An hour later, Xiang Shu and Chen Xing were like two people who had just been fished out of the waters. The captain gesticulated as he spoke a lot, and Chen Xing could only nod continuously. Xiang Shu sat on the ground beside the captain’s room, leaning against a wooden wall as he listened with his eyes closed.
This was a trading ship heading south from Goguryeo toward the Yangtze River. Along the way, they would stop at Shangyu first, then continue heading north, pass by Jiankang and Jiaozhou, then circle one round before returning to Pyongyang. Upon departure, it would be filled with ginseng, leather goods, and other such items. When it returned, it would bring back tea, silk, and porcelain from the South to Pyongyang. The captain was a Han. After living for such a long time, it was his first time seeing a monster like Sima Wei. After inquiring for a long time, Chen Xing rambled incoherently about some folk legends, only saying that he was an exorcist while Xiang Shu was his Protector, and that the two of them were companions who went around capturing yaos, then after meeting that yao in Paektu Mountain, they were chased all the way here, etc. Fortunately, in the end, they touched the heavens during a critical situation and summoned a divine lightning bolt from above...
“Save your energy.” Xiang Shu finally couldn’t bear to listen any further and said impatiently, “Aren’t you tired?!”
While Chen Xing spoke, he took out the money that he had received after pawning off Sima Wei’s helmet and handed it to the captain. “That’s sort of what had happened. This bit of money for the boat is a humble expression of our goodwill, please let us take your boat...”
“You’re exterminating evil on behalf of the people, I won’t accept it! I can’t accept it!” The captain quickly refused and said, “If you don’t mind, please stay on my boat for a few days first.”
People at sea are most afraid of storms and the yaos of the legends. With an exorcist who could summon divine lightning around, their journey this time should be very smooth. The captain couldn’t be more happy. He quickly arranged a clean room for the two of them to rest in.
The ship was carrying a lot of goods, as well as several Pyongyang scholars who were heading south to study. The captain gave Xiang Shu and Chen Xing the best room he could; the room had windows and only one bed.
Chen Xing was already very satisfied.
The captain continued explaining: this was their first southward voyage this year, which meant a lot to the captain. Even if the weather was stormy, they had to set sail no matter what. The storm was bigger today, but it would be fine after getting onto the open sea and leaving the rainstorm area. He even got people to prepare a stove for the two of them to warm themselves with.
Chen Xing had been soaking in the rain for half a day, so both his outer robes and inner wear were thoroughly drenched. When he entered the cabin, he couldn’t help sneezing.
Chen Xing asked Xiang Shu expectantly, “How did you know I was captured?”
Xiang Shu casually said, “I didn’t know you were captured.”
Chen Xing, “Then why did you...”
Xiang Shu, “I thought you had run off by yourself again, so I gave chase to hit you!”
Chen Xing, “...”
Xiang Shu put the door bolt on the frame, locking it, and started taking his clothes off while motioning to Chen Xing.
“Take it off ah.” Xiang Shu stared at Chen Xing as if he didn’t know him. “What are you doing just standing there?”
Chen Xing suddenly felt a little embarrassed. He took off his clothes and threw them to Xiang Shu, then jumped onto the bed, stark naked as he covered himself with a blanket. Xiang Shu didn’t try to avoid him. He took off all his clothes until he was completely naked, then wrapped a towel around his waist. He rolled up his clothes, placed them in a basket, then pushed the door out and put them at the entrance. He placed some money inside and instructed the crew on the ship to wash and starch it, then send it back after drying tomorrow.
Thus, the two of them had no clothes left and could only face each other openly in the room all day.
“Xiang Shu?” Chen Xing asked again.
Xiang Shu was taking a bath in the adjacent compartment. He motioned for Chen Xing to go wash up. In the compartment, Chen Xing cheered, “There’s hot water?! This is great!”
