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While going to those content-thief sites to find the chapters of this novel that had been locked on jjwxc (just about the only thing the bastards are good for), I noticed that their chapter counts were one off — that is, they had one too many. For some reason, this third extra is completely missing from jjwxc, and I can’t wrap my head around as to why.
Maybe priest ended up disliking and deleting it. Maybe it got moderated on accident. Who knows? I think it’s very important, so here it is.]
Previous Life : Helian Yi
Memory was like a withered piece of wood filled with holes. It appeared like many things were getting absorbed into it, but in reality, time would swipe across it, and those invisible things were easy for one to forget. A human’s lifetime was longer than a morning shroom’s, longer than a cicada’s — they always walked their journeys, and got lost on them.
Only when they abruptly saw something would those years of recollections be stirred up and shaken out. Struck with the brand of old times, one’s thoughts would not stop.
In the heavy downpour of that day, Helian Yi remembered Jing Beiyuan.
He remembered that, many years ago, when Father Emperor had carried him into the palace himself, that little thing had his teeth half-grown in, and still spoke with a lisp. As if made of porcelain, he was a shiny-eyed, pretty bauble.
Jing Beiyuan had been his hanger-on since he was small. After a long passage of time, Helian Yi discovered that the little guy had not only grown up good-looking, but also innately observant. He knew when he should say what and how to get people to like him, because he had been fostered since young in the palace, and that brought about a bit of automatic, sensible cautiousness… as if he was a fellow sufferer, and shared the same fate as he.
Cautiously, they got a feel for each other, drew closer, then huddled up together to share warmth, like two small animals in this deep, bottomless palace.
They depended on each other for survival.
And now, Helian Yi, with wrinkles crawling up his skin, stood by the window of his study, watching the outside world that was practically washed white by the rain. On the inside, he recited that phrase, and it seemed like strings attached to his muscles, bones, and veins were lightly plucked, giving rise to an acrid, hard-to-describe ache.
Children grew up by the day. He wasn’t sure when it started, but Helian Yi felt that the gaze the other looked at him with always had something faint and unspeakable within it. Then, he understood that Jing Beiyuan liked him — not like how brothers or friends would, but how men and women would.
At the start, he felt astonished, but he understood later on; in this world, in this realm, in this Court, in these successive worries, who else could he like, apart from him? In this man-eating place, wasn’t ‘trust’ yet hard to say aloud, let alone ‘love’?
What about Helian Yi himself, then? He was probably the same as him… Helian Yi had mulled this over alone for ages, flipping it upside down and turning it about, and then discovered that he apparently didn’t have too many options, either. Even if, in the future, Father Emperor passed down an order and referred some high-ranking family’s daughter to be his Consort, how much affection could be there?
The day of the harem selection, he experienced it from a distance, sweeping a look over it. Catching sight of the blooming, gorgeous bunches of maidens, he suddenly felt that, if there was a Crown Consort someday, he apparently would have nothing to say to her.
Within the entire bustling palace, Helian Yi factually discovered that, when all was said and done, every relationship he had turned into a superficial and frigid language — there was nothing to say.
He pondered things for three days, then decided to indulge in his emotions, and… have a go at loving him.
Thinking mechanically, the sound of rain in his ears, his eyes caught a glimpse of the gray sky. He thought hard about what state of mind he held whenever he was together with him, and faintly recalled that extremely hidden happiness.
In a daze, he thought about those warm afternoons — holding his hand, leaning shoulder-to-shoulder against the big locust tree in the East Palace for a rest, then waking up to turn his head, that feeling of seeing his sleeping face seeming to fill his heart full to bursting. In a split-second of haze, the idea of simply being with him like so for a lifetime would come to be.
Those ideas came too quickly, and left too quickly. Coming to now, he couldn’t even remember that he had ever had such things in his heart.
And then? He asked himself, what happened then?
