As if he was in a dream, he turned his head, and saw a familiar figure.
In the moonlight, under the Tung blossoms at the Fei Yao Terrace1I just realised I never explained the name of this terrace, but 飞瑶台 (fēi yáo tái) translates literally to Flying Jade Terrace, he quietly watched him.
However, that person was not Gu Mang — Of course it couldn’t be Gu Mang. After coming back to his senses, Mo Xi scoffed at the bottom of his heart, wondering what on earth he was thinking about.
The one who spoke was a gentle looking man seated in a wooden wheelchair, with a plain white winter robe draped over his shoulders, and his handicapped legs covered in a thin blanket of a pale pinkish grey shade.
Mo Xi was slightly surprised: “Elder Qingxu?”
Elder Qingxu, Jiang Yexue. He was Yue Chenqing’s elder brother.
Unlike Yue Chenqing who didn’t have a care in the world, Jiang Yexue lead a very poor and difficult life. His mother had passed away young, and later, because he was determined to marry the daughter of a sinner, he was driven out of the Yue Clan.
At that time, neither he nor his fiancee had much money or possessions, and their marriage ceremony was very simple and uncomplicated. Due to the coercion of the Yue Clan, only a few people had insisted on attending it — and among them were Mo Xi and Gu Mang.
Mo Xi had gifted them a small courtyard. Gu Mang took one look at the deed and was flabbergasted, then said to Jiang Yexue, Bro, I’m really poor, I can’t afford to send you something like this. Everyone laughed, and in the midst of the sounds of laughter, Gu Mang puffed his cheeks, and on his suona2唢呐 (suǒ nà) is a Chinese double-reeded horn used frequently in Chinese traditional music ensembles. wiki, he blew for them the tune of “A Phoenix Seeks His Mate”3鳳求凰 (fèng qiú huáng) is a song traditionally played on the guqin. It tells the romantic tale of Sima Xiangru, an impoverished poet, and Zhuo Wenjun, the widowed daughter of a wealthy man. Xiangru had played this song to express his love towards her. Sample.
But good things don’t last forever. Jiang Yexue and his wife enlisted in the army together, but the flames of war were merciless, first taking away his wife, then robbing him of both his legs.4t/n: wow meatbun said side charas have no rights once again
Mo Xi had no idea how this man had endured all of this. Fortunately, Jiang Yexue was soft on the outside, but he was tough on the inside, and eventually lifted his spirits. He sought himself a position as an elder at the Academy of Cultivation, teaching in the path of refinery5炼器 (liàn qì) is a xianxia terminology, and refers to the art of using chemistry to refine weapons and spiritual devices.. But this move of his had unexpectedly angered his biological father. The Yue Clan was the number one expert in refinery, and thus Yue Juntian demanded that the Academy of Cultivation to dismiss Jiang Yexue from his teaching duties——
“This unfilial son who has already been expelled from the Yue Clan, who does not even take on our surname anymore, how dare he have the face to rely the Yue Clan’s expertise to make a living!”
The Headmaster6The actual term should translate to master of the academy, but I figured headmaster works better in English. was unable to change Yue Juntian’s mind, and could only politely dismiss Jiang Yexue.
Mo Xi had observed what was happening at that time, and decided to find him a place for him in his military council. But who could have guessed, that before he could even open his mouth, the Headmaster of the Academy of Cultivation had unexpectedly gone to desperately implore7求爷爷告奶奶 (qiú yéyé gào nǎinai) literally translates to “beg grandfather to tell grandmother” and means to beg desperately, using whatever means. Jiang Yexue to come back the next day. This time, no matter how loud the Yue Clan had cried, it was of no use, and all the Headmaster would say was “I was sincerely advised8耳提面命 (ěr tí miàn mìng) is an idiom that translates to “to give sincere advice”, but means something closer to being strongly encouraged by someone personally, usually of a higher authority than you. regarding this issue by an old friend.”
As for that old friend who never revealed himself, who he was remained one of the mysteries of Chonghua to this day.
Jiang Yexue was more than aware that the Yue Clan and him detested the sight of each other, and in the past, he would have never appeared at this kind of grand feast, which was why seeing him here surprised Mo Xi to this extent.
“Why did you come?”
“I….” Jiang Yexue said, “I came to have a look at Chenqing.”
When Jiang Yexue had left, Yue Chenqing was still very young, and these days, he could not recall much of what had happened in the past. But as an older brother, he could not let go of his concerns for his younger brother.
Even though Yue Chenqing did not acknowledge him, but frankly, he also did not give him a tough time like the rest of the Yue Clan.
