Pulling Together a Villain Reformation Strategy – Chapter 43

I talked with Cheerio, who will be picking up the translation of this novel from here on out! They have already translated chapters 44 through 46, and have done a wonderful job. See bottom for the rest of this important announcement.

Please let me know if my translations can be improved! (You should be reading this at penjournalhappy.wordpress.com)

 

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Chapter 43 – Life and Death

 

Although riding flying swords allowed the two of them to move quickly, this method of transportation also made them a very visible target. Therefore, after turning two mountain bends, Yun Xie neatly put away his sword and leapt back down to earth with Jiang Xunyi. He did not even look at Jiang Xunyi, only silently started to walk forward.

He felt like a fire had been lit in his chest, the tongues of flame licking his heart nonstop as if roasting the flesh and blood, the sheer pain capable of driving a person mad.

“Jiang Xunyi.” Yun Xie hesitated for a long time before opening his mouth.

Behind him, Jiang Xunyi followed him silently, only letting out a “Mm.”

Yun Xie said: “You didn’t kill that woman just now, they framed you for her death, right?”

This system had not mentioned this matter, so Jiang Xunyi nodded without even needing to think about it.

Yun Xie abruptly stopped in his tracks and turned around, his expression extremely serious: “Then tell me they also framed you for what happened to Feng Qiu, you never did such a thing!”

“……” Jiang Xunyi stayed silent.

Yun Xie felt his patience had almost reached its limit. He gritted his teeth: “Fucking say something!”

Jiang Xunyi didn’t want to repeat that sentence again. That would make him feel like he had given in and succumbed. But since Yun Xie insisted on asking, he paused for a moment, helpless, and could only say lightly: “Yeah, if I didn’t do it, why would I admit to it?”

Yun Xie’s eyes immediately turned bloodshot. Jiang Xunyi had never expected such a dramatic reaction out of him, and he looked at Yun Xie with a mix of both shock and puzzlement.

Yun Xie’s voice quavered, but his expression was fierce: “Jiang Xunyi, you know what? I really want to kill you right now.”

“…” Jiang Xunyi truly could never have expected that Yun Xie actually liked Feng Qiu this much.

Yun Xie sucked in another breath and gritted his teeth: “But at the very thought of killing you, I’d rather first die myself. I… goddamn, fucking, shit!! What am I supposed to do with you!”

He didn’t know what was going on with himself——his hands seemed to be on the verge of escaping his own control, always trembling and moving towards the hilt of his sword. His breath stuck in his throat, yet he also feared he would accidentally hurt Jiang Xunyi just like last time at Xuan Li’s tomb. After venting out those sentences, he glared at Jiang Xunyi: “Stay away from me.”

Yun Xie had rarely, if ever, showed such a nasty attitude to him. In fact, this was the first time Jiang Xunyi had ever heard him swear so profanely. But uncharacteristically, Jiang Xunyi did not retort back either.

No matter the time or place, even after all his relatives and friends had betrayed him, only Yun Xie would still stand by his side without hesitation. He had originally come to this world for the sake of the protagonist, yet it seemed like Yun Xie was the one always accompanying him instead.

[Friendly Reminder: the task completion progress has reached 99%, may the host continue to work hard. ]

Hearing this voice again, Jiang Xunyi decided to cut the bullshit, and directly said: “Contact customer service, immediately.”

Thanks to his irrefutable attitude, he was able to quickly connect with customer service. The cold mechanical syllables were thus replaced with a gentle female voice, though Jiang Xunyi knew perfectly well this was just another piece of programmed artificially intelligent data. Still, this one was slightly more advanced, capable of actual communication.

“Greetings, I am happy to be of service to your honored self.”

Jiang Xunyi said: “I haven’t been very well lately, and want to ask you something.”

“Please go ahead and ask your question.”

——————————————————————————

 

Within the austere gloom of the Buddhist temple’s rear hall, Jiang Xunyi’s slender fingers clenched and he slammed the《Rising Clouds, Billowing Skies》book shut: “Old man, I have no wish to continue. Why did you show me this thing? More than anyone else, I know exactly what happened. Just tell me your purpose directly.”

Great Master He Deng shook his head: “Young master Jiang, if you don’t even dare to face your own past, what else can you do?”

In contrast to the seriousness of his words, his face displayed an extremely annoying grin. Jiang Xunyi frowned: “I don’t dare to face my past? No, I just find it vexing to see all over again!”

He paused for a moment, drumming the knuckle of his index finger on the table, before he calmed himself and continued: “I’ve already roughly understood what you want me to comprehend from this. Flipping through this book, I could vaguely feel Yun Xie’s thoughts and state of mind. There was a faint demonic energy hiding in his primordial spirit, which grew stronger and stronger over time. Then when his own emotions became irritable, the demonic energy absorbed those negative emotions, and he began showing signs of losing control at any moment. Why was this happening?”

Great Master He Deng pressed his palms together devoutly: “Amitabha, this old monk admires young master Jiang’s keen mind. However, don’t forget, you were the one who sealed one of Demon Sovereign Xuan Li’s mortal souls into Sect Leader Yun’s primordial spirit.”

Jiang Xunyi: “…….”

Great Master He Deng sighed: “When Sect Leader Yun’s emotions became too agitated, the Demon Sovereign’s mortal soul within him was able to amplify in strength and temporarily control his consciousness. It could be said that your true killer wasn’t Sect Leader Yun, but Demon Sovereign Xuan Li. In fact, everything about this matter can be traced back to your own actions.”

Although he didn’t say it out loud, the words “you reap what you sow” were written all over his face.

Jiang Xunyi was stifled for a moment. Now he finally understood why he didn’t get to go home after his death——because the system calculated that his killer was Demon Sovereign Xuan Li and not Yun Xie. Basically, he died for nothing.

Upon reaching this conclusion, his temper of course flared up: “But this is how the plot was supposed to progress! In the future, Yun Xie will refine Xuan Li’s mortal soul and thus achieve a great leap forward in his cultivation——Isn’t that how it’s supposed to go?”

Great Master He Deng said: “The plot is a dead thing, but people are living beings. You should understand that given Sect Leader Yun’s skill and personality, he originally should not have been susceptible to the influence of a single mortal soul. However, the obsession in his heart ran too deep. Love has never bowed to the control of humans, and even the plot could not have predicted Sect Leader Yun’s state of mind to change so much. ”

Jiang Xunyi only half understood what he was saying, and that half was enough to catch him off guard: “I really couldn’t tell that Yun Xie actually liked Qiu-shijie to this extent. If I’d known this earlier, I wouldn’t…. Sigh, that was a miscalculation on my part.”

Great Master He Deng: “……”

Jiang Xunyi silently turned around to stare at the book lying on the table, feeling as if the longstanding resentment in his heart was slowly shattering and crumbling. Shaking his head, he let out a sigh at the vicissitudes of life, though his lips curved up in a smile.

Looking back, Jiang Xunyi and Yun Xie could be said to bear equal responsibility and blame for everything that happened. But now that Jiang Xunyi knew killing him wasn’t Yun Xie’s intention, he felt everything he himself had done up until now was too ridiculous.

At this moment, while he was still lost in thought, a powerful force abruptly attacked him from behind. Caught off guard, Jiang Xunyi toppled forward, until he involuntarily fell into the golden light emanating from《Rising Clouds, Billowing Skies》.

In that brief instant, he only had enough time to silently yell in his heart: “He Deng, you conniving, backstabbing bald bastard!”

 

—————-

 

The world seemed to whirl before his eyes. When the spinning stopped, he had just regained consciousness when he heard a female voice tenderly say: “Please go ahead and ask your question.”

This was… the mountain cliffside he had been recalling through the book just now. Jiang Xunyi wanted to open his mouth to respond, but he discovered he had no control over his own body. It seemed that He Deng wanted him to re-experience these bygone happenings, but did not want him to change the course of events.

Jiang Xunyi heard his own voice going straight to the point: “Hey, the task you guys gave me is to ‘die by Yun Xie’s sword’, right? Then is it alright if I steal his sword and commit suicide?”

Customer Service: “……” It had likely never heard such blatant bargaining coming from a host before. For a long while, its mechanical mind was unable to react.

Jiang Xunyi pondered it over to himself: “Or the next time he takes out his sword, I could take advantage of that moment and throw myself onto the blade. Yun Xie has always treated me as a good brother, I can’t screw him over like this. If I made him stab me to death himself, it would likely be an unpleasant experience for him.”

At this thought, he couldn’t help but mockingly laugh out loud. He continued in his mind: “Anyway, you guys always want the best for the protagonist, isn’t that right?”

Hearing his own voice say such a thing, Jiang Xunyi couldn’t help but quietly sigh. He silently scolded his past self: “Idiot.”

The customer service finally spoke, that sweet voice seeming even more treacherous than before: “There is no need to worry so much. I guarantee that your task will be completed very smoothly, in no time at all.”

At this time, Jiang Xunyi caught a glimpse of a burst of glaringly bright blue light out of the corner of his eye. He abruptly looked back, just in time to see Yun Xie holding his sword, stabbing directly towards his chest——

 

 

While Jiang Xunyi was arguing and bargaining with customer service just now, Yun Xie had silently continued walking, growing more and more irritable with every step. He had no desire to talk to Jiang Xunyi at all, but there were no other distractions available at this time, so he had no choice but to look for something to talk about: “Where are we headed?”

Without giving Jiang Xunyi the opportunity to answer, he quickly continued: “Hey, I say, how about this? Since you’ve done such a wicked deed, you probably don’t need to return to Hidden Spirit. I heard that the far north is desolate and uninhabited, nothing but thousands of miles of ice and snow. We might as well go there and never come back out again, just the two of us. How’s that sound? Are you willing to give it a try?”

Jiang Xunyi didn’t answer. He was busy talking to customer service.

Yun Xie instantly raised his voice: “You’re not willing?!”

He heard Jiang Xunyi laugh mockingly behind him.

This laugh was like the last straw that broke the camel’s back. The scant remnants of Yun Xie’s reason and sanity were swept clean out of his mind. His long fingers finally grasped the hilt of the Bright River sword, and he heard a voice echoing from the depths of his own heart——I want to kill him, I’m going to kill him, I must kill him!

Kill him and he will never leave my side, will never fall in love with another person, will never make me angry again.

Kill him!

 

 

——On the other side, Jiang Xunyi could only watch history repeat itself, as that sword stabbed at his own chest without even a hint of hesitation. Even though he already knew the whole story, he couldn’t help but sigh.

In fact, from beginning to end, he had never feared death. He was only unwilling for things to end like this.

 

The sword aura, itself as sharp as a knife, scraped his face as it passed by. The edge whistled by his ear, until it slammed into the mountain cliff behind Jiang Xunyi, embedding itself in the stone. Jiang Xunyi abruptly felt his body lighten up, and he discovered he could now move around at will. Just as he was about to turn his head to look back in amazement, he had already been wrapped in a tight embrace.

At the critical moment, Yun Xie had redirected the Bright River sword and prevented it from hurting Jiang Xunyi. He then rushed over and hugged him without a single word.

Yun Xie’s entire body trembled, apparently still immersed in the fear of that moment, but he still embraced Jiang Xunyi tightly. His arms exerted immense effort, as if through this hug he could shield Jiang Xunyi from all that pain and suffering, and never be separated from Jiang Xunyi ever again.

Jiang Xunyi suddenly understood: the Yun Xie in front of him was no longer the Yun Xie of the past.

The instant he reached this epiphany, the surrounding scene seemed to transform into countless sparkling stars and fade away into thin air, dissipating like dust in the wind. In the blink of an eye, the two of them were already back inside that desolate temple.

 

Great Master He Deng beamed from ear to ear, pressing his palms together devoutly once more: “Amitabha, has Sect Master Yun hugged enough?”

The thickness of Yun Xie’s face was not inferior to that of a city wall. He didn’t move an inch, as sticky as ever: “Even if I hugged my entire life, it still wouldn’t be enough.”

 

 

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To recap, Cheerio will be taking over the translation of this novel from here on out! I have faith in the continuing excellent quality of their translations, and I’ve put the link to chapter 44 as the Next Chapter above. Plus here’s the formal link to the continuing translation: https://cheeriotranslation.wordpress.com/blog-2/

With this project apparently stopping here (at least for now)… I want to thank you all for your enthusiasm and love over these past two years. Even if I seem silent and have frequently dropped off to take long hiatuses (whoops), I’ve always read and enjoyed every single one of your guys’ comments. I would never have continued this project if it weren’t for your guys’ support ❤

Last but not least, this isn’t the end for my involvement with VRS. If there’s ever a need for continued translations of VRS, whether it’s the main story or the extras (or additional JXY backstory from the author’s other novels?), I’ll be happy to step up.

Thank you to all of you, and may everyone stay safe in these times!

-Attica

A Tale of Strategies For the Throne – Chapter 3

Please let me know where my translations can be improved! (You should be reading this at penjournalhappy.wordpress.com)

 

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Chapter 3

 

After one dazed second where the hem of his tunic fluttered freely in the breeze, Garlan abruptly flipped himself over and sat back up. Ignoring the pain from his legs being scraped by the uneven cobblestones, he knelt on the ground, tightly clamping his thighs together. His hands fiercely pressed his clothing over a certain key part, his little face flushing as red as a beet.

Why did he just have to embarrass himself in front of this fellow in particular!
Letting out a mournful cry in his heart, Garlan felt his entire face practically burning from humiliation. He pursed his lips and lowered his head, wishing he could just bury his head between his legs. He did not dare raise his head to see the expression of the man in front of him at this moment.

Hurry and leave, hurry and leave, stay away from me, the farther the better.
He desperately chanted these words in his heart, peeking out of the corner of his eye at the two feet still standing before him. All he wanted was for the other party to hurry and get lost already, so he could escape from this awkwardness and recover even a modicum of his lost dignity.

