“Befriending the prince means hanging out at the palace. Befriending an alien means hanging out on another planet.” —Fan Tong
“Where’s Fan Tong’s home? The kitchen?” —Luo Shi
Saying that I don’t want to go to Shen Wang Dian, that’d be a lie. It’s the holiest and most revered place in all of Eastern City, so naturally Fan Tong had listed it as must-see “sightseeing spot” for if he ever got the chance… But to be dragged there with no psychological preparation, Fan Tong felt conflicted about how far the situation differed from his own imagination.
The idea he had in mind involved his power and rank having risen so high, the court would call upon him, after which he’d step across the palace in pride…. Either that, or Shen Wang Dian might so happen to have an open-house one day, and he would follow the crowd to tour the palace… He never thought that he would visit as a commoner, but in the middle of the night!
Although Yue Tui was there to accompany him, with Luo Shi as the leader, basically visiting as friends of the prince, he still felt awkward all around. His head tingled the closer they got to the palace.
On the way there, Luo Shi vaguely explained to them the features of soul purging weapons, as well as things they should pay attention to.
“To New Residents, soul purging weapons are the deadliest of things. Don’t think that it’s fine just because you got a scratch and won’t die. As long as you’ve been injured by a soul purging weapon, it’s incredibly difficult to recover.”
“So it wouldn’t heal even if I commit suicide?”
Fan Tong couldn’t resist but ask out of curiosity.
“At the same time a soul purging weapon injures your body, it damages your soul as well. The power of Chen Yue cannot repair souls. Even if you commit suicide and revive, the only thing that would be repaired is your body. That’s why, if you see soul purging weapons being used, you must be sure to avoid them.”
So basically, scram like I’ve seen my worst enemy. There’s still another problem with this, though.
“A soul that’s been injured can never be repaired? Also, how can I tell which weapons are soul purging?”
The curse actually left him alone for two sentences straight. It’s a miracle. It’s been said that things that reach the extreme will always be met with a counter-reaction. Does that mean he’d be extra unlucky afterward?
No, he’s already been plenty unlucky today. Fan Tong glanced at the mop hanging at his waist, his emotions a bit melancholy.
“…Fan Tong. The fact that you’re suddenly speaking normally makes me really uncomfortable. Or could it be that what you said is wrong, and I just can’t translate it?”
Luo Shi looked at him with an uncomprehending gaze.
I finally say something correctly, and you’re still displeased! How can you be so picky!
Yue Tui couldn’t understand what Luo Shi was saying, as he still hadn’t figured out the exact problem with Fan Tong’s language barrier.
He’s already asking you, and yet you can’t help me out here and explain it to him…
“Once a soul’s been injured, it cannot be repaired. As far as what we know now, there are no incidences of souls repairing automatically. People with damaged souls would start acting strangely. Depending on the person, the flaws change… Fan Tong, could it be that your soul’s been injured before?”
Luo Shi spoke, until out of the blue, he glanced over doubtfully at Fan Tong.
“Yes! I didn’t explain it to you a long time ago!”
I actually meant “No. I explained it to you a long time ago!”
Actually, on the same topic, could it be that Lord Yin Shi speaks so weirdly because his soul’s been hurt before too?
“Fan Tong, is it because your soul’s been injured that you speak so strangely? Who hurt you?”
Yue Tui asked him in a surprised and questioning tone. Great, the misunderstanding expands further.
“No, he hasn’t been here for that long. What chance would he have to be hurt by a soul purging weapon? If he was here for more than five years, then there’s a chance he was hurt by Luo Yue’s Emperor…”
Although I had mentioned before that I wanted a more heroic death, ideally killed by some kind of famous figure, by some fancy technique, if I had the chance, I’d still prefer to live, alright? I don’t want that chance at all.
Yue Tui didn’t respond immediately, so Luo Shi patched up what he said.
“But, if he was wounded by Luo Yue’s emperor, it wouldn’t just be an injury. There’s no way he’d still be alive.”
Oh… the battle from five years ago. I heard about that from Mi Zhong before. The guy that killed off three-hundred thousand people. Seeing from Luo Shi’s peeved expression, he must really hate that person, I bet? This must be a national-level grudge.
“Yue Tui, you’ve never heard of Luo Yue’s Emperor?”
Luo Shi guessed from Yue Tui’s blank face.
“No, I know… Hm, I think I do anyways.”
Yue Tui answered with hesitation. Fan Tong could understand that. He might have forgotten it already. That one time he mentioned in the dorms, he said three million at one point, then thirty thousand at another; it’d be difficult for anyone to not mix the facts up. Zhu Sha even asked him where the other two million ninety-seven hundred thousand people went…
“I feel like the campus should start another class. Everyone should know more about what’s happening over in Luo Yue. Even if they’re New Residents, they should realize who our enemies are. Especially that bastard Englar and his despicable minions! I don’t want to see our people unknowingly greeting Luo Yue’s residents with a smile.”
Luo Shi exposed emotions of agitation while speaking. His eyes also carried a wave of hate.
Hm, okay, I got it. The first time I saw you, you were heartlessly blasting the Luo Yue people into pieces. I saw it all. So you’re someone with a very deep grudge against the Western City, but not biased against Western-looking residents from the Eastern City. Born they are Eastern City’s people, dead they are Eastern City’s ghosts. Is that right?
Yue Tui seemed for a moment at a loss for words. Perhaps because he was supposed to be in Western City, that he now feels awkward?
“…Was my expression really terrifying? This is what happens every time I think of those people. Did I scare you guys?”
Luo Shi realized he showed a more extreme side of himself and hurriedly fixed up his expression.
No, pretty boy. Even if you’re angry, you still look nice. Plus, you weren’t at a point of being terrifying. I think Yue Tui’s silent pressure is worse…
“N… No. Didn’t Fan Tong ask about how to recognize soul purging weapons? Please continue.”
