ones who were wrong, it wasn’t your fault. Your siblings were young and insensible, so forget it, but how are there parents like this in the world!” A-Chu pressed her into her arms. “Our A-Yuan is the best. She’s beautiful, her heart is good, and she can even catch foxes and make glutinous rice balls. A-Yuan, will you make glutinous rice balls for me?”

Baili Yuan felt suffocated from being pressed, and her nose was filled with the scent of rouge on her body. She wanted to break free, but A-Chu wouldn’t let her move. She had no other choice and could only say yes. A-Chu smiled as she let her go and nudged her nose, asking, “Then what about you and Xiahou? He isn’t your brother by blood, right?”

Baili Yuan shook her head and said no. “I picked him up from the snow. His mother didn’t want him when he was born, and his father treated him as a slave and ordered him about. He’s the same as me, so I recognized him as my big brother.”

A-Chu touched her cheek lightly. In her palm, her small porcelain-white face seemed to be able to be crushed in one pinch. A-Chu smiled slightly, and there was a very soft light in her eyes. “Actually, I also don’t have a family. When I was very young, my father offended the seal-holder of the Directorate of Rites at the time, Wei De, so our house was raided by the Eastern Depot. I don’t even remember what my parents looked like, I only remember those fierce-looking Eastern Depot underlings. A-Yuan, if you don’t mind, you can recognize me as your big sister.”

Baili Yuan didn’t respond and only said, “But I’m a bad guy. You won’t like me.”

A-Chu clapped lightly and said, “What a coincidence! I’m also a bad guy!”

Baili Yuan was taken aback.

“When I was your age, I would go into other people’s dog holes every day and climb trees to steal other people’s jujubes to eat.” A-Chu smiled. “How about it, bad little sister, do you dare to recognize the bad big sister as your sister?”

Baili Yuan was silent for a long time without speaking. A-Chu felt a little embarrassed, and she suddenly regretted speaking so freely. A-Yuan dressed so wealthily, she was the daughter of a rich family at a glance, so how could she recognize her, a prostitute who couldn’t buy her own freedom, as her sister? However, she had always been like this, saying whatever she was thinking. Her mother had scolded her a lot of times, but she just couldn’t change. She pinched her own fingers and hastily tried to give herself an out. “Ah, um… I was just joking…”

“Jiejie,” Baili Yuan suddenly said.

A-Chu was stunned.

“Jiejie,” Baili Yuan laid down, sleeping in her arms, “didn’t you say that I could recognize you as my sister? I’ve agreed now, you’ll be my big sister in the future.”

A-Chu seemed to have been knocked in the heart, and tears fell down her cheeks. She wiped the tears on her face and made a heavy “mn.” After sitting for a while, she got off the bed in her bare feet and hastily rushed out the door, saying angrily, “What’s the matter with this Xiahou? Taking so long to boil brown sugar water!”

When she opened the door, Chi Yan had just arrived outside the door, and the two of them were startled. A-Chu rushed him in, and Chi Yan carried the brown sugar water onto the kang table, and then carried the table to Baili Yuan. A-Chu complained that the charcoal fire wasn’t warm enough and wanted Chi Yan to fetch snowflake charcoal from the kitchen. Chi Yan complied and went. He came back carrying a dustpan and added the charcoal into the basket.

Baili Yuan was sitting on the bed, using a silver hairpin to test the brown sugar water; it wasn’t poisoned. She turned her head to look at the two people sitting outside and in front of the basket of charcoal, warming themselves by the fire. A-Chu was chattering about something. This woman had a very noisy mouth, and she never stopped. One moment, she was talking about how the bawd had been treating her very well these past few days and hadn’t forced her to receive guests, and the next moment, she was talking about how there were no good men. Although Chi Yan was good, he was unfortunately foolish.

Chi Yan was warming the wet front of his clothes, and one could tell that he wasn’t listening at a glance. Baili Yuan finished drinking the brown sugar water, and her stomach was warm. She laid down and wrapped A-Chu’s bright red cotton quilt around her own body tightly, her eyes still looking outside. A-Chu was removing makeup, so she could only see Chi Yan now.

His face had been changed using cosmetics, so he wasn’t his original appearance, but his brows and eyes hadn’t changed. He actually had a pair of very sharp brows and eyes, but his body had an idiotic look, and he always had an obedient appearance, as if anyone could bully him. Thus, all of the ruthlessness in his eyes disappeared, leaving behind only an indifferent tranquility.