However, that person could not hear the thoughts in his heart. Those two legs seemed to be rooted in the ground before him, completely motionless.

Garlan buried his flushed face even further, but he could still feel Heimos staring at him.
He hatefully ground his teeth, yet there was no way he could open his mouth and tell this fellow to hurry and get lost already. All he could do was silently curse him in the safety of his own mind.
So it turns you’ve never been able to read the atmosphere of a room from an early age——just look at how awkward this scene is, why are you still standing here? Hurry and go away, preferably as far away as possible!
I remember you’re not the type of person who eagerly watches a lively scene, right? So by standing still, you’re deliberately trying to embarrass me, aren’t you?

Just as Garlan was using maximum maliciousness to guess the thoughts of this young Heimos, all while still so mortified he had no idea what to do himself… the pair of feet in his lowered line of sight finally moved.

Hurry up and leave, hurry up and leave, hurry up and leave already please.
Just as the silently chanting Garlan let out a sigh of relief, the very next second, his heart leapt into his throat. Because he saw the pair of feet did not turn around to depart, but instead stepped forward towards him.

Wait wait wait wait wait——
Wh-wh-what, what are you trying to doooooo——

At the sight of Heimos approaching him, Garlan’s vigilance and cautiousness finally overpowered his utter embarrassment. He abruptly raised his head to see what this person was trying to do.
As soon as he looked up, before he could even focus his eyes, his arm had already been grabbed by the other person’s hands.
With a yank, before he could even react, his entire body had already been pulled up off the ground.

Garlan stood in his original spot and looked up at that man with wide eyes.
He saw a face that could be said to be both familiar and unfamiliar… However, either way, it was definitely a very different face from the one he remembered.

The person who had picked him up was currently just a twelve or thirteen year old youth, a childlike air still suffusing his brows. Fine black hair was scattered rather messily around the corners of his eyes. His jaw was slightly pointed, and the outline of the face looked to be on the thin side. But because his skeleton was currently in the middle of rapid growth, his body did not appear skinny. Although he was only three or four years older than Garlan, he was almost a full head taller.

Garlan stared blankly at that face.
In his memory, that man’s face was always calculating and sinister, as if eternally wreathed in deep shadow. His brows had unconsciously exuded a hint of baleful aura, like a viper hidden in the dark.
But looking at this still immature face before him right now, he could not find even a wisp of the persistent chilly aura that had shrouded the man in his memory.

Just as these thoughts were swirling in his mind, he suddenly saw the young Heimos scan him over from top to bottom, and then reach out a hand.
Garlan’s heart skipped a beat, and he instinctively raised his arms in a resisting posture.

His blocking hands obscured his own vision, so he naturally could not see what the other party was planning to do.
Then, the very next second, he felt a hand patting his butt.

The young child abruptly leapt into the air.

What the heck was Heimos trying to do?!

When his butt was patted a second time, Garlan finally reacted, instantly leaping away and turning to face the young Heimos who had moved to his side.
He covered his buttocks with his hands, raising his head to glare furiously at this fellow who had actually dared to pat his butt.

The youth targeted by this glare froze for a moment. Seeing the child huffily scowl and cover his buttocks, he laughed.
Was the child afraid he was going to spank him?
The youth couldn’t help but find this thought amusing. He generously ignored the little child’s glare, instead reaching out a hand to rub the child’s head. Then he bent over slightly, his hand continuing to pat the other side of the child’s clothes.

Uh…..
This person… no way…. actually… seems like… he might be…
Helping him pat the dust off his clothes?

As he watched Heimos’s actions, a conjecture that Garlan himself found unbelievable popped into his mind.

???

He kept feeling like… something about this wasn’t right?
That man whose eyes had always stared at him with either vicious venom or murderous intent, who had even killed him four times in various brutal ways… really really really did not seem like the type of gentle person who would help up a fallen child.

………………

Garlan pondered it over.
He felt there was a very real possibility that he had encountered a fake Heimos.

While he was lost in contemplation, this fake young Heimos had already patted Garlan’s clothes clean of all the dust that had accumulated with his tumble.
Heimos looked at the child in front of him—that white and tender face was so cute and round, the baby fat making those little cheeks look like buns, filling one with the almost irresistible urge to stretch out a finger and poke those soft cheeks.

Just now, when he had picked up this child who had keeled over in fright, Heimos couldn’t help but frown at the sight of that blushing face. That soft and delicate skin was likely the result of having been thoroughly spoiled, so this child was sure to start crying and making a fuss. He had always found those types of brats quite annoying, so after picking the child up, he intended to hurry away as fast as he could so as to avoid having to listen to this child’s wails.

But what surprised him was that the child did not cry or yell upon being picked up, only looked up at him. Those big round eyes just stared at him, looking thoroughly silly and a little pitiful. For some unknown reason, Heimos’s heart moved slightly. At the uncomfortable sight of those miniature lotus root-like arms and legs stained with dirt, he unconsciously reached out and patted the dust off.

With this pat, the originally obedient and quiet child instantly jumped up, covering his butt with his hands and then shooting him a glare.

The child probably thought that glare was very imposing and powerful. But what Heimos saw was a child tilting his head slightly, looking at him with a pair of watery golden amber eyes, soft eyelashes fluttering from time to time. The pale blond hair surrounding the little face was slightly curled, looking fluffy to the touch, framing those cheeks still filled with baby fat and making the little face appear even smaller.

Like a newborn animal cub that believed it could bite off a person’s hand, diligently tickling a person’s fingers with soft teeth that hadn’t yet grown in.

He couldn’t help but want to laugh.
But in order to avoid making this child angrier, he held his laughter back and just rubbed that head of fluffy blond hair.

Mm, nice and soft, feels great to the touch.
So he rubbed it again.

……

The nemesis I’m destined to meet on the battlefield in a bloody life-or-death struggle just witnessed my most embarrassing moment, patted my butt, and even rubbed my head… What am I supposed to do?

Having been constantly messed with by Heimos from the beginning up until now, Garlan felt very stifled and wronged.
However, no matter how stifled he felt, he also knew it was definitely not a good idea to get into a fight with Heimos right now.

The moment he knew himself to be only eight or nine years old, he immediately realized his nemesis must also be only around twelve or thirteen. However, before he could make any mental preparations on how he would treat this young Heimos upon encountering him… he had already collided face to face with his nemesis completely out of the blue.
…And even made a complete and utter fool of himself right before the other’s eyes.

At the very thought that his nemesis would probably remember this embarrassing gaffe for a lifetime and might even continuously bring it up to spite him, Garlan began to feel every one of his organs start to throb and ache.

Wait a second.
On that topic, wasn’t this fellow the culprit behind his gaffe in the first place?
If it wasn’t for this person suddenly patting his shoulder from behind and scaring his unsuspecting self, he wouldn’t have fallen over.

……No, wait a minute, why did Heimos pat his shoulder?
Garlan once again began to use maximum maliciousness to guess the other’s motivations.
Could it be that just now, Heimos had been trying to secretly push him into the pond and drown him?

#Heimos is always trying to kill me, this is definitely not my own paranoia stemming from having experienced four deaths#

Once this possibility emerged in his mind, the originally hesitant and wavering Garlan immediately went on high alert.
Even if Heimos was just a child, that was still his nemesis. He absolutely must not let his guard down. He only has one final life left—if he’s killed one more time, he’ll die for real.

After thinking it over, he felt his first priority should be to determine the other party’s purpose in approaching him, so he opened his mouth to speak.
“Were you looking for me?”

The child’s voice was as soft as sweet drops of water tumbling into fluffy white clouds, enough to make anyone’s heart melt.

Garlan himself was taken aback at the sound of his own voice.
His voice was cute and soft, as tender as a little girl’s.

Oh, that’s right.
A gloomy realization struck Garlan’s mind.
An eight or nine year old child hadn’t yet reached the period of puberty where their voice changed, so their voice would naturally be this tender and delicate…

…………

Alright, he could ignore this issue of voice changes, since he just had to endure this for a few years. The highest priority item right now was to solve the underwear problem. He absolutely couldn’t endure not being able to wear underwear for a few years.

“Come with me, I’ll take you back.”
Heimos’s voice was exactly the opposite of Garlan’s, unstable and hoarse. After all, at thirteen years old, he was currently right in the middle of puberty’s voice changes, so his voice was rather unpleasant to the ear.
He extended his hand to Garlan, who hesitated for a moment. Finally, with no small amount of discomfort and unfamiliarity, Garlan grasped the same hand that had stabbed him to death not long ago.

He couldn’t figure out the current situation, so the best course of action would be to go with the flow of the other party first.

Probably because of his constantly cracking and breaking voice, the youth preferred not to talk. Holding Garlan’s little hand, he led the child out of the garden. Although he was only three or four years older than Garlan, he was in the middle of his growth spurt so his legs were longer, making his strides wide and fast. The unfortunately still short-legged Garlan had to jog to keep up with him.

Only a few steps in, a sudden sharp pain came from his left ankle, and Garlan tripped forward. If it weren’t for Heimos holding his hand, he would have crashed head-first into the ground.

Heimos stopped and looked back at him.

It seemed he had twisted his ankle during his stumble.
Looking up, Garlan met a certain someone’s questioning eyes, and hurriedly shook his head.
“I’m okay, I wasn’t paying attention just now and tripped.”

Before he even finished his sentence, a pair of hands reached over, grabbing under his armpits and lifting up his small body. Then he was placed back down onto a nearby flat white stone.
The youth squatted down in front of him, holding his left foot with one hand and lifting it up.

Garlan reacted very quickly: the instant his foot was lifted up, he abruptly slammed the hem of his clothes down to firmly cover a certain key part——now he understood the suffering of short skirt-wearing girls, having to constantly watch out for accidental exposures.
He angrily thought, right now he was basically wearing a short skirt himself, one with nothing underneath——nothing, absolutely nothing!!

This damn custom!
He huffily shot a glance at Heimos.
Unlike him, Heimos was wearing slightly tight cloth trousers and long black boots that reached up his calf. This was the benefit of being older——little children typically did not wear underwear, but older children would wear long pants.

In fact, the people of this dynasty didn’t wear underwear even as adults, because no such thing as underwear existed during this period. Upon growing up, they would put on something similar to a loincloth and then wear trousers directly over that. Children would generally start wearing trousers around the age of twelve because at that age, boys would learn horse riding and begin training to fight on horseback.

Seeing Garlan move to hold down his clothes, the half-kneeling Heimos was briefly startled. When he understood what Garlan was doing, the corner of his lips couldn’t help but turn up. He then continued examining Garlan’s ankle.
The child’s foot was so small that he could hold the entirety of it in his hand. He checked over the slightly red and swollen area, and tried giving it a gentle squeeze.

The tingling pain in his ankle made Garlan refocus his attention.
He looked down.

……

First ignoring the injury to his foot and the whole underwear business.. at this very moment, Garlan noticed something very significant.
Something that made him incomparably elated and overjoyed.
Less than an hour after his fifth rebirth, he had already successfully realized the dream that only existed in his fantasies, the dream he had previously utterly failed to fulfill despite those four desperate struggles.

Look! He successfully made his nemesis kneel before him——

What a promising and successful start!

 

 

 

 

 

Translated Author’s Notes:

Garlan: Ah, to have people kneel before me without any effort on my part… This is the treatment that belongs to the son of destiny!
A certain voice: Yes, he knelt below your little skirt.
Garlan: ……Shut up.

 

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A Tale of Strategies For the Throne – Chapter 2

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Chapter 2

 

[You failed again.]

In this place so quiet that it seemed as if time itself had stopped, a voice suddenly rang out. Its tone was one of extreme indifference, with no fluctuations or any trace of emotion.
The voice did not originate from any specific place, but instead seemed to come from every direction—from the air, from the earth, from everywhere together, its source impossible to pinpoint.

Clutching his head as he sat cross-legged on the broken stone steps, Garlan raised his head. His fingers had already thoroughly disheveled that soft and short pale blond hair, until it hung messily from his forehead.
Hearing this voice, he let out a long sigh, helplessness written all over his face.
Yes, he failed again.

Counting this attempt, he had already heard this single sentence a full four times. Remembering the very first time, when he had so confidently thumped his own chest and promised to get it done, he dearly wished to transmigrate back in time right now and slap his own face. He desperately wanted to point to his past self and yell, “Who exactly gave you this level of confidence?!”

Garlan stood up and turned around. When his gaze passed over the light gray altar behind him, his heart leapt in his chest. It was still that familiar stone altar, but there were already significant differences compared to its appearance when he had first come to this place. Although in the beginning there were quite a few small cracks in the stone, none were serious. Instead, they made the altar appear more ancient and mysterious, giving it a unique time-weathered beauty.

But at this moment, four deep crevices had broken apart the altar. In particular, the fracture that had just appeared almost split the entire altar into two separate halves. It seemed as if in the very next second, it would shatter completely and become nothing but a pile of useless gravel.

 

——You have five chances to start over from the beginning—— 

 

The words once spoken by that voice sounded in the youth’s ear once again, and he subconsciously clenched his fists.

Five times.
Just five times.
Now, there was only one final time left.
If this attempt ended in failure as well, then…

 

Garlan sucked in a deep breath, dispelling those terrible consequences from his mind and calming himself down. At first, he had regarded this mission to “fulfill destiny” as a game with repeated retries. Only after two deaths did he begin to get nervous. However, during the third and fourth times, he had worked very hard, truly like his very life depended on it. Yet in the end, he was still defeated by that man.

That man… was truly too terrible, almost without a single flaw.
No matter what aspect they competed in, that man would absolutely crush him.
Even now, Garlan had no idea what he should do in order to emerge victorious over that terrifying fellow.

That fellow really showed no mercy.
Though regarding that matter, Garlan had nothing to complain about.
After all, even blood brothers would turn on each other in their wars for the throne. While he and Heimos were completely unrelated, even if one searched eight generations back in their family trees.

