“Happiness, even just a brief moment of it, I wish I could recall…” ─Yue Tui
Even on New Year’s Eve, there were still trials being convened to tie any loose ends on any remaining legal cases from the past year. Most people were fed up with this routine, but they were required to attend. About two out of every five people attending today’s trials felt this way.
This was equivalent to working overtime every New Year’s. Empress Xi Ying’s expression was still as cold as ever, Luo Shi’s expression wasn’t good, Ling Shi looked indifferent, and Yin Shi seemed extremely bored as he watched Wei Shi’s performance.
Looking at the list of criminals being investigated today, it was comprised entirely of New Residents again and most of today would probably just be declaring “death penalty” over and over again. Although it was clearly the same result each time, Wei Shi somehow managed to say different things for each one, as if he had thoroughly investigated the case before deciding that the death penalty was the best punishment. It was to the point where one couldn’t tell if he was seriously hardworking, or if he was just being fastidious. Regardless, this didn’t really improve his reputation among the people.
However, a bit of a unique situation came up today.
Firstly, when they’d reached the ninth criminal or so, just as Wei Shi was still grandiloquently announcing the death sentence:
“Aside from the aforementioned points it’s clear to see from this criminal’s psyche that this was a deliberate crime that he has no regrets about. This means that there is absolutely no chance that this criminal will have a useful future in Eastern City, so I believe that he should be sentenced with the death──”
Before Wei Shi managed to say the last word, his voice suddenly cut off unnaturally.
Everyone turned to look at him in confusion. While they were still trying to figure out what had happened, a light meow reached their ears. It turned out that a cat was currently rubbing against his foot.
Wei Shi had an extremely stiff expression, as if he were struggling to maintain his calm and respond appropriately. At this moment Xi Ying spoke.
“Why is there a cat? Where did it come from?”
“I don’t know how it could have ran in… Or, was it here originally?”
Luo Shi checked the boundary to the area but there were no problems with it. In that case, the cat had most likely been in there since the beginning.
Since Empress Xi Ying’s tone was somewhat unpleased, Wei Shi’s expression paled. The cat, which didn’t know that every person here was a potential threat to its life, was still affectionately rubbing itself against Wei Shi’s foot as if it was trying to win his favor.
“Don’t let the cat interrupt the trial, Wei Shi, and…”
“Your Majesty! I sincerely apologize! My stomach suddenly hurts, so please excuse me leaving for a brief moment!”
Before Xi Ying had even finished her sentence, Wei Shi fervently interrupted her and to everyone’s surprise, immediately ran out of the area in large strides.
“Ah, where did the cat go?” Yin Shi looked left and right but both the cat and Wei Shi were nowhere to be seen.
At the same time, Ling Shi turned around with his hand covering his mouth, seemingly making a supreme effort to keep himself from laughing. Ying Shi and Luo Shi hadn’t comprehended the situation yet while Xi Ying was also clueless.
Of course, the four of them couldn’t possibly wait for a single person, so the trials continued after Wei Shi left. With one less advocate for capital punishment, two of the criminals actually managed to escape the death sentence.
After the kitten disturbance, Wei Shi returned wearing glasses, back to his previous, shrewd appearance and calm demeanor. Thus, he continued to give out his ‘wise’ opinions on the criminals’ sentences, sending each convict to their death to prevent those ill-reputed New Residents from taking up space in the city.
But just when the trials were reaching their end another astonishing situation arose.
The current case was, like the previous ones, regarding a New Resident. However, this time the subject was a child who had just turned eight years old this year. He hadn’t been in Eastern City for very long before he was discovered stealing food, and recklessly attacked and injured several people in a panicked attempt to flee. Thus, he’d been seized and brought to trial.
Although this wasn’t a very serious crime, this kind of case wasn’t uncommon and Wei Shi had always concluded it with a death sentence, so it would be expected for this child to meet a bad end too. Luo Shi bit his lip and looked as if he wanted to speak up and Yin Shi seemed to be having a hard time as well. Both were waiting for Wei Shi to speak and preparing to refute his suggestion. But to their surprise, after Xi Ying asked for everyone’s opinions, Wei Shi remained silent for a long while, unlike his immediate, self-righteous responses of ‘death penalty’ from before.
This was already strange enough, but what followed was even stranger.
After a long while of internal struggle, his words were:
“Since the perpetrator is still young and his living needs hadn’t quite been met, I ask for Your Majesty to administer the punishment for this one under a more merciful light. A lighter sentence such as forced labor or prison time, perhaps.”
The fact that the words “lighter sentence” had come from Wei Shi’s mouth in regard to a New Resident was enough to make Yin Shi and the others gape in astonishment. The sentences that he had suggested were extremely lenient, to the point where it was unimaginable.
“Wei Shi, have you finally seen the light? Have you realized that the death penalty isn’t that great after all?”
Yin Shi couldn’t resist asking this question. This entire situation was just too strange, completely different from Wei Shi’s normal behavior.
“As if! It’s just because the child is very cu–….Children are the country’s assets, its future pillars, and they must be looked after! They can’t just be killed at will!”
But if they’re discovered to have gone astray after having grown up, they must be killed as quickly as possible? Really?
Did Wei Shi even realize that a New Resident’s child wouldn’t ever grow up properly…
In short, even after all the trials ended and Yin Shi left, he still found the entire situation strange.
“Wei Shi, is that guy really Wei Shi? Is this some kind of prank, and it’s actually someone else pretending to be him?”
“Who would do that? Hui Shi?”
Ling Shi retorted with a tactless joke.
“But he was nothing like Wei Shi! In what way was that person like Wei Shi?”
“His naivete, and the way he executes things.”
Ling Shi calmly replied, having clearly not found anything odd about Wei Shi’s actions today.
“Ah, old man, I bet it’s just that your eyes are completely different from mine, right? And your ears? Are we hearing completely different things?”
“No, you just don’t have eyes or ears.”
“What! I clearly have eyes and ears! Ask Xiao Luo Shi and Ying, they can back me up!”
“I definitely know that they will confirm your lack of eyes and ears. The only one who would be able to unconditionally verify your words is Xiao Rou.”
“What! Why are you so horrid you old fart!”
Ling Shi was clearly very used to hearing Yin Shi’s disagreeability, so he obviously didn’t respond to these words either.
“We’re going to get together with the others tonight, have you prepared your dish?”
From the sound of his exclamation, he seemed to have forgotten about this.
“I’m doomed! I haven’t even bought any cooking utensils yet! Ling Shi, can a sword be used to cook a dish? Can it?”
“Even if it could, you wouldn’t be able to do so.”
Besides, couldn’t things like cooking utensils easily be found and borrowed from Shen Wang Dian?
“Exactly what dish do you want to make?”
“Oh, I found a pretty cool one from the cookbook I got last time called ‘Baked Pepper Asparagus Seafood Steak Salad with Lemon Vinegar Salmon Sauce’. What do you think?”
“…What kind of alien cookbook did you get that from? If you can really make that, I’ll address you as ‘The Great Yin Shi’ from now on.”
In terms of naivete, Yin Shi was on par with Wei Shi.
Compared to Shen Wang Dian where borrowing cooking utensils was easy, Fan Tong and Yue Tui had a lot more difficulty trying to borrow the kitchen utensils at the student dorms. Although the dorms did have a kitchen that students could use, it required them to line up, and they had limited time for using it. By the time they’d finally gotten their turn after lining up for an entire morning, they only had half an hour to use it. In addition, by the time their time was up, their final product was an appalling sight as well.
There were things like burnt egg, meat that was charcoal black on the surface but not even cooked in the middle, and some very wrongly seasoned noodles.
Putting aside the horrible product, the kitchen was beyond recognition as well. So, after their time was up, they were forced to clean the entire kitchen before being allowed to leave as punishment.
“What to do?”
“What do we do…”
The two of them looked at each other in dismay with the feeling of facing a hopeless end.
“We can’t present any dishes…”
That’s right… If we can’t provide any presentable dishes ourselves, then how can we ridicule others when they bring out strange dishes…
“If we don’t present any decent dishes or gifts, we’ll be empty-handed on both fronts. Great.”
I’m definitely not trying to sound so sour on purpose! I meant to say that since we don’t have a dish, we still have the afternoon to prepare gifts so that we won’t lose too much face.
“No, it would be too tragic if the situation developed to that point. Let’s go choose some gifts first, and I’ll think some more about what to do for the dish…”
Yue Tui took out the wages they’d gotten from working today, and split it evenly with Fan Tong before they each went their own ways to find gifts. After all, presents should have a certain level of mysteriousness, and if they went together, they’d know what each other had chosen. Thus, they split ways.
Fan Tong found himself wandering randomly back and forth on the streets since he hadn’t quite decided what he wanted to buy. Presents were equivalent to breaking one’s own bank to give money to others. Buying anything too expensive was painful, but buying anything too cheap made one seem petty. In addition, since the gift exchange was lottery-based, there was no way of knowing who would get what. Without knowing who the receiver would be, choosing a present became much harder, and he found the task extremely difficult.
Why celebrate New Year’s like this? It’s so troublesome.
“Are you planning on buying this or not? If you’re not, don’t just stand there, you’re blocking other people’s views.”
Perhaps because he looked so shabby, the salesperson grew impatient with him and tried to kick him out when they saw him looking left and right, clearly short on money and very hesitant.
How do you even run your business! Haven’t you ever heard that amiability makes you rich! Even if I originally wanted to buy something, I won’t anymore!
Whenever Fan Tong encountered this kind of store, he’d simply switch to another one. However, even after searching around for a while, he hadn’t found anything satisfactory. Not only did his cooking have no sincerity, he lacked the genuineness to give others gifts as well. Really, he was just going through the motions that he was being forced to do.
Eventually, a brilliant idea came to him. He suddenly realized that he could give away something he was expert at making as a gift; after all, using the local specialty of one’s hometown was always a good choice for a present. He couldn’t possibly obtain the technology and goods here that he’d used to use, but fortune-telling goods weren’t hard to make on the spot.
Thus, he bought a small wooden plaque, borrowed a brush and some ink, and wrote some peace charms. After he finished, he began to walk back home while marveling at his own elegant calligraphy, before suddenly facepalming.
Ah! What’s wrong with me! I could’ve just written the calligraphy on paper and used that as my gift! To think I even went and specially bought a wooden plaque! Such a waste──
The sight of a full-grown man suddenly clutching his head in frustration in the middle of the street was enough to make others whisper amongst themselves as they passed, not daring to approach him. At this point, Fan Tong had finally realized how strange his actions were as well, and he lowered his head and walked away in embarrassment.
The only good thing about buying the wooden plaque was that they’d given him a small box for free as a bonus, which saved him the trouble of wrapping the gift. But when he thought about it again, he decided that he’d rather wrap it with string, so he walked to a nearby store to get some.
This shop’s owner was pretty nice, and was willing to lend the string to him. As the owner went to retrieve the string, Fan Tong took a casual look at the things being sold there. Just then, his eyes caught something on one of the displays and his heart skipped a beat.
Ah, this is…
By the time Fan Tong returned to the dorm, Yue Tui was already there waiting. He’s bought his gift incredibly fast, making Fan Tong feel inferior.
Zhu Sha was taking a nap, so Yue Tui greeted Fan Tong in a hushed voice so as not to disturb him.
“Yue Tui, the food…”
“Ah, don’t worry, I asked Bi Rou to help me buy new ingredients and finished preparing the dish already. Just tell them we made it together.”
How could you be so fast? We even spent the entire morning distressed without a clue on what to do about this, didn’t we?
“Where… is it?”
“I put it in there.”
Yue Tui pointed at a basket covered by a cloth near his foot. Fan Tong couldn’t help but bend down to uncover it in curiosity, only to stiffen, goosebumps forming all over his body.
Holy crap! What is that! Actually, should I be saying as expected of Yue Tui, creating something only he could ever make? If we said we made it together, who would believe me! Exactly which part of that did I make?!
Fan Tong silently covered it with the cloth again. Actually, it wasn’t a bad dish, he was just slightly shocked. However, at this point he didn’t really care anymore. As long as they could say they had tried, anything was fine.
“Fan Tong, what do you think?”
Yue Tui looked somewhat uncertain and wanted an evaluation from the person before him.
“It’s, it’s very normal. I think anyone would be able to recognize it.”
No, no, no! I was saying that it was amazing and that only you could make something like that!
Upon seeing Yue Tui’s dejected or disappointed expression, Fan Tong hurriedly added another question to shift Yue Tui’s attention.
“Did Zhu Sha see it? What did he say?”
“Yes. He said… why waste my time and do all this to some food…”
Yue Tui let out a dispirited sigh after accepting these two reviews.
That’s… what terrible luck… can’t someone please console him? I actually think it’s amazing, but this mouth of mine is just impossible──
“Yue Tui, did you finish buying your gift?”
“Mhm, I didn’t know what to get so I just chose randomly. Anyways, I guess we’ll just wait until it’s time to meet up with the others.”
It sounds like everything is prepared, not bad at all.
When night fell, Bi Rou came to notify them of the gathering location and all three went together. Since the weather was nice and they’d heard that there would be shooting stars tonight, they decided to have a picnic at a nice grassy place nearby. Neither Fan Tong nor Yue Tui had any objections; having a picnic on the grass seemed to be much better than going to Shen Wang Dian.
Surprisingly, Yin Shi and Ling Shi were already there in addition to a third person who originally said he wasn’t coming.
Yue Tui shot an astonished look at Luo Shi sitting next to Yin Shi and Ling Shi, pleasantly surprised by his presence.
“Didn’t you say you couldn’t come because you were busy?”
“Some space suddenly opened up!”
Luo Shi was very thin-skinned and couldn’t even properly reply.
“Ah, I brought him with us because I thought Xiao Luo Shi looked as if he really wanted to come.”
Yin Shi nonchalantly said, causing Luo Shi to immediately retort.
“As if I wanted to come! I just didn’t have anything to do!”
“But you said you bought your gift ages ago…”
“No way! I bought it just today!”
Lord Yin Shi, please stop trying to expose him, it’s unfair. Just empathize a bit with his thin skin.
“It’s really great that you were able to come.”
Yue Tui looked extremely delighted. Indeed, the more the merrier when friends gather.
By now, the sky had begun to darken. After the last traces of the sun’s presence had faded, the moon rose into the heavens illuminating the evening sky.
Everyone sat down on the grass. The comfortable breeze and fresh air created a nice ambiance. Since even the moon had come out by now, it was naturally already dinnertime. Under Bi Rou’s lead, everyone started to reveal the dishes they’d prepared and braced for inspection.
“I made sandwiches! This is a light and convenient food in Western City; I’m sure none of you have eaten these before, right?”
The first one to show off food for everyone to see was Bi Rou who had made normal-looking sandwiches that seemed perfectly harmless. When Fan Tong saw this, he immediately felt remorse for not having thought of that himself.
Sandwiches! Sandwiches, such simple things! All you have to do is stack all the ingredients on top of one another and there’s no issue of it tasting good or bad, plus anyone can make them. Why did we give ourselves headaches by spending so much time cooking food?!
“Ah, I have indeed never seen them before. Xiao Rou, you really are so perfect.”
Simply being able to make sandwiches means they are perfect? Lord Yin Shi, I think your standards are way too low.
“Really? Am I ready to marry now?”
Being able to make sandwiches means you’re ready to marry? Do you think being a housewife is that easy?
“Ah, of course you can! Xiao Rou, do you want to marry someone? If you want to marry, I’ll take you as my wife.”
Someone help and please drag them away, preferable to the ends of the earth where they can disappear forever and not discuss marriage here!
“Oh? I’m so happy! But, but…”
The strange thing was that Bi Rou didn’t seem to immediately reply in joy, and instead began to hesitate after an initial brief flash of delight.
“You’re not the one she wants to marry.”
Ling Shi coldly stated while drinking some tea that he had brought for everyone.
“Huh! What! Xiao Rou, don’t you like me?”
Lalala~ Just please break up──stop blinding us with your lovey-dovey acts──
Fan Tong felt like his own jerk side was indeed very hard to deal with since saying anything unpleasant could result in him being called lowly. However, as he was the type who would never get a chance to date, he felt that feeling disdain upon seeing a sight like this was inevitable.
“I like you! But, but…”
But what? Could it be that you’re a guy as well?
Fan Tong made some conjectures on his own. After witnessing the strange situation with Zhu Sha, he felt that even if Bi Rou did suddenly say she wasn’t a girl, he wouldn’t be surprised.
However, a long while passed and Bi Rou was still unable to explain. Yin Shi seemed somewhat hurt, and turned around to start drawing circles in a corner. Everyone quickly began to continue displaying their dishes so that the atmosphere wouldn’t die.
The next person to go was Luo Shi. Although he insisted that he had only decided to come last minute and had been dragged by Yin Shi, he had still prepared a dish. In addition, it seemed like he’d put in a lot of effort in making tofu, which made it even harder for anyone to believe his claims.
“So Xiao Luo Shi also knows how to cook? It looks pretty good.”
In reality, rich people like them could actually just buy pre-made food or ask someone else to prepare it for them, it wasn’t like anyone would be able to tell. However, Fan Tong was sure that Luo Shi had made it personally since Luo Shi was a very hard-working person, and wouldn’t choose any lazy alternatives.
“This tofu looks like it would take quite a bit of time to make, definitely at least two hours.”
Ling Shi judged with experienced eyes.
Oh, Luo Shi, just confess that you decided to come ages ago. Perhaps you even started making it yesterday and failed several times before producing something you were satisfied with…
“At the very least, I’ve tried it and it should be ok, so just eat it.”
Luo Shi modestly said. Although he feigned an air of indifference, his face still failed him and reddened a bit.
Your skin really is so very thin…
Yin Shi’s turn was next. When he took out his dish, nearly everyone’s eyes popped out.
“What… what is that…”
Fan Tong couldn’t help but utter these words, unable to restrain his panic.
“Ah, this? Mm… I guess it’s a failure because I didn’t have enough ingredients. I wasn’t able to make what I really wanted to, but it’s something like gratin.”
What do you mean you guess you failed! Did you even try to make this properly? Not enough ingredients? If there aren’t enough ingredients, you can’t use that as replacement can you? Why is there the base of a goblet poking out? And that’s clearly some pieces of porcelain on the surface! What exactly are you trying to make us eat, is that even edible? Gratin? Porcelain gratin? Glass shard gratin?
Please try eating it yourself first…
“Yin, do you really know what food is?”
Ling Shi asked Yin Shi with a smile, but while that smile was extremely beautiful it also had a harshness behind it.
“Huh? Are you talking about the goblet, bell, pearls, ring, porcelain fragments, and glass powder? Those are just ornaments. Don’t think that the shiny glass pieces look pretty on top?”
…So there were actually so many terrifying things in it. And there’s just enough for each person to get some? You’re really too considerate.
Fan Tong firmly agreed with the impression that “Lord Yin Shi really is an idiot.”
“Can you tell me what else you put in there aside from those ‘ornaments’?”
Lord Ling Shi’s smile is turning more and more scary. You should really give at least one answer that will satisfy him.
“Ah, actually I wasn’t really able to stuff anything else in after putting all those ornaments, so I just covered the mix and baked it.”
You’re doomed, Lord Yin Shi.
“…I demand you to eat that entire thing by yourself right now.”
“Ah! Why! Is there something wrong with it? I think it’s pretty cool! Xiao Rou, do you think this would taste bad?”
Yin Shi, who had just suffered a blow from his companion, turned his hopes onto his lover.
As expected, you can’t answer huh. You need to think carefully; if you say it looks good, then you might have to eat it with him as a lover’s meal. Can true love really endure the test of eating broken glass?
“It… it shouldn’t be that bad…”
Wow, have you mentally prepared yourself to jump into hell and stay there for all eternity?
“That’s right! I feel that way too!”
Yin Shi grabbed a spoon and ate a bit, seemingly unable to sense any abnormality.
“Xiao Rou, do you want to try a mouthful too?”
Yin Shi brought his dish over to Bi Rou. Her face was somewhat ashen, as if she was facing a test of her love, but she still made an effort to pick up the spoon and eat a mouthful.
“How is it? Is it good?”
Bi Rou replied with tear-filled eyes. Those definitely were not tears of delight at its deliciousness.
Ling Shi seemed somewhat unable to continue watching and turned away with a sigh.
You’re really brave. I’ve changed my opinion of you two; you guys should just do whatever you want.
But if you dared to even eat glass for him, why aren’t you willing to marry Yin Shi?
Also, Lord Ling Shi, you’re really heartless to not even try to stop her. Don’t tell me that you also wanted to see how solid Bi Rou’s feelings are, like I did?
I’m really starting to believe that this New Year’s gathering is supposed to be a convention to administer punishment, or some kind of punishment game if we have to eat those kinds of things…
Fan Tong and Yue Tui went next. After Yue Tui stated that they’d prepared the dish together he brought the basket up and took away the cloth on top.
Although everyone didn’t stare blankly at it the same way Fan Tong had, they still froze.
Simply put, it looked like some fruit. However, these were fruit that had been processed.
There were unbelievably thick slices arranged at the bottom. Some of the fruit had been transformed into a beautiful display after the middle had been carved out. In the center of the dish were fruit-carved flowers that could only be achieved by amazing skill with the blade. The entire appearance was extremely pleasing to the eye, but rather than food, it seemed more like an art masterpiece.
“Oh… it’d kind of be a shame to eat this.”