Then… it seemed like a lot of things happened. Jing Beiyuan left the palace to return to his own Prince Estate. The youths grew up, and their ambitions grew together with their bodies. Slowly, old friends had morphed beyond recognition.
What kind of being was Jing Beiyuan? Helian Yi felt that he had loved him; how could he not love such a piercingly beautiful man? Yet, at some unknown time, he became vaguely scared of him. No matter what thoughts he had, the other needed only one look — a barely-there hint — for him to be able to implicitly know about and do something on his behalf.
Helian Yi realized, for the very first time, that he truthfully wasn’t very knowledgeable about the man. He knew that his mind was complex, but didn’t know that it was so complex, mortals couldn’t describe it. He knew that he schemed deeply, but didn’t know that he schemed so deeply, the vague and unclear smile on his handsome face was getting harder and harder for him to see through. He knew that he had insight into people’s hearts, but didn’t know that he had gotten so insightful, he himself was now viewed as someone transparent.
How could such a sharp, formidable person exist in the world? That issue, which could not be revealed to outsiders, grew in his heart day after day.
Someone too mistrustful, and someone too conscientious — would any sort of good conclusion come from them being together? Yet… those involved were too entrenched to see.
It went, until Helian Yi met Qingluan. He felt like he had been searching for her for several thousand years. She was so beautiful, and when her head and eyes were lowered, the brilliance of the serenity in her features exceedingly resembling that man’s; thoughtful, but not excessively clever, nor as sharp as him, thus not making Helian Yi uneasy.
The whole time, he had thought that it’d be great if Jing Beiyuan wasn’t Jing Beiyuan. The Heavens had heard, and delivered Su Qingluan right to him.
Then, he thought that Jing Beiyuan had perhaps long already become a part of him. He was able to communicate his intentions without needing words, and then the latter would accomplish the darkest, most unbearable things for him… but, after a long time, even Helian Yi couldn’t tell whether the one that did them was doing so for him, or for himself.
Rationality manipulated everything, but emotions hadn’t allowed him to believe himself to be that rotten, so he had no choice but to put the blame on him. That notion struck Helian Yi’s mind like thunder, as if a shocking truth had just been rummaged out. Face pallid, he couldn’t help but put a hand on his chest as he tried hard to recall the appearance of Su Qingluan, the woman he once thought he loved the most… but he could only think of one profile, its head lowered.
It looked like him… it looked like Jing Beiyuan…
But Jing Beiyuan was long gone. He had given the order to grant him three zhang of white silk himself.
Helian Yi felt like he was getting sluggish in his old age. The numbness ensuing in his chest slowly spread to his whole body, like it was going to submerge his entire self and soul both.
That’s right, he thought, Beiyuan is gone.
“Someone! Come here!” Helian Yi bellowed in a panic.
Yu Kui came in, making three steps into two. “Your Majesty.”
“When… when we were young, where did the jade pendant that we wore go?” he asked, distracted.
Yu Kui, his temples already gone white, was taken aback upon hearing this. “What pendant are you speaking of, Your Majesty?”
“The one that was… a little jade rabbit. Two cun in size, only that big…” Helian Yi was practically anxious. “Beiyuan had one, too. Where is it?”
Yu Kui was stunned. Unable to get an answer from him, Helian Yi took it upon himself to start overturning trunks in search. “Where is it? Where did we put it?” he mumbled to himself.
“Your Majesty…” Yu Kui noticed his steps staggering somewhat, and quickly stepped forward to stop him. “You’ve forgotten. That jade is long gone. When you were touring a lake way back when, didn’t you accidentally drop it in?”
“It’s lost?” Helian Yi muttered in repeat.
Yu Kui looked at his Master with incomprehension. He didn’t understand; that man had been gone for so many years. What was the meaning in looking for these little trinkets?
“Ah. It’s lost…” Helian Yi sighed, sitting down in a daze.
As it was… the person was gone, and the object was gone, too.
