"I will also remember, that in this world, there was someone who was willing to burn up all of his mortal and immortal souls just to become a blazing lamp that shines gloriously upon this world."
Editor(s): juurensha, namio
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Xiang Shu nodded, and people dispersed. Chen Xing and Xiang Shu left behind sat side-by-side on the couches, courtyard full of colorful lanterns in front of them. They hadn't been able to have a good talk ever since Xiang Shu came back.
"Hey," Chen Xing smiled and asked, "why do you keep getting lost in thought? What are you thinking about, Protector?"
"This evening, can we not talk about exorcism?" Xiang Shu said. "I promise you, I will definitely bring them back."
Chen Xing spoke, "Have you found Wang Ziye's hiding place?"
Xiang Shu turned his head and looked at Chen Xing in a serious manner. Chen Xing understood and said, "Alright, I won't ask."
"However, my body is already feeling much better…" Chen Xing continued. "I think if we leave Shouyang tomorrow, there's no need to follow them south. It would be better…"
Xiang Shu deeply frowned. "What did I say just now?"
Chen Xing hurriedly said, "Alright, alright." He didn't want to quarrel with Xiang Shu as soon as he got back. Seeing Xiang Shu today, no matter what he did to him, Chen Xing would absolutely not get angry.
There was a moment of silence between the two.
"I really missed you," Chen Xing suddenly smiled and said. "When I woke up and found out that you weren't by my side, I became so panicked."
"These three months," Xiang Shu voiced, "I went to several places. I should've stayed behind and taken care of you, so at least you wouldn't have slept for so long that way, but after weighing the pros and cons, I still went."
Chen Xing, "Was it to… forget it, never mind."
Chen Xing had wanted to ask, "Was it to find Chiyou's hiding location?" But he knew once he asked, Xiang Shu would undoubtedly want to talk about something else, so he had to restrain himself.
"I also went for a trip to Mt. Hua," Xiang Shu said. "I went to the place where you and your master once lived."
Chen Xing was surprised. "You actually know where that is?"
"Xie Anshi told me the location," replied Xiang Shu. "I took a look at the place where you grew up. Was your master sick and bedridden all year round?"
Chen Xing didn't know whether to laugh or cry. "Yes. When I left Mt. Hua, that place was a complete mess, and I didn't clean it up. Were you looking for some ancient texts passed down by exorcists?"
Xiang Shu thought out loud, "Growing up in that place while also having to take care of your master, it must have been very lonely ba."
Chen Xing had wanted to laugh it off and said, "it's okay," but after thinking it over, it had always been like that throughout his short life. Telling the truth once in a while also wouldn't hurt ne?
"Yes," Chen Xing finally admitted. "Very lonely."
Xiang Shu spoke, "When I saw Zhu Xu today, I thought of the day you left Mt. Hua and came to Xiangyang to find me." After saying that, Xiang Shu directly got up and walked up until he was under the lanterns. He then raised his head, looking at them with an inexplicable gaze reflecting in his eyes.
Chen Xing, because he had met Zhu Xu again, also remembered that day, and the corners of his mouth curled up in a gentle smile.
"You found me and brought me out of my cell," with his back facing Chen Xing, Xiang Shu faintly said. "You really didn't want me to only act as your Protector, right? From the beginning, you've regarded me as the person who would accompany you throughout your life, no matter how brief or how long it is."
"You finally understand, ah." Chen Xing smiled with a hint of sadness. "That's the reason why I became very sad when you told me you didn't want to be my Protector that day. But that was on me ba, I didn't take your feelings into account…"
Standing in the courtyard, Xiang Shu turned his head a little to carefully look at Chen Xing. The light of the lanterns shone on his face, and Chen Xing was looking at him in a daze.
Under the light of the stars, Xiang Shu's side profile was incomparably handsome; he was way more beautiful than every single person Chen Xing had ever known. However, his usually furrowed eyebrows were long gone, and in their place was now a firm, tender emotion.
"Xing'er," all of a sudden, Xiang Shu spoke.
The moment Xiang Shu spoke out the word "Xing'er," Chen Xing's face reddened.
