"It makes sense that the person who came to my side in the end was you."
Editor(s): juurensha, namio
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The sky was already very bright. Outside of Mt. Longzhong, on the side of the military road.
After Sima Wei had been revived, his thoughts were clearly very scrambled. Feng Qianjun suggested, “How about we tie him up and interrogate him slowly?”
Sima Wei: “???”
Chen Xing: “He has no intention to attack us at all, so there shouldn’t be any danger, right? Even if he isn’t tied up, I think there shouldn’t be a problem. Xiang Shu’s here, and he shouldn’t be able to beat Xiang Shu.”
Xiang Shu glanced at Chen Xing, not saying anything.
Feng Qianjun said, “Hey, Sima Wei, where’s Chiyou? What weak points does Kjera have? As for your other drought fiend king xiongdi, where are they all hiding?”
Xiang Shu, standing at Chen Xing’s side, finally couldn’t sit there and listen for any longer. He furrowed his brow and said, “Right now, he doesn’t know anything, nor can he know anything. Of course he has no way to answer you guys.”
In Chen Xing and Feng Qianjun’s minds, Sima Wei was still that drought fiend king under Shi Hai’s command. They had forgotten that he had just been revived at this point. Rather, it was Xiang Shu, using common sense to come to this conclusion, who startled awake the dreamers with that single line.
That’s right! Right now, Sima Wei had just been revived. He hadn’t even come into contact with Shi Hai’s underlings yet, so how could he know about all the enemy’s ins and outs? Even Sima Wei himself was in a confused state of mind; originally, he had been dead, but now he had been revived out of the blue by someone and was currently in this state, staring quizzically at Chen Xing’s group.
Feng Qianjun: “Then what should we do? Burn him?”
Chen Xing: “How can we do that? He hasn’t done anything bad! Not getting to rest peacefully after death and being revived instead is already pitiful enough, and you want to burn him?”
Feng Qianjun said, “That’s right, letting him continue his long sleep, isn’t that a good thing? Then what do you say we should do?”
Xiang Shu stood to one side watching the two of them, as if he was observing Chen Xing’s each and every move. Sima Wei turned a few times in place, before taking a few steps away, lowering his head to look at the flowers on the side of the road. He then plucked a single flower, bringing it in front of his face and tentatively sniffing it.
Chen Xing suggested, “Let him decide on his own ba? If he wants to keep living, then…”
Sima Wei turned his head back and glanced at the three of them.
Chen Xing asked earnestly, “Sima Wei, what do you think?”
Sima Wei said, “I don’t know. What I remember clearly is that I have already died.”
Sima Wei’s last memory was the day that Jia Nanfeng had ordered for him to be executed. Chen Xing said, a little at a loss, “We’re still very busy, and we can’t wait here for you to make up your mind. How about… you go live on your own? But you must not harm people.”
Chen Xing observed Sima Wei, seeing that he really didn’t have any aggressiveness to speak of. After all, “drought fiend” was a very strange kind of existence. If they were to be classified as yaoguai, this kind of drought fiend that was clear-headed and had retained their rationality would probably be of the innocuous kind. They weren’t like birds and beasts that needed to eat, so even the crime of killing beings could be dismissed. They would only need to intake the spiritual qi of the Heavens and earth and cultivate on their own.
Xiang Shu watched Sima Wei for a long time, as if he was also confirming whether or not the drought fiend held any aggression towards them, and he murmured, “Different from the drought fiends I’ve seen before.”
“Perhaps it’s because of the Heart Lamp?” Chen Xing said. “Right now, he’s been influenced by the Heart Lamp and has maintained his humanity, so perhaps he can even be called a virtuous drought fiend.”
Feng Qianjun said, “You cannot go where the humans are. After all, we don’t know if you’ll spread the plague.”
Sima Wei nodded.
Chen Xing said, “He shouldn’t be able to. The cause of the plague was the Devil God’s blood, but now, his body doesn’t have the Devil God’s blood in it anymore.”
Chen Xing confirmed once again that now, there was only that ember of the Heart Lamp in Sima Wei’s heart meridian.