They had actually met a very long time ago. When she had still been an ordinary little girl, and hoping every day for the New Year to come sooner so she could go home sooner, she had seen him at that large house. She had slept in a room without a charcoal fire, while the maids and old women gambled and played madiao in the neighboring room, and she shivered while listening to their drunken laughter and cursing. She recalled that she had also been wrapped in a cotton quilt like this, but at that time, the cotton had been very stiff and as cold as a piece of iron, so she hadn’t been able to get out any warmth even when she squeezed it tightly. She could only switch to hugging her own knees, counting sheep and hoping to fall asleep soon; as long as she was asleep, she wouldn’t be cold anymore.

In her daze, she heard the sound of a xun, slow and like the wind in the night sky. She woke up at once, but the sounds of the xun kept drifting, and she could no longer fall asleep. She gazed at the pitch-black ceiling of the bed for a very long time before quietly climbing out of bed, wearing only unlined clothes as she stepped barefoot onto the ground. She first laid on the ground and listened to the wall for a while, making sure that the neighboring old women and servants wouldn’t suddenly come to see her. Then, she put on a lined coat, climbed onto a stool, pushed open the window, and flipped out from the window.

The xun sounds drifted in the silent night sky, and like snowflakes in the North, it was also cold and lonesome. She listened to the xun and felt empty, like an old and shabby pouch that could store a lot of wind. She walked into the corridor with bare feet and followed the sounds of the xun, not stopping even when her feet were icy. Under the moonlight, the winding corridor was silvery white, twisting and turning as it stretched out ahead. As she stepped on the hard ground, she felt that those floating xun sounds seemed to be taking her to a place inhabited by ghosts.

She finally found the xun in a garden——it was a young man, seeming to be between youth and early youth. He was wearing a grayish white cloak, though she didn’t know if it had originally been that color or if its color had faded from being washed. He was sitting by the pond and playing the xun, and the moonlight spilled onto his shoulders. He was like a ghost that followed the descent of moonlight, and it seemed that at dawn, he would evaporate along with the moonlight.

She secretly squatted behind the column, rubbing her hands as she listened to him play the xun. She suspected that this was a dream, so she didn’t dare to move or say anything, afraid that once she made a noise, that ghost playing the xun would drift away. The ethereal sounds of the xun were like desolate moonlight that spread in the green-white garden, enveloping her entire body. She herself also became a green-white silhouette in the moonlight, a little ball, like a small beast. She listened silently, listening with her heart and soul. The icy xun sounds, along with her thoughts, became small mayflies that flew very high and very far. She was suddenly crying, and tears dripped along her cheeks and onto the backs of her hands. 

She thought that she had met someone who was the same as her, lonesome like her.

 

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Translator Notes:

  1. Lit. Red Tower Brothel.
Exiledrebelsscanlations

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We are a group that translates Japanese Yaoi manga and Chinese BL novels. Remember to comment on our chapters or leave a review and rating on Novel Updates, it encourages us!

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Dio85
September 23, 2022 12:15 pm

I see, so that’s how they met. Can’t help feeling bad for YB now that the truth is out, I can see why she is different from SJ and XHL, she didn’t have anyone at all. At least SJ had XHL had each other and even CY had XHL. The whole kind of holding hands as they walked was rather sweet, hopefully they can communicate at some point! I can see why XHL would be sad those were his close friends, I’m hoping he can convince him to join him, it would be tragic if he has to kill his… Read more »

WangXian31
September 24, 2022 2:16 am

So this is BY’s sad story; a hard, cold, loveless life from infancy, all because of superstitious parents & frightened, lying siblings.
No guidance orcompassion, treated like a devil, no wonder she became one.
As her whole family were wiped out by smallpox, she’d have died too if with them.
Hard to believe she’s still only 12 (or 13 now?) Leading Garan & its 8 Legions.
I love XL and SJ’s quiet moments together. Their mutual care.
Hard times ahead.

WangXian31
September 24, 2022 2:16 am

Thanks for translating m, the T/N and editing.

LicoLico
September 24, 2022 5:04 am

Thank You for the chapter (´,,•ω•,,)♡

Loneplum
September 25, 2022 12:49 pm

So Baili Yuan really IS a little girl??? I thought she was a grown woman who was short and just happened to look really young. This makes it even creepier!

So many lonely people in this story. 😢. Baili Yuan seems to be in love with CY in her own way.

SJ and XHL holding hands makes me happy! 😊

Thank you for the chapter!

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