Translated by Vivian of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
“Sir Xiao Shen!”
“Sir Xiao Shen, where are you?”
The depot guards’ shouts sounded in the distance, suddenly loud and suddenly soft; because the alleys had twists and turns, they were suddenly far and suddenly near Xiahou Lian. The alley was still a pitch-black expanse, and he practically couldn’t see anything. The assassin stood silently, his figure seemingly melting into the darkness. Coldness eroded Xiahou Lian’s palms, and chilly air seeped out of the bottom of his heart. The feeling this assassin gave people was too grim and cold, like a ghost congealed out of snowflakes.
Xiahou Lian’s heart beat fiercely, and he had an idea in mind. He didn’t dare to say it out loud, but he had to say it.
“Who are you?” he asked, his voice low and hoarse.
His heart was very wild, and he didn’t know what answer he was hoping for. Would this assassin be Chi Yan? He had only seen such a fast saber from Chi Yan, but why would Chi Yan continue to work for Garan?
If Chi Yan was working for Garan… were they enemies?
“Garuda,” replied the assassin. His voice was very young, but it was muffled behind the mask, so it couldn’t be heard clearly.
“I’m asking for your name!”
“Garuda,” the assassin repeated mechanically.
Xiahou Lian knew that assassins wouldn’t say their real name. At this time, Xiahou Lian actually sighed in relief, as if he originally hadn’t been hoping for an answer.
“Does Garan want to kill me?” he asked.
“I do not know.” The assassin said, “Draw your saber.”
The night wind flowed soundlessly, and a mouse scurried past between them.
The wind stopped, and everything returned to silence. In the deep silence, there was suddenly the sound of metal slicing through air. In the darkness, a fleeting light finally appeared like lightning.
Xiahou Lian had moved!
He made the first move, his goose quill saber passing through a smooth and beautiful curve. The tip of his saber was pointed at the assassin’s face, and the force of wind that came from tearing through the air was like the howl of a ferocious ghost. The assassin was still standing silently, as if he didn’t feel anything. His eyes were lowered behind his mask, and he didn’t even see the saber that was chopping toward the top of his head.
The saber arrived instantaneously, the ferocious momentum of the saber like the mountains and seas pressing down. The assassin finally lifted his saber, agile and swift, flawlessly sealing Xiahou Lian’s blow. Xiahou Lian felt as if he had chopped down on an extremely hard rock, not even able to push in half an inch.
However, the instant the sabers met, Xiahou Lian suddenly leapt up.
He borrowed the strength of the blow’s rebound and flipped over the top of the assassin’s head. His black figure was like a lithe swallow, lightly landing on the ground. Then, he swiftly put away his saber, climbed up the wall, and with a leap on top of the wall, he was instantly gone. The assassin was clearly taken aback as he closely followed in climbing up the wall.
Just as Xiahou Lian landed on the ground, a sharp whistle of slicing through the air came from behind, so sharp it seemed to pierce his head. He swiftly turned to the side and dodged, and a thin flash passed by the side of his face, stabbing into the wall in front of him. Xiahou Lian chopped down with his saber, and a clang sounded in the air like a string snapping, the Leading Mechanism Wire breaking at the sound.
However, this delay was enough for the assassin to catch up to him, and the two of them met once again. The assassin neared Xiahou Lian with a desolate and cold saber light in his sleeve. Xiahou Lian didn’t have time to swing his saber a second time, and there was already a fierce pain at his waist.
He had been caught. Like a moth stuck in a spiderweb, his saber was his wings, yet they vibrated weakly. The assassin turned into an afterimage, and the light of his saber was like lightning that haunted dark clouds, continuously flashing around him and slicing a new wound every time. He endured the pain as he swung his saber, but he missed every time as the assassin dodged and another wound dripping with blood was added on his body.
Too fast, too fast. This assassin was even faster than Chi Yan!
The assassin’s continuous swings finally ended. Xiahou Lian heard the clear sound of water drops; it was his blood dripping onto the ground. The blood took away his strength and temperature, chilliness invading his body bit by bit. Xiahou Lian leaned on his saber as he knelt down on one knee, panting rapidly.
“Stop struggling, you cannot beat me,” said the assassin.
Xiahou Lian took a deep breath and swung his saber again.
Fuck your uncle, he wouldn’t admit defeat! Even if it was Chi Yan, he wouldn’t admit defeat!