Although he was not a direct descendant of the royal line, ever since he was established as “Prince Brother1,” Garlan possessed a nominal right to inherit the throne.
And though Heimos was not given the title of “Prince Brother,” he possessed the direct blood of the royal family through his maternal grandmother, so he also had a right to inherit the throne.
However, Heimos’s position in the line of inheritance was lower than the “Prince Brother” Garlan’s.
Therefore, only by killing him could Heimos sit on the throne.

“Are you sure your so-called gods didn’t get it wrong?”
He couldn’t help but ask.
“Is the son of destiny really me, and not that Heimos fellow?”

[The gods cannot be wrong.]
The emotionless voice answered.

Then why would they let the son of destiny get killed?
Garlan subconsciously complained in his heart.

However, in this place, even if he didn’t say anything out loud, the other party seemed to be able to hear the very thoughts in his heart. The voice immediately retaliated with ice-cold disdain.
[Even destiny itself cannot change the asininity and hopelessness of its bearer.]

Garlan: “……….”

As a messenger of the gods, shouldn’t you be free of all emotions and desires, as unmoving as a mountain? What’s with this mocking tone?

The suffocated youth couldn’t help but open his mouth to complain.
“You can’t blame it all on me… I only get a single year’s worth of time per attempt, what else can I do?”

He felt that the specific time point he was being continuously sent back to was a very inopportune moment. At that time point, he was only fifteen or sixteen years old, while his opponent was actually a few years older. In addition, the supporting factions for both sides had already mostly coalesced, and the battle lines were already drawn. It was unclear what exactly the original body had done, but his influence was objectively much weaker than Heimos’s. A single year was nowhere near enough time to alter the balance of power between them. And since the other party almost never made any mistakes or revealed any flaws, he didn’t even have a clue where to start.

Every single time, he wasn’t able to live long before getting killed. At least this time he had held on for a whole year and a half. Wasn’t that a great leap in progress compared to the first attempt, where he wasn’t even able to survive one year?
He comforted himself so in the bottom of his heart.

Apparently the voice heard his self-consoling thoughts, and responded again.
[Heh2.]

Garlan: “……….”

I was wrong, please no bully.

When that thought popped into his head, the youth’s heart skipped a beat. Crap, the other party probably heard this sentence too, so he was likely in for another round of ridicule.
However, this time the other party seemed to be deaf to his thoughts. For a long while, that voice did not appear again.

Garlan was a little perturbed and uneasy. During this long silence, he had no idea what the other party was thinking. Did it think he was too useless to the point where it didn’t wish to waste any more time on him? As a result, was it planning to withhold that one last chance?

Since the voice didn’t speak, he didn’t know what to say either. All he could do was stand there in a daze, blankly staring at that old gray altar which looked on the verge of breaking apart. A breeze swept over the jade crowns of the tall trees, shaking the branches and leaves until they rustled quietly. Those numerous broken obelisks encircled the place where he stood, their enormous shadows falling on his body. Even though each and every one had been worn away by the elements, not even a single pebble crumbled off their bodies.

After a long time, the voice finally rang out again.
[Prepare to start over.]

As soon as those words sounded, Garlan only felt his head start to buzz and thud, as if his skull had been hit with a heavy object. His vision darkened and the world seemed to fade away.

On the broken altar, the figure of the boy suddenly disappeared.

With a loud explosion, the split along the gray altar’s surface abruptly expanded and widened. The very next second, the altar completely burst apart, broken rocks spraying into the air and scattering all over the place. Immediately following it, the countless towering obelisks surrounding the altar crumbled and shattered too, toppling to the ground one by one, the earth itself quaking at each impact.

Accompanied by the thundering rumble of collapsing stone, in the blink of an eye, that once magnificent and huge altar had fallen to complete ruin, leaving behind only a field of fragmented boulders.

 

[……one last time.]
Alongside the altar’s collapse, the voice too faded away into annihilation.
[Look out for yourself.]

 

…………

…………………………

 

When he regained consciousness, Garlan pressed his hand to his head and slowly opened his eyes. According to his memory, the first thing he should see when he opens his eyes should be his ornate bedroom with its snow-white velvet curtains, as well as a kneeling beautiful maid gently fanning him with a gold-embroidered iridescent peacock feather fan.

A wind swept over his cheek, stirring the strands of his hair. It wasn’t the gentle breeze of a fan, but the whistling wind that could only be found outdoors, bringing with it a breath of water. He could vaguely hear the rustling of ruffled palm tree fronds, and catch the faint fragrance of lotus flowers.

Feeling something was off, Garlan looked up and immediately froze.

What appeared before his eyes was an extremely familiar scene. Those imposing and ancient white city walls, those straight-backed rows of green palm trees, those stone paths with beautiful designs paved by colorful cobblestones… He himself was currently standing before the white stone sculpture beside the pool, his gaze fixed on those pale blue lotuses swaying amidst their viridian leaves.

No way, did he actually return to the very moment before his death?
Dying right upon arriving, how the heck is he supposed to play this out?!

His hair standing on end out of terror, Garlan rubbed his eyes and took another look, and felt something was off again. The fiery sun in the sky above shone upon the earth, dazzling this rear garden with its blinding light.

Before he died, there had clearly been a torrential rainstorm. Even now, his body still remembered the dull pain left behind by those large raindrops the size of pebbles pounding his flesh, until he had almost toppled over from their force.

Another gust of wind blew by, and his legs shivered from the chill. With every passing second, Garlan felt everything seemed to be more and more off. But at this moment he couldn’t pinpoint exactly what was wrong. All he could do was support himself by resting a hand on the white marble sculpture that was taller than himself, using it as leverage to take a few disoriented steps forward.

Wait a second.
Taller than himself?
He remembered that before, this stone sculpture clearly only reached his waist. How could it be taller than himself?

Garlan subconsciously turned his head, and naturally caught sight of his own hand resting on the stone sculpture. That hand was small and tender, the skin so white that it seemed to be glowing in the bright sunlight.

No, no, no, his hands were not like this, he clearly remembered they weren’t like this, his skin should be on the tan side, and there was no way his hands could be this small.
So small that they seemed to be like a child’s—

Garlan suddenly strode forward, one foot stepping into the water of the pool.
Looking down, he saw his own reflection wavering slightly in the clear water, and his eyes abruptly widened.

Reflected in the water was a child who looked to be only seven or eight years old.
Pale blonde hair, soft and fluffy, nestled around a stunned little face the size of a man’s palm. And those little arms and legs, like lotus roots, round and tender.

No, wait just a sec, what’s going on here?
Did something go wrong? Did he accidentally get reborn into someone else’s body?

The child stared at the water for a while, utterly dumbfounded.

But, although the age was very wrong… this face, this appearance… If grown up a little, it looked like it indeed… really was a miniature version of himself.

Garlan suddenly remembered his previous complaint to the voice: that he only had one year per attempt, which wasn’t enough time for him to do anything.
Could it be that the messenger of the gods took that complaint into account and deliberately gave him some more time, making it so that he was reborn further back into his childhood?

Another gust of wind blew across the water, causing ripples to spread across the surface. The little child shivered, feeling the wind chill his lower body.
…….
Garlan finally understood why his entire body felt off!
He quickly brought his knees together and clamped his thighs with a haste that could almost be called helter-skelter.
That thigh was thoroughly chilled by the blowing wind.

Every attempt before this, he had been fifteen or sixteen when reborn, so he wasn’t able to remember this part until now. But at this moment, his memory was being thoroughly jogged by the wind chilling his thighs as well as… a certain indescribable area of his body.

Here
In this dynasty
Following the customs of this place
Children here… Do. Not. Wear. Any. Underwear!!!

Garlan clamped his legs together in a very awkward posture, his little hands desperately trying to pull down the clothes that currently only covered up to half of his thigh. All those matters of grievances and hatreds, ages and time points, only having one life left, etc. were all thrown on the back burner. Currently, the only thought in his mind was: no matter what, he first needed to find a pair of underwear to put on.

Just as he was fiercely wringing his memory for possible locations where he might be able to find underwear, a hand suddenly stretched out from the side and patted his shoulder.
He unconsciously turned his head. With that glance, his gaze met a pair of incomparably familiar golden red eyes.

In an instant, the memory of what had just happened not long ago in this very place suddenly flashed through his mind.
It seemed as if he had once again returned to that moment not long ago, that moment where the owner of those eyes pierced his heart with a sword, nailing his whole body to the wall.

His heart violently trembled, his brain buzzed and hummed. Death’s memory and shadow instantly enveloped his entire consciousness.

His body instinctively wanted to avoid the person by his side, almost staggering backwards in retreat. But he had forgotten the ground next to the pool was covered in uneven stones, so with this panicked step back, his foot hit a particularly large stone.

Trip.

Garlan instantly lost his balance, his entire body falling backwards. But just as he was toppling over, another gust of wind rushed by, lifting up the hem of the tunic that was already only barely covering his thigh.

As a result, when he tumbled backward onto the stones in front of that person, feet waving at the sky…… He instinctively reached out, moving the fastest he’d ever moved in his entire life, to press the hem of his clothes lifted by the wind back down.

The end result of all this was: when he fell to the ground, he did so in a thoroughly bizarre and ridiculous posture, with his hands pressed against the bottom of his clothes to block a certain key body part.

 

Garlan stuck in a very odd prostrate pose: “…………”
The youth with golden red eyes: “………………”

 

The scene was one of extreme awkwardness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Footnotes:

1. 王弟 = literally “prince + younger brother”. In the context of this novel, it’s a formal title. You’ll see later whose younger brother we’re talking about 😉

2.  呵 is one of many expressions of laughter in Chinese netizen culture. In this context, it is a particularly sarcastic/mocking form of laughter, basically equivalent to saying “wow you’re a dumbass.”

 

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Pulling Together a Villain Reformation Strategy – Chapter 42

1 more chapter of flashback left~ Of note, other translators have expressed interest in this novel (as you can probably see from the NU page), so I’m trying to discuss with them whether they would like to take over the novel translation entirely. For that reason, I’m currently not sure if I’ll be continuing the translation past Chapter 43.

As always, please let me know if my translations can be improved! (You should be reading this at penjournalhappy.wordpress.com)

 

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Chapter 42 – Origins

 

Wanderer Zihui sighed: “Sure enough, the son of a prostitute is the son of a prostitute. Nothing can change the filthy blood that runs in your veins. When Shixiong brought you to the sect back in the day, we were afraid you would be discriminated against so we deliberately concealed this matter. Now it appears that was truly a mistake.”

As soon as this statement came out, another uproar erupted in the crowd. No one had ever known Jiang Xunyi to possess such origins. It appeared that this time, Wanderer Zihui really had made up her mind to hunt down Jiang Xunyi with every tool at her disposal and prevent him from ever getting the chance at a reversal. Not only did she want to prove him to be a morally corrupt scum, she was even tracing back to the roots to declare his entire family to be scum.

Jiang Xunyi hadn’t even known about this matter, but it was a much milder blow than what had happened just now. However, he still couldn’t help but glance at Chen Li.

He really couldn’t see it: this kind of old man would actually visit prostitutes back when he was young?

Then again, he could never have anticipated Chen Li would actually come forward to frame himself…

Jiang Xunyi abruptly burst out laughing and began to slowly pace back and forth: “I see how it is. Very well, for the moment, go ahead and continue.”

Everyone present thought he was already backed into a corner. His ugly behavior had been exposed in public, his closest confidants in the sect were still far away in the Western Regions, and the remaining Hidden Spirit sect members were all chomping at the bit to kill him. Even Yun Xie, normally his closest buddy1, was probably very angry as well, and likely wouldn’t reach out another helping hand. Seeing Jiang Xunyi actually capable of laughing even now, the awe of the crowd was adulterated by a thread of fear.

That was the fear normal people instinctively felt towards lunatics.

Wanderer Zihui herself even retreated backwards in apparent fear. She then realized this action seemed to be diminishing her authority, but was unable to recover her momentum on her own. As a result, she could only force a cough and say: “Bring her forth.”

Immediately, two disciples escorted a woman up to the front of the crowd.

Yun Xie was still in a state of utter fury at Jiang Xunyi’s sentence just now, love and hate naturally intertwining in his heart. Still, at this time he was on guard and protective as always. However, his face was gloomy and his voice dripped with acid as he mocked: “It seems Wanderer Zihui was prepared well in advance.”

Wanderer Zihui didn’t care to engage him: “Sect Leader Yun’s words are not wrong. Back when Shixiong passed away, I felt something was wrong, but Jiang Xunyi’s prestige was too high, and there were too many people who insisted on protecting him no matter what. As a result, I could only investigate in secret. Fortunately, I still harvested quite a bit of results.”

After deriding Yun Xie as being unable to distinguish right and wrong, she added another knife: “So Sect Master Yun can still stand by Jiang Xunyi’s side at this time… I truly don’t know whether this is the result of being stuck too deep in feelings of brotherhood, or whether you don’t believe anything he did was wrong from the start.”

Jiang Xunyi blocked in front of Yun Xie, and said indifferently: “Go ahead and say whatever you want about me, what are you dragging in others for? You’re acting like a village washerwoman.”

But even though his face was calm, he didn’t meet Yun Xie’s eyes.

Zihui’s face flushed at that remark, and she sneered: “Your own mother is a brothel prostitute, yet you actually still have the face to call someone else a village washerwoman. This is my first time witnessing such shamelessness.”

She made way for the woman who had just been brought over, and said to her: “Ning Fen, see for yourself, this is the son Immortal Master Ti Ming took away from you all those years ago.”

This woman named Ning Fen looked to be in her forties. However, everyone present was a cultivator and could therefore see that just like Chen Li, although she was a mortal, she must have taken some kind of spiritual elixir to delay her aging.

She wore a smoky green skirt that had previously been fashionable, with willowy brows and phoenix eyes full of the vigor of spring. It could be seen that when she was young, she had been a great beauty. However, the years had clearly taken their toll–her body had lost its once slender figure, and the thick layers of powder could no longer hide the wrinkles at the corners of her eyes, making for an unbearable contrast to her rich and gaudy makeup.