Yue Tui, you’re naturally the scariest one of us here. Why are you the one putting up a frightened expression…
“One of the ways to recognize a soul purging weapon is quite simple. You just need to see if there’s a glow surrounding the weapon.”
Oh… a glow?
“In order to turn a normal weapon into a soul purging one, the most important thing is to seal the ‘soul purging force’ into it. Logically, as long as someone can make the force come into contact with a soul, they can destroy that soul even without a weapon. There’s almost no one that can do this though. The point of soul purging weapons is to allow commoners to possess the force that is sealed within the weapons, and use it to touch enemies ’ souls . The soul purging force itself does not glow, but because it remains in an active state when sealed in theweapons, the weapon will always have a radiating nimbus around it. This is the basic way of differentiating soul purgingweapons.”
Not bad, Luo Shi. Now you can replace Mi Zhong.
But following this line of reasoning… didn’t that mean Natural Residents would be affected too? New Residents can regenerate, so it becomes obvious what has happened when they don’t float up from the pond anymore, but isn’t it the same for Natural Residents then? Wouldn’t their souls be shattered too?
“When swordsmiths make weapons, they must decide whether they want them to be intelligent or soul purging, since most metals can’t withstand both powers combined. Even if the metal itself allows it, not many swordsmiths have the level of ability required to craft such weapons. That’s why most soul purging weapons don’t have a conscience and wouldn’t speak; only intelligent weapons are given life. Though, thanks to the destructive power of the soul purging force, the weapons are in no way inferior to intelligent ones.”
Shouldn’t they just make every weapon into soul purging ones then? Oh, so the strong weapons are used as quality control, is that what it is?
“The benefit of intelligent weapons is that there’s no time limit to their use. The soul purging force weakens with time and eventually disappears, leaving the weapon useless, just like the broken ones we saw at the store earlier. You’d have to switch one out every so often, and they’re incredibly expensive too… Natural Residents are protected by law, so they’re all offered a soul purging weapon for free, and they can get a new one every time it breaks. Without the government’s help, more than half the people wouldn’t even be able to afford these weapons.”
How expensive? Just how expensive are they? Are they as expensive as two hundred strings?
“The Eastern City sure treats their Natural Residents very well.”
When Yue Tui voiced his feelings, a slight frown formed on Luo Shi’s face.
“You don’t say? It’s all due to Wei Shi’s suggestion. Just like how New Residents’ salaries can only be half of what Natural Residents make; that’s all his doing.”
New Residents are definitely made out to be some kind of second-rate citizens! Lord Wei Shi is definitely the enemy of New Residents. Bullying his own people so blatantly, he’s worse than those guys from Luo Yue!
“Fan Tong, it seems that whenever the matter deals with money, you always have a bigger reaction .”
It seemed that his expression was so outraged that the other two couldn’t ignore it. Both Yue Tui and Luo Shi turned to look at him.
“It’s not like you guys don’t know I have no debt and am living a comfortable life…”
This sentence was rather easy to translate, so Luo Shi understood and nodded his head. YueTui seemed to still wonder whether Fan Tong’s soul had been injured, and wavered about whether to pity him or not.
“You should just work hard and slowly repay your debt. There’s a bigger sense of accomplishment when you do such things yourself. It’d also teach you the value of money.”
I’m already in debt by three hundred ninety-five strings. I don’t think working hard will be enough. I think I’d need to risk my life to make up for it.
At this time of the night, the vendors passing out public rations had just finished packing up; it seemed they had stayed later than usual already. Only a few areas in The Eastern City remained lively throughout the night, and they became even more obvious as the sky got darker. Naturally, Shen Wang Dian was not one of these areas, and so the trio moved from the bustling part of town to a quieter, more deserted area. Pedestrians on the streets gradually lessened, until only the three of them were left.
When they were walking in the livelier area with Luo Shi, multiple people shot glances their way. Although Fan Tong felt much less awkward now, he still felt confused inside.
What are you looking at? Can’t Luo Shi bring his subordinates around? Is it so hard to see us as his underlings? How weird.
Alright, fine, our attitude when talking with each other wasn’t very convincing, but… can you all not stare so hard? Honestly.
Pedestrians were no longer around once they got near Shen Wang Dian, but the uncomfortable feeling of tension worsened. They faced the regular civilians earlier, but now it’s the imperial palace they’re up against.
“Luo Shi, are we… really not going in?”
“Why would we not go in? Oh, you mean, if we really are going in. Of course we are. Didn’t we say that we’ll eat dinner and have a chat? Yin Shi said to eat at his place, so we can just walk in directly.”
“But, but, but, but… what if we bump into the Young Emperor?”
“Why would we see the Young Emperor at Shen Wang Dian? Ah, you meant the Queen? That mouth of yours is terrible!”
Ahh, so much for my constant worry that I’d mistakenly call the Queen as the Emperor; it’s come true…
“My mother mostly just stays inside her own palace and doesn’t walk around much. Don’t feel pressured. Even if you meet, just give her a simple salute. She won’t be interested in you.”
That was what Luo Shi told him, but Fan Tong still doubted the credibility of that statement.
Are you sure… Her only son finally brought home his friends for a visit, New Residents to boot, would she as the mother really not be interested… Unless she doesn’t care about her own son?
“I just feel so nervous going outside. Yue Tui, you also feel nervous, right?”
Fan Tong was still experiencing stage fright, so he dragged someone else down with him. As for saying outside instead of inside, that’s the least of his worries.
“A bit yes…”
Yue Tui forced a smile. Fan Tong had just been rambling. Who would have thought that he’d actually hit the mark?
“What’s there to be nervous about? You two have already seen Yin Shi. Shen Wang Dian is a bit big, and there are guards around, but for the most part, it’s no different from any other place. You just have to get used to it.”
