“Xiang Shu?” Chen Xing turned his head, only to meet Xiang Shu’s complicated expression.
Xiang Shu stiffly turned his head away.
“We need to think of a plan to replenish our energy,” Xiang Shu said. “I don’t know what Shi Hai fed me or what magic he managed to cast, but on this journey from Jiankang to Kuaiji, I’ve been feeling increasingly powerless.”
“Is it getting worse?” Chen Xing asked, curious.
Xiang Shu nodded and said: “It isn’t poison. I don’t think that he had an opportunity to feed me the Devil God’s blood, even when I wasn’t paying attention.”
Chen Xing seemed to have thought of something, and he asked again: “From yesterday when you became aware of the abnormality to when we left Jiankang, your symptoms hadn’t worsened, right?”
Xiang Shu said: “Correct. What is your point?”
Chen Xing: “As we traveled towards Kuaiji, your body became weaker and weaker, correct?”
Xiang Shu made an “goog” sound and said: “Maybe it has something to do with using moves.”
Chen Xing chirruped the horse forward, and asked again: “Could it be…. Could they have set up an array in some location to limit your strength? But where would they have concealed it?”
Chen Xing was guessing blindly, yet he had almost exposed the entire truth of the matter. However, their current situation was not one where they had the luxury of pondering deeply on it. In the hazy dusk, the gates of Kuaiji loomed out of the misty twilight.
Chen Xing had been riding until he was constantly gasping for breath, but when they arrived outside of the city gates, there were no people around at all. Even the gate guards were out of sight. Xiang Shu looked around at their surroundings as his brow began to furrow.
“Now what should we do?” Chen Xing said. He then asked Xiang Shu: “Are you hungry?”
Xiang Shu: “...”
Chen Xing: “???”
Xiang Shu: “Can’t you think of solutions on your own? If one day I’m not by your side, will you just have no more ideas?”
“Why are you suddenly being so fierce?”
Chen Xing never thought that even like this he would get scolded, but when he thought about it from the other’s perspective, that was indeed the case. Ever since he met Xiang Shu, he had stopped thinking on his own entirely, and every time he wanted to take a step, he would instead ask Xiang Shu about “what to do next”.
“Oh……” Chen Xing could only say. “Occasionally I also can act autonomously.”
When he hadn’t said that line, things were still alright, but as soon as the words left his mouth, Xiang Shu got irritated and responded: “Beside sneaking out late at night to go north, what other ideas can you even come up with?”
Xiang Shu didn’t know why, but when he saw Chen Xing like this he felt very dispirited. In addition, during their fight just now, he had been focused on stalling their foes instead of protecting himself so that Chen Xing could escape. And yet Chen Xing, even had he managed to successfully escape on his own, if Xiang Shu wasn’t with him, when he got to Kuaiji, he would just answer most questions with 'I don’t knows'...... When he thought to this point, Xiang Shu’s eyes darkened. What exactly was this fellow thinking?
“We should find a place to hide,” Chen Xing said, “and wait for Feng-dage to rejoin us, right?”
“You still need to ask about this?!” Xiang Shu responded incredulously.
Xiang Shu was worrying over keeping Chen Xing alive, but Chen Xing thought he was incensed because of the loss of his power, so he couldn’t help but explain to him: “Shifu said that everyone thinks common tasks are easy to execute perfectly, but the idea of ‘doing things perfectly’ is just wishful thinking. When you push forward hastily, everything will become a mess instead, and that’s why people have the old saying, ‘the designs of humans cannot be compared with those of the gods’. Relax, they won’t be able to catch us.”
Xiang Shu said: “They will come again. Before they do, we need to come up with a way to deal with them. We don’t want to frighten anyone; we should first go into the city and find the Kuaiji provincial official.”
Cheng Xing almost forgot what he had originally come here for. After Xiang Shu reminded him, he finally remembered that they came to investigate the cause of the plague and additionally to verify the origin and content of the bamboo slip. The two of them moved towards the manor of the local authorities.
With Xie An’s letter in hand, gaining an audience with the county official was very easy. Chen Xing explained their origins to the county official called Wu Qi. After listening, the man sighed and responded: “The imperial court has finally taken note of these matters.”
Chen Xing originally wanted to explain that this had nothing to do with the imperial court, but then he thought, no need to unnecessarily burden oneself, and instead responded: “The first person who was confirmed to be infected with this disease, are they currently residing in Kuaiji?”
The official ordered his men to bring the household register and said: “The person in question is currently still bedridden. He’s a traveling salesman who made a trip to Mai City last year, and upon his return, he fell ill. At the time, he went to all the doctors in the city, but none of them could sense anything strange about him. Gossip spread through the streets however, as the citizens all said that Mai City had the corpse-changing disease, and this salesman had brought the corpse poison with him, thus spreading the plague. Now, the rumors have finally died down because those who were knowledgeable explained matters. The city officials also set down an order, and things have gradually calmed down.”