“I want to follow you guys,” Sima Wei said. “Where are you going?”
This… Chen Xing hadn’t expected that out of the blue, he would create such a large problem for himself. Should they bring him to Chang’an? If they did, then where would they hide him? If he was discovered by Wang Ziye, wouldn’t he be causing them more problems?
But they could spend time to think through ways to resolve many of these matters. In this instant, Chen Xing suddenly felt that Sima Wei was pretty pitiful.
As of today, in this world, was he the only one of his kind?
“Do you guys have any issues with this?” Chen Xing turned his head back to look at Xiang Shu and Feng Qianjun.
Feng Qianjun indicated for Chen Xing to make this decision on his own. Xiang Shu also didn’t have any opinion on this, and he said, “I’ll listen to you.”
“Alright,” Chen Xing said to Sima Wei. “But you must listen to me.”
Sima Wei nodded, without changing his expression one bit.
“Then after this…” Chen Xing said. “What’s our next step?”
Going to Chang’an was something that he and Feng Qianjun had already agreed upon a long time ago, but now, the difficulty was how they would get Xiang Shu to feel that these plans didn’t come from nowhere. He needed to find an excuse.
Xiang Shu was still holding the mask that Zhou Yi had dropped, turning it over and over in his hands as he said, “Even if this masked man isn’t Kjera’s underling, he must still have a connection to him.”
“Yes,” Chen Xing and Feng Qianjun nodded together.
Xiang Shu pondered deeply, before continuing. “They could be hiding somewhere.”
“That’s true,” Chen Xing said.
Xiang Shu: “In the end, I saw that the direction that bastard left in was northwest.”
Chen Xing said, “Northwest… how about we go to Chang’an to see?”
Feng Qianjun slapped his thigh and said, “Sounds good! My big brother’s in Chang’an, perhaps we can get news from him!”
With that, everyone pretended to agree on a single conclusion. Sima Wei added, “I also want to go back to Chang’an.”
Chen Xing patted Sima Wei, stroked the little dog’s head, and glanced at the red-gold phoenix perched on a parasol tree in the distance as it groomed its feathers, before looking towards the vast spiritual qi circling in the world.
Their troupe had grown even larger, and his companions had already increased to two people, one bird, one drought fiend, and one dog.
“Then let’s set off ba!” Chen Xing said, filled with confidence. “To Chang’an!”
Underground, in Huanmo Palace.
The huge heart hung in the palace, and the blood vessels within the earth veins extending in all directions sucked in resentment.
The heart: “.........”
Without knowing why, in recent days the heart had kept feeling that something wasn’t right. It was as if suddenly, from some moment onwards, an odd atmosphere had sprung into being - but everything was very much normal, which was the strangest part. It was just like a “sense of ominous foreboding”, but where did this sense of “misfortune” come from?
Yet, Chiyou was himself created from the “misfortune” of this world. He was the god of misfortune, so who could explain to him why even the god of misfortune would feel “misfortune”?
Wang Ziye came forth, holding a long strip wrapped in yellow cloth, which he placed in front of the sacrificial altar.
“In the span of a single night,” Wang Ziye said in astonishment, “all magic was revived, which really has me at a loss for how to explain it. My lord, what do you think?”
Chiyou’s voice: “In some place that you don’t know of, some things must have happened.”
Wang Ziye continued, “Now that the spiritual qi of the heavens and the earth have recovered, what can we do now? All yao are going to revive, and the human realm also…”
That heart let out a wild bellow of loud laughter. “Even if the exorcists were here, what could they do?”
Wang Ziye was still reeling a little from the shock. These days he had checked time and again and confirmed multiple times that all magic had been revived, which also meant that the Dinghai Pearl had already been found, and all of the spiritual qi of the heavens and earth that had been gathered into it by Zhang Liu had been released. This wasn’t what he was worrying about, however, because what had him most worried was that this process had actually happened without any warning!
“Who broke the Dinghai Pearl without making any commotion at all?” Wang Ziye asked. “This completely doesn’t make any sense, my lord!”
