Translated by liyou. Edited by seal.
What kind of unparalleled temptress with exceptional tricks, the other party must be.
Mo Xi didn’t raise his gaze, his well-chiselled brow remaining in his hand’s shadow. His low voice carried a nasal hint of sound. “Maybe his mind hasn’t been damaged at all, and he still remembers some things. He’s faking it.”
“How can that be?” Li Wei’s eyes widened. “Gu Mang’s condition was diagnosed by Shennong Terrace. Healer Jiang, Chonghua’s best, has also examined him. His core is shattered, two of his soul fragments lost, his brain damaged, he thinks he’s a wolf–”
“Have you ever seen a wolf who would rather cause harm to itself than hurt others?!”
Li Wei was stunned into silence.
Were his eyes playing tricks on him? Xihe-Jun’s eyes seemed a little damp and red.
“W-Why would my Lord say such words…”
Mo Xi closed his eyes. His anger was not directed at Li Wei; it was just that he was no longer willing to hear things like “Gu Mang doesn’t remember anything”.
“At the Wangshu Manor. Murong Lian gave him two choices, either cut off one of my arms, or lacerate his own face.” Mo Xi turned his head away, staring at the swaying shadows of the trees. Half a beat later, he mumbled, “He chose the latter.”
Li Wei: “…”
“You tell me, what kind of wolf would make this sort of decision?”
Li Wei thought, tell you? What can I tell you?! With your terrible temper, if I suggested that perhaps Gu Mang hadn’t even understood Wangshu-Jun’s question, won’t you just leap to your feet and kick me to death???
From that day on, Mo Xi became a little possessed.
Although Li Wei took every chance to delicately explain along the lines of “Gu Mang’s brain now really isn’t well, he can’t understand many phrases, and communicating with him is like talking with a three-year-old child, sometimes you have to repeat a phrase multiple times” whenever Mo Xi was in a good mood, Mo Xi could not let go of the bit of weak hope in his heart.
At last, Li Wei had no other options, and said, “Then, my Lord, why not ask to confirm it with Shennong Terrace.”
Shennong Terrace was full of Murong Lian’s lackeys. Mo Xi didn’t wish to go.
Li Wei presented another plan. “Then visit the Imperial Apothecary, and ask Healer Jiang.”
Healer Jiang was a harsh and distant figure; Mo Xi did not have any good impression of him. But eventually, he could not bear the antsiness of his heart, and went to pay a visit. Outside the opulent, extravagantly-decorated palace of medicine, which eaves were upturned at the corners of the roof like boar’s teeth, the servant boy said, overly careful to the point of anxiety, “Xihe-Jun, our boss Jiang has gone out to gather medicine.”
“When will he return, then?”
“The boss’ duration of absence is not fixed, it could be three to five days, or three to five months.”
“Did he say where he is going?”
“When the boss gathers medicine, he’ll go to all corners of the world.”
Mo Xi was utterly speechless. Looking at the servant boy who seemed pleased with his own answers, he could only nod, turn his horse around and head back to the manor.
Perhaps it was because his obsession was too deep, ruminating on the issue of Gu Mang the whole day, that on that night, after Mo Xi had fallen asleep, he had a dream.
In the dream, he had stumbled back to all those years ago, to that day where he had finally understood the matters of his heart, when he couldn’t wait a single moment before running to confess.
It happened to be a quiet night at the northern frontier.
He was very young, not even twenty years of age. At that point in time, he was not yet the Xihe-Jun whose awesome reputation shook the four seas, and Gu Mang was still crushed under Murong Lian’s thumb without a reputation of his own.
They had fought a fierce battle with the Liao kingdom, in which many perished. When Mo Xi tidied the possessions of his dead comrades, he spotted a long-distance, bloodstained love letter. He grasped that letter that hadn’t been sent out in time, staring dazedly at it for a long while.
Mo Xi’s household was tragic; since young, all he saw was mutual trickery, betrayal, and manipulation.
This was his first time seeing true, passionate love.
The cultivator who had died in action was a boorish man who normally did not even like reading books, yet he had put down word after word, sentence after sentence with much seriousness, in order to write such a long letter in the midst of fire and smoke. He didn’t write about the hardships of battle, or any achievements in his letter, only wrote about the mole above his maiden’s brow, and the new patch of shoots he’d planted in the yard.
