"I thought you would never wake up again."
Editor(s): juurensha, namio
Chen Xing lifted aside the blankets to climb off the bed, but his legs suddenly gave out underneath him. Xiang Shu rushed to hold him up and said, "You sit a little while longer, I'll go find someone to make you some food."
Not long after, Xie An also came over with his usual hubbub, and he sighed and said, "You're finally awake. I never thought it would be this serious."
Chen Xing also couldn't have predicted that after one fight at Kuaiji, he would actually stay in a coma for three whole months! After asking Xiao Shan, who had vividly narrated the events of that day, Chen Xing finally understood what had happened afterwards, when Xiang Shu had tightly clutched his unconscious self and returned to Jiankang.
Xie An had been extremely anxious after learning of what happened and had helped Xiang Shu to invite multiple doctors, even the imperial doctor in the palace, to look over Chen Xing. Their diagnoses were all the same: the meridians were injured, and quiet rest was necessary for recovery. Only one apothecary named Pu Yang, who usually stayed by the side of Sima Yao, brought up the point that this condition had been recorded in historical records before. This was the aftermath of consuming too much of the spiritual hun, so a coma was inevitable. In a few days, after the hunpo had a chance to recover some strength, he would perhaps wake up on his own.
The three hun and seven po were an innate power that every person possessed, and once the energy in the hunpo was fully consumed, a mild case would have people falling into an uneasy state of confusion, while a heavy case would cause someone to fall into a coma and eventually even die. The patients who had one hun stolen from them via the Luohun Bell were in states of varied drowsiness precisely because of this, and despite Chen Xing's hunpo being intact, the reason he had become like this was most clear to Xiang Shu himself --
-- That day, in that last moment of slaughtering the three drought fiend kings, he didn't know why, but he had forcefully pulled in the energy of Chen Xing's hunpo, causing him to exhaust his spiritual hun, and thereby fall into a coma.
But the lucky thing was that though exhausting the hunpo was severe, it could slowly regenerate. As long as a person didn't die, their jing qi shen would gradually recover. So in these past days, Xiang Shu had stayed constantly at Chen Xing's side, feeding him medicine and water and food, wiping his body and flipping him over, standing guard inside the room during the day, and sleeping by his side at night...
"What?!" Chen Xing asked wildly, "He-he-he, I… I, how long did he let me go between baths? Did he always feed me congee?"
Xie An: "This… I also don't know, maybe you should ask Protector Xiang? That seems right, en, he did feed you congee, and though you were in a coma, you were still able to swallow. When I came by a few times, I saw Xiang-xiongdi feeding you congee and massaging your neck to make you swallow."
"Of course when he sponge-bathed you, he closed the door."
"He actually looked after me for… three months?!" Chen Xing had no idea how he would go about repaying this debt.
Xiang Shu brought the congee in, and Xie An continued, "You should rest properly. Good, as long as you're awake, that's good! Xiao Shan, Chen-xiongdi just woke up, do you want to let him rest a bit?"
Xiao Shan laid on Chen Xing's body without moving, so Xie An could only bid farewell on his own. Xiao Shan at this time rolled towards the inside of the bed, nonchalantly lifting up his legs as he pillowed his head on his arm.
Xiang Shu said, "Eat some congee."
Chen Xing said, "I actually slept this long? Kuaiji is safe, right?"
Xiang Shu "en"-ed in response and moved to feed Chen Xing, who hurried to say, "I'll do it on my own."
Xiang Shu didn't push but rather watched Chen Xing from the side as he ate. Chen Xing only felt that his arms were limp and powerless, though he knew that this was just an effect of sleeping for so long. After a few days of normal activity, his arms would gradually recover their former strength.
Chen Xing only felt that he was so hungry he could eat an ox, and even if there was only congee, well, congee was better than nothing. After eating, he rubbed his stomach, and Xiang Shu said, "Xie Daoyun says that you should first eat watery foods. After a few days, you can return to a normal diet."
"In these three months you…"
"In these three months I…"
The two of them spoke and stopped at the same time. Xiang Shu gestured for Chen Xing to speak first, and the edges of Chen Xing's mouth twitched. Originally, he wanted to apologize for giving Xiang Shu trouble in these past three months, but he was also afraid that Xiang Shu would get mad at that, and anyways if Xiang Shu was ill and unconscious, he would also do the same, so it didn't matter.