When Chen Xing came out, he realised that some hot food had been sent over: fish and shrimp were stewed in a bowl with a little soy sauce and meat, and there was a vat of hot wine as well. Apparently, the captain had ordered those in the mess hall to send it over. Xiang Shu’s crotch was covered with a cloth, and he sat there like that as he started pouring a drink for himself.
After they had their fill of food and drink, Chen Xing finally felt a little better. He shrank into the inner side of the bed, and his heart actually started pounding wildly. This wasn’t his first time facing Xiang Shu so openly, and it wasn’t his first time sleeping in the same bed as Xiang Shu, but for some reason, he kept feeling a little embarrassed this time.
Xiang Shu glanced at Chen Xing, as if he was a little hesitant too.
“Sleeping?” Chen Xing moved inside again and said, “Rest for awhile ba.”
Even if everything went smoothly, it would take at least half a month for the ship heading on the Yangtze River to arrive at Shangyu. During their journey, he and Xiang Shu could only live together in one room, no… when they were staying in Chi Le Chuan, they ate and lived at the same place too, and there weren’t any problems then? Was it because they had to sleep on the same bed?
For some reason, the atmosphere in the room suddenly turned a little ambiguous.Xiang Shu took off the cloth towel, then went to bed like that and slept with Chen Xing under the same blanket.
Chen Xing accidentally touched Xiang Shu’s scorching skin, and they rubbed against each slightly. Chen Xing’s heart started beating madly, then he subconsciously pulled back a little. Xiang Shu seemed to sense this awkwardness, so he tried his best to not let the two of them touch while he laid down slowly.
Amidst the storm, the ship swayed slightly. This bed was extremely narrow and small. Under the blanket, Xiang Shu stepped on the footboard with one foot to stabilise himself so as not to squeeze Chen Xing against the wall. On the other hand, Chen Xing was trying his best to lean against the wall.
“I...” Chen Xing wanted to start a conversation to distract himself, so he covertly changed his posture as he was afraid of Xiang Shu seeing his body’s reaction. Right here, right now, the scorching body temperature under the blanket, the brief sensation just now when their bodies had touched without any barriers between them, instantly made Chen Xing’s imagination uncontrollably run wild.
Xiang Shu’s voice obviously sounded a little awkward. “What?”
“You must be tired.” Chen Xing turned his head and looked at Xiang Shu.
“It’s okay.” Xiang Shu’s eyes remained open as he stared at the ceiling in a daze.
The ship swayed gently in the storm. The windows weren’t closed tight, so cold winds were leaking into the cabin. In this early spring when ice floes were only starting to melt, the weather was freezing. Chen Xing pulled back under the blanket and shivered.
“When are you going back?” Chen Xing remembered now; after their reunion, everything seemed so natural to him that he even forgot to ask Xiang Shu about Karakorum and Chi Le Chuan.
Xiang Shu didn’t reply. Chen Xing thought, it’s my fault again, I made you rush thousands of miles here just to save me. After the ship heads south, you won’t know when you can go back again.</p<
“Did you...tell your tribesmen?” Chen Xing asked.
“What?” Xiang Shu just replied indifferently.
“About coming to save me.”
“No,” Xiang Shu casually answered.
“What about Xiao Shan?” Chen Xing asked again.
“Sent him back,” Xiang Shu said. “But I don’t know if the Xiongnu can handle him.”
Chen Xing, “Then, you’ll be heading to the South with me?”
Xiang Shu turned his body slightly and changed his posture, answering, “Depends.”
Chen Xing fell silent for a moment before saying, “Just now, I was just casually saying that in front of the captain, don’t mind it too much.”
Xiang Shu, "?"
Xiang Shu glanced at Chen Xing, baffled. He understood what Chen Xing meant; that he had introduced Xiang Shu as a “Protector” without seeking his opinion, so Chen Xing was afraid that he would be angry again.
“Thank you.” Chen Xing said with a smile, “Although I don’t know what you think of me, I thought you wouldn’t come find me anymore.”
“Why?” Xiang Shu asked instead. “Is that how you see me?”