It’s because it’s your house. That’s why you can say it so easily!
It’d make no sense to turn around now that they had come all the way to the entrance. Plus he was honestly hungry. What would food in the palace taste like? Fan Tong was excited and anxious as he continued following Luo Shi.
There were paved steps in front of Shen Wang Dian, and upon reaching the top, Fan Tong saw the ice blue architectural work of art up close. From afar, the building appeared translucent and fantastic due to the reflective material it used. Now that it was right in front of him, the place looked even more dreamlike. The entirety of Shen Wang Dian appeared ethereal, as though enshrouded by mist and fog, carrying with it an inexpressible sense of mystery, almost causing the viewer to worship it by impulse.
“Lord Luo Shi.”
As they neared the front doors, the guards on duty immediately bowed in an orderly fashion. Luo Shi was already accustomed to this kind of treatment and simply waved his hand to acknowledge them before walking straight past.
The guards were indeed professionals and completely ignored the two passers-by following behind Luo Shi. They didn’t even look at them and, of course, did not greet them with a bow. The guards were all blue tassels or higher, Fan Tong noticed, and were all New Residents as well. What kind of jobs did Natural Residents do? Even if they get twice the pay, there’s still no salary without a job.
Although the weapon store owner from earlier was a Natural Resident, which confirmed the fact that they’re employed, Fan Tong still had not seen many Natural Residents around at all. On the same topic, if hiring New Residents required only half-pay, does that mean it’s harder to find a job as Natural Residents?
Maybe it was because of his nervousness that Fan Tong began thinking about completely unrelated matters to escape from reality. In comparison, Yue Tui leisurely checked out the place, glancing left and right. How admirable.
They streamed past the first palace in Shen Wang Dian, reaching a series of winding corridors that led to all the different parts of the building. Only Luo Shi knew the way here and as long as they trailed his steps, they shouldn‘t get lost.
“Let’s head straight to Yin Shi’s place. We can go to mine next time.”
Next time? Eh? So you really see this as a simple chat and dinner with friends who can come by anytime?
To Luo Shi, this was nothing more than ‘his home’, so he probably could not understand why others felt awkward and couldn’t adjust to the situation. But Fan Tong had already gotten used to Luo Shi’s rather unyielding personality.
Luo Shi walked them through one of the corridors and over a structure similar to the archways from picturesque ponds somewhere midway. It seemed that they would need a guide when leaving later as well. Fan Tong honestly could not memorize his way.
After circling out of the mazy corridors and into a more spacious area, Luo Shi briefly clarified their location.
“This is the second palace. Going in this direction leads to where I live.”
The lighting in the first and second palaces was dim, probably because they used natural lighting in daytime and didn’t need to light up that many areas at night.
Speaking of which, how many palaces are there?
As they passed a body of water and entered the third palace, the group bumped into someone. Luo Shi stopped in his steps, and turned from his relaxed disposition to a much more serious one.
“Luo Shi, what are you doing bringing New Residents in here?”
The other person started the conversation with an antagonistic tone. His attitude was of interrogation and scorn.
“New Residents have no right to enter this place, unless it is for public affairs.”
Hearing this, Fan Tong could guess who he was.
The Five Attendants of Eastern City. Other than the missing Hui Shi, there was only one they had not met – the one who was incredibly discriminative of New Residents – Wei Shi. Considering the way he spoke to them now, his image was pretty accurate.
Because Fan Tong had never seen Wei Shi before, he couldn’t help but look at him longer than usual. Even though the lights were dim, he could still make out the gray in Wei Shi’s hair and his reticent and reserved appearance. It was not a look that others would want to get close to.
Wei Shi looked about thirty years old, naturally not bad-looking either, but he simply couldn’t be compared with Yin Shi. Yin Shi’s smile could set the entire crowd into a frenzy, but if Wei Shi smiled… Fan Tong could only imagine an evil smirk.
“They are my friends.”
Luo Shi’s expression sank, clearly displeased by Wei Shi’s words. However, Wei Shi did not care to stop talking despite seeing Luo Shi’s displeasure.
“Making friends with New Residents? Luo Shi, know your place. Your actions must match your standing in society and not embarrass Lord Xi Ying. I thought you had at least that much awareness.”
Other than the quick glance Wei Shi gave them when he first arrived, he completely disregarded any thought of looking at them again, as if giving New Residents an extra look would be one too many. He had no intention of hiding his absolute bigotry. If he dealt with all New Residents with such blatant hatred, it was no wonder that everyone despised him so much.
Fan Tong casually took a peek at Wei Shi’s tassel. It was dark purple, meaning he’s one of the uncommonly found masters… In conclusion, he still could not understand why Yin Shi’s tassel was pitch black.
“I don’t need you to tell me how to choose friends. You’re not my father! Don’t tell me what to do. What right do you have to interfere in my private matters?”
Luo Shi completely deplored how Wei Shi had appointed himself as a disciplinarian, so he also rebuked him intensely.
“This is a reminder made with good intentions. You’re still young, and your power is not strong enough. It’s not possible for you to take care of all of your responsibilities as an ‘Attendant’. If I feel like I see a problem, it’s natural that I point out your wrongdoing. Or are you so spoiled that you cannot respect an elder’s guidance?”
Being belittled like that, Luo Shi was so angry that he was at a loss for words. If he spoke back, it would really seem like he’s spoiled and ill-mannered, which would also give Wei Shi an excuse to criticize his upbringing. Luo Shi felt it was unjustified to have Wei Shi dominate the argument, but he honestly couldn’t think of a suitable comeback and had to grit his teeth in tolerance.
Luo Shi, why are you playing nice? You should just slap him in the face twice and then kick him in the shin… Cough. Anyways, just use violence to shut him up! But it seems you’re weaker than him… Then, go cry to your mom! He should at least be wary of the Queen right?