Bi Rou expressed everyone else’s thoughts, excluding Yin Shi. Ling Shi speculated that it was probably because Yin Shi had been born with a lack of appreciation towards beauty, to the point where it was doubtful if he could even distinguish a beautiful woman from an ugly one.
Although this dish was clearly prepared with sincerity, Luo Shi couldn’t help but question:
“Yue Tui, you said you did this with Fan Tong… what exactly did Fan Tong do?”
Very good, you’ve asked the central point.
It’s true that one could tell Yue Tui did it with a single glance. With my clumsiness, how could I ever help…
This lie was one that Yue Tui had to justify. Fan Tong himself had absolutely no idea how to. Yue Tui struggled to smile and replied:
Oh, the platter…brilliant answer! If only your smile was a bit more genuine…
One could tell from Yue Tui’s expression that it wasn’t the truth, but asking any further would just put Yue Tui in a difficult spot. Nobody could bear bullying Yue Tui for being a good kid that was trying to help the shameless Fan Tong cover the reality of him not having a dish prepared, so nobody pursued the topic any further.
The last person remaining was Ling Shi. As the only expert at cooking, the dish he presented obviously smelled, looked, and tasted great. Preparing a dish himself was a piece of cake to him. Plus, he’d anticipated that nobody else would be able to really provide any decent food, so he had specially prepared a bit more. The amount he had was enough to fill everyone’s hunger tonight. When Fan Tong saw Ling Shi pull out different food one after another, he couldn’t help but feel extremely grateful.
It’s really great that we have Lord Ling Shi! As long as we bring him whenever we go out, everything will be okay!
Of course, Yin Shi was the only one who could make Ling Shi go outside. Fan Tong knew this was something he’d never be able to do.
“The dishes are all done, let’s all start eating──”
As long as they ignored Yin Shi’s weird gratin, all the other dishes were generally accepted. Thus, everyone began to move their chopsticks towards the food they wanted.
Most of them went for Ling Shi’s dishes, Luo Shi’s tofu, and Bi Rou’s sandwiches. As for Yue Tui’s dish, that was fruit meant for dessert, so they would naturally eat it later.
Although Fan Tong was indulging himself with the great food, he noticed that Yin Shi, Ling Shi, and Bi Rou didn’t really eat. At a meal like this with everyone gathered together, it was very easy to notice that they didn’t touch the food. Even Luo Shi found this strange.
“Are you guys not eating? There’s enough food.”
“Ah, but, I’m not hungry.”
This was Yin Shi’s reply.
So, Lord Yin Shi, you actually ran off to eat somewhere else before coming here?
“I… just ate Yin Shi’s gratin.”
After Bi Rou gave her explanation, everyone else seemed to empathize with her lack of appetite.
Although it was just a small bite, I’m sure it was an extremely uncomfortable experience, right?
“I don’t have any interest in eating the food I made myself.”
Ling Shi replied, then looked over at the sandwiches Bi Rou had prepared and smiled.
“However, I must try some of what Xiao Rou made to cheer her on.”
Lord Ling Shi, it’s really a shame that you don’t go out and try to catch some girls. One can only say that your appearance is to blame.
“Ah! What! As if I’d let you eat any. All of the remaining sandwiches are mine!”
When Yin Shi heard Ling Shi’s words he grabbed all the sandwiches away before Ling Shi had reached out for one, clearly not letting anyone else touch them.
His jealousy is really a bit overboard.
Or maybe it could be called a desire for exclusive treatment? A common problem among men.
But even if you do that, Bi Rou won’t ever grab your gratin and say “This is mine, nobody else can eat it.”
“Would you not waste food? You can’t even finish them. Hand over the sandwiches.”
In short, the sandwiches were seized by Yin Shi. Who knew if he was planning on bringing them back and offering them as sacrifices or something. Either way, even without the sandwiches, there was still enough food. Thus, everyone just let him be.
After eating, it was time for the next highlight: the gift exchange.
Since everyone had decided to celebrate the New Year the Western way, and the only one that seemed to really know how to do that was Bi Rou, everyone followed her words.
“I’ve prepared lots, everyone draw one!”
Bi Rou had folded some pieces of paper and held them in her hand, waiting for each person to draw. However, Yin Shi didn’t seem to understand the point.
“Ah, Xiao Rou, why are we drawing lots?”
“Huh? To decide who gets whose gift. You have to give your present to the person you draw…”
“What! I thought we were just giving the gift to whoever we wanted!”
At this moment, Yin Shi began to panic.
Can you at least try to think? Did you think that exchanging gifts was like exchanging diaries? If everyone gave gifts to whoever they wanted, wouldn’t it be extremely awkward if someone didn’t get any?
“Nope, we have to follow the rules. In addition, there’s one added rule.”
Bi Rou smiled widely, clearly excited to announce this rule.
“When you give your gift away, you have to hug the one you drew and give them a kiss to express your enthusiasm and good will!”
When Bi Rou announced this, Fan Tong felt his facial expression twist, and his stomach began to churn.
Miss, why do you look so happy about this? Regardless of whether you’re kissing or hugging the other person, if you aren’t doing it to Lord Yin Shi, won’t you be the one to suffer? You’re the only girl, you know.
If I draw Lord Ling Shi, does that mean I should go back and brag to Mi Zhong about it? …No, I’d probably be beaten up to pulp if I did that…
“Since when did such rules exist!”
Yue Tui asked in horror and shock. He probably didn’t really want to get very intimate with another person.
“This is a tradition in Western City”
Bi Rou blinked her eyes as if this was obvious.
Sigh, I feel like drawing lots like this is extremely stressful. If I draw the wrong person, the situation could turn very scary…
“Alright, who wants to go first?”
Yin Shi was still as energetic as before. Perhaps he felt that choosing any remaining lots after someone else had picked meant that his fate was partially decided by someone else. As the proverb said, if one wants to die, they should die by their own hands.
He drew a lot, and everyone else waited for the result. He opened the paper slip and read out the name with slight confusion.
“Fan…Tong? Who’s that?”
Oi! That can’t be!
Not only, not only is there a problem with the fact that you still don’t remember a name as simple as mine, why would I be chosen by you! This joke is too much, isn’t it?
“Ah! It’s you?”
After Yin Shi realized Fan Tong was ‘the mop’s owner’ he seemed unwilling.
“If it were Xiao Luo Shi, it would still be okay! But my arms will not hold a man! Xiao Rou!”
What are you trying to say, do you think I want to be held by a man? Also, it’s okay as long as you don’t recognize Luo Shi as a man?
Luo Shi’s expression turned dark. It looked like this statement had really offended him.
“Yin Shi, you can’t. You have to follow the rules.”
Bi Rou had no intention of being lenient and insisted they both stick to the rules.
“Or how about this, if you don’t like the rule, we can change it to the receiver hugging and giving a kiss to the giver to express their gratitude. I’ll let you choose.”
…Both options sound uncomfortable. In addition, why are you letting him choose? Is my opinion so unimportant that I don’t even have the right to choose?
“Ah! No! It sounds horrible just thinking about it!”
Fan Tong felt like he was being resented, but he clearly didn’t want to accept this situation either.
“Just pretend he’s a woman and it’ll be extremely easy for you, won’t it?”
Ling Shi sarcastically remarked while sipping his tea, adopting an air of indifference.
“But he’s nothing like one!”
“Wait, easy if it’s a woman…?”
Bi Rou’s ears perked and immediately inquired about the keywords she’d caught.
“Those women that always come to Shen Wang Dian to see Yin Shi, obviously…”
“Ah! Ahhhh! No! That’s not true! Those women are there to visit Ling Shi!”
“I’m sorry, but typically speaking the people that come to Shen Wang Dian to see me are men.”
Lord Yin Si, just a second ago you were struggling to defame your friend’s name to clear your own name, and the next second you’re laughing heartily at your opposing side’s truthful assertion? Is that really okay?
“Whatever, can you just do it? We still have to continue the event.”
“I know, alright.”
Whoa! Wait a minute! Are you really doing it? Seriously?
Fan Tong was a bit scared, and frantically looked left and right. However, there was no way he would be able to run away in this situation. In the end, he could only let Yin Shi reach out to touch his shoulders and then give him a peck on his cheek.
“This counts as hugging and kissing right?”
Bi Rou pouted in slight disappointment.
Oi, what exactly do you want? Did you think that a passionate kiss with tongues intertwining was something two straight men would be able to accept?
It was also a Western City tradition to open the gift on the spot. As soon as Fan Tong unwrapped the present, his face immediately turned dark.
It’s… very adorable, pink woman’s clothing. If a cute girl was to receive this they’d definitely be very happy, but I’m not a cute girl arghhhhh!
“I originally thought we were giving gifts to whoever we wanted, ok? It was for Xiao Rou!”
Then Miss Bi Rou, it’s better for you to just take it. I really don’t want it. Although giving away a received gift is impolite, I’m sure neither of you would mind, right?
“Fan Tong, do you like it?”
Luo Shi took advantage of the situation to interject.
“Of course I like it…. ah!”
Luo Shi! You’re toying with me again!
By the time Fan Tong had realized he’d been tricked, Luo Shi had already hid himself in the back to snicker to himself.
Ahhh! Can you guys not look at me like that! I just misspoke there! Although people normally speak the truth when they misspeak, that’s not applicable to me! Luo Shi, you’d better remember this! I’m going to tell Yue Tui bad things about you!
“The receiver is the next person to draw lots, and this continues until the end.”
That meant it was Fan Tong’s turn to draw. Fan Tong didn’t object, and randomly reached out to grab a paper slip. The instant he unfolded it and read the name written, his face twitched.
Ugh, so I have to hug Luo Shi, give him a kiss, and then give my gift to him?
If it weren’t at this special gathering, there’d be a high chance I would be slapped by him and then called out for harassment, right?
“It’s Luo Shi. Go on, give your present!”
Luo Shi was also given a shock, and his expression turned ugly.
“Tsk, whatever, just come.”
Why must you make it sound like you’re generously offering to be a martyr?
Of course, Fan Tong wouldn’t go overboard. His ‘hug’ was really just the level of touching, and kissing was even less so; whether that touched skin or not was unknown, but it was done in a flash. Who cared about the details.
Luo Shi opened the gift. His expression didn’t particularly show any dislike for the calligraphed wooden plaque, and properly said thank you.
When Luo Shi then drew Yue Tui’s name, his expression completely changed. Fan Tong didn’t know how to even describe the subtle, complex look on Luo Shi’s face, but he was just waiting for an entertaining scene to unfold.
Luo Shi walked up to Yue Tui and seemed unable to act. Perhaps he didn’t even know what to say. It looked as if he was quickly turning into a stiff wooden sculpture. Since it seemed to be going nowhere, Yue Tui just went and hugged Luo Shi himself and pecked his face before thanking him and taking the gift with an overall extremely practiced manner.
Luo Shi’s gift was extremely useful, a pack of high quality Fu Zhou papers. However, Yue Tui excelled at everything but Fu Zhou, so giving it to him was basically a waste.
As for the respected Luo Shi that had turned into a human statue, he seemed to have petrified into stone after receiving Yue Tui’s hug. Who knew when he’d return to a functional state?
You’re clearly very happy, exactly how thin is your skin?
Next, to his unfortunate luck, Yue Tui drew Bi Rou.
Of course, the only one who would know this was unfortunate was Fan Tong, who was always with him. He felt that while Yue Tui had become as rigid as Luo Shi, Bi Rou was very happy.
“Oh, Yue Tui’s gift is for me? So happy~”
Oi, you already have Yin Shi, stop trying to get Yue Tui as well! Have you really not realized he dislikes you?
Because rejecting would make his thoughts too obvious and it was inappropriate for this kind of situation, Yue Tui smiled with great difficulty and gave Bi Rou a hug and a superficial peck. His gift was a small potted plant. Although Bi Rou said she’d take good care of it, Fan Tong felt that Yue Tui’s gaze towards Bi Rou turned colder after their hug.
There were two people left. Technically, there should’ve been a high chance of Bi Rou drawing Yin Shi, but she just had to draw Ling Shi. Although Yin Shi’s eyes grew wide in protest, he couldn’t change the reality.
“Wow, Xiao Rou is giving her gift to me? And she’s even going to hug and kiss me, not bad.”
Ling Shi glanced at Yin Shi, his tone complacent. His gaze seemed to be purposely baiting Yin Shi, and Yin Shi, being very simple-headed, became enraged.
“You old fart! You can’t take advantage of Xiao Rou like that!”
Really, Bi Rou, are you seriously going to hug another man in front of your lover? You’re not afraid of causing hostility between friends? The Western City must be very open-minded…
“There’s nothing wrong with her calling me Gege and hugging me, right? Xiao Rou, don’t you agree?”
There’s something very wrong, to the point where it could be called cheating.
“Mm, Yin Shi, don’t be mad, it’s no big deal…”
Bi Rou said before giving Ling Shi a big hug and kissing his face.
No big deal? The fact that you two hugged each other the tightest is no big deal? Lord Ling Shi, you must feel great. Is this what you would call neglecting your friends when in love?
However, Ling Shi quickly stopped smiling, and Yin Shi’s expression changed from green to gloomy; they realized that there was only one slip remaining and Ling Shi had yet to draw. In other words, Ling Shi’s gift was to be given to Yin Shi.
“Ahhh! Old man, get away from me! I don’t want to be hugged by you!”
“As if I want to! Do you think your body armor is soft?”
“Get away, get away, get away! I don’t want your gift! Shoo!”
“I would prefer to give it to the guards in front of Shen Wang Dian over you, but this is a rule that we have to follow, don’t we?”
Yin Shi refused to submit even unto death. When Ling Shi hugged him with an expression of loathing and his lips brushed against Yin Shi’s face, Yin Shi had an expression of extreme disgust. It was an extremely displeasing experience for the both of them…
Ling Shi’s gift was just a different approach to Luo Shi’s. While Luo Shi had given away blank Fu Zhou, Ling Shi had given away already drawn Fu Zhou that could be used immediately. It was a pity that giving it to Yin Shi was just a waste, as he could already draw the charms, rendering the gift useless.
After the gift exchange was completed, everyone sat on the grass and chatted. Occasionally, they’d spot a shooting star and would hurriedly make a wish.
Fan Tong had once heard that any wishes made on a shooting star would come true, so he couldn’t help but get excited by the sight of shooting stars streaking across the sky. Thus, when he caught one from the corner of his eye, he opened his mouth to make a wish.
“I hope that my debt will not disappear! The more the better!”
The shooting star disappeared into the horizon.
Both him and the others that had heard his wish couldn’t bring themselves to speak any further.
Eventually, everyone somewhat dispersed. Yue Tui, who wanted some peace and quiet, went to sit in another corner and would come back to the central area only to retrieve tea once in a while.
“Bi Rou, why don’t you want to marry?”
Because he happened to pass by Bi Rou sitting alone next to the tea, Fan Tong couldn’t help but ask out of curiosity.
“I just feel that if Yin Shi knew my true face, he wouldn’t want me.”
Bi Rou sadly replied. Fan Tong couldn’t figure out why.
“Don’t tell me your true face is extremely beautiful?”
“I was beautiful in the first place… ah, are you being sarcastic and saying that my current appearance isn’t beautiful? How mean.”
No….. just forget it.
Because they couldn’t understand each other, Fan Tong gave up on asking and after filling his cup with tea, turned to walk to where Yue Tui was sitting.
Although Yue Tui probably wanted to enjoy his time quietly alone, Fan Tong still needed to do something, so he walked over and sat next to Yue Tui.
“Yue Tui, this…”
Fan Tong took out a wrapped box. Yue Tui looked at him in confusion.
“….? This is?”
Yue Tui grew even more confused.
“Isn’t the gift exchange… didn’t you draw Luo Shi? Your present… huh?”
You’re so lost. Really, is it that hard to understand?
“I bought this as an additional thing since I wanted to give you a present. I think you’ll like it. Ah, and I hope that you continue to give me advice this year.”
It’s really great that the curse didn’t do anything! Victory!
Yue Tui finally understood. His originally blank expression turned happy, and he immediately opened the present to discover something he’d never seen before.
“This is a Thousand Grass Cylinder. If you look through there and turn it, you’ll see different images.”
Yue Tui immediately looked into the kaleidoscope like Fan Tong instructed and grew amazed. He then excitedly played around with it, seemingly enjoying the gift very much as some energy returned to his gaze. After playing for a bit, he remembered that Fan Tong was still next to him, and felt ashamed for having ignored his presence.
“Fan Tong, thank you for your gift, I really like it.”
You’re welcome, I used the money I borrowed from you to buy it.
“Mm, I’m going to go grab some food, you can keep looking at it.”
After Fan Tong left, Yue Tui looked at the kaleidoscope some more before finally putting it down and shifting his gaze back to the night sky as he had before.
His mood seemed to shift from endless loneliness to one of tranquility.
A distance away, he could hear the chatter of his friends. He could feel the chilly night breeze on his skin. He could smell the scent of fresh grass in the air. And he could see the never-ending night sky and the moon that slowly climbed its way up… nevertheless, he felt disconnected from the world.
He lifted his head to look up and murmured softly to himself:
“The current me can use these eyes and look up at the same starry sky you see…”
With the chattering and laughter in the background, the youth’s quiet words were faint and indistinct.
The name he uttered silently afterwards also vanished from his closed lips.
“He’d tell you that he only has a little calico kitten, not a Nian.” ─Ling Shi
“Return my kitten! Bastard!” ─Wei *** (To protect anonymity)
Upon hearing that the New Year was imminent and that the Eastern City had some special traditional activities planned, Fan Tong merely blinked his eyes, unable to react.
Who would’ve thought that Huan Shi also celebrates New Year’s? As expected, so long as you put your mind to it, you can find things you are familiar with even in a different world.
They had half a month’s time before the last day of the year arrived. To prepare for the New Year, they needed to clean the house, make some peace charms, and prepare their offerings… Basically, they had many things to do, especially the debt-ridden Fan Tong, who had once again been enlisted for work in order to pay off his debt.
Since receiving the grass green tassel up until now, Fan Tong still owed the Eastern City 250 strings of money after deducting the sum of his salary for the month and his wages from his part time jobs. And this was even after he’d borrowed money from Yue Tui. Like usual, both of them were hungry and penniless.
Zhu Sha had some money saved up, but he obviously wouldn’t treat them to meals, so they had to make do with public rations in the end. Upon hearing that the public rations would be different during the New Year’s period, Fan Tong couldn’t help but be a little excited.
Speaking of which, Yue Tui hadn’t demanded any compensation fees from Yin Shi yet, which bothered Fan Tong for a long time. For someone rich like Yin Shi, Fan Tong felt that it wouldn’t be too extreme to scam some money out of him. But the one who’d died wasn’t him, and Yue Tui had already made his decision, so Fan Tong couldn’t say anything.
If Yue Tui could extort some compensation money out of Yin Shi, we’d be living comfortable lives─
Fan Tong knew that it wasn’t good to have a “If Yue Tui had money he would definitely take care of me so Yue Tui’s money is closely related to me” mentality, but not thinking that way was easier said than done. In the end, principles were worthless in the face of poverty.
As for the “Seal Chen Yue” matter, he was still feeling glum about it.
He had tried to discuss it with Yue Tui before, but he’d given up after forcing out two unintelligible and reversed sentences. Regardless, he wasn’t in any rush; he could wait until Yue Tui could read the Eastern City’s language before using writing to communicate. This would make the explanation clearer. After taking some classes, Yue Tui could now understand nearly half of the Eastern City’s language. Fan Tong believed that the day he could use writing to communicate with Yue Tui would soon arrive. New Residents all had plenty of time, he could wait.
Ever since being promoted to a grass green tassel, Fan Tong’s growth had stagnated. He hadn’t advanced the slightest bit towards a dark green tassel.
It wasn’t that he didn’t want to be promoted, but rather that he’d given up after learning that he had to pass the Wu Shu Tractor Teacher’s test in order to rise to a dark green tassel.
Despite carrying a grass green tassel, he only had the ability of a white tassel. How could he pass the test? He’d probably end up being toyed with for a while before being marked as a failure.
While the condition for promotion was very difficult for Fan Tong, it wasn’t the case for the others. Compared to gathering goods, passing the Tractor Teacher’s test was evidently much easier. Thus, Yue Tui, Bi Rou, and Zhu Sha were all dark green tassels now.
Zhu Sha should’ve passed the test through the normal route. As for Bi Rou, Fan Tong would never know if she had used her beauty as a trap, or if she’d used her connections with “high-level” people to help her pass. Yue Tui was the only one whose circumstances he could ask about, so when Yue Tui came home with a dark green tassel, Fan Tong immediately rushed over.
“How was it? Did you beat up that Tractor Teacher until he was half dead?”
If he personally had that kind of strength, he would probably use the promotion as an excuse to get revenge.
“Teacher didn’t let me make a move. He just directly promoted me…” Yue Tui replied with a wry smile.
That Tractor Teacher didn’t even give people a chance to take revenge. He was indeed a devious man. Fan Tong suddenly wondered if he was related to Mi Zhong.
Being promoted to a dark green tassel proved to be troublesome for Yue Tui; the number of people seeking to duel him had greatly increased now that grass green tassels could challenge him as well. The number of times he was stopped while walking outside increased along with the number of challengers. Even watching from the sidelines, Fan Tong found it a bit annoying.
“Yue Tui, do you want to try actually killing some of them? That way, the number of people who come looking for trouble will increase.”
He meant to say that after killing a few, the rest of the challengers would be intimidated and disappear. However, his words had been reversed once more.