“That is of no matter,” Chiyou’s voice spoke. “No matter who it is, this group of people will very quickly come to us of their own accord. You must make your preparations ahead of time; you are naturally most clear on what they want.”
When Zhou Yi died, Wang Ziye and Chiyou sensed it immediately. After all, Zhou Yi was the disciple that Wang Ziye relied on the most, and he had followed him for decades. He had already refined his physical form to the stage of “nothingness”, but he had actually vanished in the span of a single night!
Their enemies’ power was unexpectedly strong, and Wang Ziye couldn’t help his great alarm. A moment later, he barely managed to keep his emotions in check as he went forward and unwrapped the yellow cloth from that long object.
“With the recovery of the spiritual qi of the heavens and earth,” Wang Ziye said, “In the Yin Yang Mirror, through borrowing the last traces of energy that Xiang Yuyan’s hunpo left behind in the Luohun Bell, I have already managed to trick the defensive walls around the Acala Blade and obtained it. This can also be counted as fortune arising from misfortune for us ba.”
After the Silence of All Magic, Zhang Liu had set down a protective barrier and left the Acala Blade in the Chang’an Exorcism Department within the mirror world. As early as 300 years ago, Wang Ziye had already found it, but the defensive walls around the magical artifact had also changed according to the nature of the artifact itself. The Acala Blade was a divine weapon used to exterminate devils and eliminate resentment, so naturally Wang Ziye, who collected and cultivated resentment, had no way to touch it.
But, as soon as the spiritual qi of the heavens and earth returned, Wang Ziye borrowed spiritual qi to trick the Acala Blade and retrieved it from within the mirror realm, presenting it to Chiyou.
The heart gave off a red glow as it said slowly, “The Acala Blade huh, in this world, the one thing that Gu is afraid of is this thing. As of today, in this world, there is nothing else that can harm Gu… Wang Ziye, you, have done very well.”
A single drop of crimson Devil God’s blood dripped from the heart and fell, sinking into the body of the Acala Blade, which immediately began to glow with a red light.
Wang Ziye said, “Fortunately, after Xiang Yuyan’s death, this sword has not recognized another owner. If we begin to refine it now, we aren’t too late yet.”
The nine runes on the sword body faded, and what replaced them were serpentine trails of the Devil God Chiyou’s blood, which flowed into strange patterns on the sword body. Resentment coiled around, beginning to flow ceaselessly into the body of the sword, and as the Devil God’s blood flooded the Acala Blade, the last bit of light dimmed from it.
That sword began to change, becoming a pitch-black spear that gave off resentment.
Chiyou let out a hideous, loud laugh.
“As long as the Acala Blade is successfully refined, then Gu will never be defeated again!”
But as he laughed and laughed, Chiyou kept dimly sensing a faint hint of “misfortune”.
This day, the Devil God and Wang Ziye both held complicated emotions in their hearts.
Night, on the road to Chang’an, in an abandoned village.
Chen Xing and Feng Qianjun were, as usual, in one room. Sima Wei was outside, staring off into the distance. The small dog had already fallen asleep, and the phoenix had gone off to who knows where. Lying on the ruined bed, Chen Xing was currently counting the days off on his fingers.
“We’ll make it,” Feng Qianjun said, re-entering the room and lying down. “Back then, if it wasn’t for us crashing in, my big brother would probably still have waited for a few days longer.”
Chen Xing en-ed once. He didn’t know why, but he kept feeling a sense of danger. The Yin Yang Mirror was still in Feng Qianyi’s grasp, so he had to, as quickly as possible, without attracting Wang Ziye’s attention, regain the Acala Blade and the Yin Yang Mirror. Only by doing this could everything be considered settled.
“You’re not going to keep Xiang-xiongdi company?” Feng Qianjun asked.
“I’ll pass,” Chen Xing said, even though in his heart he was thinking about Xiang Shu and only wanted to go find him. “He’s forgotten it all.”
But Feng Qianjun responded, “He still remembers you. Even if he’s forgotten that you and him were together before, he definitely still remembers that feeling. Why don’t you look at his gaze? A gaze can never lie, and his is the same as before. Every moment of every day, he’s paying attention to you.”