Jiang Xunyi stood upright with his hands behind his back, his sleeves fluttering in the mountain wind, making his elegant demeanor even more prominent. The eyes of the onlookers wandered back and forth between the two, attempting to find traces of their mother-child relationship.

Jiang Xunyi himself was also observing her, although currently he could not find any sense of familiarity in that makeup-covered face. On the other hand, the woman jumped straight to unsolicited familiarity. At Wanderer Zihui’s words, she instantly made up her mind and rushed up, reaching out a hand to shove Jiang Xunyi: “You conscienceless bastard! I2 spent all that much goddamn effort giving birth to you, but when you take flight into the sky you don’t even fucking come back to see me and send me some money. Those despicable guests don’t even give money when they visit me, how am I supposed to go on! You don’t even pay an ounce of care to your own mother, what kind of chivalrous hero are you? Why hasn’t the Lord of Thunder Bodhisattva in the sky grown eyes already and struck your shameless face down with a bolt of lightning!”

She sobbed as she spoke, her tears washing her colorful makeup down the wrinkles of her skin. Jiang Xunyi had never been scolded like this in both of his lives added together, especially when the scolding party was suspected to be his mother. He couldn’t retaliate with either words or fists, and was momentarily more than a little confused, to the point where he forgot about his anger just now.

This farce was utterly ridiculous and contemptible. To the side, some people revealed an expression of gloating and schadenfreude as they looked on with gusto. Others secretly sighed that Jiang Xunyi, once a hero of a generation, had now actually fallen to such an extent. Unable to watch any further, they looked away and averted their gazes.

Ning Fen continued scolding him with increasingly unpleasant language, even starting to audibly slap Jiang Xunyi’s arm, when she was caught off guard by a sharp pain in her shoulder. She was then actually pulled straight off Jiang Xunyi and pushed to the side.

Yun Xie’s expression was dark: “Are you looking for death?”

If it wasn’t still unclear whether she really was Jiang Xunyi’s biological mother, he would long have beaten this woman to death already.

Unexpectedly, Ning Fen glanced over at Yun Xie and her eyes suddenly brightened. Not only was she not annoyed, she even shuffled over to lean on him, stroking Yun Xie’s chest and smiling softly, “Wow, this little gege is so handsome.”

Jiang Xunyi: “…” This definitely isn’t his mother, he absolutely doesn’t have a mother who calls Yun Xie gege!!!

Yun Xie had also been completely thrown off by this turn of events. He shot a gloomy look at his new “nephew” Jiang Xunyi, and managed to pull Ning Fen’s hand off his chest with great restraint.

Yun Xie said: “Wanderer Zihui, you have your own dignity to keep in mind. Finding such a woman to make these kinds of irresponsible remarks here, do you think that’s enough to make people believe your words?”

Wanderer Zihui did not panic, and said to Ning Fen: “Take out your documents and show them to the various Immortal Masters here.”

Ning Fen actually carried such a thing on her… As the documents circulated through the crowd, Wanderer Zihui explained: “Back then, Ti Ming-shixiong saw Jiang Xunyi possessed excellent spiritual roots and was a rare seedling suitable for cultivation. He could not bear to let him grow up in a brothel, so out of great kindness and benevolence, he brought him back to the sect. But he was also afraid that the separated mother and son would not have any means of identifying each other, so he left behind this document. It is stamped with the sect master seal of the Hidden Spirit Sect. However, one’s blood and innate nature cannot be changed. He could never have imagined back then that Jiang Xunyi would grow up into such scum and become our sect’s shame.”

The documents finally reached Jiang Xunyi’s hands. He looked them over, silent.

However, Chen Yuanxin insisted on asking at this time: “Young master Jiang, you are Immortal Master Ti Ming’s proudest disciple. Tell us, is this document legitimate?”

Jiang Xunyi did not deny or resist, and slowly said: “It is legitimate.”

His face sullen, Yun Xie whispered, “Jiang Xunyi, are you crazy? This kind of thing should be denied to the very end…”

Before he finished talking, Ning Fen had already pounced back over, standing on her toes to seize Jiang Xunyi’s collar: “Little bastard, now do you recognize me?”

Too lazy to avoid her, Jiang Xunyi allowed her to grab his chest, and said: “Let me tell you…”

But just as those words left his mouth, his expression changed and he propped up Ning Fen’s arm away from himself.

Fresh blood trickled down from their staggered overlapping figures.

Yun Xie thought Jiang Xunyi had been injured and immediately forgot all his anger: “Ah-Xun!”

At the call of his name, Jiang Xunyi looked back at him in stunned confusion. His body turned to the side, revealing the dagger half buried in the woman’s chest and the gurgling blood bubbling up from the wound.

Ning Fen’s face was ashen and her eyes protruded from her sockets. Like a dying fish, she gasped continuously for air, pinching Jiang Xunyi’s arm with extreme force and opening her mouth to speak, but was unable to say a single word.

Someone in the crowd shouted: “Look out! Jiang Xunyi flew into a rage from embarrassment and killed his own mother!”

Yun Xie immediately reacted: this wasn’t done by Jiang Xunyi. He rushed up and grabbed Ning Fen, sending spiritual energy into her body to try and prolong her life. He hurriedly shouted: “Quickly say! Who was it who killed you?”

Ning Fen struggled for a few seconds, before her head tilted to the side and she took her last breath.

Wanderer Zihui’s voice was astonished: “Jiang Xunyi, are you truly so heartless and conscienceless that you even murdered your mother?”

Yun Xie was about to speak, when Jiang Xunyi suddenly lowered his voice to whisper: “Don’t say any more, she committed suicide!”

It was only thanks to his extraordinarily mental clarity and stability that his brain was able to process the exact sequence of events, even after all the chaos that had happened up to this point. After a stunned moment, Yun Xie immediately realized that if Ning Fen had committed suicide, then no matter if she was Jiang Xunyi’s biological mother or not, everything about this situation was a premeditated trap.

They could not stay in this place for long! Various thoughts raced through Yun Xie’s mind. He made the prompt decision to stand up, and suddenly pulled out his sword to slash mercilessly towards the weakest person present: Feng Qiu.

Quite a few people thought he was about to kill the witness, and exclamations of “What are you doing!” rang out as they leapt forward to save Feng Qiu.

A burst of swordlight flashed through the air, momentarily exerting a fierce pressure to the point where the onlookers almost couldn’t catch their breath. Amidst the mass surprise, Feng Xue blocked in front of Feng Qiu, ready to bear the brunt of the attack. He was just about to resist with all his strength, when he unexpectedly discovered: Yun Xie’s slash was only a bluff. After blinding the crowd, Yun Xie immediately took off running, sweeping his dazzling sword radiance in a large arc to force the crowd to retreat. He pulled Jiang Xunyi onto his sword and called Bright River to fly up into the sky, both of them vanishing into the distance in the span of a mere breath.

The two of them were actually able to escape!

Seeing this, Wanderer Zihui was so furious she threw her sword to the ground with a clang, and yelled: “Is there something wrong with Yun Xie’s brain? Why is he always interfering with my Hidden Spirit Sect’s business!”

However, although everyone thought the same, no one else dared to echo this sentence out loud.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Footnotes:

1. 能穿一条裤子 lit. “so close that they can wear the same pair of pants”

2. Ning Feng refers to herself as 老娘, which is very informal/impolite and usually used in shouting insults (lol). It’s the female equivalent of the 老子 that Jiang Xunyi used to refer to himself during his angry monologues earlier in the story. I just tried to make her dialogue sound extra informal.

 

 

 

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A Tale of Strategies For the Throne – Chapter 1

Welcome to my newest project, a Western Fantasy epic tale of a kingdom and its two princes. See the Project Home Page for the summary!

Of note, there is some ambiguity in the translation of the names. I chose to use whatever English approximation of the name looks the coolest (lol), so please shoot me your suggestions if you have a cooler name in mind.

Our main protagonist (MC) is Garlan, originally pronounced Jia-er-lan.
Our deuteragonist (ML) is Heimos, originally pronounced Heuh-yi-mo-si.

Please let me know where my translations can be improved! (You should be reading this at penjournalhappy.wordpress.com)

 

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Chapter 1

 

The heavy rain poured down relentlessly, razor-sharp streaks of lightning tearing through the layers of ominous dark clouds in the sky. Large raindrops the size of pebbles pounded down from the heavens, pounding flesh and bone, a dull pain left behind by each blow.

The tall city walls were washed pure and clean by the pouring water. For some reason, in the brilliance of the lightning as refracted by the gloomy curtains of rain, those majestic walls that had stood the test of time for countless years seemed to appear an almost deathly alabaster.

Before the snow-white stone wall, a youth knelt on one knee, his head hanging low. The raindrops drenched his entire body from head to toe, pounding his flesh as if venting out their own pain. His short pale blond hair was so wet it stuck to his cheeks, which formed a shocking contrast to the fresh blood oozing out from his forehead, dying his hair red, and trickling down his cheeks.

He gasped violently for air, the breath from his bloodless lips turning into white mist in the freezing cold rain. While kneeling on one knee, his other hand gripped a sharp sword that had been stabbed into the ground. Only then was he able to barely stop himself from toppling over from the force of the raindrops.

Even this baptism of heavy rain was not fast enough to wash away the blood dripping from his forehead. The blood stained his light gold hair, dying the delicate and precious golden ornaments on his forehead, drawing streaks across his cheeks, following the line of his sky-blue gemstone earrings to drip onto his white-clothed shoulders. His clothing, once gorgeous and extravagant, had now been soaked thoroughly by the rainwater. It crumpled and creased as it stuck to his skin, stained with blood and mud alike, making him cut a very sorry figure.

The youth panted violently for a long while, his fingers gripping the hilt of the buried sword to the point where his knuckles had already turned pale. Then, he exerted a great deal of effort to raise his head.

The rain was too heavy, so heavy that even the scenery ten meters away seemed to be veiled with a hazy curtain of water. He let one eye fall half shut, as it stung from the blood trickling into it.

Not far away, he saw a familiar figure emerging from the overlapping curtains of rain and approaching him.

A bolt of lightning that wound like a silver snake struck the earth, its dazzling luster reflected in silver-white armor as the figure walked along the edge of the lotus pond. The delicate blue lotuses had long since been beaten down and knocked over by the heavy rain, the petals shedding away to tremble in hiding within the green lotus leaves. The water within the lotus pond had already overflowed over the edge.

The pitch-black boots stepped on the edge of the lotus pond. With each heavy footfall, the water splashed in all directions.

The youth knelt down on the ground, quietly gasping, watching the tall figure walk slowly until it finally came to a halt standing in front of himself.
His blurred vision could only make out the flash of cold light emanating from the long sword’s tip, currently pointed down at the ground.

“Stand up.”
He heard that man’s deep voice from above, piercing through the heavy curtain of rain.

The boy closed his eyes and sucked in a deep breath.
Then, he fiercely gritted his teeth.
The hand gripping the sword hilt exerted his entire life’s worth of strength, to the point where his entire arm trembled uncontrollably. He clenched his teeth, using the very last breath remaining in his body to drag this body that refused to listen, until at last he had stood up, still swaying.

He stood there, panting heavily, grasping the hilt with powerless hands, struggling to lift it in front of him and assume a battle position, even if he clearly knew these actions to be in vain——
That was his last stubbornness.
Even if he died, he didn’t want to be looked down upon by the man in front of him.

Countless chaotic footsteps sounded from behind as if many people were running into this rear garden, before all stopping abruptly. As they waited in the distance, no one attempted to get closer, and no one made a sound. Each and every one only waited quietly for the final result.

Because except for these two, no one else was eligible to participate in this battle.

This battle to seize the supreme throne, with the gods themselves bearing witness.

 

…………

 

The battle ended in less than a second. With a crisp clang marking the clash of metal, a long sword stained with blood flew out, spinning in the rain, until it stabbed heavily into the ground.
His only remaining weapon knocked out of his hands, the youth staggered backwards, before his back slammed heavily into the snow-white stone wall.
Then, the very next second, in the instant before he could even exhale—
The sharp silver sword parted the veil of rain.
Ice-cold iron penetrated his chest.
The long sword fiercely nailed his entire body onto the white stone wall, the exposed section of the blade still trembling and humming with the remnants of that terrible power.

Pupils suddenly blown wide, the youth opened his mouth, but could not make a sound. From the dreary black clouds above, another huge bolt of lightning suddenly struck down.
Illuminated by the lightning, in the last second before his consciousness disappeared, he only had enough time to raise his gaze and take one final look at that man who had pierced his heart with a sword.

Amidst the hazy and bleak curtain of rain, he could only see that pair of golden-red irises, like the brutal eyes of a wild beast lurking in the dark jungle.

Malicious and cruel, only needing a single glance to strike utter terror into men’s hearts.

 

…………

 

It was over.
Again.
……..
Yes, again.
He was killed again aaaaaghhhh!

That was the roar coming from the very soul of the youth who had been killed time and time again.

Heimos! You bastard! Just you wait!
I will definitely come back again———ain———in————————

……

………………………………

Those weren’t words said in a fit of pique, but the truth. He really could go back.
Because he still has one life left.
He can start from the beginning once more.

…………

 

The infinite boundless space was shrouded in white mist, with no end in sight, or perhaps no end at all. A small piece of land was suspended within the void, enveloped by a transparent film. It bore a striking similarity to an enormous huge crystal ball shrouded in white fog. Floating within the mist, inside that crystal ball, that light gray stretch of land rested.

Countless broken stone monuments were erected on this land, shaped similarly to obelisks. Although they were incomparably huge, all of them were collapsed to the ground, or broken in half, or tilted beyond repair.

