Editor(s): juurensha, namio
The next day, Xiang Shu had finished making preparations to go out. Looking at Chen Xing’s appearance, with how he had changed into a different set of clothes, it was obvious that he intended to come along with him.
“Did you not sleep well yesterday?” Xiang Shu asked.
This question was directed to Chen Xing, but Xie An was the one to answer it instead. With sleepy eyes, he answered, “I finally don’t have to attend court from now on, so it’s only right that I could get a good night’s rest, but who knew that there would be two birds that would continuously make a ruckus for the whole night. I tossed and turned but couldn’t fall asleep and it was only at dawn did I finally got some shut-eye.”
The corner of Chen Xing’s lips twitched as he expressed, “Oh? There are birds? How come I didn’t hear any?”
Xie An said, “Of course. One flew by from the west, and the other flew out from the east, just chasing after one another... first they were flying like this, then they were flying like that...” He even started gesturing as he spoke, continuing, “Then the one in the west suddenly stopped moving. All I could tell was that it was screeching by my ear. Say, don’t you guys think it’s strange?”
Xiang Shu: “…...”
Chen Xing: “???”
“I’m leaving now,” Xiang Shu announced.
“I’m going with you,” Chen Xing stood up as he declared.
“Hey! Hey!” Xie An hastily laughed and said, “Don’t rush, bring me along too! Don’t think about leaving me behind!”
Chen Xing replied, “If you go off on your own and leave me alone, what will we do if Shi Hai comes along and kidnaps me again later?”
Xie An said, “Right. If an enemy comes along, my old bones wouldn’t be able to handle it.”
“Chen Xing! Where are you guys going?” Xiao Shan shouted, “I’m going too!”
Thus, Chen Xing could only bring Xiao Shan along too. Xiang Shu originally wanted to just take a fast horse and quickly come and quickly go, but who would’ve expected that Xie An would prepare a carriage and even sent someone to inform Feng Qianjun, as if they were going on an autumn trip. Following that, Feng Qianjun even brought along Gu Qing, and Xie Daoyun just so happened to be going to find Gu Qing, so in the end, it became a parade of people from the Exorcism Department plus two doctors. The giant group of people departed from Jiankang together in the name of official business, but in reality, they were just heading to Nanping Mountain to enjoy themselves. The autumn sky was clear, and the air was crisp, so they all went to go fly kites.
Chibi was known as Puqi in ancient times; the mountain ranges stretched on endlessly like dragon veins between heaven and earth. The three peaks of Chibi Mountain, Nanping Mountain, and Jinluan Mountain were all connected by these veins.
Snow-white clouds and towering peaks and ridges faced the Yangtze River and the Wanlihong lake. Within the autumn of the great wilderness, the maple leaves on the multitude of mountains appeared as red as fire as they piled over the golden ginkgo trees. Elm, mulberry, and sycamore trees also dotted the landscape layer by layer, stretching across for several miles as they were reflected in the blue-green waters of Hong Lake. In the mountains was also a waterfall that flew downwards like a white curtain.
In the mountains there was water, and in the water was the reflection of the mountains. It was as if sienna, vermillion, red, dark green, and all the colours of other vivid minerals had melted into the mountains and rivers - it really was the most magnificently crafted scenery created by the universe.
When the guard of Wuchang county learned of Xie An’s coming, his parents hurriedly sent out boats and allowed Xie An to have command over them. A number of small boats had moored on the lake beneath the mountain, but Xie An didn’t wish to be disturbed, so he abandoned his horse to scale Nanping Mountain on foot.
Xiang Shu asked, “Where is the Big Dipper Altar?”
Xie An replied, “It’s halfway up the mountain, on the cliff facing Hong Lake. Come, I’ll take you guys to take a look.”
It was drizzling and mist-shrouded in the afternoon; Xie An had travelled through all the renowned mountains in his youth, and his memory was absolutely excellent, so when he led them to Nanping Mountain, he did so like a carriage lightly passing over a familiar road. With a paper umbrella in hand, he practically flew up the mountain and ended up walking ahead of them all in just a few turns. Chen Xing, on the other hand, was dragging the front of his robe with ragged breaths at the very end of the procession, completely unable to catch up to Xie An.
