Qiang Jin Jiu – Chapter 174 : Mad Dog

Translated with: Jia<3

With Lei Jingzhe having opened up the Dunzhou armory, no matter how solid Yan Heru built this mansion to be, it could not stand up to a single blow in the face of military weapons built specifically for sieges. Those arrows simply could not penetrate through the shield of the head cart,1 and the door latch broke from the impact of the crash. Before the crossbow arrows could be reloaded, the Biansha Cavalry entered. 

Fei Sheng stepped forward in a move to support Shen Zechuan and said in an urgent voice, “Master, let’s evacuate from the back and find a way to leave the city under cover of the night!” 

“Lei Jingzhe wants to round up Hairigu and his people in one fell swoop.” Shen Zechuan stood against the wind. “He meticulously prepared for this, as evident in his use of a massive force to besiege the city; he won’t leave any openings. It’s already too late to be thinking of leaving the city now.”

Fei Sheng watched as the compound was surrounded. He knew escape was impossible tonight. But as he had made it clear before, he had to risk his life to ensure that Shen Zechuan remained safe and sound, so he clenched his blade and stood motionless at the side like a nail fixed in place beside Shen Zechuan. The Imperial Bodyguards behind him all looked as if they were about to come face to face with a formidable foe. For a moment, the atmosphere was particularly somber. 

The crescent moon at present looked like a thread concealed away among the dark clouds. Heavy fog hung overhead in the sky, bearing down on them. There was already no stopping the destructive force in motion. Shen Zechuan was still leaning against the railing, letting his gaze roam to take in the lights in Dunzhou—this was the first time he got a clear look at Dunzhou.  

Fei Sheng stood in silence. Together with the Imperial Bodyguards, he watched Shen Zechuan attentively amid the deafening sound of the melee below. Strangely enough, they were no longer nervous, even at such a critical juncture of life and death.

Fei Sheng had only wanted to follow under Xiao Chiye’s command in the past because Xiao Chiye had the unprecedented spirit of a groundbreaking pioneer. On the day they rebelled and fled from Qudu, Fei Sheng had done so willingly and wholeheartedly. But Xiao Chiye refused to accept him, so he could only step back to work under Shen Zechuan instead. 

Shen Zechuan wasn’t likable. 

His appearance made him a controversial figure who was the subject of condemnation in Qudu. Shen Wei was a threshold. Many people would rather stand on the outside to scrutinize him, as if the verdict of his life and death all lay in those sprays of spittle. When he left Zhao Zui Temple, everyone treated him as a noble clan blade that had replaced Shen Wei, an imperial dog under the empress dowager’s command. However, the subsequent happenings deviated far from everyone’s expectations. In that struggle for power, he quietly and steadily rose his way to the top. By the time everyone realized it, he was already standing in the heart of the political storm. He did not seem to possess that imposing air of vim and vigor, and yet his thin and frail back was the protective barrier in all the times he stood in front. Even if the storm raged and left a trail of destruction in its wake, it would be a rainless picture of calm and silence behind him for as long as he remained standing.

Fei Sheng closed his eyes to clear his mind of distracting thoughts. His heart felt calm and at ease at present—this was a kind of tranquility that had no need for words of encouragement. He had abandoned Ji Lei and forsaken Han Cheng; whoever he followed had always been based on the opportunity availed to him at that time. All along, he had never been able to understand the trust Chen Yang and Gu Jin had in Xiao Chiye, but at this very moment, as he stood in the wind and opened his eyes once again, he possessed that trust. 

Everyone in this world wants to be Xiao Chiye.   

But there can be no other Shen Lanzhou!

