Editor(s): juurensha, namio
Xiang Shu asked, “That wasn’t a girl?”
Xiang Shu still thought that he had a problem with his eyes. Chen Xing only then explained to him a bunch of Han peoples’ etiquette; Feng Qianjun clearly regarded them as good friends, thus he would introduce his fiancée to them so they could meet.
Xiang Shu nodded his head then stopped talking.
Feng Qianjun said, “Just now I was scared that you guys would actually say something. Uh... whatever, it’s fine not to mention it.”
Chen Xing knew that Feng Qianjun referred to how Gu Qing resembled Princess Qinghe, thus unable to laugh or cry, he said, “Feng-dage, in your heart, are we really so blind?”
Feng Qianjun smiled helplessly, shaking his head. Yet Xiang Shu said, “Feng Qianjun, now this is something like what you would do, so you’re not some good person either.”
Chen Xing: “?”
Feng Qianjun bitterly laughed. “Yes, I admit, on the day I met her, I grew interested in her immediately precisely because she looks like Qinghe.”
Chen Xing understood. He replied, “Don’t pay attention to him, it’s just easy for him to say...”
“I remember you once promised me something,” Xiang Shu suddenly remarked.
Chen Xing immediately went silent, in case Xiang Shu made him hang a bunch of copper coins on himself and run three rounds around Jiankang.
Feng Qianjun shook his head helplessly, then raised a cup, saying, “Xiang Shu, I will first make a toast to you. I’m truly grateful to you today, thank you!”
Xiang Shu finally made a toast and knocked his cup against his. Feng Qianjun smiled again, “Another toast for us meeting again by chance, for us to meet again under fate’s plan. Even though Brother Xiang always finds me annoying and didn’t wish to see me here...”
Chen Xing couldn’t restrain his happiness, and the three people toasted their cups together.
“He won’t,” Chen Xing had started to grow tipsy, saying, “Xiang Shu is a very good person.”
“Shut up.” Xiang Shu said.
Feng Qianjun burst into laughter and once again gave food to the two. Chen Xing ate a bit and started to grow even tipsier; the after-effect of this wine really was incredibly strong. He sprawled over the table and couldn’t help gazing at Xiang Shu, then at Feng Qianjun, listening to the two talk.
“Qing’er was originally studying arts with Xie Daoyun at Zhu Jin’s household,” Feng Qianjun explained. “Zhu Jin is a great Confucian and known as a medicinal god in Jiangnan. I suffered a few surface-level injuries in Luoyang, so I met Qing’er when I came back to see a doctor and was taken with her at first sight. Gu family ma... their family business has grown big, cases of fighting and scheming happen often. Qing’er’s father died early, so she followed her mother’s side of the family to the Gu household, but was always treated coldly. I plan to bring her home...”
Xiang Shu commented, “So you’re bullying an orphan with a widowed mother and preparing to marry her into the Feng family.”
Feng Qianjun didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. “Am I bullying her? That may not be so, for with my Feng household, Gu Qing is marrying beneath herself if she marries over! Who will marry their daughter to a banker? If she wanted to change households, how many people would seek her out in Jiankang?”
“That’s pretty good.” Chen Xing smiled. “Xiang Shu, you don’t understand... en...” he spoke while lying on his arm and rubbed at his eyebrows a few times before continuing, “Among us Han people, scholars, farmers, workers, and merchants, it is merchants that have the lowest status. Ai... Whatever. Feng-dage, you don’t have to say anymore either. If the two of you love each other, then just live happily.”
Xiang Shu pressed Chen Xing’s head with one hand, making him turn over a little. Chen Xing once again raised the jar, but Xiang Shu didn’t let him drink. He took away the wine and motioned for him to eat. Somehow, it was already time for people to carry lanterns in; the sky was growing dark. Chen Xing’s alcohol tolerance wasn’t high, so he got drunk first, leaving Feng Qianjun and Xiang Shu to drink and talk. Xiang Shu still had an indifferent expression; most of the time he was just listening to Feng Qianjun talk; not disgusted with, but not curious either, as if whatever Feng Qianjun said had nothing to do with him.
