[Please read for free on the source site, chichilations, and not support an aggregator or content thief. Reposts are not allowed anywhere or for any reason.
Translator receives no income from any ads shown – block away.
All comments and discussions are appreciated (I read them all~), and do let me know if there’s any typos afoot.]
“You…” Yan Xiaohan’s heart jumped violently without cease, that sense of walking-on-air weightlessness not yet completely dissipated. He glared at Fu Shen, stuttering with anger. “You…”
Fu Shen’s attitude was especially good, especially tender. “Mhm. You said it.”
As the saying went, a raised hand mustn’t strike a man’s smiling face, and that’s to say nothing of the out-of-reach flower that was Marquis Fu, who was not readily willing to give such a nice mien. Yan Xiaohan “you”d for half a day but didn’t ever utter the next word, his dignity as the head of a household completely reaching rock bottom. For that reason, he switched the direction of his limitless rage and rained curses down upon Wei Xuzhou’s head. “Why was there someone still inside? I had you dig the ground up three chi deep and not to even let a mouse burrow slip past you, so how did you manage this? I had you bring people to come keep an eye on the Monastery, and then what did you do, huh? You went with him to go cause trouble!”
Wei Xuzhou felt extremely wronged. “I-I…”
“You what?!” Yan Xiaohan barked. “What if it wasn’t just one person in the library, but a gang of bandits? Were you worthless melons going to run up and be food for them?
And you!” He, having finally regained his scolding grandeur, turned to Fu Shen. “It’s stupidly dangerous to act alone! Think about your status before you go and make a scene! This isn’t an ordinary, petty traitor, but an outlaw who dared to try to assassinate His Majesty in the middle of the palace. If action really needed to be taken, yet it’s cumbersome for you to move and these people would find it hard to protect themselves, who’s going to protect you?”
He kindled an honest fire. Those surrounding couldn’t help but shrink back their heads. “The Madam’s lesson has been received. I’ll definitely be careful in the future, and won’t make this mistake again,” Fu Shen replied cordially.
Yan Xiaohan got the feeling that he hadn’t listened to half a word of what he’d said, and was admitting his mistake purely to mollify a child. His chest aching with annoyance, he thus broke his hand free and gave the other a frosty look. “That’s a cheeky grin you’ve got.”
After speaking, he didn’t pay him any more mind, going straight in the direction of the black-clothed figure.
Fu Shen hadn’t been publicly ditched by someone in however many years, and he was startled for a moment. His wrist hung in midair, still maintaining its shape of pulling at someone. He subconsciously curled up his fingers, like he’d been abruptly startled awake, then retracted his hand, staring at Yan Xiaohan’s back with some helplessness.
It seemed that, in his impression, he’d never seen Yan Xiaohan get actually mad. The man was normally restrained and silently endured things, and when there was fire, it wouldn’t be directed at him. Fu Shen had a flash of realization that he was always the one to be coaxed, believing himself to have nothing to be ashamed of in the world and in people’s hearts, eternally waiting for others to admit their mistakes and apologize. After that, he would either forgive them for his own benefit, or ruthlessly cut ties with them. Even if he was doing the coaxing, he never lowered himself down, merely using honeyed words and bantered jokes to mediate things.
But when there came a day that the one accommodating would no longer accommodate, and the one indulging would no longer indulge, then he would know how it felt to be discarded.
The scene was awkward, no one concerned about what had happened to the person who came out of the library. Those who knew the inside story were secretly gripped by the heart, while those who hadn’t learned the truth were thinking about how these two were as mismatched as expected. Fu Shen hadn’t yet contemplated how to respond to this situation, but the matter was over now. The Flying Dragon Guard was handling the case, and he got the feeling that Yan Xiaohan probably didn’t want to see him getting in the way here.
He sighed, motioned for Du Leng to head out, and said something to Wei Xuzhou. “I’ll take my leave first—“
He didn’t finish talking when Yan Xiaohan’s cold voice sounded out, as if he had eyes on the back of his head. “Where are you going? Come here.”
Fu Shen didn’t understand the reason for this, so he stayed rooted where he was.
Yan Xiaohan glanced back at him, came over like he didn’t have much patience, took the wheelchair out of Du Leng’s hands, and wheeled Fu Shen over to be in front of the pillar. Reaching his arms out, he tightly encircled the man in the chair from behind, lowering his head to whisper questions to him. “Where were you wanting to go, hm? I told you off a bit and now you want to go back to your maiden home?”