"You…" Chen Xing was slightly at a loss, not knowing what to do.
"I won't let you die," Xiang Shu sincerely said. "No. You won't die."
"What's this all of a sudden?" Chen Xing was between laughter and tears.
However, Xiang Shu just continued, "Because, in your heart, you actually don't want to die. Also, I returned this time because I wanted to tell you, that you don't only have yourself. Do you get it now?"
When Chen Xing heard these words, a warm feeling welled up in his heart. In this long, dark period of misery filled with all-encompassing darkness and the silence of all magic, it was like seeing a ray of light breaking through of the sky —— they said that he was the lamp, but here, at this very moment, Chen Xing felt that Xiang Shu was that ray of light that illuminated him in this dark night full of despair.
"Yes," in the end, Chen Xing acknowledged it. "If there is any hope, I do wish to keep on living. I do want to… do a lot of things together with you. But if that future cannot be avoided, I only hope that my departure can make you, Xiao Shan, Feng-dage, Xie-shixiong… and many others have a good life."
Saying so, Chen Xing stepped forward and gently embraced Xiang Shu as he leaned his head on Xiang Shu's shoulder. Xiang Shu's breathing became labored all of a sudden, but not even a moment later, Chen Xing let him go.
Chen Xing softly muttered, "But, ah, Shulü Kong, I've deceived you and everyone else."
Xiang Shu, "......"
Chen Xing raised his head to look at him. "I only have one year left to live."
Xiang Shu didn't give any reply; he didn't even look the slightest bit surprised, and only looked at Chen Xing in silence.
"Because of Iuppiter," Chen Xing continued, "each time it descends to the world, it will only stay on earth for 20 years. Although I've never personally confirmed it either, it has been recorded in all ancient texts. Shifu informed me that year when I just reached my 16th… I used to have faith in my luck, but following the drought fiend chaos, I feel more and more…"
Xiang Shu replied, "You're finally willing to spill it out."
Chen Xing was stunned and asked in a low voice, "You knew already? How did you know?"
"Pu Yang found out the truth for me," Xiang Shu answered. "To confirm it, I specifically went to your teacher's house once to look for the records you left behind. If the records are true, you will not live past your birthday next year. From today onwards, this will be the last year of your life."
"Right," replied Chen Xing, feeling eased. "It's not that I've never thought of fighting against my own destiny, and I also don't want to live like I don't own myself. But it's too difficult, and it's not that I'm afraid either. You see, at the Yi River, we still lost. It's not that I don't want to fight against it, it's just, I still have more important things to do. Compared to the lives of thousands upon thousands of people of the Divine Land, does my own life or death even matter, ne? That's why, Xiang Shu."
Chen Xing thought in his heart, I really, really like you very much, yet only softly said, "I think the day my wish is fulfilled, will also be the day I meet my end, and after it's over, I'd have no way to promise you anything anymore. I can't promise you this life, and maybe not your next life, but ah…"
Chen Xing smiled as he looked at Xiang Shu. "After a long, long time has passed, all of this will gradually fade from memories. Just like how my parents' looks have long become blurred and unclear in my mind, you too will slowly forget what I look like."
Xiang Shu looked at Chen Xing in silence.
Chen Xing smiled. "But, what I leave behind for you, will be this beautiful, fine world. If I can make it happen, that will surely be the only thing I can give you ba? Am I right to say that you often think that I disregard your feelings for the sake of the Divine Land? That is not the case, since the reason why I wish for all magic to recover, for everything in this world to prosper and flourish, is all because this world… has you ah.
"This is the world that has you, has Feng-dage, Xiao Shan, and also Xie-shixiong. Because of this reason and this only, my departure is worth it…"
Xiang Shu's furrowed eyebrows finally relaxed, and he replied, "I understand."
In all earnestness, Chen Xing said, "So, from tomorrow on, don't be afraid that I will die anymore, okay? Stay with me, and let's finish this journey, and I'll forever remember…
"...in this world, there is someone who cares so much about me he would call in all of his friends and scatter away all of his family fortune," Chen Xing gently said, "just so I can keep on living, and stay by my side."
