[If you’re not reading this on chichilations, then you’re reading a stolen copy. Reposts are not allowed anywhere or for any reason.
Links for mobile viewers: Ko-fi Donation — Chichi’s Twitter — Project Index
I see all your likes and comments~ Thanks in advance~]
As soon as Wu Xi said this, his own heart genuinely jumped about in disarray. He would never bicker with Jiang Xue, a four-year-reckoned little thing that couldn’t distinguish between men and women — those words were said for Jing Qi to hear, as well as for the Crown Prince.
He had received a letter from the Great Shaman a few days ago. The man was getting old, and missed him much, having the desire to hand supervision of Nanjiang over to him. Counting them up, it had been almost nine years since he had come to the capital. In consideration of the Great Shaman’s age at the start, it was agreed between Nanjiang and the Great Qing that the Shamanet would be a hostage for ten years. His martial arts practice was great, while his studies were so-so, but passable. The day he would depart this land of right and wrong was already not far away.
For that reason, he wasn’t afraid of Helian Yi.
Jing Qi had taught him that someone like Helian Yi could not do anything that threatened the security of his home country, nor could he risk the danger of war between Nanjiang and the Great Qing again from offending the sole successor of that three-thousand li of miasmatic land.
He was only worried about Jing Qi’s reaction.
Wu Xi knew that by openly saying this under such circumstances, he was pressuring the other party. He didn’t want to do this, but the time he had left in the Great Qing wasn’t much. If he had a choice, he would never use this half-bullheaded approach to compel Jing Qi.
In spite of this man appearing to go with the flow — seeming to be extremely satisfied with anyone and anything, nodding and agreeing with everything others said, and putting on a show of practicing tai chi when he was unwilling — Wu Xi had a hunch; his bottom line couldn’t be touched. He didn’t know where Jing Qi’s bottom line was, but he was apprehensive in advance.
Because he cared, he thus worried about the gains and losses of this.
Compared to Helian Yi, who had suffered a shock, Jing Qi didn’t look to have even a blink’s worth of hesitation. He pulled his arm off like he was playing around, lightly pat him, then smiled casually. “What crap. Misguide this young lady, and Sir Jiang will surely find your head.”
After that, he bent over, picked Jiang Xue up once more, took a piece of silk from the maidservant attending at the side, opened it, and dug out a piece of sweet to feed to her. “Don’t listen to this big brother’s nonsense, little lady. All you talk about is taking a wife; what’ll you do if you can’t get married off in the future?”
He had just said he wanted to recognize someone as a goddaughter, but the attending Wu Xi was morphed into a ‘big brother’. Helian Yi hung his eyes and held his cup silently, not responding.
He had seen Wu Xi’s expression just then clearly, making him upset on the inside, though that was ultimately hidden and not expressed. Once he witnessed Jing Qi’s intentional (or not) display, he was even more secure.
He knew of the agreement between Nanjiang and the Great Qing, and that the Shamanet was going back in another year. He mentally sneered — this southern barbarian had started to go for Beiyuan, but how was that any different from fishing the moon up out of the water?
Helian Yi originally had the worst headache from Jing Qi’s nature of making a scene practically every day and occasionally going to brothels all over the place, but at this moment, he was a bit proud. He believed that the man innately ought to be living a life of luxury in his wealthy homeland, surveying the realm; apart from these thirty li beside Fullmoon River, what other place could provide for him in the infinite zhang of the mortal world?
The barbarian really was a barbarian, to even have such a pointless dream.
No expression could be made out on Wu Xi’s face. He was constantly of few words, with even his looks accustomed to being placid and waveless, and merely rubbed the place Jing Qi had pushed his arm away in silence. Wordlessly returning to sit in his original spot, he watched Jing Qi playing happily with Jiang Xue and heard Helian Yi occasionally tease them.
It was like he became an unmoving, unspeaking, unsmiling mannequin.
He was tense for a long while, but he had ultimately underestimated Jing Qi’s ability to beat around the bush — Prince Nan’ning’s bottom line couldn’t be touched, but he also had the skills to prevent people from touching it.
Only when the sun had set did Zhou Zishu come bringing Liang Jiuxiao, face sullen, and personally picked Jiang Xue up to take her back to the Jiang family. Liang Jiuxiao’s head drooped, looking exactly like a frost-beaten eggplant, and he rolled his eyes in aggrievance from behind Zhou Zishu. Jiang Xue was worn-out from playing and unwilling to walk. She rested in Zhou Zishu’s arms, lying on her stomach on his shoulder and making silly faces at Liang Jiuxiao.
Helian Yi departed as well.
Jing Qi sent the group of miscellaneous people off, then returned to the courtyard, only to see Wu Xi standing there brush-straight and watching him steadily.
