Editor(s): juurensha, namio
Daybreak, within the guest room.
“It’s the same as Lu Jing’s hypothesis,” Chen Xing said. “After Zhang Liu obtained the Dinghai Pearl, he sucked away all the spiritual Qi of the heavens and the earth, and took Xiang… Xiang-qianbei with him to kill the Devil God.”
“3000 years,” when Feng Qianjun heard that, he fell into a state of shock. “This artifact lets people travel through time to 3000 years in the past?”
Zhuyin was the dragon god who controlled causality and spacetime, and the legendary wheels of the heavens and the earth rotated under its dragon might. What the Tide Rings corresponded to was exactly the cycles of the Divine Vein of the Heavens and the Earth, and the rotation of those huge wheels of time caused the flow of years and passage of seasons within this realm.
That was to say, Zhang Liu’s objective was to turn back time, and, together with Xiang Yuyan, return to the conclusion of the Battle of Banquan and once again use the Acala Blade to completely destroy the remnants of the Devil God.
“Then the events that followed are very clear…” Chen Xing said. “For reasons unknown, Xiang Yuyan-qianbei instead arrived in the world of 300 years later, and then -- and then chose to stay in Saiwai... en, it went like this, right?”
Xiang Shu, like before, didn't say anything. He could not stay calm at the moment, having seen the fragments of memories that had been stored by the Luohun Bell in this place. His mother was actually one of the ancients from 300 years ago!
Chen Xing stroked the back of Xiang Shu’s hand, thinking in his heart that Xiang Shu needed a moment to digest this information, so he stopped discussing it further. Even though this connection with Xiang Yuyan had become undeniably clear, a more pressing question had emerged: Xiang Yuyan appeared on her own in Saiwai, so where did Zhang Liu go? What happened to the Dinghai Pearl?
Why did Xiang Yuyan, who had originally decided to travel to 3000 years in the past with Zhang Liu, arrive instead at the Chi Le Chuan of 300 years later due to a malfunction?
Everyone there temporarily forgot that they were being chased by the drought fiend kings, and the room filled with a contemplative silence. Chen Xing mixed the medicine for Xiang Shu, and after it was done simmering, handed him the bowl, saying, “First drink this medicine. Even though we’ve found the most important connection, we still haven’t escaped the danger.”
Xiang Shu barely managed to nod. Everyone had gone through a whole day and night of running for their lives, and they were all exhausted. Feng Qianjun didn’t even bother with taking off his robes, choosing instead to lie down on the ground and fall asleep. Xiang Shu also slumped on the bed for a while. Chen Xing reached his hand out to hug Xiao Shan. At first, Xiao Shan was a little reluctant, as if his anger hadn’t yet dissipated. But finally he caved, crawling to Chen Xing’s side and lying down.
Chen Xing stroked Xiao Shan’s head. Before, there were too many things to take care of, but now that he could finally have a proper talk with Xiao Shan, what could he say? At this point, there was no need to say any more.
“Took a boat,” Xiao Shan suddenly spoke. “I took a boat to get here.”
Chen Xing: “What?”
Xiao Shan unhappily said, “I took a boat, from Goryeo to Jiangnan.”
Chen Xing: “!!!”
Chen Xing suddenly sat up straight, remembering that Xiao Shan was responding to his “how did you get here” from a long time ago, and exclaimed in surprise, “You’ve learned how to speak the Han language?”
Still unhappy, Xiao Shan responded, “Yeah, what about it?”
Chen Xing, “...”
Despite the briefness of their interactions in the beginning at Karakorum, Chen Xing had still managed to teach Xiao Shan quite a few words. At that time Xiao Shan didn’t get the chance to practice much before Chen Xing was kidnapped, and when Xiang Shu returned to Karakorum to pack his luggage, he left Xiao Shan in the care of the Xiongnu tribe leader. Without even saying goodbye, he took a fast horse and went to save Chen Xing.