“Also, I wanted to see you.” Jiang Yexue paused and smiled, “When I looked around, I didn’t see you at all, and I wondered if it was because it was too noisy inside and you couldn’t take it. So I came to the terrace to look for you, and sure enough, I had guessed correctly and you really did come here to take a breather9吹风 (chuī fēng) literally translates to “blowing in the wind” but more figuratively means to slow down and relax, or catch a break.”
“If you needed me, just find someone to pass the message. There’s no need for you to personally come. Your leg injury should not be exposed to the cold, I will take you back.”
“It’s fine, it hasn’t hurt for a long time already.” Jiang Yexue said, “I came here to thank you. Chenqing is naive and inexperienced, thank you for taking care of him for these past two years.”
Mo Xi was silent for a while, then said: “Your brother is young, and him wanting to play around is not a bad thing. Besides, after spending two years away, he has matured quite a bit.”
Jiang Yexue smiled gently, and said: “Really? He didn’t cause you any trouble?”
“……Just a little, but nevertheless he helped out a lot.”
Jiang Yexue sighed as he nodded his head: “Good, that’s good.”
For a moment, everything was still, and the tassels of the Feiyao Terrace slowly fluttered in the gentle breeze.
Suddenly, Jiang Yexue spoke up: “Xihe-Jun, you have been a way for a long time, and I presume that you are not too clear about all of the happenings in the imperial capital.”
He had always been an intelligent, transparent and very understanding person.
“It’s too noisy inside the palace hall, I’m also not too willing to go back in for a while. If there is anything Xihe-Jun would like to know, do not hesitate to ask me.”
“….It’s not like there’s anything I want to know in particular.” Mo Xi turned his head to look towards the imperial capital, a picturesque scene of the moon hanging above, as the lights of ten thousand houses sparkled like fallen stars10帝都一片月，万户落星辰 stop being poetic meatbun im tired, “I do not have any close relatives in the city.”
Jiang Yexue knew that this guy was awkward, so he watched him without hurry, and just nodded his head.
After a while, Mo Xi cleared his throat, then as predicted, began to ask: “These past few years, have you been well?”
Jiang Yexue smiled: “Yes, quite.”
“How about His Majesty?”
“Everything is going according to his plans.”
“She is well.”
Mo Xi: “……..Then that’s fine.”
Jiang Yexue’s eyes flickered with an uncertain shade of colour: “Is there anything else you would like to know?”
But after a short while, Mo Xi finished off the last bit of wine left in his glass, looked towards the brilliant nightscape, and finally, could not help but ask.
“What about Gu Mang? ……..How is he?”
The look that Jiang Yexue gave him seemed as if he was sighing, “Ah, after you’ve turned so many corners, you finally bring him up.”. He said: “As you would expect, not too good.”
“……” Mo Xi was silent for a moment, then nodded his head slightly, his throat felt a little dry, “I thought as much.”
“If you are willing, I really think you should visit him. He has been staying at that kind place which takes advantage of people for so long, he…..has changed a lot.”
Mo Xi was momentarily stunned by this, and for a while, he did not show any kind of reaction. He furrowed his eyebrows and asked: “Where?”
Jiang Yexue did not expect him to react like this, and dumbfounded, he slightly widened his eyes: “You don’t know?”
“What should I know?”
Jiang Yexue: “………..”
Neither of them spoke after that. Suddenly, the main hall erupted with a burst of excitement and laughter, and the light cast shadows on the overlapping and messy figures of drunken men and women, projected through the spaces between the window frames11Chinese windows look like this btw!.
Mo Xi abruptly came back to his senses and flashed his eyes wide open: “He can’t have been sent to——“
“….He has been at the Luo Mei12落梅 (luò méi) means fallen plum (blossoms) Garden Villa for two years already….” Jiang Yexue did not expect that Yue Chenqing had surprisingly not spilled out something of this importance. As a result, he ended up having to tell Mo Xi himself, and couldn’t help but feel a little uneasy.
Mo Xi’s face instantly paled.
Luo Mei Garden Villa……
What sort of place was that? A place for seeking pleasure, a brothel!
A place where in just a single night13一朝一夕 (yī zhāo yī xī) translates to “one morning and one night” and means in a short period of time, or overnight., those sold to them would have their flesh scraped clean off their bones, their insides devoured until nothing was left.
They actually sent him to that place?
They actually sent him……sent him……
Mo Xi’s Adam’s apple bobbed. The first time, he could not say a single word, but the second time, he finally said with great difficulty: “…Did Wangshu-Jun arrange this?”