When the blossoms flourish next year, my xiao1[t/n: Vertical flute, you know, the one Lan Xichen plays. that thing lan xichen plays] sounds while Xiao Yan sings clear.
–A clumsy, even somewhat crude poem, yet so tender that it was almost as if water could seep from it.
And it had been composed by such a boorish man.
When he wrote it, he had merely envisioned himself, years later after returning in glory, singing and playing a tune with that maiden named Xiao Yan by the flowerpatch he had planted by hand, and nothing more.
Yet, in the end, only this letter on which the bloodstains had already dried was left.
Mo Xi was unable to express what he was feeling at that moment. He sat on the edge of the mat for a long while, gripping the letter in his hand.
When the blossoms flourish next year, my xiao sounds while Xiao Yan sings clear.
If the one who had died today was him, did he have anyone he couldn’t bring himself to leave behind?
He thought of a familiar figure very quickly. But he didn’t think anything about it, until much later, when it had finally registered–he froze instantly, cold sweat soaking his back–it was as if a fire had been lit in his chest, illuminating everything it shone its light on. Yet, it also felt like that bundle of fire had actually been quietly shining on him in the depths of his heart all along, licking at him, leaving him to stew.
It was only that he had not discovered it in the past, had not understood what those feelings that he had repressed were.
He sat there dazedly, but the wildfire in his heart blazed even hotter. Something collapsed, and something was swiftly, noisily, built once more.
Outside the tent, there were the weeping of those grieving soldiers whose brothers-in-arms had died, the faint music of the ocarina and the howl of the lonesome wind.
He gripped the leaf of thin paper in his hand. Who would be the ones to die tomorrow?
The matters of whose heart, reduced to bloodstains tomorrow.
All of a sudden, he could no longer control the impulse of his heart. He yanked the flap of the tent aside, bumping right into the medic coming in to treat his wound, and gave him a fright. “Mo-gongzi?”
Mo Xi did not answer. He strode out of the tent, his steps quickening as he stowed the bloodstained letter in his robes. He would bring it back to the “Xiao Yan” mentioned in the letter, but right now, he was looking for a particular person urgently. He was so harried all of a sudden, almost like if he did not say it right now, he would not have a chance to do so tomorrow, as if death was upon his brow.
The healer in wide-sleeved white robes chased his steps out of the camp, shouting at him, “Mo-gongzi, the wound on your arm–”
But he ignored it, not wanting to care about that minor, insignificant cut. He sprinted out of the camp, summoned a spiritual horse, and rode forth at full gallop.
The wind and snow blowing from the north greeted him; behind him were the pecking noises of the pigeons reared by the defensive camp, fragments of sound that were flung further and further away from him. Passionate ardour gathered in his heart; he wanted to pour his heart out to Gu Mang, currently on the night watch. He could feel the trepidation of his own heartbeat and his burning, searing heart. Around him, the world was clearly all harsh wind and snow, but even his palms were slightly damp.
“Where’s Gu Mang?”
Upon arriving at the Northern Military Camp, he asked the garrisoned cultivator, without dismounting, panting.
“I’m looking for him, where is he?”
Seeing that he was this worked up, the cultivator was alarmed. “Does, does Mo-gongzi bear urgent news?”
“What urgent news, do I need urgent news in order to meet someone?” White mist puffed from his mouth, his tone agitated.
The cultivator glanced at Mo Xi’s injured arm, hesitated for a moment, and didn’t ask him any more questions, but Mo Xi understood the implication–with no good reason, why then, are you not properly recuperating, but choosing to brave the wind and snow to ride from the Southern Camp to the Northern Camp, in order to look for a nameless and insignificant soldier?
Mo Xi was too anxious.
And too impulsive.
He had just understood a matter, a very important matter that had been bothering him for very long. He needed to find Gu Mang; if he didn’t find immediately, it was as if the passion in him would be burnt up and exhausted within the night.
By nature, he was extremely stubborn. Once he decided on something, he had to grasp it tightly in hand. He was also young then, and had not experienced the bitterness of love.
He hadn’t even considered the consequences, hadn’t considered the moral aspects of their relationship, hadn’t considered if he would be rejected.