“Think about if you were me. Hearing that you and Wei Xuzhou were in the scripture library, then catching sight of dense smoke rising into the sky far away – how would you feel?”
“You weren’t inside, nor did you light the fire yourself. But since you knew there was something off about the inside of the building, why didn’t you have someone come find me?”
“Was it wrong of me to scold you?” Yan Xiaohan pinched the other’s chin, forcing his head up to look at him. “If something horrible suddenly happened to you, I wouldn’t be able to go on. I know you aren’t weak, but you also have to admit that sitting in a wheelchair can’t have any advantage against having a pair of normal legs. Jingyuan, whatever else you want to do is all up to you, but for things like this, don’t have my words go in one ear and out the other, and don’t pretend to coax me into behaving. Okay?”
These could be said to be words of complete devotion. Fu Shen’s throat hurt, and he hesitated for a time. “I’m sorry,” he responded, voice rough.
Yan Xiaohan gave an amused huff. He didn’t answer his apology, only stating, “Jot it down first. I’ll settle the debt with you when we get back.”
It was said that a married couple quarreled from the headboard to the foot of the bed. When it came to Yan Xiaohan, he didn’t even give Fu Shen time to get to the foot of the bed before he was pulling him back on the spot. Wei Xuzhou didn’t know what the two had said, but in the small gap that wasn’t blocked by Yan Xiaohan’s form, he seemed to be able to glimpse Fu Shen raising his head of his own accord.
General Wei, who had his own family, covered his eyes and pretended not to be impolitely staring at them while he mentally clucked his tongue in marvel.
Two lips met each other. Yan Xiaohan nibbled on Fu Shen’s lower lip with evil intent. “Alright, let’s get back to business…” he said with fake contrition. “That blade of yours was ruthless enough.”
The anxiety in Fu Shen’s heart had been broken up by his few remarks, his body seemingly warming back up from its time of being in freezing cold. He followed Yan Xiaohan’s sudden swerve of topic on a delay, though he didn’t comprehend the second half of his sentence and was a bit lost. “What?”
The Flying Dragon Guard had tied the person up. Yan Xiaohan drew out his own sabre, raising their head up so Fu Shen could see their face. “It’s your old friend. Has he changed so much that you can’t recognize him?”
Fu Shen fixed his gaze upon that thin, skull-esque face for a moment.“Yi Siming?” he uttered in amazement.
They had ridden side-by-side in Gemstone Mountain years prior, and later on, a deadly arrow and earth-shaking event had occurred in Blue Sand Pass. So many things had happened in the past, and the dust of everything settling in this second left them with nothing to say to each other — one was heavily injured and lame, one was gaunt and ghastly.
“General Yi.” Yan Xiaohan stepped around to come cut off Fu Shen’s line of sight, a fake smile on his face. “It’s been a while. As I recall, the Golden Crow Guard’s headquarters don’t seem to be here, eh?”
Yi Siming glared at him hatefully. “Don’t get proud of yourself so soon, Yan Xiaohan…” he crowed, “sooner or later, there’ll be a day where you end up like Fu Shen, too.”
“Our ends aren’t something you need to trouble yourself to worry about. I reckon you should first be thinking about your own end after you arrive at the North Prison.” He put his sabre back into its sheath. “Bring him back.”
“How dare you!” Yi Siming struggled violently, bellowing harshly. “I’m still a third-rank High General of the Golden Crow Guard! Without the Emperor’s edict, how can you dare to arrest me?!”
Yan Xiaohan held no change in expression. “Daoist Chunyang of the Clear Void Monastery had the mind to assassinate His Majesty during the Vast Longevity Feast. Every rank of worker up and down the Monastery is in jail awaiting their fates, and you were sneakily hiding in the scripture library. How’s one to know whether you’re friend or foe? This official was ordered to take charge in the investigation of this case, and the Flying Dragon Guard doesn’t need an edict to apprehend you.”
“Bloody slander!” Yi Siming shouted. “I had no idea Chunyang wanted to assassinate His Majesty! That has nothing to do with me!”
Yan Xiaohan gave a light smile. “Oh? What were you doing in this library, then?”
It was like Yi Siming had just gotten choked ‘round the neck, as he suddenly stopped making noise. A long interval later, he barely managed out, “I was just… randomly looking around here.”
