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As if he didn’t recognize the man, Jing Qi couldn’t come back to himself for a long time, only staring blankly at Helian Yi.
Helian Yi chucked. “Why do you look so dumb?”
Jing Qi opened his mouth, but before he had time to say anything, Helian Yi raised his hand and motioned it downwards, cutting him off. “I’m not discussing this with you. Though the Shamanet is a hostage, his skills aren’t bad. Since he was received by Father Emperor when he arrived, he shouldn’t be too unpresentable when he leaves. That’s why I’m ordering you to see him off.”
He took a deep breath, then let it out slowly. “Father Emperor is this way now, I can’t withdraw, and anyone else like won’t be skilled enough… you need to leave as soon as possible.”
He looked up to shoot the attending Yu Kui a look, who promptly reacted, and offered up an edict. Jing Qi stood up like it was a reflex, then knelt.
Helian Yi personally took the edict in hand, then handed it over to him. “This is Father Emperor’s will, too, to order you to see off the Shamanet on his journey yourself. I didn’t read the old man’s decree out loud because I went back a bit earlier to put everything in order.”
Jing Qi brows lightly wrinkled. “Your Highness…”
Helian Yi lifted the edict expressionlessly. “What? Are you still defying the order, at this point in time?”
Helian Pei had long lost consciousness. What kind of order could he have made?
Helian Yi remembered that moment in the rear courtyard of the Prince Estate, where he heard Wu Xi state that world-shocking declaration, like it had happened yesterday. He had felt it laughable at the time, felt that Wu Xi was daydreaming; what relationship could the stately Prince Nan’ning of the Great Qing have with a foreigner from a remote area?
Back then, all he really believed was that, apart from the edge of Fullmoon River, what place in this realm could be wealthy enough to support this man’s lifestyle, and support it well? Looking at things now, though, that was all nonsense. The ways of the world were fickle. Level land still raised into large waves in normal times, to say nothing of a distraught world in chaos.
The extent of the elite troops the Court could use had been lost in Gansu. Completion of moving over troops stationed at Nanjiang and the Guangs was a long time off, too, wasn’t it? How could the predatory Vakurah division, which could travel a thousand li in a day, give them enough time? The war in the capital was most likely going to be hopeless.
He suddenly came to understand that, regardless of whether the man was related to him by blood or not, he had already placed him into the softest place of his heart; so profound, and yet hard to describe.
But, how could he bear… how could he bear to watch him be ruined by a foreign race’s hands, together with a city of used-up prosperity?
He was such a promising young man, like a mortal banished from heaven, and he ought to easily be able to drink and be happy, living this life with no worries.
Nanjiang was far away, but the Shamanet was still the future Great Shaman, so he shouldn’t treat him too poorly. Though there were plumes of toxic air, he had heard that there were green mountains and beautiful people, too. Helian Yi’s voice was pressed down low out of fear that raising it a bit would bring a hint of him choking up along with it, and he would be unable to control his unaffected tone. “Take the edict,” he said stiffly.
Jing Qi raised his head, expression complicated as he stared at him.
Helian Yi shifted his line of sight away. To be cut off from him — just anticipating that he was about to be cut off from him — felt like his heart was being cut out with a knife. His raised hand began to shake slightly. “Jing Beiyuan, take the edict!”
Jing Qi softly closed his eyes, slowly reached out, and took the edict with both hands.
Helian Yi followed his back with his eyes as he departed for a place unseen, then dropped into the dragon chair like his strength had escaped him. He curled up into a ball, shoulders hunched with his face buried into the crook of his arm. The dragon chair’s wideness, intricacy, and manifested air of jeweled pricelessness were all gloomy, cold, and somber, making him look all the more thin and haggard in comparison.
Yu Kui stood quietly at the side. Looking at him, he swallowed his sigh back into his stomach.