"It's nothing," Chen Xing shook his head and smiled a little.
Xiang Shu said, "Did you dream? You don't remember anything?"
Chen Xing actually had no idea. He felt that he had only had a good night's rest, and the only dream he had was that brief moment when he saw Chiyou's heart, but he suspected that was not a dream, and he promptly explained it to Xiang Shu.
"The drought fiend kings seem to have all been taken care of." Chen Xing still remembered that last scene he saw before he fell unconscious. Despite the painful consequences he had to deal with, they still managed to get rid of the drought fiend kings, and the only one whose status was unknown was Sima Wei.
Xiang Shu nodded and spoke, "If there are no unforeseen factors, then the only one left is Shi Hai, whose identity we still don't know."
Of the six drought fiend kings, they had already disposed of five of them, and the only one left was Sima Wei, who had been struck by lightning. The chess pieces that Shi Hai had carefully hidden in the South had therefore been wholly uprooted. Before, Chen Xing thought that the road ahead was one that was filled with thorns, and that walking through it would be very difficult, but unknowingly, they had already accomplished so many things.
Xiao Shan tilted his head to look at Chen Xing, and Chen Xing rubbed his head and spoke again, "Of the artifacts that were stolen from Zhang Liu, we've already managed to retrieve three: the Yin Yang Mirror, the Zheng Drum, and the Luohun Bell."
No matter where Shi Hai was hiding, this was a great blow to him. Three months had passed, and his eventual death date drew a step closer; two years ago, it had also been this kind of an autumn day when Chen Xing left Mt. Hua to go to Xiangyang. Today, if he counted on his fingers, he still had almost two years left, and perhaps before Iuppiter left and he died, they could actually take down Shi Hai.
"That azure jiao was actually Xin Yuanping!" Chen Xing recalled what had happened in the city of Kuaiji, and he couldn't help but exclaim.
"Can't you talk about something else?" Xiang Shu was beginning to feel irritated, and he asked, "Why is your brain filled with these kinds of things?"
Chen Xing began to smile and replied, "Ah? What should we talk about then?"
Xiang Shu furrowed his brow, saying, "I thought you would never wake up again."
Xiao Shan randomly let loose a whistle. Chen Xing suddenly felt that there was some odd meaning hidden in this whistle, and he looked suspiciously at him.
Xiao Shan hopped off the bed and walked away.
"Xiao Shan?" Chen Xing asked.
Xiang Shu glanced at Xiao Shan, before saying to Chen Xing, "From today onwards, you are not allowed to use the Heart Lamp anymore."
Chen Xing protested, "How can I not use it? In the Silence of All Magic, the only mana left is the Heart Lamp. If I didn't use it, what would happen? Right now the location of the Dinghai Pearl is unclear…"
Xiang Shu, displeased, interrupted him. "If you keep using it like this, you'll die!"
Chen Xing just smiled in response. "Do I have a choice? Ay, Protector, I just woke up, are we really arguing again?"
Xiang Shu could only drop the matter, and the two of them sat again in silence. Thankfully, Feng Qianjun arrived soon after, clearly having just woken up from his afternoon nap, clothes in disarray in his rush to get to the Xie manor. As soon as he saw Chen Xing awake, he warmly greeted him, and gradually that chilly tension between Xiang Shu and Cheng Xing melted away.
"Your Heart Lamp is really too powerful," Feng Qianjun said. "Using it for such a short time made you sleep for three months, what can we even do next time?"
Chen Xing was currently feeling down from Xiang Shu's scolding, so his tone was stubborn as he said, "We'll do what needs to be done. As long as we can get rid of Shi Hai, is any price too high to pay? If only I survive, what point would there be? When Chiyou revives, if no one can survive, then I would still die, so there's not much of a difference."
After hearing this, Xiang Shu didn't say anything. He rose and walked away.
Chen Xing watched Xiang Shu leave with a sudden twinge of discomfort in his heart. He knew that Xiang Shu was afraid of him exhausting his own energy and dying, but what other choice did he have?