Despite their ruined state, those huge stone monuments retained a majestic momentum, exerting an extreme pressure over anyone who beheld them. They had obviously experienced countless years and centuries, tiny fissures radiating over every surface of the stone like spider webs, revealing an ancient charm of having witnessed the many vicissitudes of life. Numerous mysterious characters had been engraved into the obelisks, but their messages had long been lost to the erosion of time. Although the carved patterns were crude, they inexplicably gave off their own unique rough beauty.

These countless ancient obelisks all surrounded a broken altar, crafted from some unknown stone, off-white in color. This surface too was covered in cracks, with three eye-catching crevices in particular.

It seemed as if time itself was stopped in this place, and there was not even a whisper of sound.

Suddenly, with a resounding rumble, another fracture appeared in the already cracked altar. This rift was larger than any of the previous ones, stretching down diagonally from the upper left corner. It almost split the entire altar into two halves, leaving only a single connecting thread at one point.

 

“It hurts so much ahhhhhhhhhh!!!”

A scream suddenly shattered the silence of this place.
Just one second after the crack opened in the altar, a youthful figure suddenly appeared out of thin air on the altar.
The youth looked no more than sixteen or seventeen years old. At this moment, he knelt on the fractured altar, his hands clutching his heart as he let out a bitter wail.

 

It hurts it hurts it really really hurts ahhhhhhhh——

As Garlan flipped down from the altar, he clutched his chest again, stamping his feet and jumping around from the sheer pain. Looking at the agonized grimace on his face now, absolutely no traces could be seen of that proud attitude just a few seconds ago, when he had faced death calmly without fear in front of that man and the rest of the crowd.
……
After all, no one else was watching here, so why bother continuing to pretend to be all heroic and unyielding.

Heimos! You’ve already won, fine, so is it really necessary to kick me when I’m already down?
Man, a sword through the heart! Nailing my entire body to the wall—
It really hurt to death, okay!

 

After a long while, the remaining pain in his chest finally began to dissipate, allowing Garlan to recover his breath. He let out a long breath and scratched his head, his finger playing with his pale blond hair until the slightly messy strands fell around his eyes.

He sat his butt straight down on the cracked stone steps of the altar, his brows crumpling into a frown, and let out a tired sigh.

Failed again.
Again.

Every time, every single time, he was killed by that Heimos fellow. Is he really the so-called son of destiny?
Isn’t the son of destiny supposed to be guided by fate, ascending to the throne with complete and utter ease?
Why is it that every single time, he dies at that man’s hands, and has the throne seized away from him by that man?

…………

Garlan felt a shred of exhaustion all the way to his soul.

Not long ago, he was just a student busy preparing for his upcoming final exam. His grades were neither particularly good nor particularly bad, so on the eve of the exam he was desperately trying to hug Buddha’s feet1. Then, in the middle of the night while he was busy cramming the textbook, he was inexplicably brought to this ruined altar surrounded by obelisks.

Then, he heard a voice.
[O great Son of Destiny, with the gods bearing witness, please bring the destiny that belongs to you back to its proper trajectory……]

His hand still clutching a pen in the middle of writing notes, the youth’s expression was one of pure stunned confusion.

That emotionless voice reverberated throughout all the heavens and the earth. It stood to reason that such a scene, set amidst the magnificent ruins of the altar and accompanied by a ray of light shining down from the sky, should give off a feeling of grand sacred solemnity.

Akin to accepting the edict of the gods, arousing humanity’s passion and determination.

However, although the meaning of those spoken words was similar to that of the hymns which move people’s hearts, the voice completely failed to capture the appropriate stately and epic tone for such a speech. When Garlan heard the voice, he felt they resembled someone reading off stage lines in a complete monotone.

The emotionless voice continued to recite its lines.

[You belong to destiny, you are the Son of Destiny, carrying the protection of the gods and the love and adoration of thousands and tens of thousands. The moment you were born, the celestial gods in the realm above all whispered your name2…]

 

Garlan: “???”
Still clutching the pen, he spoke with a wooden face: “Speak human please.”

[…………]

The voice seemed to choke on its words, and paused for a brief moment. When it resumed, instead of talking in that incessant nagging hymn-like chant, it began to explain the entire sequence of events using a cold and indifferent tone.
Following that, Garlan spent a little time to clarify the exact purpose of the voice pulling him to this strange place.

It turned out that he was actually the reincarnation of some very important figure.
According to that voice, his previous previous previous previous life was very awesome—that era’s son of destiny, in fact. He originally should have ascended to the throne and accomplished some great undertaking, to achieve immortal fame and become enshrined in the history books for all eternity.

However, for some unknown reason, an unexpected accident occurred: he was killed by his nemesis before he reached adulthood, and the throne that originally belonged to him was thus taken away. As the throne changed owners, the trajectory of fate changed with it. This angered the gods who originally should have protected that dynasty of kings—they cast a curse upon the kingdom, and that dynasty was destroyed in the flames of war.

Therefore, as the reincarnation of the son of destiny who died halfway, he has the responsibility and the obligation to correct the twisted trajectory of fate, to emerge victorious over the villain who killed him and usurped the throne, thus lifting the gods’ curse and completing the great endeavor that his previous previous previous previous self was unable to finish.

To summarize it all in one sentence: as the son of destiny, he must reclaim the throne that belongs to him.

After learning the cause and effect of all this, Garlan thought it over seriously for a moment, and then refused.
“I rarely ever play games, especially strategy games. That’s why I think you’d have a better chance if you found another reincarnation and let me go back. I still have to continue to prepare for my final exam…”

The emotionless voice rang out again.
“Very well.” It said, “Because of the curse of the gods, throughout all your reincarnations, you will always die upon reaching adulthood. After you die at the age of eighteen, I shall go find your next reincarnation.”

“!!!”
Garlan felt his entire person swaying on the spot.
“Wait! Aren’t I supposed to be the son of destiny, blessed by the gods? What the heck is this curse? I can’t live past the age of eighteen?”

“The son of destiny who has not completed his mission shall be cursed by the gods.”
The voice answered with cold indifference.

Garlan: “………”

“Prepare yourself, I shall send you back to your own time right now…….”

“Alright, Sir Messenger of the Gods! I’ll do it, I’ll do it! Seizing the throne, right? Please leave the task to me!”
Having learned he wouldn’t be able to live long upon returning, the youth decisively interrupted the voice, no trace of fear on his face.

Then, a thought raced through his mind.
“As the so-called son of destiny, do I have any golden fingers3… No, I mean, do I have any special powers or privileges compared to ordinary people? After all, you know that this is a very difficult task for my completely clueless self.”

“You have five chances to start over from the beginning.”
The voice answered coldly.
“Once you are killed by the one who defies fate, time will go backwards and everything will start again.”

Garlan breathed a sigh of relief.
This was equivalent to rebirth.
This kind of feeling was akin to playing a video game without any option to save, one where you have to start all over whenever you die. Perhaps the first attempt is exceedingly difficult, but as you learn the plot and know what your opponent will do in advance, the following tries become much easier.

Excellent.
He thought, just treat it like playing a holographic virtual reality game. As long as he defeats the big BOSS and ascends to the throne, he can go back to his own time and continue preparing for his final exam. Moreover, he even has five lives in this game, so he should be able to clear the game easily no matter what.

…………

……………………

And then, firmly hugging this idea, Garlan was… killed four times in a row by the man who defied fate—his nemesis Heimos.
Every single time, Heimos killed him with his own hands.

Garlan: “…………”
Did the gods get something wrong?
Is the son of destiny really me, and not that fellow Heimos? No matter from what angle he looks at the situation, he feels like that fellow should be the protagonist who unlocked all the cheat codes.

At the very memory of that fellow nailing him to the stone wall just now with a sword through his heart, Garlan felt every single one of his organs start to throb and ache. His chest was particularly painful, as if that sword was still inserted in his heart.

He clutched his chest, and couldn’t help but remember the first time, when he was burnt to death in a sea of fire by that man…

And then the second time, when that man pushed him down from that dizzying height, and all his bones shattered upon the fall…

Then the third time, where that man personally fed him a lethal poison…

And of course the fourth time just now…

 

What he originally thought to be a tale of strategies for the throne, as written by a son of destiny using cheats to slay his foes and unite the land… turned out to actually be a tale of various miserable dying methods, as written by a fellow who was said to be, supposed to be, should be, could be, might be the son of destiny.

…………

At this moment, this son of destiny with only one life remaining was very distressed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Translated Author’s Note: This story’s plot can be summarized in a single sentence—everyone dotes on the son of destiny (not).

Translator’s Comments: This novel has its fair share of drama, tears, and sweetness, so prepare your heart for all three ❤ It’s mostly sweet, though, with a Happy Ending of course.

 

Footnotes:

1. “Hugging Buddha’s feet” is, as it sounds, an iteration of the whole “1 hour before the exam, praying to every god you know that you’ll pass this test” 😛 In general it refers to the people who profess their devotion only when they’re in trouble.

2. I’m not 100% sure, but the last sentence here might be a reference to World of Warcraft’s Arthas (lmao).

3. “Golden Finger” is very common Chinese netizen slang for a cheat code, or in the context of web novels, a superpower unique to a protagonist that allows him/her to steamroll everything in his/her way.

 

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Pulling Together a Villain Reformation Strategy – Chapter 41

Trigger warning for references to sexual assault (luckily there’s only a couple chapters left of this). As always, please let me know if my translations can be improved! (You should be reading this at penjournalhappy.wordpress.com)

 

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Chapter 41 – This World’s Sorrow

 

“Sect Leader Yun, don’t waste any more effort.” After Yun Xie finished speaking, another voice rang out. Everyone looked in that direction to see a beautiful woman dressed as a Daoist nun walking towards the crowd: “You have always demonstrated a moral character high enough to reach the clouds, valuing friendship so highly as to sacrifice yourself for its sake. Everyone has always admired you for these characteristics. But unfortunately, even now, you have not yet realized the true face of this villain who has won fame through deceiving the public. I really cannot bear to watch Sect Leader Yun continue to be deceived. Therefore, today we shall clean the filth from our sect and dispose of this traitor.”

Watching Wanderer Zihui denounce him with such righteousness, Jiang Xunyi was utterly speechless. By this point, he was now completely aware of this world’s maliciousness. The system was effectively manifesting itself in reality through numerous forms, all to tell him: Do not reject your given task. In this instance, since you have refused to take the initiative to become a rapist, then you can only passively be labelled a rapist. That’s right, you’re getting no benefits from resisting, and you’re even losing out on the opportunity to get some pleasure out of it.

The sheer brazen shamelessness on display shocked him to his core: “Zihui, what do you mean by this?”

Wanderer Zihui looked at him coldly, her eyes holding no traces of yesterday night’s affection and reluctance: “You aren’t even calling me Shishu—it seems even you yourself know your crimes are so serious you have no face to stay at Hidden Spirit Sect, hmm? But after committing such a great sin, this is no longer a matter of you getting to leave as you wish. Before the spirit of Ti Ming-shixiong, I shall execute a punishment of thunder, to atone to the Feng family and to the ancestors of my Hidden Spirit Sect.”

She no longer gave Yun Xie and Jiang Xunyi the slightest room to interject, and raised her voice: “Old Chen! Come out, tell everyone what you saw yesterday.”

An old man wearing coarse clothes slowly emerged from the crowd.

Ever since realizing Feng Qiu truly had been assaulted, Jiang Xunyi’s entire body had been trapped in a state of unreal numbness. He originally believed no future event would be able to stir any more emotions in his heart, but when he saw that familiar and kind face, Jiang Xunyi felt as if a bucket of ice water had been poured on himself. He was so frozen that he couldn’t speak or move, so frozen that he could feel the chill to his very bones.

His lips trembled, and parted for a hoarse: “Uncle Chen?”

Uncle Chen did not respond with his usual friendliness and joy, but instead silently looked away. His eyes seemed to be full of contempt, as if he didn’t even want to say a single sentence to Jiang Xunyi.

Wanderer Zihui glanced at Jiang Xunyi and said lightly: “Very well, you even admit it yourself.” She pointed to Uncle Chen and announced to the surrounding people: “This person is Chen Li, a servant who specializes in the tidying and sweeping of the sect master’s yard. He has followed my shixiong Immortal Master Ti Ming for decades and has always been loyal and honest. There is absolutely no way he would lie. Old Chen, tell everyone, what exactly did you see last night.”

Jiang Xunyi stared closely at Chen Li’s face, but the other party didn’t look at him. His lips moved a few times, but didn’t speak. Instead, with a pair of trembled hands dotted with age spots, he took out a piece of cloth that had been torn off a sleeve, and offered it to Wanderer Zihui.

Wanderer Zihui did not take the piece of cloth. Her hands remained hidden in her sleeves as she said indifferently: “Show it to everyone.”

Uncle Chen indeed displayed the piece of fabric in front of everyone, and dully said: “At dawn this morning, I saw Miss Feng running out of the eldest young master’s room, even though the eldest young master’s room appeared to be empty without any lights on. I saw Miss Feng weeping as she ran, so I wanted to go forward and ask her what happened. I wasn’t able to catch up, and only… picked this up from the ground.”

He had watched Jiang Xunyi and Jiang Molou grow up all this time, and had always called the two “young masters” in a manner that normally sounded very familiar and intimate.

That piece of sleeve was woven out of brocade, so white as to dazzle the eye, resembling a cloud that had fallen to earth. In the sunlight, one could see hints of a faint dark golden pattern, gorgeous and elegant. With a single glance, one knew it must belong to Jiang Xunyi. Seeing this, Xue Li shouted fiercely: “Qiu’er, stop crying! Why don’t you tell us what exactly is going on here!”

Feng Qiu choked on her own sobs, unable to speak. Only after a long while had passed was she able to squeeze out in a broken voice: “I, I found an opportunity to hit his God House acupoint1 to knock him out, and ran away while he fainted…”

The God House acupoint was located on the back of the skull. A martial arts master like Jiang Xunyi usually would not allow anyone to touch such a critical area of his body. However, at a time of delirious passion, anything could be possible. As a result, there was an extra layer of disdain in the gazes of the crowd directed at Jiang Xunyi, and Zihui seized this opportunity: “Therefore, the entire truth of this matter is now clear as day. Jiang Xunyi, do you have anything else to say?”