Xiang Shu's hand involuntarily clenched into a fist. He turned his head so he was no longer looking at Chen Xing.
"I will also remember," Xiang Shu spoke.
Chen Xing raised his eyebrows as he looked at Xiang Shu's side profile.
"I will also remember, that in this world, there was once someone," Xiang Shu continued, "who was willing to burn up all of his mortal and immortal souls just to become a blazing lamp that shines gloriously upon this world."
After saying that, Xiang Shu's eyes were rimmed with red. He turned around like a gust of wind and brushed past Chen Xing.
"Xiang Shu," Chen Xing hurriedly called out. "Xiang Shu!"
When he saw that Xiang Shu was crying, his steps froze, and he stood still in a daze.
"Xing'er, Xiang Shu," Chen Xing whispered. "Xiang Shu, Xing'er...
"I truly, truly like you very much ah," Chen Xing said, with only himself to hear.
He was alone when he came into this world, and he also should leave in the same manner. Chen Xing had too many words he wanted to say, but he knew that once he said those ones, it would be just like that day by the shore of Hong Lake; there would be a man who would, regardless of everything, take him away from this mundane world full of responsibility, take him...
Chen Xing pushed open the door and all of a sudden, he halted.
On the pillow on top of the couch, he saw a piece of moonshell bracelet.
During the Autumn Deity Festival a year ago, they had bought such a pair at a fair in Jiankang. After the event, Chen Xing himself had already forgotten about this since he had been running around here and there multiple times and also fallen into a coma several times in a row after that. Chen Xing didn't even know where his own pair had been thrown a long time ago.
Yet the one Xiang Shu had bought had still been kept all along. The red of the string had already faded, and the moonshell had gradually lost its luster over the year.
Chen Xing picked up the bracelet and was silent for a long while. Then, he turned around and walked out at a brisk pace.
The military officials had finished preparing the carriages, and Xie An was currently doing one final inspection. Chen Xing rushed to the courtyard and said, "Where's Xiang Shu? Xie-shixiong, where is his room located?"
Xie An just blankly said, "Doesn't he share a room with you? There's no other room arranged for him."
Three months ago, after Xiang Shu took Chen Xing to Shouyang, he had stayed by his side for several days, and by that, it meant residing in Chen Xing's room. When he returned earlier that night, they had been preparing to retreat soon, and so, there was no one who could arrange accommodations for him. Chen Xing said, "Then… where are his things? What about the stuff he has with him?"
Xiang Shu had already left. Chen Xing immediately said, "Prepare a horse."
"Wait! Wait!" Xie An said. "Little Shidi, you need to follow us now, that's the only way to get out of the city. I will send a scout at once to look for the Martial God…"
Chen Xing answered, "No need to worry about me!"
"No!" Xie An shouted. "The Martial God specifically ordered——"
Chen Xing ran out and was just about to mount his horse when Xie Xuan suddenly rushed in. "Go! Prepare to leave the city, Fu Jian's army is here!"
Xie An cursed at once. "That fucker Zhu Xu, he scammed us?! That liar!"
When Zhu Xu persuaded them to surrender, he did say that "they will besiege the city tomorrow." But just as the second night period was over, Fu Rong started to attack the city with his army of 200,000 soldiers.
"Nothing is ever too deceitful during a war, everything is just and fair," Xie Xuan said. "Everyone, let's move! Chen-daren, I saw your family's Protector! He just left the city and headed north, and he wants you to come with us back to Jiankang first! He said he would be back and find you as soon as his business is done!"
Chen Xing replied, "No! He just got back, so where is he going again? That bastard! That stupid bastard ah! I have a lot of things I want to tell him——!!"
Xie An saw that Chen Xing was about to cry. "You can't go in any other direction either. Right now. only the southern road is safe…"
Chen Xing said, "I have Iuppiter! I'll be safe anywhere I go!"
"The Qin troops have arrived!" someone shouted.
"ATTACK!" another soldier's shout came from a faraway place. "Dong—— Dong——" the bell resounded over and over from the hill up in Shouyang, making the whole city tense at once.
Pots full of flammable oils streaked across the horizon. They flew over the curtain of night —— the city began to burn.