"If the Dinghai Pearl was found," Feng Qianjun said, "would that make things easier for you?"
Chen Xing said, "Theoretically, yes. Even though it would still impact my meridians, the magic would at least prevent damage to my hunpo. Right now, I feel like many things are occurring in a series of events pre-determined by the heavens: the Heart Lamp bringing me to seek out Xiang Shu, finding out Shi Hai's plans, undertaking this entire journey here, destroying the other drought fiend kings."
Feng Qianjun smiled. "That's true, don't you have the protection of Iuppiter? Those who are worthy will naturally receive the help of the heavens, and whenever problems arise, they can always be solved."
Chen Xing pondered for a moment, before smiling and replying, "Yep."
Feng Qianjun brought along some restorative tonics, and at this moment he said, "Since you're awake, let's celebrate properly with some wine at a later date. The matter of you two defeating a dragon in Kuaiji is spreading all over Jiangnan, so you should first rest up properly… As for Xiang-xiongdi…"
Feng Qianjun glanced outside, before saying, "He's looked after you for so long, so try not to anger him again."
Chen Xing glumly said, "I really didn't mean to anger him."
Feng Qianjun added, "That's my main investor, so you should try to comfort him a little."
Whether Chen Xing knew how to comfort people was no matter, Feng Qianjun however was very well versed in doing so, and with a few sentences he managed to let Chen Xing feel vindicated. After he bid farewell, Chen Xing kept mulling it over, before finally deciding to go talk with Xiang Shu; he had felt immeasurably calm when he had woken up to see Xiang Shu beside him. Ever since his master passed away, in this world there was only Xiang Shu who would be so concerned over his safety, and that thought made him feel both discomfited and moved.
Chen Xing had used the Heart Lamp several times, and every time it was stronger than the time before, and it was also easier to go all out each time. Through this process, he gradually realized that he was using the energy of his own hunpo like he would the spiritual Qi of the heavens and earth. When he injected the energy of the Heart Lamp into Xiang Shu's body and his sword, under the restriction of the Silence of All Magic, he was using his own hunpo to replace the spiritual qi that was usually used to slay demons.
The price was that every time he used mana, no matter if it was to purify an artifact or to draw out Xiang Shu's power as a Protector, he was always burning up his hunpo. And the day Iuppiter left, Chen Xing began to suspect, would that be the moment Xiang Shu stabbed the Acala Blade into the heart of the Devil God?
The future seemed to gradually become clear to him; this was perhaps, no, this must be their ultimate conclusion. In facing down the Devil God, he would burn up his three hun and seven po until they were exhausted to power the Acala Blade, helping Xiang Shu dispatch this last great danger in the Divine Land.
This kind of a glorious death in battle, without saying, was something that Chen Xing was very satisfied with.
But Xiang Shu would definitely be sad ba. He didn't know when it began, but on their journey from Chang'an to Chi Le Chuan, and from there to Jiangnan, Chen Xing could vaguely feel that their relationship had gradually become like the ones he had read about in the historical records, where their heart's desires were one and the same. That feeling was especially strong in that moment when Xiang Shu flew up to that platform on the official's manor to save him; clearly he had felt Chen Xing's cry for help.
Xiao Shan was good, and Feng Qianjun wasn't bad, Chen Xing mused as he stood alone in that hallway, thinking about the companions that they had gathered. Ever since they met, he had never been brave enough to get too close to them, never mind bringing up his inevitable end around them. He knew that one day they would inevitably part, and if there weren't any strong feelings between them, then maybe, when he did have to leave, they wouldn't be too sad?
Only Xiang Shu was different. Even though Chen Xing couldn't point out clearly what was different, he recognized it. It was that same feeling when they were at Chi Le Chuan celebrating the Autumn Close Festival, when he had watched Xiang Shu and felt a strange tug at his heart, despite him not using the Heart Lamp.
Chen Xing sped up his footsteps as he suddenly really wanted to see Xiang Shu. When he had first awoken he hadn't thought things through clearly, but now, thinking about it, to him it was only a long nap, but to Xiang Shu, it would have been a long, anxious wait. He finally understood the emotions that drove Xiang Shu to want to talk to him.
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Caro and opal.