The ship swayed with the waves. The rain seemed to have stopped, and only the sounds of waves crashing one after another could be heard. Chen Xing and Xiang Shu lay side by side quietly. For a while, no one spoke.
“Then what do you want to do?” Chen Xing felt like his understanding of Xiang Shu was being renewed. Now, he suddenly felt like their conversation was very peaceful; it was a peace that came from deep within their hearts. After abandoning everything in the outside world, they were looking at each other as equals to understand the most sincere side of the other party.
“Sometimes,” Xiang Shu said. “I want my mother to come back to life, and for my father to come back to life, then live together beyond the Great Wall like before.”
Chen Xing couldn’t help but glance at Xiang Shu, but Xiang Shu had his eyes closed.
“But things don’t turn out the way you want. They’re all dead.” Xiang Shu muttered, “My Anda’s dead too, everyone’s gone… just like a banquet held during the Autumn Close Festival. After everyone finishes drinking, they’ll all say goodbye and go where they should. And what I want is easy to say, yet also very difficult...”
“...What I want is just for this banquet to never end.”
Xiang Shu was in a daze for a while. He recalled the day he bid farewell to his tribesmen who were staying in Karakorum, but he didn’t tell Chen Xing any more details.
This conversation appeared meaningless, but for Chen Xing, it seemed to mark the beginning of another stage of his life that didn’t have much time left. Just like a ship that left the storm, it finally sailed onto a calm and tranquil sea.
“...Those who knew me,
Said I was sad at heart.
Those who did not know me,
Said I was seeking for something.”
“O distant and azure Heaven,
By what man was this brought about?” Chen Xing sang softly as the ship rocked.
“What about you?” Xiang Shu asked.
Chen Xing said hesitantly, “Perhaps...I want to tour the Divine Land? Go to the places I’ve read about in books, yet never had the chance to visit.” After he spoke, the future Chen Xing imagined seemed to become clearer. “After visiting all the mountains, rivers, and seas, I’ll go to the Yangtze River and find a picturesque place to stay in. I’ll plant wisteria flowers in my yard, and when the flowers bloom...”
Chen Xing smiled sadly as he said, “I’ll be able to read books under the flower rack, do you like that? If there’s a chance, you’re welcome to come visit my house. It’s okay if you want to stay and not leave too, if there’s a chance, en, as long as there’s a chance.”
Chen Xing raised his hand, the faint light of the Heart Lamp emitting from his palm. He gently pressed it against Xiang Shu’s bare chest under the blanket, and at that moment, the Heart Lamp’s strength corresponded to Xiang Shu’s firm and powerful heartbeat, and a bright light penetrated through the blanket.
Chen Xing said, “Xiang Shu, I’d like to ask you this once more, properly.”
Xiang Shu continued staring at Chen Xing.
“Before the future comes,” Chen Xing said. “Can you accompany me for a while? No matter what, I need you. I know now that you’re not willing to be dictated by responsibility. I just wanted to ask, if you were given a choice once more, could you...”
“I’ll consider it,” Xiang Shu answered.
Chen Xing smiled. He knew that by saying that, it meant that Xiang Shu agreed.
The storm receded. The ship sailed along the seas. A bright moon illuminated the world. Winds blew strongly, making the ship set off at full sail towards the silver white sea.
Chen Xing whispered in the tranquility, “Sometimes, I feel like this so-called ‘responsibility’ means that there’s someone out there who needs you. Whether it’s the Divine Land, the earth, the common people, or all living things… this sort of ‘need’ will never offer any repayment, but we would always willingly do our utmost in fulfilling those expectations, just like how any other person would when they're needed by another person. Isn’t that kind of feeling pretty good?”
Xiang Shu didn’t reply. Chen Xing curled up under the blanket. After a long time passed, he thought that Xiang Shu should have fallen asleep.
“Are you cold?” Xiang Shu asked.
The blanket on Chen Xing’s side was slightly damp, which made him feel a little uncomfortable, so he kept shivering.