“Tomorrow, let’s go check out the situation,” Xiang Shu said towards Chen Xing.
“Alright.” Chen Xing thought of the citizens who had been infected with this plague. When they went out during the night they were tainted with evil energy, but at high noon their spirits were in better shape.
Wu Qi spoke again: “Yes, several days ago Xie-daren even sent someone here to investigate a specific matter in a book. The messenger left the city early this morning. Did you happen to pass them on the road?”
Chen Xing: “!!!”
Xiang Shu suddenly reached out and pressed down on the back of Chen Xing’s hand to calm him.
Chen Xing’s voice trembled at this moment: “He…. was his surname Lin?”
“Yes. Exactly,” Wu Qi said, “Lin-daren from the Ministry of Internal Affairs.”
Chen Xing had confirmation; that corpse was indeed the messenger.
Chen Xing pondered for a moment before deciding to not tell him about the situation just yet. He answered: “I must write a letter, which must be sent back to Xie-daren in Jiankang immediately.”
Wu Qi felt this was a little strange but didn’t inquire further. He fetched a pen and paper for Chen Xing to write his letter.
Xiang Shu suddenly asked: “Was the messenger carrying any documents with him?”
Wu Qi was surprised by this inquiry, and responded: “Naturally not, his directive was only to review the records from 300 years ago that pertained to the circumstances of several gentry clans within the city……”
Chen Xing’s right hand had been shaking the entire time he was writing. The messenger definitely had found some important information but didn’t leave them a single word. Had the drought fiend kings interrogated him? What had this person told them?
“What about their circumstances?” Xiang Shu continued.
Chen Xing’s movements stuttered a little. He admired the way that Xiang Shu, even when faced with such difficult problems, managed to stay this calm and logical.
Wu Qi: “Rumor has it that this bamboo slip came from one of the families in this province, and the manor that this same family bought was affiliated with a certain gentry clan from Kuaiji over a hundred years ago……” As he spoke, he smiled a little, and then explained: “Legend has it that one member of that notable family was later known as Xiang Yu, who fought by the side of the Han progenitor Liu Bang, of the Kuaiji Xiang clan.”
With a "weng" sound, Chen Xing suddenly felt that the heavens and earth spun around him. His voice didn’t sound anything like his own anymore.
“Where is that family now?” Chen Xing asked.
With this, Xiang Shu also had no more to say. Wu Qi said: “To the east of the city, in the shadow of the mountain, next to the bridge covered by willows that crosses the small creek, there is a big manor. However, that family has also been struck by the plague. Previously, Lin-daren had specially made a trip over there to check on them, which delayed him for a few days.”
Chen Xing met Xiang Shu’s eyes and contemplated matters for a moment, before finishing his letter and saying: “Please send this tonight to Jiankang.”
Wu Qi agreeably said: “Since the two of you have traveled so far to get here, how about……”
“No,” Xiang Shu refused with a single word. “We’ll find our own place to stay. After a few days, we might have to disturb you again.”
Chen Xing knew that Xiang Shu didn’t want to create more troubles for others. After all, Feng Qianjun hadn’t appeared yet. If the drought fiend kings chased them into the province, the guards under Wu Qi’s command would not be able to stop them, and if they once again caused chaos, it would only harm the people who lived here.
As night fell, the two of them left the official’s manor and walked onto the long street. Xiang Shu kept sighing and watching Chen Xing suspiciously.
“I remember you said……” Xiang Shu asked.
“Yes,” Chen Xing mumbled, “I did say before that the Kuaiji Xiang family was very famous. Back then, in Kuaiji, Xiang Yu raised a militia to fight the Qin, so the Xiang family re-settled here, but…… why was the bamboo slip found there?”
Chen Xing raised his eyes, feeling very doubtful. He observed Xiang Shu, thinking that not long ago he would have casually dismissed Xiang Shu’s clan name, but with a single prophetic line, that bamboo slip about the Acala Blade actually had some connection to the Xiang family.
Xiang Shu did not respond, instead ducking his head down and walking, quietly pondering.
Chen Xing said: “We need to first find a place to stay and properly lay out the details of the entire affair.”
The fate of the Dinghai Pearl, the information on the Acala Blade, the appearance of the drought fiend kings, the spread of the plague, Xiang Shu’s birth identity……. Everything was becoming more and more bewildering. But Chen Xing kept feeling like there was a strong link between these five matters; as long as one was untangled, the others would also follow suit.
“Maybe it’s just a coincidence that their surname is also Xiang,” Xiang Shu said. “They shouldn’t have a strong connection with my mother.”
Chen Xing said: “I feel that these are not coincidences. First, Zhang Liu arrived in Carosha, and your mother also arrived in Carosha. In the Yin Yang Mirror, we found the Acala Blade, and the records pertaining to it appeared within the Kuaiji Xiang family…...”