“It’s exactly because I feel that killing them could bring about greater trouble that I have some qualms about it…”
Somehow, Yue Tui was able to continue the idea from his reversed words, leaving Fan Tong speechless.
In short, their lives had gotten busier because it was almost New Year’s. Yue Tui hadn’t forgotten his promise, and accompanied Fan Tong to work. Fan Tong was touched by the gesture, and decided that he would definitely repay Yue Tui if he had a chance in his next life.
As for why not in this lifetime… It was obviously because Yue Tui was way better than him in every aspect. There was no way he’d find any opportunity to repay Yue Tui, no matter how much he searched…
“Yue Tui, Fan Tong!”
On the first day of New Year’s preparations, Bi Rou called to the two of them just as they were about to head out to work.
“Something wrong?” Yue Tui turned around, polite yet indifferent.
I say, Yue Tui, exactly what do you have against Bi Rou? Just say it straight out. What kind of man looks at a beautiful woman with that kind of expression? Even if the beauty has hurt you before, you shouldn’t be like this.
Ah! Did something happen between you and Zhu Sha without me knowing? If that’s the case, I can understand. Zhu Sha seems like the jealous type whether if he were a man or a woman. If you were caught cheating, it would be disastrous… But is that really the case? Probably not, right?
“Do you want to celebrate the New Year together? Yin Shi, Ling Shi-dage, and I already agreed to celebrate together. If everyone comes, it’ll be more lively.”
Have we already become the type of people who do everything together?
Fan Tong was a bit perplexed. Why did it sound perfectly normal to him to celebrate the New Year with Lord Yin Shi and Long Ling Shi? This shouldn’t be normal at all, right?
“I don’t care, ask Fan Tong.”
Yue Tui didn’t look very interested, and shoved the question at Fan Tong.
“Huh? I don’t care either…”
If he said “Sure,” it might be twisted to “No.” But if he said “No,” it might not be twisted to “Sure.” In the end, Fan Tong chose a reply that would be harder to mix up.
“Then it’s agreed! We’ll celebrate together!”
Since it didn’t matter to them, Bi Rou naturally settled it herself. They’d assumed that she would let them go after agreeing, but she ended up dragging them over and discussing everything related to the event in one go, like where and how they would celebrate.
Of course, this kind of thing couldn’t be decided by a single person alone, so Bi Rou requested that they open their communication charms in order to discuss the New Year’s arrangements with Yin Shi and Ling Shi.
“Ah, Xiao Yue and the mop’s master are going to celebrate the New Year with us? Then what about Xiao Zhu?”
Stop saying “the mop’s master”. I don’t even know how to retort anymore.
“We haven’t asked Zhu Sha yet,” Yue Tui replied simply.
Lord Ling Shi coughed and said that he was very busy and didn’t have time to waste. Hearing that, they went straight to the main topic.
“How do you guys want to celebrate?”
When Bi Rou asked this, Fan Tong chose to stay silent. Because he’d been alone in his original world, he’d always just stayed home during New Year’s. Sometimes, he’d even forget to buy food beforehand, and end up running out of food because all the shops were closed… He didn’t think this sort of experience was worth referencing. Anyone who wanted to celebrate the New Year that way surely had mental problems.
“I don’t really have any experience…” Yue Tui said. It was possible that he’d lived in a country that didn’t celebrate New Year’s, so not having any experience was normal.
“I normally stay by Ying’s side and organize her matters. When I don’t have any work to do, I just stay in my room.” This was Ling Shi’s response. It seemed like the New Year was the same as any other day for him, judging by the things he did.
“Ah… New Year’s celebrations are mostly the same every year. I’ve already celebrated it for many years, and it’s boring to death. Xiao Rou, how do you guys celebrate where you are from? Tell us.”
Yin Shi clearly felt that celebrations for the New Year were always the same routine over and over. He was fed up with it, and didn’t look forward to it at all. Because he’d asked, Bi Rou began to talk about the Western City’s traditions.
“Hmm, I’ve never celebrated with them… But, people in the Western City normally gather in small groups to exchange gifts and each person that attends must bring a handmade dish. Sometimes they choose a gathering place indoors and sometimes it’s outdoors. That’s basically it.”
When Bi Rou finished speaking, Yin Shi excitedly chimed in, “Ah, that seems really unique! We should celebrate this year using the Western City’s customs!”
Lord Yin Shi, you’re joking, right? Who even has the money to buy gifts? Can I gift wrap the mop and use that as a present? Even if it was worth two hundred strings, who would be happy to receive that kind of gift? You’re the only one who would want it, right?
“Don’t be ridiculous, can you even cook?” Ling Shi mocked Yin Shi with contempt. At the same time, Fan Tong felt as if he’d been stabbed too.
That’s right, if we really need to provide handmade dishes, then I can only force everyone to accept my scary cooking skills… I can cook a strange type of porridge, but I can’t afford ingredients anyways. Would it be ok if I just boiled the public rations and arranged it in a creative way?
“If I can’t cook, I can learn! I don’t believe that there’s something you can do that I can’t learn!”
Lord Yin Shi, your battle spirit is astounding. Exactly how many dishes will be edible at this New Year’s gathering?
“How well you cook doesn’t matter, it’s your warm feelings that are the most important.” Bi Rou was technically correct, but in the end, Fan Tong still wanted to eat normal dishes.
“We don’t have the money to buy any ingredients…” Yue Tui awkwardly stated their predicament, but it clearly wasn’t a good enough excuse for Bi Rou.
“Just tell me what ingredients you want! I can help you buy them, it’s not a problem.” Bi Rou said generously, rendering Yue Tui silent.
You obviously don’t have a problem! You have three thousand strings in savings…
“Then it’s decided!”
“You guys will need to take care of the presents yourselves, but if it’s really difficult, you can come find me and I’ll lend you money.”
After the discussion was finished, they dispersed.
Fan Tong felt greatly pressured by what they’d decided on during their discussion.
Why do I feel like we’ve been dragged into an event only upper-class rich people can afford to attend?
For today’s work, Fan Tong and Yue Tui were responsible for assisting in the production of the special foods given to New Residents during the New Year’s period. Fan Tong was excited to learn that he’d be able to find out what the special foods were in advance. However, he felt uneasy at the thought of giving away the food he’d personally made; whoever received the food from him would be particularly unlucky.
His selfishness then kicked in and Fan Tong decided that it’d be fine as long as he wasn’t the one on the receiving end. Besides, among the people here helping out, there were bound to be some as clumsy as him. He suspected that after witnessing the creation process, he might not actually want to eat the special public rations on New Year’s Day.
Because the two of them had arrived a bit early, Fan Tong started chatting with Yue Tui while they were waiting for the person in charge to arrive.
“Yue Tui, you always seem super happy whenever you see Bi Rou. Your attitude towards her is also especially cordial. Is there any particular reason?”
Oh, I meant to say that you never seem excited, and that you also treat her especially coldly. I had no intention of sounding sarcastic…
“…Huh? Happy? Cordial?” Yue Tui’s expression slackened.
You can just say that you think I’m blind, it’s all right…
“I mean, you seem really cold to her. Why is that?”
As if God had heard Fan Tong’s pleas, he was finally able to say the correct sentence. But Yue Tui fell into a long silence at his question.
Why, why won’t you speak? If you don’t want to tell me, you can just say that there isn’t a particular reason. Although I’m really curious and that kind of answer wouldn’t satisfy me, I would at least understand what you mean. Why are you just staying silent?
“Fan Tong…” Yue Tui said after a long silence. However, he didn’t directly answer the question. “If you were killed by someone, and then one day you came across them again, what would you do?”
Fan Tong was a bit shocked by the sudden question, but judging from Yue Tui’s serious and heavy atmosphere, he knew that this was a question that couldn’t be answered casually.
Bi Rou killed Yue Tui? That can’t be, right? Wait, is Yue Tui also someone from this world? Ah? Oh? Huh?
“No.” Yue Tui knew what Fan Tong was thinking, and shook his head at Fan Tong’s guess. “I just want to know what would you do. I feel… A bit lost.”
Oh, as long as Bi Rou wasn’t the killer. If one of my friends killed another one of my friends, I really wouldn’t know what to do. Then again, what are you at loss for? Are you thinking about your wounds and nightmares again?
“Fan Tong, can you tell me what you would do?”
Seeing Yue Tui’s serious expression, Fan Tong felt that it would be wrong if he didn’t give a thoughtful reply. He imagined himself encountering someone who had killed him and replied, “I would first point at that genius and praise him greatly. I would then gently caress his vital points and not let him go until I’ve finished expressing my happiness. Essentially, I would make him wish for death.”
While Fan Tong was speaking, he felt as if a cold wind was blowing through him while a crow cawed awkwardly in the background. To his expectations, Yue Tui’s expression became extremely strange.
“Fan Tong, your thoughts are…very unique. However, I don’t think that’s a good idea…” Yue Tui forced out after a long silence.
You don’t have to force yourself to admonish me. Also, please, can’t you figure out that I misspoke? And are you saying that it’s not a good idea because my personality is twisted or because it would be bad for the person on the receiving end?
Seeing that Fan Tong didn’t reply, Yue Tui lowered his head awkwardly. “I’m sorry, I’d probably asked the wrong question…”
Don’t be like this! Don’t just apologize when you don’t understand the reply to your question! I was saying that I would point at the scum and curse him to the heavens. I would then ruthlessly beat him up by striking all his vital points. I wouldn’t let him go until I’d finished expressing my fury and make him wish for death. This is clearly a normal reply, isn’t it?
“Yue, Tui, then what about you?”
Fan Tong gave up on the idea of trying to reverse the horrible image he’d just given himself. More accurately, he’d lost hope on opening his mouth ages ago. He didn’t care about his image at all, it was completely beyond saving…
Yue Tui hadn’t imagined that Fan Tong would continue the topic. Faced with his own question, Yue Tui frowned, seemingly not sure of how to answer.
Fan Tong might have just used any stranger as his murderer, but Yue Tui knew the identity of his killer. Due to the different circumstances, Yue Tui didn’t quite know how to answer.
“Yue Tui, are you contemplating how you would repay your gratitude towards them or whether you would forgive them?”
I mean how you would take revenge, not repay some stupid gratitude, rotten curse…
Yue Tui looked at Fan Tong with confusion. It looked like he was unable to figure out the reasoning behind repaying gratitude.
“I think that you should inflict pain on the person who made you suffer, you shouldn’t be too kind.”
Thank god the sentence came out correctly. If it had turned into something like “bring joy to the person who made you suffer” or “inflict pain on the person who brings you joy”, Yue Tui would probably start wondering if I’m a masochist or a sadist…
Upon hearing Fan Tong, Yue Tui’s expression became somewhat complicated. Another long while passed before he answered, “I’m… Not actually a kind person.”
Fan Tong was shocked. In his mind, Yue Tui was a very kind-hearted child, so he didn’t understand why Yue Tui would describe himself as unkind.
Does that mean you’ve decided to enact revenge? That’s a good thing, bad people should die a rotten death, hahaha.
Hmm? Wait, he still hasn’t answered my original question. Exactly why don’t you like Bi Rou? Also, is it actually possible for you to meet your murderer again? Are you really someone originally from this world after all? I have so many questions, but I can’t even properly ask a single one…
“Fan Tong, it’s better if we talk about something else instead. What do you plan on doing for the presents?
Oi, oi! Don’t just switch topics! What about Bi Rou?!
“You still haven’t answered my question about Bi Rou…”
“…There really isn’t an issue between us, perhaps you’re being oversensitive. Why don’t we think about what to do with the gifts?”
Do you know how obvious you are why you lie? If you’re so clumsy at lying, then you might as well not even try. But I can tell you don’t want to answer my question, sigh.
In the end, they never discussed what to do about the gifts as the person in charge had arrived. The two of them, along with the other workers, all moved to another location.
Fan Tong didn’t see Mi Zhong among the crowd, which he was grateful for. There was finally a day when he could work without being together with Mi Zhong. Being with Yue Tui was always much better than being with Mi Zhong. He could be cheerful for the whole day without constantly being nagged at.
Despite working together with Yue Tui, Fan Tong’s expression darkened upon knowing what their job entailed.
The public rations being distributed on New Year’s Day were rice balls, so their job today was to make the rice balls.
Each person had to prepare 400 rice balls, and they weren’t allowed to go home until they finished.
The fact that each person had to make 400 rice balls was enough to make Fan Tong despair. While calculating how much time it would take in total if making one rice ball took two minutes without stopping in between, Fan Tong looked to the 40+ ingredients that they’d been given.
The person in charge had said that they were free to choose whatever fillings they wanted to put inside.
They wanted each person to make 400 rice balls, yet they refused to give them simpler ingredients. Wasn’t that just asking them to drop dead from exhaustion?
Fan Tong kind of wanted to just start wrapping plain rice balls without any fillings. Either way, it was impossible to tell from the outside what kind of filling the rice balls contained. Making plain rice balls would save him a lot of effort.
However, an evil idea started to wag its tail inside his head. With so many ingredients, it’d be easy to make some “creative” rice balls. He might not be able to see the expressions of the people eating them, but it was still amusing when he imagined how people would react upon eating something like a cilantro, chili pepper, and Chinese cinnamon combo rice ball…
Fan Tong was sure that quite a few people were thinking similar things. These public rations that were supposed to be handed out on New Year’s Day were actually terrifying bombs. He really needed to reconsider whether he wanted to stand in line and obtain a few.
But the next sentence the person in charge said dispelled all his notions of making “creative” rice balls. Aside from wages, they could also have 10 rice balls randomly chosen from among the ones they’d made to take back as food at the end of the day.
This was extra food. Although they could pick up more rice balls to eat on New Year’s Day, seeing as how there were 40 different fillings, Fan Tong didn’t trust others to make ones safe for consumption. It was good that he could choose from the ones he’d made himself; he would at least have a general idea of what was inside them.
Knowing that he would be eating ten out of the four hundred, Fan Tong decided to make large rice balls. He stuffed filling after filling into the abnormally large rice ball in his hand, to the point where Yue Tui stopped to stare at his outrageous actions.
“Fan Tong, you don’t need to make them so large, right?”
This is called being greedy, you wouldn’t understand.
“Yue Tui, yours are too large. You’re clearly benefiting from others’ expense.”
That’s not it! I’m saying that yours are too small and that you’re losing out that way.
“Huh? Are these too large? But yours are clearly larger than mine.”
Yue Tui looked at his own rice balls with surprise. He had thought that the ones he’d made were the perfect size.
Fan Tong replied with a few indistinct grunts before focusing once again on his rice balls, hoping that Yue Tui would ignore his words.
At first, Fan Tong tackled the rice balls with great ambition, but after finishing nearly 100 of them, he was starting to slack from impatience.
His plans for creative rice balls were starting to stir again. If he were going to make the rice balls randomly, then there wasn’t a need to make them particularly large either. Fan Tong discovered that it was much more fun to make them however he pleased. He hummed a little tune to himself while working, content enough that it didn’t even feel like he was working.
Although he was enjoying himself, the amount of time required to make 400 rice balls wasn’t going to decrease. In other words, an increase in mood didn’t translate to an increase in work efficiency. By the time he’d finished 300 rice balls, ten hours had passed since he’d started working. Although he could steal some rice and fillings as lunch and afternoon tea, he still had to hurry up so that he could go home and sleep.
While he had only completed 300, Yue Tui had already finished all 400 rice balls. Fan Tong didn’t know how well Yue Tui had made his, but it was a fact that Yue Tui had finished faster. Fortunately, Yue Tui wasn’t cold-hearted enough to just watch from the side while Fan Tong worked.
“Fan Tong, how many have you finished? I’m done, do you want me to help?”
Of course, Fan Tong was extremely grateful to have some help.
“Don’t mention it! I don’t need any help.”
Opening his mouth to reply was his greatest mistake.
As his pride kept him from trying to explain his misspoken words, Fan Tong could only continue making his rice balls alone. After another two hours, he finally finished.
“Here, these are your rice balls.”
After the two of them pushed their trolleys full of rice balls over to hand them in, they each received 10 of their own rice balls. Seeing that there weren’t any particularly large ones among the ten he’d received, Fan Tong’s expression soured. While walking back to their dorm, they tried out the results of their work today.
Fan Tong gathered up his courage and took a bite of his rice ball, at the first bite, Fan Tong felt as if he had won a prize. Of course, it was an atrocious prize. Out of curiosity, Yue Tui also tried a bite of Fan Tong’s rice ball, and made an ugly expression as well. At that moment, all of Fan Tong’s hopes were pinned on the rice balls Yue Tui had made.
Yue Tui wasn’t stingy. Since Fan Tong wanted to try one, Yue Tui passed a rice ball to him.
“Wow, Yue Tui, this rice ball of yours isn’t small, yet it’s so light… Ack!”
When Fan Tong bit down on Yue Tui’s small and sturdy rice ball, he cried out.
It’s rock hard!
Yue Tui! Exactly how much strength did you use to make these?! Is this really a rice ball anymore? I can’t even make a dent with my teeth! They’re so small, yet so heavy; how much rice did you compress together?
Do you have something against rice balls? Why would you knead them with so much strength?
“Is something wrong?”
Fan Tong didn’t try to be courteous and bluntly pointed out the core issue.
If he couldn’t even bite into it, then it was obviously inedible. Maybe they could use it as a throwing weapon. A shotput?
“What’s wrong with it?”
Yue Tui tried to take a bite himself and immediately made a face.
This is great. You don’t seem like a human in many aspects, but at least your teeth are still identical to the average person’s.
“It looks like…none of these are edible.” Yue Tui smiled awkwardly. Fan Tong then suggested a horrible idea, “Why don’t we try soaking it in water?”
That way, it could turn into the porridge he normally ate.
Otherwise, what could they do, leaving them like this would be a waste…
“Forget it, let’s just give them all to Zhu Sha.”
At Yue Tui’s suggestion, Fan Tong wanted to agree that it was a good idea. Zhu Sha could eat anything, so he definitely wouldn’t have an issue eating either Fan Tong’s strange tasting rice balls or Yue Tui’s steel-like ones.
Eventually, aside from the two they’d already bitten into, they gave the other eighteen rice balls to Zhu Sha as gifts. Zhu Sha was confused as to why he’d received so many rice balls, but he still accepted them with thanks.
During the New Year’s preparation period, Fan Tong and Yue Tui were busy working and earning money, while Bi Rou was happily spending the money that Yin Shi had given her to attend various New Year’s activities. The difference in how they’d spent their time only solidified Fan Tong’s belief that there was indeed a huge difference between people’s fates. Bi Rou’s were simply that of one blessed with great luck and fate; no matter what obstacles stood in her way, she could still avoid the disaster and live a happy life blessed with wealth. In comparison, Yue Tui seemed to lead a life with many obstacles, but Yue Tui’s features were too complex for Fan Tong to decipher in just one glance. If he had the chance, he felt that doing a palm or a character reading for Yue Tui might be a good idea. But then again, Yue Tui had already died, and using stuff from his previous life to determine the path of his current one didn’t seem very reliable
While they were diligently earning money, Zhu Sha was studying intently like a good student. He didn’t seem interested in moneymaking, and he’d rejected Bi Rou’s invitation to the New Year’s gathering because he thought cooking and preparing gifts was a pain. He was someone who lived in his own world and moved at his own pace.
“Should we invite Luo Shi?” Even amidst their busy schedule, Yue Tui was somehow still able to think of this.
“If you don’t want to invite him, then don’t. If you do, then go ahead.” Fan Tong didn’t care; besides, the gathering wasn’t his idea.
“Then I’ll try asking.” Yue Tui took out his communication charm and contacted Luo Shi. After exchanging a few words, he ended the connection with a regretful expression.
“How is it?”
“Luo Shi said he’s really busy over New Year’s and might not have time.”
Oh? Is he actually busy, or is he just declining out of embarrassment? Why didn’t you speak some more with him? Based on my experience, if you ask him a few more times, he’ll surrender and say he’s free. I think you gave up a bit too early…
“When are we working tomorrow?”
“Fan Tong, we don’t have work tomorrow.”
I know, I meant to ask about today…
“I mean, when do we work next year?”
Yue Tui looked at him strangely.
“We still don’t know about next year’s work. Have you already made arrangements or something?”
No! I’m… Ugh, I can’t say any of it properly…
“It’s about time for our work at Shen Dian Wang, we should leave.”
In the end, he still received the answer he’d been looking for. Only, the process made him feel dejected.
The day before the New Year’s gathering, they had to go to Shen Wang Dian and do some cleaning. Logically, there should be servants cleaning the palace, but it seemed that something had happened, leading to a shortage in the cleaning staff. Thus, they’d been hired to help.
Even after working hard to clean everything up until the Fourth Palace, they still hadn’t encountered Yin Shi and the others. Perhaps they knew that random people were coming to clean and had chosen to stay inside to avoid accidents or other troubles.
After cleaning out the Fourth Palace, the person in charge stopped them from advancing to the Fifth Palace.
“Her Majesty’s living quarters is ahead. There is no need to go over there; Her Majesty doesn’t like outsiders approaching it.”
Is that the case? Don’t tell me Lord Ling Shi cleans it out alone.
“But doesn’t Lord Hui Shi also live in the Fifth Palace?”
“Lord Luo Shi has been responsible for organizing people to clean out Lord Hui Shi’s living quarters these past years. We shouldn’t meddle.”
