Guanshan Muyu Extra

Having nothing to occupy himself with, Xia Xun found a piece of wood to carve. He refused to let it go during breakfast. He drank porridge absent-mindedly, leaving one hand free to stroke the lump of wood from time to time.

Qi Yan asked curiously: “Where did you find the wood?”

Xia Xun said carelessly:

“I took down the memorial tablet you set for me and cut it from it.”

Seeing Qi Yan’s chopsticks stop in mid-air, he added:

“That thing looks inauspicious and it’s made of fine cypress wood. It was a pity to throw it away, so I thought I might as well use it.”

Qi Yan had a lot to say but swallowed his words in the end.

“…as long as you enjoy it, you can do whatever you want.”

He glanced at the wood twice and then complimented:

“Your hands are still so clever. The puppy looks so vivid.”

Xia Xun paused and said, “I’m carving a camel.”

Qi Yan was startled but reacted quickly, pointed to the corner of the piece of wood and corrected himself:

“I was really shocked and my eyes were confused. It’s clearly the camel’s tail, how could I make a mistake like this.”

It took a while for Xia Xun to speak.

“—That’s the camel’s leg.”

Qi Yan’s smile froze on his face.

Xia Xun drank all the porridge in the bowl until there was not even a grain of rice left. Putting down the bowl, he said to Qi Yan:

“If you can’t think of a compliment, you’d better stop talking, so that you don’t slap yourself in the face with every sentence.”

Qi Yan was taken aback for a moment, but immediately thought of a way to solve the dilemma. He held Xia Xun’s hand and smiled at him with the most affectionate smile.

“Having said that, why did you suddenly think of carving a camel?”

Xia Xun didn’t hear what he was asking at all. When Qi Yan smiled, all his attention was focused on Qi Yan’s face.

He saw Qi Yan’s curving eyes, his long eyelashes and the mole at the corner of his eye. Below Qi Yan’s tall nose, there were thin lips, very light in colour and looking extremely soft. Somehow he couldn’t help but want to reach out and touch.

With his mind in turmoil, Xia Xun had already forgotten what Qi Yan had just said. He suddenly retracted his gaze and replied, “It’s nothing.”

Taking note of this incident, Qi Yan stood up with satisfaction. It was time for him to go to court.

Xia Xun cursed himself for being useless and always falling for this kind of trick, thinking: the misfortune of beauty is not just an empty phrase.

Before leaving, Qi Yan told him:

“If you want to go out, remember to wear a hood.”

Xia Xun asked rhetorically: “How do you know that I am going out?”

Qi Yan blinked: “Who ran outside every day a few days ago?”

Xia Xun stood his ground.

“Since you have said so, wouldn’t it be very ungrateful of me not to go out?”

He picked up the hood that was placed aside, put it on his head haphazardly, bypassed Qi Yan and rushed out of the mansion before him.

Qi Yan was right. He did always run out these days, otherwise he wouldn’t think of carving camels.

As soon as he went out yesterday, he saw a Hu man holding a camel standing on the opposite side of the road. There were many camel footprints on the ground, showing that he had been waiting there for a long time.

Xia Xun glanced at him twice, didn’t take him to heart and continued to walk. As soon as he passed the corner of the street, the man with a camel followed him and stopped behind him.

Xia Xun turned his head to look; the Hu man took out a dagger from his arms and insisted on giving it to him.

Xia Xun refused: “I don’t need this thing, you can sell it to others.”

The Hu man didn’t speak the official language, so he waved his hand at him, reached into his sleeve and searched there for a long time, then took out a black crow feather and pushed it to Xia Xun’s chest together with a dagger.

Xia Xun took these two things instinctively; the man let go, smiled at him and led the camel away.

Xia Xun stood on the spot for a long time.

He picked up the dagger and took a closer look. The short scabbard was studded with various colourful gems, with the largest ruby fixed at the top of the handle.

Xia Xun felt that this style of bells and whistles was impractical, but the more he looked at it, the more familiar it seemed. When he thought of the crow feather, he suddenly understood.

This was probably sent by Fumeng Tancha. He must have returned to Shanshan and, thinking of Xia Xun’s life-saving grace, sent a gift to him all the way to the capital.

Xia Xun thought that Fumeng Tancha did not send it to Lingnan, but instead sent it to Qi Yan’s mansion. It seemed that as early as on the day of their parting in Qingzhou, he guessed that Xia Xun would not leave.

Xia Xun shook his head.

“…This man is really cunning.”

He took the dagger back to the mansion and threw it deep in the cabinet.

Inspired by this meeting, he thought of carving a camel.

Of course there was no Hu people waiting for him outside the door today. Wearing a hood, he rode a light carriage.

Familiar with the road, he went all the way to the destination of his trip — Ruiji Guan.

The old man’s memory was great; not only did he remember Xia Xun, but also remembered his illness.

“Is it you? How is it? Changed your mind? Didn’t you plan to just take some lung-nourishing medicine? Are you ready to treat it properly?”

Xia Xun said ”en”.

The doctor asked, puzzled: “How come you suddenly figured it out?”

Xia Xun replied lightly:

“Before, I thought it was boring to live.”

The doctor looked up at him: “What about now?”

Xia Xun thought for a while and said, “It’s not bad.”

The doctor chuckled softly but did not expose his pretence.

“Your illness is caused by an old injury. You can’t just take medicine. Wait for the old man to take care of it. If you come in a few days, the old man will give you a few needles!”

Xia Xun nodded and asked: “You… do you have any ointment for removing scars?”

The doctor asked in surprise: “Yo, you have changed a lot. Not only do you want to live well, but you also want to get rid of your old scars?”

Xia Xun said vaguely: “Something like that.”

The doctor said, “The old man can give it to you, but this medicine is not very effective for old injuries. It works for the new ones, though. Do you still want it?”

Xia Xun took out his purse.

“Just say how much it costs.”

When Qi Yan returned to the mansion, it was already dark, but there was light in the room. Xia Xun was waiting for him.

Xia Xun was lying on the bed, fiddling with the carved camel in his hand.

On the table, there was a huge medicine box of a weird shape. Qi Yan couldn’t look away when he saw it.

“What is this thing?”

Xia Xun’ hand stopped as he looked up at him.

“It’s a scar removal medicine.”

Qi Yan said in a low voice: “Yes, yes… Finally, you have the heart to take care of yourself. I have long wanted to ask the doctor to look at the wounds on your back—”

Xia Xun interrupted him: “I bought it for you.”

“For me?” Qi Yan did not expect it.

Xia Xun sat up and dropped one succinct word: “Strip.”

Qi Yan’s chest was covered with scars of different shapes, all of them caused by Xia Xun.

The man who once had pointed the knife at him, now scooped a large portion of brown ointment and rubbed it on his scars.

At first it was cold and refreshing, but as the ointment took effect, Qi Yan gradually felt a hot tingling sensation.

This kind of pain was not bad and Qi Yan had no time to pay attention to it right now.

He stared at Xia Xun who was close to him, illuminated by the faint candlelight that enveloped his whole body in a fine soft halo. Whenever he leaned closer to Qi Yan to apply medicine, his warm breath would brush over Qi Yan’s neck. 

“Alright.” After treating the last scar, Xia Xun straightened up: “The doctor said that it will hurt a little bit just after applying it, so bear with me.” 

Qi Yan said with a smile:

“In order to thank you for your hard work, I must do something to repay you.”

Xia Xun became vigilant: “What are you going to do?”

Qi Yan remained silent, held up Xia Xun’s other hand that was not stained with ointment and brought Xia Xun’s fingers to his lips.

“Touch, didn’t you want to touch in the morning?”

As he spoke, his lips opened and closed, rubbing over Xia Xun’s fingers constantly.

Xia Xun suddenly felt his cheeks flush, but Qi Yan still didn’t have enough. He licked Xia Xun’s fingers lightly and then looked at him with a smile.

“Well? Does it feel as you imagined?”

Even the tips of Xia Xun’s ears turned red. He quickly withdrew his hand: “Who wants to touch you?!”

He made a move to stand up and leave. Then Qi Yan pulled him, Xia Xun’s body tilted and fell onto him. 

Qi Yan opened his arms, hugged Xia Xun neatly and chuckled softly against his ear:

“Aren’t you pretty active today?”

He laughed happily, and the echo of his chest vibrating also spread to Xia Xun.

Their chests were pressed together. Xia Xun didn’t refuse but muttered with some dissatisfaction:

“…The medicine I just applied rubbed all over my clothes, it’s probably wiped off clean. Do you think this medicine is cheap…”

Qi Yan’s arms wrapped around him tightened slowly, his voice a little hoarse.

“I’m done applying mine, it’s your turn.”

His hand cautiously followed Xia Xun’s waist all the way up, slowly stroking the criss-crossing scars on his back.

Xia Xun knew that this was the thing that made Qi Yan brood the most.

These nights, Qi Yan always quietly observed his scars while he was asleep. He thought Xia Xun hadn’t noticed it, but in fact Xia Xun was pretending to be asleep.

Every time, after a long time, Xia Xun would always hear a heavy sigh, as if these scars were not left on his back, but carved in Qi Yan’s heart.

At this moment, Qi Yan’s hot palms were tightly pressed to his skin, rubbing back and forth on his protruding scars, as if these scars could be healed by his hands as long as he touched them a few more times.

Xia Xun sighed secretly.

He hugged Qi Yan back and murmured, “I don’t need it, the doctor said, I don’t need it.”

Qi Yan didn’t speak, but his hands kept on moving.

Xia Xun didn’t care about it, but he couldn’t make Qi Yan stop caring about it. In order to change the topic, he suddenly withdrew from Qi Yan’s arms.

“By the way, where are the gold bracelets I gave you? Why don’t you wear them?”

Qi Yan was taken aback by his sudden question and even stopped. 

Xia Xun stretched out his hand, groped on the shelf at the head of the bed, took out two gold bracelets, placed them in Qi Yan’s hand and motioned for him to put them on for him to see.

Qi Yan said in amazement: “You… want me to wear them? But they are—”

Xia Xun righteously insisted:

“Didn’t you tell me to give them to the person married to me? You didn’t refuse when I gave them to you by the river, did you? Do you want to back off now?”

Qi Yan had nothing to say, so he bit the bullet, picked up a gold bracelet and reluctantly put it on his hand.

The bracelet was originally made for a woman, its diameter was not big, so when Qi Yan pushed it to the broadest part of his palm, it stuck.

He breathed a sigh of relief and said to Xia Xun:

“You see, it’s not that I don’t want to wear them, but I really can’t wear them.”

Xia Xun took the bracelets in his hand, weighed them twice, and the golden bracelets struck against each other, making a pleasant jingling sound.

He deliberately said: “Listen, what a nice sound of gold touching gold, it’s a pity not to use such a good material.”

When Qi Yan heard what he said, he suddenly raised his hand and put two gold bracelets on Xia Xun’s wrist.

After putting them on, he still had the audacity to face Xia Xun’s surprised gaze and say happily:

“I knew you could wear them.”

Xia Xun said unwillingly: “You are cheating!”

As soon as he moved, the bracelets made a gentle jingling sound.

Qi Yan puffed through his nose, leaned closer and asked softly:

“Do you like this sound?”

Xia Xun didn’t know what he meant and said, “Of course!”

Qi Yan held his hand, leaned forward and pushed him down on the couch. With his movements, the two gold bracelets kept jingling.

Xia Xun refused to forgive him and rebuked:

“You don’t keep your word!”

Qi Yan’s hand started from Xia Xun’s waist, skimmed over his chest and abdomen, stopped at his heart, and thrust his fingers into Xia Xun’s collar.

He leaned down, pressed his forehead against Xia Xun and said in a calm voice, “Where don’t I keep it? Didn’t you say you liked the sound? Since you like it, then I will reluctantly let you listen to it for a while…”

The crisp jingling sounded intermittently, and it took a long time before it stopped.

Xia Xun’s hair was sweaty, a few strands sticking to the side of his face. The corners of his eyes were red; his eyes were half closed and his eyelashes were moist.

He was so tired that he couldn’t open his eyes and he was about to fall asleep.

While half asleep and half awake, he vaguely heard Qi Yan say, “Tomorrow is the rest day, let’s go to the mountain hot spring.”

He thought it was a dream.

When they got in the carriage on the next day, he realized that it hadn’t been.

The hot spring Qi Yan took him to was in the middle of a bamboo forest. After nightfall, there was silence all around, apart from the occasional chirping of autumn cicadas.

Xia Xun soaked in the spring water, surrounded by the water vapour, and even his consciousness became wobbly.

Caught off guard, he realized a warm jug of wine was pressed to his cheek. Xia Xun looked up and saw Qi Yan holding the jug.

Qi Yan smiled and said, “Seeing your blurred eyes, I’m afraid you’re going to get drunk before you drink.”

He put the jug on a tray floating on the water, walked slowly into the spring on the steps, and came to Xia Xun’s side.

He poured the wine into the wine cups he had already prepared, picked up a cup and handed it to Xia Xun. Suddenly, he thought of something and stopped abruptly.

“No, I remembered, you can’t drink alcohol. Your alcohol intake is really too bad. With this one cup, I’m afraid you will be so drunk that you will be unconscious.”

Xia Xun didn’t say anything but looked straight at him.

Like Xia Xun, Qi Yan was wearing only a white undershirt. The thin fabric was soaked in water and clinging to his skin, outlining his well-defined chest.

Xia Xun couldn’t help but continue to move his gaze down, but unfortunately, Qi Yan’s abdomen and the rest were hidden in the water, so he couldn’t really see anything.

Xia Xun couldn’t help but “tsk”, showing his displeasure.

Qi Yan put down the wine cup and pretended to be angry:

“Young master, why is your expression so hot when you look there? If the humble me didn’t have this layer of clothing to cover myself, I’m afraid that the place you look at would have been burned a long time ago.” (hehe, role-playing :))

Xia Xun’s face did not change colour: “Let me ask you, does this hot spring have a name?”

Qi Yan looked at him up and down.

“Young master is so careless. When he came here today, didn’t he see the four big words ‘Spring Sun Hot Pond’ written on the mountain pass?”

Xia Xun said:

“It might have been called that before, but since you came here, from today on, it should be renamed ‘Beauty Pond’.”

Qi Yan laughed out loud.

“The humble me is grateful for the young master’s affection. Now let this beauty bring a pot of tea for the young master.”

After speaking, he was about to get up, but Xia Xun grabbed his sleeve.

Leaning against the wall of the pool, Xia Xun said with a smile:

“In such a romantic atmosphere, what is the point of abandoning wine and drinking tea?”

Qi Yan patted the back of his hand.

“In such a romantic atmosphere, if the young master doesn’t wake up once he’s drunk, he’ll miss the beauty of the moment.”

Xia Xun picked up the cup: “Who said I want to drink by myself.”

He drank a full cup of wine and then pressed Qi Yan down forcefully.

Qi Yan had no intention of resisting and was pressed against the edge of the spring exactly as Xia Xun wanted, not forgetting to hold his waist firmly.

Xia Xun covered his eyes, kissed his mouth vigorously and fed him all the spicy wine in his mouth.

After a kiss, he wiped off the wine oozing from his lips, sighed and said to Qi Yan, “How does it taste?”

Qi Yan replied, admonishing:

“This place is not like home, you have to be careful, don’t fall down.”

Xia Xun said “nagging” in a low voice, pressing him down and refusing to let go.

Qi Yan looked at him indulgently and asked:

“Young master has taken a great advantage of the humble me, don’t you want to say a few words to appease me?”

Xia Xun sneered: “Is this called a great advantage? I have to do more excessive things!”

He raised his hand and took out Qi Yan’s hairpin. Qi Yan’s black hair loosened and fell on his shoulders.