Feng Qiu, Uncle Chen, Zihui… The figures of these people seemed to gradually morph into inhuman beasts, twisted and ferocious. Jiang Xunyi had originally been uncomfortable ever since he got up this morning, and now with fury filling his heart, he felt the world grow dim before his eyes. It seemed as if the lips of his accusers seemed to open and close faster and faster, and it drained an extreme amount of effort out of him to understand what was being said. Vital energy and blood alike roiled and churned within his chest, and a mouthful of fresh blood rose to flood his mouth, before Jiang Xunyi managed to swallow it back down.

He said: “I don’t believe it, Uncle Chen… Shizun has already passed away, I don’t believe even you would betray me. All these years, these decades… unless I die on the spot right now… no, even if I die, I’m not willing to accept this! Uncle Chen, tell me, why are you doing this, are they threatening you?”

His voice was quiet, his words faint and weak. Yun Xie was very distressed and instinctively stepped forward to help support him with his arm. But when he pressed Jiang Xunyi’s thin shoulders and his nose was filled with that familiar cold fragrance akin to pine branches buried in snow, that irritability and rage, that feeling of yearning to destroy everything, surged up once again.

He seemed to hear someone asking himself: “Sect Leader Yun, the first person to see Jiang Xunyi this morning should be you, correct? If I may dare ask, did Sect Leader Yun see anything?”

Yun Xie heard his own voice answer calmly and indifferently: “Everything was normal——I will say it once more, Jiang Xunyi would absolutely never do such a thing. If you refuse to believe this, then let him and I bear this together.”

His soul seemed to be split into two halves, one half feeling heartache and tenderness for Jiang Xunyi, the other half filled with anger and suspicion. His very own words sounded strange and unfamiliar to his ears.

However, like a drop of scalding heartblood2 , this sentence emerged from Yun Xie’s mouth and dropped on Jiang Xunyi’s heart, warming his almost frozen numb body and allowing him to recover a shred of consciousness. He took a deep breath and straightened his back, before raising his hand to pat Yun Xie’s supporting arm. His voice was still hoarse: “Yun Xie, thank you.”

Staring at the two, Chen Yuanxin smiled slightly upon seeing Jiang Xunyi’s reaction. A shred of tenderness actually appeared in his harsh and unkind face, which looked particularly perverted. He said: “Young master Jiang, if you’re saying this, does that mean you refuse to confess?”

Jiang Xunyi gently pushed away Yun Xie’s arm, about to reply with “Of course I don’t accept this.” But just as these words were on the tip of his tongue, he swallowed them back down. He had come to the realization: he didn’t dare.

After many years of slaying demons and monsters, experiencing countless dangers, Jiang Xunyi naturally held no fear of death and was always willing to jump at an impetuous gamble. However, this time he could not afford to ruin Yun Xie’s destiny and future. This was his deepest bond in this world, his best brother.

His every step was careful and solemn, a lonely journey trudging through the dark. The world of 《Rising Clouds, Billowing Skies》had been established with Yun Xie as the protagonist. If Jiang Xunyi went against the tide and defied destiny, no one could say what irreversible impacts such a decision might have on Yun Xie.

The perturbation in his heart crashed down in waves, each larger than the last. Probably every transmigrator in existence would inevitably think of themselves as high up, proud and unparalleled, feeling as if they were above the world and therefore different from everyone else. However, when standing before that immense destiny, they would then come to the realization: it turned out they were so small and insignificant, nothing but specks of dust to be crushed between destiny’s fingers.

Jiang Xunyi could clearly feel his own frustration at being beaten back like this, the feeling of helplessness from knowing the truth yet being unable to change a thing. This was only amplified by his own confusion as to what conspiracy was actually brewing beneath the surface. It seemed as if this despicable destiny knew he had always acted with arrogance and followed his heart, and was therefore attempting to derive amusement from grinding down his proud bones.

Jiang Xunyi clenched his fists tightly, his face as cold as ice. He tried to make his voice appear smooth, but a hint of uncontrollable disorder in his breathing still revealed his true mood. In his entire life, there had never been a sentence so difficult and so humiliating for him to say as “No, I confess, it’s me.”

The surrounding chatter of the crowd receded like the tide, but an even louder buzzing sound seemed to be passing through his ear and striking his very soul. Yun Xie suddenly turned his head to look at Jiang Xunyi like he was a distant stranger. On the side, the bitterly weeping Feng Qiu even forgot to sob.

After getting that sentence out, Jiang Xunyi actually calmed down completely. He simply crossed his arms and spoke in a frozen tone: “Alright, that’s enough. All those efforts and manipulations of yours were just to get me to confess. Now I’ve confessed, is there anything else?”

Yun Xie’s voice trembled as he struggled to restrain himself: “Jiang… Jiang Xunyi, this is not something to joke about.”

The plot had finally gotten on the right track, but there was not a shred of joy in his heart. Jiang Xunyi now had nothing left to lose3 so his voice was casual and careless: “I’m not joking. I’ve always liked Qiu-shijie, but don’t you know that she’s only ever had you in your heart?”

At this moment, Yun Xie really wanted to kill him. But in the entirety of this heaven and earth, there was only one Jiang Xunyi, and he could not bear to say anything.

At the same time, the hateful system popped up: [Friendly Reminder: the task completion progress has reached 90%, may the host continue to work hard.]

Thank you very fucking much for your friendliness!

Jiang Xunyi sneered in his heart, wishing for all the world that he could dig this garbage system out of his brain on the spot. 90%? Such fast progress, I wouldn’t be able to tell myself. I really want to see how exactly you’re going to have Yun Xie kill me.

This wasn’t blind self-confidence on his part, but the product of many years of understanding. Yun Xie was definitely not the type of person to abandon friendships for the sake of romance—this didn’t match his personality setting as the protagonist. Even though Jiang Xunyi was publicly announcing he liked Feng Qiu, anyone with eyes in their head would find that difficult to believe. Therefore, although Jiang Xunyi was furious at having to falsely confess to this matter, he really did not believe Yun Xie would kill him because of this alone. Therefore, following this line of reasoning, there should be another new storyline in the future for him where he would be truly looking for death. As a result, Jiang Xunyi was caught off guard when the completion degree did jump up to 90% instantly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Footnotes:

1.  神府穴 lit. “god+house/manor+aperture” is an acupuncture point. According to Baidu it’s located slightly below the sternum, but again all these acupoints seem to be highly variable depending on the source haha.

2. 心头血 lit. “blood from the tip of the heart” is supposed to be the most precious, vitality-packed blood of the body. It’s usually given magical properties in xianxia/wuxia settings.

3. 破罐子破摔 lit. “after a single crack in the pot, smash the pot to pieces” basically means that since the situation is hopeless anyways, might as well give up and act irresponsibly the rest of the way

 

 

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Pulling Together a Villain Reformation Strategy – Chapter 40

Yes, I’m back! Well, at least temporarily? My super super important test got pushed back by 2 months thanks to a certain pandemic, so I might as well use the extra time to procrastin–I mean, do some translating. Ever since Golden Stage was picked up by Chichi ❤ (https://chichilations.home.blog/golden-stage/), I also have a new project in the works, so keep an eye out!

Yet again, trigger warning for references to sexual assault. And as always, please let me know if my translations can be improved! (You should be reading this at penjournalhappy.wordpress.com)

 

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Chapter 40 – Never Forsaking

 

Hearing Feng Qiu say such things, a wave of pain and despair rose in Jiang Xunyi’s heart. He couldn’t even tell whether this was his own true feelings, or whether it was the influence of the plot’s designation that “Jiang Xunyi likes Feng Qiu.” Blood rushed to his head and the world seemed to spin before his eyes, Feng Qiu’s words continuously echoing in his mind——”Ruined, everything is ruined!”

In this instant, the original body’s emotions swarmed forth and overwhelmed him, to the point where there was a moment where Jiang Xunyi lost sight of reality. It almost seemed as if every word coming out of Feng Qiu’s mouth was the absolute truth, and the culprit she was accusing really was himself.

After a long while, the first to break the silence was Yun Xie. He took a deep breath and slowly let go of Feng Qiu’s hand behind him, using this action to conceal the uneasiness in his mind. Only he himself knew the sheer degree of fear in his heart. Fearing Jiang Xunyi would misinterpret his fear as distrust, he kept his face indifferent and casual, and spoke without an ounce of hesitation: “Qiu-shijie, you’re likely confused. Ah-Xun would absolutely never do such a thing. You were undoubtedly wronged, and I understand how you must feel, but such words cannot be tossed around lightly.”

Feng Qiu looked at him with wide eyes, the heartbreak in her gaze equal to her affection. Large teardrops rolled down her cheeks. Her face was utterly pale and ashen, akin to that of a dead man.

With a trembling hand, she opened her tightly fastened collar, revealing a slender neck with shocking marks and traces. Jiang Xunyi only needed one glance for his brows to furrow deeply. He gritted his teeth and quickly stepped forward. Before Feng Qiu could recoil in panic, Jiang Xunyi had already moved with lightning speed to stop Feng Qiu’s next action, preventing her from opening up her clothes. He whispered: “Don’t do this.”

His back was straight and proud, but his voice was hoarse and muffled. As if burned by his touch, Feng Qiu pushed Jiang Xunyi’s hand aside and darted a glance at him. Before anyone else could catch the look in her eyes, her gaze had already drooped back to the ground.

Of course, everyone present would believe the emotion in her eyes to be hatred.

Upon being pushed by Feng Qiu, Jiang Xunyi’s wide sleeves slipped down his arm, revealing the delicately protruding wrist bones and beautifully-shaped forearm. A bright red streak of blood stood out from his otherwise pale complexion.

Chen Yuanxin’s eyes were sharp: “Young master Jiang, what is that on your arm?”

That was the fierce scratch left last night by Wanderer Zihui after her temptation failed——Jiang Xunyi remembered it as clear as day, but he could not say it out loud.

Immortal Master Ti Ming had raised him from childhood, and the Hidden Spirit Sect was akin to a second home for him. Wanderer Zihui had many years of fame under her belt, and was also his elder. If he made this incident public, Hidden Spirit Sect’s centuries-old clean reputation would be destroyed in an instant. Even Jiang Molou, currently far off in the Western Region, would not be able to lift his head upon returning to the Central Plains.

He was caught in the horns of a dilemma. At this very moment, Jiang Xunyi finally sensed the immense power and elusiveness of destiny. It seemed as if there was an invisible hand amidst the darkness, stirring forth the dark waves lurking in the heavy fog. He wanted to avoid them, to extricate himself, but was ultimately lost in this maze.

A faint idea even entered his mind——could it be that because of his own resistance and refusal to cooperate, Feng Qiu’s suffering had been intensified? Was this the revenge of the plot? If he wished to resist again, will he again drag others down with him, or even… affect the protagonist Yun Xie? And last night, he slept for so long… what happened during that time?

Even after all these years had passed, even if he had now grown up from a little child into a great power… was he still only allowed to endure and surrender?

Shock, sorrow, guilt, hesitation… all kinds of emotions intertwined and were extinguished in turn within his heart, like the crashing of turbulent waves. Beads of cold sweat dripped from Jiang Xunyi’s forehead and soaked his clothes. He did not dare to continue that line of thought, and the only thing ringing in his ears was Chen Yuanxin’s merciless repeated questioning: “Why aren’t you saying anything? Young master Jiang, why is it that to me, this mark on your arm looks very much like the result of a scratch from a woman’s nails?”

If this was set normally, Jiang Xunyi definitely would not hesitate to retaliate back with a snide remark of his own: “Sect Head Chen speaks with such confidence, he must definitely boast a multitude of experience when it comes to oppressing and tyrannizing innocent men and women.” However, he was not remotely in the mood to do so at this time. In the eyes of the surrounding onlookers, Jiang Xunyi stood unmoving before Chen Yuanxin, looking as cold and proud as always. Only he himself knew that his entire body was frozen stiff, and he had to fiercely clench his teeth to swallow back the words on the tip of his tongue.

He didn’t want to admit to a crime he had not committed, nor did he dare to resist the plot as unscrupulously as he had previously. He felt deep sorrow and sadness for Feng Qiu’s suffering, yet had no way of finding the truth in this tortuous maze.

When Yun Xie first heard Chen Yuanxin condemning Jiang Xunyi, he was very unhappy yet also firmly believed Jiang Xunyi would never do such a thing. He was only confused why Feng Qiu would vilify Jiang Xunyi for no reason. However, now seeing Jiang Xunyi’s reaction or lack thereof, Yun Xie’s heart dropped in his chest, and doubt rose in his mind.

Having grown up together, he was too familiar with Jiang Xunyi: If Jiang Xunyi was truly ignorant of such an event, given the care and affection he held for Feng Qiu… Although Jiang Xunyi would be furious, he would definitely first beat up this slanderous Chen Yuanxin, and then dig up the person who did assault Feng Qiu. Jiang Xunyi had never been the type of man to be overwhelmed by such a minor setback.

But right now, his face was completely pale and he did not utter a single word.

This thought was too horrible. If Jiang Xunyi had indeed done that with another woman… Yun Xie did not know how he himself would react. He had never respected any ghosts or gods, but at this moment he could only secretly pray that this incident was not true. Even as he attempted to suppress his emotions, a burst of violent rage emerged from the depths of his heart, and he had to expend a great deal of effort to maintain a calm external appearance.