Xiao Shan slept at Karakorum for several days as the Xiongnu people used their herbal medicine to treat his external wounds. After waking, he immediately rushed after Xiang Shu to find Chen Xing.
At the beginning of their journey, Xiao Shan could only say “Chen Xing, Chen Xing”, but as he met more people, he learned a lot of new words, and what Chen Xing taught him, he retained as well. Little kids pick up on new languages very quickly, and when they arrived in Goryeo, he could already carry on basic conversations. After learning that Xiang Shu and Chen Xing were taking a boat down to Jiangnan, Xiao Shan also found another boat and snuck onboard to hide.
The captain of that ship was a Han. He quickly discovered the stowaway Xiao Shan, and after seeing that he was a pretty and intelligent child, the captain obviously didn’t throw him into the sea to feed the fishes. On his person, Xiao Shan carried several valuable accessories from the Xiongnu people, so the people aboard guessed that he was no ordinary person. They loosely tied him up with some rope in the beginning, and towards the end of the trip, the captain even often sought him out to talk in an effort to stave off boredom.
Xiao Shan’s vocabulary increased the more he spoke, and his words carried a hint of the Wurong dialect. He could ask for directions, he could buy food, he knew he should stay at inns, and he even knew how to exchange money at pawn shops. Time flies when you’re apart; after being apart from them for half a year, he had even grown a head taller after eating well on the ship. Upon arriving at Kuaiji, Xiao Shan began to inquire after Chen Xing and Xiang Shu’s whereabouts.
Chen Xing could only sigh, saying: “You actually - actually…”
“I am so infuriated with you!” Xiao Shan raged. “You don’t want me anymore!”
“Shh.” Chen Xing hurriedly shushed Xiao Shan so that he would avoid waking the heavily slumbering Xiang Shu and Feng Qianjun. Hugging Xiao Shan in his embrace, he gently stroked his head, licking the top of it. After releasing him, Chen Xing watched Xiao Shan with a smile.
“It wasn’t that I didn’t want you,” Chen Xing said quietly. “I was captured, wasn’t I? You also knew that. I was actually trying to find a time to send a letter to Saiwai to bring you over here.”
Chen Xing understood very clearly that Xiao Shan’s unhappiness stemmed from how Chen Xing left just like that, leaving him alone in Karakorum. But what could he have done? He could only pretend that everything was alright by not bringing it up anymore.
After smiling for a while, Chen Xing felt his nose go a bit sour. Xiao Shan was so angry he almost cried; he laid on the ground with his arms and legs spread apart, still with the dragon claws on his hands, tossing and turning in the throes of his tantrum.
“Shh!” Chen Xing hurried to calm Xiao Shan from his tantrum, saying, “Since you’re here now, it’s alright.”
At this, Xiao Shan finally turned his head to look at Chen Xing. Chen Xing glanced at Xiang Shu, and in a tiny voice said, “There are still more than two years left… Xiao Shan, it’s not that I’m not willing to take care of you.”
Xiao Shan: “?”
Chen Xing debated for a while in his heart, but in the end he still gave up on telling Xiao Shan the reasoning behind his decisions. Even Xiang Shu didn’t know, so what would be the purpose of telling Xiao Shan?
“There are still two years left before what?” Xiang Shu asked as he lifted his head, his forehead wrinkled in disapproval. Clearly he hadn’t actually been sleeping at all.
Chen Xing almost replied with “it’s nothing”, but this answer would lead to even more suspicion, so he immediately changed his answer. “I was saying that there’s still more than two years before I would have returned to Chi Le Chuan to get him.”
Xiang Shu didn’t say anything more, simply lying back down, letting out a sigh of exhaustion.
Chen Xing said, “Go to sleep, we can talk more after waking. Xiao Shan, you must also be tired.”
He stroked Xiao Shan’s forehead as Xiao Shan finally quieted down. Xiao Shan kicked Chen Xing once out of spite before burrowing into his embrace.
“Oh,” Chen Xing said. “You’ve suddenly grown much taller.”