Jing Qi returned to his Estate, went straight to his study, then placed his hand upon an inconspicuous and ancient little cabinet in the corner. After standing there silently for a time, he undid the three locks on it with the key he had on him, tossed the edict inside, and took out a small bottle.
Immediately after that, he turned and walked right out.
In the moment he turned, the imposing, empty, solemn, mask-like look on his face vanished instantaneously with a gentle wipe. Not a trace of it was left behind, making one view it as the same slightly-smiling, thoroughly indecent expression as always.
Following the day that Jing Qi had been ordered to come to the palace in the middle of the night, Wu Xi knew something big had happened without him needing to say anything. The Estate was oddly quiet for the past several days, and Zhou Zishu’s group that occasionally came over to drink had not shown up for some time. Jing Qi himself came in and out in a rush, as well, leaving the Estate very early in the morning and sometimes not even coming back after people had lit up lanterns.
At this moment, the sky hadn’t yet darkened. Wu Xi was in the middle of practicing in the courtyard. Jing Qi dismissed the attendants and entered alone, not making a sound. He just leaned against the big tree, crossed his arms over his chest, and watched.
Wu Xi was utterly concentrated when he practiced. Jing Qi liked this undistracted look of his the most, as if even the sky could be falling down and he’d ignore it. When he did anything, he would have only that thing in mind, and even when doing martial arts, he ineffably gave off a sense of ‘stillness’.
That was because he was calm.
Only after the smaller half of a shichen did he stop in his arts. Raising his head to see Jing Qi, a smile abruptly appeared on his face. It was so genuine, that anyone seeing it couldn’t resist the compulsion to smile together with him.
“Why are you so early today?” Wu Xi asked when he walked over.
Jing Qi raised a brow. “The Crown Prince chopped down everyone who clamored for moving the capital. No one made a fuss.”
Wu Xi was startled, but since he actually quite approved of that, he nodded. “If it was me, I would have chopped them down long ago. The battle hasn’t started yet, what reason is there in running?”
The matters he cared about were finite, restricted solely to those relevant to Nanjiang. The people he cared about were even more finite, restricted solely to the one before him. He only knew that there were encampments in the vicinity of the capital, not understanding the specifics of how many people there were, nor how reliable they were; he was probably one of the very few truly optimistic people left in the capital.
Jing Qi had no intention of explaining things clearly, so he nodded with a smile. “The way the two of you think is pretty identical. The Great Qing and Nanjiang will avoid fighting later on.”
He was speaking, yet his gaze was focused unblinkingly on Wu Xi. He had a pair of peach blossom eyes to begin with, so whenever he casually stared right at someone, it brought an indescribable overtone with it. Wu Xi only felt that the look in them was like a small hook, catching one’s heart and making it gallop. Hence, he gave a dry cough. “…Why are you looking at me like that?”
Jing Qi laughed without sound, his eyes curving up slightly; because his lashes were thick, they were like ink strokes drawn around them. There had been a huge downpour in the capital a few days prior, early autumn had arrived, and the weather was slightly cool, but he was still dressed like it was summer. The button on his neckline had either jumped open on its own or had never been fastened in the first place, revealing an exceptionally fair neck.
Wu Xi paused straightaway, feeling his heart twitch, after which his mouth became noticeably dry.
Jing Qi suddenly reached out. Using two fingers to lift the other’s chin, he leaned in close, as if he were teasing a young lady. “Look at you… how handsome,” he said, voice hushed.
Wu Xi took a step back, not knowing how to react. “Beiyuan, don’t mess around,” he quietly demanded.
Laughing lowly, Jing Qi put his arms around his waist, and then their positions swiftly changed. Wu Xi’s back was pressed against the tree trunk, nowhere for him to retreat to, while Jing Qi was nearly stuck up against him, fingers lightly gripping his chin. “Who was the one who threatened, and with such power, that he would kill everyone that I liked until none were left? What’s making you be this bashful, now?”