Chen Xing rushed to explain, “You’re the Great Chanyu ah, you have your responsibilities, so you can’t be blamed for going back… Xiang Shu, what I want to say is, if you don’t mind...”
Xiang Shu frowned a little and looked at Chen Xing. Chen Xing mustered up his courage and finally said what was on his mind. Even though Xiang Shu had rejected him once, this time, they were probably more familiar with each other than before, and for Xiang Shu, they had the same goal, so...
“...I promise, it won’t take too long,” Chen Xing said with slight apprehension. “Can you, accompany me like this for a period of time? I won’t say anything about being a Protector or whatnot, but I know that just by relying on myself alone, I probably won’t be able to...”
“Ever since I was a child,” Xiang Shu suddenly turned his head and didn’t look at Chen Xing anymore. He slowly said, “I knew that one day, I would become the 16 Hu’s Great Chanyu.”
Chen Xing, “?”
Chen Xing stared at Xiang Shu in a daze. His nose bridge, lips, and the contours of his side profile were all exquisitely perfect, yet it didn’t seem to be the result of cosmetics at all. Instead, he had a kind of masculine comeliness.
Xiang Shu’s brows furrowed a little before he continued. “After my father passed away, I naturally shouldered the burden of being the Great Chanyu. My tribesmen’s affairs are my affairs, and the calamities they face are my calamities as well.”
Chen Xing said, “Yes, so I was thinking that you’ll have to return someday. Even if you’re willing, I can’t hog...”
“Then one day,” Xiang Shu continued. “You came to find me, and told me that you need a Protector, and that I’m that ‘Protector’. So this responsibility expanded from being responsible for Chi Le Chuan to being responsible for the whole world.”
Chen Xing said helplessly, “I don’t want to either, but...”
Xiang Shu, “But throughout this entire process, no one ever asked me what I wanted to do.”
Chen Xing: “....”
“Never,” Xiang Shu said seriously. “They never asked me, ‘Shulü Kong, are you willing to become the Great Chanyu?’ And you never asked me if I was willing to be your Protector.”
After he spoke, Xiang Shu frowned again, then turned his head sideways to look at Chen Xing, as if he wanted to find the answer from observing Chen Xing’s expression.
His furrowed brows relaxed, then he raised an eyebrow at Chen Xing.
Chen Xing, “I understand now, Xiang Shu.” Speaking of that, Chen Xing suddenly smiled and said, “So that’s what it was, you thought I didn’t respect you. That’s my fault, at that time… I really didn’t think much about that.”
Xiang Shu, “I’m different from you, you want to be an exorcist...”
“Of course not.” This time, it was Chen Xing who interrupted him. “If I could choose, I think… I wouldn’t be one this willingly ba. I admit, in the beginning, I never thought of respecting your wishes, but I would like to explain myself too: I’m the same, and there are a lot of things that I have to do. I have no other choice.”
“Then why do you want to be an exorcist?” Xiang Shu asked, slightly puzzled. “Can’t you be your own person?”
“I do, I want to be myself too, and I often ask, ‘Why me?’” Chen Xing recalled the first time he tried to control the Yin Yang Mirror, the voice he heard in his heart.
“But my father often said when he was alive, ‘How can there be so many people in this world who can do whatever they want?’ In this life, those who can live according to their wishes are the blessed ones. There are a lot more people who are just living while complying to the Mandate of Heaven with burdens they must bear. Admittedly, it is very unfair, but looking at it from another perspective, can’t this be the expectations that the heavens have given to each and every one of us?”
“Expectations?” Xiang Shu said with disapproval. “It’s merely resignation.”
Chen Xing understood why Xiang Shu refused to be a Protector at the very beginning now. He said, with relief, “So to speak, we’re just resigning ourselves to the so-called ‘will of Heaven’.”
Zryuu: I LOVE THIS CHAPTER THEY ARE SO SOFF you can actually feel the distance between them closing,, ;-;
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Caro.