Xia Xun held his face and kissed it again.

Qi Yan let out a satisfied sigh, hugged Xia Xun tightly, and entwined his fingers into his hair, deepening the kiss.

The moonlight poured down, a breeze blew and the surface of the pool swayed with gentle waves.

Everything in the world was empty, only the night was endless.

Tonight, every wish of Qi Yan was fulfilled.


Translator’s note: That’s it! 🙂

Thank you very much to everyone who read it and commented, it meant a lot for me.

And special thanks to sadiewoods9!!! Your comments were my biggest joy and support throughout the whole process! I’m not sure I would be able to persist without you!

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Or, you can buy me some coffee 🙂

Previous / ToC

Guanshan Muyu Chapter 56

Qi Yan cupped his palms around Xia Xun’s hand that held the wooden man.

“After your death, I haven’t dreamed of you for many years. I thought that you must have had a grudge against me and refused to come to my dreams. But I really missed you. One day I woke up and suddenly found that I couldn’t remember what you really looked like. I was afraid that I would forget you. From that day on, I started to learn wood carving. Every moment, I would recall your voice and your smile. I thought, in this way, I would never forget what you looked like.

“A few months ago, I missed you terribly. I said to myself that no matter what the price was, I wanted to see you. I secretly found a wizard. Ironically, in the past I didn’t believe in gods and ghosts at all. When I heard others talking about it, I would just think it was absurd and ridiculous. But now that I had something to ask for, such an illusory spell became my only lifeline.”

The wizard told Qi Yan that if he wanted to summon the spirit of the deceased through Yansheng spell, he needed to carve out the face of the deceased from paulownia wood, engrave the eight characters of his birthday on the back of the wooden man, and then take something that belonged to the deceased person as a support. That thing and the wooden man together had to be enshrined in front of the memorial tablet on the night of the full moon, so that he could meet that person in his dream.

Qi Yan picked up the brocade bag placed next to the incense burner that contained a strand of Xia Xun’s hair.

“The last time we saw each other, I quietly took a strand of your hair, and I used it as a primer to call for your soul.”

Qi Yan did everything the wizard said and specially bought acacia leaf cold cakes and put them on the table.

He thought that if Xia Xun really came back, he would have his favourite snacks to eat.

He knew what Qi Hui thought of him. He must have regarded him as a lunatic a long time ago, but Qi Yan didn’t care anymore. As long as he could meet Xia Xun, he would gladly give up his life.

Qi Yan said in a daze:

“That night, I really dreamed of you… I dreamed that you walked in from the outside and saw the pastry on the table, so you sat down to eat. I didn’t even dare to breathe too loudly for fear of disturbing you. I walked slowly behind you and called your name. You turned your head. I haven’t seen your face clearly yet. A large stain of blood suddenly appeared on your chest, and more and more blood soaked through your clothes until there was so much that it started dripping to the ground. I wanted to hug you, walked a few steps forward, and when I looked down, I suddenly saw a knife in your chest, and the handle of the knife happened to be in my hand… You looked at me plaintively and said nothing…”

Qi Yan’s hand moved up along Xia Xun’s arm, touched his shoulder lightly and gently exerted strength to pull Xia Xun into his arms.

“I actually remember very clearly that you told me that Xia Hongxi didn’t know your real birthday. I carved the eight characters of your birthday on the back of the wooden man and it must have been inaccurate. But I still dreamed of you. I guess it probably was because I missed you too much and felt too guilty. For so many years, I always believed that I killed you… I love you so much, how could I, how could I fail to save you…?”

His voice was breathless, so plaintive it sounded almost like crying.

This time, Xia Xun did not refuse his hug. He put his face against Qi Yan’s neck and murmured:

“That’s why you went to Douzhou…?”

Qi Yan pressed his cheek to his ear, as if still in a dream:

“I thought you had a wish, that’s why you entrusted this dream to me. Next day, I rushed to Lingnan. Fortunately, I went there… Fortunately, fortunately…”

His arms held tighter and tighter. In front of Xia Xun’s memorial tablet, his years of agonising thoughts had finally come to an end. The love of his life was still alive, breathing and had a heartbeat… still snuggled in his arms.

Xia Xun breathed deeply and through the layers of thin clothing felt Qi Yan’s heartbeat reach him.

Just when Qi Yan’s empty heart was finally about to be full again, he suddenly realized that something under his touch was a bit abnormal.

His palm was resting on Xia Xun’s back and he could feel some faint crisscrossing ridges under his clothes. Horrified, Qi Yan rubbed harder and realized that Xia Xun’s entire back was in a similar situation.

He hurriedly asked, “What happened to your back??”

Xia Xun didn’t expect him to ask this question and said calmly:

“It’s the scars from the caning.”

Qi Yan was stunned and shrunk back a little:

“What caning?”

Xia Xun looked at him strangely:

“According to the law of this dynasty, prisoners sentenced to exile are punished with thirty sticks before they are exiled. Weren’t you the deputy of the Judicial Review Court? Don’t you know?”

Qi Yan looked like he was struck with lightning. He said in a trembling voice, “…what?”

But he had already awakened.

His heart thudded suddenly and his mind seemed to explode. He was numb all over and the only feeling he still had was the sensation of sinking down, as if he was stuck in a quagmire.

He served as the deputy of the Imperial Court of Judicial Review for three years. How could he not understand the laws of this dynasty? How could he not know that exiled prisoners had to be caned thirty times before they could leave the capital?

But he just forgot.

The joy of reuniting with Xia Xun was so overwhelming that his brain and his heart fooled him.

Before today, he had always thought that Xia Xun had not suffered any pain, especially after he found out that he was still alive.

He thought that Xia Xun had not been bullied by the guards in prison. He thought that he had got on the prison cart safely. He thought that when he arrived in Douzhou, he had escaped faking his death smoothly.

He thought that although Xia Xun hated him, he still protected Xia Xun very well. He saved his life. Although the manpower he placed in Douzhou did not come in handy, after some twists and turns, Xia Xun was still able to regain his freedom.

He always thought that although this journey was bitter, the ending was ultimately successful.

So he forcibly brought Xia Xun back. He always believed that as long as Xia Xun knew the efforts he had made for him, he would forgive him, he would forget all the past, cross the gap between them and be with him again.

They would treat each other sincerely as before.

During all this time, he unconsciously ignored a lot, but now, all the details from the past emerged in his mind thunder-like.

When he looked from upstairs in Guangning House, he was completely wrong. Xia Xun was not asleep. He had just been caned and was unconscious on Xia Wen’s lap.

Xia Xun always cried in pain in his dreams, always whispering his name, not because of his hand that was burned by Xia Xing, but because of his back that was once covered in open wounds.

Xia Xun would say that his back hurt, Xia Xun’s physique was much weaker and Xia Xun didn’t want his back to be touched by him.

Xia Xun started coughing as soon as autumn started.

It was not acclimatisation at all, it was clearly caused by the caning that year.

After being hit with a three-inch thick stick on his back a full thirty times, even a strong man with a robust body would be bruised and battered, losing his health. If he was hit lightly, his bones and tendons would be damaged; and if he was hit heavily, he would be killed on the spot.

And Xia Xun had to carry such bloody wounds and travel three thousand miles to the barren land of Lingnan.

If Xia Xun did not die on the road, it was because God had mercy.

Waves of sorrow surged in Qi Yan’s heart, making him wish to cry loudly. Painful shudders racked his body. He hugged Xia Xun tightly, buried his head against his neck and swallowed his whimpers.

Xia Xun couldn’t bear to see him so sad, so he comforted him in a soft voice:

“So you didn’t know? Actually… it didn’t hurt as much as you think. I’m fine now. What’s more, He Cong helped me at the beginning. He— it’s all over anyway. I forgot about it myself, why do you bother to mention the old things again?”

Qi Yan hugged him with all his strength, and Xia Xun was squeezed by him almost painfully.

The sadness in Qi Yan’s heart flowed out like a monstrous torrent pouring for thousands of miles, out of control.

Xia Xun was his treasure, Xia Xun, who he wanted to save even if he had to give up his life, and Xia Xun, the only one he had ever loved, paid such a painful price for his decision.

Now, after what he had done, what right did he have to keep him by his side?

Qi Yan gritted his teeth, leaning on Xia Xun’s thin shoulder, and shook his head stiffly.

He regretted it, and he was doomed to regret it for the rest of his life.

He asked hoarsely with a dumb voice:

“Xia Xun… do you still want to go back to Lingnan…”

Xia Xun was startled and did not answer.

Qi Yan understood his silence. His throat was bitter. It was as if a thousand-pound burden was pressing on his chest, making him breathless.

He swallowed with difficulty, his throat hot and astringent, as if he had swallowed a thousand silver needles.

He squeezed out the words:

“Fine… I’ll let you go… Xia Xun, I’ll let you go…”

Three days later, on the bank of the Shou River in the western suburbs, by the Chang Pavillion.

Qi Yan was doing the final inspection.

He bought a sturdy carriage and hired a groom whose hometown was in Douzhou. He was worried that Xia Xun would not have enough to eat and enough warm clothes on the road, so he personally bought a lot of things and stuffed the carriage full. 

He counted the bags one by one, and after counting for the first time, he counted them the second time from the beginning.

Xia Xun was watching him from the side, not trying to stop him.

After counting back and forth all the way, Qi Yan finally relented and turned around to tell Xia Xun:

“I have prepared everything you might use. If you need something, don’t rush to buy it, go and check your bags. If you really can’t find it, then spend money to buy it. In addition to food and clothing, I prepared a bag of broken silver for you. When the time comes, give it to the soldiers that inspect along the way and they will not cause you trouble. Also, I bought you a water bag. If you cough, you should drink some water from time to time to moisturise your throat. In addition—”

Xia Xun couldn’t listen anymore:

“Fine, I have remembered it all, you have said it three times.”

Qi Yan’s eyes widened:

“Never mind three times, I will say it thirty times as long as you can return to Douzhou safely, so listen to me patiently. In addition, I have already sent a letter to your eldest brother, telling him that you are going back and asking him to prepare in advance.”

Xia Xun nodded:

“Good, is there anything else?”

Qi Yan endured it and said:

“…that’s all.”

Xia Xun turned around, preparing to leave: “Then I’ll get in the carriage.”

Qi Yan stopped him:

“Xia Xun!”

Xia Xun looked back at him: “What?”

Qi Yan took out a simple square wooden box from his sleeve, opened the lid and showed him two gold bracelets inside.

After a pause, Qi Yan said:

“This is my mother’s dowry and the only thing left from her. After I returned to the capital and restored my name, it took a lot of effort to get it back. Now… I will give it to you.”

Xia Xun looked at it for a while and shook his head.

“I can’t accept such a valuable gift. You should keep it by your side for your mother to feel at ease. Besides, as a man, when I can use it, you leave it for—”

Qi Yan interrupted him:

“This is not for you, but for your… future wife.”

As soon as these words came out, the two of them fell silent. The seemingly relaxed atmosphere they had created with joint efforts turned into a handful of ash, scattered as soon as the wind had blown.

The heavy understanding that they were parting engulfed the two of them like a tide.

Qi Yan took a deep breath and smiled, but unfortunately his smile was uglier than crying.

“The gold bracelets are a gift for your bride. When you get married in the future, they will naturally come into use. At that time—”

Qi Yan felt as if his tongue turned wooden. He couldn’t open his mouth but he forced himself to continue.

“…At that time, don’t forget to write a letter to let me know, I will prepare another gift for you, which is guaranteed to be more valuable than this item, all right?”

Xia Xun stood still for a long time before moving. He took the wooden box and stuffed it into his sleeve.

They were not the only ones to say goodbyes by the Chang Pavillion. There were many men and women parting by the Shou River. Some of them would be able to meet again soon, and some might never see each other again in this life.

Those who stayed would break off a willow branch and give it to the long-distance travellers who were about to leave. In early autumn, the leaves of the willow tree had long since fallen out, leaving only bare branches.

Qi Yan lowered his eyes and whispered:

“I won’t give you the willow. Douzhou is the place where your heart wants to go, how can I be so cruel to ask you to stay. It’s just… From now on, I will never have any wishes for the rest of my life, but I wish you peace in your life and eternal well-being.”

Xia Xun said “en” in a low voice.

“…Then I’ll go.”

He turned around quickly and boarded the carriage, as if he would change his mind if he stayed for a moment longer.

The groom waved the reins, and the wheels slowly moved forward.

Qi Yan stood by the carriage, watched him leave and said a final farewell to him:

“Xia Xun, goodbye.”

Xia Xun didn’t dare to look at him again, so he waved his hand hurriedly and hid in the carriage.

In the shadow in the depths of the carriage he removed all his disguises. He hugged his knees and shrank into a ball, overwhelmed with sadness.

The wooden box given by Qi Yan was humble, but it was like a soldering iron in his sleeve, making his heart ache.

He took out the wooden box but instead of putting it far away, he held it tightly in his hand.

He thought suddenly that, in fact, everyone had changed.

Xia Wen used to love his sister-in-law so much but he settled down in Douzhou and married a new wife.

He Cong liked him, and in order to save him, he did not hesitate to sever relations with his parents. A few years later, he was a father of two children.

His eldest sister-in-law married Xiong Qian, and Shaobo became Madam Raobi. Xia Yin had forgotten him. Even Zhi Gui and Fumeng Tancha left far away after a brief encounter with him.

Even he himself was no longer the naive and simple Xia Xun he used to be.

Only Qi Yan had not changed.

He stayed in the gap of time, letting the torrents of the sea rush past. With his love and longing for Xia Xun, he stayed in the same place forever, and he would never take a step away in this life.

Whenever Xia Xun was willing to look back, he would always see him behind.

Even if everyone was gone, even if everyone forgot him, Qi Yan would still love him unfailingly.

The treasure that Xia Xun thought he had never got had always been in his hands.

Thinking of this, he couldn’t help but stick out the window of the carriage and look back at Qi Yan.

Under the dome of the Chang Pavilion built of white stone, there were three levels of stairs, and Qi Yan sat on the last level of stone steps.

The carriage had already driven a long distance away, and Qi Yan’s figure was blurred, but Xia Xun could still clearly see that the man he had loved all his life buried his face in his hands and cried silently.

Xia Xun’s heart clenched in severe pain, and tears flowed down unexpectedly. He couldn’t help but say, ”Stop the carriage…”

His voice was too soft, the groom didn’t hear it, the wheels were still moving forward and Qi Yan was getting farther and farther away from him.

Unable to endure the emotions churning in his chest any longer, Xia Xun shouted:

“Stop the carriage!”

The groom hurriedly pulled the reins, and Xia Xun jumped down and ran wildly.

When Qi Yan heard the movement, he raised his head and looked over in amazement.

Xia Xun ran towards him in one breath, but when he was still a few steps away, he stopped slowly, adjusted his breathing and walked towards him step by step.

Qi Yan looked at him in disbelief, his face still wet with tears.

Xia Xun grabbed his hand:

“Didn’t you tell me to give the bracelets to someone who will marry me in the future?”

He placed the pair of gold bracelets in Qi Yan’s palm:

“It’s for you.”

Qi Yan wanted to laugh, lifting the corners of his mouth, still in a bit of disbelief:


“I suddenly felt that the capital was also very good.” Xia Xun broke off a willow branch and put it in his sleeve: “You don’t need to give me the willow, I’m not going anywhere.” 

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Guanshan Muyu Chapter 55

Early morning, two quarters into maoshi (5-7 am).

In a short while, Xia Xun would return to Xia Mansion. He was happily eating breakfast with his hand bandaged, unaware of what would happen next.

Qi Yan looked at his innocent demeanour, and his chest suddenly throbbed with dull pain.