Horses’ hooves broke through the doors beneath them, while dark clouds rolled overhead. Fei Sheng, who had been plotting to seek personal gains by currying favors all his life, grabbed his blade with one hand and kicked over the wooden chair beside him to send it crashing into the Biansha Cavalry at the stairway. He ripped his outer robe open and secured the blade in his palm, then lifted the wine on the table and said to the various Imperial Bodyguards, “Even if Heaven and Earth were to collapse today, we must ensure Master remains safe and unharmed. Here we are, chatting and drinking with a smile even as we are encircled by powerful troops—this is a sight and honor we have never had while serving the emperor.” 

Fei Sheng raised his head back and gulped down the wine, letting it trickle down and soak through the front of his clothes. He smashed the bowl, then wiped his mouth and burst into wild laughter. 

“This battle is going to make legends out of us men. Brothers, time to make a name for ourselves—!”   

Xiuchun blades2 all left their sheaths in unison, and booming laughter reverberated through the clouds. Blood splattered all over the stairway as more than a dozen Imperial Bodyguards climbed over the railings and brandished their blades to cut down the Biansha Cavalry who were swarming towards them with sweeping force. Heads rolled all over the narrow and cramped stairs. With every rise of his hand and fall of his blade, Fei Sheng decisively and efficiently hacked away at his opponents’ necks without the slightest hesitation. 

Lei Jingzhe did not dare to set the building on fire. He wanted to catch Yan Heru alive, so he could only force his way up the stairs in an attack. The Imperial Bodyguards were all at the top of their game tonight. Those scorpions, who were unshakeable when they turned out in full force, were unable to swing their hammers freely after stepping onto the stairway, and this subsequently greatly reduced the strain on the Imperial Bodyguards. Unable to ascend the stairs, Lei Jingzhe sought out another way. Fuxian Peak towered over the double-eaved roofs like a crane standing head and shoulders among a flock of chickens, and so they used the cloud ladder.3

Yan Heru watched as the Biansha Cavalry swarmed up towards them en masse. Fuxian Peak seemed to be a relic pillar standing alone between Heaven and Earth. He retreated to Shen Zechuan’s side, shivering from the wind. “Since you dared to enter the tiger’s den,4 then you must have prepared for it.” 

Shen Zechuan did not answer. Yan Heru was about to say something further when a hand suddenly grasped the railing beside him, and a Biansha Cavalryman climbed his way up. Without even thinking, Yan Heru raised his golden abacus and slammed it down on the Biansha Cavalryman, knocking the latter out. But there were still several men following close behind the other man, and they made a sudden grab to hold up Yan Heru’s abacus in place before flipping their way up. 

Yan Heru lived by the maxim that “as valuable as the abacus may be, life is worth even more”, so he promptly let go of his hand, abandoning the abacus. He took several steps back, but tripped over the small table and toppled over to the ground. That cavalryman was a tall, strapping man, and he looked just like a mountain when he stood before Yan Heru. On seeing him lift his blade, Yan Heru hastened to yell, “Your lordship, save me! My dear gege! The price is always negotiable!”

A saker falcon swooped past, and before the cavalryman could lift his blade, a figure suddenly leaped up from behind. Hairigu came pouncing from the air, taking out the cavalryman in one slash. After he landed, he rolled on the ground and grabbed hold of Yan Heru.  

Yan Heru lifted his head, intending to gripe at Shen Zechuan for being such an unrighteous one. But before he could open his mouth, he saw a black shadow spring over the railing to land heavily on top of it. Hairigu pressed Yan Heru’s head down and bent over backward to dodge the iron hammer sweeping towards them. 

The man’s bare upper body was just as muscularly sculpted as Jida, whom they had encountered a few days prior. The iron hammer swooshed past in mid-air, causing a break in the flow of the wind. When he stood up, Yan Heru had to raise his head to look at him. The scorpion tattoo took up his entire back. He rolled his shoulders as a warm-up, then proceeded to jump down the railing.

Hairigu pushed Yan Heru aside and fished out a piked dagger from the back of his waist. The two of them did not even bother with greetings as they immediately traded a flurry of blows with one another.