At the start, he only felt that his arm was somewhat sore from getting pressed down on by that fat little girl, but seeing Wu Xi like this made his head start to ache in succession, having quite a bit of the depression of a fine scholar coming across soldiers.
The Prince should have been used to this. He always thought that there were some words on earth, with such implications, that were fine to hint at, not to be said even if everyone knew what was going on. With leaving them behind, one could still advance and retreat — why bother disclosing it and blocking off a road?
He was a bit thwarted, feeling that these many years of lecturing this real-life donkey were nothing but playing a qin for a cow.
Before he could say anything, Wu Xi spoke. “Where am I not good enough? Tell me, no matter what it is you want me to do.”
He practiced martial arts year-round, was tall, broad-shouldered, narrow-waisted, and very good-looking. His features had grown out, no longer the immaturity of his youth; they seemed even more cut, with distinct edges and corners like a knife had carved them out, making him an exceedingly handsome young man.
Jing Qi leaned against the willow in the courtyard, arms crossing his chest, and shook his head.
Wu Xi took a step forwards, somewhat restless. “Tell the truth. I can change anything… or do you hate me?”
The other quietly shook his head again.
“Then why don’t you want me?”
Jing Qi sneered faintly. “Ever since Pangu opened the universe, starting from the three monarchs and five Emperors, men have tilled and women weaved, yin and yang in harmony. This is the heavenly law of human relations. I’ve lectured as much before, was it all for nothing?”
His gaze was cast slightly downwards, his features distant, jaw slightly sharp, and expression somewhat cold.
“Don’t cut back on me,” Wu Xi said. “You clearly told the Emperor that you like men before—“
“Me?” Jing Qi raised a brow, smiling fakely. “In this life of mine, I need to rely on living preposterously. To say nothing of me simply fancying men, even if I told him that I liked cats and dogs and wanted to live with animals for a lifetime, he’d be happy; are you the kind of person I am?”
Not waiting for Wu Xi’s answer, he flung his sleeve out and turned. “I am of humble talent and shallow knowledge. I taught for so long, yet nothing got through to you. You don’t need to come again, Shamanet. Do find someone more qualified.”
However, Wu Xi took a few steps forward like a bolt of lightning and grabbed him; he didn’t dare to touch him directly, only using his fingertips to pinch his wide sleeve. Trying hard to bear with it, he attemped to make his own expression look less profoundly emotionally tinted, getting his face under control only with half a day’s effort, but his mind was a white expanse, with not a sentence he could say.
Only after ages did a few words quietly emit from his throat. “Don’t… be mad.”
Jing Qi watched him unresponsively. “Don’t be mad,” Wu Xi said in a low voice, “I’ll stop being like this. Don’t… refuse to see me…”
He was panicking hard, out of fear that the other would strike him down with one ruthless word, and there would no coming back from it. Never had he felt so distressed and regretful before.
During youth was the first moment of heart would pound. During youth were months and years of all sorts of seeking yet not obtaining. During youth, soft heartstrings would be pinched by someone else, a light poke putting one in so much pain that they didn’t want to live.
But, over the years, hearts grew calluses, and they would not have that sort of soul-exhausting affection again, too experienced in the blue sea of life to bother with its water.
Unbridled drunkenness was planned, song accompanying wine, yet the potent pleasure was tasteless.
Clothes had slowly gotten looser, ending with no regret; for they, the body wasted away. The look the other had suddenly evoked ancient memories that Jing Qi had buried at the bottom of his heart for these many past years. He recalled his own thirty-two years of heart-scratching time, and his infatuation of sitting in wait at the Bridge of Helplessness for several hundred years. The deep weariness infatuation caused someone… no one understood it better than he. He sighed quietly. “Wu Xi, don’t be like this. Why even bother?”
Three hundred years ago, Zhou Zishu was also here in the middle of the night, frowning. “Beiyuan, why even bother being like this?” he had said to him.
The feeling in this, a spectator wouldn’t understand. All sorts of emotions had nowhere to be laid in the human world, humanity lacking.
His self from three hundred years before and the one in front of him from three hundred years after suddenly overlapped together. “If… if I can live to the day that you return to Nanjiang, and if the world is at peace and the weather is good at that time, and if I’m able to leave the capital alive, there wouldn’t be any harm in going to stay with you for a couple of years,” he blurted nearly uncontrollably.
Wu Xi’s eyes widened. He stared blankly at him as if he understood every word, but didn’t know what they meant when strung together. A long while later, he trembled out, “You… you’re… you’re promising me…”
He felt like his heart was about to fly out of his chest, squeezing Jing Qi’s sleeve into a shape.
Jing Qi smiled bitterly. “If such a day comes, I will certainly keep my promise.”