Although he was clearly prepared for everything, ready for the moment when the dagger would strike, panic suddenly surged in his heart.

Even seeing Xia Xun stumble a little, Qi Yan would feel terribly distressed and want to catch him. But now he had to personally send him to jail, send him to the unpredictable road of exile.

Qi Yan didn’t dare to think how Xia Xun would look at him after the truth was revealed and what he would experience during the long three thousand miles of exile.

His fear grew stronger and stronger, his breathing becoming chaotic.

He kept comforting himself that his plan was free of loopholes. As long as he endured these few months, he would be able to rescue Xia Xun safely. At that time, he would explain everything to Xia Xun everything and no matter what the cost, he would beg for Xia Xun’s forgiveness. 

Then the two of them could live in peace, with no more past events standing between them.

Qi Yan breathed a sigh of relief, patted the chair and asked Xia Xun to sit beside him.

“Your hair is messy, come here and let me comb it for you.”

Xia Xun sat down obediently; Qi Yan picked up the comb and combed his hair carefully.

While Xia Xun was not paying attention, he quietly cut off a strand of his hair and hid it in his sleeve.

He thought about the saying that a man’s soul was in his hair. If he kept this strand of hair, Xia Xun would surely meet him again no matter where he went in the future.

“Alright.” He said softly to Xia Xun: “It’s all done.” 

Xia Xun twisted his combed hair in a bun and walked into the gate of Xia Mansion.

Two hours later, when he walked out of it again, his family was ruined. He was shackled and taken into a prison carriage, while Qi Yan rode a horse and quickly disappeared behind the corner of the street.

Qi Yan couldn’t stop; if he stopped, he wouldn’t be able to restrain his impulses.

If it hadn’t been for years of hatred that forged his willpower, he would have rushed to Xia Xun’s side, would have taken him away in front of everyone and would have gone with him to the end of the world.

He clenched the reins so tightly that the tough cowhide left bloody marks in his palms.

His heart hurt as if pierced with a knife, but he didn’t look back.

Xia Xun went to the prison of the Judicial Review Courty and together with Xia Wen waited for the emperor to announce their sentence.

These ten days were the most difficult days in Qi Yan’s life. He could barely eat or sleep, he was restless, he couldn’t even drink water. He lost a lot of weight in just a few days.

Qi Hui couldn’t watch it anymore, so he said:

“My lord, since you are so worried, why don’t you visit Young Master Xia? If you don’t show your face, Young Master Xia will definitely think that you were just using him from beginning to end and did not care about him at all. Even if he gets out safely in the future, he will resent you. How will it be possible for him to get along with you without holding a grudge?”

After the death of Xia Hongxi, Qi Yan was immediately given an official title, and Qi Hui no longer called him “young master”, but started calling him “my lord”.

Qi Yan said in anguish:

“Do you think that if I go to see Xia Xun, he will forgive me easily and believe that I was sincere with him? When I chose to kill Xia Hongxi, it was equivalent to cutting off all his friendship with me! But if I didn’t kill Xia Hongxi, how could I be worthy of my parents and brother? How could I live with myself in this life?! It’s my dilemma, and no one can relate to it! It’s my heartache, and who can understand half of it?”

Qi Hui tried to persuade him again, but Qi Yan said:

“I know what you want to say, but have you ever thought that His Majesty is watching me closely, always checking my loyalty? What if at this point I personally go to the prison to meet the son of the enemy who killed my father? His Majesty long suspected that I had some selfish interest when I begged him to let Xia Xun and Xia Wen live. If he finds out, all of us will die without a grave and my calculations of all this time will come to naught! In order to save Xia Xun’s life, even if my heart hurts, I can only bear it, can only endure it for the sake of our future!”

Qi Yan said it so bitterly that Qi Hui couldn’t help but feel tears in his eyes.

“This subordinate understands… this subordinate has seen the difficulties of my lord with his own eyes! It’s just that… There is still something I don’t understand, though. It’s enough to protect Young Master Xia. Why did my lord want to protect Xia Wen as well?”

Qi Yan sighed:

“The road to exile is difficult and there are countless people who die on the road. If Xia Xun is alone, who will take care of him? I thought about it, and the only person who can take care of him all the way is Xia Wen. Xia Wen is upright and responsible, and has nothing to do with the death of my parents. Why not let him live and let him accompany Xia Xun to the place of exile?”

Qi Hui couldn’t help but say:

“My lord has worked so hard just to protect Young Master Xia. I hope that God will have mercy and keep Young Master Xia safe.”

Qi Yan closed his eyes wearily.

“Don’t say these useless things, go to Guangning House and rent the entire top floor. I will use it in the future.”

Qi Hui saw that he was extremely tired, so he didn’t ask anything else, left the mansion and went straight to Guangning House.

Only on the day Xia Xun left the capital did Qi Hui understand the purpose of this request of Qi Yan.

The exiled prisoners were taken out of the capital in prison carts through the west gate. Guangning House was the tallest building in the vicinity of the west gate. Standing on the top floor, you could see the scene outside the west gate at a glance.

That day, Qi Hui got the news and hurried to report it:

“My lord! Young Master Xia is leaving the city! The prison cart has already passed the central street!”

Qi Yan rushed out of the door, got on his horse and galloped all the way to Guangning House, ran to the top floor and hurried to the window, gasping for breath, just in time to see the prison cart slowly passing by the west gate.

In the cart, Xia Wen and Xia Xun were wearing prison uniforms. Xia Wen sat with his back against the cart rails, and Xia Xun lay, resting on his lap.

Qi Yan looked at him over and over again. His face was pale and his hair was slightly messy. Apart from this, there seemed to be nothing wrong.

Qi Yan felt a little relieved and looked at his face seriously again.

Xia Xun’s eyes were closed tightly, as if he was asleep.

Qi Yan muttered to himself: “…what a child, he can still sleep so soundly in the prison cart…”

Qi Hui said with relief:

“It seems Young Master Xia isn’t ill, which is really a good thing.”

Qi Yan looked at Xia Xun frantically.

“I specifically ordered the prison guards not to treat him badly. It looks like they were indeed obedient.”

As the wheels rolled forward, Qi Yan gradually lost sight of the cart. He forced himself to turn away and close the window.

Just when Qi Hui thought he was about to leave, he suddenly clutched the clothes on his chest and squatted down slowly, leaning against the window frame.

Big beads of sweat appeared on his forehead, his lips were purple, blue veins standing out on his neck, his expression extremely anguished.

Qi Hui rushed to him.

“My lord? My lord?! What’s the matter with you?!”

Qi Yan’s chest was going up and down as he said desperately:

“It’s fine… don’t worry about me… the people in Douzhou, how are the preparations going?”

Qi Hui pulled himself together and said:

“All ready! As soon as Young Master Xia arrives, he will be able to escape!”

Sending Xia Xun to exile from the capital was only the first step in Qi Yan’s plan. After learning that the emperor had sent him to Lingnan, Qi Yan immediately organised manpower in Suzhou, the place of exile. As soon as Xia Xun arrived, they would help him fake his death and take him to a safe place to hide.

As soon as the limelight passed, Xia Xun would be free.

This was originally a foolproof plan, but Qi Yan missed a fatal point.

The road to exile was thousands of miles, and it took more than a month to reach the destination. On the way for many days, trudging through mountains and crossing rivers, without food and warm clothes, nine out of ten prisoners would die on the road and just a few would reach the place of exile safely.

Xia Xun was not a lucky one, he was not one of the few.

A month later, Qi Hui received the imperial bulletin and as soon as he glanced at it, blood surged away from his face. He was shocked, as if struck by lightning.

Qi Yan noticed his abnormality; his heart jolted suddenly and he asked anxiously:

“What’s the matter?!

Qi Hui crumpled the bulletin hurriedly: “Nothing, nothing!”

His eyelashes trembled and his hands were covered with cold sweat. Anyone who was not blind could tell that he was lying.

Qi Yan had an ominous feeling. He said coldly:

“Bring it!”

Qi Hui held the bulletin, the sweat on his hands soaking into the paper.

“My lord, you… but hold on…”

He spread out a thin piece of paper and delivered it to Qi Yan.

Qi Yan looked down at a few lines and his whole body went stiff.

Looking at him in horror, Qi Hui said carefully:

“My lord, there are many important things in this world… You, you must take care of yourself—”

Qi Hui couldn’t talk anymore. His words had never sounded as pale as at this moment.

There was only one sentence in the imperial bulletin:

——Xia Hongxi’s third son, Xun, was exiled to Lingnan, but before he arrived, he died of illness in Luyang on the 29th of last month, at the age of 16.

Qi Yan just looked at it in a daze, without saying a word, his expression frozen.

Qi Hui was surprised and uncertain, lowered his voice and said carefully:

“My lord, if you feel pain, just cry! If it doesn’t work, you can scream! When you are like this, like this— Qi Hui is scared!”

As if he was not awake from a deep dream, Qi Yan murmured:

“I’m fine… you can go down first…”

How could Qi Hui leave him?

“My lord! You must not blame yourself! You have done everything you could, but it was the will of heaven! It was fate! You are not a god, you can’t change the way of heaven!”

Qi Yan said softly:

“I see, you can go down…”

He was insisting; Qi Hui couldn’t continue to stay and walked outside nervously but didn’t dare to go too far and stayed by the door.

Not long after, there was the sound of stumbling footsteps in the room, and then the door was pushed open vigorously, and Qi Yan staggered out, his face pale.

“Qi Hui… Prepare horses, I’m going to Luyang…”

He looked shaky, as if he would fall to the ground in the next instant.

Qi Huijian stepped forward to support him.

“My lord! My lord! Why are you… why are you talking nonsense?!  Luyang is 2500 miles away from the capital! Even if you run the horse to death, you can’t make it in time!”

Qi Yan pushed him away and insisted on walking forward. When he stepped on the stairs, he missed a step and fell to the ground, still talking intermittently:

“Xia Xun is waiting for me… I have to pick him up…”

He looked straight ahead, his hands grasping the air as if he was trying to hold something.

Qi Hui held back his tears, ran to his side, and helped him up.

Qi Yan’s internal organs seemed to be twisted into a ball, and there was sharp pain spreading from his neck to his chest and abdomen, and he couldn’t tell where it was hurting.

Everything turned pitch black in front of his eyes; he could no longer see.

Qi Hui held his hand, only to feel that Qi Yan’s palms were wet and cold, so he touched his wrist to check the pulse.

Under his fingertips, Qi Yan’s pulse was messy and thin, and even without medical skills Qi Hui could realise that this was not a normal pulse.

At this time, there were no other servants in Qi Mansion and there was not even anyone who could help. Qi Hui could only take Qi Yan back to the house before going to the doctor.

He put Qi Yan’s arm on his shoulder, trying to carry him.

Qi Yan refused, saying over and over again: “Go to Luyang… go now… Xia Xun is waiting for me there…”

Qi Hui said, “I’m sorry” and hit him on the back of the neck with his palm.

Qi Yan fainted helplessly; Qi Hui picked him up and rushed into the house.

Qi Hui couldn’t see Qi Yan’s tears slip from the corners of his closed eyes, roll into his hair and gradually disappear.

Seven years later, in the secret room of Qi Mansion.

Qi Yan told Xia Xun:

“I’ve been in a daze all these years, I don’t know how I got through them. I always felt that I had died long ago, died on the day I heard of your death. If not for my longing for you, I would have long become a white skeleton under three feet of yellow earth.”

Xia Xun stroked the eyebrows of the wooden man. The knife marks carved by Qi Yan were deep.

Qi Yan said bitterly:

“You asked me before, if I saw that comb at the time, would I go to see you? I didn’t want to lie to you and at that time I really didn’t know how to answer. Now I can tell you… No, I wouldn’t. I couldn’t. If I couldn’t prove that I had nothing in common with you, I wouldn’t be able to save you…”

Xia Xun raised the wooden man and brought it to the candlelight outside the dark room, taking a closer look at the texture of the wood.

“This is not ordinary wood, but paulownia. There is my name and birth date on the back of the wooden man. This is not an ordinary thing.” Xia Xun held his breath and concentrated, as if he was saying something treacherous: “This is… Yansheng.” 

Qi Yan’s face was like a quiet lake, his eyes calm.

Xia Xun felt his mind shaken, sweetness, sourness and bitterness mixed together in his heart.

“If the matter of Yansheng is discovered, all your household will be exterminated. Why do you… want to perform such a dangerous spell?”

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Guanshan Muyu Chapter 54

Shaobo suddenly thought of something, sat up straight and asked Xia Xun:

“How could Little Master come to the capital? Where do you live now? No, it’s not safe to live anywhere! Just stay in the embroidery workshop, and this slave will take care of you!”

Xia Xun hesitated whether to tell her what happened.

Shaobo continued:

“Although few people in the capital remember the Xia family, Qi Yan is still there. If he finds out, I am afraid, Little Master, you will lose your life!”

Xia Xun swallowed the words he planned to say and changed the topic:

“…Anyway, I didn’t usually go out of the house to walk around, so not many people knew me seven years ago. Now I’m afraid there are very few who still remember my appearance. I… I’ve come to the capital because I had something to do. I have lived in an inn these past few days. You have a lot of people here, it is not a quiet place. Besides, it was not easy for you to gain a foothold. If someone knows that you were involved with the Xia family, you’ll be ruined.”

Shaobo said proudly:

“This slave is not afraid! No matter what cow demons and snake spirits there are, I dare them to come to Raobi’s Garden and cause trouble!”

Xia Xun looked at her and could see no trace of the little girl who only knew how to cry. She was bright and scathing, truly the number one embroideress in the capital.

Xia Xun looked at her with a smile:

“Don’t call yourself a slave anymore. I also shouldn’t call you Shaobo, I should call you Madam Raobi.”

Shaobo was worried:

“Is Little Master really not staying?”

Xia Xun deliberately said:

“Don’t think that you are the only one who has become stronger. If I don’t have the ability to protect myself, would I dare to come to the capital?”

Shaobo said:

“Raobi’s Garden has taken in many homeless women. If they hadn’t needed the protection of this slave, this slave would have given up everything and go to Lingnan with Little Master!”

Xia Xun pretended to be proud and said:

“Don’t underestimate me. My eldest brother and I have been doing business all these years. Not to mention the wealth, we can also be regarded as famous merchants in Douzhou. I am rich! Not poorer than you!”

Shaobo looked at him for a while, and finally smiled. She wiped away the tears, smoothed the messy hair on her temples, got up and bowed in front of Xia Xun. Every movement of hers was dazzling and beautiful.

She changed back to the stern Madam Raobi.

“I wonder if the young master here has some wish?”

Xia Xun sat upright and said seriously:

“Xiong Qian, a wealthy merchant in the capital, gets married today. The wife he is about to marry is the former wife of my eldest brother. If the newlywed wife can get a hairpin from Madam Raobi, my wish will be fulfilled.”

Raobi said:

“This servant understands the sincere heart of the young master. You don’t need to worry. I will immediately send the most gorgeous flower hairpin made by Raobi to Xiong Mansion. It will definitely not miss the auspicious time.”

Xia Xun thanked her: “I am deeply grateful, Madam.”

He took out Qi Yan’s purse but his hand was pressed down by Raobi.

She said sincerely:

“When this servant was young, she was rescued by the young master, but did not repay her debt. Even if I had to give the entire embroidery workshop to you, I would not hesitate. Why regret a flower hairpin? What’s more, Xiong Mansion has sent someone with a box of gold ingots, and I will accept it.”

Xia Xun no longer refused.

“Madam is a generous and clever woman. I have nothing else to wish for but one thing. I wish Madam a smooth life. I shouldn’t disturb you further, so I will leave.”