There was nowhere for Yan Heru to hide in this chaos. He was used to a life of lavish luxury, and the martial arts he used to learn were merely all show but no substance. In any case, he had already forgotten all of it. Afraid of being pecked with the saker falcons hovering overhead, Yan Heru crouched low and scrambled with both hands on the ground through any openings he could find amid the mayhem. He managed with great difficulty to make his way to the side, only to see a person squatting on the railing.   

Yan Heru lifted his gaze, and his eyes promptly curved into crescents as he revealed a smile and called out warmly, “Eldest nephew!”

Lei Jingzhe sneered and reached his arm out to grab him. 

Disregarding his dignity and image, Yan Heru rolled on the ground to one side like a slippery loach. He reached for the railing with the intention to climb up when he felt a grip on his collar. Thinking it to be Lei Jingzhe, he hurriedly turned his head to plead, “Lei-gege—” 

But it turned out to be Shen Zechuan!

Shen Zechuan exerted force with his left hand and yanked Yan Heru off the railing before tossing him in front of him. Before Yan Heru had his chance to roll, Shen Zechuan pressed his foot against the back of his waist to make him kneel. Yan Heru was stuck between a rock and a hard place, with a wolf before him and a tiger behind him. He wanted to cry as he kneeled in the middle, but no tears came, so he put his palms together and said as though he was paying religious homage, “I was merely jesting around with my dear geges. Put the loss this time on my account. Let’s not brandish our weapons anymore! Say, the three of us should join forces and cooperate, then we’d be invincible in the world, agree?!”

Lei Jingzhe motioned for Yan Heru to shut up. He leaped off the railing and stared at Shen Zechuan as he moved over with unhurried steps. After a while, he said, “How have you been since we parted, Vice Commander?” Without even waiting for Shen Zechuan to answer, he continued after coming to a stop. “Guess I should call you Prefectural Lord now.”  

Everyone was locked in battle near and far, and the sounds of tables and chairs being smashed resounded clearly in their ears. Thick gloomy clouds hung over their heads as both of them stood in the strong wind facing each other in a confrontation with Yan Heru between them. The raging wind in the distance surged and receded amid the backdrop of tens of thousands of lights in Dunzhou.

Lei Jingzhe raised his hand to slap his nape and said in a mocking tone, “I sure have excellent luck tonight. To think I could catch such a big fish from this sewer. What? There’s no Xiao Chiye to escort and protect you this time?”  

Shen Zechuan raised a finger to remove the cloak on his shoulder and inclined his head to say with a smile, “My husband is up to his neck in military affairs. It’s inappropriate for him to go on a long journey these days. We can discuss it ourselves if there are any matters of concern.”

Lei Jingzhe’s eyes gradually darkened to conceal a sly glint within. “Did you come to Dunzhou—oh, wrong. Did you return to Dunzhou to hold a memorial service for Shen Wei?”  

“I’m here on Young Master Yan’s invitation,” Shen Zechuan said without batting an eyelid, “to discuss a plan to kill you.” 

Yan Heru’s face blanched. He wanted to explain and defend himself when he met Lei Jingzhe’s gaze, but on feeling the chill on his nape, he did not dare to speak up. Shen Zechuan is truly a ruthless one! He thought to himself. With just one word, the latter had severed his route of retreat. Whether or not he survived this night, Lei Jingzhe would no longer believe him!  

“No wonder I could sense that the person who saved Yan Heru back in the restaurant was no ordinary talent.” The expression in Lei Jingzhe’s gaze was malevolent. “I initially meant to be magnanimous and not lower myself to the level of a child. But I never expected him to be so malicious to invite you over to work out a scheme to kill me.” 

“He’s a child at heart.” Shen Zechuan shifted his foot away from Yan Heru. “He doesn’t know when to stop pushing it and inevitably ends up angering you. It’s rather embarrassing.” 