Xie Daoyun was originally walking alongside Xiao Shan until she glanced back, called out to Chen Xing, and took the initiative to stop and wait for him.
“You get and Xiao Shan get along pretty well,” Chen Xing wheezed as he shot her a smile.
During the period of time Chen Xing was confined to bed, Xie Daoyun would often come to check up on him. She and Xiao Shan then grew familiar with each other over the course of several encounters. On the day they had entered the palace to see Sima Yao, Xie Daoyun had even arranged for her and Xiao Shan to have a little competition.
“That little brother of yours worries so much about you every day that he can’t possibly worry more,” Xie Daoyun remarked. “How come you’re always so heartless?”
“When have I been heartless again?” Chen Xing asked, bewildered.
Xie Daoyun snorted but didn’t respond again. Chen Xing peered at her with suspicion, asking, “You don’t have any untoward thoughts towards my adopted son right?”
“Exorcist, is there anything else in your brain besides such things?” Xie Daoyun instantly became enraged.
Xie Daoyun was always with Xiao Shan as if she were his older sister, and the unexpected duo made Chen Xing somewhat taken aback.
Of course, Chen Xing knew that Xiao Shan would grow up very quickly and, maybe in a few years, he would even find someone he likes. According to the customs of Jin country, one could already be matchmade at the age of 14, and for Xiongnu people, it was even earlier. But in Chen Xing’s heart, Xiao Shan really was too young; even though he had grown quite a lot in the past half a year, he was still only 12 years old.
Thinking about it more carefully, Chen Xing admitted to Xie Daoyun’s so-called “heartlessness”. He hoped that Xiao Shan could quickly grow up, or at least not find it too hard to let go of him... or just not find it as hard to let go of him as he found it for Lu Ying at the very least. Otherwise, he would be like a child that could never grow up. When he was no longer here in a few years, how would Xiao Shan become an independent person then? Thus he no longer treated Xiao Shan like a child as he had when they were in Karakorum, but regarded him as an adult like himself. He would teach him how to read and write but would avoid expressing too much affection.
He would encourage him more to make friends and associate himself with more people so as to avoid Xiao Shan having only Chen Xing himself in his world.
Chen Xing felt like Xiao Shan understood everything, and in actuality, Xiao Shan did. After reuniting in Kuaiji, Chen Xing had put in a tremendous amount of effort to apologize to him and, not minding Xiao Shan’s hazy expression, he explained his thoughts. Since then, Xiao Shan had vaguely understood Chen Xing’s familiar yet not close sentiment even more. He understood that Chen Xing was urging him to grow up and was hoping that he could one day face everything on his own.
Chen Xing had a blank expression; he originally wanted to ask, “Do you want to snatch Xiao Shan away? Become his adopted mother?” but with Xie Daoyun’s previous words, a sense of awkwardness suddenly rose between the two.
“I don’t have any untoward thoughts!” Xie Daoyun shouted, “I want to acknowledge him as my master!”
“Oh, oh...” Chen Xing swiped away his cold sweat and hurriedly nodded his head. Raising his hand, he expressed, “I don’t have any objections at all. Did he agree?”
Chen Xing saw that Xiao Shan also liked Xie Daoyun quite a bit, but hadn’t expected that Xie Daoyun would actually want to find a master to learn martial arts from as well. But now that he thought about it, it was evident that Xie Daoyun had learned some martial arts before. Most of the Xie household wouldn’t allow her to use swords or spears - only Xie An was fairly open-minded. Xiang Shu didn’t have the spare time to teach her, and it wasn’t very suitable for Feng Qianjun to exchange blows with his fiancée’s best friend, and thus Xie Daoyun could only find Xiao Shan.
Xie Daoyun explained, “Xiao-shifu said that he wanted to discuss it with you, understand?”
Chen Xing nodded. Right at this time, Xiang Shu seemed to have intentionally slowed down and was listening in to the conversation between the two of them. Xie Daoyun didn’t speak anymore and proceeded to walk to the head of the procession.