Raobi walked with him out of the embroidery building. Before Xia Xun left, she asked:

“The young master and this servant… might there be a chance to meet each other again?”

Xia Xun said calmly:

“People of the human world always have a chance to meet each other. Madam doesn’t have to force it. Madam will always be remembered in my heart. That’s enough.”

He bowed to Raobi and walked away.

Raobi followed him with her gaze; his thin figure mixed into the crowd and disappeared after a while.

That night, Qi Yan was working in the study when there was a knock on the door. He said without looking up, “Come in.”

It was not Qi Hui or any other of Qi Mansion’s servants, but Xia Xun.

“Why are you here?” Qi Yan was surprised and delighted. He never thought Xia Xun would take the initiative to come to him. He put down the document in his hand and led Xia Xun to the tea table: “Where’s the gift? Did you buy it?”

Xia Xun took out an inkstone, put it on the table and pushed it towards him.

Qi Yan picked it up and took a look:

“This square inkstone is made of quality stone, with delicate lines and exquisite carvings. It is a good inkstone, one can see it at first glance. It must be expensive. But to use it as a wedding gift is a bit…”

Xia Xun said, “It’s not for my sister-in-law, it’s for you.”

Qi Yan said in surprise: “A gift for me? Of course I am very happy about it, but— why give me a gift?”

Xia Xun said lightly: “I saw Shaobo today. Did you arrange it too?”

Qi Yan was startled and replied:

“I did think that you might meet her, but I didn’t expect it to be so fast… So, she told you everything? Is this why you gave me the inkstone?”

Xia Xun said wistfully:

“Whether it is my sister-in-law or Shaobo, they have to thank you for what they have today. Just keep the inkstone, I bought it with your money anyway, and all the money in your money bag is spent.”

Qi Yan held the inkstone, unable to put it down:

“Looking at it now, I suddenly feel that this inkstone is much more precious.”

Xia Xun whispered:

“My eldest sister-in-law has remarried, and Shaobo is also self-reliant and no longer needs my protection. There are no more people in the capital that I worry about.”

Qi Yan slowly put down the inkstone.

The two of them sat opposite each other silently.

As the cool autumn breeze blew, Xia Xun couldn’t help coughing a few times. Qi Yan regained his senses, walked to the window and closed it, then slowly turned his head, trembling imperceptibly, and asked:

“Are you… leaving?” 

Xia Xun did not say anything, but the answer was self-evident.

Qi Yan laughed, trying to appear strong.

“In Qingzhou before, you had too many opportunities to leave, but you didn’t leave. At that time, I thought you might have a wish, but now that you know your old acquaintances in the capital are all well, I guess, you want to go too…”

After a moment of silence, Xia Xun said slowly:

“The atmosphere in the capital is complicated, noisy and messy. Although Douzhou has many disadvantages, isn’t it a quiet town that is more suitable for me?”

Qi Yan frowned, unable to hide his sorrow.

“After so many things happened… you still don’t want to stay?”

Xia Xun lowered his eyes.

“I… don’t match the feng shui of the capital. You see, even the doctor said that I am not acclimatised—”

Qi Yan finally made up his mind; he took Xia Xun’s hand.

“Whether you are going to leave or not, I will take you to a place. In any case, before you go, I must tell you everything. You have the right to know everything.”

Xia Xun thought that Qi Yan was going to take him somewhere out of the mansion. He guessed that maybe he was going to take him to the tomb of his parents.

But Qi Yan didn’t.

He took his hand, walked up to the antique shelf in the study and turned a porcelain vase on the shelf.

As the porcelain vase rotated, the antique shelf moved forward, and a secret door suddenly appeared on the wall behind it.

Qi Yan opened the door and led him into the dark room behind the door.

As soon as he entered, even before he could see what was in the room, Xia Xun smelled a lingering scent of sandalwood. He blinked, his eyes gradually adapting to the darkness.

The room was not large, and a niche was embedded in the north-facing wall. The niche actually enshrined Xia Xun’s memorial tablet.

Qi Yan said quietly:

“I also erected a tablet for you at Baohong Temple, but I didn’t think it was enough. I set up a big one at home. I would come to offer incense to you every day, every day…”

He choked and couldn’t continue speaking.

Xia Xun walked up to the shrine and saw a wooden figurine of a man standing next to the incense burner. The wooden man’s facial features were ninety percent similar to his.

“Is this me…?” He asked, “Did you… carve it?” 

Qi Yan said: “It took me many years and nearly a hundred pieces of wood to make the one that looked like you. ”

Xia Xun murmured:

“Why… didn’t you hate my parents so much? Didn’t you hate me so much that you even refused to come to see me for the last time? What were you doing this for?”

Qi Yan’s words were full of anguish:

“—I was going to save you.”

Seven years ago, on the day of Xia Xing’s funeral, in Qi Yan’s small courtyard.

Xia Xun had just fallen asleep, and before going to bed, he told Qi Yan that he would return to Xia Mansion tomorrow.

Qi Yan agreed.

After Xia Xun fell asleep, he changed into his official uniform and went to the palace with Qi Hui.

It was not yet dawn, but the young emperor was already handling government affairs in the imperial study.

Qi Yan waited outside for a long time before he was invited to enter.

He kowtowed and knelt in front of the emperor’s table in the small area that was illuminated by candlelight.

The emperor’s voice came from above his head:

“I have already drawn up the decree to deal with Xia Hongxi. Tomorrow you can take the decree to Xia Mansion to seize him.”

He moved his finger, and the eunuch immediately handed the decree to Qi Yan.

Qi Yan quickly scanned the contents of the imperial decree and broke into a cold sweat after just a few glances.

The emperor’s meaning was quite clear. He wanted to cut off the grass and eliminate the roots. All members of the Xia family were to be beheaded in public, leaving none behind.

Qi Yan closed the decree and returned it to the eunuch. His mind was running so fast that he managed to come up with countermeasures in a few breaths.

“Your Majesty, this official has a request and hopes Your Majesty will allow it.”

The emperor didn’t even raise his head.

“What? Do you think my punishment is too light? ”

Qi Yan knocked his head on the ground.

“This official doesn’t dare, this official just hopes… just hopes Your Majesty can spare Xia Hongxi’s two sons from the death penalty.”

The emperor was a little surprised.

“I thought you hated Xia Hongxi and looked forward to me destroying all his kin. Why did your heart soften now?”

Qi Yan said solemnly:

“This official has carefully investigated the matter. Xia Xun, the third son of the Xia family, is actually a son of a commoner and is not favoured at home. It is impossible for Xia Hongxi to share any information about water transportation with him. He is also only sixteen years old. Taking into account his age, it is impossible for him and Xia Hongxi to jointly plan and use water transportation for personal gain, so this official dares to guarantee that he has no knowledge of Xia Hongxi’s crimes, no need for Your Majesty to doubt!”

The emperor’s expression gradually became solemn.

“What about his eldest son Xia Wen? Did he not know either?”

Qi Yan kowtowed again.

“This official verified that Xia Wen was born to Xia Hongxi’s deceased wife. He made no achievements in the imperial court and did not serve in the water transportation department. Therefore, this official thinks that he is probably innocent too!”

The emperor threw his brush down.

“Ridiculous! It’s nonsense! You mean, Xia Hongxi’s sons are all innocent! The crime was committed by Xia Hongxi alone. If I want to punish him, I can punish him but not involve others, right?! Then I ask you, did Xia Wen and Xia Xun grow up in Xia Mansion? Did Xia Hongxi feed and clothed them? But where did Xia Hongxi’s money come from? Was it not from water transportation? Even if his sons didn’t know anything about it, every piece of cloth they wore and every grain of rice they ate were all bought by Xia Hongxi! Every coin spent by everyone in Xia Hongxi’s family came from the official silver of the imperial court! Now you tell me, are the two of them innocent?!”

Qi Yan knocked his head on the floor with a bang, a thin trickle of blood appearing on his forehead.

“Your Majesty! There is nothing wrong with what Your Majesty said, but this official also wants to ask Your Majesty, if Xia Xun can choose, would he choose to be Xia Hongxi’s son? No matter what Your Majesty does with Xia Hongxi, he deserves it! But this official believes that Your Majesty is a wise monarch and gives the rewards and the punishments that are clearly deserved! Your Majesty will not hand down a disproportionate punishment for the crime and make those who have only committed slight misdemeanours lose their lives in vain! ”

The emperor narrowed his eyes, suddenly full of doubts.

“Official Qi, you come here today to plead for the two of them… Did you receive any benefits from them?!”

Qi Yan said calmly:

“Your Majesty! It is possible for anyone in the world to accept money from the Xia family and intercede for them, but it is impossible for this official. Xia Hongxi killed my parents and brother, and my hatred of him is deadly! I would drink his blood and eat his flesh if I could! What I said today is only to protect Your Majesty’s name as a wise ruler! Otherwise, I could have accepted the decree and just waited until tomorrow to see the heads of the Xia family fall to the ground! Why risk losing my head and disobeying the will of the Son of Heaven? I hope Your Majesty will understand!”

The emperor’s expression was doubtful. Qi Yan’s words were not unreasonable, but he suspected his true motives were different.

After a while, the emperor spoke again and agreed to let the two sons of the Xia family live.

“I won’t kill the two of them, but if the death penalty can be exempted, the punishment for the living is impossible to escape! Also, if I find that you have any secret involvement with those two, I will immediately execute all three of you together!”

Qi Yan replied in a loud voice:

“Please rest assured, Your Majesty, if I have any involvement with the two sons of the Xia family, there is no need for Your Majesty to punish me, I will come and receive the punishment myself!”

The emperor sighed, picked up the brush again and turned his attention to another memorial in his hand.

“…Fine, you can go down. Tomorrow you will personally lead the troops and take Xia Hongxi’s head for me.”

Qi Yan finally knocked his head.

“This official received the order and is grateful!”

Qi Hui was waiting under the porch, and when he saw Qi Yan coming out, he immediately stepped forward to help.

When he took a closer look, he saw that Qi Yan’s forehead was bleeding. He asked in surprise:

“My lord, how was it just now?? Is it done?!”

Qi Yan half leaned on Qi Hui and let out a long breath.

“…It’s done.”

Qi Hui found a handkerchief and wiped the blood from his forehead.

Qi Yan pressed the handkerchief to his forehead, feeling relieved.

“Xia Xun’s life is saved for now.”

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Guanshan Muyu Chapter 53

The girls flocked over to pick up Shaobo, who, with her face still wet with tears, shouted quickly:

“Do not come over! Everyone out! Close the door, no one is allowed to come near!”

When everyone retreated as ordered and the door was closed tightly, Xia Xun picked her up and sat her down on the couch.

Shaobo clutched his arm, too excited to control herself.

Xia Xun looked around and said with relief:

“It seems you are doing well. The decorations in this room are even more opulent than in the former Xia Mansion, and those people have been disciplined by you so well that no one dares to disobey a single word from you.”

Then he carefully examined her face.

“And you have grown so beautiful. You’ve become a real beauty.”

Shaobo, with tears in her eyes, raised her hand and gently brushed Xia Xun’s face, then spread his left hand for a closer look.

“Little Master has not changed… is still so thin, and his hand… has not grown… well,” she said, the tears that had just stopped rolling down her face again. “But, Little Master, everyone said you died in exile, how did you… how did you survive?”

Xia Xun told her as briefly as he could:

“I, together with my big brother Xia Wen, got out by faking our deaths, changed our names and lived in Lingnan all these years. And you? How come you became an embroideress?”

Shaobo dried her tears with a handkerchief and said:

“This slave almost died back then. But I was determined to avenge Little Master and crawled out from the grave.”

Seven years ago, Shaobo, like most of the servants in Xia Mansion, after a month of house arrest in Xia Mansion was sent to prison.

They, a group of underlings without status, naturally could not be sent to the imperial prison of the Judicial Review Court, and men and women together, all went down to the capital city prison.

The annual funding for the city prison from the imperial court was not much, and now dozens of prisoners were imprisoned at once. The head of the prison calculated the costs; just to feed these people would swallow a large sum of money.

He deliberated for a short while and simply cut off the food for these people. If they starved to death in prison, anyway, they were just some guilty slaves, who cared about their lives.

In this way, Shaobo, who did not have a drop of water for several days, fainted from hunger in the cell.

The head of the prison thought she was dead. She was put in a cart together with the rest of the people who died and thrown to the mass grave outside the city, buried under a heap of gravel.

Fortunately, that night, heavy rain fell from the sky and drops of water trickled between the gravel, hitting Shaobo’s face.

Shaobo was so thirsty that she licked the rain on her lips instinctively.

In the pouring rain, she regained consciousness several times and fainted several times again, but one thought in her mind kept her from dying: 

—She wanted to kill Qi Yan and avenge Xia Xun.

In prison, she heard people say that Xia Xun had died halfway, not even reaching exile, and the one whose fault it was could only be Qi Yan.

Hatred gave her strength; she took advantage of the little bit of rain that fell on her lips to finally come to her senses.

She pushed away the gravel with her bare hands, even though the sharp edges of the stones cut her palms.

Under the curtain woven by the rain, she escaped from the pile of dead people buried in the crushed rocks.

She ran forward recklessly, until she was stopped by a stream. She was so thirsty that she rushed to the stream and knelt down, drinking from the stream like an animal.

She was unkempt and ragged. She appeared in the mountains among thunder and lightning, looking like a female ghost of a recently deceased, shocking a peasant woman who walked up to the stream.

Hearing footsteps, Shaobo immediately turned her head: “Who is there?!”

“Aigoo, scared me to death!” The peasant woman repeatedly patted her chest: “I thought I had met a ghost! Luckily, it is a living person who can talk! Little girl, why are you here in the middle of the night? And why are you in such a mess?”

Shaobo did not answer.

The peasant woman kindly offered:

“Why don’t you come to my house? At least I can give you a change of clothes. Look at you, your skirt is torn into rags!”

Shaobo did not say yes; her mind was wandering until finally she said:

“…big sister, do you have a knife?”

The peasant woman looked at the firewood basket behind her back.

“There is a woodcutting knife, but it is too dull, not good!”

Shaobo asked her, “Can you give it to me?”

The peasant woman saw that she was young and thin, so she probably would not be able to harm her. She also saw that her eyes were full of sorrow and realized that something must have happened to her. Without saying a word, she took out the woodcutting knife and threw it a bit farther away.

Shaobo picked up the knife, said “thank you”, and walked along the stream towards the capital.

The peasant woman thought she was strange.

“Forget it, why bother with other people’s business. The rain is getting heavier, so it’s better to go home as soon as possible.”

She wrapped herself in her straw raincoat tightly and walked in the opposite direction.

Shaobo, drenched in rain and holding the knife, walked all night long.

When she saw the city gate, the rain stopped, and she looked like a real lunatic.

Her face was hidden under her messy hair; rainwater and mud soaked her torn skirt. She had not eaten for several days, her face was deathly pale and she was holding a long rusty knife in her hand.

The guards at the city gates did not dare to question her for fear of being chopped up by her knife, and once it was the time to open the gate, she was immediately let in.

Shaobo was so hungry that her vision was going dark and bright alternatively; there was no single conscious thought in her mind and her feet were moving, relying only on instinct.

Her body firmly remembered the location of Xia Mansion, just as it remembered where Qi Yan’s home was.

She hobbled and staggered along the streets and knocked on Qi Yan’s door at dawn.

The door was opened by Qi Hui, who did not even recognize Shaobo at first, but when he finally realized that she was Xia Xun’s servant girl, he immediately closed the door.

Shaobo shoved the handle of her knife into the door and tried to push her way through.

When Qi Hui stopped her from entering, Shaobo shouted:

“Qi Yan! Come out! Give me back my little master—!”

