<Just like last time, Trigger Warning for brief references to sexual violence>
Two more exams left… X__X Please let me know where my translations can be improved! (You should be reading this at penjournalhappy.wordpress.com)
Chapter 34 – Older Brother
Under the remaining rays of the setting sun, the utterly silent and dead village was swept up in this shocking turn of events1. A heavy sword pierced through the air, its blade a full three finger-widths wide. The inertia and force of its movement was mixed with the boom of a thunderclap1, its frightful rage almost swallowing up the people present.
This old man wasn’t easy to deal with, but it wasn’t like Jiang Xunyi didn’t have the strength to engage in another fight and his hand had originally already moved onto his sword’s scabbard. But when he unexpectedly heard the words “raped my daughter”, a tear-stained meager face flashed across his mind. With an ache in his heart, his movements stopped and he instantly lost the opportunity to act first.
Yun Xie and Jiang Molou struck at the same time. Yun Xie’s sleeves directly unfurled towards the incoming blade’s edge, while Jiang Molou’s personal sword chased through the air to sweep horizontally at Feng Xue. Both men were world-class experts, and their attacks were accordingly no small matter. Fortunately for their opponent, both were intending to save Jiang Xunyi, not to harm Feng Xue. The old man swiftly retreated, dodging the blow and failing to touch Jiang Xunyi.
At the same time, another man rushed out from behind their group, flashing forward to block Jiang Xunyi behind himself.
Jiang Xunyi: “……” His hand was still stopped on his hilt. Everything had happened too quickly, and only now was he able to silently let his hand fall back to his side. He had already imagined being detested and hunted down as the norm. Okay, he could understand his Shidi protecting him. For an enemy to protect him… alright, they had once been die-hard friends, so he could grudgingly understand it. Now, as for this elder brother with a completely unfamiliar background popping out of some nearby hill… what kind of deep sentiment and strong affection would actually cause him to block this knife?
Even though this situation was indeed very moving, his guilty conscience pricked him: his System had clearly set his role as the Villain, okay?! V-I-L-L-A-I-N.
Jiang Xunyi was not the only one both moved and confused. The rest of the people who had rushed over were all renowned sect leaders or venerable and famous on their own. They were already shocked upon first seeing the perfectly alive and well Jiang Xunyi. Now witnessing the perpetually proper and elegant Du Family Head actually go forward to protect him, their disbelief grew even further. The whole scene was more of a spectacle than a great theater play.
Some people immediately started to stutter out: “Jiang—Jiang Xunyi? How did he appear here? Is this a ghost?”
Other people raised their voices: “Family Head Du! What’s the matter with you? Could it be that you have long since known this traitor? You’re actually daring to defy Elder Feng in order to protect him?!”
The man in question did not respond to any of the doubts and suspicions being thrown around. He first turned slightly, revealing the profile of a handsome and gentle face, as he spoke calmly: “Are you alright? Were you frightened?”
Jiang Xunyi had a near-photographic memory, so he immediately recognized this person. This man bore the exact face of the first layer of his mask, exposed back when Jiang Xunyi had washed the blood off his face. That was the older brother of this current body, the eldest son of the Du family, born from a concubine2, the current family head Du Li.
He had originally believed that since Du Li allowed Du Heng to replace him as the sacrifice for the Demon Sovereign, this pair of brothers must have had a completely antagonistic3 relationship. Okay, how one could possibly be antagonistic with an idiot was a matter up for further discussion, but in the end this current scene of harmonious brotherly affection shouldn’t be occurring, right?
Had Du Li seen him before? Did Du Li know that there was a person in this world whose appearance was so similar to his own half-brother? Why was he not the least bit surprised to see that Du Heng was no longer a fool?
Jiang Xunyi looked into Du Li’s eyes, only to see purely clear honesty. He slowly replied: “I’m fine.”
Du Li nodded and did not say anything more. Only now did he turn back around and cup his hands in salute towards the crowd: “My younger brother is blameless, and I do not know how he could have offended all of you. His brain has never worked properly ever since he was little, so if anyone has any issues, please direct them towards this humble one.”
Jiang Xunyi: “…….”
That speech sounded well-intentioned and all, but why was he so angry upon hearing a particular section?
Yun Xie heard Du Li’s words, and actually did not speak for once. After staying silent for a moment, he looked back, wordlessly meeting Jiang Xunyi’s eyes.
Jiang Xunyi felt his gaze, and his heart trembled. He seemed to understand what Yun Xie was asking him through those eyes.