But I heard the Queen also values his opinions the most… What a pain. What should we do?
Of course, there was no place for the two commoners, Fan Tong and Yue Tui, in the conversation between two Attendants. If they interrupted, it might worsen Luo Shi’s position, so they decided to remain silent.
“Eh? It seems there are a lot of people here… Ah, damn Wei Shi, are you bullying Xiao Luo Shi again!”
An eerily familiar voice sounded from the other direction, or more accurately, extremely identifiable.
Wei Shi’s face twitched the moment he heard that voice, and put on an expression of even worse hatred than the one from when he saw New Residents. This must be because they had too much history together and the grudge had been dug so deep and far that even the sound of his voice could irritate Wei Shi so much.
“Yin Shi. It’s you again!”
“Ah, you stole my line. Why is it that I always bump into you when I’m out to find someone? Can’t you stay away from the third palace?”
Yin Shi said as he walked over, apparently annoyed by Wei Shi. He keeps showing up at the most critical moments. Was it some kind of talent?
Yin Shi quickly came over from the far end of the third palace, and stood between Wei Shi and Luo Shi. He had a protective look on his face.
“Damn Wei Shi, how can you be so low? You’re bullying little Luo Shi; how shameful!”
Hearing Yin Shi speak in such an accusing voice angered Wei Shi, but he still would rather look sensible than childish. With a bit of effort, he managed to speak in a calm voice.
“What do you see? Why do you simply jump to the conclusion that I’m bullying him? I’m just teaching him something important!”
He forgot that, when speaking with Yin Shi, rational communication is impossible.
“You can tell just by looking at his expression that Xiao Luo Shi is angry with you. You only say things that are difficult to listen to, you are tasteless, your personality is twisted, and you even bully children!”
Yin Shi, I think you are also saying things that aren’t very nice. You can tell from his expression. Look, Wei Shi is furious because you’re bullying him…
“I’m warning you; do not use disorganized words to insult me casually!”
Since Wei Shi was glaring angrily at Yin Shi, it seemed smart to keep one’s mouth shut.
In the end, who is changing the subject?
“I don’t understand what you’re saying. Your words seem like the result of a misunderstanding.”
Wei Shi then turned his back and walked away. To his back, Yin Shi mumbled: “Yeah, you talk like that but then you run away, villain.”
I think he simply figured out that communicating with you is impossible.
With Wei Shi gone, Yin Shi turned to Luo Shi and asked eagerly, “Xiao Luo Shi, what did he say to you?”
“He just said some unpleasant words.” Luo Shi wasn’t in a very good mood, and he had a terrible look on his face. In fact, he’s probably thinking that, since he can’t do anything right, how could he be the queen’s son, right?
“Ah, it’s so annoying. I really wanted to block the route from the fourth palace to the third palace so that ‘BAM!’ there will be something blocking his way.
Yin Shi, you just said a very problematic statement. Basically, if you really do that, other people will also be blocked, right?
“Ling Shi lives in the fifth palace, and Mother lives in the sixth palace, have you forgotten?” Luo Shi asked with a dark expression. In other words, Yin Shi, if you do that, those two people will team up and make you eat your words.
“Nn? Then move them in front of the barrier and just make Wei Shi live behind it.”
Do you really have the final say in it?
“Yin Shi, let’s go now. Standing here talking is not very convenient.”
“All right, let’s go.”
“… You’re going the wrong way.” Luo Shi said coldly.
This is good gossip. Isn’t this where he lives? Even after living here for so long, he still doesn’t know his way around. If he got lost and couldn’t find his way home, wouldn’t it be a problem?
“Nn? Ah, I’m not used to walking back.”
Yin Shi, your error was nothing conscious, but if you don’t usually walk back, your memory can’t be relied on. So how is it that you usually travel? Do you use Shufa?
Following the path, the third palace belonged to Yin Shi. It was nighttime, so the exterior appearance was hidden in the dark, but the inside was brightly lit by lamps. The room was simple, elegant, and had a soft glow that gave it a warm, comfortable atmosphere that would automatically relax its visitors.
Because Yin Shi mentioned that food was already prepared, they passed straight through the living room to the dining area, so that they could eat before the food went cold. Plus, everyone was already hungry.
Seeing the three tables in the dining room overcrowded by food, Luo Shi’s headache began to return.
“You… what are you going to do with so much food?”
“Huh? I thought that, since there are quite a few people coming, the more the merrier. Is it too much?”
“It’s far too much! How many people did you think were coming! And how did you get so much food ready in such a short time?”
You’d always feel a bit helpless speaking to Yin Shi, but this became an obvious point soon after meeting him.
“Is it really too much?”
Yin Shi looked at the abundance of plates and asked doubtfully again. He really lacks common sense, Fan Tong felt. Couldn’t he measure just by how much he usually eats?
Wait, maybe his math skills suck, or perhaps he simply said something wrong. He had people bring in more communication charms than we needed the last time as well…
“Of course it is! We won’t finish it all!”
“Then, should I get Xiao Rou to join us?”
Aren’t you a bit too casual about this?
“We still have something to ask you. You might as well ask Ling Shi to eat with us instead.”
Inviting a girl to eat at his house this late at night. Something feels unusual about that no matter how you think about it. He honestly doesn’t have any self-awareness, this guy.
“Ling Shi? But… Fine, fine. It’d be livelier with him here.”
Yin Shi continued speaking as he dialed on his communication charm.
“Ling Shi, it’s me. Come over and eat dinner… How could you call me crazy? Xiao Luo Shi suggested it. You autistic old fart, I’m here inviting you over for some fun out of the kindness of my heart, and you’re reacting so coldly? Oh, so you’re coming now that Xiao Luo Shi is here? You’re so mean. I’m going to remember this.”