Hui Shi isn’t here anymore, but Luo Shi still goes to clean his quarters. I wonder if he should be called considerate…
It was already night by the time they’d finished cleaning. However, the next night was when the gathering was going to happen. If they didn’t come up with dishes or presents right now, they’d end up with nothing, which would be bad. Fan Tong and Yue Tui dragged their tired bodies around and racked their brains for ideas.
“Fan Tong, have you cooked before?”
“Yes, but it probably doesn’t count.”
The porridge that I make… Rather than calling it cooking, it’d probably more appropriate to call it a chemistry experiment.
“What should we do about tomorrow?”
What should we do? Even if you ask me, I don’t know either. Maybe salad?
“Should we…buy some ingredients and make rice balls?”
Did you forget that the rice balls you made were completely inedible? How many rice balls do you plan to sacrifice while you test out how much force you should be exerting?
“Either way, it should be fine as long we do it with good intentions. It doesn’t matter if it tastes disgusting or delicious, they’re different either way.”
“Disgusting and delicious are indeed different…”
Stop nitpicking at my wording… Or rather, stop making fun of me for constantly misspeaking…
At that moment, Fan Tong suddenly thought of a good idea. There was one other guy they could ask.
“Puhahaha, wake up. Do you know how to cook?”
Having fallen to the point where he was asking a mop how to cook, Fan Tong felt that he could be called a genius.
Yue Tui watched blankly as he pulled out Puhahaha. Who knew what he thought about Fan Tong’s actions.
“Huha… This horsetail whisk obviously cannot. A nobleman stays clear of the kitchen.”
Who’s a nobleman… Exactly how are you like one, please tell me.
“What, you’re really useless. You can’t even cook despite living so long.”
Not bad, my complaint wasn’t reversed. Otherwise, I’d be really annoyed…
“I don’t need to eat, why would I study cooking? I’m clearly a weapon, not a kitchen tool. Your request is unreasonable.”
Weren’t you half asleep before? Why are you suddenly speaking so clearly and fluently? Are you awake now?
“When outside, a weapon should help their master contend against an enemy. When at home, a weapon should act as the master’s capable wife. This is only right and proper!”
Huh? I’ve also started speaking clearly and fluently? Being able to speak two sentences in a row without any reversed words all of a sudden is a bit hard to accept.
“Hmph. This horsetail whisk doesn’t want to marry anyone, and even if I did, it wouldn’t be to you. Who would want to become your wife?”
What! You dare to hmph at me? Also, aren’t you forgetting that you’re male?
“The hell are you saying, I really want to marry you though.”
As expected, happy occasions never number more than two. My words were reversed again, and in the worst possible direction.
“…Ill fate, such an ill fate. After all this time, I haven’t been able to find a master I admired. Even after choosing one that barely seems decent, it turns out that all he does is flap his lips all day and assault me. He doesn’t even have any actual skills. Truly, why, oh why can’t an outstanding weapon like me find a master that is good enough to match me?”
All I did was misspeak, yet you prattle on and on about my bad qualities. Aren’t you going a little overboard? You belittle me while praising yourself. Do you think of yourself as the main character of some melodrama?
Fan Tong wanted to reason with Puhahaha, but Yue Tui suddenly called out his name with a peculiar expression.
I’m doomed. I didn’t ask for Puhahaha to speak out loud, so Yue Tui only heard what my words and not what that mop said… What kind of misunderstandings have formed this time?
“No matter how good a person’s relationship is with their weapon, it’s still best if you realize the difference in species. Even if you really like it, you shouldn’t think of it as a human that you can marry…”
Please don’t advise me so seriously with such a worried expression. I don’t, I really don’t have that kind of preference at all, okay? Moreover, do you not know that this thing is male?
“Did you hear that? Your friend is much more sensible than you. Don’t bother trying to delude yourself any further.”
I can’t believe you’re taking advantage of the misunderstanding to insult me more. Despicable!
“Just go back to sleep. I don’t want to talk to you anymore. I can’t deal with it.”
The frequency at which I can correctly talk to Puhahaha has increased recently. Does that mean our spirits are becoming interlinked?
“Fan Tong, you shouldn’t be too cold to your weapon just because you can’t marry it…”
In the end, after discussing the issue for a long time, they decided on some basic ingredients and requested for Bi Rou to buy them. They would wait until tomorrow to deal with it.
◎ Fan Tong’s Afterword
When I was really, really young, back when my parents were still healthy and alive, I celebrated New Year’s with them. My memories from when I was little are blurred now though. All I remember is that there were a lot of things we had to do, and it was both busy and lively. We would be so busy that everything blended together, and in the blink of an eye the New Year would already be gone. Everything would end, and everyone would return home.
Whenever it was time to say our goodbyes, I never wanted to leave. I’d always be crestfallen on the way home. After returning to our own house, the home I’d lived in for so long would suddenly feel cold. It was then that I realized that humans were truly social creatures. Upon separating from everyone else, one would truly feel lonesome.
Then again, one can only feel lonely after experiencing liveliness, right? Actually, when I was small, I lived with my parents and I never really felt that lonely. By the time I was truly alone, I’d already gotten used to it and it wasn’t unbearable anymore.
Don’t give me such a pitying look, I’ve never found myself pitiful. My father claimed himself as someone who had , and he had told us long ago that he would die the day I turned thirteen. He would emphasize that it had been decreed by fate, and that we shouldn’t feel too sad… I asked him why it had to be on my birthday, and his reply was that it would be easier to remember. If one’s father’s last day was the same day as their birthday, it would take less brain cells to remember. His reply had made me speechless.
After hearing something like that, I’d thought that my father was capable of choosing his own day of death, and had purposely chosen my birthday… I had such a a headstrong father who was determined to die on his own son’s birthday. But I can’t complain much, I still respected him very much. Before he died, he had taught all his skills to me, so that I could earn my living from the fortune-telling shop once he was gone. That way, he could pass on to another world at ease without worrying about me and my mother starving to death.
However, the fortune-telling shop didn’t do well, and only improved after I had been cursed by that woman… Another world… Ah! speaking of another world, my father couldn’t have come to Huan Shi too, right? Should I go find Luo Shi and ask him to check the residents list?
But he didn’t have any unfulfilled wishes when he’d died, the possibility doesn’t seem very high.
It’s probably best I don’t check.
If I really do find him, and then discover that my weak-limbed father had been living in this world for so long as a white tassel… That’s not something that can be solved by simply crying a few tears. It would be too sad!
No, Dad didn’t have any speech problems after all. Even if he were a modern man with no dreams like me, a person that couldn’t learn Shu Fa, he would at least be able to use Fu Zhou! With Dad’s aptitude, I’m sure he’d be able to become a red tassel without a problem! If that were the case, maybe I should find him, and ask him to help his debt-ridden son, and get some spending money…
But with my current condition, it’s possible that I’d call him “Mom” instead of “Dad” upon seeing him. Then he’d probably grab a broom and sweep me out the door while fiercely cursing at me.
Oh, I don’t even know if Dad really came here, yet I’m thinking so much. Aren’t I just getting upset over nothing?
Perhaps it’s because New Year’s has made me nostalgic… Sigh.
Proofreaders: Nannyn, Syrra
“An unreasonable ruler, a rotten society, foolish citizens…” – Yiye
“Yiye, how can you be so rude to His Majesty?” – Ya Mei Die
“…and incorrigible servants.” – Yiye
There were only two countries in Huan Shi. One of them, the Eastern City, faced the direction of the sunrise. The other, the Western City, looked at the Eastern City from afar, always greeting the sinking of the moon.
In contrast to the Eastern City’s architecture and its residents’ social structure, the Western City flaunted its magnificent and ornate fashion. Its atmosphere was unlike the silent air of mystery in the Eastern City.
The streets of the Western City were often lively only during daytime, and all activities tended to occur under sunlight. Soon after dark, not even open businesses could be found. At most, there were shops that required insider knowledge to find or shady businesses doing dishonest trades.
Aside from preventing businesses from running at night, the Western City also forbade people from loitering around in the streets after dark. If a resident was caught stepping out of their home, they would be taken back once found by the guards. This sort of restriction on the residents had existed for a long time. Initially, the reason for it was that the Emperor disliked people gathering and scheming at night about illegal activities. How many generations of Emperors ago this restriction was set, no more than a few people could really say.
If one had the will, they could still conspire in the daytime. It’s just that there would be more people during the day, and it’d be harder to hide from the public eye. Also, work and school were both carried out in the day. Most people who lived in the Western City would not have much free time in the daytime for other things. That’s why nighttime activities were restricted.
Logically, only guards would be strolling the streets at night. If someone received an urgent order from the government to leave at night, they would bring the appropriate documents to pass document check with the guards. The guards naturally recognized each other, so they would check all new faces they saw. It’s the law.
As for the one silently walking on the streets now, however, the guards wouldn’t dare do the usual check on him even if they had ten times more guts. Everyone agreed to just assume he was carrying out a governmental order. If they saw him, they’d just greet him from far away.
It didn’t matter whether he was actually out for a mission, bored and getting some fresh air, taking a stroll because he’s feeling unhappy, or even plotting to take down Englar – for their own safety, the guards only wanted to keep a safe distance away and not ask questions. Whose fault was it that the Magic Sword Guard had such a high social status and that Yiye himself carried a fearful air of power and attitude?
To Yiye, he did find it more comfortable that these people were too scared to approach him. It’d be best if they didn’t even say “Hello Lord Yiye.” Despite it being basic courtesy, being greeted constantly really annoyed him.
When it came to social relationships, he had utterly lacked them his entire life, and he had no plans to amend this. He enjoyed doing things alone and disliked being bound to any person or thing. Dealing with other people only irritated him.
As for why he had accepted the Young Emperor’s commendation to become a Magic Sword Guard, mostly it was because that old man at home kept nagging, telling him to honor the country. After meeting Ya Mei Die, he often suspected that the old man was actually Ya Mei Die’s father, not his, since the two of them had the exact same mental wiring. It was not even tangent to his own way of thinking.
Since that old man at home wasn’t even here anymore, Yiye was not going to be as obedient as he was before. As for whether he would get fed up with this job and resign, that would depend on how far his coworkers and supervisors pushed his limits.
His main reason for walking about in the streets at this time was to find Ya Mei Die. As for why Ya Mei Die would be out now… he didn’t want to know at all.
As for why he didn’t want to know, based on his instincts, it probably had to do with Englar again, whom he hated so much recently.
Technically, the Magic Sword Guards were the close subordinates of Englar, but in reality, ever since they saw Englar that first day they were hired, they’d never come in contact with Englar again. Englar never gave orders to them. Their usual work was only to come along as guards whenever he appeared in public –––the elders wouldn’t even let them know when it was the actual person on the seat instead of a body double again.
Yiye always felt like Englar and the elders had made loafers out of the Magic Sword Guards, whose jobs supposedly involved great responsibilities. This certainly wasn’t a good feeling, especially since none of the Magic Sword Guards were useless.
Every time they headed out together and he saw Englar decorated with the same three golden threads as himself, Yiye couldn’t help but sneer.
Why would Englar need the protection of the Magic Sword Guards? This system should only exist if the Emperor didn’t have power himself, right?
Englar didn’t need them. Even though they had never talked to each other and he could not tell what the Young Emperor was thinking, Yiye’s instinct told him such.
This was proven true five years ago. When an emergency came upon the Western City, when the Eastern City was about to break through the last bits of their army, the Magic Sword Guards were told to stay inside the city; yet, the person they were supposed to protect took up his sword and rushed straight into the battleground without wearing any armor.
It had ended with an overwhelming victory. That had also clarified one thing: Englar only needed himself. What guard or protective barrier? It was all a joke.
In the past, the elders had used the Emperor’s young age as a reason to hide his face from the public. For the supposed sake of safety, even if it was a holiday or a required ritual, they’d often have a substitute take his place. The cloth on Englar’s face also hid half his face, so the substitute only needed to have a similar vibe. The problem was that the Magic Sword Guards never knew who resembled whom.
The only thing they knew for sure was, the one who had gone out to battle five years ago was real. As for the rest, they wouldn’t know.
Actually, it was pretty odd for Englar to hide his eyes and brow with a piece of cloth. Some guessed that he was blind. Some joked this was to make it easier for the substitutes, so that their eye colors wouldn’t have to match…
These things weren’t that important anymore. If what had bothered Yiye before was the lack of contact with his superior-in-name or that he didn’t understand what kind of person Englar was, now it was because of his new “understanding.” This was a feeling that made him find never understanding much preferable.
He felt anger against a foolish ruler – what others might call dreams being crushed. Recently, Englar had appeared much more frequently, as though coming of age had led him to start taking power into his own hands. But as for some of his actions, though they could have been tests, let’s just say he’d wanted to make a fool of people. He would use his power to toy with his subordinates in order to show off his level of influence.
Yiye found that the Magic Sword Guards were among the people he toyed with. Though some believed he’s now becoming an adult, no one actually knew his real age. He had started doing some things that were outside of the elders’ decisions. For example, the task to pluck feathers last time was an order Yiye would never forget.
Receiving this sort of outrageous order was supposed to garner objection, yet he had to have an idiot of a partner who trusted the Emperor enough to die for him. Seeing that partner maddened Yiye all the more.
After Yiye had struck Ya Mei Die unconscious and brought him back that day, Ya Mei Die had still been flustered about being unable to carry out their order and had reprimanded Yiye with no restraint. Yiye had almost resorted to violence again so that Ya Mei Die would stop talking and Yiye could therefore achieve some peace and silence.
The reason why Yiye didn’t straight up obliterate Ya Mei Die was probably because of Ya Mei Die’s similarity to the old man who was no longer here. Even though Yiye didn’t like the other man, he would unconsciously let things pass and then become agitated again… It’s a terrible situation.
Winding through several passageways, Yiye finally saw a depressed Ya Mei Die on the streets and walked straight over. Ya Mei Die noticed him as soon as he approached and therefore looked in his direction.
“Yiye? Why are you here…”
“I should be asking what you’re doing here.”
Even though he did not want to know the reason why Ya Mei Die was here at all, as it’d only make him angry, Yiye still couldn’t help asking the question after seeing the person.
“You know as well. We’ve been back half a month now. His Majesty should know already, but he didn’t ask us about the task regarding the chicken feathers, and I’m too afraid to report back because we never finished our task…”
Don’t talk to me about the chicken feathers anymore––! Yiye’s face started to twitch.
“This half month, I’ve been trying to patch up the remainder, but it’s honestly so difficult to sneak into Ye Zhi without being caught. I went back and forth multiple times, but it’s still not enough to make a pillow. , so I wanted to roam the streets to see if anyone was selling Ye Zhi’s chicken feathers, but in the end…”
Yiye didn’t want to speak anymore. Ya Mei Die continued to blabber on by himself.
“In the end, it got too late and the stores closed. I walked around everywhere, and none of the stores were open. I was about to give up, but then you appeared.”
So what if the stores are closed? You’re a Magic Sword Guard. What’s wrong with booking the entire place with an order and looking at their stock?
Or have you also come to realize that using your authority to buy chicken feathers is a really embarrassing ordeal?
“Yiye, did you want to find me for something?”
No matter what, he had to take care of the matters he came here for, and so Yiye handed an envelope over from his pockets.
“I’m applying for a three-month vacation. Starting tomorrow. You go help me find someone to replace me.”
He didn’t even want to say “His Majesty” anymore. Ya Mei Die was dumbfounded for a moment before he realized something was not right.
“Wait! Three months? That long? And what about the worship ceremony tomorrow? You’re not planning on going?”
“No. That’s why I’m handing it over to you to pass on the word.”
“How can you be absent? We’re the Magic Sword Guards who are supposed to ensure His Majesty’s safety!”
“He’s so strong. Why would he need anyone’s protection?”
To be honest, Yiye’s feelings toward this so-called superior were very complicated.
On one hand, he felt useless staying, but on the other, he didn’t want to lower his head to someone weaker than himself. He wouldn’t be able to serve wholeheartedly.
Perhaps the latter made up a larger portion of his feelings, which had kept him on the job, at least until now?
Rather than acknowledging this person as his master, he’d much rather have a fight with him to see who’s stronger.
“Don’t say anything. No matter what you say, I won’t show up tomorrow. I’ve given my leave of absence to you. I’ll leave the rest to your judgement.”
His goal had been achieved, so Yiye didn’t want to dally any longer. Ignoring Ya Mei Die’s calls to his back, he easily made himself disappear with a magic spell and began his boring three-month vacation.
That’s right, a boring vacation. Even if he took a break, he had nothing else to do. It was a vacation he simply took to avoid events like this.
Boring was boring, but at least leaving this chaotic and messy place could give him some peace of mind.
The Western City held more than one type of worship ceremonies. Today, the ceremony would be held at the tomb of past emperors. As the ceremony was an event held by the royal family, the young emperor was naturally the star of the show; ordinary civilians were not allowed to participate.
The tomb of the past emperors resided outside the city limits, so the young emperor’s procession of carriages was required to leave the city. In contrast to the Eastern City where events were open to the welcoming public, in the Western City, the roads that the young emperor’s procession would take were closed off and restricted to unrelated personnel. The young emperor himself would be riding inside a carriage, concealing his face.
The protective measures could be considered excessively strict, but it’d already been this way for many years. The Western City’s residents had become mostly accustomed to the tradition. Even though the storeowners of stores located on closed-off roads bemoaned the lack of business, they did not have the power to object.
Originally, the residents of the city didn’t possess much love or respect for the young emperor. The war five years ago, however, had somewhat altered their impression of their ruler. After all, the young emperor had defended their country during the war, which was equivalent to protecting the livelihood and properties of the city’s citizens. The people of the Western City harbored grateful thoughts towards the emperor for his actions, but his recent behavior had caused those who’d fantasized about the rule of a wise emperor to thoroughly lose hope once again. The fact that the young emperor had refused to use his blood to heal the heavily injured Magic Sword Guards who had recently returned only made it worse.
In everyone’s hearts, the youthful emperor’s image had been transformed from mysterious and inscrutable to willful and heartless.
However, as mere citizens, they did not have the privilege of choosing their ruler; so despite their wishes, they could not exchange the current emperor for a better one.
The Western City’s imperial palace―where the emperor and the elders resided―was called the Sheng Xi Luo Gong. The palace was built exceptionally sturdy, a far cry from the intricate and ornate architectural style of the commercial district. The towering gray palace walls prevented people from peering inside. The palace was like a city within a city, standing alone and operating independently within the Western City. Outsiders were unable to interfere and were unaware of the ongoings inside. They could only use the occasional stories and rumors that had flowed outside to satisfy their curiosity.
The preparations for the march to the emperors’ tomb had begun in the morning. The young emperor, who would be performing the ceremonial rites, was required to bathe his body and change into simple white garments. The personnel who had been selected to accompany him also needed to prepare for their own tasks. Before the start of the procession, the entire palace was awash with an unusual hustle and bustle that contrasted against its normal cheerless image.
The imperial carriage had been waiting in the plaza in front of the palace gates for a while already. As the minutes and seconds passed by, people arrived one after another, waiting for all the preparations to be finished.
Ya Mei Die had been waiting beside the young emperor’s carriage for quite a while now. However, he was not the least bit impatient despite waiting so long. He knew the young emperor disliked waiting―he would much rather have everyone wait for him instead. Therefore, the emperor would never arrive early; he’d only make his appearance at the very last minute.
As the emperor’s subordinate, Ya Mei Die felt that waiting obediently was something he ought to do.
After waiting for another long while, Ya Mei Die finally noticed signs of activity at the back. The person he had been waiting for waded through a crowd of people and headed towards him. Looking at the emperor from afar, Ya Mei Die felt a glimmering of astonishment.
According to tradition, the young emperor should have been dressed all in white; however, his slightly slender figure was cloaked in dark red instead. Although the color couldn’t be called garish or vivid, his exquisite style of dress was still a far cry from the plain clothing required for the ceremony.
When the youth stood before him, Ya Mei Die dropped to one knee, enacting the courteous behavior of an emperor’s subject. Even though he believed there was a slight problem with the emperor’s clothing, he was in no position to criticize. It would be exceptionally disrespectful of him, and he would never permit himself to treat the emperor with disrespect.
“There’s no need for my vassal to be overly courteous. You may stand,” the youth who had a strip of white cloth wrapped around his eyes said gently.
Having received permission, Ya Mei Die stood promptly. He pulled out Yiye’s leave of absence letter.
“Your Majesty, this is Yiye’s leave of absence notification. Starting from today, he will be on leave for three months.”
The emperor took the letter and smiled faintly, with a hint of displeasure.
“Did he give himself a vacation? He didn’t even think it necessary to request permission first before leaving on his so-called vacation? What an arrogant Joker; has he even thought about how I would feel?”
“Your Majesty, please quell your anger… Yiye is not used to handling these kinds of matters. Your humble servant believes he had no ill intent.” Seeing that the emperor’s expression had gone cold, Ya Mei Die hurriedly explained for Yiye. Truthfully, he knew better than anyone else about Yiye’s intentions; Yiye’s ill intent had already advanced to the point of loathing.
“There’s no need to say any more. Is there anything else?”
The young emperor passed the letter to a nearby attendant, as if he wasn’t interested in knowing what the letter said.
“Your Majesty… The Sword Guard of Clubs’ injuries, would you…”
The five Magic Sword Guards were titled based on playing card suits. Yiye was Joker, Ya Mei Die was Hearts, and the one who’d broken his arm this time was Clubs.