“You guys go on, just wait for me up ahead.” Chen Xing panted out as he leaned against a tree, “I’m going to rest for a while.”
“I told you to not come along,” Xiang Shu scolded, vexed.
Chen Xing had just recovered from his severe illness so he was already frail, and after his heart chakra received some damage, he was even more out of breath from climbing a mountain. Everybody looked at Chen Xing; Xiao Shan wanted to say something but stopped, and Feng Qianjun nudged at him, indicating Xiao Shan to walk ahead, and said, “Then Xiao Shan and I will go ahead and explore the way.”
Chen Xing wiped his sweat and squeezed out a forced smile. Xiang Shu waited a while before finally saying, “Forget it, forget it, I’ll carry you.”
“No need,” Chen Xing expressed, “I’m fine... Xie-shixiong’s physical strength... how is it so good?”
Xiang Shu didn’t force Chen Xing either. Shortly after, everybody had already walked ahead, leaving only Xiang Shu by Chen Xing’s side. Chen Xing kept slipping along the way; the fog spiralled upwards in the mountains and the rain drizzled down in short bursts, and Chen Xing and Xiang Shu’s outer robes were already soaked through at that moment.
Chen Xing spoke, “I still remember when you took me to climb Carosha. You were always this impatient, can’t you wait?”
Xiang Shu took a deep breath and was just about to reproach Chen Xing, but Chen Xing was already extremely depressed, saying, “Alright, I... I’ll return to Jiankang. I won’t hold you all back anymore. I knew you were going to be angry.”
Saying this, Chen Xing sighed. He then continued to murmur to himself, “Since we headed out today, I have constantly been on tenterhooks, afraid that I might accidentally make you unhappy again. Sorry, I’ll head back now.”
Ever since Chen Xing realized that he kind of... no, that he really liked Xiang Shu, he was constantly unable to hold himself back from interpreting his attitude towards himself in all sorts of ways. He also no longer dared to brazenly tease or make fun of him anymore. Xiang Shu also seemed to have detected this cautious attitude of Chen Xing’s when the two of them were together, but for some unknown reason, he would occasionally grow uncontrollably angry. But every time he would want to control Chen Xing, Chen Xing would reveal an insouciant and unwilling expression that would cause the feelings of irritation to accumulate in Xiang Shu’s heart until an opening finally appeared and then he would teach Chen Xing a lesson.
This time Xiang Shu didn’t respond. Instead, he reached out and grasped his hand, leading him up the mountain road at a slow pace.
The drizzle was fluttering through the air. At that moment, Chen Xing’s heart started to beat wildly. Following behind Xiang Shu, his fingers unconsciously twitched in his grasp, but Xiang Shu tightened his grip on his hand without hesitating, keeping his palm firmly locked in his.
Chen Xing raised his gaze to look at Xiang Shu’s profile. He found that it was as if he had never properly understood him before; he had always felt that Xiang Shu was sometimes extremely short-tempered, yet other times he would be incredibly gentle... so gentle that it was a little unlike him.
But in any case, Chen Xing felt that he was already the person who understood him most in the world. After all, everything must be judged through comparison.
Xiang Shu peered at Chen Xing, seeming as if he wanted to explain something, thus Chen Xing swung his hand a bit to indicate that it was alright.
Xiang Shu finally yielded and took the initiative to say, “Sometimes I feel like I always have a groundless sense of irritation. Is this some type of evil tendency?”
“Evil tendency?” Chen Xing could only feel a little bemused.
Xiang Shu casually replied, “There is an uncontrollable force trapped inside my heart that searches everywhere for an outlet, wanting to break free.” As he was saying this, Xiang Shu seemed to be recalling many things for no particular reason at the moment. He continued, “Sometimes I also want to communicate properly, but for some unknown reason, I always grow impatient when it comes to you... nevermind.”
Chen Xing thought to himself, you’re not only like this to me, you’re impatient towards everyone, and sometimes you don’t even bother to talk. You’re actually pretty good to me in comparison.