This place was originally the liveliest location on Hidden Spirit Mountain, since people had to pass through this crossroads to get to any other location on the mountain. As a result, more and more people began to gather around. Chen Yuanxin did not let up his questioning and Feng Xue was glaring fiercely from the side, yet Jiang Xunyi was still standing silent as if he had lost his soul. The debating voices grew ever louder and it seemed as if things were about to spiral out of control, when Yun Xie clenched his fists and sucked in a deep breath. He suddenly raised his voice: “Sect Head Chen, Family Head Feng, calm down and please listen to what I have to say.”

Despite their similar roles as the Dual Jades of the Spirit Stage, Yun Xie’s position was different from Jiang Xunyi’s: Yun Xie’s Shizun had long since passed away, so he already held the esteemed identity of sect leader. In addition, the Solar Envy Sect never had the Hidden Spirit’s problems of fractured factions and dark secrets, so it was comparatively unified. Yun Xie had also further consolidated his authority since accepting the position of leader. As a result, although everyone knew he and Jiang Xunyi were incomparably close, Yun Xie’s words could not be ignored, and the crowd on the mountain immediately fell silent.

“Young master Jiang has been very fatigued these past few days for the sake of sealing away Xuan Li, and his mind has been rather distracted and absent-minded as a result. I would like to ask for everyone’s forgiveness on his behalf. Although I personally know nothing about what happened, I just found it curious: given Jiang Xunyi’s ability, as well as the fact that Hidden Spirit Mountain is his own territory, if he… truly felt like this towards Miss Feng, I’m afraid he would have ten thousand methods at his disposal to cover this incident up. Why would he ever allow this matter to spread so widely and publicly? Last but not least, we only just finished such a fierce battle yesterday, one that left everyone exhausted and wounded, wishing for nothing but three nights’ worth of restful sleep. In these circumstances, how could he possibly be leisurely and carefree enough to do such a thing?”

Yun Xie’s words were reasonable and concise, and the surrounding people could not help but feel a little shaken. Jiang Xunyi had always had an illustrious reputation. Even after the rumors spread of him rebelling against his sect, many young cultivators still admired him almost blindly and were unwilling to believe Jiang Xunyi to be some wicked traitor.  Then when he proved himself innocent upon his return and sealed away Xuan Li, the fame of the Dual Jades of the Spirit Stage grew even more unparalleled. It was indeed quite difficult for everyone to believe he would do such a thing.

Moreover… Just looking at Jiang Xunyi’s exquisite and beautiful face, just his appearance was much better than Feng Qiu’s. It seemed at least a little farfetched that he would jump to using force to obtain someone he was attracted to.

Seeing doubt appear in the audience’s faces, Yun Xie hurriedly shot a meaningful look at Jiang Xunyi, yet Jiang Xunyi remained silent. Instead, it was Chen Yuanxin who sneered and slowly said: “Sect Leader Yun Xie has no evidence to back his words. Everyone knows that you and Jiang Xunyi have always come as a package. If he murdered someone, you’d be right behind him burying the corpse. While he was making the beast with two backs1, Sect Leader Yun very well might have been right there standing sentry! Why should anyone believe you?”

These were not pleasant words. Yun Xie was already annoyed and irritated in the first place, and no amount of acting skills in the world would be enough for him to keep pretending. He immediately raised his hand and struck his sword’s scabbard. Bright River answered him with a hum of its own and flew towards Chen Yuanxin, a brilliant stream of light trailing behind it. Chen Yuanxin’s expression turned serious and he raised his own sword to block, but Bright River had not reached him before it suddenly plummeted to the earth and stabbed itself into the empty ground, letting out a loud bang.

A cloud of dust and sand billowed up from the earth, making several people in the vicinity start coughing uncontrollably as they retreated as fast as they could.

Yun Xie coldly said: “Very well, I’m perfectly fine with you refusing to believe me. Since words won’t solve this dispute, let’s fight! Whoever’s still alive and standing at the end, their words shall be the truth!”

Yun Xie had always been willful, and right now he was clearly ready to flip the entire mountain at the next slightest sign of a disagreement. Jiang Xunyi himself was already mired in this trouble, and seeing this, he knew he could not drag down his brother any further. He called out: “Yun Xie!”

In contrast to his usual gentle smile, Yun Xie’s face was currently extremely chilly and harsh. His clenched teeth made his cheek muscles appear sharp and angular. He didn’t even look at Jiang Xunyi as he spoke through gritted teeth: “Shut up, wait for me to solve this problem first. I’ll settle our bill with you later.”

Heaven knows which bill between the two of them could be settled. Feng Xue had no desire to break all bridges2 with Yun Xie, but Yun Xie’s mind was clearly set on getting involved in this incident that was originally unrelated to himself, to the point where he was even more excited than the direct participants. With no other choice, Feng Xue could only say: “Sect Leader Yun, if I may be blunt, this matter is ultimately a personal dispute between us and… Young master Jiang. If you do not know the inside story, you should not speak out.”

Yun Xie’s eyes veritably crackled with electricity, and his voice was as cold as ice: “The Dual Jades of the Spirit Stage have always advanced and retreated as one, accompanying each other through life and death, sharing honor and disgrace together!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Footnotes:

1. 颠鸾倒凤 is a somewhat fancy-sounding euphemism for sexual intercourse, which uses two mythological birds (鸾= “firebird, usually seen as male”, 凤 = “phoenix, usually seen as female”).

2. 撕破脸 lit. “tear faces” means to completely fall out with someone, to shed even the appearance of cordiality

 

Translated Author’s Notes: “I want to give Yun-yun a thumbs-up, boyfriend power maxed~”

Translator’s Disclaimer: Y’all probably already know this, but being attractive does not automatically mean a person will never sexually assault someone else. The rest of Yun Xie’s reasoning generally holds up though? I find it funny and very in-character that Yun Xie’s reasoning isn’t really based on the morality of the deed, but more “Jiang Xunyi would never be so incompetent as to do such a stupid and pointless thing.”

 

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Pulling Together a Villain Reformation Strategy – Chapter 39

Sorry about the loooong delay, I may or may not have gotten addicted to playing Total War: Three Kingdoms….whoops… (I highly recommend the game to anyone interested in strategy games depicting one of my favorite eras in Chinese history, the Three Kingdoms period. Plus the Chinese localization is in really cool classical Chinese, and the Chinese voice acting is great.)

Anyway, continued trigger warning for references to sexual assault. And as always, please let me know if my translations can be improved! (You should be reading this at penjournalhappy.wordpress.com)

 

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Chapter 39 – Causing Trouble

 

However, events would soon prove that impulsive actions often create rather unpleasant consequences. The system was about to practice what it preached: just because Jiang Xunyi swore and yelled, reality would treat it as if nothing had happened? 

Martial arts practitioners were particularly fastidious about training in all types of weather, from the coldest of winter to the hottest of summer. But this morning, perhaps because of tiredness or some other reason, Jiang Xunyi slept all the way until the sun had risen high in the sky1. He did not wake even when Yun Xie walked into his room. 

Yun Xie’s pace was initially hurried, but upon entering the inner room he discovered Jiang Xunyi was still lying in bed and couldn’t help but freeze. He subconsciously lightened his footsteps as he moved closer to the bed, to see that Jiang Xunyi’s eyes were shut and his wool blanket tightly wrapped around his body, so that only his eye-catching face was revealed. With his current posture, he actually appeared several years younger, extraordinarily lovable and pitiable.

The morning light softly illuminated his body. His long eyelashes, akin to the wings of a butterfly, trembled slightly, and the sunlit shadows trembled with them, like something out of a dream. 

A gentle and warm smile appeared on Yun Xie’s face, but his heart felt a twinge of sour sorrow. As he remembered that unmentionable episode of chaotic and crude delirium, he suddenly felt as if a sharp hook had pierced the bottom of his heart. He watched as Jiang Xunyi’s body move slightly, spreading the blanket open a fraction to reveal a slender neck. Seeing this, Yun Xie could not help but reach out and tuck the quilt in for him.

After tucking it in, he froze and remembered that his original intention in coming here was to wake this person up. He instantly smiled and shook his head, lightly patting Jiang Xunyi as he called: “Ah-Xun, Ah-Xun? Get up! Look what hour it is already!”

Jiang Xunyi’s eyelids flickered. His head ached as if it was splitting open, and his eyelids seemed to be weighed down by something. He impatiently pulled Yun Xie’s hands off him, and turned over so his back was facing Yun Xie.

For no reason in particular, Yun Xie felt his actions were very cute and he couldn’t help but laugh. After laughing, however, he immediately felt something was wrong. His brows furrowed and he increased his strength:”Ah-Xun? What happened to you, hurry and wake up!”

His clamorous voice wormed its way into one’s head, and Jiang Xunyi finally opened his eyes with great reluctance. He lifted half his body up from the bed to see Yun Xie, very dissatisfied: “It’s so early in the morning, what are you doing!”

Yun Xie’s expression was grave. He pressed one hand on Jiang Xunyi’s shoulder while the other hand held his chin, and turned Jiang Xunyi’s head towards the high sun outside the window: “Early morning? Look outside, see what time it is already.”

Jiang Xunyi slapped Yun Xie’s paws off, and clutched his forehead as he sat up. He looked out the window in confusion, then looked back at Yun Xie, before his mind finally started to clear up: “How could I have slept for so long? When… When did you come here? Why didn’t I hear your arrival?”

Yun Xie’s heart clenched in worry, to the point where he didn’t even have the spirit to joke with him. He placed two fingers of his right hand to the side of Jiang Xunyi’s neck and sensed his pulse for a moment, then pressed Jiang Xunyi’s temple and forehead respectively. He hesitated: “No abnormalities. It doesn’t look like you’ve fallen into any trap. How do you currently feel? Are you uncomfortable?”

Jiang Xunyi pulled the quilt off himself and took two steps off the bed. Yun Xie reached out a hand, intending to support him, but Jiang Xunyi shook his head: “I am fine, there’s nothing wrong.” 

Given his level of skill, this was a very strange occurrence. The two men gazed at each other in helpless dismay, a tinge of uneasiness in their eyes. Jiang Xunyi’s heart was troubled by certain things, making him feel even more apprehensive. He could not speak of those things to Yun Xie, so he could only treat it as if nothing was bothering him: “What did you come to find me for?”

Yun Xie suppressed his worries, while his heart secretly recorded down this matter. He said: “I saw you were sleeping until now and hadn’t eaten anything since last night, so I was calling you to wake up and eat something before going back to rest.”

When he finished speaking, he didn’t hear Jiang Xunyi’s answer. Finding this strange, he looked towards him, only for Jiang Xunyi to suddenly speak: “Say, if…”

Yun Xie: “If what?”

Jiang Xunyi paused, before continuing: “Say, if I don’t want to drink congee this morning… is that alright?”

“…Sure, it’s no problem even if you want to eat human flesh.” Yun Xie’s lips put on a false smile: “If you don’t want to say what’s on your mind, fine. Why should I bother?”

Jiang Xunyi knew that despite those words, Yun Xie in fact still wanted to ask him what was wrong. He sighed. In the end he still did not say a word, only patted Yun Xie’s shoulders: “Let me change clothes, and then let’s go out.”

 

 

Because of the recent fierce battle, almost half of the entire cultivation world had gathered here at Hidden Spirit Mountain. In this bright and fresh morning, groups of cultivators could be seen along the road. From time to time, people would come forward to greet the Yun and Jiang duo. As Jiang Xunyi grew increasingly vexed, he poked Yun Xie and was just about to speak when he suddenly heard a person in front angrily rebuking: “You disgraceful bitch, you’re an embarrassment to my family! What are you still alive for? Who was the man2, are you going to say it or not?!”

Hearing these words, as the current host here in Hidden Spirit, Jiang Xunyi could not remain aloof and indifferent. He hurriedly strode over and immediately put away his impatient expression. Seeing the old man currently turned away from them about to swing down a fist, he cleanly blocked the blow, protecting the woman who had fallen trembling on the ground behind his solid back: “Family Head Feng, what are you doing?”

Feng Xue’s mood was originally horrible. Now seeing the newcomer was Jiang Xunyi, he resentfully took his hand back, his expression colored by a bit of both fear and disdain: “Young master Jiang, this is personal business within my Feng family. You should not interfere.”

The person he was attempting to strike, was his own daughter Feng Qiu.

Jiang Xunyi could never bear to see Feng Qiu being wronged. Without caring that the other party was her father, he unceremoniously waved Feng Xue’s hand aside and turned around to help Feng Qiu up.

His hand reached out, but Feng Qiu suddenly let out a scream and shrank back. Jiang Xunyi froze for a moment, while Yun Xie had already walked over from the side. He intentionally or unintentionally blocked Jiang Xunyi, instead supporting Feng Qiu up himself. This time Feng Qiu did not sidestep or dodge—the onlooking Jiang Xunyi did not feel particularly happy at this sight. 

But though Yun Xie helped her up, he never gave a proper glance in Feng Qiu’s direction—he just didn’t want her and Jiang Xunyi to come into contact. He then continued the trail of Jiang Xunyi’s words to speak to Feng Xue: “No matter what, this is the territory of Hidden Spirit Mountain. Family Head Feng, since you do not want to let others know this business, why chide your daughter in such a public place with numerous people present? If you go back and shut the door, no one will know even if you beat her to death.”

Yun Xie’s words fired a nuke that truly attacked indiscriminately. Tears immediately began to trickle down Feng Qiu’s cheeks, and Jiang Xunyi frowned. In the end, he did not open his mouth to speak out of concern for Yun Xie’s momentum, but instead secretly kicked his calf from behind.

Feng Xue was also rendered speechless by Yun Xie, and realized that his behavior had been somewhat inappropriate. He could only say: “It was this old man who forgot propriety in the face of anger. May young master Jiang please forgive me.”

Jiang Xunyi asked: “So in the end, what monumental event happened to make Family Head Feng so furious?”

“Jiang Xunyi, you actually have the nerve to ask?!” A voice came from the distance. A black-clothed young man slowly walked over, numerous disciples lining up behind him. He wore a loose and light robe, and had a long sword strapped to his waist. His looks could be called handsome, but there was a faint aura of irascible vanity between his brows. His gaze carried a touch of condescending arrogance that made one feel somewhat uncomfortable.