Xiang Shu: !!!”
Chen Xing said: “What did you think of?”
Xiang Shu didn’t say anything, instead pushing Chen Xing behind him to protect him. This movement snapped Chen Xing out of the haze of his own thoughts.
The long, straight street was filling with resentment so dense it looked solid. It poured in from the two ends, rushing towards the center where the two of them stood.
In front of Xiang Shu, on the north side of the street, two drought fiend kings stepped out from the fog of resentment - Sima Yi and Sima Ying.
Behind Chen Xing, on the south side, Sima Liang appeared.
“I remember you said,” Xiang Shu said calmly, “Iuppiter would always save you.”
“Technically, that is correct.” Chen Xing said.
Xiang Shu: “No matter how dangerous the situation is, you have always managed to survive.”
Chen Xing answered: “It should be that way…… but it’s still better not to go seeking death. Let’s think of a way to escape, since we really can’t beat them.”
Xiang Shu: “You should definitely be able to escape. Follow me and find an opening. Keep yourself safe.”
Chen Xing, “Wait!”
After saying this, without a shred of hesitation, Xiang Shu dragged the Acala Blade behind him and charged towards the two drought fiend kings!
Chen Xing could only follow behind Xiang Shu as he wielded the Heart Lamp. There was no way to break through - but he suddenly realized that the dense resentment that had closed off the area acted like a defensive array made out of resentment, and the light of the Heart Lamp, when faced with the crazed oppression of the resentment, had already dimmed!
Even if Xiang Shu’s strength hadn’t been lost, it would still be exceedingly difficult to defeat three drought fiend kings, so how could he win in this situation where he couldn’t even lift his heavy sword? Despite this, he knew that no matter what, he had to ensure that Chen Xing would safely break through. He threw his weight behind his sword and savagely struck out at Sima Yi, but Sima Yi had already figured out that Xiang Shu’s power was lacking and grabbed Xiang Shu in a chokehold, slamming his body onto the wall and striking him squarely with his shield.
The wall let out a splintering noise as it split. Xiang Shu shouted wildly as that great blow drove all the air out of his lungs. At this moment his suffering was unbearable, but still he held tightly onto the heavy sword and didn’t let go.
Chen Xing pointed a finger in that direction, and the Heart Lamp gathered its brilliance, breaking through the darkness. The two drought fiend kings immediately dodged to the left and right, flanking Chen Xing. Behind him, Sima Liang had already drawn his bowstring. Chen Xing turned his body, raised his hands, and opened his eyes widely.
“Where’s your Iuppiter now?” A trickle of blood ran from the corner of Xiang Shu’s mouth. With difficulty, he pushed himself upright. He then tilted his head and looked in the direction of a nearby house, calculating if he could take Chen Xing and burst through the house to try and escape.
Chen Xing: “Iuppiter, come out! Or else I’m really going to be done for!”
Sima Liang let the arrow fly and the two drought fiend kings lifted their swords, completely ignoring Xiang Shu as they sliced down towards Chen Xing. The swords slashed, and just as they were going to behead Chen Xing ——
Before the echo of the words ended, a black shadow darted in from the rooftop.
All of the resentment on that long street began to flow towards that black shadow, which turned out to be a mask-wearing youth slightly shorter than Chen Xing’s elbow. He zipped by and let out a wolf howl.
“Xiao…… Xiao Shan?!” Chen Xing said as he heard that sound; he never imagined that Xiao Shan would appear at this moment!
Closely following, Xiao Shan’s two claws hooked on to the tangible darkness swirling under the blackness of the night. He pulled it towards himself and then released the attack!
Sima Ying and Sima Yi simultaneously had their swords snapped and their shields broken as they flipped in midair, narrowly avoiding the claw attack. The light of Cangqiong Yilie’s attack swiped Sima Ying’s shoulder as it passed, neatly slicing his pauldron off.
Xiao Shan wore a ghost-face mask and a set of dirty hunting robes. Around his neck was tied a bandanna. He shouted: “Chen Xing! Go!”
Without saying another word, Xiang Shu grabbed Chen Xing and crashed into the house. They ran to the backyard, shoving open the yard gate, and they rushed out on the other side.
Xiao Shan’s two eyes turned bloodshot as he turned and leapt on to the roof top. Once the three drought fiend kings on the street caught up, they saw Xiao Shan turn and leap upwards off the roof, and without a single backwards glance, send a claw attack behind him, slicing off half the roof. The house collapsed, confining the drought fiends in the rubble below, and then with an elegant leap, Xiao Shan followed Xiang Shu and Chen Xing in escaping.
juurensha: Wolf bby is back!
moon: Breaking news! Shuxing lovechild (adopted, still counts) saves the day (again)! (because his parental figures are busy fighting each other, as usual)
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Caro.