“You have been colluding in secret for a long time.” As expected, Lei Jingzhe fell for the trap and contemplated it. “No wonder I couldn’t find the supply wagons this time.” 

“But you one-upped him tonight.” Shen Zechuan said as if he conceded defeat. His eyes followed Lei Jingzhe. “I can switch allegiances, seeing how it’s a matter of life and death now.”

Lei Jingzhe feared Shen Zechuan. He knew Shen Zechuan was the most proficient in this kind of offensive and defensive warfare. The moment he fell for Shen Zechuan’s words, he would be irrevocably doomed. So Lei Jingzhe lowered his arms and sneered, “Xiao Chiye ruined my base on Mount Luo. This is a score that can’t be forgotten.” 

“If you kill Yan Heru tonight, you will completely sever all your contacts and dealings with Hezhou. But occupying both the prefectures of Dunzhou and Duanzhou means that you have to sustain the grains and military expenses alone in the future.” Shen Zechuan attempted to coax him. “Cizhou’s granaries are currently in abundance of grains. I can give you a helping hand.” 

Lei Jingzhe threw his head back and roared with laughter. Suddenly, he spoke, “Since you have been colluding with Yan Heru for a long time, then you must have seen Hairigu. My guess is that you came to Cizhou this time to take in these traitors by capitalizing on Bai Cha’s name and reputation, right?!” 

“Looks like the game is as good as lost for me tonight. I can’t hide it from you.” Shen Zechuan sighed with a pang of regret. “That’s right. I came here this time for precisely this matter. Lei Jingzhe, we are all sons of Gedale. When it really comes down to it, we are all fellow brothers too. So why draw our swords on each other?”

“As long as you can hack off Xiao Chiye’s head, we can be brothers.” Lei Jingzhe still bore a grudge against Xiao Chiye. He said in a frosty tone, “You are deceiving me with such words only because you saw how heavily besieged the city is now and you know you can’t escape death.”

“Are you really going to kill me?”

“Setting an enemy free is like letting a tiger return to its mountain—it will set the stage for future calamities.” Lei Jingzhe said, “You took two months to devour Cizhou and Chazhou and take Zhou Gui and Luo Mu under your command. I was initially worried you would become the dominant power in Zhongbo in the future the longer you live, and by then, it would be hard to remove you. I didn’t expect you to deliver yourself to my doorstep. No matter how you try to convince me with your glib tongue and honeyed words, my killing you is a foregone conclusion!” 

The wind flooded into Shen Zechuan’s sleeves, sending it billowing and revealing his wrist bone. The bandage on his right hand was visible as he gripped the blue handkerchief between his fingers. He covered his mouth and coughed as though he could not bear the cold on this tower. After the coughing stopped, he said, “Can’t you give me a way out on account of the name Bai Cha?” 

As soon as the words left his mouth, it clicked in Lei Jingzhe’s mind, and he promptly bellowed, “You deceived me. You don’t know the specifics of the scorpions at all!” 

With that, his fist went sailing through the wind right towards Shen Zechuan’s face. Shen Zechuan had long been on his guard, and he slid aside to dodge the punch. On missing his target, Lei Jingzhe did not retract his fist but made use of the momentum to grab Shen Zechuan by the arm. White robe fluttered gently in the wind as Shen Zechuan moved away with elegant grace, causing Lei Jingzhe to turn up empty-handed once again. Lei Jingzhe squatted next and swept his leg out in a circle, and Shen Zechuan sprang back against that wave of strong wind to land on the railing.  

The sound of killing beneath them boiled over like a seething cauldron. Lei Jingzhe was determined to send Shen Zechuan to his death tonight. On seeing Shen Zechuan standing perilously on the edge, he grabbed his hammer and sent it swinging into the wind with the intent to force Shen Zechuan off the tower. Shen Zechuan balanced himself steadily on the railing. The strong wind roared behind him, sending his sleeves billowing like a swan goose5 by the railing. His right hand remained still; he was already in a disadvantaged position. 