“My eldest brother died. I also heard Chen Xing say that your brother also died.” Feng Qianjun recalled his elder brother and drank three more times, sighing, “You should understand me, Shulü Kong.”
Xiang Shu still didn’t respond, and Feng Qianjun suddenly said with a laugh, “From the day I left Chang An until now, I really want to return to my childhood when my eldest brother was still alive, my sister-in-law was still here, and everybody was still happily together. But in the blink of an eye, everything is gone.”
Xiang Shu poured himself some wine and sipped at it.
Feng Qianjun snorted. “I still often think ‘Can we avenge them? What can avenging them achieve? But what if we don’t avenge them?’. They aren’t even here anymore, we’re all busy with living and dying, but how much purpose is there in what we’re doing right now?”
“There is no purpose,” Xiang Shu finally opened his mouth. “Vengeance is also just a way to give yourself some closure. The people themselves are dead, what can they know?”
Feng Qianjun laughed; when it came to judging people, he could naturally view them more clearly than Chen Xing. When it came to Xiang Shu’s manner of speech, he had already grown used to it. He had long known that this person was one of few words; if he didn’t agree with you, then he’d get up, and he had an aura that prevented people from getting close - but this was all just a pretense. In other words, Xiang Shu was just too lazy to talk and laugh with people, too lazy to seriously associate with anyone.
Why? Because all the people in the world were hypocritical. Xiang Shu often revealed that disgusted gaze of his, and it was clearly written all over his face.
“Who knows how many people there are in the world who clearly are cursing you in their hearts, but smile at you on the surface.” Feng Qianjun laughed to himself. “Who knows how many people are calculating against you in their hearts, but give the idea that they’re doing what’s good for you on the surface... Brother Xiang, sometimes I really admire you...”
Feng Qianjun hugged the cup and reached out to pat Xiang Shu’s shoulder, but was flicked away by Xiang Shu’s finger.
“Exactly,” Xiang Shu casually responded. “They appear to you with all sorts of flattering words, but it’s hard to tell what goes on in the minds of people, just like how you are to your Qing-xiandi. Oh right, does she know about Princess Qinghe?
Feng Qianjun opened his drunken eyes and seriously declared, “I’m inhumane! Okay?! I’m a brute! When can I be like you, able to say “go fuck yourself” to the things that I don’t find pleasing to the eye?”
Xiang Shu didn’t answer. After finishing the last of his wine, he grabbed Chen Xing’s collar, making him raise his head slightly. When he saw that Chen Xing was drunk to the point of unconsciousness, he put him down again and prepared to take him away.
Feng Qianjun was going to pat Chen Xing, but was once again flicked away by Xiang Shu. Feng Qianjun could only slap the table instead, shouting, “Hey! Xiao Xing Xing! Get up!”
“Wu...” Chen Xing murmured, dazed.
Feng Qianjun couldn’t help asking Xiang Shu, “How are things between the two of you?”
“What does it have to do with you?” Xiang Shu’s tone held a hint of a threat.
Feng Qianjun instinctively waved his hand, saying, “Everybody getting to know each other is also fate, why do you always have a stinking expression on your face? We all made it by going through life and death together...”
Xiang Shu wrapped one of his arms under Chen Xing’s ribs, adjusted his posture, and picked him up horizontally, not acknowledging Feng Qianjun.
“... For him, you even gave up being the Great Chanyu.” Feng Qianjun laughed from behind Xiang Shu. “You didn’t even want him to know and kept it from him for so long, you’re really quite funny.”
Xiang Shu said, “Withdraw the money and deposit it back in Dongzhe Bankrest.”
“Don’t!” Feng Qianjun nearly completely woke from his drunken stupor, and he hastily objected, “Gege! I won’t say anymore!”
Xiang Shu picked up Chen Xing. Just as he was about to leave, when he reached the patio, he contemplated for a moment but didn’t look back.