“I believe I’ve explicitly refused already. Does my vassal have a bad memory? A soul-purging weapon had created that wound. Even if I were to save the Guard of Clubs, he would never return to normal. Then why waste my blood? If a Sword Guard is injured, I’ll just select another one. He’s not an irreplaceable existence,” the emperor replied indifferently. As if he didn’t want to linger on the topic anymore, he turned around to enter the carriage.
“Ah! Your Majesty! There is one more thing…”
Even though Ya Mei Die felt it was quite rude to flag down the emperor, he’d already brought everything with him, so he’d at least deliver it to the emperor and report the matter clearly.
“Your humble servant has brought a portion of the land chicken feathers Your Majesty previously instructed me to collect. Were these the items Your Majesty desired?”
He presented the emperor with an opened bag containing cleaned and sorted feathers. At Ya Mei Die’s words, the emperor halted his steps and turned around to face him. Due to the white cloth covering the emperor’s eyes, Ya Mei Die could not see his expression or guess at what he was thinking.
“So that’s what you wanted to tell me. I’d almost forgotten.”
As the youth spoke, he reached into the bag and grabbed a handful of feathers to fiddle with.
“It’s just that, I don’t really want them anymore.”
With a faint smile, he turned his hand over and loosened his clenched fingers. The airy feathers were blown away by the wind, floating about in every direction. Soon they lay scattered messily all over the ground.
“Seeing as you’ve collected all these feathers, you might as well pick them up and bring them inside the palace. Perhaps in the future a concubine will like them?”
The emperor boarded the carriage after speaking, leaving it to his attendant to close the door. Ya Mei Die was rooted in place by shock. Even after the emperor’s procession had left, he still didn’t know how to react.
“Lord Ya Mei Die, should we help you pick these up?”
Several maids responsible for cleaning the palace had witnessed the scene earlier. Only after seeing that the procession had left did they approach out of concern.
“Mm… Please accept my sincere thanks.”
If Yiye had seen the young emperor humiliate Ya Mei Die like this, he would probably sneer and ask Ya Mei Die whether he still wanted to repeat the phrase “His Majesty is wise” even after the emperor had trampled on his loyalty.
Ya Mei Die couldn’t find an answer to that question.
Perhaps His Majesty had truly acquired a sudden dislike for chicken feathers?
At the moment, that was the only answer he could come up with.
The tomb of the emperors was not far outside the Western City. When the tomb had been in the planning stage, a crypt had been chosen over a garden after taking environmental factors into consideration. Its exterior contained only a narrow entrance to reduce damage to the tombstones from environmental effects.
The worship ceremony did not require many offerings―only fresh flowers of various colors would be placed there and allowed to decay as time passed. After the minister finished reading from the ceremonial text, the emperor needed to enter the crypt and make an offering of purified water. He would be unaccompanied for this part of the ceremony. In any case, the interiors of the tomb had been inspected in advance, and the only entrance was guarded; there wouldn’t be any problems in regards to the emperor’s safety.
“Your Majesty, here is the purified water.”
The one who had presented the dish containing the purified water to the emperor was the Sword Guard of Spades . The emperor had recently started to appear in public more often, and the Magic Sword Guard who appeared most often at his side was Ao Ji Sa. At the same time, he was the most senior member of the Sword Guards. As he had devoted most of his time to his job, he had not yet married to this day. According to the words of his companions, he was quickly approaching the age of having a mid-life crisis. However, there have been several women who insisted that although Lord Ao Ji Sa was older, he was still quite handsome and charming. Despite that, it was undeniable that the passing years had left their mark…
“Ao Ji Sa, has your rheumatism improved?” The emperor asked derisively as he accepted the purified water.
Indeed, advancing age was accompanied by disadvantages such as rheumatism.
“It has already ceased to be much of an obstacle, Your Majesty.”
Ao Ji Sa replied without changing his expression. He was also someone unfazed by ridicule.
“Really? That’s wonderful. You can finally resume your job again and carry out your duties. I feel very gratified. When I heard that you’d requested a leave of absence because of rheumatism, I sincerely felt that it was very troublesome. How do you plan on compensating?”
When the youth spoke with Ao Ji Sa, his word choice and manner of speaking were both a little different. This seemed to be closely related to how familiar he was with the person at hand.
It seemed that Ao Ji Sa did not intend to suggest a compensation method and allow the emperor to take advantage of him.
After receiving an indifferent reply, the emperor did not say any more and promptly prepared to carry the purified water inside the tomb.
However, as soon as he turned his head and saw the tomb’s entrance, he couldn’t resist smiling faintly and voicing his feelings. “Every year I come here and look at this black entrance, I always have the feeling that I’ll be sucked inside and never come back out…”
Ao Ji Sa gave a placid response to his musings. “If it’s dark inside, just light the lamps.”
Sure enough, this uncle was still the kind of uncle who didn’t understand other people’s feelings.
Despite Ao Ji Sa making it out to be optional, lighting the lamps was a necessary step. Even though the emperor’s eyes were covered by a strip of cloth, letting him enter a pitch-black area alone was a bit improper. Only after the person in charge of the tomb lighted the lamps did the youth walk inside with everyone’s eyes on him.
He had not been inside the tunnel for long before he impatiently pulled off the strip of cloth covering his eyes. Being able to use his eyes to see where he was going was much more convenient.
At the end of the tunnel was a spacious chamber. After he poured the purified water into its proper container, he began admiring the tombstones there, not in a hurry at all to go back up.
The tombstones were lined up chronologically, so it was extremely easy to find a specific person’s tombstone. He reached the tombstone of the former emperor after strolling around. Gazing at the words on the tombstone, he let out a mocking laugh.
“You had nothing during your life; you were only a chess piece controlled by the elders. Who would have known that all emperors would receive the same lavish burials after death? My esteemed father, are you happy? Are you satisfied as long as the next emperor isn’t reduced to being the elders’ tool like you?”
While facing the tombstone, he spoke with not an ounce of respect. His words oozed with intense disdain and perhaps even a little hatred.
“If that’s the case, surely you must be satisfied with the current result… It’s a pity your son wasn’t the child you were expecting, and you can’t do anything about it anymore…”
The emperor didn’t know whether if he had looked forward to this day. Wearing subdued clothing that also expressed festivity and coming to stand before this desolate tombstone, he would say whatever he wanted and no one would be able to refute him.
Because there were only dead people here.
“Ao Ji Sa, what did you come down here for?”
Hearing the sound of footsteps echoing from the tunnel, the youth turned around and fixed his gaze on the person who’d just come down.
“You’ve been down here for a while, so I came to see if something was wrong.”
“A while? Hasn’t only a little time passed? Those wily old fools really couldn’t wait any longer, could they?”
In most cases, people were supposed to go back up after they’d finished pouring the purified water. It was normal for the elders to feel that the youth had taken a while.
“In any case, there’s nothing else for me to do. I’ll go back up,” the emperor replied in a bored manner. He picked up the white cloth, about to wrap it around his eyes again.
Watching the youth wind the strip of cloth around his head, Ao Ji Sa was silent for a long while before finally asking a question he’d wanted to ask long ago.
“What exactly do you want to do? Your Majesty.”
At the question, the youth paused the hand he was using to wrap the cloth. He gazed at Ao Ji Sa with his azure eyes.
His only response was a smile. Even though the smile was beautiful, it did not reach his eyes at all.
The smile was equivalent to tossing Ao Ji Sa’s words back at him in the form of a rhetorical question.
“Fan Tong! Long time no see! Got any recent news about Lord Ling Shi?”
Fan Tong ran into Mi Zhong on his weekly day off. He hadn’t seen Mi Zhong in a while, but to Fan Tong, coming across Mi Zhong right at the beginning of the day wasn’t a pleasant occurrence.
“I’ll tell you if I have any.”
No, I meant that I wouldn’t tell you even if I had any.
“Huh? When did you become such a great friend? Has my bribery won you over?”
What exactly did you bribe me with? Aside from telling me a few stories, you haven’t done me any real favors…
“Hold on! You! Your tassel is grass green now? Even though it hasn’t been all that long since we last met!” Mi Zhong noticed the different color of Fan Tong’s tassel and shouted in a tone that suggested that he couldn’t accept this reality.
Do you really need to yell as if the world is ending? Don’t act as if skipping to the rank of a grass green tassel is an impossible feat for me. You knew that we had gone to collect chicken skins and feathers. We’d simply finished gathering them, so rising a few ranks isn’t unusual, right?
As Fan Tong muttered to himself, he couldn’t help but be glad that Mi Zhong didn’t know that Yin Shi and Ling Shi had helped them out with their tasks. Otherwise, Mi Zhong would probably say something appalling again, such as, “How could you let Lord Ling Shi use his beautiful and exalted hands to help you with that kind of task? I must punish you on behalf of the entire fan club!”
“Sigh, having a grass green tassel must be so wonderful. You can collect five strings every month. To this day, I still only have a pale green tassel…”
Sighing, Mi Zhong touched his own tassel while eyeing Fan Tong’s, his eyes filled with ill intent.
“What are you going to do?”
Fan Tong warily took a step back. Mi Zhong’s gaze looked quite sinister, as if he were calculating something.
“I say, why don’t we duel and learn from each other? Your tassel makes me very excited…”
I knew it!
You scoundrel! You only want to steal away the results of other people’s hard work! My mop is actually really powerful! If you want to duel with me, does that mean you’re not afraid that one sweep of my mop will wipe out a third of your soul?
“Why are you so nervous? Fan Tong, even your hands are shaking. Really now, it was just a joke. I’ll politely decline any opportunity that can make me a target for people’s resentment. I don’t want to make enemies. Besides, you have terrifying people supporting you; I definitely don’t want Lord Luo Shi creating trouble for me.”
Wh-whose hands are shaking? Why are you looking at me so closely… No, as I was saying, I definitely wasn’t that scared! Stop making things up!
As for Luo Shi… You’re imagining our relationship to be better than it is. If it were Yue Tui who’d been bullied, it’s possible Luo Shi would help him out, but as for me… He’d probably laugh and say that I deserved it for not learning self-defense well…and add that I shouldn’t pine for something that didn’t belong to me in the first place. If I lost it, it was meant to be…
“Oh right, since I ran into you, let me share something I heard just today. It’s piping hot!”
Fan Tong had a slight interest in gossip and entertaining anecdotes; as long as the gossip wasn’t about him.
“I heard that the land chicken feathers that originate from outside the Eastern City have become a popular favorite among people. Even Luo Yue’s Magic Sword Guards have come running to snatch them up without fearing death! I got this from a victim who went to Resource Area 1 to collect chicken feathers in the middle of the night yesterday. He worked so hard to collect those feathers, only to have them snatched away in a flash. How pitiful. Sigh, what do you think? Are chicken feathers that amazing?”
I already knew that the Magic Sword Guards were here to pluck chicken feathers. Your intel is old news… However, they came again late last night? They truly don’t know when to give up…
My condolences to the New Resident who was robbed. For the sake of their Young Emperor’s pillow, you must accept your loss…
◎ Fan Tong’s Afterword
It’s been less than half a month since I switched out my tassel, but honestly, I’ve become a little afraid to go outside. When I walk on the streets, I feel as if I’m carrying around a lot of money and may run into a thief at any time. Even though grass green tassels can only collect five strings per month, after one thousand years, I’ll have collected sixty-thousand strings. That is definitely a lot of money… Don’t ask me if I have the determination to live for a thousand years. We’re just laying out the profits and demonstrating my point using numbers. We’re not going to analyze it that thoroughly, okay?
Speaking of duels, Yue Tui really has encountered quite a few of them. Even though he had used such adept techniques to deal with his opponent in his first duel, several people still came by afterwards. I can’t help but feel lucky that they were so fixated on Yue Tui and had no intention of challenging me to a duel. Otherwise, my rank as a grass green tassel would have dropped to that of a white tassel ages ago, and I wouldn’t be able to raise it up again. I don’t think anyone would be interested in helping me collect feathers and skins a second time…
The wounds on Yue Tui’s body from the rebirth mishap disappeared the next day. It was truly an occasion worth celebrating. Using the phrase “an occasion worth celebrating” doesn’t seem quite right, but in short, he seemed to have calmed down. I also felt very relieved, so it was great.
As for the meal celebrating our rise in rank, Luo Shi invited us out again three days later. As Yue Tui and I have both died before at Shen Wang Dian, it seemed a little inauspicious to go there again. We have some bad memories of it, so we went to eat at a restaurant instead. In the end, Lord Yin Shi came around, and so did Bi Rou… We just wanted to eat a celebratory meal in peace. Why did those two have to follow us around like lingering spirits and rub their lovey-dovey relationship in our faces? That’s just morally wrong!
Even though Yue Tui had shaken off the trauma from his wounds, his expression that day wasn’t very pleasant to look at. It might have been because of Bi Rou. I say, what kind of a celebration is this? Yue Tui, your cold demeanor and unfriendliness were rather obvious, especially when compared to your normal behavior…
In any case, all the dangerous incidents have been near misses so far. Continuing on like this with both feet on the ground isn’t such a bad way to live, right?
Translator: Nuddle, Sherry
Proofreaders: Sherry, Nannyn
“There’s so many misunderstandings: that Ling Shi is a woman, that the Magic Sword Guard came with evil intentions, about Zhu Sha’s gender, and so on.” – Bi Rou
“Yiye! What are you doing?!”
“Ah, we finally found you, Xiao Rou! I missed you so bitterly!”
“Lord Yin Shi, didn’t you go looking for Lord Ling Shi…”
Leading his troops, the blonde man who had spoken first approached from behind Yiye, while Yin Shi showed up near Ling Shi and Bi Rou. Yue Tui, who was at Yin Shi’s side, could not help asking Yin Shi that last question. After setting down Zhu Sha, Fan Tong went to find a place with everyone else. Because of the sudden influx of people, everyone was unsure how to react. Bi Rou, too, was among those at a loss. Yin Shi evaluated the situation but was confused for a moment.
“Eh? What’s going on here?” Yin Shi asked, looking from one side to another, then suddenly seemed to come to a realization. He immediately pointed at Ling Shi and laughed uproariously. “Pu, puhahahaha! Old man, you’ve encountered retribution! Even you might be killed one day! Hahahahahahahaha!”
His excessively cheerful laugh turned everyone’s faces dark. This shouldn’t be your attitude towards your friend, right? Lord Yin Shi, in the end, who are you helping? Fan Tong was deeply puzzled. Just what type of friendship existed between Yin Shi and Ling Shi? He could only be certain that this sound was pure laughter and not Yin Shi calling his mop’s name.
“I’m not dead yet” was all that Ling Shi said. His face took on an ugly look, and he delivered a fist to Yin Shi’s stomach. Although the punch encountered armor, Yin Shi still had the breath knocked out of him and shouted in pain.
Fan Tong was not interested in their . Moreover, he thought that if the four characters that made up “flirting” came out of his mouth, his curse would make it seem like he was asking for a himself. Right now, he was more curious about the other party. They looked like they were Western City’s people, but what kind of people were they? Moreover… three golden threads? Three golden threads? He carefully looked over at that little demon and unexpectedly saw three golden threads. Wasn’t that the same rank as Luo Yue’s legendary monster of an emperor?
“Yiye, we have an important mission to finish. You shouldn’t keep creating complications here!” The blonde man’s criticizing tone held a certain degree of blame.
Already agitated from being continuously bombarded by various events, Yiye replied impatiently, “Don’t stop me from killing people!”
What, people from both sides have come to stop their comrades from killing? Although, one from our side has already forgotten his original intentions. But, Yiye? This name seems… a little nuanced…I’m also getting a sense of familiarity…Why? I can’t possibly know him, right?
“We are not at war with Ye Zhi right now, so killing their people as you please is disputable at best. This was not the mission His Majesty gave us!”
“Ya Mei Die, do not mention His Majesty in front of me!”
“Pu! Ack! Kekekekeke!” The moment Yiye said his comrade’s name, Fan Tong’s breath exploded out of him, and he choked on his own saliva, crouching as he coughed incessantly and nearly sinking to his knees.–! –! What is this? “Don’t” – “stop” –? No wonder it sounds so familiar! You guys are clearly Westerners, but your names are pronounced as if they’re Japanese, what’s up with that? This is too much! Can these words even be used as people’s names? How awkward is it when other people call your names? Two magnificent gold-threaded masters… Not good, my face is twitching! Moreover, only I can hear the resemblance to the Japanese language…
“Fan Tong, what’s the matter?” Yue Tui patted him on the back, not understanding why Fan Tong had suddenly forgotten himself.
This is something I can’t explain, so don’t ask.
Fan Tong felt like a bomb had hit his brain. Nearby, the to kill or not to kill debate continued.
“You haven’t contributed anything to this mission. Why can’t you just be good and come with us to kill chickens…”
“I will not put my sword to that kind of lowly use!” Yiye’s face twisted as he replied. Fan Tong actually felt he could understand why Yiye was angry. That is, if he had heard correctly, and they really were here to kill chickens.
“In short, you can’t kill him! You’ve already made enough trouble by causing our secret mission to be discovered!”
“Hey hey hey, wait a second. What makes you think you can discuss this matter by yourselves so happily? If you want to kill our people, shouldn’t you ask me first?” Yin Shi had been listening off to the side the entire time, but he finally couldn’t stand listening to the unpatriotic Westerners anymore and butted into the conversation in their own language. However, both New Residents and the Western City’s people could understand his words, so Ling Shi was the only one who could not.
You finally said a comparatively normal sentence, Lord Yin Shi, especially compared to earlier, when you were mocking Lord Ling Shi and saying this was retribution…
“Why is it you again?” Only now did Ya Mei Die look directly at the other party. Because he saw Yin Shi, Ya Mei Die’s face took on a sour expression once more, as if everyone owed him millions of strings.
“Ah, that’s right, it’s me again. You were discussing whether to kill us so happily. Shouldn’t you at least defeat me first before you say any more? Don’t tell me you think that your success is already guaranteed?”
If the winner will be determined by IQ, our opponents might win, Lord Yin Shi. That Mr. Stop … Mr. Ya Mei Die, even if he looks a bit foolish, I still think he looks a little more intelligent than you… Or maybe I should say that his brain is at least more normal.
“What we say is our own business, how dare you Ye Zhi people interrupt! Where are your manners?”
No, actually it might be difficult to choose between Mr. Ya Mei Die and Yin Shi. Then, it’s just an IQ competition between Lord Ling Shi and Mr. Don’t… Mr. Yiye?
“Returning to our main topic. Why did the Magic Sword Guard come to the Eastern City’s territory?” Finally, Yin Shi asked an important question regarding the main problem.
Ya Mei Die immediately gave a resolute reply. “We are here on an order from His Esteemed Majesty. We are to first kill chickens and pluck their feathers, then return to make a pillow for His Majesty.”
At the moment when most people who’d heard this would blank out momentarily and ask themselves, “Is this really true,” Yiye flew into a humiliation-induced rage and ferociously smacked Ya Mei Die on the head.
“Don’t tell them about this disgraceful situation! How can you answer whatever question other people ask, are you an idiot?!”
… Eh? Slow, slow down. Originally, your reason seemed fake, and I wanted to ridicule your flimsy excuse with the words, couldn’t you have come up with a lousier lie? You didn’t even write a rough draft for it? In this world, is there such a ridiculous situation? However, Yiye’s response makes it seem true? What the… are the bigwigs from both cities all out killing chickens? Do you have a serious conflict with chickens? What an ! Or should I say I don’t know what both sides’ bigwigs are thinking, and that they are doing work that should be beneath them to slack off on their actual jobs?
So wait, does that mean that the gold-threaded expert we ran into earlier and those Luo Yue soldiers also came to pluck chicken feathers? Why didn’t they say so earlier? I would have understood the language! If they had said so earlier, I would have just given them chicken feathers, as long as they didn’t kill me! Chasing their goals like that, attacking with knives and swords and causing all those disastrous casualties, did no good! The result of all that was not chicken feathers, was it?
“Why are you reacting like that, what are they saying?” Ling Shi asked, wrinkling his brow. The feeling of not being able to participate was quite bad.
“They said that they came to pluck chicken feathers.” Yin Shi seldom translated words properly for Ling Shi, but he still attracted Ling Shi’s glare right away.
“Do you think I’m brainless? Even if I can’t understand the language, I can tell that what you’re saying is impossible! Would it kill you to joke less?”
No… Lord Ling Shi, this time it’s actually you who’s misunderstanding. You have too deep of a bias against Lord Yin Shi, they really did say that…
“Ah? Me? You damn old man, casually wronging people, what I told you was the truth!” Yin Shi complained with an innocent and aggrieved expression. Beside him, Yue Tui and Bi Rou also kindly helped him testify.
“They really said that.”
“That’s right, Ling Shi Dage.”
Even with the testimonials of two people, Ling Shi still wasn’t convinced, so he cast his gaze toward the third person. “Is it true?”
… Don’t ask me, don’t ask me, I can only speak incorrectly! Wouldn’t my words just create more trouble for Lord Yin Shi? Oh, that’s right, I can just nod my head to answer this question!
After Fan Tong hastily nodded his head, Ling Shi came up with another question. “What will they do with the chicken feathers?”
“…Return and make a pillow for their emperor.” Yue Tui answered the question, his expression distant.
“Damn old man, you accused me wrongly but didn’t apologize…” Yin Shi looked like he had really taken offense. Ling Shi looked at him without a trace of apology in his expression.
“I am truly sorry. Since you came, let me ask you, how should the issue of Luo Yue’s Magic Sword Guard and their soldiers invading our country be handled?”