Qi Hui hurriedly covered her mouth.

“Quiet! The lord is recovering from a serious illness and cannot bear such a fuss! If you have anything to say, come at me!”

Shaobo raised her knife and was about to cut his hand. Qi Hui was shocked. As soon as his hand loosened, she took advantage of the gap and rushed directly into the courtyard.

When Qi Yan heard the shout, he got up from his bed and walked to the door slowly.

When the news of Xia Xun’s death reached him, he had a sudden heart attack and was very ill for ten days, having the strength to stand up only in the past two days.

His hair was scattered over his shoulders, his eyes sunken and his face looking no better than Shaobo’s.

Shaobo saw him and stood still for a moment, then held the knife with both hands and walked straight towards him.

Qi Yan did not dodge, met her gaze and stepped over the threshold.

Qi Hui appeared in a hurry and was about to hold Shaobo down when Qi Yan said softly:

“Qi Hui, let her go.”

Qi Hui did not dare to disobey and ran to Qi Yan’s side again, shielding him.

“Shaobo, if you really want to kill someone, kill me! Don’t touch my lord! Xia Hongxi was the one who owed him in the first place!”

Shaobo roared:

“If Xia Hongxi has done something wrong, what does it have to do with my little master?! Why— why did you kill him?!”

Qi Hui painfully explained, “My lord never wanted to kill Young Master Xia, he did it to save him—”

Shaobo choked with anger: “Shut up! You think I will believe your bullsh*t!!!”

Qi Yan said in a cold voice:

“Qi Hui, back off.”

Qi Hui refused, “My lord, go back and lie down! Your health—!”

Qi Yan took a few steps forward and pushed Qi Hui away.

“I said, stand down.”

Qi Hui gritted his teeth and finally retreated half a step.

Step by step, Shaobo walked up to Qi Yan, until they were so close that if Shaobo swung hard enough, the foot-long wood chopping knife would cut Qi Yan’s neck.

But she was too weak, she was panting like a dying old cow, and had no strength to swing the knife.

She drained her last bit of strength to raise the knife, trembling, and slashed down.

The blade did not hurt Qi Yan, just landed softly on his shoulder.

Shaobo was frozen in this position, panting and repeating:

“Where is my little master…? Give me back my little master…”

Qi Yan gripped the blade and placed it against his heart.

“Do it, Shaobo, I’m not going to resist. My heart is hurting too much, so I might as well give it to you.”

Shaobo was clearly doing her best, she felt she was putting in a lot of effort, but the wood chopping knife just rested loosely against Qi Yan’s clothes, not advancing even an inch.

She realized that she had no more strength.

Her vision went black; she could no longer lift the knife and it clattered, falling on the ground, while she also fell forward, on Qi Yan.

Qi Yan’s weak body could not support her, and the two fell to the ground together, unconscious.

When Shaobo opened her eyes, she was no longer in Qi Yan’s courtyard; she propped herself up and looked around.

She was in a beautifully decorated room and her tattered clothes had been replaced with new ones.

Only one candle was lit in the room, its light dim.

In the corner where the candlelight did not reach, Qi Yan was sitting, staring forward, his eyes dazed and unfocused.

Shaobo sat up and felt a violent bout of dizziness. She clutched her forehead, resisting the urge to dry heave, and slowly lay back down.

Qi Yan’s eyes moved and his gaze found her face.

“…You’re awake? Your clothes were changed by the embroideress here, I have nothing to do with it… You can stay here from now on, the owner of the embroidery workshop promised to teach you embroidery. When you learn the skill, you will be able to support yourself.”

Shaobo swallowed the acid that flooded her stomach and said in a hateful voice:

“No need for you… to be a good man!”

Qi Yan did not seem to hear, his eyes looking hollow in the darkness.

“You can’t be called Shaobo in the future either, you need to change your name.”

Shaobo retorted:

“Never! This name was given to me by my little master! It’s the last thing he left me!”

Qi Yan was shaken, and for a moment there were tears in his eyes:.

“The last thing…? But he did not leave me anything… what can I do…”

Shaobo’s eyes were hot and her heart was aching too much for her to speak.

After a long time, Qi Yan said gloomily:

“Change it, otherwise you won’t survive in the capital. If anyone knows your identity, I’m afraid you will be in danger… Shaobo… harmonious wave… twilight spring beauty, wind and clouds, gleaming reflection of waves in sunlight, the lake in spring that looks like foggy jasper, how about… you will be called Raobi, swirling blue jade…”

Seven years later, in the embroidery workshop, Shaobo said to Xia Xun:

“This is the origin of the name Raobi.”

“It is very nice.” Xia Xun said gently as he tucked away the loosened strands of her hair, “Very nice, such a name is only worthy of you.”

Shaobo murmured:

“I don’t like this name because it was given to me by Qi Yan, but I like this name because it is related to your original intention of naming me Shaobo.”

She turned her head sideways and gently pressed her cheek against Xia Xun’s palm, saying with sadness:

“Little Master’s hand has become so rough, but it’s still… as warm as always.”

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Guanshan Muyu Chapter 52

Xia Xun listened to the end of the story, showing little reaction, put down the chopsticks, wiped his mouth and said:

“The ribs are really well done, there is no such good pork in Lingnan.”

He got up to leave. Qi Yan did not force him to stay and only said leisurely to his back:

“Your sister-in-law is getting married.”

Xia Xun immediately turned back.

“My sister-in-law is getting married? Isn’t that nonsense? If my sister-in-law isn’t married, how can she become my sister-in-law?”

Qi Yan deliberately did not look at him, casually picking the food on his plate. He did not seem to mind those being leftovers from Xia Xun, chucking them all into his own bowl: 

“I’m not talking about her marrying your big brother, I’m saying she is marrying her new husband.”

With one sentence, Xia Xun was bound to stay.

He walked back to the table and asked with suppressed delight.

“Really? Someone is really going to marry her? I mean… someone is willing to marry the wife of a criminal?”

Qi Yan pulled out an invitation from his sleeve.

“This is from her future husband sent to the mansion, take a look.”

Xia Xun opened the invitation, skipped the polite words, and quickly glanced at the signature: — sent by Xiong Qian.

Xia Xun asked, “Who is Xiong Qian? No official position is written? He is not an official?”

Qi Yan said no.

Xia Xun said quietly: “Yes, after all, sister-in-law was once the daughter-in-law of the Xia family, those official lords would not risk damaging their careers by marrying her.”

Qi Yan cleared his throat, “Ahem! I am also an official lord.”

Xia Xun asked rhetorically, “So what? You didn’t marry her either, huh?”

Qi Yan couldn’t argue with him and changed the topic:

“Aren’t you curious about what this Xiong Qian’s status is?”

He waited for Xia Xun to ask.

Xia Xun looked straight at him, but did not say anything.

Qi Yan quickly conceded defeat: “You’re more stubborn than me, I’ll tell you. This Xiong Qian is from Bianzhou, a businessman who started from zero. The biggest restaurant in the capital, Guangning House, is his property. He is twelve years older than your sister-in-law, he was married and has two sons and a daughter. His wife died five years ago and he did not remarry after a year of mourning. Xiong Qian is a decent man and does not even have a concubine by now.”

Xia Xun was puzzled and said:

“How come you know him so well?”

Qi Yan said: “If I didn’t investigate thoroughly, how would I dare to marry your sister-in-law to him?”

Xia Xun was stunned: “They were set up by you? Why?”

Qi Yan paused and also put down his chopsticks.

“I didn’t want to talk about such a heavy matter, but look at you, you have to ask. After the news of your death and the death of your eldest brother, your sister-in-law fell ill, lingering on the sickbed for more than a year. Her family spent a lot of money to pour medicinal materials into her like water every day, and finally cured her. You know, her family is powerful, and there were people who proposed, but she refused and stopped going out after she recovered from her illness. I understand that she must have loved Xia Wen very much and must have been very sad. ”

Qi Yan took a breath and sighed.

“When I looked at her, I always felt I was looking at myself. After a while, I leisurely started to look for a good marriage partner for her in the capital, and then I heard about Xiong Qian. I asked someone to talk to the matchmaker. At first, both parties didn’t agree. Your sister-in-law didn’t want to remarry, and Xiong Qian missed his dead wife and didn’t want to marry again. I was about to give up, but the matchmaker I found didn’t give up. She said that she had received a lot of money from me and she was determined to get the matter done. The matchmaker didn’t know how to move the two of them, so she asked them to meet each other through the gauze curtain. Since then, the attitude of the two has gradually warmed up, and today is a formal ceremony.”

Xia Xun said: “Today?”

Qi Yan nodded.

“Didn’t you see the date on the invitation? If you are willing, why don’t you come with me to the banquet?”

On the second floor of the restaurant across from Xiong Qian’s house, Xia Xun and Qi Yan sat by the rails, watching downstairs.

Xia Xun wondered: “You obviously have an invitation, why don’t you go in and ask for a cup of wedding wine?”

Qi Yan said indifferently: “I’m afraid your sister-in-law won’t want to see me— no, you can’t call her that nowadays, it’s time to change her name to Madam Xiong.”

Xiong Qian welcomed the bride, and the dowry occupied a whole street. Madam Xiong’s second wedding was even more grand than the one she had when she married Xia Wen.

Xia Wen wistfully said:

“My brother would be especially happy if he saw it.”

Qi Yan asked him:

“You’re not going to tell her that Xia Wen is still alive?”

Xia Xun said, “No, she has a new life in front of her, so why should she worry about the deceased?”

Qi Yan thought for a moment and asked:

“I did not go, but I sent in a gift. Where is your congratulatory gift?”

Xia Xun was righteously indignant.

“I have no money, so I can’t afford to buy anything expensive and I won’t embarrass them with cheap things. I think the rich boss Xiong Qian will give his wife enough gifts.”

Qi Yan questioned:

“I have given you a whole bag of money, what exactly do you want to buy that you can’t afford?”

Xia Xun took out the brocade bag given by Qi Yan from his sleeve and threw it to him: “The medicine has been prescribed, and the rest of the money is returned to you.”

Qi Yan turned it in his hands and handed the money bag back to Xia Xun: “I’ll give you a task. You go to buy a congratulatory gift now. No matter what you buy, until you spend all the money in the bag, you are not allowed to go home.”

After that, without giving Xia Xun a chance to say no, he got up and hurriedly walked downstairs. He got in the carriage with Qi Hui, and the master and servant duo left without looking back as if they were thieves.

Xia Xun was left sitting alone on the second floor, staring in disbelief.

“What… what was that about?”

Xia Xun had never bought anything for a woman in his life and could not think of anything else except rouge and powder.

After two rounds of walking through the busiest street in the capital, he still couldn’t figure it out.

When he passed by a jewellery store, he suddenly remembered someone Qi Yan had mentioned. That person’s name was Raobi, a famous embroideress in the capital.

He went into the jewellery store and asked the owner how he could find her.

When the owner heard that he was looking for Raobi, he waved his hand at him.

“It’s not that I don’t want to tell you! This woman is a good embroideress, but she is very eccentric! She opened an embroidery workshop, and almost all the embroidery products sold there are made by the embroidery girls she taught. She herself doesn’t take up a job easily! Moreover, she has a pungent and tricky personality. Even if a customer brings a thousand taels of gold, if she thinks that person as unsatisfactory, she will not only drive them out, but sometimes scold people like a demon! Even if the young master doesn’t buy our jewellery, don’t go to her and get scolded!”

Xia Xun smiled good-naturedly.

“I don’t have a thousand taels of gold, but I’m not afraid of being scolded, so could you please tell me where to find her embroidery workshop?”

Raobi’s embroidery workshop was called Raobi’s Garden, a building of several stories high with elaborate decorations and carved beams, looking more extravagant than Xiong Qian’s mansion.

Xia Xun walked through the door, stopped the first embroideress he saw and asked her where Raobi was.

The embroideress looked at him worriedly, then raised her eyes to look upstairs where a clear female voice was saying something in rapid succession, and from the tone one could hear that she was probably scolding someone.

The embroideress said to Xia Xun:

“Is the young master here to ask Madam Raobi for an embroidery? I advise you to forget about it. Today, a rich merchant is getting married and his family member brought a box of gold ingots and sent them directly to Madam’s embroidery room, asking her to make a beaded flower. Madam refused. The family member threw down the gold and ran away, making Madam angry. Now she is cursing. Don’t touch the bad luck! Come back another day and try again!”

As soon as Xia Xun heard it, he knew it was someone sent by Xiong Qian. For the sake of his sister-in-law being able to wear a beaded flower made by Raobi, he decided to give it a try.

“It doesn’t matter. Even if I can’t get the embroidery, I’ll be satisfied if I can meet the famous Madame Raobi once.”

He bypassed the embroideress and slowly walked up the stairs.

On the way, the embroidery girls he passed by were all silent.

It seemed Raobi’s prestige was very high. When she lost her temper, everyone in the house had to hold their breath, Xia Xun thought.

As he went up the stairs, the sound of Raobi’s voice became clearer. She was so eloquent, cursing without a single dirty word, but so scathingly that made people feel like running away in shame.

Xia Xun didn’t even dare to think what kind of words Raobi would say to scold him when he got up the stairs.

On the upper floor, the door to Raobi’s room was at the end of the corridor, and Xia Xun suddenly felt a little nervous. He took a deep breath, slowly coming closer.

Raobi was speaking standard official language, and Xia Xun guessed that she might be a native of the capital.

In fact, if he had inquired more, he would have known that she was not from the capital, she was not even from the Central Plains; she had a high nose and deep set eyes, a standard Hu appearance.

A customer once joked that she was more beautiful than dancing girls in the restaurant, and she picked up the scissors and chased him downstairs.

The customer fled, but the next time, he came to her with a gift.

The customer’s meaning was clear: he wanted to take her as his wife.

It was not that Raobi didn’t understand. But the thing she hated most was concealment. She simply said that she would not marry anyone and would keep this embroidery workshop for the rest of her life, and that if anyone else pursued her, she would leave her home to become a Buddhist nun.

Raobi was twenty-three years old this year, which was a good age. Her eyes were shining brown with the blue light in their depths. Everyone said that the name Raobi was a perfect match for her.

These things were well known to the world.

What the world didn’t know was that many years ago, she didn’t have the boldness she had now.

At that time she worked as a maid in a big mansion and her courage was pitifully small. When she encountered a tiny problem, she would hide behind her master and cry.

Later, when her master suffered a disaster and died in a distant land, she ran away and became an embroideress.

In those years, she had not been called Raobi, she had another name then.

She was called—

“…Shao …bo?”

Xia Xun stood outside the door, unable to believe his eyes.

In the room, Shaobo, named Raobi, was wearing a gorgeous brocade dress. There were several beaded hairpins on her head and ruby earrings swirling with crystal light in her ears. A little flower inlay glimmered between her eyebrows and her lips were pomegranate red.

She had long since lost the humbleness of being a maid, she was self-reliant and awe-inspiring, with the aura of a mature and beautiful woman.

There were several little maidservants in her room and several embroidery girls waited in the corridor behind Xia Xun. They were worried that Xia Xun’s appearance would anger her even more and were waiting outside the door, ready for Shaobo to give the order so that they would rush to drive Xia Xun out.

In Raobi’s Garden, Shaobo was the absolute centre of power, everyone’s likes and dislikes subject to her influence.

No one had ever seen her weak, she was always unruly and flamboyant, always in the forefront, disregarding the sky and the earth.

At this moment, the girls in and out of the room were all wide-eyed with surprise, staring at her in amazement.

This woman, so accustomed to being strong, softly knelt on the ground, clutching the floor cushion, looking at Xia Xun and weeping like a child.

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Guanshan Muyu Chapter 51

The doctor finished writing the prescription, the maid took it, Xia Yin stood up, thanked the doctor, turned around and went out.