It sounds like Ling Shi is coming. I wonder how long it takes to get here from the fifth palace. But Ling Shi is a rather reliable person, so there shouldn’t be a problem with getting lost.
“Ah, you all start eating first. No need to wait for him… Did we meet this morning?”
Yin Shi greeted the group while staring at Fan Tong and Yue Tui. He tilted his head and asked.
That is very correct. We have just seen each other this morning. So you still don’t remember our faces?
“Ah! Now that I look closer, you look like Hui Shi!”
You’re honestly quite slow, Lord Yin Shi.
“You just realized…”
Luo Shi didn’t know what to say to him. If he had realized that Yue Tui looked like Hui Shi just now, does that mean he never actually looked at the other person’s face before this?
“Hui Shi used to live in the fifth palace back in the day as well. Wei Shi was always so jealous of him… Well, I won’t go deep into that. The food is going to get cold. Let’s eat. Let’s eat.”
Oh? The fifth palace? The one closest to the Queen’s? That doesn’t sound too bad at all. Looks like the Queen really liked him?
How Lord Yin Shi had gotten “exiled” to the third palace seems easy enough to imagine. He was probably too loud or too much of an idiot or something. Though… Luo Shi lives in the second palace. What’s the reason behind that?
Fan Tong thought this as he started picking up the utensils, along with Yue Tui, to eat. After one bite, lights shined from his eyes.
Oh oh oh oh!
This is indeed food from the palace! Lord Yin Shi, if there’s too much to finish, can I get the leftovers?
No matter how hungry someone is, eating all three tables of food that Yin Shi had somehow mustered out would still be impossible. When Fan Tong, Yue Tui and Luo Shi had become half full, Ling Shi also arrived. He dressed more casually at night, wearing robes that were probably more for indoor use.
Can I now flaunt to Mi Zhong that I’ve seen Lord Ling Shi in his casual clothes? That sounds kind of childish though…
“Ling Shi, what took you so long?”
That was the first thing Yin Shi said when he saw Ling Shi come in. Speaking of which, Yin Shi had only been watching them eat until now. Either that or he’d be playing with something on his own. Even if he had eaten dinner already, he shouldn’t act this way, should he? It was his idea to have such a large amount of food, and yet he doesn’t even help eat any of it…
On the other hand, pointing to various dishes that he liked and asking what they’re called and such, Yue Tui appeared to find the food very refreshing despite having eaten quite a bit of it already. Fan Tong responded sometimes, but it was mainly Luo Shi who did the answering. After all, he was more accustomed to the food here.
As for Yin Shi, it’d be great if he could even answer how much food there was on the table. There’s no hope in even asking him anything else.
However, when Luo Shi revealed that a certain dish or another was made with snake meat or some weird thing unknown to Yue Tui and Fan Tong, the two couldn’t help but be stunned. Yue Tui gave up asking in the end. Sometimes, an abundance of curiosity is not a good thing.
“I saw Wei Shi on my way here and had a disagreement with him.”
Ling Shi flipped his hair with a displeased expression, making it apparent that Wei Shi put him in a bad mood.
Ah… so when Lord Wei Shi headed back to the fourth palace, he bumped into Lord Ling Shi, who was coming out from the fifth. Just who is less lucky here…
“Oh, you met Wei Shi too? Did you fight him?”
There seemed to be something wrong with what Yin Shi thought was most important.
“I’m a cultured person, so I’d only fight unsparingly with our enemies, since their only worth is to be eradicated. The fewer enemies there are, the better.”
Ling Shi seemed to possess the same offensive stance as Luo Shi, while Yin Shi was more of a peacemaker. He couldn’t agree with Ling Shi’s thoughts.
“Ah, but those Western City residents who had done nothing to you are innocent, aren’t they? Why are you antagonizing them so much? Don’t you think you have more reason to hate Wei Shi?”
It’s only once in a blue moon moment that I find Lord Yin Shi’s words logical. As opposed to the Luo Yue residents that I’ve never seen before, Lord Wei Shi is certainly more hateable.
Plus, Lord Ling Shi, haven’t you heard that useless comrades are worse than enemies?
“Just the fact that they have anything to do with the Western City is enough reason for me to hold them in hostility. There’s no need for another reason.”
“Ah, you old fart. Then what about Xiao Rou? What about me? Why don’t you make your move on me first, then.”
Wait, what does this have to do with Bi Rou? Isn’t she a New Resident with a Westerner’s face?
“Ling Shi, come and eat something? There’s a lot.”
Interrupting them in the middle of their conversation, Luo Shi stared at the food which had barely decreased and frowned.
To be honest, one extra mouth wouldn’t be that big of a help. It might be more practical to take some out for the guards… But then I wouldn’t be able to take home the leftovers. Please let me take the leftovers.
“No, I’m not eating. I’m just here to look around. Yue Tui and Fan Tong came too?”
Ling Shi remembered their faces and names, a sky’s difference from Yin Shi.
“Hello, Lord Ling Shi.”
Yue Tui greeted politely. Fan Tong also lowered his head, not wanting to open his mouth.
“Oh, right, right. Ling Shi, he looks a bit like Hui Shi!”
Yin Shi spoke excitedly to Ling Shi, reporting his “new” discovery. Naturally, he just received an eye roll from Ling Shi.
“We saw him last time already. You just noticed?”
A stupid person with an equally idiotic brain. Quite fitting.
“Ah! You’d already noticed last time! Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I thought that anyone with eyes could see it and that there was no need to specifically point it out.”
“What eyes or no eyes… Agh, I’m so mad. You’re sneakily making fun of me again!”
“How rare that you’d notice I’m making fun of you…”
Ling Shi’s words came out as a sort of sigh. The tone was quite terrible to listen to.