Lord Ling Shi, did your brain get burnt? How could you ask Lord Yin Shi how to handle this serious issue? He might answer you with, “Then let’s happily work together to pluck chicken feathers,” right? Did you think of that?
“Ah, what a headache, I don’t want to deal with this. We came to pluck chicken feathers, but we still haven’t finished…” Fortunately, Yin Shi used the Eastern City’s language to say that sentence. Otherwise, if the other party heard that they were here to pluck chicken feathers too, Fan Tong didn’t know what impression the others would get.
“Even if they really only came to pluck chicken feathers, we can’t just consider this unimportant. We can’t let our enemies go wherever they want, right?” Ling Shi narrowed his eyes, looking very dissatisfied with Yin Shi’s answer.
“Ah! That’s right! Ling Shi, you’re so clever, I didn’t expect it at all. This way they’ll make off with our chicken feathers!”
When Yin Shi clapped his hands and spoke as if he had suddenly come to a realization, no one knew what to say to him. Was that really the train of thought of a bigwig? Did he really think that, when dealing with such a sensitive matter, the most important thing was the dispute over who got the chicken feathers? Talking about it like feathers were such a precious commodity…
“You…” When together with Yin Shi, people often had the opportunity to experience what it was like to become so angry they would convulse; no matter how much time they spent around him, no one was immune.
“Then, I’ll tell them to get lost. The chickens are ours to kill.”
If you say, “The chickens are our country’s natural resource and should be protected,” it wouldn’t sound bad, but just telling others not to kill them so that you can, that really is… too blunt?
“Should we negotiate over the people we killed…” Fan Tong originally wanted to say they should negotiate over the people the other side had killed. After all, he had almost died. He didn’t consider the matter to be water under the bridge. As for how the curse had changed his words… he couldn’t control that.
If I think about it carefully, it actually seems that the people from Luo Yue haven’t killed anyone! We did all the killing… Lord Ling Shi covered the ground in blood, my mop unexpectedly killed a few people, and Lord Yin Shi seriously injured someone… so aren’t we the villains here?
“We were eliminating the intruders; we have reasonable justification for doing so.” Ling Shi did not have to think hard to come up with this response.
Immediately, Yin Shi opened his mouth to say, “We’ve already fought, we’ve already killed, just tell them to leave and everything will be fine.”
“And if they refuse to leave?”
“Eh? Then just forget about it.”
“… Shouldn’t we start a fight? If negotiations are useless, let’s just use weapons to expel them, okay?”
“Ah, but Ling Shi, you couldn’t defeat one of them.”
“Of course you would deal with that child. The other person won’t be a problem for me.”
“But I don’t fight children or women.”
Speaking with Yin Shi was always very tiring.
Their party was quarreling, but the other party was also quarreling.
“If this matter isn’t resolved peacefully, there’s no need to pluck chicken feathers anymore, since we would have failed His Majesty’s task…”
“I already want to ignore that stupid mission! Do you still want to reason with the enemy?”
“We can’t gain the upper hand, right? What use is it for both sides to suffer?”
Hearing Ya Mei Die say those words, Yiye gritted his teeth. Although his heart longed for an intense fight with a rarely encountered, worthy opponent, after so many people had shown up, in reality there were still many things he needed to consider. Although he never paid much attention to other factors when he was working, aside from practical matters, there was another problem that caught his attention.
“Hey, hey, are you guys finished talking over there? We can act as if we never saw you stealthily sneak in, and we won’t inform Ying. However, you must leave our borders within an hour, and during that period of time, you can’t harm the Eastern City’s people. This is our suggestion.” In any case, they were all old friends who had frequently encountered each other when they’d fought over people at the Chen Yue pathway, so Yin Shi thought that communicating with them for a bit wouldn’t cause any problems.
However, the phrase “stealthily sneak in” somehow caused people to be at a loss as to what to say. Did you really have to use the phrase “stealthily sneak in”… shouldn’t it be Bi Rou who did that? Wasn’t what Bi Rou did really “stealthily sneaking in”? She even went from someone who’d stealthily snuck in to a proper and respectable Eastern City resident. This is truly quite disturbing…
Yiye was speechless, and it was unclear what he was thinking, so it seemed that he was leaving the decision to Ya Mei Die. Ya Mei Die thought for a bit; apparently the matter could only be settled like this, so he agreed to their requirements. It would be easy to find out whether Ya Mei Die’s soldiers had really left after an hour. Since they were in the Eastern City’s territory, naturally the Eastern City had methods to monitor them. In other words, they couldn’t agree just for show; they would have to do what they’d agreed to do.
“Ling Shi, they’ve agreed, let’s quickly leave and continue killing chickens. There’s no need to look after them.”
“Hng.” Ling Shi didn’t oppose the idea. After glancing at them, he went to treat the two unconscious girls.
“Ah, that’s right, there’s also Xiao Zhu… Eh? Xiao Zhu?” Right after Yin Shi suddenly remembered the matter with Zhu Sha, he saw the person in question suddenly appear along with feelings of doubt.
Fan Tong also hadn’t taken note of when Zhu Sha had approached them. A little surprised, he looked towards Zhu Sha, then looked back at Yue Tui.
“Eh?” He looked specifically at the place where he’d put down the person he had been carrying, but he didn’t see even half a person. Therefore, he could not help but ask, “Where did that boy go?” Wrong question again.
Yue Tui really wasn’t pretending – he truly was shocked.
“Wasn’t he a girl just a moment ago… The person from before, was it really Xiao Zhu? Xiao Zhu, are you a boy or a girl?” Yin Shi’s mind kept turning in circles. If the girl from before wasn’t Zhu Sha, then where did she go?
“I don’t understand this question,” Zhu Sha coldly answered.
After hearing about the situation, Ling Shi also adopted a cold look. “Yin, can you not tell the difference between genders?”
“Ah! It’s not like that! Just now it was obviously… Xiao Yue, didn’t you say that girl was Xiao Zhu?”
Yue Tui stiffened, hesitated, and then shook his head. “You probably remembered it wrong.”
Fan Tong didn’t know how why, but he could understand why Yue Tui had stiffened momentarily. It was because he wasn’t used to lying. It seemed that he wanted to conceal the matter.
“Eh? Mop’s Master, you should have heard it as well, right?”
…Who are you asking?
Instead of Fan Tong’s face or name, what had left the deepest impression on Yin Shi, and the one thing he remembered, was actually Fan Tong’s weapon. Let’s set aside the matter of Yin Shi remembering it as a mop instead of a horsetail whisk for now; he felt his name was already so easy to remember, but Yin Shi still couldn’t remember it. This was overwhelmingly sad.
I’m begging you to remember my name! It doesn’t matter if you call me Xiao Fan, Xiao Tong, or Xiao Fan Tong, just don’t call me Mop’s Master! What a terrible joke!
“Ah, why won’t you answer me? Don’t tell me that you’re not the person with the mop? Then, who are you?”
By this time, Ling Shi had already woken up the two girls, and it seemed that he did not want Yin Shi to waste any more time, so he came over to interrupt. “This is an unimportant matter, don’t bother with it. Haven’t we already wasted enough time? Quickly go do your job and kill chickens. Don’t tell me you want to make a third trip?”
“Huh? So long as I’m with Xiao Rou, it doesn’t matter where I go or how many times.” Yin Shi answered, smiling at Bi Rou, which immediately made her fall back into starry-eyed infatuation mode.
“Oh! Yin Shi, you’re so handsome!”
This open admiration embarrassed Yin Shi a little. “Ah, am I…”
It was truly inconceivable for someone who looked like that to still not be accustomed to being called handsome. Perhaps the Eastern City’s girls were a little more reserved?
Finished dealing with business, the people from the Western City had already left. Only after seeing them leave did Ling Shi ask Yin Shi a question. “Yin, are you certain you could have beaten that child from earlier?” Ling Shi knew that if he had fought Yiye, he would have definitely lost, so he wanted to know if Yin Shi had any chance of success.
“Ah, I’ve never fought him before, so I don’t know. It looks like he’s an expert who combines magic, curses, and sword fighting, but I can do more, so maybe I could beat him?” Yin Shi didn’t immediately answer that he was certain of victory, causing Ling Shi to furrow his brows. This time, Bi Rou spoke up.
“Yin Shi! You know how to do so many things! You also figured out how to cast curses? Which ones?”
“Ah, I’m proficient in Shufa, Fuzhou, sword fighting, and magic. I know how to cast curses well, but I can’t use them. My Wushu is not bad, but in front of friends, I tend to let my guard down, so this damn old man often lands a hit on me… Nn – the thing I’m best at is sword fighting.”
…Eastern City’s Shufa, Fuzhou, and Wushu; Luo Yue’s magic, curses, and sword fighting… You’re an expert in everything from both cities! What did you have to do to accomplish this feat? Is this something only a genius can do? But Lord Yin Shi, your intelligence seems to be lacking a few basic things, which isn’t like a genius at all –
“If you’re best at sword fighting, why are you the rector of Shufa Xuan…?” Bi Rou asked the question that Fan Tong was also puzzling over. Yin Shi paused, thought for a bit, and finally recalled the reason.
“Ah! It seems like it was because… Wei Shi said that he wanted the position, and I didn’t want to give it to him, so I defeated him, and then…”
After spending forever listening to you, I still can’t find anything good about you. And now, Lord Wei Shi has taken up the position of Wushu Xuan’s substitute rector. Why didn’t you take that position from him and work two jobs at once?
“Tsk, just bringing up that damn Wei Shi makes me angry, what a loathsome guy. If he found out about today’s affair, he would definitely be itching to make a fuss about it, hmph.” Saying that, Yin Shi became unhappy. In contrast, Ling Shi heaved a sigh and put in a sentence for Wei Shi.
“He really isn’t a bad person, it’s just that he firmly believes that what he’s doing is making the world a better place. He’s retarded, that’s all.”
It looked like Ling Shi was defending Wei Shi, but Fan Tong was speechless. Lord Ling Shi, you’re so ruthless… Other people normally say “idiot,” “fool,” and other less demeaning insults. You said he wasn’t a bad person, but then you went ahead and used an utterly humiliating term like “retarded.” Are you sure you don’t feel any malice towards him?
“Ling Shi, what are you saying? It’s too complicated, I don’t understand.”
“… You two retards make a good pair.”
“Hey! What? How could you say that I’m retarded?!”
Quickly finish plucking chicken feathers and stop making a fuss, really now!
Yiye, Ya Mei Die, and the surviving soldiers, who had left the scene first, began discussing matters in private once they’d reached a safe distance.
“Yiye, I couldn’t contact him, but when I used magic to try and detect him, it seemed like he’d already left this place.” Ya Mei Die was referring to their third companion, who had been separated from them by the Qing Ping Storm and hadn’t been seen since.
“How hateful, how dare he return before us…” Yiye thought of the person who had left him to continue this stupid feather-plucking mission with this idiot of a companion and forced out his words through gritted teeth, fuming with anger. Of course, Yin Shi had broken their companion’s arm, and afterwards his troops had urgently evacuated with him, but this was something they wouldn’t know about.
“Ya Mei Die, that woman from a moment ago…”
To this date, they still thought that Ling Shi was a woman.
When asked that question, Yiye’s expression visibly dulled as he couldn’t think of an answer.
“Can’t you fix your habit of ignoring people’s faces?” Ya Mei Die felt helpless. When Yiye looked at people, he never imprinted their appearances in his mind. Normally, he only paid attention to things like the trajectories of his opponents’ swords and the path of the magic flow around them. As for people’s bodies, he only noted their positions so he would know where to attack. Anything apart from this was nonexistent to him. When trying to distinguish between men and women with that kind of habit, Yiye could gain only a rough impression from his first glance.
“All right then, what did you want to say?” Seeing that Yiye wasn’t going to speak, Ya Mei Die could only continue asking.
“…” Yiye remained silent, making Ya Mei Die feel even more helpless.
“Shouldn’t you also fix your problem of quickly forgetting what you wanted to say when you are interrupted?”
That was just the way he was, he couldn’t change it even if he wanted to. Having two of his weaknesses pointed out one after the other, Yiye was ashamed into anger. “I already remembered! That woman was very odd, she could speak the Western City’s language…”
“What? Isn’t Yin Shi a man?” Ya Mei Die felt that he must have heard something inconceivable, so he could not help interrupting Yiye. In his understanding, Yin Shi was the odd person who spoke the Western City’s language; after all, when Bi Rou had spoken, he hadn’t arrived yet.
“Which one was Yin Shi again?” Yiye had nearly lost his patience and was also a little confused.
“He showed up later. He was that black-haired man.”
Yiye did not remember at all who had black hair. However, he knew that the person he was referring to hadn’t appeared later. “It wasn’t someone who appeared later!”
“Can Ling Shi also speak the Western City’s language?”
“It’s not Ling Shi either!”
Yiye finally remembered that the opponent he had fought against was Ling Shi; not that he’d recognized Ling Shi, it was just that the sigil of Ling Shi’s restriction order, which only affected the Eastern City’s residents, was in the air, and its entire aura had originated from the opponent he’d been fighting.
“It seems like there was another woman, but she should be a New Resident, right? New Residents can all speak the Western City’s language, so why is it strange that she could?”
After Ya Mei Die had spoken, Yiye couldn’t think of anything to say for a while. What had been strange? The fact that she had yelled his name? But his soldiers had also yelled out his name, so it wouldn’t be strange if she had heard it. Yiye couldn’t recall what exactly had caught his attention. In fact, he couldn’t remember at all the words Bi Rou had spoken, as well as the beginning of that sentence she hadn’t finished.
“Don’t mind it anymore, we only have an hour left. We should hurry up…”
“What are we hurrying for?”
Hearing Yiye ask that question, Ya Mei Die’s face once again took on a confused expression. “Of course we should find out how to pluck enough chicken feathers to fill a pillow during the next hour. We can’t turn our backs on His Majesty’s trust!”
“This is our mission, don’t tell me you also forgot this?”
It was precisely because he hadn’t forgotten that Yiye had nothing to say. At the same time, he really wanted to bestow a sword strike upon his companion’s problematic head and send him to be reincarnated. Maybe in the next life, he would become normal.
“Just in case there really isn’t enough time… Yiye, do you happen to be an expert in disguising yourself?”
“What are you asking me to do? What use would that be?”
“This is the backup plan: if there’s not enough time to pluck enough chicken feathers for a pillow, at least one person needs to make an attempt to infiltrate Ye Zhi’s city walls…”
Hearing this, Yiye thought that Ya Mei Die had turned into a different person. Ya Mei Die actually wanted to infiltrate the Eastern City and gather intelligence, or perhaps Englar had given him a secret mission. After Ya Mei Die finished speaking though, Yiye discovered that he had been wrong. “It doesn’t matter whether you or I do it. If we infiltrate Ye Zhi and buy a pillow made of chicken feathers, we could also complete the mission that way!”
Infiltrating the Eastern City… just to buy a pillow? We’d even buy the pillow? We can’t just steal it? What about currency? Do you have Ye Zhi’s money? Don’t tell me you’re afraid of getting caught stealing and causing the knowledge of the Western City’s Magic Sword Guard infiltrating Ye Zhi just to steal a pillow to spread throughout Ye Zhi, and then spread back to the Western City, causing the Magic Sword Guard to lose all prestige? If you even understand what humiliation is, you shouldn’t be bringing up this kind of suggestion! Yiye stopped thinking before the thought “if we’re really going to steal, why not take a few more pillows and make it ten?” reached his mind and firmly used his sheathed sword to knock out Ya Mei Die in one blow.
“Lord Yiye…” Seeing Yiye use violence against Ya Mei Die, the soldiers were stunned.
“Pick him up and carry him, we’re going home,” Yiye coldly ordered, and just like that, the farce of the Magic Sword Guard going to the Eastern City to pluck chicken feathers ended.
◎ Fan Tong’s Afterword
Plucking chicken feathers to raise our rank was truly difficult. We had to surmount all sorts of difficulties, going through numerous twists and turns… I never expected plucking chicken feathers to lead to a life-threatening crisis, Zhu Sha changing genders, and Bi Rou and Lord Yin Shi breaking up… Eh, that didn’t happen, I’m not cursing them either. Maybe having the curse for a long time has caused even sentences spoken in my mind to become abnormal, ahahaha.
After finding out many things, we encountered members of the Magic Sword Guard, who could be considered important people in Luo Yue. The short one almost beat Ling Shi, which is really difficult to imagine. I originally thought some harrowing conspiracy or conflict would occur, but they were actually just here to pluck chicken feathers. I heard that it was because their emperor wanted to make a pillow. I can only say, w-w-w-what a mess! Do you have cement for brains? What nonsense! There’s something wrong with anyone who would dispatch strong fighters with gold threads to enemy territory just for a chicken feather pillow! He’s abnormal, I say, what’s up with this world!
However, for the Young Emperor of Luo Yue who killed three hundred thousand people, wanting a pillow doesn’t really seem to be keeping with his image…? Maybe thinking of him as a bloody monster is my misunderstanding? It goes without saying that a person has many faces; I heard that the Young Emperor is still young, so maybe he’s still childish…
After resolving our series of problems, we were on our way again, and when evening fell, we finally plucked enough chicken feathers. Lord Yin Shi’s chicken-killing method was still very striking. Fortunately, he killed them very single-mindedly, not paying attention to the rest of us, so we did not need to suffer the shining assault of his and Bi Rou’s love. Even so, after everything was finished, I did not feel deeply moved the moment I received the chicken feathers; instead, I felt lower back pain…
Starting tomorrow, I’ll be a grass green tassel! I’ll have a salary! Hahahaha! This is worthy of getting excited about, even though laughing right now is making my entire body hurt. But also, before this happens, I still have to find Luo Shi and collect our chicken skins as well as resolve the problem with Zhu Sha…
Next: Chapter 4: Fragments of Memories
Previous: Chapter 2: The Magic Sword Guards of Luo Yue’s Young Emperor
Return: Main Page
Proofreaders: XYZ81, Sherry, Channie
“What are the Magic Sword Guards?” ―Zhu Sha
“Ah, it’s probably a harem.” ―Yin Shi
“Eek!” ―Yue Tui
“Absolutely. Not.” ―Yiye
Standing on the yellow earth beneath the cloudy sky, accompanied by the corpses of the two people he had allegedly killed, Fan Tong rigidly conducted an intense staring contest with his weapon. Correction, as he didn’t know exactly where Puhahaha’s eyes were, Fan Tong was staring at its… whatever.
A million different thoughts tumbled through his head, but he couldn’t utter even a single word. He felt like he was about to explode. Perhaps the situation was too absurd, his expressions twisted and turned, but still nothing came out of his mouth.
After a long while, when faint snoring could be heard from Puhahaha, Fan Tong finally asked in a trembling voice, “You… You are not a soul-purging weapon! Is this a trick? You didn’t glow and you can’t speak, how do you explain that?” His words became a hideous mess again.
“I am a soul-purging weapon. I can clearly speak. I’m not glowing now, but I was just a moment ago. In short, be careful when you use me, and don’t hit yourself.” Puhahaha seemed a bit impatient with his reply.
You are trying to trick me, right? This is all a lie, right? Moreover, just now, I hadn’t caught how the mop attacks, so could it be that even a light sweep to the head from it will damage the soul?!
“How can you sometimes glow and sometimes don’t? Can’t you control it? Aren’t soul-purging weapons always glowing?”
“Humph. This horsetail whisk is not an ordinary horsetail whisk, I’ve already said that several times.”
This has nothing to do with you being a horsetail whisk, okay?
“Of course the glow of the soul-purging force is controllable, but our souls aren’t linked yet, and our harmonization isn’t good enough, so I’m in control of it right now.”
Put this way, it would be better for me if our relationship improves. But… the whole thing about linked souls, harmonization, and whatnot… I would prefer my partner to be a beautiful woman if we’re going to use those kind of words! Why does it have to be a mop!
“Then why did you glow just now?! You can’t indiscriminately kill people! In the future, make sure you always glow!”
No! I mean never glow in the future!
“Always glow? Fan Tong, I didn’t know you were so bloodthirsty.”
Don’t just ignore all my earlier statements!
“Yes, I’m saying always glow, I like killing people.”
Hey! Don’t twist my words again! What a rotten curse!
“Even if you say that, it’s awfully tiring for me. I still need to rest. I want to sleep.”
You’ve already rested for a long time… No wait. This is good. Quick, refuse me because you’re tired! By all means, never give off that soul-purging glow again. I’m begging you! We better establish a good relationship soon. If we can directly speak to each other using telepathy, we can avoid so many misunderstandings.
“I want to become physically linked with you.”
…I’ve had enough of this.
“…Y-you, want to do what?! B-b-become linked, w-what kind of linked with me? Maybe you can’t tell, but I’m a male! W-w-who wants to link with you…”
I also don’t want to become linked with you; I’m not a pervert. From your voice alone I already know that you are male, not female…but from your tone you sound kind of flustered?
“What I’m saying is, I want to chat with you through your body, this way it’ll be more convenient and we both would not benefit…”
Please stop with the physical body thing already. I give up. I’ve already been cast off as a promiscuous devil by these misunderstandings. However, the sentence about it being unbeneficial to both of us, after all the reversed sentences from before, is actually correct.
“I followed the wrong master. I followed the wrong master! I was fooled by honeyed words and ended up with a master who has dubious intents and harmful plans. I don’t care about you anymore, I’m going to sleep.”