Xia Xun could not avoid her and met her head-on.

Xia Yin’s eyes swept over his face casually while Xia Xun was frozen on the spot, not knowing how to react.

Should he call her “sister”? How should he explain that he and Xia Wen were not dead? Will she report him to the authorities and get him arrested?

His mind wandered, countless thoughts flashing in his head. Within a few moments, he had envisioned many scenarios, except for the one that really occurred.

—Xia Yin did not recognize him.

Her eyes did not linger on his face, and with the awkwardness of accidentally meeting a stranger, she gently nodded to him and then brushed past him together with her little maid, without a moment’s pause in her walk.

Xia Xun could not help but take two steps after her.


The maid heard his footsteps, looked back at him, didn’t take him seriously and followed her lady downstairs.

Xia Xun was stunned, frozen in place.

The doctor called him from the room.

“Young master, you are here to see a doctor?”

Xia Xun snapped back to his senses, turned around and went inside. He sat in front of the doctor and handed over his wrist. His heart was heavy.

The doctor did not immediately take his pulse, but examined his expression.

“…Young master has such a worried look. Even if one is not sick, holding so much sadness and anxiety will cause a disease.”

Xia Xun was distracted and did not hear what the doctor was saying. Finally he made up his mind and asked directly:

“That lady just now… are you familiar with her?”

The doctor looked at him.

“What? Is she your sweetheart? No way, you look at least seven or eight years younger than her, when she got married, you were just a little doll, right?”

Xia Xun said: “No, she is my… she looks like my distant cousin. I have not seen her for many years, so I can’t tell if it is her, that’s why I asked you about her.”

The doctor pondered and said:

“Well… it’s not impossible. There was a big upheaval in the family of that lady a few years ago. Later she was convicted and together with her husband was expelled from the capital. After suffering two consecutive blows, she was not in good health for a while. She saw many doctors but nothing helped. A few years ago through the introduction of some people she came to Ruiji Guan. This old doctor saw that she was calm and generous, so I promised to keep her secret and not to let others know that she was coming to the capital to see the doctor. She cannot enter the capital, so you naturally might have lost contact with her.”

Xia Xun continued asking:

“Do you know what crime she committed to be banned from entering the capital?”

The doctor took a sip of water and said he did not know.

“Since she didn’t mention it, I didn’t dare to ask. But you are her relative, haven’t you heard about it?”

Xia Xun shook his head.

The doctor said: “No matter whether she is a relative of the young master or not, it is time for this old man to check the young master’s pulse.”

He put his four fingers on Xia Xun’s wrist and closed his eyes to feel his pulse carefully.

After a while, he opened his eyes and said to Xia Xun:

“This is an old disease, and I’m afraid it will be difficult to cure it.”

Xia Xun said calmly:

“I know, I didn’t think it could be cured. It’s just that once autumn starts I have a cough. I would like you to prescribe some medicine to relieve it.”

The doctor thought about it and wrote a prescription for him.

“If you are free, come and let me see you every three days, maybe I can eradicate it.”

Xia Xun took the prescription and blew on it to make the ink dry quickly.

“Thanks a lot, but it probably won’t be of much use.”

Recently, Qi Yan did not have much official business and always had time to spare. In the past when he entered the palace, he would not return until youshi (5-7 pm). But lately he finished doing his work by noon and rushed home for lunch daily.

Thinking that Xia Xun was absent, Qi Yan got down from the carriage and walked into the house unhurriedly. Once he entered the main hall, he saw Xia Xun sitting at the dining table, eating the dinner intently.

The moment Qi Yan saw him, his heart soared, as if a heavy burden of a thousand pounds was lifted from it. He felt a smile on his face; after a pause, he took two steps forward, sitting next to Xia Xun.

A servant brought a basin of water; he washed his hands and deliberately teased Xia Xun: 

“Didn’t you say you’d be back before nightfall? What happened? Is the food outside not good?”

Xia Xun was busy picking the meat from a rib and ignored him.

Qi Yan put the rib into his bowl; his chopsticks moved lightly, and the meat that Xia Xun spent half a day tearing off came off the bone smoothly.

He gave the meat back to Xia Xun and threw the bone into an empty plate.

Xia Xun didn’t pretend to be polite, picked up the meat and ate it.

Qi Yan asked with a smile:

“What did the doctor say? What medicine did he prescribe for you?”

Xia Xun pointed with his chopsticks in the direction of a dozen paper packages of various herbs.

“It’s all there, don’t you want to check? Go ahead.”

Qi Yan said: “Why do we need to open each package and look at it? Just give me the prescription.”

Xia Xun chewed the meat and said, his speech slurred: “You didn’t tell me beforehand you needed the prescription, so I lost it.”

Qi Yan felt suspicious and asked, raising his eyebrows: “Why did you throw it away?”

Xia Xun said: “On the way back, I bought a cake. It was too oily, so I took the paper with the prescription to wrap it, and when the cake was finished, I also threw the paper away.”

Qi Yan was convinced for the time being and asked: “What did the doctor say?”

Xia Xun was indifferent.

“He said that I had not been to the capital for a long time, so I’m not acclimatised. And the autumn is dry, so my lungs feel too hot. He prescribed me some medicine to moisten my lungs.”

He said it in one breath from start to finish. Qi Yan believed him, relaxed, picked up his chopsticks and prepared to eat.

Xia Xun said unexpectedly for himself: “I saw Xia Yin in the clinic today.”

Qi Yan almost threw his chopsticks: “You saw Xia Yin? You should have told me that first thing! Then did she—?!”

Xia Xun stopped him.

“Don’t worry, she didn’t recognize me.”

Qi Yan was stunned and unconsciously repeated his words.

“She didn’t recognize you?”

Xia Xun looked as if he was not surprised at all.

“There is nothing strange about it, she married when I was very young and she didn’t meet me much. It is only natural that she did not recognize me.”

Qi Yan’s face was unhappy. Xia Xun glanced at him and asked suspiciously:

“Why do you always look like you have a strong opinion about her every time she is mentioned? What crime did she commit to be driven out of the capital? Who could she offend, a weak woman who barely leaves home?”

Qi Yan was silent for a moment and then said in a deep voice: “She offended me.”

Xia Xun frowned. “What do you mean?”

Qi Yan dismantled another rib for him.

“…It’s a very boring story, if you want to know, I’ll pick out some of the important details and tell you.”

It was shortly before He Cong married.

One day, he was coming back from the court late at night. It was already dark; a few streets away from his home his carriage was stopped.

When He Cong lifted the curtain, he saw that the man who stopped his carriage was Qi Yan.

Qi Yan was standing in the darkness, his face grim.

He Cong was not going to pretend being nice to him and said indifferently:

“If Lord Qi doesn’t back off, don’t blame my horse for having poor eyesight and pulling the carriage to crush your legs!”

Qi Yan lifted his dark eyes and aggressively questioned:

“Why do you want to marry? It’s only been a few years since Xia Xun died, and you want to marry someone?”

He Cong stood up swiftly, pointed at Qi Yan and cursed: “You still remember that Xia Xun died? First you cruelly killed his whole family! And now you’re asking me about it so pompously? Shame on you! You are not qualified! Coachman, ignore him! Keep going!”

Qi Yan grabbed the coachman’s hand that was about to raise the whip and pulled hard, dragging him and He Cong out of the carriage together.

The coachman fell to the ground, and He Cong stumbled but managed to keep his balance.

He rushed at Qi Yan, intent to fight with him, but was blocked by Qi Hui.

“Good! Good!” He Cong laughed in exasperation, “I don’t know what you’re mad about! But Lord Qi, I’m telling you plainly! Xia Xun is dead! No matter what you do to me, he’s not coming back!”

He grabbed the coachman by the back of his collar and lifted him up, pushed him to the carriage, and got in himself.

Qi Yan stood still and did not retreat.

He Cong bellowed: “If he doesn’t step aside, roll over his feet!”

The coachman didn’t dare to hurt Qi Yan, so he turned the horse and the wheels brushed against Qi Yan’s clothes as the carriage drove past in a hurry.

Until He Cong’s carriage disappeared at the end of the road, Qi Yan did not move.

Qi Hui reminded him in a soft voice: “My lord, Lord He has gone far away.”

Qi Yan seemed to have lost his soul; his lips opened and closed but his voice was barely audible.

“…He Cong, He Cong is actually going to take a wife… Could it be that… no one remembers him anymore…”

Qi Hui did not dare to urge him, quietly waiting by his side.

After a long time, Qi Yan, as if he was awaken from a dream, said to Qi Hui in a trance:

“…Come with me to Baohong Temple tomorrow…”

Baohong Temple was located in the mountains in the western suburbs of the city and was the most popular temple in the capital. Many dignitaries and noblemen came there to worship their ancestors.

After Xia Hongxi’s death, the emperor ordered that no one was allowed to worship the Xia family. Even Xia Yin could not worship her parents.

Despite the risk of being punished by the emperor, Qi Yan erected a small memorial tablet to Xia Xun in the temple’s Hall of Thousand Buddhas.

Three high walls of the Hall of Thousand Buddhas were lined with thousands of large and small tablets; Xia Xun’s was hiding in the corner where no one would notice it.

Every first and fifteenth day of the month Qi Yan was sure to come to the Baohong Temple to offer incense.

The tablets of his parents and elder brother were in another hall. He would stay in front of the family’s tablets for a long time, but did not go much to see Xia Xun.

He never explained but Qi Hui understood it. It was not because Qi Yan was cold; he just couldn’t accept it, as if he could pretend Xia Xun was still alive as long as he didn’t see his tablet.

Qi Hui never pointed it out, helping Qi Yan to deceive himself.

The next day, at dawn, Qi Yan set out.

When he arrived at Baohong Temple, the doors had just opened.

Qi Yan stepped into the Hall of Thousand Buddhas.

Inside the hall, there was someone who actually had come earlier than him.

It was a woman, kneeling with her hands clasped together, chanting under her breath. In the incense burner in front of her, three sticks of incense had not yet burned out and there were burning paper money and paper figurines in the brazier

Qi Yan slowly walked in and as the distance shortened, he could hear her chanting the “Amitabha Pure Land Rebirth Mantra”.

The woman was Xia Yin.

Xia Yin was so immersed in grief that she did not hear any movement around.

Qi Yan stood behind her and looked at the tablets in front of her. He saw Xia Hongxi, Lady Xia, Xia Wen and even Xia Xing, but only Xia Xun’s name was missing.

After reciting the “Amitabha Pure Land Rebirth Mantra”, Xia Yin opened her eyes and was about to kowtow when she suddenly realized that there was someone standing behind her and was so scared that she almost screamed.

When she saw Qi Yan’s face, her surprise turned to hatred, and she cursed, gasping for breath.

“It’s you?! How dare you come here?! All the gods and Buddhas are here watching! You killed my father and forced my mother to die, are you not afraid of retribution?!”

Qi Hui came forward and angrily rebuked her:

“If there is retribution, the death of Xia Hongxi is the greatest retribution! He broke the law and caused my lord’s parents to die! My lord was merciful and did not pursue you, letting you go! Isn’t that why you are able to be here and speak out? Don’t you know what’s good and bad—”

Qi Yan stopped him, his gaze firmly attached to the memorial tablets in front of them, as he asked Xia Yin:

“Why isn’t Xia Xun here?”

Xia Yin glared at him, “Who is Xia Xun?!”

Qi Yan looked at her incredulously.

“Did you even forget your brother’s name?”

Xia Yin finally remembered who Xia Xun was and snorted coldly.

“What brother! Is something born of a whore worthy of being my brother— hey, what are you doing?”

Deathly pale, Qi Yan picked up the incense burner and smashed it viciously on the ground, breaking three incense sticks into pieces. But it was still far from enough for him and he kicked over the fire brazier with a loud “clang”. The burning paper money fell on the ground and the ashes from paper scattered everywhere, fluttering in the wind.

Xia Yin was so angry that she rushed up, grabbed Qi Yan’s hand and bit down.

Qi Yan threw her on the ground; Xia Yin fell backwards, her eyes full of resentment stabbing him like knives.

Furious, Qi Yan scolded her: “You don’t deserve to be his sister! You don’t deserve to be his family! You don’t deserve to be in his presence! You don’t even deserve to live in the same place as him!”

Xia Yin laughed coldly and grimly: “Live? I’m still alive, but Xia Xun is dead! I’ll tell you the truth, I don’t even know what he looks like! What can you do to me? If you have the guts, you can go to the emperor and ask him to kill me as well!”

Qi Yan, despising and disdaining her, said bitterly: “You want to die? It’s not that easy! I will report to His Majesty, but I will not beg him to kill you! I will expel you from the capital! You will never be allowed to enter the city! I want you to live a long life and live with the pain of losing your loved ones for the rest of your life! Qi Hui, arrest her and send her to the Imperial Court of Judicial Review for questioning! Take down all the tablets of the Xia family! Burn all of them!”

Qi Hui escorted Xia Yin, who shouted and cursed, but was gagged by Qi Hui and dragged away by force.

The Hall of Thousand Buddhas soon regained its tranquillity.

Qi Yan, holding onto the wall, lowered his head and took several deep breaths, his heart beating fiercely, overflowing with rage.

Swaying, he walked to the familiar corner, where there was Xia Xun’s memorial tablet.

He stood facing Xia Xun, closed his eyes and tried his best to make his tone gentle.

“… I just made noise in front of you, right? It’s fine, don’t be afraid, the obnoxious ones have been driven away by me…”

He brushed his fingers over the words “Xia Xun” and slowly rested his head against the wooden tablet.

“Sorry I haven’t visited you for a long time, but… you probably don’t want to see me either, right? It’s fine, it’s fine to hate me, but, Xia Xun… if you can, can you come to my dream? Even once, no, even for a minute, for a moment, at least let me see you in my dream… Xia Xun, they have forgotten you… it’s fine, don’t be sad, even if everyone has forgotten, I will always remember you… Xia Xun, I have to go, I’ll see you later…”

With the light of the breaking dawn, Qi Yan walked out of the temple door, his shadow extremely long on the ground, merging with the incense ash everywhere, indistinguishably grey.

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Guanshan Muyu Chapter 50

There was a knock on the door, abruptly pulling Xia Xun out of his memories.

Qi Yan pushed the door open.

Xia Xun turned his back to him, “What is it again?”

Qi Yan said softly.

“I… I have one thing I want to give you. You just walked away too fast.”

Xia Xun looked sideways and said decisively: “Whatever it is, I don’t need—?!”

With his peripheral vision he suddenly saw what Qi Yan was holding in his hand; the very same comb that Xia Xun had given to the prison guard.

Stunned, Xia Xun asked: “—How… Where did you get it?!”

Qi Yan looked regretful, choosing his words for a long time, then finally said to Xia Xun with difficulty:

“A few years ago, I was the deputy of the Imperial Judicial Review Court, responsible for rectifying the improper trend of prison guards taking bribes from prisoners. One of them took the initiative to confess in order to escape a heavy punishment and presented all the pilfered goods he had at home.

“He said that a prisoner entrusted him to bring this comb to me. But I have not seen it since it was given to you. I asked the man why it was not handed to me at that time. He said that he felt that the prisoner was certain to die and had no intention of actually doing anything for him. He just carried the comb in his pocket for a few days, returned it intact and lied to the prisoner that I didn’t accept it.”

Qi Yan apologised.

“I am sorry, at that time I did not fail to accept it, I was unaware of the matter from beginning to end, so… for many years thereafter, I was bitterly regretting that… I am sorry…”

Xia Xun wanted to pretend to be indifferent, wanted to say a painless “no need, I have long forgotten”.