Having been the topic of conversation, Yue Tui suddenly lost his appetite and decidedly claimed he was full. Luo Shi followed his lead, so Fan Tong could only hurry up and shove the food in his hands down his throat, then finish up for dinner. Else, he’d seem like a hungry pig.
“You’re all full already? Then what are we going to do with the leftovers?”
Yin Shi asked thoughtlessly. Ling Shi answered matter-of-factly.
“Throw them away. Why did you get so much? If you’d had me cook, I would have at least known to control the amount of food.”
Wow! Lord Ling Shi! You can cook!
N-No, wait. Don’t throw the food away, you food-wasting, rich people!
“I-I can’t take the leftovers?”
Fan Tong mustered up his courage and said it. Everyone looked at him.
Why does it feel so embarrassing, dammit.
“But it’d be cold by the time you bring it back.”
Yin Shi’s expression showed his confusion on why anyone would want to take the leftovers. Even though his face was handsome, hearing such ignorance made Fan Tong want to punch him.
“The dorms don’t have any equipment to keep the food fresh, right? And none of you should have learned the proper shufa or Fuzhou for this yet.”
The problem Ling Shi pointed out was more practical than the one Yin Shi mentioned, but the food should at least last a day after bringing it back, right? If they were lucky, it’d even be safe to eat on the second day. Throwing it away now would simply be too much of a waste. They just didn’t understand the problem that poor people face.
“Fan Tong, are you really such a rice bucket?”
Luo Shi wrinkled his brows as he spoke. His words hurt Fan Tong a bit.
Human needs rank from food and clothing at the top to entertainment all the way at the bottom. Food is a primary need, you know!
Yue Tui saw Fan Tong’s expression, and after a moment of thought, gave a small smile.
“I’d like to have some leftovers as well. We may still be able to eat it after we get back. Is that alright?”
“But, it’ll be cold…”
Yin Shi was still blabbering.
“I’ll put a preservation spell on it.”
Ling Shi readily offered help.
“…If you want to take the leftovers, then sure.”
Luo Shi looked away and stopped refusing to let them take it.
Even though Yue Tui had only helped his great desire for the food, Fan Tong still felt like crying when he saw the differential treatment.
Biased… So biased…
“Then I’ll get someone to clean and pack things up. Let’s head to another room to play.”
“…We’re not here to play. We’re here to ask you questions…”
“It’s quite late already. Would Zhu Sha worry if we don’t go back soon? It’s alright if we wait to ask…”
Yue Tui looked at the time. Thinking it might not be appropriate to stay longer, he suggested they head back.
“Since you’re here already, of course you need to ask! That was the point in coming, not to just have a meal!”
Either way, although the person concerned wasn’t interested in getting answers, they still went to another room to talk. Ling Shi went with them.
“What was it you wanted to ask me?”
After they’d sat down in the other room, Yin Shi got straight to the point and asked them why they hadcome over. It was rare for people to ask him for advice, so this was quite a novel experience for him. Normally, everyone would tell him to avoid speaking. The people who actually wanted to listen to him talk were few in number.
“Did you buy a broken weapon once, from a store in the northern part of town?”
Ling Shi frowned slightly when he heard Luo Shi’s question. On the other hand, Yin Shi was surprised.
“Xiao Luo Shi, why do you want to know about my business so badly?”
“Who in the world would care about your business? I just heard about it by chance!” Luo Shi replied in a disgusted voice. At that moment, Ling Shi cut in and asked a question.
“Yin, what did you buy a weapon for?”
Both Ling Shi’s expression and tone of voice were ones of scorn, as if saying, “how troublesome can you be?”
“Ah, because I thought it was amusing… Oh right, I just remembered to tell you, I also bought new armor. I’ll wear it next time for you to see. I think it looks pretty good on me. I wonder what Xiao Rou would think?”
“…You truly are an idiot.”
You’re earnestly asking why other people think you are an idiot? But doesn’t that just make you even more idiotic? Do you even have a brain, Lord Yin Shi?
“We heard from the shop owner; he said that every weapon you picked up screamed like its life was in danger. So in the end, you bought a broken weapon and left.”
“Xiao Luo Shi, you’re acting as if you’re interrogating a criminal. I’m telling you right now, no matter how much you like it, I won’t give you that knife.”
Ling Shi glanced coldly at Yin Shi.
“Yin, why would you destroy weapons in your free time?”
“Ah? I didn’t know it would end up like that. I only wanted a partner to chat with, but sadly I didn’t manage to fulfill that wish. Then I thought it would be quite nice to carry a weapon around, so I bought a broken knife. Hahaha.”
Exactly what does this person think weapons are?
“So do you know why that sort of situation would occur when you pick up a self-aware weapon?”
“I guess it’s probably because—Ah! Ouch! Old man, why did you hit me?”
Yin Shi protested while rubbing the spot on his head where Ling Shi had smacked him hard, appearing quite wronged.
“You should at least be aware of the things you can and can’t say. Don’t be so pleased with yourself that you lose your senses, idiot.”
The exchange between the two made people feel as if there was some hidden secret between them. When Yin Shi heard Ling Shi’s warning, he gave a snort, but stopped speaking. Now they had no way of knowing what he had wanted to say.
“You can’t talk about it?”
Luo Shi was slightly disappointed. If Yin Shi and Ling Shi were sworn to secrecy, then he wouldn’t try to pry the answer out of them, but he still felt dejected upon having to give up.
It was as if Ling Shi had just straightforwardly said that he shouldn’t be entrusted with heavy responsibilities because he wasn’t strong enough. Yin Shi and Ling Shi’s attitudes were like tactful ways of saying that he wasn’t mature enough, and because of that, there were things he wasn’t allowed to know.
“Nope, we can’t. There will be a day when you will know, Xiao Luo Shi.”
Yin Shi looked as if he truly wanted to speak about the matter, but he resisted the urge. Ling Shi then became suspicious of something.
