Editor(s): juurensha, namio
Another shadow came dashing along the street towards them, shouting, “Monsters! Monsters!”
After entering the city, Feng Qianjun immediately noticed the resentment towards the southern part of the city and rushed over to help. His shouting combined with the commotion Xiao Shan caused woke the entire street. As the lanterns were lit, the three drought fiend kings shoved aside the tiles, turning into black flames and flying away.
“Hu, hu…” Chen Xing supported Xiang Shu as the two of them staggered towards the east of the city.
“Chen Xing!” Xiao Shan’s voice seemed to be incensed. “Chen Xing!”
“Xiao Shan…” Chen Xing turned his head back and, seeing Xiao Shan racing towards them, stopped in his tracks. Xiao Shan was running on all fours along a small alleyway towards them. When he arrived in front of Chen Xing and Xiang Shu, he blocked off the road in front, his face filled with rage. He looked at Chen Xing without speaking.
Chen Xing was exhausted. Xiang Shu furrowed his brows. “You were supposed to stay in Karakorum, why did you follow us here?”
Xiao Shan was so angry he couldn’t speak, instead letting loose a loud shout and leaping forward like a whirlwind to hit Xiang Shu.
“Quickly, stop!” Chen Xing turned his head and spoke rapidly: “Xiang Shu can’t fight with you right now! Xiao Shan! It’s so great you’re here!”
Xiao Shan shoved Chen Xing aside and took a few steps back. Chen Xing didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry, so he asked, “How did you find us here?”
Xiao Shan stayed stubbornly silent even as his eyes turned bloodshot. Chen Xing turned his head back again, checking to see if the drought fiend kings had returned, before busying himself with supporting Xiang Shu, saying, “Come with me, come! Let’s go! This place is dangerous!”
The three of them hid under a bridge. As Chen Xing checked Xiang Shu’s wounds, Xiang Shu let out a tired sigh, closed his eyes, and stayed perfectly still.
To the side, Xiao Shan watched the two of them with suspicion.
“You’re fine, right?” Chen Xing said.
“My heart is tired.” Xiang Shu just now had been heavily injured by the drought fiend king. Blood trickled from the corner of his mouth; he definitely had internal injuries, and now even breathing was causing him some pain.
Chen Xing felt very anxious and turned to look at Xiao Shan.
“We need to find a safe place,” Chen Xing said, “or we need to quickly leave Kuaiji.”
As night wore on, it was very quiet inside the city; the silence was only broken by an occasional bird-call. Suddenly, the sound of footsteps echoed on the bridge.
“Chen Xing!” Feng Qianjun’s voice shouted.
“Shh,” Chen Xing said as he immediately stuck his head out. Feng Qianjun clambered to the bottom of the bridge and sighed in relief. “The pursuers have all run away, and all the citizens on the street are now awake and out and about. Xiang-xiongdi, how is your condition? Let’s get up, and we can go to my family’s bank to pass the night... yi? And who is this?”
Chen Xing motioned that there was no time to explain. In his state, Xiang Shu’s condition seemed to be worsening; Chen Xing needed a way to at least temporarily send Xiang Shu back to Jiankang, because he could not stay here any longer. As important as the matter was, it wasn’t as important as Xiang Shu’s safety. They could always return later to investigate.
Feng Qianjun slung Xiang Shu’s arm over his shoulder so that Chen Xing’s burden was lightened a lot. After hurrying out from the bottom of the bridge, what greeted them were the quiet residences of the city’s eastern portion. A year of the plague had caused all the houses to appear gloomy, as if they had been crushed wholly in body and spirit. When Sirius rose in the night, their surroundings seemed as serene as a ghost city.
“We need to pass through Zhong Road,” Feng Qiangjun said. “If we hurry while heading north, it’ll take us at least one shichen, but we should arrive at the Xifeng Bank before sunrise…”
“Wait.” Chen Xing suddenly thought of Wu Qi’s words. Originally the Xiang family home was located on the river bank near the willow bridge. The willow bridge was exactly the bridge they had hidden under. He said, “Come with me.”
Chen Xing arrived at the entrance to someone’s home and knocked. By the door hung a lantern with the words “Fang Manor” on it, and by the side of the door was a peachwood sword used to ward off evil spirits. The owner of this manor was named Fang. The family used to be large, but because the owners and their gaggle of children had all caught the plague, they dismissed their servants and needlessly spent a lot of their wealth. Originally they thought they had nothing more to do but to wait for death, but this illness left them stuck halfway, and all they could do was continue onwards, day after day.
At this time, one elderly servant and one youth from the Fang family sat across from Chen Xing. He explained his situation: he was a passerby and his companion got sick. They were hoping to borrow a room and stay the night. Hearing this, the other party readily agreed and went to go tidy up a guest room. Feng Qianjun originally wanted to give him some silver, but the other party refused to accept it. The master was already bedridden from the plague, so if others that were similarly ill came along, he would help as much as he could; spontaneous acts of kindness were good in times like these.
Chen Xing checked over Xiang Shu. When they were facing the enemy, his internal organs had sustained such a huge impact that they were bleeding internally. Thankfully the wounds weren’t heavy. He used a needle to poke through the meridians, and soon enough Xiang Shu took a turn for the better, sitting there in his usual daze.
Feng Qianjun asked, “Why did you pick this place specifically? Is there any special meaning to this place?”