His saber was stopped halfway, and the assassin bent his right knee, slamming it into Xiahou Lian’s face. It was pitch-black before his eyes, and his nose hurt severely. Blood instantly flowed from his nose, and Xiahou Lian tasted a heavy flavor of rust in his mouth. The assassin didn’t stop; he picked him up by the back of his collar and pressed his head, striking it against the wall. The alley was already very old, so the bricks were already cracked, and a lot were fractured. With this collision from Xiahou Lian, there was a loud crash in his ears, and a hole the size of a fist was directly formed.
Blood pasted his eyes, and Xiahou Lian practically couldn’t open them. He slid down along the wall and onto the ground as the world spun in front of his eyes. He felt that his skull was about to fracture, and everything became hazy, calls of the depot guards in the distance seeming as far away as the horizon. He practically didn’t feel cold anymore, and he could only hear his own heavy breathing, again and again, like a dying ox.
The assassin’s figure was blurry, but he felt the assassin walk in front of him, flip him face-up with one hand, grab his collar, and drag him away. He was like a broken sack, his entire body uncontrollably sagging toward the ground. However, that hand dragged him, walking step by step toward the even deeper darkness ahead.
Hurry and get up, hurry and get up, he told himself.
He couldn’t, he definitely couldn’t be captured by Garan. He turned his face to the side and bit the assassin’s hand. The assassin was shocked and turned around to pry his mouth off. Xiahou Lian stretched out his leg and kicked his ankle fiercely, and the assassin lost his balance, falling to the ground. Xiahou Lian took the opportunity to grab the assassin’s collar and bite him on the shoulder. In the darkness, neither of them could see each other, and they rolled in the snow, scuffling. One person punched the other’s waist, and one person was firmly biting onto his shoulder and not letting go, like two wild wolves biting at each other.
However, neither of them dealt the fatal blow and were doing their best to knock out the other person, so the battle seemed to be ceaseless and never-ending. Blood dripped onto the snow, like bright flowers blooming quietly in the dark.
The taste of blood in his mouth was so strong it made Xiahou Lian want to vomit; there was both his own blood and the assassin’s blood in there. The shouting of the depot guards became closer and closer, and the assassin finally lost his patience. He struggled to flip up and used his elbow to strike Xiahou Lian’s back. This blow practically took away Xiahou Lian’s breath, and pain spread from the center of his back to his entire back, which seemed to be about to shatter. However, he didn’t give up and was still firmly biting the assassin’s shoulder. The assassin continued to strike with his elbows, but Xiahou Lian endured it. Blood seeped out from the gaps in his mouth, and his head became dizzier and dizzier.
He felt that he might be about to die soon, and in his daze, he thought of Shen Jue; that guy was still in the manor, waiting for him to come home. When he left, Shen Jue had even put on star-moon Bodhi beads for him and exhorted him that Garan was fierce and not to personally fight. However, he was too reckless and had walked into Garan’s trap, and now he was about to die.
It was Shen Jue’s voice!
Xiahou Lian abruptly opened his eyes, his entire body shocked. He suddenly roared loudly; the roar was resounding and sharp, like that of a wolf. He couldn’t die, there was still someone waiting for him to come home. He was someone’s wolf, and a wolf protecting their home was even braver and fiercer than a lone wolf. Xiahou Lian stood up with bloodshot eyes and pounced forward with his entire body, crashing the assassin into the crumbled wall. The bricks collapsed with a bang, falling onto the two of them. Xiahou Lian struggled to get up and move backward, and the assassin turned on his side shakily, blood seeping out from the gaps of his mask.
Xiahou Lian staggered back, holding onto the wall and leaving bloody handprints, one after another. Behind him, the assassin struggled to get up and stumbled away in the other direction of the alley. Blood seeped out from behind his mask, flowing along his chin and into his collar. He didn’t know how long he walked for, but the shouts of the depot guards became farther and farther. He turned a corner, pushed open the door of a quadrangle courtyard; Duan Jiu was sitting inside, smoking a pipe and waiting for him.
The assassin took off his mask, revealing pale cheeks. He was bleeding from the seven facial apertures, making him look very frightening.
“How long haven’t you taken the medicine, Chi Yan?” Duan Jiu stood up and helped him to a bench, reaching out to feel his pulse.
Chi Yan didn’t answer.
Duan Jiu waved his hand, and a spy walked out from under the eaves, helping Chi Yan into a room.
“Don’t resist Bliss Fruit, Chi Yan, at least it can give you a strong body.” Duan Jiu said from behind him, “Although it will make you die young…” Duan Jiu lifted his head and gazed at the night sky, the mustache on top of his lips shaking, and he actually smiled, “this is our fate, Chi Yan.”