He wanted to say: Du Heng or Jiang Xunyi, what choice will you make? Are you willing to change your name and identity, to throw away those past gratitudes and grudges like clearing the ledger of an unrecoverable debt? Are you happy with this? Are you… capable of actually doing that?
What happened in the past… Is it that you do not wish to remember those events, or can you actually truly forget them? Will those things that you cannot face instead grow deeper and heavier with the passing years if left unresolved, until they become the burden weighing your heart down? One can turn the pages of a book without a care, but when he was so deep in the fray himself, could he really treat all of this as the matters of a book?
Amidst his terror, he came to a sudden flash of understanding.
“I am still Jiang Xunyi.” The corner of Jiang Xunyi’s lip raised as he smiled and looked at Du Li. However, this smile was not soft as the spring breeze, but instead with a touch of vigor and high spirits, adding a sword-like sharpness to his slim figure: “Du Heng is already dead. My apologies, Family Head Du, but you have recognized the wrong person.”
Du Li was originally right in the middle of negotiating with the frightened sect leaders. Given Jiang Xunyi’s wide reputation for obstinate arrogance as well as the “dagger hidden in smiles4” Yun Xie’s currently ambiguous position between enemy and friend… no matter if Du Li had recognized the wrong person or not, those present were completely tense and on guard as if facing a formidable enemy. Their countless mouths and tongues were even more chattery than a gaggle of gossiping villager women, on the verge of talking Du Li to death. Now hearing Jiang Xunyi’s answer, the entirety of this empty village suddenly quieted down. A nearby murder of murky crows seemed to have been startled by this atmosphere, cawing raucously as they flew by overhead and disappeared ominously into the distance.
Du Li’s eyes held the correct amount of amazement and horror. However, for some inexplicable reason, Jiang Xunyi had the persistent feeling that… this person already knew everything deep down. As if Du Li’s surprise wasn’t because Jiang Xunyi wasn’t his brother, but because Jiang Xunyi actually admitted this fact out loud.
Du Li reacted extremely quickly, shaking his head and laughing: “Ah-Heng5, don’t make trouble. Did your sickness strike again?”
Jiang Xunyi: “………” He originally mustered up quite a bit of willpower to stand up and admit his identity, so hearing Du Li’s response did not make him feel particularly good. What was most annoying was how Du Li’s tone was still completely kind and temperate! Was he actually pretending or not?
Du Li turned to the crowd and explained: “I have never seen young master Jiang before, and do not know if his appearance is in fact as similar to my younger brother as you all have identified. However, this child is confused and addled, and I could never mistake my own little brother for another. Ah-Heng, if you open up your clothes and take a look, you can see if your right shoulder has a gold-colored pattern in the shape of a snowflake. That is the snowflake seal carried since childhood by the Du family’s sons of the first wife6. Once the snowflake seal is branded into the body, it will destroy the flesh and extinguish the soul upon death, removing any opportunity for possession or body theft. The seniors present should know this very well, correct?”
The seniors present really did know about this rule in the Du family. However, seeing how Jiang Xunyi’s mannerisms were exactly the same as before… if anyone actually believed he was a fool, they would probably be the real fools here.
Feng Xue was the first to speak: “Fine, then first take off your clothes and let us see.”
Jiang Molou’s wrath prevented his brain from filtering his words before they left his mouth: “Keep dreaming!”
Jiang Xunyi: “…….” Do you know how to use that phrase correctly? If you don’t, please refrain from blindly using it!
He strongly felt he couldn’t continue to “…….” any longer, plus he had absolutely no desire to take off his clothes. A manly man going shirtless was originally no big deal, but now after Jiang Molou’s ‘unique’ choice of words, the situation was infinitely weirder. It didn’t help that all these burning gazes were fixated on him. Moreover, why should he prove he is Du Heng?
Jiang Xunyi had no way of denying it, so he simply gave up and didn’t defend himself. Feng Xue’s temper rose: “Come and take it off! What, feeling guilty—”
He hadn’t finished speaking when a powerful gust of wind swept before his eyes. Faced with this great shock, he hurriedly bowed backwards to barely avoid a projectile of overwhelming vital energy. The attack scraped his face like a knife, even shaving off several strands of his white beard. Immediately afterwards, a slender hand curled into the shape of a tiger’s claw, gracefully moving to grip his throat.
Feng Xue was of course no pushover. Despite his shock, he reacted instantly, stretching out one arm to parry the blow and then punching back with his other hand.