To be able to leave the capital alive in a time of peace and good weather, retiring with his merits accomplished — that was the sole thing he had plotted for over these ten years since his reincarnation here. With one careless move, it wouldn’t only be his own worthless life that would be forfeit; how could things ever be so easy?
This was no more than him not having the heart to see him take things too hard like this, nor wanting to say groundless words to cajole him.
Yet, it was enough for Wu Xi to joyfully forget who he was, and he nearly floated — feet not hitting the ground — out of the Prince Estate that day.
It was unknown whether it was because the weather warmed up or what, but Helian Pei’s illness suddenly improved, as he actually simmered through it and slowly made a full recovery. After another month passed, not only did his complexion get ruddy, but the medicine stopped, and he was even able to put on the airs of going to Court.
Everyone’s stirring hearts were put back down into their bellies again. Helian Zhao, the one who was most looking forward to visiting a Late Emperor, had a good couple of days where he had no drive, feeling that his old dad was tactless to be aged but not dead, thus letting his expectations down. No one was pleasing to his eye; even his newly-acquired favorite concubine gave him the opportunity to vent his anger, which scared her into losing her two-month pregnancy, and made him feel increasingly unlucky.
Helian Pei had come to life again and felt that he had been blessed by the heavens. Rather proud of himself, he still remembered the unfinished matter from before his sickness, and he wasn’t happy catching sight of Jiang Zheng in Court. In consequence, he found out a flaw, then demoted Jiang Zheng out of the capital, having him serve as a minor, trivial official in a small town near the border of Nanjiang. This was a special favor in consideration of the man’s many years of bearing the burden of office.
The climate of that area was most overcast and humid. Jiang Zheng was already more than fifty, and with the repeated frights, his health was getting all the worse. This was a faraway journey to a wild, harshly miasmatic land; he would likely kick his legs up and pass away before he got there. This was the Emperor using special means to have his life, whilst dragging his whole family into it.
Helpless, he had no choice but to thank him for his grace.
Others didn’t think so, but Liang Jiuxiao was exceptionally dismayed. He liked the bizarre little lady that was Jiang Xue, and he knew it wasn’t just him; the young Prince, his eldest sect-brother, and even the Crown Prince all liked her.
The Prince had joked that, from watching her bounce around the courtyard, he felt a bit of the blessedness of a fat dog and a chubby girl guarding his gates, and whatever family had such a treasure wouldn’t exchange her for a mountain of gold. Yet, that chubby girl was going to have to follow her dad to such a distant place and leave the capital. Where would there be soft yogurts, sweet cakes, and little edible figurines?
Wouldn’t the girl wither to thinness?
The day before Jiang Zheng and his group left the capital, Liang Jiuxiao came to the Prince Estate, entering with a listless look. Jing Qi was somewhat surprised, having not expected him to arrive. “What winds have blown Hero Liang here again?” he asked with a smile.
Liang Jiuxiao sat down with a deep sigh. “I’m uneasy, Prince.”
Jing Qi was quiet for a minute. “No one can clearly explain the ups and downs of human life. The Emperor is already being particularly generous. There are no seating mats in the realm that won’t fall apart. Perhaps this’ll be Sir Jiang’s paradise.”
Liang Jiuxiao nodded. “You make sense, but I still feel uneasy.”
There was nothing good Jing Qi could say, so he sat with him for a while.
It took a long time for Liang Jiuxiao to get some energy back. “My sect-brother said that you got a few jugs of high-quality wine,” he said cheerfully. “He’s too busy to get away from his duties, so he had me come try it for him. I dunno… hehe.”
Jing Qi was startled for a moment, not understanding what Zhou Zishu meant.
Liang Jiuxiao continued elaborating. “Hey, I know that you’re charitable and always pay close attention to good wine, but don’t worry, I won’t drink much of yours. I have to go see Sir Jiang off tomorrow, I promised Xiao Xue. Grant me a couple cups to taste, and I can use that as an excuse to go back and show off to my sect-brother…”
Jing Qi understood now, his heart suddenly sinking. Forcing a smile, he kneaded a paw of the sable he held. “You’ll have to wait, then. You two can’t live under the same sky. I won’t be able to catch it a minute more, and then it’ll add color to you… I’ll take it back to the Shamanet’s place, before anything else.”
Saying so, he stood and left.
Liang Jiuxiao brainlessly tched. “That Shamanet’s arrogance is way too big, for the Prince to have to make a trip in person over such a petty matter…”
Before he could finish, the originally-docile sable that had been curled up in Jing Qi’s hold bared its fangs, scaring him into quickly shutting up.
Jing Qi’s steps didn’t stop.
The translator says: …
 From “Butterflies Chasing Flowers” by Liu Yong. (Read here.)