But as soon as he opened his mouth, he heard himself saying instead: “If… if you had seen it, you… would have come to see me?”

Qi Yan paused and put the comb into his palm, then wrapped his fingers tightly around it.

Xia Xun stared at him fixedly, without looking away, just like when Xia Mansion was seized.

And Qi Yan reacted just as he did then.

He did not answer his question, nor did he meet his eyes; his throat rolled up and down, but he never said a word.

Xia Xun did not wait any longer and asked in a cold voice: “Is it hard to answer this question? Then what is the point of you talking to me about this?”

He suddenly raised his hand and threw the comb out of the window fiercely. 

“I don’t need it anymore, and since you don’t want it either, then let’s throw it away.”

Qi Yan’s eyes followed the comb as if a part of him fell down there in the darkness outside the house.

Xia Xun took two steps to the side.

“If there is nothing else, please go back.”

Qi Yan walked out of the room. When Xia Xun thought he had left, he slowly lowered his head and took a few deep breaths.

Outside the window there was a dense bush of golden cherry blossoms, and the comb that he had thrown out just now had fallen into the bush.

A few moments later, he heard a noise outside the window and unconsciously raised his eyes to look.

It turned out that Qi Yan did not leave, but bent down over the bush. He groped among the leaves and the branches with his bare hands.

He was looking for the comb.

The golden cherry leaves are thorny and sharp. Yuzhu’s ear had been cut by it and even though his ears were furry, the leaves left a bloody slash there; not to mention Qi Yan’s hands.

In the night when even the moonlight was blocked by clouds, Qi Yan groped in the darkness, inch by inch exploring the ground under the bush.

Xia Xun stared at his figure in a daze, motionless.

After a long time, Qi Yan finally found the comb deep in the bush, picked it up, returned to the room and once again pressed it into Xia Xun’s hand.

His hand was covered with tiny scars and his fingers were wet and sticky with dirt.

He looked at Xia Xun intently and Xia Xun stared back at him.

He thought Qi Yan was finally going to say something to him, but after a long silence, Qi Yan only whispered:

“The hour is late, rest.”

Without waiting for Xia Xun to say anything, he walked out sluggishly, his steps heavy and dragging.

Xia Xun’s gaze followed him as he watched him walk away.

In the winding corridor, the hem of Qi Yan’s clothes sank into the night, and his hair fluttered in the wind, making him look dejected and isolated.

The night was windy.

The next day, the capital officially entered the autumn season.

Xia Xun woke up early in the morning and felt that his throat was dry and itchy, and after breakfast, he suddenly started coughing repeatedly.

Qi Yan wanted to call a doctor for him.

He said, “No, I’ll go to the doctor’s office and get the medicine myself.”

Qi Yan was about to argue, but when the words were almost on his lips, he changed his mind and swallowed them.

He understood why Xia Xun wanted to go by himself.

Back then, there was Zhi Gui to chat with him to relieve his boredom, but now there was only a pond of koi to keep him company.

He was so bored that if Qi Yan didn’t let him go out, he would have to sneak out over the wall. 

Qi Yan thought for a moment and nodded in agreement.

“…good, you go, in the east of the city, there is Ruiji Guan clinic—”

Xia Xun interrupted him.

“I know what clinics there are in the city, I grew up here.”

Qi Yan pulled out the money bag from his sleeve and put it in his hand: “Even if you know the capital like the back of your hand, you don’t have any money on you, do you? Take it and use it, don’t be stingy, ask the doctor to bring some good medicine for you. I will check it when I come back.”

Xia Xun said, “You don’t know anything about medicine, what’s the use of showing it to you?”

Qi Yan looked at him with his eyes smiling.

“Do you want to go out or not?”

Xia Xun bristled and grabbed the money bag.

“Since you pay for it, you can check it.”

This time, he could finally walk out through the gate of Qi Mansion openly. The carriage was parked outside the gate, waiting to send Qi Yan to the court. Xia Xun looked at the busy street, took a deep breath and sighed.

“This is the smell of freedom, right?”

Qi Yan was worried.

“There might be people in the city who can recognize you, you’d better put on a veiled hat to be safe.”

Xia Xun did not want to listen to his nagging and took a few steps down the stairs.

“I’m leaving, I’ll be back before it gets dark!”

Qi Yan raised his eyebrows.

“Dark? It’s just a trip to the doctor’s office, you’ll be back by lunch at the latest…”

Xia Xun turned his back and raised his hand, speeding up, reaching the corner in a few moments, turning right and disappearing into the crowd almost immediately.

After he left, Qi Hui asked:

“My lord, you let the young master go alone, aren’t you worried about him leaving the capital?”

Qi Yan looked away.

“…He won’t. Back in Qingzhou, he had many opportunities to leave, but he stayed anyway.”

Qi Hui felt happy for him: “Does that mean that the young master cares for the lord—?”

Qi Yan was noncommittal.

“Not necessarily. He may have some unfulfilled wish.”

Qi Hui asked again: “Does this subordinate need to send someone to follow him secretly to protect the young master’s safety?”

Qi Yan shook his head.

“If it were the old him, I would have done so, but now… now he is sharp-witted, smart and cautious, and no longer needs my protection…”

He stepped into the carriage: “Let’s go, it’s almost dawn.”

The carriage with the master and the servant steadily drove towards the palace.

Xia Xun felt more and more comfortable as he walked along the bustling street, and even his coughing stopped unconsciously.

He was like a bird that had been living in a cage for a long time and had managed to escape and return to a familiar forest.

At the moment, it was the beginning of the day, and the streets were getting crowded.

The vendors who were selling breakfast shouted, bringing out delicious food from steaming pots.

Xia Xun walked through the noisy crowd with a solid feeling of having his feet on the ground.

He was temporarily away from his painful past, away from the love of his life he had fallen for so recklessly when he was young, away from the love-hate tangle that bound him like shackles.

He returned to the place where he grew up, and the few happy memories of his childhood associated with the city gradually came to mind.

He smiled relaxedly and felt happier.

Next, he would walk down the road to the medicine store where he had been so many times as a child; the owner of the medicine store should still be the same uncle who gave little Xia Xun a lot of candy to eat.

That’s how it should have been.

—Then Xia Xun got lost.

He stood under the familiar door of the medicine store, but did not see the familiar plaque.

Where the medicine store used to be, it was a liquor store now; its doors were closed, not opening for customers until the evening.

He looked around. Seven years passed, and everything in this square, except for the towering gate, was no longer the way he remembered it.

When he thought of the way he boasted in front of Qi Yan, Xia Xun couldn’t help but have a hint of regret.

He scratched his head.

“…Where is that Ruiji Guan he mentioned? The east of the city?”

Ruiji Guan was not as famous as other big medical clinics in the capital. An ancient two-story building was hidden in the half-acre bamboo forest in the east of the city, its location quite concealed.

Most of the people who came here to see the doctor and get medicine were regular customers, either those who were introduced by acquaintances or the people who lived in the surrounding area.

When a fresh face appeared in front of the counter, the attention of the young apprentice was immediately caught. He quickly went up to greet Xia Xun.

“Young master, are you here to see a doctor?”

Xia Xun said: “I know the prescription, I’ll tell you, just get me the medicine, no need to see the doctor.”

The young apprentice was not convinced.

“That’s not good! The relationship between the five organs, seven meridians and eight channels is quite complex, there are various kinds of involvement between them. If you do not let our doctor check your pulse, Ruiji Guan will not dare to give you medicine! You should not take it lightly, thinking that coughing is not a serious illness, in case—”

Xia Xun grabbed his arm, so that he did not have to say it.

“Fine, fine, I understand, I’ll see the doctor.”

The young apprentice pointed to the second floor.

“Master is upstairs, he’s seeing someone else, just go straight up and wait outside the room!”

Xia Xun went up the stairs and came to the corridor that led to several different rooms. A vague sound of voices was coming from one of the rooms.

Xia Xun followed the sound and walked closer.

The room did not have a door, only a thin curtain hanging on the door frame.

In the room, a white-haired doctor was concentrating on the patient’s pulse and did not notice Xia Xun outside the door.

Xia Xun waited patiently.

The doctor was attending to a lady with a little maid standing beside her.

The little maid saw that the doctor checked the pulse for such a long time without saying a word and could not help but feel a little anxious and urge in a small voice:

“Doctor, you know that my lady is not allowed to enter the capital according to the law! If people see her and report her to the authorities, we will be in trouble! Please hurry up!”

The doctor seemed to be well aware of this secret and said comfortingly:

“Madam, don’t worry, my place is clean and remote, very few people come here. You’ve been here many times before, have there been any mishaps?”

The lady said a few words, but Xia Xun could not really hear them.

He wondered since when there was such a strange law in the capital that specifically restricted a woman from entering the capital?

Curious, he took a look at the lady.

She was dressed like a commoner, with no expensive hairpin on her head, and the side of her face that Xia Xun could see was only slightly powdered, as if she was not a woman from a distinguished family.

Xia Xun felt even more puzzled, why would a commoner be treated like this?

The doctor finished checking her pulse and began to write the prescription. The lady turned her head sideways, looking at the words he was writing.

Xia Xun was so shocked that he could not help but suck in a breath of cold air.

—The lady was none other than his sister Xia Yin.

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Guanshan Muyu Chapter 49

Xia Wen panicked and looked around anxiously: “What can I do? Is he scared silly?

He shouted loudly: “Guards? Guards! Someone come quickly! Get a doctor for my brother! Anyone?”

As with Xia Xing, no response came from outside the cell.

Worried, Xia Wen kept calling out to Xia Xun, louder and louder, and in the end, he was shouting his name into Xia Xun’s ear.

Xia Xun’s state did not change. Xia Wen looked at him and felt that he was even paler than the paper man at Xia Xing’s funeral.

He kneeled beside Xia Xun, took one of his hands and begged in a panic: “Xia Xun, don’t scare me! We are the only two left in the Xia family! You can’t afford having any more trouble! Your brother— your brother has no one else left!”

At a loss, he suddenly recalled a vague memory from his childhood. Xia Wen had a friend who had a friend who saw a man kill a pig in the market and was so frightened that he became dumb and mute, just like Xia Xun was now.

His parents invited all the doctors in the capital, but no one could cure him. Later, an old auntie in charge of the family’s shopping brought her own godmother from the village, who used two red chopsticks to hold his fingers and hit him on the face with a peach branch.

After a few blows, he cried out an “oh” and returned to normal.

The godmother said that he had been spattered with pig’s blood and was possessed.

In a prison cell there were no chopsticks, let alone peach branches. Xia Wen did not care. He used his fingers as chopsticks, pinching Xia Xun’s middle finger fiercely.

Xia Xun seems to have a reaction, his eyelashes fluttering gently.

Xia Wen was afraid that the force of his hand was not enough, so he simply lifted up Xia Xun’s hand and put his fingers into his mouth, using all his strength to bite hard.

The two rows of teeth marks appeared on Xia Xun’s knuckles. His originally frozen eyes suddenly moved and his eyelids blinked slowly as he looked in Xia Wen’s direction: “…hurts…”

Xia Wen was overjoyed: “It hurts, good! Hurts is good! It hurts just right! Look at me, do you know who I am?!”

Xia Xun said in a dreamy voice, “You are… eldest brother.”

Xia Wen grinned, but his smile did not last long, quickly turning into crying without him realizing it.

He gripped Xia Xun’s hand and said, choking:

“…great …great …Dad and Mom are gone, I thought… thought you were gone too…”

He was an adult man and he was squatting in front of Xia Xun, whimpering and shedding tears.

Xia Xun looked at him in a daze.

Xia Wen cried for a little longer and gradually calmed down some, wiped off the tears on his face against his shoulder, still holding Xia Xun’s hand and refusing to let go.

Xia Xun seemed to feel sad too, mumbling: “Big brother, did I cry…?”

It was the first time he called him “big brother”, before he had always respectfully called him “eldest brother”.

Xia Wen sniffed.

“No, you… are very brave, and also…” he paused and said: “Also, in fact, all these years the family did not treat you well, you don’t need, no need to shed tears for them, but they… took even you…”

Xia Xun nodded, saying nothing else.

He propped up his hands on the ground and stood up, then drifted like a wandering spirit to the corner of the cell and sat down there, hugging his shins and burying his face in his knees, shrinking into a tiny ball.

He stayed in this corner for three days, without a drop of water, until one the fourth day, Xia Wen’s wife came.

His sister-in-law looked haggard, her face was shrunken, her eyes bloodshot. Her sickly body became even thinner and she looked like a piece of dry wood in her heavy robe.

After the Xia family’s incident, she ran around, trying to do something to give her husband a chance to live.

For three days, she searched for all the people she could find, and even went to see Qi Yan personally, but did not manage to find a way to turn things around.

She spent a lot of money to bribe the prison warden to get a brief meeting with Xia Wen.

As soon as she saw Xia Wen, two trickles of tears immediately flowed over her frightened, helpless face.

Xia Wen also had hot tears in his eyes, holding her hand tightly through the bars.

“My lady… My lady… I made you suffer!”

His wife, with tears in her eyes, took out the paper and the brush hidden on her bosom and handed them to Xia Wen.

“Husband, husband… I have inquired, they all said that if you are willing to write a confession and confess the crimes you have committed, then I will hand it over to His Majesty and you might be able to stay alive! I’ll wait here and go to the palace when my husband finishes writing it!”

Xia Wen took the paper and the brush, but did not write anything. Wiping away his tears, he said bitterly:

“It’s not as simple as you think.”

His wife said, “Is my husband worried that I won’t be able to see His Majesty? Don’t worry, I’ll sacrifice my life to go to the palace to meet His Majesty!”

Xia Wen shook his head.

“Even if His Majesty is willing to see you, it won’t help.”

She asked pitifully, “Why?”

Xia Wen smiled miserably.

“Because I remembered who Qi Yan is.”

At the time of the Qi family’s accident, Xia Wen was already fourteen years old, a teenager, and at that time he had heard some rumours that his father, Xia Hongxi, had gotten his current official position by framing the Qi family.

He vaguely remembered that the Qi family had a child who was the same age as Xia Xing, and his name was Qi Yan.

“If he really is the child I remember, he will certainly not spare me and Xia Xun. After all… my father is his father’s enemy, the two of us are the sons of his enemy. He hated my father to the point that he could cut off his head with his own hands, how would he spare us brothers? Father’s case will certainly be ironclad due to his efforts, he will never leave a loophole to make it possible to reverse the case. No matter what you do, it is impossible to save our lives…”

His wife refused to believe it.

“No… it can’t be! I will definitely be able to save you—!”

Xia Wen asked her to say nothing more.

“It’s just as well that you have brought the paper and the brush, I have something to write for you.”

He laid the paper flat on the ground and wrote down a few lines quickly without thinking or pausing, so it was clear that he was writing something that had been brewing in his mind for a long time.

After writing, he pushed the brush and the paper outside and walked deeper into the cell, turning his back and refusing to look at his wife again: “Take it and go! In the future… no need to come back!”

The lady hastily picked up the paper, read it twice and helplessly raised her sad eyes.

“The letter of separation… husband doesn’t… want me anymore?”

Xia Wen turned his back on her and said in a cold, stiff voice:

“Go home. Not Xia Mansion, but back to your own home! I have written that after my death, if there are still family assets that have not been confiscated, they will be all handed over to you, as a way… for our Xia family to compensate you. You can go. From now on, do not appear in front of me!”

After that, no matter how hard the lady pleaded, Xia Wen did not turn back once.

But Xia Xun could see clearly that Xia Wen raised his fist to his mouth and bit down on it to keep himself from crying out and his anguish being noticed by the lady.

Xia Xun thought blankly, Xia Wen loved her so much. When he said these words, his heart must have been even more painful than hers, right?