Jiang Xunyi did not dodge or evade, his fist attacking in the same manner. The two fists clashed right into each other, knocking both parties back several steps. Jiang Xunyi flung out his sleeves and sneered: “Still can’t recognize who I am?”
Feng Xue had previously had his reputation besmirched because of his daughter’s disgrace, so he hated Jiang Xunyi down to his very bones. They had exchanged blows countless times, both in secret and out in the open. Even though he hadn’t been the one to kill Jiang Xunyi in the end, he was absolutely familiar with Jiang Xunyi’s moves, and abruptly flew into a rage: “Brute! It really is you!”
He raised his sword, ready to rush forward again, but his wrist was blocked by someone from the side, knocking his heavy sword out of his hands onto the ground.
Feng Xue turned his head to see his blocker clearly. He suppressed his anger: “Sect Master Yun, I have always treated you with the utmost courtesy. You clearly know that this brat humiliated Qiu-Er8, so don’t stick your nose into other people’s business. You, how are you worthy of Qiu-Er’s affection for you?”
Every time Yun Xie heard about the matter of “Jiang Xunyi raping Feng Qiu,” he felt the sourness and bitterness of someone force-feeding him two pounds of coptis juice9. Most uncomfortable, even now he still didn’t know for certain whether this incident was true or false. All this time, his breath had been suffocated in his chest, unable to be released. Now that Feng Xue had brought the matter up, he couldn’t help but shoot a fierce glare at Jiang Xunyi, before turning his head to speak calmly to Feng Xue: “Family Head Feng, I say, you’re already getting up there in years, so all your pretentious swaggering has long since lost any amusement value. Given the way you typically treat Feng-Shijie, do you think us all blind and deaf?”
Jiang Xunyi did not see Yun Xie glaring at him. Instead, it was Du Li who murmured to himself for a moment and then opened his mouth to speak: “Sect Master Yun, even though I have never had the honor of meeting with you before, I have often heard of the famous Dual Jades of the Spirit Stage. It was said that you two had a deep and profound friendship back in the day, so you must definitely recognize Jiang Xunyi’s appearance. Does Sect Master Yun also intend to stubbornly insist my little brother is young master Jiang, thus endangering him?”
Yun Xie naturally understood Du Li was hinting for him to avoid screwing Jiang Xunyi over and to hurriedly pluck him out of this messy situation. However, he didn’t agree with this approach at all, instead proudly declaring: “Jiang Xunyi is Jiang Xunyi. Will that fact change whether I acknowledge it or not? What’s so shameful about that name? Please pardon my ignorance, I don’t understand.”
Feng Xue grew angry: “What about him isn’t shameful? He originally was the spawn of a lowly brothel slave, born to be base and treacherous!”
Yun Xie flew into a fury: “You old fart, what are you saying?!”
Jiang Xunyi couldn’t bear it any longer. He raised his hand and unsheathed his sword, ready to beat the living daylights out of this old man. But at this time, a quiet feminine voice whispered: “……Xunyi.”
Jiang Xunyi’s hand paused.
It was Feng Qiu.
1. Fun fact: 惊雷 lit. “shocking thunder” is used to refer to both a “shocking turn of events” and the actual sound of a thunderclap.
2. Du Li is referred to as a “庶子.” 庶 means he was born of a concubine, not the main wife. The opposite of 庶 is 嫡 (see footnote 6).
3. 水火不容 lit. “water and fire do not mix.” The English equivalent would probably be the phrase “like oil and water”
4. 笑里藏刀 lit. “dagger/knife hidden in smiles”
5. Just like how Yun Xie calls Jiang Xunyi “Ah-Xun”, Du Li similarly nicknames Du Heng by taking the first character of his name and adding “Ah-” in front.
6. Du Heng is referred to as a “嫡子” where 嫡 means “legitimate” or “born of the first/main wife”
7. Jiang Molou specifically says “你痴心妄想!” This is similar in tone to the phrase “Keep Dreaming” which is usually “做梦!”. However, 痴心妄想 has the added connotation of a particularly fond dream or wishful thinking.
8. Feng Xue adds 儿 (ér) to Feng Qiu’s name. This is an affectionate nickname for someone you see as a beloved child. You might recall that Immortal Master Ti Ming referred to Jiang Xunyi as Xun-Er and Yun Xie as Xie-Er, and Wu Tianqi referred to his daughter Wu Hui as Hui-Er.
9. 黄连汁 is the juice of the plant Coptis chinensis, also known as Chinese goldthread and known for its very bitter flavor.