He knew absolutely nothing, only brazenly carrying a sincere heart, and came impulsively to Gu Mang’s tent. He stood in front of the tent, his fingers trembling slightly, his blood growing hotter, his heart beating faster. At last, his Adam’s apple bobbed, he took a deep breath, and drew open the flap of the tent with a swish.
A smart-looking infantry cultivator looked back at him. It was Lu Zhanxing, Gu Mang’s best friend back then.
Lu Zhanxing was also Murong Lian’s servant and study attendant–he had an obstinate personality that could not be corrected, and had grown up with Gu Mang. At this moment, he was munching on fruit as he read a sword manual inside the tent. Upon seeing Mo Xi, he stared in surprise. “Mo-gongzi?”
“Why are you here?”
“Where’s Gu Mang?”
“Oh, you’re looking for him.” Lu Zhanxing munched on the juicy pear, and suddenly chuckled, his eyebrows dancing. “Why is everyone looking for him tonight?”
“…Who else is looking for him.”
“Oh, nobody, just a few of our friends looking for him to play around in the nearby village, Mo-gongzi wouldn’t know them. I was going to tag along too, but as it turns out, my leg hasn’t healed completely, so I can’t be bothered to go…”
As Lu Zhanxing kept blathering, the restlessness in Mo Xi’s heart grew more intense. He bit his lower lip lightly, and asked, “Where did he go?”
Smiling, Lu Zhanxing opened his mouth, ready to answer his question.
But just as Mo Xi was about to dream of that answer given all those years ago, he felt a bolt of pain.
–It was as if his heart was protecting itself on instinct, not letting itself hurt any longer, and so the heavy darkness crashed down in totality, crushing that answer to smithereens. The dreamscape was scattered like the finest of dust blown away.
The darkness grew abyssal, the dream heavier, and there was no longer any sound.
Eventually, there was neither sky nor earth.
All returned to silence.
The next day, Mo Xi woke amidst the chirping of the birds in the yard. He blinked his eyes open slowly, gradually regaining wakefulness like wading to shore from the midst of a shattered illusion reflected in the water.
He was trapped in the remnants of the dream; raising his hand, he felt that his palm was slightly warm and lightly beaded with sweat. It was as if he could still clearly recall the burning emotion of his youth, but the contents of the dream were already steadily clouding over.
“My lord.” Seeing that he was awake, Li Wei drew close with small steps, bowing. “Changfeng-Jun sent a messenger over, bright and early in the morning, with some gifts. They’ve been temporarily placed in the antechamber, should we accept them, my Lord?”
Having just woken up, and having dreamt of past events that weighed on him so heavily, even the godly Xihe-Jun would be momentarily disoriented. He only remembered after a while, while rubbing his forehead, frowning slightly–
That man was a desolate old noble; although he still retained his status, it was only so in name. It had been many, many years since Changfeng-Jun had last mingled with others.
Mo Xi was slightly surly with the annoyance of the just-awakened. Rubbing his throbbing temple, he asked, “What is he suddenly sending me gifts for?”
“He didn’t elaborate.”
Mo Xi was used to living cleanly and virtuously, so he paused and said, “Return these to him. Tell him that I appreciate his goodwill, but since it is neither a festival nor a holiday, I do not want them.”
After Mo Xi had finished getting ready for the day, he walked to the antechamber to take a look. It was truly ridiculous; pearls and jade, bolts of silk, precious artifacts and elixirs and the like filled eight gift crates, causing him to frown and call the busy Li Wei over to him.
“Did Changfeng-Jun get into trouble?”
“Ah?” Li Wei was dumbfounded for a moment. “No?”
“What does he mean by this, then?”
“This…” Li Wei thought, Changfeng-Jun seemed to have offended many nobles of the cultivation academy of late on behalf of his daughter, and a few of them were of large influential families. Sending Xihe-Jun gifts at this point of time was obviously to test the waters, to see if he could inveigle this great general, who had recently returned to the capital and knew nothing of the situation as of yet, to his side.
But Housekeeper Li was still very clever, and knew that it was best not to get embroiled in the matters of the family clans, and thus said, “If my Lord does not know about this, then I am even more clueless of it.”