Xiahou Lian covered his wounds as he walked, but pain surged up like tidewater. He had too many wounds, so he couldn’t cover them at all. Shen Jue’s voice was closer and closer, and he wanted to respond, but he had no strength. He could only walk forward as he held onto the wall, taking up all of his strength. The closer he got to this point, the more things appeared in his mind; it seemed that when death was imminent, one always wanted to look back at their life. He thought of the assassin just then who was like a lone wolf. Was that person Chi Yan? He didn’t have the strength to distinguish him, but there was a faint feeling in his heart, causing him not to deal a final blow with his saber and let the assassin go.
He thought of Shen Jue, that idiot; he had actually come here just like this. Didn’t he know that it was very dangerous here? What if he was targeted by the assassins? Xiahou Lian complained inwardly, but also felt happy, and there was a sour and sweet feeling in his heart. Having someone worry about him felt very nice, especially when it was Shen Jue worrying about him, so he felt that it was worth it even if he died. He thought ramblingly, If I die, will Shen Jue wear mourning clothes for me? Normally, he wouldn’t, since Shen Jue wasn’t his wife and had no reason to wear mourning clothes for him. However, Chi Yan wasn’t here, so no one could wear mourning clothes for him, and since Shen Jue was so worried about him, perhaps he would.
His consciousness gradually became hazy, and he felt like he was stepping on cotton, soft and unable to exert strength. He knew that this was a symptom of excessive blood loss and that he had to stop his bleeding immediately.
Flames suddenly flashed before his eyes, and his vision brightened. He heard depot guards exclaim “Sir!”, and they all came forward to hold him. At the end of the crowd, a familiar figure appeared, and he saw the panicked look in Shen Jue’s eyes. Shen Jue sprinted to him, and he sighed in complete relief, closing his eyes as he fell into Shen Jue’s arms.
“Bandages! Bandages!” Shen Jue shouted loudly. Immediately, someone came up to bandage him. He sucked in a breath of cold air from the pain and turned his face, happening to see Shen Jue glaring fiercely at him.
He pretended not to see and put on a weak expression. Shen Jue had no other choice and picked him up. Xiahou Lian was startled and struggled feebly.
“If you move again, you’re dead.” Shen Jue glared at him.
Shen Jue carried him onto a carriage. Xiahou Lian didn’t dare to look at the expression of the guard behind him, and he felt that he wouldn’t be able to lift his head and see people in the Eastern Depot in the future. Couldn’t this guy Shen Jue use his back?
After settling down in the carriage, Shen Jue examined his injuries for him. Shen Jue was very close, so his nose was filled with the dipterocarp fragrance on Shen Jue’s body, making him sleepy.
“Who did you encounter?” Shen Jue asked him.
“The Garuda.” Xiahou Lian replied, “Such a fast saber, even faster than Chi Yan.”
“Garan’s target today was you, not me?” asked Shen Jue.
Xiahou Lian nodded. “Garan wants to capture me alive.” He thought for a moment, and he noticed in hindsight that something wasn’t right. “If they wanted to capture me alive, why did they still go to Chu Building?”
“In order to confirm the mole.” Shen Jue said, “We’ve been catching spies too quickly lately, so Garan is suspicious.”
“Will Shiqi be in danger?” Xiahou Lian knitted his brows. “Why don’t we summon him back tomorrow?”
Shen Jue actually didn’t fully agree, as Tang Shiqi was their only mole in Garan and their only source of information. Before Shen Jue found a way to stuff moles into Garan again, if they lost Tang Shiqi as a mole, besides their aimless citywide searches, Garan would really be untraceable.
However, Tang Shiqi was Xiahou Lian’s good buddy, so if something happened to him, Xiahou Lian would feel bad. Shen Jue rubbed the center between his eyebrows and said, “I’ll send people to Chu Building tomorrow to see what’s going on.”
Xiahou Lian nodded. Exhaustion overwhelmed him, and his limbs were limp and weak from loss of blood. Xiahou Lian murmured, “But why would they want to capture me alive? Do they want to know what secrets the Eastern Depot has…”
Shen Jue also furrowed his brow and looked down at the drowsy Xiahou Lian, deep in thought.
Suddenly, there was a clamor outside, and someone shouted, “Jinglan-shixiong!”
Shen Jue was shocked and lifted the curtain. A young boy was kneeling in front of the carriage; it was Mr. Dai’s boy.
The boy staggered as he ran over, handing him a letter. “Shixiong, Mr. Dai has been captured by bad guys!”
Xiahou Lian was abruptly awoken, and he poked his head out. “What did you say?”
Shen Jue opened the letter and used the storm lantern to read the words on it.
“Three days later at Shili Hillside, with ten people accompanying maximum, Garan of Seven Leaves respectfully awaits the carriage of the chief officer.”