Chen Xing blew up and said, “That’s because we just met! He doesn’t trust us yet, so he’s watching me!
“Feng-dage, don’t make a fuss out of nothing. We’re going to have to do everything over again, and if, on the off-chance, he doesn’t like me in the end… I’ll… ay…”
What Feng Qianjun was most afraid of was also this. It was because of this that he had kept his distance from Chen Xing on this journey, to prevent Xiang Shu from thinking that they had some sort of unspeakable relationship. He hurried to say, “Alright, then from here on out I’ll pretend that I don’t know a thing.”
As Chen Xing mulled it over, he peeked out stealthily from the window, but he didn’t see Xiang Shu. He didn’t know if he had gone to sleep yet. After tossing and turning for a while, finally he rose and went out.
On this moonlit night, Xiang Shu was currently bathing by the creek. He had recovered quickly, and in the span of mere days, he was already much better. The creek water trickled down his bare upper half, revealing the sleek, graceful, pronounced lines of his muscles, all of it just right.
By the creek, Chen Xing made a few rustling noises. Xiang Shu knew that he had come, but he didn’t turn, nor did he speak. Right after, Chen Xing stripped until he too was only clad in a pair of inner pants, and he hopped in from the bank, sending the cold water splashing all over Xiang Shu.
“Ah! It’s so cold!” Just as Chen Xing hit the water, he scrambled for shore again.
But Xiang Shu suddenly caught him and tripped him with one foot. Chen Xing then began to shout wildly, and only with that did Xiang Shu let him stand up straight.
Chen Xing shivered slightly. Xiang Shu turned to wipe his arms, like he had been wholly uninvolved in what had just happened.
It didn’t seem to be that cold anymore, Chen Xing suddenly discovered, and he scooted a little closer to Xiang Shu. It was as if the water near him was just a little bit warmer.
Xiang Shu: “…”
“Cold.” Chen Xing kept shivering. At this time, it was the beginning of spring, and he was already almost frozen stiff.
In a flash, Xiang Shu brought Chen Xing onto the shore again, handing a cloth towel to him. Chen Xing leaned against him, constantly shivering, and Xiang Shu could only make him stand still and not move as he wiped the water off Chen Xing’s lower half. He then layered his own robe on top of Chen Xing’s, before wrapping them both around Chen Xing’s body.
“Thank… thanks.” With this, Chen Xing finally started to warm up.
Xiang Shu’s gaze held some irony in them; Chen Xing was clearly afraid of the cold, yet he still came in to bathe. With that, he turned and walked towards their camp.
After his pants had been soaked, they had grown near-transparent, and now they revealed his beautiful, shapely long legs. The vague outlines of his leg muscles appeared as he walked. When he got to their campfire, he sat down in front of it and placed a mat across his legs, and with a dagger in hand, he added a few things into the water pot hanging over the fire. Chen Xing couldn’t see it clearly, but upon smelling ginger, he guessed that they were herbs to ward off the chill.
After the water boiled, Xiang Shu then dug around in the things that Feng Qianjun had bought and found a few chunks of sugar, which he poured into a broken bowl that he picked up casually, and he handed it to Chen Xing.
“You drink a little as well?” Chen Xing asked.
“I’m not afraid of the cold,” Xiang Shu responded. “Your physique is too weak.”
Chen Xing, wrapped in their clothes, drank a little of the ginger soup. His body warmed up, and as if he was thinking over something, he shot Xiang Shu another glance. Their eyes met briefly before Xiang Shu turned away, avoiding his gaze.
A bright moon hung in the sky, and its light was bright beyond comparison, lighting up the half-naked Xiang Shu and Chen Xing sitting in front of the campfire. Their surroundings were calm and quiet.
“Tonight, the moon is really beautiful,” Xiang Shu suddenly said.
Chen Xing had never expected that Xiang Shu would say such things of his own accord, and he smiled. “It’s the fifteenth of the second month.”