This is an enormous misunderstanding, truly. Fortunately, you didn’t say you would consider it; otherwise, I would have to seriously consider my own future.
“A white tassel?”
Just when Fan Tong’s heart calmed down, it flew back up his throat again at the sound of an unfamiliar voice.
“You’re the person who killed my troops?”
Fan Tong frantically turned around and saw that several people had entered his line of sight without him noticing. It seemed that the leader of these guys was the person with an angry-looking face pointing a sword at him, looking like he would strike any second. While he was distracted, how long had these few people been standing there? Fan Tong did not know; he was only paying attention to the marks on this person’s belt.
Two gold threads. Two gold threads! He has two gold threads! He’s pretty much the same rank as Lord Ling Shi! Killing me would be as easy as slicing open a watermelon!
I didn’t kill those people! I have nothing to do with this! Don’t seek revenge on me; it’s all the doing of this meddlesome mop―Puhahaha! Wake up! What are you doing?! Do what you did just a while ago! Make me a ruthless killer who kills without batting an eyelash! Or else, I’ll surely die!
“Eh? Fan Tong, quickly commit suicide. I can’t extract your memories again on such short notice. If you don’t kill yourself now, it’ll be too late.”
Puhahaha did wake up, and had even guessed what he was thinking, but his reply sent Fan Tong into an abyss of despair.
“Who asked you to leave the killing unfinished, a survivor ran off and called for reinforcements…”
…And he even called the big fish. I know, I know now. I regret what I said just now. Why does it matter if you kill? Why does it matter when soul-purging weapons enter the equation? It’s still better to kill than be killed…
With no warning, the gold-threaded expert lashed out at Fan Tong with his sword. Fan Tong cried out in surprise and barely dodged the strike, contorting into an awkward position to get out of the way in time as his life flashed before his eyes. He knew that the other person wasn’t using his full strength as he could still dodge the attack in time. The other was simply testing his abilities.
“Was it really him? But he’s a white tassel! His form is terrible and full of holes. He also doesn’t have any strength.” The expert with two gold threads asked incredulously as he fixed his gaze fixed on Fan Tong. He was suspicious of the things his informer had told him since Fan Tong did not seem like a strong fighter at all.
That’s right! I’m weak and unworthy of being killed by you, so please let me go―
“My Lord, it’s him. It’s definitely him. He’s still standing beside their corpses!” The escaped Western City soldier pointed at Fan Tong in panic.
It seems like I won’t be declared innocent anytime soon.
However, even if Fan Tong overlooked the fact that this world did not have a , about the corpses… Well, Fan Tong was undoubtedly the murderer. Though, if someone told him to repeat his actions, he wouldn’t be able to do it.
“Anyways, since you’ve already seen us…”
Wait a second! I said wait a second! What outdated script are you going off of to kill people in order to silence them? Don’t make me struggle for my life again!
Fan Tong felt like a frog being watched closely by snakes. In addition, the man with two gold threads was wielding a soul-purging weapon.
I’m finished. It’s that glow again, don’t tell me I’ll really be purged here? If I die here, will anyone ever discover my body? Although, I shouldn’t care whether or not my body will be found since my soul would be purged. If there comes a time when someone passes through here one day, discovers my body, and suddenly realize, “This was originally Fan Tong. So he actually died here,” then I want to believe that they would grieve for me! However, if I die here, wouldn’t I be dying next to Puhahaha? I can’t be buried next to a mop! I want to change the mop to something else!
…That’s not to say I would die willingly if the mop was exchanged for a beautiful girlfriend. But to make me accept that I’ll buried beside a mop, that’s…
The gold-threaded man had already raised his shining sword and was about to hack at Fan Tong, apparently not wanting to waste any more time dealing with a nobody.
With death so near, Fan Tong actually didn’t feel a single trace of fear. He could only stare with widened eyes at the sword speeding towards him and face the killing strike.
Congratulations! Your life has officially ended. May I ask if you want to go back and look at the scene of your death, look back through your memories, or directly end your life and become a piece of dust in the cosmos?
While he was watching the soul-purging weapon fly towards him, Fan Tong felt those words flash through his mind. Those meaningless words were spewed out of his imagination as a last form of comfort. Repeating his death scene would not help him rest in peace. As for looking back on his life… What would he want to look back on? Being crushed to death by a moshou? His cursed mouth deciding to ask for a license plate number of 666 during the most prosperous time in his life? Or a mop becoming his life partner? The more Fan Tong thought, the more he grieved. However, he also couldn’t help but marvel at the speed of his thoughts. He’d managed to think of so many things in the few seconds the sword flew towards his head… What came after this? Obediently accept his death? Would his unfortunate life be finished? In the end, was that good or bad?
Suddenly, Fan Tong felt himself being pushed to the side and heard the clashing of metal striking metal. He looked dazedly at the situation, only to find that the person who pushed him away was Yue Tui.
Yue Tui had stopped the blade right before it cut him. He held his weapon in his right hand, accurately blocking the gold-threaded man’s soul-purging sword, while his left hand, which had shoved Fan Tong in the chest, went to support him before he fell.
In short, it seemed Fan Tong had escaped calamity once more. He had his misgivings a moment ago. His head was in such a mixed-up state that he almost said, “Yue Tui, why did you push me?” Then he realized he wasn’t dead.
“Yue, Yue Tui!” With great difficulty, Fan Tong retrieved the function of his vocal cords. Pleasant surprise and fear went through him. He was pleasantly surprised because he had temporarily escaped with his life, but fearful and worried that his friend might have come here only to die with him.
“Fan Tong, are you alright?” Although Yue Tui was concerned about his situation, he couldn’t look towards him, since he had to keep his eyes on the enemy in front of him. Thus, although Fan Tong wanted to nod in answer, his friend wouldn’t be able to see it, so Fan Tong had to use his voice again to respond.
“I’m not alright.” Sure enough, he said the wrong thing again.
“Where are you injured?” Yue Tui nervously turned his head towards him, which, in turn, made Fan Tong nervous.
Wah! Don’t look at me! The enemy is still in front of you! Wah! He’s lifting his sword to attack again! Yue Tui! Quickly look in front of you!
Yue Tui kept his gaze fixed on Fan Tong while he accurately blocked the next strike from the gold-threaded man’s weapon. Fan Tong was speechless.
“Fan Tong, it doesn’t look like you’re injured. Do you have any internal injuries?”
Yue Tui’s clear, sky-blue eyes swept over Fan Tong. He looked concerned, but also puzzled.
I think… that this isn’t important right now. Hurry up and remember that I have a speech problem. Also, are you really human? Do you want to consider turning your head back around to look at your enemy? Regardless of whether you can fight him like this, looking down on people like that isn’t good. It’s like you aren’t taking him seriously…
The gold-threaded man became infuriated and started giving off a strong murderous aura. Yue Tui’s brow furrowed, and he had no choice but to face the other again. He looked like he had no intention of conversing with them, and Fan Tong wasn’t capable of holding a normal conversation, so he adopted Yue Tui’s silent attitude. He had hoped that after he was saved, they could quickly leave, but the enemy kept pushing forward, leaving Yue Tui no choice but to fight.
While Fan Tong was thinking, the sounds of swords crossing kept up a constant racket. Fan Tong couldn’t keep up with the speed of the fight. At times, Yue Tui and his opponent even fought hand-to-hand. Yue Tui stayed on the defensive, but looked like he hadn’t suffered any damage.
“Aren’t Ye Zhi’s white tassels the weakest rank? This is so strange!” said the Western City soldier.
I’m sorry that we’re strange… No, the only strange one is Yue Tui. I’m an ordinary weakling. The only strange thing about me is my weapon. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not strange, really. Instead of us white tassels, you should instead criticize that man there with two gold threads who’s been brought to a standstill by a New Resident with a white tassel. Those gold threads are starting to seem fake.
The swords continued to clash, but then, something unexpected happened. Probably from the strain of repeatedly clashing with a powerful weapon, Yue Tui’s sword broke. It cleanly broke in half, with the top half falling to the ground. Fan Tong looked at Yue Tui’s expression, feeling his own eyes widen in panic.
No, the sword broke! How are you going to fight now, Yue Tui? I told you earlier not to buy a broken weapon, but you didn’t listen! How is your broken weapon going to compare to that person’s godly weapon? What should I do? Should I lend you the mop? But you nearly destroyed every weapon you touched before, would you also kill Puhahaha… It’s not that I’m taking pity on Puhahaha. I only regret those two hundred strings. I also don’t want to hear Puhahaha’s miserable screams.
That being said, if he were to try to use his soul-purging weapon in this situation, would he hear a stream of protests like “I’m going to die,” “don’t be so reckless,” “do you even know how to fight?,” and “not like that!” If that happened, Fan Tong would only be getting in the way if he tried to fight. That wouldn’t be strange.
“Fan Tong!” Seeing that he only had half a sword left, Yue Tui pursed his lips and extended a hand towards Fan Tong. “Give me your horsetail whisk!”
…What? What did you say? What did I hear? A-are you serious? I only meant it as a joke when I thought about it, but you actually want to go through with it? Did you forget that you are a weapon-killing fiend? You really want to try and fight with a mop? Do you really think that it’s feasible for you to use this mop as a sword? Can its soft hair really block the other person’s weapon? Although I suspect that it actually can be used as a sword because of what happened earlier, but, but…!
“Puhahaha, are you willing?” Fan Tong knew that they were pressed for time, but he still asked for Puhahaha’s opinion since this was a life or death situation. If it was willing to sacrifice its life for the greater good, if it was willing to burn itself out so that others might live, then he wouldn’t think twice about handing it over to Yue Tui, but if it wasn’t willing, then he wouldn’t try to reason with it. He would just watch and see if Yue Tui could use a broken sword to bring about a miracle.
“Puxiu. Huh? What? Willing… Are you proposing to me?” But since Puhahaha had gone to sleep, it had no idea what Fan Tong was asking.
Who wants to marry you? Is your brain still on the subject of “linking physical bodies” from earlier?
Taking advantage of the moment, Yue Tui’s opponent waved his sword at Yue Tui. This time, Yue Tui dodged, not meeting the strike with his stub of a sword. Fan Tong’s survival instinct kicked in and he grasped Puhahaha to hand it over. Just then, another voice cut in:
When he heard that voice, Fan Tong instinctively thought that they were saved. However, their rescuer was standing behind them, so there was still a possibility that they would die. The person who had appeared at the most crucial point in the battle was someone who kept getting lost in Resource Area 2―Yin Shi.
Now we’re both in a deadlock. Our side has a pure black tassel, so we have a better chance of victory, but because the black tassel is Yin Shi, I can’t feel any ease.
Oh, Lord Yin Shi, every time, you appear just when we need you, just when the situation gets lively. Can we trust you? Can we trust you to rescue us? Can we really? Although according to Ling Shi and judging from the rate at which you can kill chickens, you are quite strong. But how will you do against this expert from Luo Yue?
How much power did the Western City’s two gold threads represent? Fan Tong did not know if Yin Shi was more powerful, since he also didn’t know how much power the Eastern City’s pure black tassel represented. He didn’t know, but… compared to whether or not Yin Shi could defeat the enemy and rescue them, Fan Tong was more concerned about whether or not they would accidentally be killed in the crossfire. He hadn’t died yet, and had, with difficulty, survived until an ally arrived, but if that ally accidentally killed him, it would be too tragic. He really hoped this sad tragedy would not occur.
When another person entered the fighting scene, the gold-threaded expert appeared to be evaluating the situation. As soon as he saw who the new person was, his face twisted in frustration.
Yin Shi appeared from behind them and from the right, halted the fight between the gold-threaded expert and Yue Tui. Fan Tong retreated, keeping a safe distance, and the Western City soldiers raised their guard.
“Can’t you see that they’re white tassels?” Yin Shi said as he walked towards them with an unusually serious look on his face. “Don’t you know that if you kill someone with a soul-purging weapon, even if they’re a new resident, they’ll die?” he asked, using the Western City’s language but not expecting an answer.
“Shut up! You hateful person!” After scolding him, Yin Shi unsheathed a long knife. “The people I hate the most, are strong people who prey on the weak!” As he spoke, he swung the knife. As he was still too far away to hit the enemy, he probably hadn’t intended to hit him. As he brandished the ordinary seeming knife, silver light glinted off of it, and that cold, clear light ruthlessly lowered the surrounding temperature. His ink-black hair fluttered in the cold breeze, and he closed his red eyes in anger.
It all happened so quickly. The fatal silver light, Yin Shi quickly striking with the knife, and his opponent letting out a piercing scream. The weapon in his opponent’s right hand fell to the ground and blood gushed from his injury.
The knife had cut straight through his armor as if it wasn’t even there. Although the scene was very bloody, Fan Tong looked at the damage that was caused to the gold-threaded expert in such a short amount of time, then looked back to the knife belonging to Yin Shi. Just like always, he couldn’t help but reflect on the situation.
Lord Yin Shi, you’re so handsome… Wait, isn’t that wrong? Where did that weird thought come from? Why did I involuntarily think this kind of thing? Isn’t this kind of starry-eyed infatuation the same as Bi Rou’s? I must have thought it because his actions were very handsome, yes, that’s exactly what it was! But I’m still not happy about this… However, what was that just now? That light? Didn’t Yin Shi use a broken weapon?
Steam was rising from the wound on the gold-threaded expert’s arm, and the Western City’s soldiers were thrown into panic.
“Escort the Lord away from here!” Because of the serious situation, they had already decided to ignore the unstable environment and directly used magic. Yin Shi had no interest in pursuing them as he watched them disappear before his eyes. Thus the enemy got away, and his focus went to the other people present.
“Ah, were you injured? Were you? Were you?” After he walked over to them, he reverted back to his original idiotic mental state.
“I wasn’t…” Yue Tui shook his head, his expression complicated. Subsequently, he seemed to think of something and turned to Fan Tong. “Fan Tong, are you alright? Just a moment ago, you said you were injured?”
This time, Fan Tong finally got his wish and shook his head in reply.
“Fan Tong, it looks like you’re fine, you lucky dog. Then, I can sleep without any worries. Puxiu – hu – ”
What lucky dog? Mop, don’t use this kind of insincere description as an afterthought! And once you’ve finished speaking, don’t immediately go to sleep again! Is this a kind of talent, being able to sleep no matter what?
Calming down after having his emotion stirred up by Puhahaha’s insult, Fan Tong looked at the knife at Yin Shi’s waist and curiously asked, “Yin Shi, is that the knife you bought as an ornament?”
Hey, can you not turn my words into such a discourteous question?
“Eh? You figured it out. At that time, I actually bought the wrong one. I’m really good at sword-fighting, although using a shorter knife doesn’t really make a difference…”
Did you or did you not make a mistake? Is this called succeeding by a stroke of luck?
“Ah, Xiao Yue, your sword broke? Let’s trade blades. Both are broken, so they’re about the same.”
I think your brain is broken. You want to trade for a broken sword? How could the broken knife that you’re using be the same? Furthermore… Xiao Yue? Who is Xiao Yue? If Yue Tui is Xiao Yue, then what am I…?
This question made Fan Tong tremble with fear. He really did not want to hear what Yin Shi would address him as, and hoped that he would continue forgetting his face and name, but he didn’t know if that would the case.
“Oh… ok.” Yue Tui blankly handed Yin Shi his broken sword and sheath, trading weapons with Yin Shi. His face was still blank as he tried to adapt to the diminutive nickname.
“Lord Yin Shi, who was that person? It seemed like you knew him.” There wasn’t enough room in Fan Tong’s heart to once again feel sad again about speaking incorrectly.
Yin Shi immediately answered his question. “Hmm? It seems like… he might be… ought to be… perhaps, someone I saw when fighting at the Chen Yue pathway? I don’t know him. I’m not an expert at remembering people’s faces.”
Are you not an expert at remembering people’s faces, or not an expert at remembering men’s faces? Moreover, you’re also not an expert at remembering people’s names… Especially men’s names. You’ve known Ling Shi for so long and you still can’t remember his name! With Luo Shi, you probably remember his name because he looks like a beautiful girl. But then again, Ling Shi looks like a beautiful woman… I’ve gotten sidetracked.
“Ah, Xiao Yue, why are you here? Weren’t you up in a tree together with Xiao Zhu?” Yin Shi finally remembered, speaking another sentence that made Fan tong speechless.
“I… He…” At the mention of Zhu Sha, Yue Tui looked a little embarrassed. His vague manner made it impossible to tell what he was feeling.
“I’ll bring you to him. He’s unconscious, so I couldn’t move quickly enough while carrying him. I set him down in a safe place.”
Oh, what a sensible decision. If you had been slower even by one second, I would have been done for.
“Oh, ok, I’ll contact Ling Shi first.” Due to Ling Shi having already shut off the group communication, and Bi Rou helping Ling Shi “concentrate on leading them” and shutting off her own communication charm, Yin Shi had been bored senseless. Now that he needed to get in touch, he had to directly contact Ling Shi instead of the group communication.
“Don’t disturb me, I’m busy.”
Yin Shi was confused. “Ah? Busy? Old men can still be busy?”
“Entertaining Luo Yue’s lost sheep.”
“…Ah! Don’t kill them! Come to an agreement today, I forbid you to kill them!”
“You say that as if they’re chickens, not people. Anyway, you got lost; you’ll only be able to stop me if you hurry over, boss.”
“What? Are you trying to make me angry? I’ll find you right away, so don’t kill them!” Yin Shi ended the communication, looking very short-tempered.
Yue Tui couldn’t help but ask, “What’s going on?”
Since it was a private chat, Fan Tong and Yue Tui only heard Yin Shi’s words, so they weren’t very clear on the situation.
“That damn old man once again forgot his boundaries and wants to selfishly kill people. Quickly, bring me to Xiao Zhu, and then let’s go find him. Ah, do you guys know the way?”
So you simply got lost and found us by a stroke of luck? Sure enough… Sure enough, only Yue Tui was able to find me… But you’ve lived in the Eastern City for such a long time that Resource Area 2 should be almost like your back garden, yet you have to rely on a New Resident to lead the way. No matter what or when, you always manage to be such an excessive person, it’s almost admirable.
Yue Tui brought them to a nearby underbrush and pushed the tall grass aside. When they walked through it, the first thing they noticed was the area by Yue Tui’s foot. For the first few seconds, Fan Tong thought that it was a corpse’s resting place. However, after Yue Tui bent over and pulled the person out of the bushes, both Fan Tong and Yin Shi’s eyes filled with suspicion.
“Xiao Yue, who is this girl?”
“Yue Tui, what about Zhu Sha?”
Why did a appear when you were supposed to be together with Zhu Sha? Oh wait, “a third person” probably shouldn’t be used that way. I also didn’t mean anything strange by saying you’re together with Zhu Sha.
“This… This is Zhu Sha.” Yue Tui said with a very embarrassed look on his face. After standing in stunned silence for a few minutes, Yin Shi recovered his wits first.
“Eh?! Isn’t Xiao Zhu a boy?!”
Exactly. You’ve seen him half-naked and we’ve been roommates for so long. Don’t lie through your teeth, Yue Tui! Do you think we’ll fall for your lie? Why don’t you just honestly explain this girl’s origins? I had thought you were a very pure person, but to imagine that you made a girl faint and then left her in the underbrush…
“S-she really is Zhu Sha!” Yue Tui insisted urgently and turned the girl’s face over to allow Fan Tong and Yin Shi a closer look.
This… Her face does resemble his, but that isn’t strong enough evidence to convince us that this is Zhu Sha. Isn’t your evidence a little weak for the claim you’re making? She also has a pretty impressive chest. Zhu Sha clearly didn’t have any boobs.
“Her clothes are a bit torn…” Yue Tui’s face flushed bright red as he followed Fan Tong’s line of sight.
“The seams burst open after he became a girl!”
Oh? Well, I never paid any attention to what Zhu Sha was wearing before, but these clothes are a little tight on her.
“Ah, let’s wake her up and tell her to change back so that we can see.” Yin Shi’s eyes sparkled as he imagined the fascinating scene.
Yin Shi… You’ve already forgotten what you came here for, didn’t you? You forgot that you said we must hurry and find Lord Ling Shi before he starts a massacre, right? We shouldn’t be wasting time here!
“Shouldn’t we hurry to find Lord Ling Shi?” Yue Tui evidently also remembered their urgent task. However, was his reminder merely because he was concerned about the matter, or was it because he wanted to avoid whatever would happen after they woke Zhu Sha?
“Ah! Right! Then let’s go find him first! We’ll examine if Xiao Zhu is really Xiao Zhu afterwards.”
I feel like you should examine Lord Ling Shi along with Zhu Sha. Or have you already examined him? Nowadays, there seems to be a lot of men who don’t look like men and women who don’t look like women. Why can’t everyone be normal like me?
Ling Shi was in an extraordinarily cheerful mood. Smiling widely, he whimsically tossed out the Fuzhou charms he had drawn up in an instant. When the soldiers from the Western City were cut apart into pieces by the Fuzhou, his smile became even more gentle and brilliant.
According to the residents of the Eastern City, Ling Shi only smiled so beautifully and brilliantly when he was massacring the residents of the Western City. Only when Ling Shi was in an exceedingly good mood would they have the chance to witness such a beautiful smile. However, the blood and carnage in front of the three spectators made it hard for them to enjoy the beautiful sight of Ling Shi’s smile.
Cute Girl A and Cute Girl B had never seen someone being openly killed in front of them before. After seeing the first victim explode into pieces, they shrieked and fainted. Bi Rou remained as the sole spectator of the bloody massacre.