Jiang Yexue paused, then sighed as he nodded: “As you are aware, Wangshu-Jun hates him.”
Mo Xi fell silent, suddenly turning his head away. He looked at the distant scene of the night in front of him, and did not utter a single word more.
Since the time Gu Mang was sent back to Chonghua two years ago, he had imagined all sorts of possible ways that Gu Mang could have ended up.
Back then, he did not know what sort of punishment awaited Gu Mang, and thought that if Gu Mang was locked up in the Prison of the Heavens14天牢 (tiān láo) refers to a a type of prison that was under the direct jurisdiction of the Imperial household. Different from normal dungeon prisons, these jail cells were built on ground, and used to detain the most serious of criminals. As a small tidbit, Emperors were referred to as “Sons of Heaven”, hence the prison naming., he might go over and take a look or two, then spit out a few satirical words at him. If Gu Mang had become a cripple, he would not sympathise with him, and perhaps even trip him over.
Even if there had once been some sort of tenderness between them, after all these years, the hatred had already accumulated to such depths that it was impossible for them to reconcile ever again.
The only situation where Mo Xi could imagine that they would be able to calmly share another pot of wine was at a graveyard, with Gu Mang six feet under, and him standing outside. Perhaps he would even be able to talk to him like old times, as he placed a bouquet of spiritually made red peonies15In Chinese culture, the flower language of peony represents reluctance to part, and that one’s true feelings will never change, and when sent to a partner that one was courting, it would represent the wish that their feelings would be returned. in front his tombstone.
At least, for better or for worse, they would part ways one last time without quarreling.
But since a long time ago, Gu Mang was the kind of person who was an expert at bringing Mo Xi all kinds of the unexpected. Mo Xi just didn’t think that even this time would be the same ——
Luo Mei Garden Villa.
These four words tortured Mo Xi as he turned them over and over again in his heart, and he attempted to extract even the tiniest fragment of comfort out from them.
But in the end, he realised that all of his efforts were futile, and he was unable to derive any form of pleasure from it; on the contrary, he felt extremely disgusted and outraged.
He did not know where this disgust and and fury of his came from. Shouldn’t it be to everyone’s satisfaction that he finally reaped what he sowed?
“………” Mo Xi propped his elbow on floral engraved railing16雕栏 (diāo lán) refers to railings/banisters that were engraved with floral patterns. pic. He tried to bend his fingertips, but they were frozen stiff with numbness. He turned his head to look towards Jiang Yexue, but as he observed his facial features, he felt that they seemed to blur into one another.
A wave of dizziness washed over him, and the insides of his stomach churned.
Gu Mang, was sent to Luo Mei Garden Villa.
It’s already been two years.
Mo Xi felt that he should be laughing with reckless abandon right now, that was how it should be. Only then would it match how everyone saw their deep hatred towards each other, that penetrated into their blood and into their bones. So he really did try to twist his lips and bare his teeth in attempt to pry out the slightest bit of pleasure.
But in the end, all that came out was a single cold sneer that faintly slipped through the cracks of his tightly clenched teeth.
An image of the first time he met that beautiful and delicate face lit by the sun seemed to flash by before his eyes, a pair of black eyes smiling at him: “Hey there, Mo-shidi.”
Another image of the bright and splendid Gu Mang after enlisting in the army seemed to flash past. In the lively hustle and bustle of his group of rowdy friends, he turned his head and winked at Mo Xi, the long tail of his eyes slightly upturned, then curving into gentle arches, he laughed vibrantly.
He also remembered those words that Gu Mang had said when he was appointed the lead commander——
The words he said while grinning frivolously: “Come, enlist now in Wangba with no fear, for you’ll rise in ranks and prosper next year!”17This was actually a stupid rhyme because Gu Mang is a himbo, so I tried to keep the same kind of ridiculous feel.
The words he roared amidst the mountains of corpses and oceans of blood: “Come on, let’s go! Those of you who haven’t kicked the bucket, pull yourselves the fuck together and drag yourselves back up! I’ll take you all home!”
As well as those he said while stubbornly kneeling before the Emperor in his throne room, begging him to not hastily bury his men together: “I would like to request for healers to help identify their bodies……I humbly beg of you, this is not a waste of effort. Every single soldier’s tomb deserves to have their names carved in. Your Majesty, I don’t want any of my brothers to be unable to return home one last time.”
“They had recognised me as their commander, and whether they are man or ghost, I want to bring them all back, I promised them this.”
“What they want isn’t a the honour of a ceremonious funeral, they just wish for the name that they originally should have.”