Xiang Shu said, “Come closer.”
So Chen Xing leaned towards Xiang Shu’s side and instantly felt warmer. Then, a wave hit, and the ship tilted a little. Xiang Shu withdrew his feet and hugged Chen Xing, who had been pushed into his embrace.
Chen Xing’s entire body was leaning against Xiang Shu in his arms, and his breathing immediately sped up. His lower body pulled back a little so as not to make things too awkward for the both of them.
The waves crashed one after another, pushing him repeatedly towards Xiang Shu. Chen Xing wanted to stabilise his body, so he raised his hand, but didn’t have anywhere he could place it. After a while, he simply put it on Xiang Shu’s shoulder and hugged him around his neck, and the two of them were now stuck to each other.
“Got it,” Xiang Shu said in the end.
Chen Xing didn’t hear that. He fell asleep very quickly. Xiang Shu’s body was quite warm, so he couldn’t help but want to stick closer to him. However, he could sense that Xiang Shu was always squirming about restlessly, as if he was all fidgety from being tormented by Chen Xing. He would keep waking up intermittently, and after awhile, he couldn’t care much anymore and simply let go of his restraints and embraced Chen Xing.
The next morning, when Chen Xing woke up, he saw his clothes folded neatly next to the pillow while he was covered with a new blanket.
Chen Xing, “???”
Chen Xing was very sure that the blanket had been changed once. The bed today was obviously different from yesterday’s.
“Xiang Shu?” Chen Xing said. “Xiang Shu? Where is he?”
After he had breakfast, Chen Xing found Xiang Shu on the deck. Xiang Shu had changed into his clothes and was having tea with the captain while sitting. The sea breeze blew, and the sun shone bright.
“Why did the blanket...”
“I don’t know!” Xiang Shu said impatiently.
“Wow!“ Chen Xing stood before the mast as he faced the vast sea. Xiang Shu nodded at the captain before going back to the cabin with Chen Xing, then threw a bundle at Chen Xing for him to look at.
Inside were the two magic treasures that Xiang Shu had brought along with him from Karakorum: the Yin Yang Mirror and the Zheng Drum, as well as the medical supplies that King Akele had given them -- the four Ruler Seals. Upon seeing those objects, Chen Xing started missing their owner and couldn’t help feeling a bit upset. After a round of inspection, he carefully kept them, then looked at the bundle that Xiang Shu had packed in a hurry. There was a Qiang flute and a long, narrow unlocked box inside. He opened up the box. Inside were two pieces of sheepskin scrolls that were rolled up together; it seemed to be tied together with a woolen rope, and the paper seemed quite old, suffused with a light purple colour.
Was this the Great Chanyu Golden Conferment of Purple Scroll that Fu Jian had always yearned for? Chen Xing thought about the saying of the “Golden Conferment of Purple Scroll”, but after looking it over, he thought it didn’t seem like it. This sheepskin didn’t have blood on it. However, he restrained his curiosity and didn’t rummage through Xiang Shu’s belongings. After closing the box, he put it back, and he had just done so when Xiang Shu came back.
“What do we do after reaching Shangyu?” Xiang Shu asked.
Chen Xing said, “Go to Jiankang and find my Shifu’s friend. Do you remember the two other pictures in Zhang Liu’s book?”
Xiang Shu showed Chen Xing; when he was in Chi Le Chuan, he had roughly restored the three pictures.
There are many capable people in the South. After the large-scale migration to the South, a large number of ancient texts had been preserved. Although many exorcist families abandoned the profession after the Silence of All Magic and either became scholars or farmers, they still knew a little about the past. Chen Xing had to go warn Xie An first, then gather the former exorcists to discuss countermeasures and search for the whereabouts of the Dinghai Pearl.
“What are you writing?” Xiang Shu saw that Chen Xing had been writing letters for the past few days in the cabin.
