[If you’re not reading this on chichilations, then you’re reading a stolen copy. Reposts are not allowed anywhere or for any reason. If you think I won’t know when you do it, you’re wrong.
Links for mobile viewers: Ko-fi Donation — Chichi’s Twitter — Project Index
I see all your likes and comments~ Thanks in advance~]
TW: Gore, death.
Helian Pei’s consciousness became increasingly lethargic. That previous bout of illness had already hollowed out his barely-existing foundation, and with this fright, it seemed like he was about to die. The time he was awake during the day was lesser, and he had to muster his energy to listen to Helian Yi on the daily. The majority of the time, before the other had finished speaking, he would fall back into sleep.
Everyone could plainly tell that while the Crown Prince was still living in the East Palace right now, it probably wouldn’t be long until places were changed.
For that reason, when he hadn’t even yet ascended the throne, the problems of the nation pressed down on his shoulders in such an unusually intense fashion, not even leaving any cushioning room. It was quite impressive; when the Late Emperor had withered half the country away and passed it to Helian Pei, it was still considered strong enough to hold up. Helian Pei had reigned for thirty-six years, and he withered the other half away, not betraying everyone’s expectations. Coming into Helian Yi’s hands, he simply had no idea what should come next.
It wasn’t clear whether he had an unlucky fate, or whether it was because he had been born into this world to begin with.
However, if these things were considered no big deal, then the scroll he had discovered under Helian Pei’s bed would have become the heaviest stone weighing on Helian Yi’s heart. These days, he was always almost unconsciously going to see Jing Qi, and observing from all angles the visage that he had long since known well.
Perhaps he was looking too much, perhaps he had an inkling inside him all along. Upon examination, he felt like he could make out some hints from the face of the one he could describe with his eyes closed.
Before, he had felt that his brows and eyes resembled the Prince Consort’s, and his mouth and nose resembled the Prince Consort’s, and even the shape of his face followed hers, letting old friends back in the day tell whose son he was with one look. Now, however, Helian Yi inexplicably felt that the man also resembled Helian Pei a bit, especially when he was being impish and lost in thought.
On the inside, he became all the more apprehensive.
He thought that, if the other was only Jing Beiyuan, he would still have some hope, though remote. But what if he genuinely was his brother, linked by blood?
In regards to human relationships, could a direct blood relation ever be reversed and ignored? That was his blood brother!
Ancient peoples knew not of yearning from birth, but were tortured with yearning once they began to have it. Such was this feeling.
A thought that was a guess at first finally began to gradually deepen within his repeated pondering. Slowly, it became like the truth, a current of despair generating from his heart.
Even so, that feeling could only exist inside him, not to be said to anyone.
If it was him alone that suffered a mental knot with this, it would be fine; the world was in disorder right now, and others might not notice the Crown Prince’s private mind. Yet, Jing Qi knew. Every single time Helian Yi looked over at him, he noticed.
Watching as the other’s gaze became all the more complex, Jing Qi pretended not to notice, but he had a slow sinking feeling, too. In this life, all of his energy had been spent on getting out of the way. He had long not had even half of an ambitious mind, and had defamed himself for two decades.
In his previous life, he was Prince Nan’ning, shrewd and god-like in everyone’s eyes, but in this one, he had turned into the capital’s number-one preposterous dandy. How was the Crown Prince still thinking about him in such a way?
Even clay figures had some degree of earthly qualities. He had traveled the mortal world once around, doing all of what he shouldn’t have been doing. Could it be that this brand of deliberate plotting still wasn’t ‘pleasing’ enough?
Thus, he was no longer unduly close to Helian Yi. After all, they had a friendship that went from childhood to adulthood, where they shared trials and tribulations for however many years, but due to a painting that might or might not be real, and a bloodline that came out of nowhere, he could no longer tolerate him?
How greatly suspicious His Highness was!
As it was so… he had not been too steady to begin with, thus, upon enduring quite a bit of the present crisis, the tumult in his mind was completely gone. At last, he no longer wavered; he wanted to go far away from this divided land of bone-deep ice. Once the dust had settled on the Great Qing’s crisis and the fire signals of the Northwest had been swept away to empty air, his death would then come, and he was going to die outside of the capital, never to return to the field of heartbreak beside Fullmoon River.