Deciding that a psychological offensive was the best tactic, Lei Jingzhe said in between movements, “Well, then! Shen Zechuan, don’t you want to know Bai Cha’s relationship to the scorpions? I will tell you tonight!” 

He soared into the air and somersaulted onto the railing, where he followed close in Shen Zechuan’s footsteps and attempted to force Shen Zechuan into the corner.

“Bai Cha was a whore in a brothel in Duanzhou who worked specifically for the Liaoying Tribe. She was a dog Amu’er planted beside Shen Wei. She was a needle Biansha hid in Zhongbo!” 

Shen Zechuan seemed to lose his balance as he teetered at the edge for a bit. His sleeves suddenly danced backward. Fei Sheng, who was deep among the horde of people, could not help but panic when he saw this sight in his peripheral vision. “Master!” 

However, in the next moment, Shen Zechuan braced himself against the wind and swung back to stabilize himself. 

On seeing this, Lei Jingzhe struck out at him suddenly, forcing Shen Zechuan to retreat in order to evade the blow again. He continued speaking, “Don’t you think you’re really a wretched one? Being Shen Wei’s son caused you so much physical and mental suffering! I shall pull you out of this abyss of misery. Shen Zechuan, you’re a bastard child of Biansha. Bai Cha was a promiscuous woman of loose morals—”  

Lei Jingzhe felt the impact at the side of his neck, and this blow nearly made him bite off his tongue. He hurriedly took a few steps back and held himself steady at this high altitude, then turned his head to the side and spat out the blood from the blow Shen Zechuan had dealt him with. 

Shen Zechuan had his left hand lifted in a martial arts stance, his eyes freezing over with frostiness. His complexion looked particularly pale under this faint veil of moonlight, as if he was a piece of cold, bloodless jade. Slowly, he warned, “Watch your tongue.” 

Lei Jingzhe threw his hammer aside and gradually put some distance between them. He said in a low voice, “Every word I say is the truth.” He continued with a pitying gaze, “You’re really the world’s most pitiful child. Do you know how Bai Cha died? Shen Wei found out her real identity, then strangled her to death with his very own hands. You were born of abhorrence. Why did Shen Wei raise you? Did you think you were regaining lost grounds when you crawled your way out of the Chashi Sinkhole and returned to Zhongbo after experiencing all that hatred and sorrows?” He let out a dreary laugh and said cruelly, “You made it all out to be so incredibly touching, but you didn’t expect it, did you? No one will accept you for how you are. If Libei were to find out who Bai Cha is, Xiao Chiye’s blade would turn on you.” 

A jolt suddenly vibrated through the railing. At the same instant Shen Zechuan sprang, Lei Jingzhe crossed his arms before him to block the blow. The kick nearly made him lean over backward. With both of them locked in fierce combat, Yan Heru did not dare to remain close by and scrambled his way to the other end. Lei Jingzhe nearly could not hold his own against the blows, and as he retreated to evade the blows, he scraped against the wooden frame for vines, knocking it over along with the glazed lamps nearby. Flames pounced onto the woolen carpet, setting it ablaze in the blink of an eye. 

Lei Jingzhe was sure that Shen Zechuan had already lost his measure of control. As both of them duke it out on the railing, the flames behind them intensified. 

Fei Sheng was all bathed in blood from the killing. He flipped out of the stairway and shouted, “Master, it’s on fire. It’s inadvisable to remain here for long!”

Lei Jingzhe felt a gush of wind at his back, and he spared whatever remaining strength he had to dodge the Imperial Bodyguards. “Dunzhou is my territory tonight. You have no way out of here alive even if you fight to the death!” 