Chen Xing said, “Visitation cards. I’ll get people to deliver it to post stations that will send it to Jiankang. My father had many students in the past, and they were all my seniors. After the large-scale migration to the South, they submitted to Great Jin one after another. We might be able to seek refuge with them for the time being. We’ll at least have a place to stay in the city then.”
Xiang Shu casually remarked, “En, I forgot, your father was a great scholar. After returning to the South, you’re naturally the descendant of a prestigious family.”
Chen Xing heard the ridicule in his tone and retorted, “You flatter me; compared to the Great Chanyu, how could this be worth anything? What else can we do? We’ve finished spending all the money we have, so will we be going cold and hungry after getting off the ship?”
Xiang Shu said, “There must be a few more Yuwen Xins waiting in Jiankang.”
“You...” Chen Xing really wanted to throw his pen.
Chen Xing initially had the notion of trying his luck, but after Xiang Shu said that, he didn’t want to continue writing anymore. But in the end, he still forced himself to write out his itinerary, then sealed the cards, and paid with the little bit of money he had left to get someone to deliver it ashore and take it to the Ministry of Personnel in Jiankang. Normally, if the letter had been received, then there should be a post station staff, but along his journey, no one came to meet him. He thought that it was easy for people’s hearts to change so he could only submit to fate. He would think of a way to get some money after arriving at Jiankang ba.
As the ship sailed south. the weather gradually warmed up. It was sunny, and the skies were clear in spring. People became more lazy when they reached the Yangtze River region. Chen Xing just slept in the cabin all day, tossing and turning in bed. Sometimes, Xiang Shu would play chess with the captain on deck, while at other times, he would buy books after getting off the ship and read them on the journey/aboard to kill time.
Nearly ten days later, the ship smoothly sailed into the Yangtze River and headed towards Jiankang along the canal. Another half a day later, in the morning, they arrived at Jiankang City ahead of time. Chen Xing was still sleeping. The faint sounds of music travelled over from the outside, followed by the shouting of the boatmen.
“Coming, coming--” A boatman said.
Chen Xing turned over. Won’t we only be arriving at night? We reached Jiankang so soon?
Xiang Shu pushed the door open and entered the room, already having had packed his things. He studied Chen Xing with a look of impatience. Chen Xing sat up, his hair all messy, then scratched his head as he looked at Xiang Shu.
“Someone’s picking you up at the dock,” Xiang Shu said.
Chen Xing perked up, then ran out as he said, “Who? Who came to pick me up?”
The ship had arrived at the dock. What greeted them were peach blossoms and willow trees; the entire city was lush with gorgeous flowers. Thousands of vermilion eaves and tiles shone with a clean luster.
Zhongshan has the imposing grandeur of a coiling dragon and stood as mighty as a crouching tiger.
A misty drizzle fell over the ten-mile Huai River. In the distance, both Taichu and Zhaoming Palaces were like reflections in a mirror reflected by the Xuanwu Lake, just like celestial palaces enveloped in a misty fog.
The number one capital in the world: after experiencing many trials and hardships, there were already millions of people living in Jiankang City. This was the place where Han culture flourished the most, and it was also the center of the Divine Land’s civilization.
Close to 50 scholars were holding up umbrellas in a line. Somewhere high above, a gentleman dressed in a robe with wide sleeves walked over amidst the song as if he was riding the wind.
“Upon my leaving, wept the willow,” someone sang on the bank, “Upon my return, sweep rain and snow--”
Both sides of that man’s temples were frosty white, and he looked to be about forty years old. He wore black official muslin with a snow white scholar robe inside, his beautiful face as fair as jade, and his smile made people feel as if they were being bathed in a spring breeze. With a refined manner, he wore a jade plaque that hung from his waist, fox teeth around his neck, wooden clogs, and a jade flute in his hands. His belt fluttered in the wind as he walked over with a confident gait.
“A friend has come from afar,” Xie An said in a loud voice. “Would you like to have a meal? Little Shidi, this way please.”
——Volume 2·Cangqiong Yilie·End——
Zryuu: *chokes* volume 2 was such a ride…
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Caro.