On the thirty-sixth year of Rongjia, the Rongjia Emperor, Helian Yi, became bedridden without rise following a heavy rain, and, in early autumn of that same year, perished.
The Yellow Springs : Bai Wuchang
For the entire time he walked in the two worlds of yin and yang, none of his possible emotions could present, all due to his papier-mâché body. At the beginning, he felt stifled, but over time, he got used to it. Who would he even show emotion to, out of all the wandering, stupefied, and half-conscious souls here?
Once accustomed, he grew numb. Slowly, his heart hardened; the lives and deaths of mortals were nothing more than events, and if one witnessed them a lot, they then wouldn’t think much of them.
That was, until he had a day of inattention, where he mistakenly hooked one woman’s soul.
Because of this, the Netherjudge made him stand in a corner for a full ten years and think about what he’d done. He didn’t mind; he made a mistake, so he should suffer punishment, and after taking it, he would go back to doing what he ought to be doing. It wasn’t until his penalty period had been fulfilled, and he was released, that he noticed the white-haired, indifferent-looking man beside Three-Life Rock.
He didn’t know it at the time, but this was when his punishment had truly just begun.
The Netherjudge deliberately pointed the man out for him to see. Only then did he understand that, even if he had only wrongly hooked the soul of an ordinary woman, he had changed the charts of fate for so many people.
A person’s actions were theirs to atone for, he thus thought, and went to seek out the Prince to apologize, standing dully before him and speaking dully to him. However, against expectations, the white-haired man merely swept a glance over him, nodded with a hollow look in his eyes, and never said anything.
Bai Wuchang then knew that the man’s hun souls were still in the land of the living.
From then on, he always unconsciously followed the man with his gaze, watching him not drink Meng Po’s soup, watching Meng Po sigh quietly, and watching as he fell into the animal realm, living only to die violently. Afterwards, as if a ghost possessed his mind, he would go in person to fetch his soul back. They would walk the bone-freezing Yellow Spring Road, one in front and one in back, neither having anything to say.
Send him off, bring him back. Send him off, bring him back again.
After several endless centuries, in their ultimate pass-through, he finally witnessed him stop for a brief time by the Bridge of Helplessness, wordlessly take Meng Po’s soup, and shut his eyes while he madly gulped three bowls down. Following that, he stood as still as a rock for a long time, then opened his eyes, only for his mind to be as clear as ever. With a sarcastic laugh, he turned and left, looking at nobody else.
Bai Wuchang suddenly thought, Lord Seventh, he… hasn’t looked at me even once, for these many years.
So often, he would be left with just the image of his pin-thin back, white hair draping down it like a pile of snow. Suddenly, he became upset; in some-odd tens of thousands of years, this was the first time the Soulhook Envoy knew what ‘being upset’ was.
That was because, all this time, he was never in his eyes.
So, you’ve always hated me, he quietly thought. Then I’ll just have to pay you back.
He believed himself to be possessed, but was perfectly happy to do it, anyway.
In his final moment, he saw himself reflected in the man’s eyes at last. His face did not smile, but his heart did — you looked at me, so I have no regrets.
As he sank into the Pond of Rebirth, he had one last wisp of consciousness.
If there’s a next life… I’ll see you again.
The translator says: Thus, things come full circle. Thanks for reading to the end.
Lord Seventh is, overall, a rather melancholic work. Suicidally valorous people, missed opportunities, wasted time and effort, obsession, mistakes that can’t be fixed, cruel deaths in the name of the greater good… if it weren’t for the main couple, there would be little true happiness here.
To support the author, please consider buying the novel on jjwxc (RAWs, buying guide here) and leaving a nice review on NU. For updates on my own future/pending projects, follow me on twitter, @chichimaera.
…Also, I just want to note that the term ‘Shamanet’ was supposed to be a placeholder until I could think up of something better. Spoilers: I never thought up anything better.
Edit: Whoops, forgot to mention that PDF/EPUB versions are available here so that you can have the novel on your computer forever and ever! Yaaaaay.