Xie An was stuck by a sudden inspiration. "Don't let Chen-daren go! Everyone's life depends on him!"
Chen Xing, "???"
Wang Xizhi also remembered. "Yes! He's Iuppiter!"
Chen Xing, "......"
Xie An said, "Daoyun! Where's Daoyun?!"
Xie Daoyun rushed over on a carriage and shouted, "Let's go! Everyone get in the carriage!"
And so, everyone trapped and heaved Chen Xing in, hopping into the carriage one after another as they rushed out of Shouyang with all their might. In an instant, that scene at the night of the fall of Xiangyang City seemed to repeat itself. Chen Xing was put in place in the center of the carriage, a group of civil officials all around him, with each of them holding a part of Chen Xing's clothes. With Xie Daoyun driving the carriage and Huan Yi's people escorting them, they left Shouyang.
The people had almost finished retreating, so when Fu Rong marched to Shouyang, he was met with almost no resistance. No lamps nor fires were lit, and it was his side that had to suffer many losses from Xie Xuan's laid-out strategy instead. After the group left the city, there was a sudden explosion coming from a distant place; the whole Shouyang's governor residence was set ablaze by a raging fire. Most likely, after luring the enemy troops to go inside the city, they set them on fire so that the troops would burn to death.
They weren't sure whether it was because of Chen Xing's presence or because of Xie Daoyun's exceptional skill at driving, but either way, tonight's escape road was very smooth, completely beyond expectations. The carriage neither crossed nor got stuck in a ditch, let alone encounter an ambush from the Qin troops. Just a short time later and they had run nearly ten li away from the city. The autumn rain had just stopped, covering the sides of the road with mud. After the Shouyang's defenders had withdrawn and they reached a safe area, the officials got out of the carriage one by one, and, with white clothes all over their bodies, they knelt in the mud, doing three bows to pay respect in Shouyang's direction.
"Who are you paying respect to?" Chen Xing was puzzled.
"The three officials who set the fire and took the Qin troops down with them," replied Xie Daoyun.
Chen Xing and Xie Daoyun also went down the carriage to pay their respects. Huan Yi and Xie Xuan said, "Alright, everyone, this is where we part. We already had a drink last night during Chen-xiansheng's banquet, so no need to say goodbyes again."
On one side, Xie An, Wang Xizhi, as well as a group of civil officials sitting in the carriage, while on the other side, Huan Yi and Xie Xuan, paid respects to each other. Xie An said, "Leave the court to us."
Xie An and the others still had an important task: they must return to Jiankang to protect the emperor, then mobilize the whole nation to face the next great war that will most likely reach the capital city Jiankang. Chen Xing sat on the edge of the carriage, and right when he saw the soldiers leaving one after another, he jumped out of the carriage.
Chen Xing hopped on the horse and sat behind Huan Yi, saying, "Let's go!"
Then, he turned around, the Heart Lamp in his hand flashing bright. Huan Yi nodded; he urged his horse, and together with Chen Xing, they headed towards Luojian. At this time, the Beifu Army, the Shouyang Army, and the temporary conscripted civilian troops were all rushing to the Fei River from all four directions.
With Fu Jian's millions of troops coming to the South, at the north bank of the Fei River, the greatest war of its time, the war with the most number of participants since the beginning of history, was about to begin.
During these past few months, while the South had ten thousand li of rivers and mountains, on this land of all Han people, the farmers had all stopped farming, laborers had stopped working, merchants had closed their shops, craftsmen had shut down production, scholars had abandoned their books, and martial artists had left the Jianghu; every single person who had something to spare, those whose body was capable of picking up a sword would rush to Chaohu region, while others would use up all their wealth to provide assistance to the frontlines.
It was because this war wasn't just two countries vying for supremacy over another. If Jiankang was captured, the Han people were basically finished.
The bloodstain from the event of the Disaster of Yongjia was still vivid in everybody's mind; this matter was a matter of life and death.
As soon as Jiankang fell, the Hans would truly face——
——total destruction and complete annihilation.
Many tears were sacrificed in the making of this chapter.
nam is… *glances* still not well…
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Elestrea.