Xiang Shu seemed to be sunk in his own memories, and a moment later, he continued, “In the prison in Xiangyang, I could only see a little bit of light. I couldn’t see the full moon, nor could I see the sun, but some nights, the moon was very bright. I believed that in my life, I would never be able to see a moon like that of tonight’s again.”
Chen Xing recalled that Xiang Shu was only trying to investigate the root cause, but he had been wrongfully captured by the Jin soldiers instead and taken back to Xiangyang. He couldn’t help the guilt that he felt at that, and he said, “Sorry.”
Xiang Shu: ?”
Xiang Shu’s brows began to furrow.
Chen Xing said, of his own accord, “For my own people to treat you like this causes me to feel very ashamed.”
“That’s not what I meant,” Xiang Shu said. “Forget it. Did they tell you how many people I killed?”
Xiang Shu was a little taken aback. His original intent had not been to express his hatred towards the Han people, but Chen Xing had misunderstood his meaning - however, since they had already gotten to this point, Xiang Shu gave voice to his misgivings.
“They said you killed 2000 people,” Chen Xing said earnestly, “But I know that they definitely wrongly accused you.”
Xiang Shu: “Why?”
Chen Xing looked into the campfire, saying absent-mindedly, “You wouldn’t do this kind of thing. From the day that I first saw you… I felt that you wouldn’t.”
Xiang Shu didn’t continue to pursue this line of questioning. What Chen Xing had recalled, however, was the actual first time that he had met Xiang Shu, when he had been able to sense that he wasn’t a bad person from his clear gaze. But the past him, after finding his Protector, had been filled with joy and thought that this person’s eyes looked really nice. Even if he was a bad guy, it would be fine if he was willing to atone for his crimes by doing good deeds, and so, for a while, Chen Xing didn’t think about it any further.
“When I was imprisoned,” Xiang Shu said, absent-mindedly, “I had thought before about who would come to find me and rescue me. I once had such power and prestige, and no one dared to declare themselves above me, but in the end, due to a series of unfortunate circumstances, I fell to the point of waiting in a dark, cold cell for my death.”
Sensing something, Chen Xing suddenly raised his head to look at Xiang Shu. This was not something that he had ever heard Xiang Shu bring up before.
Last time, he refused to bring it up at all, but now that Chen Xing thought about it, that was true; if he was Xiang Shu, he would also do the same.
On the day that he had been caught and imprisoned, he would definitely have felt that he would be able to escape under his own power. But under the influence of hunger and his chains, he was forced to accept reality; a tiger, on flat ground, will be bullied by a dog. As he watched his hope slowly dwindle, in the end he would be forced to accept the reality that perhaps he would actually die in the underground prison cell in Xiangyang. What kind of despair would that evoke?
Xiang Shu furrowed his brow. “My parents are already gone, and since you’ve already investigated me through Zhu Xu, you should know that I’m a Tiele person. I once believed that my clansmen would come to save me, and that my anda would come…”
Chen Xing immediately interrupted him; he didn’t want to let Xiang Shu keep going on this wild train of thought. “They’re only human after all, and they didn’t know where you went at all, so how would they be able to find you? Don’t think like this.”
Xiang Shu: “If they had the intent to find me, then they would be able do so by following the traces I left behind when I was departing. Weren’t you able to find me?”
“Don’t think about this anymore!” Chen Xing said earnestly, his tone a little more stern.
With that, Xiang Shu nodded and replied, “They’re only human, I understand. You’re very open and accepting, so it makes sense that the person who came to my side in the end was you.”
Xiang Shu watched Chen Xing, and a long silence fell between the two of them. Chen Xing gradually began to understand that that instant, to Xiang Shu, was really very, very important. The past him was constantly unable to believe that Xiang Shu also liked him, because what was there to like about him? Chen Xing kept feeling that he didn’t garner any affection from Xiang Shu.
But now, he finally realized, Xiang Shu had always cared a lot for him. And those complicated feelings between the two of them had already been destined to exist since long ago, from the moment that they first met.