Bi Rou had seen the gruesome sight of a battlefield before, but it was different this time. She had originally came from the Western City, so she naturally felt a bit uncomfortable seeing the Western City’s soldiers being slaughtered before her. Earlier, she had tried to dissuade Ling Shi from starting a massacre, but their exchange had ended up like this:
“Ling Shi Dage, m-must you kill them?”
“But shouldn’t you conduct peace negotiations first to find out why they are here?”
“I don’t need to know their reasons.”
“They invaded our country for no reason at all, so they should be killed without question.”
There was no use pleading with him for mercy after that. As she realized this, Bi Rou remained silent. If she didn’t, she might be suspected of harboring traitorous feelings.
At first, Bi Rou couldn’t help thinking that maybe the reason Ling Shi didn’t bother negotiating or asking the soldiers for anything was because he didn’t understand the Western City’s language… As soon as the thought appeared in her mind, she remembered the expression on Ling Shi’s face as he slaughtered the soldiers mercilessly. Bi Rou felt that “he just likes to kill people” or “he feels very happy killing the enemy” and the like would be the most probable explanation.
“Ah, are there any more of you? Not a single one of you fled. Luo Yue’s soldiers truly are courageous.” Ling Shi flung his sleeves and cheerfully glanced at the few remaining enemies. Despite his unearthly beauty, the few remaining soldiers looked at him as if he were a monstrous beast.
Bi Rou scanned the Fuzhou boundary that surrounded them. The boundary prevented the soldiers from fleeing death, yet Ling Shi had praised them for not running away… Wasn’t this a bit cruel and immoral?
“Who could save us? Lord Yiye, where are you―”
The soldier’s shouts were cut off as Ling Shi cut him into pieces with Fuzhou. Although New Residents understood the languages of both cities, they still spoke their country’s language out of habit. Ling Shi didn’t understand their shouts. As he didn’t understand, he might as well kill them.
“Aren’t you all New Residents? Even if you were to die, you’ll still be reborn in Luo Yue’s rebirth pond. I’m not using a soul-purging weapon, so what are you afraid of?”
If Fan Tong were here, he would immediately protest that this wasn’t a question of whether or not they would be reborn. Those who had been killed would definitely end up mentally traumatized. He would also say that Ling Shi had no conscience.
“If I were still a resident of the Western City, would Ling Shi Dage also treat me with such ruthlessness?” Bi Rou’s mumbled to herself as her heart trembled in fear.
Surprisingly, Ling Shi actually heard her and answered, “Of course, enemies can’t go unpunished. However, if I saw someone I knew, I would use a less painful way of killing them.”
Less painful way of killing? Can you tell me what exactly counts as “less painful” in your book?
Although Ling Shi walked leisurely towards his enemies, he disposed of them smoothly and efficiently. Perhaps in a way, his technique could also be considered just and honorable.
However, regardless of whether or not it was just and honorable, the Western City soldiers might as well have been lining up for the guillotine. The only difference would be that at least the guillotine would have left their bodies mostly intact.
The explosion Fuzhou Ling Shi was using was beautiful and intricately drawn, but the soldiers’ bodies would splatter into gruesome piece once touching the charm. The unthinkable feeling of being ripped apart into pieces was deeply ingrained into the minds of the victims. Even if they were New Residents, bodily damage was still bodily damage. They would return to the rebirth pool and obtain a new body after their death, but no sane person would want to experience death by having their body ripped into many pieces,
Naturally, the soldiers tried resisting their cruel executioner. However, Ling Shi had stuck a defense Fuzhou on himself, making their attacks useless. Additionally, Ling Shi had thrown up a Fuzhou barrier, making escape impossible. One soldier managed to withstand Ling Shi’s Fuzhou attack, but when his companions tried to shield his injured body, they were all brutally killed. Eventually, most of them lost the will to resist. The few who still held out hope could only continue their calls for help.
But no matter how much they yelled, no one came to save them. Their noise only succeeded in annoying their executioner and boosting his killing intent.
“What insidious plot did you all come here to carry out? What are you planning?” Ling Shi muttered to himself as his raised his hand, sending a deadly fire Fuzhou toward several soldiers.
If Ling Shi had actually wanted to pursue the answers to those questions, he would have kept some soldiers alive so he could interrogate them. It seemed like he had spoken the truth when he had told Bi Rou earlier that he didn’t care to know their reasons. If he were to discover that the soldiers’ “insidious plot” was plucking chicken feathers, god knows how he would react.
Is there anyone who can stop him? Bi Rou thought.
As if the heavens had heard her request, someone appeared and charged into the scene and cut apart Ling Shi’s Fuzhou barrier with a silent brandish of his sword. However, it wasn’t Yin Shi.
When he noticed that his barrier had been cut apart, Ling Shi furrowed his brows.
Upon seeing their savior, the few remaining Western City soldiers cried tears of joy.
From his appearance, one would think that the person who’d sliced open the barrier was a short, but rather handsome teenager. However, his imposing aura and thunderous expression gave people the impression that he was a baby-face who’d missed puberty entirely and looked much younger than he really was.
Although anyone who looked at him wouldn’t be able to stop comments about his clashing appearance and age from popping up in their heads , not many in the Western City would dare utter those comments to Yiye’s face. Even the New Residents who were capable of regeneration were afraid of the consequences.
“Baby face,” “short,” “underdeveloped,” “deceiving the commoners,” “plush toy,” “little brother,” “child,” “pretty,” “cute,” “innocent,” “ three measurements,” “kid-sized,” “lucky to be young,” and etc. All of the above were words that should never be uttered anywhere near Yiye if one treasured one’s life. When greeting him, a simple “Lord Yiye” should do fine.
There really were a lot of taboo words that should never be spoken around Yiye when one counted the recent additions to the list: “His Wise Majesty” and “chicken feathers.” It was considered extremely life-threatening for anyone but the other members of the Magic Sword Guards to speak any of the forbidden words before him. As a result, people had to be very careful when speaking in front of him.
These taboos, however, were the Western City’s taboos. For Ling Shi, no such thing existed as he did not know the person in front of him. Even if he had, he would still say whatever he wanted in the face of an enemy. However, due to the language barrier, his enemy wouldn’t understand him even if he had said whatever he wanted.
“Oh… Sure enough, I managed to find you after following the abnormal aura. Ling Shi of the Five Attendants, right? Looks like I won’t be bored.”
The first one to speak was Yiye, who actually wasn’t there to rescue anyone. He only wanted to find a person to fight and kill in order to relieve his anger. Saving the lives of his soldiers was just a beautiful coincidence.
“L-lord Yiye! Save us! She’s a witch!”
“The women from Ye Zhi are terrifying! Ahh… I want to go home…”
Yiye’s words had been blocked out completely by the soldiers’ tearful laments. Ling Shi understood none of them. He furrowed his brows and glanced meaningfully towards the only other conscious person in his party, Bi Rou, who also understood the Western City’s language perfectly.
“What are they saying?”
Ling Shi would have just asked Yin Shi had he been there. Yin Shi would have translated the others’ words into something absolutely ridiculous, causing slaughter and mayhem within their own ranks. However, the person he asked was Bi Rou, so nothing of that nature would happen. Bi Rou, however, had no idea how to go about telling Ling Shi that the enemy had mistaken him for a woman.
At that moment, Bi Rou truly resented her roommates. As New Residents, they could easily understand both languages, but unfortunately both had fainted.
“Eh…” Bi Rou laid a hand on her cheek and hesitated. After she translated, she was sure both sides would begin a fierce battle. That wasn’t good, right?
“Xiao Rou, what did they say?” Because she had hesitated, Ling Shi’s smile became even more brilliant. He seemed even more determined to get her to translate. Bi Rou’s scalp tingled in apprehension.
“Ling Shi Dage, they said that you’re a witch and that women from the Eastern City are terrifying. Also, the person who just showed up knows your identity.”
Compared to seeing them fight, Bi Rou found that she was even more unwilling to face Ling Shi’s frigidly brilliant smile. Therefore, she chose to tell him the truth. What followed after wasn’t her problem.
After she finished speaking, Ling Shi’s smile vanished. His good mood from the massacre had completely disappeared.
“Luo Yue’s soldiers are truly weak, being bullied by a ‘woman’ and needing to be saved by an underdeveloped child, eh?”
Ling Shi completely ignored the three gold threads on Yiye’s belt.
Hearing the other side speak, Yiye snorted coldly, then asked the soldiers who had narrowly escaped death, “What did she say?”
“…” Silence reigned as the soldiers erupted into cold sweat. They had just escaped mortal danger, so they didn’t want to immediately rush off to die by their savior’s hand. Ling Shi’s words contained two of the terms that must never be spoken in front of Yiye! Even if they were only the translators, they would surely be in danger if those words came out of their mouths!
“I didn’t hear her clearly. You translate for Lord Yiye!”
“No, I also didn’t hear her clearly…”
“I didn’t even notice that someone was talking!”
“It’d be better if you did it, you…”
Seeing the soldiers trying to throw each other under the bus, Yiye’s eyes flashed impatiently. “You’re all useless! Do all of you want to go back and retrain?”
Despite his diminutive height and childish appearance, Yiye’s voice was deep―definitely the voice of an adult, not a child. At Yiye’s rebuke, the soldiers, scared witless, scrambled to kneel and beg for forgiveness.
“Spare me, Lord Yiye! Spare me!”
This time it was Ling Shi’s turn to be speechless, even though he hadn’t understood a single word they were saying.
“Are they putting on a play? A comedy?” Ling Shi finally asked.
“No. Ling Shi Dage, what you’d said earlier had put their lives in peril.”
“Really? Luo Yue really is a savage country if they even kill people on their own side.”
“If Yin Shi were here, both of you would try to kill each other too…” Bi Rou muttered, not knowing if this could be considered as supporting her homeland.
“Yin? That idiot who’s always protecting the enemy is nowhere on our side.” Ling Shi, of course, had heard her muttering and immediately replied. In any case, Ling Shi’s bad moods were often caused by Yin Shi. Under those circumstances, Ling Shi naturally wouldn’t have anything good to say about Yin Shi, so Bi Rou refrained from asking any more questions.
“Xiao Rou, do you recognize that child?” Because Bi Rou came from the Western City, Ling Shi decided to ask her.
“I know who he is, but I’m not acquainted with him. He’s a member of the Magic Sword Guards, the ‘Joker’ Yiye. I hear he has a legendary temper.”
Ling Shi knew what the Magic Sword Guards were. In the Western City, they held high offices in the government and extraordinary statuses as the direct subordinates and guards of Young Emperor Englar. They were important in the Western City, so much that they had their own personal platoons and were involved with the city’s military. Not even the Council of Elders would dare to offend them. Each member of the Magic Sword Guards had either been directly handpicked by their predecessors or had been raised to take on the position since childhood. It was said that the enchantments the five members of the Magic Sword Guards had passed down from ancient times could combine to form a magical barrier that was impenetrable to any attack. No one knew whether or not the rumors were exaggerated.
“The Magic Sword Guards?” Ling Shi’s eyes turned menacing. What were people of such an elevated status doing inside the Eastern City’s borders? Theories on all sorts of sinister plots started forming in his mind.
“Woman, draw your weapon. Even if you’re a woman, I won’t show you any mercy.” The crisis on the other side seemed to have abated, but Bi Rou couldn’t tell whether Yiye was directing his words at her or Ling Shi.
Ling Shi didn’t ask her to translate again, instead opting to raise his hand in preparation for battle.
Bi Rou hurriedly asked, “Ling Shi Dage, don’t you want to know what he said?”
“He’s already drawn his weapon, so he obviously means to fight. There’s nothing I need to ask.”
That was somewhat true. Yiye’s words weren’t really important anyway…
“Xiao Rou, don’t you have a weapon?” Seeing Bi Rou standing leisurely to the side, Ling Shi asked even though he didn’t think she would lift a hand.
“No, I don’t have one, but I can still fight…” Bi Rou wasn’t foolish enough to believe that Ling Shi was unaware of her origins. In any case, they were surrounded by strangers, so it wasn’t necessary for her to act like a weak girl with a grass green tassel.
“No, you don’t need to fight. Yin Shi said that I can’t allow even a single strand of your hair be injured, so I’ll defend you.”
Hearing Ling Shi’s words, Bi Rou didn’t know how to react. In the end, should she try to negotiate or not? Moreover, since when had Ling Shi ever done anything Yin Shi told him to do?
“But… but, that person has three gold threads and he’s the strongest member of the Magic Sword Guards. Are you sure you want to fight him by yourself?” Bi Rou knew that she was questioning his power and maybe even hurting his ego, but she couldn’t let him die in order to spare his ego. It didn’t matter whether or not his opponent was using a soul-purging weapon; both of them were Natural Residents who would not be reborn if they died.
“Perhaps I wouldn’t be able to defeat him, but there’s no question about my ability to protect you. I am very confident in my defensive capabilities, so there’s no need to worry. No matter what happens, you won’t need to raise a hand.”
After Ling Shi spoke, Bi Rou naturally couldn’t say anything more and instead wisely chose to take a step backwards to hide behind Ling Shi.
“In that case…” The smile reappeared on Ling Shi’s face as he got ready to meet his unusually powerful enemy head-on.
“Ling Shi of the Eastern City’s Five Attendants. It’s time to teach you a lesson.”
At the beginning of the fight, an invisible pressure enveloped their surroundings, causing everyone in the area to feel oppressed. Usually, when unable to figure out how to deal with an enemy, the average person would first try to get a feel for their opponent’s fighting style. Yiye, however, had no interest in this and immediately took action, going straight for his opponent’s vitals.
The speed of his initial attack had always caught people unprepared in the past. Before they could even sense the attack and be afraid, they were already dead. However, a single strike could not possibly decide the outcome of his battle with Ling Shi. Yiye first encountered a continuous stream of Fuzhou, the strength of which he was unfamiliar with. Despite this, he still smiled coldly as he struck out at the Fuzhou, intent on breaking it. He swept his sword in an arc, and the resulting wind blast broke the Fuzhou into shining pieces, which then dimmed and faded away. This scene had a sort of bizarre beauty to it.
Ling Shi used defensive Fuzhou to protect them from Yiye’s ingenious strike, but each defensive Fuzhou was destroyed after a few seconds as the distance between the combatants narrowed. At first glance, Ling Shi seemed to be at a disadvantage, as he used Fuzhou as his main fighting technique. If he were attacked directly with a weapon, the result would be very predictable.
When he had dealt with the Western City’s soldiers, his Fuzhou had seemed incredibly strong, but in front of Yiye, they looked more like cheap light tricks. After a few minutes of repeating the same motions, in order to disturb the pattern and use attack Fuzhou, Ling Shi waited until right after his defensive Fuzhou was blasted into pieces before casting a lethal spell, but the outcome was different from what he expected.
Yiye proved that the three gold threads on his belt weren’t just for show. He displayed a strength that was difficult to describe, but he did so effortlessly, as if he was still not fighting with everything he had. Before anyone else had realized what was happening, Yiye’s sword had already struck. With all of his opponent’s defenses gone, Yiye had taken advantage of the gap to try and chop Ling Shi’s head off.
Despite Bi Rou’s frightened shout, Ling Shi didn’t dodge or avoid the strike and simply lifted up his left arm to block. Ling Shi’s arm should have been chopped off, with blood spattering everywhere. However, the sword didn’t harm his arm in the slightest. His slender arm warded off a strike from a sword that had killed countless people without even suffering a scratch.
During the split second Yiye was distracted, Ling Shi quickly drew several Fuzhou with his right hand. The explosions caught Yiye off guard and threw him back. Once again taking advantage of the time he had bought, Ling Shi rubbed the place where the sword had struck his arm, then rebuilt his defensive Fuzhou.
“Ling Shi Dage, your arm…” Although his arm looked intact to the naked eye, it was impossible for that to be true. Bi Rou found it difficult to believe that he wasn’t injured.
“I learned this from my Gege. It’s not something you can learn.” Ling Shi answered her in that thought-provoking way, but his answer didn’t really explain anything.
“Lord Yiye! Are you all right?” This was the first time the Western City soldiers had ever seen Yiye fall for someone’s trap. In their minds, Yiye had always been untouchable. Thus, seeing this scene, they were just as confused as they were shocked. Although they were concerned, they couldn’t rush to Yiye’s side because of the oppressive power in the air. They could only watch Yiye get up from the ground, seemingly without difficulty. The Fuzhou spell didn’t seem to have caused him any real harm; his clothes were damaged, but there wasn’t any blood on him. When he lifted his head, however, the expression on his beautiful face had changed completely.
“Hahaha… Hahahaha―” He laughed crazily, as if he had completely lost control, but his eyes were clear and calm. They were not at all the eyes of a person who had lost his rationality. “Very good, this looks like it should be a pleasurable battle…” He raised his sword again, and an aura surrounded it, entirely different from before. “On this world, everything, without exception, must perish someday. After I kill you, I will be sure to remember your name.”
Although Ling Shi still couldn’t understand Yiye’s words, he could see the respect that was present on the other man’s face in addition to his imposing expression. Ling Shi raised his hand and drew a complicated Fuzhou pattern.
“Ling Shi Dage, will you really not allow me to help?”
If Yiye had made people cautious before, he now made them feel bone-deep fear. Bi Rou also felt the change and became worried.
“It doesn’t matter, he can’t kill me. You could actually consider running away. Since I’ve attracted his interest, he shouldn’t care what you do.” Ling Shi indifferently proposed that she flee, but if she went as far as to abandon her two unconscious roommates, she wouldn’t be able to forgive herself. New Residents could be reborn after death, but only if the enemy didn’t use a soul-purging weapon to kill them.
“How could I do that? I can’t abandon my companions and run away!” Bi Rou was clearly unwilling to accept his proposal. She didn’t even need to consider her answer before saying it.
“But you are not a New Resident…” Ling Shi sighed, but Bi Rou immediately interrupted him.
“So what? I despise this kind of thing! Every time, I’m never there when I should be fighting. Every time, I don’t do the right thing…” She seemed to be remembering the past as she spoke in a trembling voice.
Meanwhile, Yiye had already begun destroying the newly constructed Fuzhou barrier, which covered a wide area. He raised his hand and placed it near the barrier, and it collapsed as if it were made of ordinary paper. Ling Shi didn’t ask Bi Rou any questions about her past. He only silently reconstructed the destroyed barrier, but the quality wasn’t as good as before.
“Ling Shi Dage, don’t you have some means of escaping? Like a transportation spell, or some kind of Fuzhou…”
“I said I can’t die, at most I’ll be injured.” While they spoke, the speed at which Ling Shi mended the barrier grew slower and slower. Then the tip of a sword flashed red, like an incarnation of death. Even though Ling Shi knew it couldn’t kill him, he still didn’t want it to cut him again.
As he was trying to think of a solution, Bi Rou suddenly rushed towards Yiye, shouting a few sentences. Yiye looked shocked when he heard the Western City’s language come out of her mouth. As she continued speaking, the sound of her voice was interrupted by the appearance of several people.
◎ Fan Tong’s Afterword
Oh, it feels like so many things have happened. I have to say I am very happy to have escaped death. Yue Tui is definitely a good friend; being able to make such a friend isn’t bad at all. It’s a definite win! Ah, I really can’t understand his strength anymore. He even had the courage to use the mop; he really isn’t ordinary.
However, the unconscious girl hidden in the underbrush, is she really… tsk tsk tsk. Zhu Sha? Zhu Sha is clearly a boy. If “he” is really a “she,” then we are very blessed to be living with her. However, it looks to be an obvious lie.
Today was the first time that I didn’t feel jealous of Lord Yin Shi’s handsomeness. Seldom have I felt such a pure, sincere feeling… Is this the feeling that comes from surviving a crisis? A friend in need is a friend indeed? I don’t think that saying should be used in this situation.
As everyone knows, Lord Yin Shi is very handsome. However, during that split second when he brandished his knife, his divine handsomeness made me dizzy with admiration… Ah! Am I sick? Although it’s perfectly acceptable to hero-worship other men, Yin Shi is clearly an idiot. Don’t tell me there’s actually a fine line between heroism and idiocy? If so, all the heroes in the world would be crying! After we go back home, I better find Mi Zhong and inquire whether or not I need a psychologist. I rather miss the version of me that found Yin Shi’s handsome face annoying. I want to go back to normal. I can’t believe a mean, picky person like Yin Shi had saved my life. It just doesn’t seem right. After all, Yin Shi had been the cause of one of my deaths before. Maybe I’ll just regard this time as compensation.
Today, my mop and I managed to establish a complicated relationship. We’ve conducted the longest conversation in our whole history. Strictly speaking, the conversation was a failure as I ended up twisting my words again. My curse made it as if I were trying to woo the mop. Now it doesn’t want to talk to me anymore. I don’t know if this is worth celebrating.
In the end, I still don’t know whether or not it’s a soul-purging weapon. Should I consider it fortunate that Yue Tui and I haven’t gone to Wushu Xuan’s fighting class ever since we bought our weapons? Otherwise, I might have already been arrested for being a dangerous and suspicious person…
From the current situation, it seems a lot have happened on Ling Shi’s side. I can sense the lingering smell of Fuzhou in the air, plus there’s a murderous-looking child standing opposite of Ling Shi… Exactly what is going on here? Lord Ling Shi, has the illegitimate child you’ve abandoned come to find you? Who’s the mother?
Next: Chapter 3: Misunderstandings Can Still be Peacefully Resolved
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