“How did you guys hear about this? And why would you want to know the reason for it?”
“We went to buy weapons…”
Luo Shi had originally wanted to explain exactly what had happened, but when he noticed Yue Tui’s uneasy expression, he decided to drop the idea.
“…The owner of the weapons store just happened to mention it by chance. I found it hard to believe, which is why I asked you.”
“You guys went to a weapons store? Xiao Luo Shi, are you changing to studying martial arts? If you want to learn martial arts, then I can teach you. I’m—”
Ling Shi punched Yin Shi once again, cutting the latter off mid-sentence.
“If you actually use your brain, then you’d know that’s not what he was doing. Luo Shi, you went to pick out weapons for those two, right? You truly are considerate, and you finally made some friends.”
After hearing Ling Shi’s words, Luo Shi immediately became embarrassed.
“That’s because, it’s because they were being bullied and almost got themselves killed. I just couldn’t stand by idly and do nothing…”
“It’s fine to let others know of your good intentions; why are you trying so hard to hide it?” Ling Shi added another sentence.
Luo Shi’s delicate face grew even redder upon Ling Shi’s comment. Wow, he’s so thin-skinned…
“They got bullied? Ah! Don’t tell me Xiao Rou got bullied too! That’s not good. I have to go see her.”
Yin Shi made to stand up but was shoved back down by Ling Shi.
“Do you know what time it is right now? What are you trying to do? Are you planning to break into a girl’s room in the middle of the night? Do you want to be in the headlines tomorrow for starting a scandal?”
“Bu-but, it’s fine if I break into her room. But what would I do if other men try to get into her room too? Ahhh!”
“No one besides you would plan to break into a girl’s room!”
That’s right! If you guys want to worry, then worry about the ones who actually got bullied! You shouldn’t even worry about someone totally uninvolved!
“Did you guys manage to buy any good weapons?” Ling Shi asked. The three people in question immediately quieted down; even the atmosphere turned down a notch.
One of them had bought a broken weapon.
And the other had bought a mop.
Did we manage to buy any good weapons? The thought resounded in all three of their heads.
“Why do you guys have such complicated expressions? Did it not go smoothly?”
Don’t ask anymore. If you keep on asking, we might seriously cry. Really.
“Oh? What’s that hanging from your waist? It looks pretty interesting.” As if he had discovered a novelty, Yin Shi pointed towards Fan Tong’s waist, a fascinated expression on his face.
Fan Tong hesitated and struggled with himself but finally overcame the shame he felt from the question. He quietly replied, “My weapon.”
Yue Tui turned his head away, as if he couldn’t bear to look on anymore. Luo Shi covered his mouth with his hand, as if hiding a smile.
Ling Shi stared at Fan Tong and the “mop” hanging on the latter’s waist for a long while before opening his mouth to speak.
“Are you planning to be a custodian?”
That is too cruel. Is it alright for you to rub salt onto my wound like that, Lord Ling Shi?
“Ling Shi, that thing is awesome! I want one too!”
Yin Shi’s reaction was the complete opposite of how people normally treated mops, displaying his strange tastes for everyone to see. Looking at the joy on the other’s face though, Fan Tong truly wanted to swap with him. No, it was good enough for him if he could even just get the 200 strings he’d paid for that mop back.
“Why isn’t it speaking? Make it speak.”
Make it speak? Fan Tong couldn’t understand. In reality, he still wasn’t very familiar with his mop.
“Fan Tong, I forgot to tell you, after your synchronization rate with your weapon is high enough, you can communicate with it through thoughts. So you don’t need to speak out loud to talk. Looking at you now though, I see you still aren’t capable of this sort of thing. Another thing is, after taking on a master, weapons won’t be able to talk to other people unless they have their master’s permission and they are in direct contact with another person.”
Luo Shi filled him in on the facts. So it was like that. No wonder it’s so quiet on the streets and in classes, even though many people carried weapons.
“Make it talk.”
Yin Shi probably also knew that he shouldn’t touch self-aware weapons, so he didn’t rashly put his hand onto Fan Tong’s weapon. Seeing that Yin Shi genuinely seemed really interested in hearing the mop speak, even though he wasn’t too sure about the process, Fan Tong still tried to communicate and gave the mop a tap.
“Hey, Puhahaha, say something.”
“… Hmm? Don’t bother me, I’m sleeping. Fuwa…”
Puhahaha simply tossed out that line before quieting again.
Exactly who’s the master here…
“That mop has quite an attitude.”
It’s a horsetail whisk, Lord Ling Shi. Even though I internally call it a mop myself, as its owner, hearing other people call it a mop still makes me feel kind of uncomfortable…
“What’s a puhahaha?”
Yin Shi always paid attention to weird things, but this matter was even harder for Fan Tong to talk about.
“It’s that mo… horsetail whisk’s name.”
Seeing that it was difficult for Fan Tong to say anything, Yue Tui said it in his place, but this actually wasn’t much less embarrassing for Fan Tong.
Yin Shi burst into peals of laughter. He laughed so hard he even forcefully slapped the seat next to him.
Lord Yin Shi, are you calling the mop’s name, or are you laughing? Also, could you please laugh in a more dignified manner?
Even Ling Shi emitted a quiet laugh. Was it really that funny? How come Fan Tong just couldn’t laugh?
Fan Tong wanted to curl up in the corner with his head in his arms and hide, but in reality, he definitely wouldn’t do something like that. A full-grown man acting like that really wasn’t a pretty sight. Also, it truly wasn’t his fault, yet the culprit who’d caused him to be ridiculed was currently sleeping peacefully. It was just too unfair.
He really wished that everyone would stop being so fixated on his mop. Transferring everyone’s attention to something else seemed like an excellent choice, so he made up his mind to ask another question.