Lamentably, Bai Wuchang had dithered about the underworld for a thousand years, growing accustomed to watching mortal souls float by, but he still hadn’t understood that the most terrifying area of the human heart was none other than the concept of ‘making something where there is nothing, then measuring someone else only on one’s own thoughts.’ Helian Yi and Jing Beiyuan, one paranoid and one mistrustful — between the truths and lies, likely neither of them could distinguish whether their own feelings were real or fake. The one with the obsession kept his obsession to himself, and the one with the suspicion kept his suspicion to himself.
Defeated in the previous life, defeated in this life. Jing Beiyuan had painstakingly waited beside Three-Life Rock for three hundred years, and his incomparably infatuated heart had grown cold, no longer having the ash of being excessively troubled and thoroughly analytical.
In the causation of nature, where were those seven years of predestined affinity? In spite of it all, karma that was produced from some unknown event flickered in response. In several hundred years of entanglement, every debt was paid back, making those spirits of infatuation, insufficiently-witted, able to speculate on ridiculous evidence.
Every night, Helian Yi had to work until deep in the evening, and only then would he close his eyes. In his night-long daze, he dreamed of Jing Qi.
Within his dream, that man was still in that long, wide-sleeved, billowing blue-green robe, his long hair unbound as if he was a teenager, and he smiled at him from a moderate distance away. He took a step forward, and the other took a step back — chasing him urgently made the other draw back, like he was getting blown by wind.
Anxious, he suddenly understood what it meant to be so near, yet so far; it was like he was close at hand, yet also eternally unable to be reached. He could only helplessly watch the man smile so faintly and minimally while he drifted farther away, immense grief inside him, and he couldn’t help but shout, “Beiyuan!”
Immediately afterwards, his foot stepped on air, as if he was falling into an abyss, and then he woke up in the middle of the night. He reached up to feel at the corner of his eye, and was shocked to feel moisture.
The night-guarding Yu Kui was in the middle of sneaking a nap when he got startled awake by him. “Did you have a nightmare, Your Highness?” he said, quickly coming over.
Helian Yi mn’ed, sitting up in bed himself.
That cry of ‘Beiyuan’ was one Yu Kui actually heard. Tense, he didn’t dare to say anything, only quietly waiting by the side.
Helian Yi suddenly couldn’t stay here; perhaps that sorrowful ache from the dream was too real, making him all the more urgently wishing to be able to see and feel Jing Qi. Thus, he stood up. “Change my clothes. I’m leaving the palace.”
Yu Kui was taken aback. “Your Highness… fourth watch(1-3-am) has just passed,” he replied tentatively.
The other paused. “I’m going out,” he insisted.
Helpless, Yu Kui had to help him change. Unexpectedly, right after Helian Yi’s belt had been tied on, a burst of hurried footsteps came from outside the bedroom.
“Your Highness, there’s an emergency message!”
A thousand miles away, the entire northwestern sky was already beginning to burn with the flames of war.
That night, the stars and moon were concealed behind clouds, and the air pressure was extremely low, vague wind blowing and thunder flashing. Some days, the sky appeared to be keeping in heavy rain, but a few days later, it would still be hot and stuffy, no beads of rain to be seen. In the gloomy night, a couple claps of lightning struck, and then a gust was certain to come the next day, blowing the clouds away.
All around were circling mountains, their ends unknown. The Great Qing’s army had been facing off against the Vakurah for more than half a month here, and the fighting spirit it had when leaving the capital had long since gone on steep decline, with everyone unbearably exhausted.
An old soldier standing guard for the encampment’s provisions wiped his sweat off, cursing and damning lowly. All of a sudden, the muffled sound of thunder came from the distance as if it were present here, rumbling. He couldn’t see the weak rays of lightning, even as the noise covered up the sound of a heavy object falling to the ground.
The soldier couldn’t hear it, continuing to diligently patrol.
He traversed once around, but happened to bump into a Great Qing soldier whose clothes were in a bit of disarray. Seeing so, the old soldier startled slightly, then greeted him with a smile on his own initiative. “Up at night?”
He nodded, said no more, took two steps away, then felt that something was fishy — up at night? Why would he get up at night and come here? He halted, called out at the man to stop, and asked, “Which camp are you?”
The man paused in his tracks. “I’m a subordinate of Lieutenant Wang of the cavalry camp.”