“Don’t bother with making something up,” Fu Shen suddenly spoke, voice mild. “The room of the second floor of the library was at least a step wider than the first floor, so there had to be a recess in the walls of the first. This is a remote location and dust had accumulated on the interior, but the steps were very clean with no moss grown on them, so it could be observed that people were frequently coming to, but not staying in, the building. There was likely a secret room in it, either in the walls or underground.
The lock on the door wasn’t broken, so you must have come in through a window. You got here only a short time before me, and when you realized people were approaching outside the door, you went and hid in the recess — or it could be be that you were originally planning to go look for something in the hidden room. Quite unfortunately, though, because people hadn’t been in there recently, the floor of the library had a layer of dust on it, and you left behind a footprint that was half-inside the wall, half-out.
I figured you hadn’t left yet, so I had General Wei find some damp firewood to ignite. Regardless of whether it was a recess or a private room, if it was meant to hide someone, it was bound to have ventilation. With dense smoke all throughout the library, it was only natural that it’d also float into the ventilation cracks; that’s the traditional method for fumigating a cave to drive poisonous insects out of it.” He chuckled. “As expected, it wasn’t long until you were running out to throw yourself right into the net.”
During his dialogue, the first team of Flying Dragon Guards who went in to investigate had filed back out, Shen Yi’ce carrying a small box in his hand. “Sir, there was a staircase within the recess that led to a secret underground room. It had probably been cleared out beforehand, as we only found this.”
He handed the box over. Yan Xiaohan opened it for a look, then received a prompt realization. “Smoking pipe bowls?”
Yi Siming, tied up on the ground with his arms behind his back, suddenly writhed about like mad. “Give it! Give it!”
“What is it?” Fu Shen asked, bewildered.
Yan Xiaohan showed the box of intricate smoking paraphernalia to him. “In the Golden Crow Guard’s case a while before, we suspected that he had died of a drug giving rise to death by sexual exhaustion, and Yi Siming likely used the same thing,” he explained. “This drug has never been seen before. It’s a brown, powdery substance, and when breathed in after being heated up, it makes one bursting with vigor and increases their energy by a large amount: but it is enormously harmful to the body, easy to get addicted to, and difficult to abstain from.”
Fu Shen regarded the uncontrollably drug-addicted, crazed-looking Yi Siming. “Him turning into this… was because of that addictive drug?” he mumbled.
Yan Xiaohan peered down at him.
He had speculated the truth behind the ambush at Blue Sand Pass, and knew of the past between Fu Shen and Yi Siming when they were young. As a result, he caught Fu Shen’s implication right as he asked.
He was softhearted, cherished the past, and was attempting to push all of the powerlessness and change in circumstances of these years onto a dose of an entrenched poison that put one into a deranged state.
Yan Xiaohan knew that the two had once had a friendship; Yi Siming had been earnest and shrewd, yet he had willingly braved the danger in giving shelter to the Jin family’s descendant for Fu Shen’s sake. On top of that, he had told Fu Shen just a day before that only he could hold onto something or let it go, and no one could force him to have to take revenge.
Now, though, he needed to be cruel this once.
“Him turning into this wasn’t because of the drug.” Yan Xiaohan used his hand to push at Fu Shen’s shoulder, making him look straight at Yi Siming. “It was because he’s insatiably greedy.
A betrayer with the ambition of a wolf is unworthy of your mercy.”
Dark, calm irises met a pair of eyes encompassed in scarlet. In that instant, it was like they were standing at two extremes of that era of spirited youth, separated by massive mountains and infinite waters, casting distant glances, and then parting ways, not once looking back.
“You don’t have to retaliate, but you must never forget who’s hurt you in the past. One needs to know pain before they can live a bit longer.”
The translator says: Nothing quite like making out with your husband in front of your ex-friend and then stealing said friend’s hard drugs! (There’s also nothing like frequenting brothels so often that the girls recognize you when yOU ALREADY HAVE A WIFE AND KIDS, ISN’T THAT RIGHT, MR. WEI XUZHOU, YOU MANGY DOG)
 In a nutshell: while most modern smoking pipes are short and come in one piece, ancient ones – Chinese or otherwise – were long and often came with a detachable spouts/’bowls’ where the smoked substance (tobacco, opium) would be placed and ignited. It either looked like this with a literal bowl or this, with more of a spout.