He slowly spread out his left hand.

The bandage that Qi Yan had personally wrapped around his hand had fallen off, and his fingers that had been burned and twisted were exposed.

He had been burned so badly, but the pain caused by the fire was far less than the pain Qi Yan inflicted on him.

The lady was tired of crying, and at the constant urging of the prison guard, she gave up.

The letter of separation written by Xia Wen’s own hand was crumpled in her grip, as she stumbled out of the prison, swaying and shivering.

After she left, Xia Wen’s pretence collapsed. He crouched on the ground, clutching the straw around him, crying like a child.

Xia Xun tried to pick him up; when he moved, his collar loosened and something fell out of his placket.

Xia Xun picked it up and saw that it was the comb that Qi Yan had given him.

That morning, he was sitting at Qi Yan’s home, eating acacia leaf cold cakes, feeling that he was the happiest person in the world.

Who would have thought that a few hours later, the man who used to comb his hair would destroy his family and send him to jail.

His hand on the comb gradually clenched, the teeth of the comb leaving deep indentations in his palm.

He was muttering, as if asking Qi Yan, and asking himself:

“Did my father really kill your father and mother…? Then what you have said to me, how you treated me, it all must have been… Did you just, just approach me to get revenge…?”

Xia Xun did not believe it. Even if he was to die, he still refused to believe.

That night, after Xia Wen fell asleep, he called the guard.

“Sir, please pass one thing out for me, I will reward you.”

Xia Xun had a few silver ingots in his pocket, so he gave them all to the guard. The guard weighed them twice and shoved them into his pocket.

“Tell me, what is it? And to whom?”

Xia Xun handed him the comb and said:

“Give this to Master Qi Yan and tell him that Xia Xun asked him to come to meet him in prison. When he sees it, he will surely come.”

The guard wondered, “Who is Qi Yan?”

Xia Wen told him, “He is the official who is presiding over the case of our Xia family, he has a handsome face and a mole at the corner of his eye. He will definitely come to the Judicial Review Court in the next few days to retrieve the dossier. Please keep an eye out for me and when he comes, deliver this to him.”

The guard took the comb and left, and Xia Xun’s long wait began.

He waited for ten whole days.

After ten days, Qi Yan did not come but the guard returned. He said:

“The first two times he was always surrounded by people and I did not find the opportunity to approach him. Last night he was finally alone. I quietly approached him and showed him the comb but he did not respond. I asked him if he knew this thing and he said he didn’t!”

Xia Xun was confused: “…what…?”

The guard said: “I am willing to help you, I can pass your words, but he didn’t care about you, so I can’t help it! That lord is out of the question, if you want to live, find someone else to intercede!”

Xia Xun’s face was ashen, as if he was struck by lightning.

“Yes, yes…” he whispered. “Why didn’t I think of that? I am the son of Xia Hongxi, he hates me too much… how can he come to see me… and how can he be sincere with me at least for a moment…”

The guard pushed the comb into the cell.

“I give this thing back to you. Do you have other people you want to send a message to? I can do it again for you, for the same price as last time.”

Xia Xun gave him a bleak, bitter smile and retreated back into the shadows of the cell.

“No need to… you take it…”

The guard looked at the comb for a few moments and saw that it was inlaid with a few tiny pieces of jade, so he gladly accepted it.

Before leaving, he said to Xia Xun: “I didn’t take your money for nothing, I’ll let you know something. The case of you two brothers will be judged soon. From my experience of many years, the situation is not good. If you still have connections, take advantage of these days to use them.”

Xia Wen was asleep but the sound of their conversation disturbed him. He woke up just in time to hear this last sentence.

He rose to his feet and rushed to the bars, asking eagerly:

“Master guard, master guard! Why is the sentence coming so soon? No one has even interrogated us yet?”

The guard scratched his head.

“I’m not sure, I just happened to hear a few words yesterday, the official who is presiding over the case said that the evidence is conclusive, there is no need to interrogate.”

Xia Wen’s legs weakened and he leaned against the bars, covered in cold sweat.

Xia Xun muttered: “…He must hate us so much…”

The guard had seen too many death row inmates and was used to this scene; chanting “It’s cold, it’s cold” and rubbing his arms, he left.

A few days later, the emperor’s decree was issued.

The two men who were prepared to die did not lose their lives. The emperor sentenced them to exile and sent them three thousand miles away to Lingnan.

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Guanshan Muyu Chapter 48

Xia Xun approached the front courtyard. As the fleeing servant had said, the place was indeed full of soldiers wearing armour and holding weapons. They didn’t look like ordinary soldiers.

Xia Hongxi and Xia Wen were kneeling in front of them, while Lady Xia and Xia Yin were confined in the house because they were women. Some servants scattered and fled, but more were held down by the soldiers, pushed down to kneel in the courtyard.

Xia Xun’s heart sank. It seemed like a big move by the authorities. The matter was unusual; he was afraid it would not end well.

His steps were getting slower and slower. He didn’t know if he should come closer.

It was not that he didn’t think about hiding or escaping. He couldn’t decide yet but when he saw the man standing in the courtyard, all his doubts were gone, leaving him stunned and confused.

Standing in front of a large group of soldiers, the only man among them who was not wearing armour was Qi Yan.

He stood proudly holding the imperial decree, looking down at Xia Hongxi with a contemptuous, cold look.

Xia Xun was so shocked that he didn’t notice the moment he walked into the courtyard.

Some soldiers were sharp-eyed enough and immediately pointed at him, demanding:

“Who is that man? Arrest him immediately!”

Several men rushed up, bound Xia Xun’s hands, escorted him to the courtyard and pressed him to the ground, making him kneel side by side with Xia Wen.

Someone asked in a stern voice: “Who are you? What is your relationship with Xia Hongxi?”

Qi Yan’s voice came from above: “He is the third son of the Xia family, Xia Xun.”

Xia Xun looked up at him, and someone pressed down his head: “How dare you! Keep your head down!”

Xia Xun resisted, refusing to lower his head no matter what, staring at Qi Yan with wide eyes: “Qi Yan…? You, how can you— what are you doing here…?”

Xia Hongxi suddenly jerked up, breaking free from the soldiers holding him down, and looked up, angrily scolding Qi Yan:

“You’re just a mere deputy of this official! What qualifications do you have to act like that in front of me? Untie me at once! I want to see His Majesty!”

Xia Xun could not believe his ears.

“Deputy? Who? Qi Yan?! Isn’t he, isn’t he…?!”

Xia Hongxi looked at Xia Xun suddenly, his eyes like a blade: “Qi Yan? Where did you hear that name—?”

Qi Yan paced in front of Xia Hongxi as if he was walking idly on a promenade and then slowly squatted down to meet his gaze: 

“Lord Xia, it seems that you still remember my name? When you killed my parents, did you ever think that today would come?”

Xia Hongxi’s face changed dramatically. Horrified, he stammered, his eyes wide open: “…your parents? You’re… you’re… you’re still alive? Impossible! You are definitely not Qi Yan! How can he still be alive—?”

Qi Yan sneered, his tone ghastly: “You really do remember the dirty things you did. Good, so now you can go on your way cleanly.”

Xia Hongxi roared with insane fury: “You dare to kill me?”

Qi Yan stood up, not looking at him anymore.

“It’s not that I want to kill you. It’s that His Majesty wants you dead. Come, read His Majesty’s decree to Lord Xia.”

Qi Hui took the imperial decree from his hand and read it aloud to Xia Hongxi.

“Xia Hongxi served as a water transportation official and used official ships for private profit for ten years, enriching himself by an unaccountable amount. Xia Hongxi’s crime is of extremely evil nature and cannot be forgiven. The sentence is beheading. Lady Xia for her crimes is granted the right to commit suicide. The rest of the family is taken to the Imperial Court of Judicial Review, awaiting sentencing!”

Qi Yan raised his hand and a eunuch carrying three feet of white silk stepped forward.

Qi Yan leisurely said: “His Majesty is merciful, not only leaving your wife with her body intact, but also sending white silk, such a precious thing, from the palace, for your wife to use. Lord Xia, you should thank His Majesty.”

Qi Yan lowered his hand. A few soldiers accompanying the eunuch carrying the white silk walked into the main hall.

In the house, Lady Xia was already paralyzed with fear, falling limply on the floor. Her mouth was open but she was unable to say even a word to beg for mercy.

Xia Yin tried to stand in front of her.

“What are you doing?!”

The soldiers did not speak to her and simply dragged her away. Without Xia Yin, no one was shielding Lady Xia anymore.

The eunuch holding up the white silk said to her:

“Lady Xia, His Majesty asks you to go on your way.”

Lady Xia looked petrified, her eyes wide open.

“No, no—! I don’t want to die—!!!”

The eunuch said solemnly: “Lady Xia, by the rules of the palace, if you can’t do it yourself, this slave will have to personally send you on your way.”

Lady Xia’s face was wet with sweat, deathly pale.

“What are you going to do?!”

The eunuch said gently: “Wrap the white silk around your neck, of course. Are you ready? I’ll do it now.”

He picked up the white silk and was about to put it around her neck, when Lady Xia realized that there was no way out for her. Who knows where her last strength was coming from but she suddenly pushed the eunuch’s hand away.

“…I’ll do it myself…!”

The eunuch handed over the white silk to her, saying: “That’s right, why make such a fuss out of it?”

Lady Xia staggered up and stumbled under the beam, carrying a round stool with trembling hands.

She raised her foot to step on the stool when her legs went soft and she fell to the ground together with the stool.

The eunuch said in a loud voice: “There are so many of you, won’t you help the lady?”

The soldiers standing by his side immediately went forward, picked up the stool and almost carried Lady Xia up on it.

Lady Xia breathed heavily, desperate tears flowing over her face, as the white silk was placed around her neck.

The wooden stool fell to the ground and she hung in mid-air struggling for a few moments, not long before she lost her breath.

After a short eerie silence, Xia Yin let out a shocked cry, screaming and hiding behind the pillar.

Xia Wen swept a glance at the embroidered shoes on Lady Xia’s feet and quickly averted his gaze, unable to bear looking at them again.

Xia Hongxi roared and lunged at Qi Yan, but was firmly held down by the soldiers. He could not struggle, with the only way to vent his anger to curse Qi Yan in the most spiteful language.

Xia Xun was dumbfounded.

He couldn’t stop looking at the body of Lady Xia.

It was a beautiful autumn day, the blue sky was cloudless, the sun was blindingly bright and the warm breeze swayed the piece of expensive silk wrapped around Lady Xia’s neck, making her body hanging from the beam rock gently back and forth.

Xia Hongxi’s curses were sharp and vicious but Qi Yan didn’t seem to hear them.

And Xia Xun really didn’t hear them.

All he could see was the white silk glowing in the daylight, the sun reflecting on it making his eyes sore.

Xia Wen noticed his abnormality and pushed him hard, blocking the view with his own body: “Don’t look!”

Xia Xun was knocked to the ground and pulled back to his knees by the soldier guarding him.

He knelt on the ground again, and the only thing he could see was the hem of Qi Yan’s robe.

His eyes slowly followed Qi Yan’s clothes all the way up, past his hands hanging on the sides of his body, his belt, his chest, his chin, finally stopping on his eyes.

Qi Yan looked proudly at Xia Hongxi, indifferent to Xia Xun’s gaze.

“Lord Xia, you do not need to be so angry. His Majesty also knows that you have deep love for your wife. You must not want her to leave alone. Do not worry. Although my parents died at the hands of you two, I will still fulfil your wish, send you and your wife on the road together.”

Xia Hongxi stared at him as if he wanted to gouge the flesh off Qi Yan’s face with his gaze.

“Even if this official is guilty, he must be personally punished by His Majesty after being interrogated by the Judicial Review Court! Who are you? How dare you play tricks here! You’ll pay for killing my wife! One day, I will seek revenge on you!”

Qi Yan suddenly drew the sword out of the sheath.

“Lord Xia, I’m afraid you didn’t hear it clearly. His Majesty sentenced Xia Hongxi to be beheaded in public. This sword was given to me by His Majesty himself, so you should be able to rest in peace after dying under such a precious sword.”

Before anyone could react, Qi Yan swung the sword.

The sword fell, and with a fountain of blood, Xia Hongxi’s head was chopped off and fell to the ground, bounced a little and then rolled up to Xia Xun.

Xia Hongxi’s headless body fell with a thud, and the blood that splashed out of his neck spilled all over Xia Xun’s face.

Xia Yin didn’t have time to let out a scream before she passed out.

Xia Wen was trembling, staring dumbly at his father’s corpse, shaking his head unconsciously.

“No, no… you can’t kill Father, you can’t… how can… how can…”

Xia Xun’s attention, from the beginning to the end, was on Qi Yan.

He was like a small wooden carving he had carved out himself, stiff and with his mouth half open, gazing at Qi Yan’s face.

He tried to see any emotion on Qi Yan’s face, but Qi Yan was expressionless, indifferently wiping the blood from his sword and putting the sword back into its sheath.

“Xia Hongxi’s body will be displayed in the city as an example to others! Xia Yin is to be sent back to her husband’s family. Xia Wen and Xia Xun are to be imprisoned in the Imperial Court of Judicial Review, and the rest of the household people are to be confined in the house, awaiting punishment!”

This was the last thing he said.

After saying that, he put away the bright yellow imperial decree and turned around to leave.

His footsteps were determined, without a trace of lingering, leaving Xia Xun feeling cold.

Qi Hui followed closely behind.

At the same time, Xia Wen and Xia Xun were put into iron shackles, half dragged and half pulled by the soldiers to the prison cart at the entrance.

Even at this moment, Xia Xun’s eyes were still glued to Qi Yan’s back. He stared at him with undying fascination, only to see the two of them get on their horses and leave without looking back.

The tails of their horses disappeared around the corner of the street, and Xia Xun suddenly realized that he could not speak.

The prison of the Judicial Review Court, the very cell where Xia Xing had been held once, now welcomed Xia Wen and Xia Xun.

Xia Wen was lost in thought, with his face buried in his hands as he tried to clear his confused mind.

This morning, he was at home with his family, and a few hours later, his parents were dead and he was sent to prison.

He couldn’t accept it.

He was worried about Xia Yin, about his wife and about his own future, but what he couldn’t understand was who was the man that beheaded his father with his own hands, the Qi Yan who had returned from hell like an evil spirit to take revenge.

“Qi Yan..?” Xia Wen clutched his hair: “How come I’ve never heard this name… why in the end…?”

Xia Xun was slow to move. Xia Wen let out a long, painful sigh and distracted himself from his thoughts to glance at him.

Xia Xun sat dumbfounded, motionless, his eyes looking somewhere outside the cell.

Xia Hongxi’s blood was still on his face; he did not wipe it at all. With the dark red splashes on his skin, Xia Xun looked like an evil ghost that had just eaten a living being.

Xia Wen lowered his head and sighed deeply, then said, “…Xia Xun, wipe your face, it is all covered in blood.”

Xia Xun shivered but his eyes did not move.

Not getting an answer, Xia Wen called him again, “Xia Xun? Do you hear me?”

Xia Xun remained in the same position, not responding.

Xia Wen went to his side, rubbed his face with his sleeve, wiping off the blood on his face.

After the blood was wiped off and Xia Xun’s face was revealed, Xia Wen finally realized that something was wrong.

From before to now, Xia Xun’s expression had not changed, his mouth half-open, his eyes staring blankly ahead, not blinking even once.

Xia Wen had a bad feeling. He vigorously shook Xia Xun’s shoulders: “Xia Xun? Don’t scare me! What’s wrong with you?”

Xia Xun was shaken back and forth by him, but it seemed like his soul had left his body, leaving only an empty shell to be stuck in a dark prison cell.

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