Perhaps this was the reason why Xiang Shu’s martial arts were so strong. Chen Xing always felt that Xiang Shu’s martial arts had a sense of madness, a kind of near-overflowing and uncontrollable type of strength. Perhaps it had something to do with the extreme self-repression in his heart. Most of the time, Xiang Shu was clear-headed and rational, so clear-headed that Chen Xing was even a little taken aback. But whenever the two of them were alone, this irritable side of Xiang Shu would inadvertently show its head, causing Chen Xing to become extremely cautious for fear of saying the wrong thing.
“I wanted you to come,” Xiang Shu said simply. “Yes, I wanted you to come with me.”
When Chen Xing heard those words, he instantly broke into a smile. Those words had completely swept away the haze in his heart. That smile was filled with a youthful joyfulness, yet he could only respond with, “Oh, en.”
Xiang Shu said, “The landscapes of the South really are beautiful. Come on, let’s go.”
Thus Chen Xing’s mood became absolutely brilliant. But Xiang Shu then released his hand, letting him walk by himself. When they reached a turn in the mountain road, he turned back to look at him with a complicated gaze.
“After the restoration of magic,” Xiang Shu switched to another topic, asking, “what do you plan to do?”
When Chen Xing was asked the question, he was a little taken by surprise. He didn’t know why Xiang Shu would suddenly think of this, so he responded, “Find a place in Jiankang to live? Just carry on my days ba.”
After passing the foothills, the fog started to scatter. The two of them arrived before the edge of the high cliff and stood shoulder to shoulder as they came facing the Hong Lake beneath the Nanping Mountains.
“Didn’t you plan on seeing all the mountains and rivers in the Divine Land? Have you changed your mind?”
Chen Xing realized that perhaps it was because they came to Nanping Mountain today that Xiang Shu suddenly had some sort of feeling that had caused him to recall their conversation on the boat.
“I forgot,” Chen Xing answered with a smile. “Yes, you just reminded me.”
Chen Xing would occasionally calculate the time he had left when he had nothing else to do. There were only two years left, and the road ahead was far more difficult than what he had initially anticipated, thus he pretty much no longer had any other desires - if they could defeat Shi Hai, then he would already be thanking the heavens. There most likely wouldn’t be any more time to travel to the mountains and rivers when the time came, so he might as well find a quiet place to live for a period of time. Thus, this was the answer he unconsciously blurted out when he was asked the question.
But what he had just said wasn’t reasonable, causing Xiang Shu’s suspicion to immediately be aroused. He warily scrutinized Chen Xing. Chen Xing was stared at by him so much that he was starting to have a rising sense of guilt, so, avoiding his gaze in an unnatural manner, he asked back, “What about you? Do you want to return to the North?”
Xiang Shu was standing tall before the edge of the cliff as he casually responded, “You want to travel far and wide, can you walk so much?”
Chen Xing smiled as he replied with another question, “So? You’re willing to accompany me? I’m afraid that I’ll be scolded by you again along the road.”
The fog started to gently cover everything once again. It swept over the cliff and Xiang Shu spoke amid the shroud of the mist, “Yes.” He then turned away and started walking towards the top of the mountain. Chen Xing was dumbfounded, what did I just hear?.
“Ah?” Chen Xing asked, “What did you just say? Wait for me, Xiang Shu!”
Chen Xing was so preoccupied with turning around that he almost lost his footing, but Xiang Shu had already expected that. Without even looking in the fog, he grabbed onto Chen Xing’s hand. Chen Xing suddenly broke into a cold sweat. He had almost tripped again just now; the mountain road was steep. If he slipped here then he would be rolling all the way down the slope.
Xiang Shu peered at Chen Xing and said, “If I don’t follow you, I’m afraid that you wouldn’t even be able to cross the Yangtze River.”
Chen Xing smiled in embarrassment.
OH MY GOD. I FINALLY GOT TO TL A SWEET CHAPTER.
I FINALLY GOT TO TL A CHAPTER WHERE THEY ACTUALLY TALK.
I was starting to have a sugar deficiency.
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Ice.