“Now that I think of it, that was strange,” Xiang Shu turned his head, avoiding Chen Xing’s gaze. “Even at the end, I didn’t give up hope. I kept feeling that someone would come to save me… I can’t explain that feeling clearly, but it was like I was constantly dreaming, repeatedly dreaming of a single moment when that person arrived in front of me. That person was the same as you, he had a ray of light on his body… I even said to myself that I needed to hold out, hold out until…”
Xiang Shu then said, as if to himself, “When you arrived in the underground prison and I saw you, it was as if I was… as if...”
Chen Xing’s heart beat violently. Xiang Shu turned his head, giving him another look. The two of them locked eyes for a moment, before Xiang Shu immediately turned his gaze away stiffly.
“As if what?”
After a long silence, Chen Xing finally couldn’t resist asking.
“It’s nothing,” Xiang Shu said, rising and preparing to go back and sleep.
Just as Xiang Shu was about to leave, Chen Xing lightly said, “Xiang Shu.”
Xiang Shu stopped in his tracks, but he didn’t turn.
Chen Xing said, “There is one thing that I want to ask of you, no, I’d like to hear your opinion on it… it’s like this, I… I need someone to protect me for a time… It’s a little bit complicated to explain. I’m the Great Exorcist, but throughout history, every exorcist has needed a… well, a Protector Martial God.”
Xiang Shu: “?”
Chen Xing explained, “Actually, you don’t need to do much at all, all you need to do is stay by my side for now. See, I really have no way to take care of myself.”
Xiang Shu turned his head and glanced at Chen Xing, his brows furrowed. He gestured for him to look at the house in the distance, meaning, “Feng Qianjun?”.
Chen Xing immediately said, “No, no! We’re not like that, he’ll leave very soon. He has many matters of his own to attend to, and we just happened to meet, so he helped me out. See, on this journey, he hasn’t paid much attention to me. Actually we’re only ordinary friends… no, what am I saying? Don’t misunderstand me, I just wanted to ask you if you… would be willing to…”
Through Xiang Shu’s observations, Chen Xing and Feng Qianjun seemed to have a very odd relationship. It wouldn’t be right to call them unfamiliar, because when the two of them met, they had hugged each other and cried. But to call them very familiar was also not quite it, because on this journey, most of the time, Feng Qianjun didn’t really look after Chen Xing. This kind of lack of care was a little pointed, where it seemed like he was forcefully throwing Chen Xing to Xiang Shu, afraid of bearing responsibility.
Xiang Shu interrupted Chen Xing, saying, “You trust people too easily.”
Chen Xing “oh”ed once. That was true, he had trusted others very easily since he was small. It wasn’t a good habit, but since it was a habit that Iuppiter had caused him to develop, it didn’t seem like the cause lay solely with him? What result would there be if he whimsically trusted others? Of course he’d fall prey to their traps.
But with Iuppiter there, no one could harm him at all. Or, it could be said, Chen Xing had never worried before that he would meet bad people and fall prey to their traps.
“You’re not the same,” Chen Xing said earnestly. “Of course, this is not something I want to force upon you, since you must have many of your own matters to attend to ba. But if you’re willing, please consider it…”
“Understood,” Xiang Shu said casually, before going back into the house.
When Chen Xing heard this, he stood there dumbly for a while. What did “understood” mean? Before, when he interacted with Xiang Shu, did “understood” mean “okay”? It seemed to be like that! Was it like that? Yes! He probably wasn’t going to run off again! He had succeeded! He had successfully swindled him! But he couldn’t let his guard down just because of that! He had to stay strong and hold on!
This was too great! Chen Xing slapped his thigh and leapt up, restraining his urge to shout excitedly as he turned a few times in place. Just as he turned, he saw that Xiang Shu was standing not too far away, with an odd expression on his face.
Chen Xing: “............”
Xiang Shu: “Return my clothes to me.”
Chen Xing: “Let… me wear them for a little longer, it’s still a little cold… I want to move around a bit more before going back to sleep, so that at least it’s a little warmer.”
After Xiang Shu returned to the room, Chen Xing ran back into his room, hugging Xiang Shu’s clothes, laughing wildly in his heart. Ahahahaha, did this count as a success?!
moon: “Protector Martial God has joined your party!”
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), moon.