In the midst of his proclamation, Lei Jingzhe saw white sleeves rushing right towards him with a move so sudden it caught him off-guard and caused him to stumble. Shen Zechuan grabbed Lei Jingzhe by his collar, and in this heart-stopping moment, Lei Jingzhe got a clear look at Shen Zechuan’s face. Even before Fei Sheng could lend a hand, the sound of fabric tearing rang out, and in a flash, a feather-like white figure plunged down together with Lei Jingzhe!

Fei Sheng was seized with terror as he made a sudden grab for him with a lightning move of his hand, but his hand merely brushed past the corner of Lei Jingzhe’s clothes. Panic-stricken, he cried out in a trembling voice, “Master!”

The instant Lei Jingzhe plummeted down, he came to the conclusion that Shen Zechuan was gambling on his life with him! During the drop, he swiftly stretched out his right hand. His back slammed into the upturned eaves on Fuxian Peak. At the same time the corner broke off from the impact, he grabbed hold of the eaves and hung on, his feet swinging in the empty air. The blazing flames looked as though they were engulfing the world, and in spite of himself, Lei Jingzhe broke out in a sweat. Lei Jingzhe did not dare to be negligent. His right hand was burning with pain as he attempted to climb up the damaged eaves onto the protruding tiles.

But Shen Zechuan had already climbed up from the other end. He stepped down on Lei Jingzhe’s raised hand, and several tiles tumbled off all at once and smashed into smithereens below.

Shaken, Lei Jingzhe spat out the blood in his mouth in the wind. “Fuck!”

Shen Zechuan looked down at Lei Jingzhe, his badly torn sleeves revealing his right hand while towering flames blazed behind him. He removed the bandage and threw away the steel needle that had been secured with it, then clenched his five pale fingers into a fist to test his strength. 

Lei Jingzhe’s fingers were hurting from being stepped on. He had pulled the muscles on his arm earlier, and right now, he was hanging on for dear life with all his might, his feet stepping in empty air as he forced himself to cling on to the damaged eaves. He saw that steel needle fall before his very eyes. 

“Even if you kill me, you won’t survive this.” Lei Jingzhe looked up and squeezed out a laugh. “You’re too pitiful. You’ve been molded into a monster! After tonight, Zhongbo will be your nightmare. You will toss and turn night after night, and you will be on tenterhooks day after day. The land under your feet…” 

Shen Zechuan squatted down. The light of the flames made a clean sweep of his gloominess and pallor, replacing it with an exotic allure and a bloodthirsty ruthlessness. He let out a quiet laugh. “How very naïve of you.”   

Lei Jingzhe’s throat bobbed. He did not understand why—a strained gasp escaped as Shen Zechuan’s right hand clutched his throat tightly. Never had he imagined that the seemingly frail and sickly Shen Zechuan would have such great strength! 

Shen Zechuan tightened his grip, using Lei Jingzhe’s momentum in climbing up to haul him up some. As he watched Lei Jingzhe’s face flush red, he said in a soft voice, “You are really a hilarious one, Lei Jingzhe. Why would you think that Bai Cha is enough to sway me?” 

Unable to catch his breath, Lei Jingzhe’s eyes darted all over as fear engulfed him whole. 

Shen Zechuan scrutinized him and said kindly, “I came to Dunzhou for the specific purpose of capturing you.” 

Lei Jingzhe’s breathing hitched in his throat.

“You did me a great favor.” Shen Zechuan turned his eyes to look at Dunzhou. “I want to annex both the prefectures of Dunzhou and Duanzhou, but I didn’t dare to make a move because of Qi Zhuyin. All I could do was to make use of King Yi of Fanzhou as a cover. You could have lived a little longer. If you hadn’t brought the Biansha people over this time, I might have had to wait a year or two, or even longer, to find an opportunity, but you brought the Biansha Cavalry.” 

The sparks crackled and spluttered.

“Now I have enough reason to deploy troops to Dunzhou.” Shen Zechuan shifted his gaze back to Lei Jingzhe’s face. “Thanks to you for chatting with me for this long so that I could buy time for the Cizhou Garrison Troops.” 