“Although the people who passed away are gone now,” Xiang Shu seriously stated, “but there will always be people still by your side. Cherish the people before you. Plus, I didn’t resign from being the Great Chanyu completely because of him, I have to give myself responsibility as well.”
Feng Qianjun raised his hand and smiled, “If that’s so, then you better remember ah.”
Xiang Shu didn’t answer, and he carried Chen Xing and left the bank.
At nearly four o’clock, the entire city of Jiankang had entered slumber; the two rows of shops along Zhuque Street were all closed. A lone Milky Way ran through the spring night, seeming as if they had crossed into time immemorial. The stars were like vestiges left by a dragon in the night, like a waterfall flowing from the top of its head. Xiang Shu held onto Chen Xing, raised his head, and gazed up at the glittering silver traces in the night sky.
The Milky Way in the South held no differences from the Milky Way in the North; the lives between heaven and earth seemed insignificantly small in this moment. After all, they were only imperceptible creatures under the vast arching sky.
Xiang Shu stared for a while then walked past Zhuque Street, back to Wuyi Lane. At a distant market, a dull clock’s ring resounded. Hearing a “dang” sound, Xiang Shu absently turned his head.
He initially believed that it was the watchman knocking, but the clock only sounded once before quickly falling silent.
Xiang Shu: “?”
Chen Xing seemed to have woken up, his consciousness still dazed from the alcohol. He grabbed the clothes in front of Xiang Shu’s chest.
“Master...” Chen Xing dreamed of when he was still a child, the night when he was carried by his master away from Jinyang and back to Huashan.
Xiang Shu lowered his head and peered at Chen Xing; Chen Xing’s face was bright red, his head buried in Xiang Shu’s front. Suddenly, Xiang Shu didn’t want to return to the Xie household. After surveying his surroundings, he leapt up holding Chen Xing, crossing the palace wall outside of Taichu Palace, and flew to the top of the southernmost palace of the Imperial Palace. He carried Chen Xing and leapt down a few times until he arrived at the highest part of Taichu Palace, then seated himself on the roof tiles.
Chen Xing lied beside him, hugging Xiang Shu from the side, pillowing himself on his arm, thoroughly intoxicated.
“... Master, Xing'er can’t do it anymore... There’s only two and a half years left, it’s too hard...”
Xiang Shu: “?”
Just when Xiang Shu wanted to gaze at the Milky Way for a while, he heard Chen Xing speak. He turned to look at him, furrowing his eyebrows.
“There already isn’t enough time.” Chen Xing curled up in Xiang Shu’s arms. “The little bit of time remaining... can you give me a little longer...”
Xiang Shu: “......”
Xiang Shu didn’t understand what he meant. He asked, “What are you saying?”
“Xing'er... Xing'er...” Chen Xing whispered, “is so tired... Xing'er wants to... go home...”
After that, Chen Xing didn’t say any more. He let go of Xiang Shu and turned over with his back facing him.
Xiang Shu didn’t speak, thinking over what Chen Xing had just said.
“What will happen in two and a half years?” Xiang Shu asked. “Is there something else? Why won’t you tell me?”
“Maicheng... I’m sorry,” Chen Xing murmured. “It was my fault again...”
Xiang Shu understood that Chen Xing was still thinking about this matter in his heart; if he didn’t send the zombie army back to Maicheng with Feng Qianjun, then the plague wouldn’t have spread. But how could they have known that it had to do with the drought fiends back then?
“Even if you didn’t send the dead back,” Xiang Shu frowned, “do you think that Shi Hai wouldn’t use other methods to spread the plague? Why do you always like to place the blame all on yourself?”
But Chen Xing was already unable to hear anything; under the majestic Milky Way, the dream gradually dissipated. In its place was incomparable silence. The Heart Lamp was like a pool of tranquil water, refracting a gentle light in his heart.
Ice: I swear this chapter went from Xiang Shu practically being a peacock trying to show off to Chen Xing to a mass of emotion-inducing imagery that tested the ultimate extent of my poetic capabilities…
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Caro.