And finally, reaching the end of his patience, his tearful howls of fury in front of the palace hall—
“Did they deserve to die just because they were slaves? Do they not deserve a proper burial just because they were slaves?!”
“They had shed their blood and lost their lives, just like the others! They already have no father, no mother, and in the end, they don’t even have a proper status. Why is it that the lives lost by the Yue Clan, the Mo Clan, and the Murong clan became heroes, but all my brothers get when they die is being stuffed into as single hole, huh?! Why?!!”
That was the first time Gu Mang had cried in front of the palace hall.
He did not cry while kneeling, but he cried while crouching on the ground, his back hunched, shrinking himself into a ball.
He had just returned from battle, the bloodstains on his body had still not been washed away, his face covered completely with the traces of smoke and fire, his tears leaving behind mottled marks as they fell.
This God of War who had always represented hope on the battlefield, in Golden Palace Hall, was thus beaten back into his lowly origins, like a nameless corpse.
The hall was full of civil and military officials dressed proper and respectfully, and many turned away in disdain at that poor commoner general, his clothing tattered, the stench of his filth18hey it’s the title name drop…haha… unbearable.
He choked with sobs and howled in grief, like a beast on the verge of death.
“I said I would bring them back……”
“Please be merciful, let me keep my promise……”
But he probably knew it was useless.
In the end, he stopped begging, and also stopped crying.
He just repeated over and over, his sight on the verge of scattering, as if muttering and mumbling to the wandering souls: “I’m sorry, It was all my fault, I don’t deserve to be your commander.”
“I’m also just a slave after all….”
When these sentences dripped down bit by bit into his memory, Mo Xi felt as if his head was about to split. He could not help but support his forehead with his hand, his face covered by the shadows under his hand, and everything was ice-cold.
His heart was cold and clammy.
Jiang Yexue said: “Xihe-Jun…..are you alright?”
No one answered. Only after a long while had passed, did a wisp of emotionless, lukewarm voice drift out from the shadows: “Fine. Why wouldn’t I be fine?”
Jiang Yexue looked at him and sighed, “How many years have we known each other, why do you still try to act tough in front of me?”
Mo Xi: “……..”
The copper bells hanging on the corners of the eaves jingled, and the bright yellow slender tassels danced in the wind.
“You and Gu Mang’s names have since long ago, always been mentioned together. You studied cultivation together at the Academy of Cultivation, you went to the battlefield together, and later, you were appointed as officials together.” Jiang Yexue said, “These days, you are still placed high on a pedestal, yet he has fallen to dust. For so many years you were of equal fame, yet now, all that’s celebrated by the people as the country’s Twin Jades19双璧 (shuāng bì) translates to ‘pair of jades’., yet now only one of you remains, I believe that you are not happy about this at all.”
He hesitated, then turned his head to face Mo Xi.
“Besides, he was once your closest friend.”
Mo Xi lowered long, thick eyelashes, and after a moment, he replied: “…..When I was young, I was blind.”
“But after he commited treason, you still believed that he had his reasons that he struggled with, you believed it for so long.”
“My blindness was serious.” Mo Xi said, glancing at the glass in his hand, there was still a touch of wine left behind, permeating with the colour of the sunset. He no longer wanted to continue this conversation.
“The wind is getting stronger. Elder Qingxu, let’s to back to the main hall.”
For several days after learning of Gu Mang’s whereabouts, Mo Xi was constantly restless.
He had originally tried to suppress this emotion that he should not have, but as time passed, his restlessness only worsened.
Mo Xi knew that he was suffering from a heart disease.
And only Luo Mei Garden Villa had the antidote.
Finally, as dusk began to fall on one eventual evening, a horse-drawn carriage with its curtains of a deep night blue hanging off the sides, drove slowly towards the northern side of the Imperial Capital.
Mo Xi was seated in the carriage, his eyes shut closed to the world, and though the all the curtains were drawn and he inside there alone, he still sat in an upright posture with his back straightened, his face, handsome to the point it could be considered a luxury, did not show any sort of expression, and an aura of grave coldness pervaded, enough to strike fear in people’s hearts.
“My lord, we have arrived”
Mo Xi did not immediately get off the carriage, but lifted the curtains instead, and hiding himself in the shadows, he took a glance outside.
It was currently the liveliest time of the night, and the gate facing the street were lined with two rows of nine, impressive looking spiritually-lit lanterns shaped like winter plums, illuminating the bright red horizontal plaque that hung above the door20匾额 refers to horizontal sign boards above the doors to establishments, basically a business sign.——
Luo Mei Garden Villa.