“I don’t have another answer I want to reply to.”
… Mm, he completely believed no one could tell that he’d wanted to say, “I have another question I want to ask.”
“Ah? What did you say?”
Yin Shi’s attention was successfully redirected, but in the wrong direction.
“Sigh, Fan Tong, you’re so…”
Luo Shi helplessly took out paper and a writing utensil and gave it to him. At times like this, Fan Tong felt that Luo Shi was very attentive.
And so Fan Tong fluidly wrote down what he had wanted to ask on the paper and then handed it to Yin Shi.
“Why did you have to write it down? Hmm? Pure imagination? You want me to explain?”
Since Fan Tong had the rare chance to talk face to face with the rector of Shufa Xuan, who else would he ask about problems related to Shufa?
“The teacher keeps saying that Fan Tong is unqualified and that it’s impossible for him to comprehend Shufa, so he seems very concerned.”
Yue Tui explained on Fan Tong’s behalf; however, Yin Shi was extremely surprised.
“How could that be? A pure imagination is very easy to achieve. Isn’t it just the ability to understand and put yourself into the shoes of various entities?”
“There’s no point in asking him.”
Ling Shi and Luo Shi were off to the side dampening his enthusiasm. So far though, what Yin Shi was saying was quite similar to what Yue Tui had said. Perhaps if he asked Yin Shi to give an example, he’d be able to understand?
“Yin Shi, give him an example so he’ll give up hope.”
“How would you understand a kitten?”
Asking Yin Shi to explain this all of a sudden was probably more difficult for him than answering questions. Hearing this question, he beamed and immediately began speaking.
“A kitten is a kitten, you know. I think it should be called a kitten, and it’s very suited to being called a kitten. That’s what a kitten is.”
…Is there a difference between this and not answering at all?
“Then what do you think of beautiful girls?”
“Hmm? I think beautiful girls are beautiful girls”
“How do you understand hunger?”
“It must be a fresh and interesting event!”
“Your feelings toward snow?”
“I’ll try and eat it? Hmm, the weather must be nice.”
Fan Tong heard this series of answers and felt from the bottom of his heart that Yin Shi was indeed an alien.
In all honesty, this was an alien world, but Yin Shi’s weirdness was out of this world, and had moved on to another universe altogether.
Does this even have anything to do with pure imagination, understanding, or empathizing with other things? If one called it a completely self-centric point of view, they wouldn’t be wrong. There’s not one ounce of science or logic to this!
“See, even if we got him to be the teacher, we wouldn’t be able to learn any Shufa. He just got powerful on his own for no reason. He has no talent in teaching at all.”
“Ah! Xiao Luo Shi, are you complimenting me?”
…No wonder Luo Shi’s Fuzhou is so much better. Disregarding the quality of Ling Shi’s teaching, with Yin Shi as he is, anyone would be a better teacher than him.
Ling Shi cut into the conversation from the side.
“If you need an explanation on what pure imagination is, then you have no hope in learning Shufa.”
Lord Ling Shi… you’re so direct.
“Thank you for treating us today. I think it’s about time we leave…”
It was indeed late into the night now. After Yue Tui spoke, Fan Tong also absentmindedly nodded his head. Before he left though, he had one more request.
“I would like to use the restroom.”
“Restroom? Go out those sliding doors on the left, walk straight down after turning right and you’ll be there.”
The one that gave him the directions was Ling Shi. It seemed he was very familiar with Yin Shi’s palace.
Leave from the left door and then turn right? But there was clearly a door from the right side as well. Why not just leave directly from that door? Wouldn’t that be a lot faster?
“Ah! You can’t go that way…”
As Fan Tong hoped to use a shortcut and walked through the door on the right hand side, he heard Yin Shi’s yell. After that, he saw rays of bright golden light passing through his body.
“Fan Tong! Didn’t I tell you to go through the left door? To protect the palace against invaders, any passageways under prohibition orders are in defense mode!”
Luo Shi’s voice sounded utterly discomfited. At this point, Fan Tong realized that the lights passing through his body had literally gone “through.” A few of those all cutting through naturally and immediately caused fatal injuries.
Why do I feel that, every time I meet Lord Yin Shi, some kind of bloody incident happens…
What came with fatal injuries was death, which also meant saying goodbye to another hundred strings of money. Fan Tong didn’t get to finish hearing what Yue Tui had wanted to say before his soul left his body and flew off to regenerate in the pond.
It seemed like there was no need for him to go to the restroom anymore. Ahahahaha…
◎ Fan Tong’s Afterword
It was my first time visiting Shen Wang Dian, and I died.
My original debt of 190 strings, adding on Luo Shi’s 205 and this death, that’s a total of 495 strings…
I can only see complete darkness in my future. Mom, why did you give birth to me?
Ah! Ouch! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!
I’m currently in the process of regenerating. This is probably 290 strings worth of pain? Pain during regeneration is directly linked to one’s debt. I can’t regenerate painlessly anymore. The last two times I drowned, I had already experienced the pain worth 100 and 200 strings. After paying back ten strings, I accrued debt again. As expected it hurts even more… It feels kind of like a direct hit on the face from a flying ball.
At 100 strings, the pain was similar to a pinch in the face. At 200, it felt like a hard slap.
The pain resonates through the entire body, so it’s not just pain on the face. I’m just trying to give examples of my experiences. How else do you want me to do this?
Speaking of which, the pain during my death was actually much more intense. That is only up to this point, though. If my debt accumulates more and more, then that might no longer be the case.
Originally, I wanted to express my feelings for Lord Wei Shi and the bountiful feast. Now, where do I find the mood…
Ouch! Ah, please just finish regenerating already! Dammit!
Translators: Nuddles, Saviesa, Nannyn, Sherry
Proofreaders: Syrra, PiKairi, KN, Sherry