Mo Xi silently swept his gaze across those things a few times more, but still could not deduce the other’s intentions, and simply gave up on caring about it. He adjusted the corner of his sleeve, and said, “I’m going out, will not be returning at noon, tell the kitchen that they do not need to prepare lunch.”
“Oh…” Li Wei heeded the order, but couldn’t stop himself from lifting his gaze to sneak a glance at Mo Xi.
His Lord wasn’t behaving right these days.
It seemed that ever since he came back from the Wangshu Manor, he would go out every day without fail, as long as he didn’t have court assemblies or military matters to attend to. Sometimes, he was gone for half a day; sometimes, the whole day, other times, he only came back late at night. And he didn’t let his attendants follow him.
Witnessing this, it seemed like he was clandestinely meeting with some beautiful woman no matter how he looked at it…
Once this thought surfaced, Li Wei nearly shocked himself into cold sweat–
How could it be, how could it be?
First there was Mengze, next there was Yanping, and then not to mention the others–from virtuous ladies from prestigious families to beguiling sluts–all of whom had attempted to melt the frostiness of this male god, but till today, none had succeeded.
Li Wei surmised that, if Xihe-Jun could really commit that sort of act of meeting clandestinely with a lady while hiding it from everyone–what kind of unparalleled temptress with exceptional tricks, the other party must be.
Mo Xi sat down at a tea stall on the street corner with a sullen expression and ordered a pot of Yangxian tea. The tea was served very quickly, and came with some candied fruit. Mo Xi sipped slowly, the elegant long tails of his eyes shifting with his gaze from time to time as he looked across the street.
On the other side of the street was the lotus pond in the backyard of the Luomei Garden Villa.
And that sullied “temptress” had not appeared in a very long time.
A few days ago, Gu Mang would spend every day here in a daze; he never did anything else, only stood on the floating bridge alone, and stared at the fish in the lotus pond without making a sound.
That face of his was blank, like a heavy fall of snow that blanketed the earth.
At first, Mo Xi didn’t know what part of the fish was so nice to look at, until one time, when he discovered that Gu Mang had attempted to reach out and catch one–of course, he hadn’t caught it, and so he squatted by the edge of the pond, dazedly watching the koi weave away. The knot of his throat bobbed as he swallowed, his eyes glazing over.
Only then did Mo Xi understand that he was hungry.
That day, Murong Lian had said to dock his meals for a month. By now, it had already been more than ten days. Gu Mang, feeling severely wronged, wanted to catch fish to eat…
But he didn’t know what was going on; from that day onwards, Gu Mang did not appear. Mo Xi came by every day, but couldn’t catch a glimpse of his squatting figure waiting for fish.
Today was no exception.
Gradually, the tea was drunk until the bottom could be seen. He asked the stall owner to replace it with a fresh pot and sat for a while longer, but still did not see Gu Mang.
This person had not appeared for five days straight, did something happen in the Luomei Garden Villa again?
With this thought, although Mo Xi’s face was still indifferent, anxiety started growing in his heart. He bore it silently and drunk the last bit of Yangxian tea in the pot, but it could not extinguish the fire in his heart. In the end, he still rose, and walked towards the opposite side of the street–
The author has something to say:
“When the blossoms flourish next year, my xiao sounds while Xiao Yan sings clear.” is adapted from Jiang Kui’s “Creating new poems and rhymes is most charming, I play the xiao as Xiao Hong sings softly.” I’m hanging this here in the author’s notes to prevent any misunderstandings~
《Method of Confession》
Twenty-year-old Mo Xi’s confession: Charge over to look for him without a second thought.
Thirty-year-old Mo Xi’s confession: I never want to confess again.
Gu Mang (normal vers.)’s confession: I truly want to sleep with you.
Gu Mang (wolf vers.)’s confession: Your fur looks really nice, will you let me rub against it?
Little Yue-yue’s confession: You’re more capable than my Fourth Uncle!
Jiang Yexue’s confession: I’ve said it many times, I’m a widower who doesn’t intend to look for another wife2[续弦: lit. to restring an instrument, from 断弦 (snapped string) which means someone being widowed.].
Murong Lian’s confession: Lady, are you willing to be shot down by the comment section with me until we’re like sieves3[Riddled with holes from the bullets of unforgiving hate.]?
Editor & Translator’s Note: MERRY X(i)MA(ng)S!!!!!!!!!