Chen Xing then explained all that had happened during their journey. Xiao Shan also didn’t bother paying attention, choosing instead to sit on the side of the bed in a daze across Xiang Shu. The two of them, one large and one small, sitting across from each other, seemed like two people with mutual dislike just glaring at each other.
Feng Qianjun pondered for a moment. Xiang Shu finally spoke, “I trusted you. Who was it that said Shi Hai’s grasp would not reach as far as Jiangnan?”
Feng Qianjun groaned. “How would I know? There was no indication of this!”
Chen Xing asked, “How did they know we left Jiankang to come to Kuaiji? They even managed to accurately calculate our route.”
There was only one road coming down south from Jiankang, so setting up an ambush on that one path was not difficult. Rather, how had those three drought fiend kings managed to sneak into Jiangnan so easily? It could be that they had someone within the city of Jiankang aiding them. Chen Xing kept mulling over it, but he still had no clues. Feng Qianjun checked the windows and the doors again, closing all the ones that could be closed; he used this opportunity to also check if there were crows in the Fang manor.
“When it’s light outside,” Feng Qianjun said, “I’ll send the housekeeper to Xifeng with a letter. Everyone else should stay hidden to prevent the drought fiend kings from discovering us. Then I’ll make a trip to the county official’s manor. With the addition of the troops they send, we should be able to find those three dead people.”
Chen Xing thought that at present, the safest option was to seek the help of the county official, but what he was afraid of was the drought fiend kings causing chaos again. If the situation evolved into another Chang’an, there would only be himself to blame. One point in their favor was that, besides Feng Qianjun, they now had an additional strong fighter on their side, Xiao Shan. If they made enough preparations, they could potentially fight on equal footing against the drought fiend kings.
“Xiao Shan, you can use Cangqiong Yilie now?” Chen Xing asked Xiao Shan.
Xiao Shan was curled up on his side in the corner of the couch, sneaking glances at Chen Xing and Feng Qianjun from time to time, but whenever Chen Xing spoke to him, Xiao Shan’s gaze would turn away.
Feng Qianjun wanted Chen Xing to explain where this little kid came from, so he asked: “When did you two have a son? This kind of attitude is exactly the same as Xiang-xiongdi’s.”
“Enough.” Xiang Shu was currently frustrated and didn’t want to continue this farce with Feng Qianjun.
At that moment, a voice called from the outside: “Do you guys require any medicinal supplies? I saw that that brother seemed to be hurt.”
Chen Xing felt that this was very well-timed and went to open the door to give his thanks. Seeing that it was the young man, he said, “I was just thinking of requesting some medicine to improve blood circulation. If you have some, that would be great.”
The Fang manor owner had tried every method under the sun to treat his illness, so he naturally had purchased a lot of medicinal supplies. He had also asked the servants to maintain the supply on a daily basis. The youth picked up his lamp and brought Chen Xing into the storehouse to find him his medicine.
Chen Xing said, “To be honest with you, I’m actually a doctor. When your family’s laoye wakes tomorrow, I would like to examine him.”
“Then I really must thank you greatly,” that youth said. “That xiongdi of yours is very good looking, so how did he get wounded so heavily?”
In his heart, Chen Xing lamented about the cruelty of life and how events were too long and complicated to explain. Maybe tomorrow, he would let Feng Qianjun first send Xiang Shu back to Jiankang while he himself and Xiao Shan stayed to continue investigating. Xiao Shan’s claws seemed to be pretty powerful, so maybe he would be helpful… With a flash he realized, wasn’t this the manor the Xiang family used to live in? With that in mind, he changed topics entirely and asked, “I heard that your master’s family sold off some old things when they first came. Was this the case?”
That youth was startled and responded, “Two days ago, there was a Lin-daren from the Ministry of Internal Affairs who asked the same thing. What connection do you have with him?”
Chen Xing hurriedly took out Xie An’s letter. The youth read it by lamplight and then said, “When we moved here, this manor originally belonged to the Xiang family, but the Xiang family at that point had already died out, so the county official took the manor back to resell it, and that’s how our family’s lord got his hands on it. To tell you the truth, my family’s lord and lady have been sick for too long, and the household affairs are all a mess. We didn’t have silver taels to spend, so we could only find some items to exchange for money. I saw that the edge of that bamboo slip was inlaid with gold, so I thought that it would be worth some money…”
Chen Xing resolutely interrupted, “Originally, when you guys cleaned out this manor, did you find anything else?”
The youth spoke, “We stored it all on the east side. If you want to go take a look, I can take you there, but don’t blame me for not warning you… Are you afraid of ghosts?”
Chen Xing didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. “Let’s go.”
The youth spoke again, “I’m serious. Sometimes when I come to this yard in the middle of the night, I hear people talking. You have to believe me.”
Chen Xing realized after passing through to the other side of the manor that this place was very big, and a lot of places hadn’t been properly repaired. In the darkness of the east garden, the old columns, beams, and doors of the abandoned building had already rotted away. It stood in the dark lifelessly, like it was filled with hungry ghosts. But even then, the golden splendour and glory of hundreds of years past could still be seen.
The yard hadn’t been locked up, and no one would steal things from a family with the plague, so Chen Xing just had to push the door open to get in. The youth, who was evidently not very brave, put the light on the table and said, “I’m heading back to rest for a bit. If you need anything, call for me.” After saying that, he hurriedly left.
moon: and here we are, another half a chapter! this time, the plot thickens as they find the ancestral xiang family home… more drama to come next time!
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Caro.