“Frosty winds of daybreak bring the purest of snow,
But all that is left by morning has turned to slush.”21Thank you bao for helping me interpret this!!! I was rly dying…friendship ended with roubao now the better bao is my best friend
Unlike the usual brothels22脂粉场子 literally translates to “cosmetics gathering place” and honestly I am just making a wild guess based on context because Google doesn’t seem to bring anything of use up, a large majority of those inside were prisoners of war obtained by Chonghua. After destroying their spiritual core, they were held captive, hidden away as escorts23娈 (luán) is a term that originally meant ‘beautiful’ but had changed in meaning to refer to (young) male homosexual companions..
“My lord, will you be going in?”
Mo Xi shot out a quick glance at the surroundings and noticed several acquaintances, and to top it off, they were the kind he especially hated being around – young masters who were born with silver spoons in their mouths24纨s公子 (wán kù gōng zǐ) translates to “young masters with white silken pants” and basically means spoilt sons of rich/prominent families.. So he frowned and said: “Through the back door.”
The carriage thus stopped by the back door of Luo Mei Garden Villa.
“You may go, it is not necessary to keep watch here.”
After instructing his coachman, he stood in place and took in his surroundings for a while, and then with the tap of his toes, he leaped up onto the corner of the eaves25bitch did he just just parkour so the thots wouldn’t know he came 2 find his ex…amazing, quietly submerging into the night.
Before he came, he had already seen the design plans of Luo Mei Garden Villa, so it was not difficult for him to find the residences of the ladies and gentlemen, and very quickly, he arrived at a flower pavilion with a courtyard. He draped his cloak over his shoulders then entered the flower pavilion through the main entrance like a regular client, walking past rows of rooms, their closed doors painted in a vermillion red.
“Wanku’s Holy Priestess of the Flames, Sha Xuerou”
“Wanku’s Maidservant of the Flames, Qin Feng”
“Liao Country’s Deputy General of the Left Army, Jiang Tangzhen”
“Xueyu’s Female Officer of the Left Army, Lin Huarong”
By the side of every door hung a small wooden board, and written on the surface of them were the details of their country of origin, their appointed positions, as well as their name. Their entire history exposed as clear as the day, making it convenient for those clients who have grievances and hatred towards the enemy countries to find the most suitable candidate to vent their frustrations on.
If there was already a client seeking pleasure within, the words on the sign would be in red, and if there was no client inside, the words would be in black.
At the Luo Mei Garden Villa, the noblemen were Gods. As long as it kept them happy, they were willing to do anything.
The smiles of those men and women, their sweet talk, their bodies, and even down to their very lives, were all given up for the noblemen’s picking.
Mo Xi’s gaze swept over, his clothes fluttering as he walked past the rows of winding corridors. The soundproofing here was terrible, and the sounds of passionate affairs could be heard far too vividly. His sharp brows knitted deeper and deeper, his heart raced faster and faster —— Where is Gu Mang? He had walked past dozens of rooms, yet still did not see that sign board.
He climbed up to the second floor, continuing his search.
In a desolate corner, Mo Xi finally came to a halt.
A dark wooden sign, scrawled in thin handwriting.
“Chonghua’s Traitorous Official, Gu Mang”
In the whole courtyard, it was the only sign board carrying the two words “Chonghua”.
Mo Xi’s gaze seemed to weigh at least a thousand pounds as it fell upon that small signboard. For a split second, it seemed as if something within his black eyes was set on fire, smouldering ever so dimly. But almost instantaneously, that light was extinguished.
He raised his hand, stopping when his knuckles were just an inch away from the door.
All of the sudden he realised, the words on Gu Mang’s sign plate, they were red.
He had a client.
The author has something to say:
Mangmang is coming tomorrow26UH he is not coming tomorrow IM SORRY I WISH I COULD TRANSLATE FASTER DKGHDSG, but Yuwu was serialised on a daily schedule!~~~
Mo Xi: If I had to see him in this kind of place, it’d have been better to not see him.
Mangmang: You shut up!!! I wanna come out on stage!!! I wanna!!! Come out!!! I want——!
Mo Xi: ……Alright, whatever you want, I’ll give it to you. Stop making a fuss.
Translator’s Note: Sorry this chapter took a bit longer than expected! It was long…and frankly on the difficult side because she used a lot of random words that no one uses ever, that random poem halfway through, and the fact that her sentence structure was pretty clunky in this chapter so I spent a really long time editing. Special thanks to my lovely friend bao for all the advice and help deciphering the poem!!!