Lei Jingzhe could not believe it. How could Shen Zechuan have plotted his moves to such an extent and anticipated every step Lei Jingzhe himself would take?! He raised his head, the world before him was already a blur. With some difficulty, he gasped, “You, you s-scorpion…” 

“Regardless of who my parents are,” Shen Zechuan turned his head to the side and whispered into his ear, “I am Shen Zechuan. Whether your word is the truth or a lie is of no significance to me at all. I am my own nightmare.” 

The land under his feet? 

Zhongbo could not tie down Shen Zechuan at all. He was not as attached to his native land as Xiao Chiye was. On the day he fell into the Chashi Sinkhole, he became a man without a hometown. Ever since then, he severed all attachment he held towards the land. He could never gallop in the grasslands; his wings were born out of the darkness of the night. If Xiao Chiye was Hongyan Mountains, then Shen Zechuan was the frigid wind coursing through the territories of Zhongbo. 

Shen Wei, Bai Cha.   

He did not care for them at all. 

The two fingers on his right hand made a noise of protest, but Shen Zechuan could no longer feel the pain. He gripped Lei Jingzhe’s throat just like how he had choked Ji Lei a year ago. This made it clear to all that he was no longer trapped under the control of others. Perhaps Lei Jingzhe was right. All these years of suffering and hatred had molded him into a monster. When Qi Huilian died as well in that heavy downpour, Shen Zechuan completely forsook all of those obsolete conventions. He would no longer be anyone’s prisoner.

He loved Xiao Chiye, and he still had Ji Gang. He could not imagine a day when Xiao Chiye and Ji Gang would become a thing of the past, transformed into pain he had no remedy for. He had enough of enduring it in silence; he was fed up of being chained. He wanted to tear apart not just this world, but also all the shackles imposed on him in the past!

Lei Jingzhe could hardly hang on anymore. He was finally able to raise his hands to grab Shen Zechuan’s arm, and it was at this moment he remembered the rumors in Qudu

“Mad, mad…” Lei Jingzhe squeezed the words out. 

The angry flames that stretched like a fiery dragon roared among the double-eaved roofs and pavilion, and the building let loose a series of dangerous-sounding noises amidst the burning. Broken wood went smashing with a thunderous crash, and the tiles under their feet followed suit and slid off. Fuxian Peak, which Yan Heru had spent big bucks to construct, was in the process of collapsing. The damaged eaves cracked apart again, as if it could not bear the weight of two people. 

It was here Shen Zechuan stood, yet he remembered the abyss in his dream. He had always stood at the brink of the abyss without taking that one step forward, because he did not know what kind of change that one step would usher in. But then, he heard the sound of horses’ hooves.

That was the wind that came from Libei. 

Shen Zechuan released his hand. At that very instant the eaves collapsed, Shen Zechuan strode a step out. His white robe went fluttering in the wind as he plunged down like a bird with its wings folded. The wind swept past his ears. He felt as if he had experienced a dream. 

Still, stagnant waters lay at the bottom of the abyss, and it was here Shen Zechuan fell and stirred up waves of ripples. But the breathing in his ear was so, so intense. A vibrant life force brimming with vitality dispelled the darkness as strong arms held Shen Zechuan tight. In that split second, the lifeless waters seemed to have brushed off its extraneous dust to metamorphose into Xiao Chiye’s chest. 

Xiao Chiye had caught hold of him.

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Footnotes


  1. 头车 literally head cart according to sources; a complex siege weapon used for mining which can also be used as a protective cover during a siege.

  2. 绣春刀 Xiuchun Blade is the blade of the Imperial Bodyguards during the Ming Dynasty.

  3. (攀)云梯 a hinged folding ladder known as the “cloud ladder” used for sieges
  4. i.e. a dangerous place
  5. Swan Goose is also the same 鸿雁 in Hongyan Mountains