Kids at this age grew so quickly that every day they would look completely different from how they looked the day before; they shot up like new bamboo in the spring. Chen Xing thought to himself that this Xiongnu youth could one day be taller than Xiang Shu. If he was taller than Chen Xing, then what kind of message would they send if Xiao Shan still clung to him while he slept? It’s best if he took this opportunity to adjust Xiao Shan’s sleeping position, laying him down flat on the ground instead of letting him sprawl on Chen Xing’s shoulder to sleep.
Xiao Shan also didn’t persist in staying awake, and soon silence blanketed the room. After running for their lives for a whole day and a night they were understandably exhausted, and all of the present members quickly fell asleep. It wasn’t until the sun had risen to the height of three bamboo poles that the owner of the house finally awoke and sent people to invite Chen Xing to partake of lunch. Chen Xing’s eyes were still filled with the haze of sleep, but he woke everyone else in time. When they arrived at the dining hall, they discovered that there were still quite a number of inhabitants in the Fang manor. Wives and concubines with entire herds of sons and daughters sat there, but all of them were still caught in the hazy grasp of sleep, barely managing to muster enough energy to duck their heads and eat their congee, their eyes empty of spirit.
The owner spoke with little strength when greeting them before asking the old housekeeper, “Who is the renowned doctor?”
This was the first time Chen Xing had seen a plague-ridden individual; when compared with Xiang Shu, there was a clear difference in the symptoms.
Xiang Shu was drinking his medicine quietly. His body had recovered a little, and it seemed like he was musing over something. After eating, Feng Qianjun rose to go get ready; he was preparing to return to the Xifeng Bank.
“I am.” Chen Xing rolled up his sleeves, saying, “Let me take a look at you.”
Yesterday night he had already questioned the youth, so now Chen Xing merely took the pulse of the Fang family patriarch. After a careful examination, he discovered that the situation was exactly as Xie Daoyun had described: the pulse was completely normal, and nothing was out of the ordinary.
“When you first contracted the illness, did you see any people or eat anything weird?” Chen Xing asked. “Did you feel there was anything strange?”
The Fang family head had been infected the year before, so now even as he endeavored to recall his past memories, he couldn’t remember them clearly anymore.
Xiang Shu was drinking his medicine as he was thinking. He waited until he put down the medicine bowl before uttering a sentence.
“When you first got ill, did you hear the chime of a bell?”
Chen Xing: “!!!”
Chen Xing suddenly looked towards Xiang Shu. The chime of a bell? The Luohun Bell? Many of the symptoms of this plague, in this moment, started to become clear. The supposed symptom of the patients being "in low spirits", wasn’t that referring to a situation where a hun was forcibly removed?
“The chime of a bell?” the Fang family head said. “I can’t remember clearly anymore…”
Xiang Shu said to Chen Xing, “The night you got drunk, I seem to remember hearing the sound of a bell.”
“At Jiankang?” Chen Xing let go of the family head’s pulse point and studiously asked, “Why didn’t I hear it?”
“You were so drunk you were confused,” Xiang Shu said. “Obviously you wouldn’t hear it.”
It was just then when Feng Qianjun returned, saying, “You’ve figured out something? Let’s go back to Xifeng and discuss there.”
Chen Xing placated the Fang family for a bit, informing them that perhaps it wouldn’t be long before they would have a result, and that in the meantime they should continue taking their medicine like before and stay within Kuaiji. Feng Qianjun was afraid that the enemies would come again, so he called for a carriage and had the three others climb on from the backyard, before he spoke, “I used some money to get the children in the city to mobilize. All of them have slingshots, and as soon as they see a crow they’ll hit it with some rocks. We don’t know if the drought fiend kings are still hiding within the city, but at least with this, they shouldn’t return to seek revenge for a while.”
Before Xiang Shu got on the carriage, he couldn’t help but gaze in the direction of the Fang family manor entrance for a while with a desolate look.
moon: XIAO SHAN NO
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Caro.