Anyone who got pressed up against a tree by their beloved wouldn’t be able to handle a provocation like this. On top of that, he was a young man that had only just recognized what feelings were, but still didn’t understand what desire was. All he felt was his blood surging up in bursts, his words stringing together somewhat awkwardly in no time, and his mind being a blank expanse. He was only able to say one phrase: “Beiyuan… don’t mess around.”
Jing Qi’s gaze wandered, fingertips fiddling with Wu Xi’s hanging locks. Aiming a look at his neckline, he lowered his voice even more, practically plastering to Wu Xi’s ear. “Due to that threat of yours, I feared that fooling around would spill blood three chi around me… this Prince has slept in a cold quilt that no one has warmed for who knows how many days. Are you so uncharitable, Shamanet, that you wouldn’t even compensate me for it?”
An explosion went off in Wu Xi’s head. “B-B… Beiyuan… this isn’t right, we’re not officially married yet, w-we shouldn’t,” he managed to stammer out.
Jing Qi was stumped for a moment before he realized what he meant. Bravado finally broken, he leaned into Wu Xi’s neck and laughed heartily.
How could such a rare flower exist in this world? And how did he manage to come across someone like this? He started to believe that the Heavens were making things right for him, but when he thought carefully about it, he then believed that the Heavens had changed to a different tactic for messing with him:
It wasn’t seeking, yet not receiving, it was loving, but then separating.
The sound of his laughter stopped all at once, and he lowered his head. Wu Xi couldn’t see his expression and felt a bit panicky, so, after hesitating, he grabbed Jing Qi’s shoulder to question, “What is it, Beiyuan?”
Jing Qi shook his head, wiping the tears at the corner of his eyes that had come out due to laughter. All of a sudden, he turned his head, bluntly asking, “I want you. Can you give yourself to me?”
Wu Xi’s throat bobbed unnaturally, dazed for a minute. There was a voice in his head saying that this was wrong the whole time, but under the attentive look in Jing Qi’s eyes that seemed to be entrancing, the voice grew weaker and weaker, until he slowly nodded his head.
Laughing, Jing Qi bit his ear. “I’ll come to your room tonight.” After that, he let go of him, turning around and leaving of his own accord.
Wu Xi remained standing there for a moment. Thinking that this all was an illusion, he airily walked away like he was sleepwalking, his arms matching the pace of his legs. When he was eating dinner, due to his mind wandering so terribly, he dropped two pairs of chopsticks in succession, and even ended up accidentally smashing the bowl. Nuahar, who he had intentionally brought to wait upon him out of fear that staying at the Estate would be an inconvenience, merely thought their Shamanet was possessed. The other’s face was dignified at times, suffused with red at times, and revealed an indescribably dumb smile at times. It was exceptionally strange.
The hair-raising meal was eaten with great difficulty. He likely didn’t even know what he was eating at all. After, he had Nuahar draw hot water for him to take an early bath. “Shamanet, don’t you practice at night? You want to rest this early?” the latter questioned in horror.
“Go and retire earlier tonight yourself,” Wu Xi answered irrelevantly. “No need to attend to me.”
Nuahar blinked, then blinked again, and thus determined that this guy was possessed.
The moon was above the branches of willows. Not at ease, Wu Xi picked up a book and flipped through it from start to finish, but didn’t know what he had read, his mind like a racing carriage. The darker the sky got, the further away he got from reality. It was unknown how long had passed until the door was pushed open from the outside all of a sudden, and he immediately looked up.
He caught sight of Jing Qi sporting a pearl-white robe, his hair loose, looking like he had just finished bathing and drying off. The other calmly blinked at him, pushed the door closed from behind, then walked towards him. With every step closer he got, Wu Xi’s heartbeat quickened incrementally.
When Jing Qi leaned in close, picked up the book he held, and threw it to the side, Wu Xi felt that his heart was going so fast, it wasn’t beating anymore.
[End of Book 3: Watching Him Raise A Tall Building, Entertain Guests In It, Collapse It]
The translator says: Should be happy, but it’s foreboding…