The soldier hoisted up his negligible night-patrol light, carefully illuminating the other’s face with it. “Lieutenant Wang’s subordinate?” he said with suspicion. “I got put on watch after getting injured, and I was in the cavalry camp before, so why… don’t you look familiar?”
The other’s smile stiffened. “You’ve been away from the camp for some days, right, brother? I was transferred into it recently.”
He then nodded, looked at him once more, and turned to leave, only to remember something and turn his head. “What’s your name?”
The man was caught off guard. His eyes swept to the old soldier’s back, a crafty smile showing on his face. ”It’s…”
The voice behind him was way too quiet, and the old soldier couldn’t hear it, so he craned his neck. “Wh—“ His voice disappeared all at once, because a hand passed behind him, and then a harsh, cold feeling sliced across his own neck. Before he could even react, he witnessed blood spray out from it. He took two steps back, eyes wide, and wanted to call out, only to discover that his throat had been cut open.
A dragon of fire fell out of thin air. In no more than a moment’s effort, the eastern wind stirred up trouble, and the whole encampment became a sea of flames.
Someone screamed. “Enemy ambush! Enemy ambush!”
Each utterance seemed to be drawn-out and fearful. The tranquil camp instantly went into a flurry. Soon after, the screamer’s voice came to an abrupt stop, as he had been firmly nailed to the ground by a cold arrow shot out of some unknown area, motionless and with his head askew.
Every day, there was the growing glow of battle with the Vakurah army. Under the command of Helian Zhao’s generals and the reliance of numerous people, the army was still capable. In this moment, they got extremely scared, and the normally-pampered, hastily-assembled servicemen finally exposed their original bearings.
Men and horses panicked into a mess. It was unknown how many enemies infiltrated them, but many people were trampled to death by their own on such a chaotic night.
Helian Zhao heard the shouts and came out of his large tent. Upon seeing some general having a hard time scurrying up before his eyes, he couldn’t restrain his anger. “In an incense’s time, whoever can’t assemble the troops together is whoever’s getting executed on the spot!”
“Great… Great General! Your Highness, the enemy army is killing I don’t know how many people from behind, and half the camp has now already turned into an inferno! There’s… there’s such terrible screaming over there, could it be that… the barbarian’s reinforcements have come?”
Helian Zhao coldly observed the conscript that had thrown himself before him, then gazed malevolently at the raging encampment, words squeezing out from between his teeth. “This is no more than a couple of minor night attacks. Transmit the command that those who dare to delude everyone with lies to damage army morale, and those that dare to disregard orders to flee at will, will be killed with no pardon.”
Seeing the General’s expression, his bodyguards immediately hauled up the terror-stricken conscript, nimbly blocked up his mouth, and hauled him away. “Prepare horses!” Helian Zhao shouted.
He had experienced many years in the Northwest in his youth, so the affairs of the army weren’t unfamiliar to him. Hearing the fighting, he knew on the inside that it was definitely not merely a few foes that had set the fire deep in the night. He understood that his conscript was right; the majority of the three-formation-marching Vakurah had amassed together.
However, he also knew that the Great Qing’s army had not been the godly army of descending tigers and wolves that it used to be for a long time now. He himself wasn’t in a panic, still able to control the scene, because if he ever showed a bit of uncertainty, these two-hundred-thousand men would be nothing more than a clamorous and scattered mob.
A horse suddenly stopped in front of him, and the one on it immediately dismounted, his armor covered in bloodstains. Focusing his eyes, Helian Zhao saw that it was He Yunxing. The latter wiped the blood and sweat off his face, voice sullen. “General, the power of the fire looks terrifying, but it’s already come under control. The scout dispatched has just now returned, and he reported that three formations of troops are now coming over. This humble general fears that the barbarians want to take advantage of the chaos to launch a full-strength pincer attack.”
Helian Zhao didn’t move, nor speak.
“Please give your instructions, General!” He Yunxing called again.
Helian Zhao’s warhorse had already been led over. He mounted it, grasped his longsabre in hand, and enunciated himself. “Junior Marquis, looking at the autumn chill, the barbarians have no provisions nor food. They’re worried, afraid that they won’t be able to get through this year’s cold seasons. Now, the Great Qing’s life and death are both in this campaign. If…”
He slightly smiled, an air of unyielding viciousness on his face. “If anyone is defeated and concedes today, they can then commit suicide to make up for it!”
The translator says: Where’s 23andme when you need it? 1000+ years in the future, that’s where.