Jiang Xunyi: “…..Who’s this?”

Yun Xie laughed: “The Tranquil Night3 Sect Head, Chen Yuanxin. He inherited his dad’s position just a couple years ago, and hasn’t amassed much fame. Though the way I see it, he seems to hate you quite a bit.”

When he said this sentence, the volume of his voice did not decrease at all, and Chen Yuanxin’s expression instantly became very ugly. Jiang Xunyi said: “Now he probably hates you more than me.”

Yun Xie smiled: “Who am I doing this for?”

Jiang Xunyi had nothing to say in response. Yun Xie suddenly lowered his voice: “Ah-Xun, why do I get the feeling that there has been an extraordinarily large number of people trying to make trouble for us recently?”

Jiang Xunyi did not answer. In his mind, he felt he could be dragging Yun Xie down, plus Yun Xie’s mouth always seemed to attract the dislike of others. In the end, there were still more people specifically trying to make trouble for Jiang Xunyi himself. As for a possible reason, it was probably because…. he was a villain, and about to die.

 

Having been stimulated by Yun Xie’s comment, Chen Yuanxin was not in the mood to continue leaving people hanging, so he coldly announced: “You are so outrageously debauched in your lust that you raped Feng Qiu! Such shameless and ignominious behavior, you are unworthy of your fame! All men have the right to punish one bearing such immense crimes4. Standing on this Hidden Spirit Mountain today and facing the heroic souls of the Hidden Spirit Sect ancestors, Jiang Xunyi, are you not ashamed?!”

Jiang Xunyi really wasn’t ashamed at all. His heart was as calm as still water, and he even had the urge to laugh——Chen Yuanxin had read his stage lines flawlessly, but the point was that Jiang Xunyi clearly remembered having gone to sleep right after yelling at the system. He had done absolutely nothing, so Chen Yuanxin trying to jam storylines together like this was more than a little too far-fetched!

On his side, Yun Xie directly burst out laughing: “Sect Head Chen, are you not fully awake yet? Or have you not eaten breakfast and thus grown dizzy from hunger?”

Jiang Xunyi’s lips had not yet curled up, when he suddenly saw Feng Qiu raise her head and look in his direction. Her eyes were as clear as limpid autumn waters, tinged with melancholy and heartbreak. Jiang Xunyi froze for a moment, and an ominous premonition rose in his heart. 

Feng Xue grew angry: “Feng Qiu! Speak, was that man Jiang Xunyi or not?!”

These words passed into Jiang Xunyi’s ears and seemed to crash heavily into his heart. For a moment, his soul and spirit was entranced and trembled from the shock. His body wavered and took a step back, as he said: “Qiu-Shijie, you were actually…..”

His voice was hoarse as he spoke, so the sound was extremely quiet. This feeble and powerless sentence was very quickly suppressed by the angry or excited voices of the others.

As more and more people clustered around to observe, countless gazes were concentrated on Feng Qiu’s body. Her voice quivered, and she stuttered out: “Everyone… Everyone, don’t ask any more, I can’t say… I can’t say… I was originally a bringer of misfortune, I don’t deserve…”

Feng Qiu was on the verge of being unable to continue speaking any further. The turbulent waves of terror in her heart were currently roiling against their constraints, yet her lips remained sealed. All those cold-eyed onlookers had no way of understanding, instead seeing her struggles as a joke to be told after a meal. She almost had the sensation that everyone was mocking her, was judging and discussing her, using their gazes and tongues as knives to torture her to death by a thousand cuts.

“Yes, it was him!” Feng Qiu finally couldn’t help but burst into tears. She covered her face with her hand and wailed: “It was Xun… It was Jiang Xunyi, he forced me, he destroyed me! I thought… I thought I was still qualified to dream about being together with Ah-Xie, but now everything is ruined! You all had to force me to say it, now I’ve said it, are you satisfied?!”

Feng Qiu had always been gentle and warm, and the number of occasions on which she lost her composure could be counted on one hand. The previously noisy surroundings instantly fell into utter silence. Even Yun Xie stopped speaking. His hand was still firmly supporting Feng Qiu’s arm, but upon closer inspection it was extremely stiff. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Footnotes:

1. 日晒三竿 lit. “until the sun rose to the height of three bamboo trees” basically means late in the morning.

2. 奸夫 is usually used to refer to a male adulterer (ex: a husband asking his cheating wife who was the other man). Here the situation is a little bit more nuanced than that, so I just went with the simplest term.

3. 晦宁: 晦 = “night, dark, last day of a lunar month” while 宁 = “tranquil, peaceful”

4. 人人得而诛之 is a saying modified from a quote of the philosopher Zhuangzi’s work 庚桑楚 Geng-Sang Chu.

 

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Golden Stage – Chapter 6

Please let me know where my translations can be improved! (You should be reading this at penjournalhappy.wordpress.com)

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Chapter 6 – Imperial Summons

 

This year was destined to be restless. As the end of the year approached, immediately following the resoundingly shocking case of the Eastern Tatar diplomatic corps encountering an ambush, another rumor about the Northern Yan commander began to quietly spread among the high officials and nobility, traveling with the speed and momentum of a spark starting a prairie fire——

The Marquis of Jing Ning Fu Shen was a cutsleeve with the passion of Longyang and the penchant for bitten peach1.

This news appeared strange and of questionable validity, but upon careful consideration, there were some areas that warranted deliberation. Moreover, it was the nature of people not to fear using the most lowly conjecture to complete the “truth”. Before long, a vivid and colorful account of Fu Shen’s romantic history since joining the military had already spread widely throughout the noble families. For certain people, it even became the topic of idle conversation after meals.

In the state of Great Zhou, this preference for the male style was not a particularly extraordinary thing, and the common people were particularly tolerant. But when this sort of matter involved a general holding military power, it was no longer as simple as a “recreational interest.”

The previous dynasty was called “Yue,” and had held the throne for more than a hundred years. Among them, there was an emperor famous through the ages for his romance, posthumously titled2 Ancestor Su.

Before Ancestor Su was made crown prince, he bestowed favor on a beauty surnamed Han. After ascending to the throne, he not only sealed Lady Han as a Noble Consort, but also granted titles to her father and brothers. Noble Consort Han’s younger brother, named Han Cang, was a man recorded in history as “graceful and elegant in appearance, with the looks of a beautiful woman and the nature of bright pearls and fine jade.” Because of his elder sister, Han Cang entered the Luan Ceremonial7 imperial guard troops. While escorting the emperor’s carriage on a tour, he showed his face before the emperor and Ancestor Su fell in love with him at first sight. After returning to the palace, Ancestor Su was unable to forget that face, and actually disregarded the traditional worldly customs to welcome Han Cang into the palace. Though he ever-increasingly received the emperor’s favor, he was excluded from the status of imperial concubine, so Ancestor Su established a title of “Noble Gentleman3 equal in title to Noble Consort, so this older sister and younger brother both attended upon the same monarch.

The Great Yue Dynasty had never had such a precedent, so from the high courts to the common people, there were none who were not shocked. The civil and military officials alike made endless strenuous admonishments, itching to form a line and kowtow themselves to death in front of the palace. 

Although Ancestor Su was a universally shocking romantic, upon casting aside that second identity, he was first and foremost the emperor, the lord of the entire state. He could not tolerate being criticized by a bunch of good-for-nothings for a minor personal affair. In a fit of rage, this cunning emperor actually made an imperial decree allowing high-ranking scholar-officials to take male concubines, and officials above the sixth level4 to take a male wife equal in status to a proper wife. 

Whenever those above obtain benefits, those below will inevitably follow. As soon as this precedent was established, although bystanders took the majority in court, many scholars immediately began to praise the cutsleeve passion as refined and sophisticated. The common people thus followed suit, and this southern wind has continued to flourish ever since, showing no signs of weakening. Ancestor Su remained on the throne for nearly thirty years, and none of the great ministers dared to petition the emperor to abolish this decree.

Later when the previous Yue dynasty grew increasingly feeble, the emperor at the time, Ancestor Xuan, felt this southern wind had become a rampant fad that violated the traditional heavenly principles and caused population decline, plummeting numbers of robust men, and difficulty with agriculture. As a result, he issued a decree prohibiting marriage between men among the common people. This imperial edict released male concubines home and returned them their body contracts, enabling them to become re-naturalized as heads of their own households. However, there were still exceptions made outside the range of the law—Ancestor Xuan not longer allowed men with the status of proper wife to remain in their husband’s family, but also bestowed a special grace: Of officials from the sixth rank or above, dukes and marquises who earned nobility through meritorious service, and members of the imperial family… those who volunteered to marry a man as proper wife were allowed to petition the emperor to grant them a marriage5

This edict of grace became Ancestor Xuan’s trump card to check and balance the various powerful ministers and noble relatives. In particular, for those with titles of nobility passed through inheritance, marrying a male wife meant the lack of legitimate children. As a result, the noble title would have no valid heritors and would be taken back by the imperial court after death. 

After the demise of the Yue Dynasty, this “soft knife that slew men without drawing blood” saw continued use up to the present day due to its outstanding efficacy. Since the founding of the Great Zhou Dynasty, there had been more than a dozen great ministers who were bestowed male marriages by the emperor. All had possessed high positions and heavy importance, and held the power to stir up the winds and clouds. 

The commander of the Northern Yan Army, the Marquis of Jing Ning, the eldest son of the Duke of Ying… what all these identities most feared was the phrase “cutsleeve.”

How many people were eyeing him covetously, like tigers stalking their prey? The emperor himself was just in the middle of worrying about a lack of excuse to take back the military power in his hands. Why did this rumor spring up among the upper-class now, precisely at this critical juncture? 

Fu Shen was leading a quiet and peaceful life in retirement at home, not interacting with relatives and friends, so he naturally had no way to know about these rumors. His subordinates had already heard far too many unreliable gossip about the Marquis of Jing Ning. Having witnessed the entire menagerie of extravagant embellishments and horror stories, they had long since stopped paying any attention no matter how strange these tales became. 

But even if it had required extra vigilance, they should never have allowed this rumor to spread in such an unrestrained way.

The mastermind was sharpening their sword in the dark, while the actual protagonist of the affair was completely uninformed6 and ignorant. 

 

 

When the somewhat more vigilant Yan Xiaohan heard this rumor from the mouths of the Flying Dragon Guard, his heart immediately sped up and his instinct warned him of trouble.

That night, he did not wait for Fu Shen’s answer. Given this specific situation, even the most tenacious person would not remain unshaken. Yan Xiaohan had taken the upper hand in their long standing disagreement, but unfortunately this did not actually make him happy.

The Yuantai Emperor had not allowed the Flying Dragon Guard to take the case of the Eastern Tatar diplomatic envoy encountering an ambush, so Yan Xiaohan could only choose to investigate in private. The doubts spanning his heart had not disappeared. Even though Fu Shen had said Yan Xiaohan held too high an opinion of him, a man who had emerged unscathed from battlefields falling to such an ambush was akin to a duck mysteriously drowning in a water tank. And that was without mentioning the unusual and inexplicable elements written all over this ambush—even with the methods of the Flying Dragon Guard at his disposal, Yan Xiaohan was still unable to identify the mastermind.  

Fu Shen’s attitude made him suspect that there were some other secrets behind this case, and Yan Xiaohan needed to find the truth lying behind it.

It was not because of justice, nor because of morality, but because he wielded an incomparably sharp blade in the emperor’s name. Only when he could see the turbulent undercurrent hidden under the water’s surface would he be able to control the direction of the blade, instead of being countered by its edge or swept away by the undercurrent.

Successive generations of this dynasty’s emperors had all placed extremely heavy emphasis on the imperial guard. The internal holdings of the Imperial City were guarded by the troops of the Golden Crow, the Luan Ceremonial, the Nine Gates, the Dashing Cavalry, and the Leopard Scabbard7. Each of these five troops were then split into Left and Right branches, for a total of ten guards making up the “Ten Protectors of the Southern Office.” Within the imperial palace itself were Feather Forest, the Divine Pivot, and the Divine Martial, each of which were also split into Left and Right divisions. These six troops were specialized as bodyguards, and together they were called the “Six Armies of the Northern Office.” Outside of these, the Flying Dragon Guard held inspector powers over all officials and made its rounds over all four borders. The commanding officer of the Flying Dragon Guard was a Higher 3rd-rank4 official known as the Royal Inspector Envoy, with the power to secretly present petitions and memorials to the foot of the emperor himself. 

All the high generals of the Northern Office Armies were members of the Flying Dragon Guard. As the Royal Inspector Envoy, Yan Xiaohan was ranked above the other generals, and therefore held the real power as commander over all the Imperial Guards of the Northern Office. 

The rumor that “the Marquis of Jing Ning was a cutsleeve” had been brought into the imperial guards by the high general of the Left Divine Pivot, Wei Xuzhou. The Wei family was huge, with numerous in-laws and relatives to the point where it could claim familial connections with the majority of the noble families in the capital. General Wei was even more blessed by heaven—within the Imperial Guards, one could not find another man more enthusiastic than him when it came to playing matchmaker and propagating idle gossip and hearsay.

The discord between Yan Xiaohan and Fu Shen was well known in the Flying Dragon Guard, so Wei Xuzhou gloated in the latter’s misfortune: “This rumor is really too disgusting. Looking at the Marquis of Jing Ning’s usual aloof and noble spirit, I originally thought he was going to have to spend his whole lifetime alone with just his left and right hands for company hahahaha…..”

Yan Xiaohan’s brows furrowed deeply: “Where did this news come from?”

General Wei said: “From my second aunt’s8 younger sister’s husband’s cousin9… that is, the wife of the Marquis of Liu En. The Marquis’s family has an unbetrothed daughter who had taken a fancy to the Marquis of Jing Ning. It took some inquiring around in private before they learned there was such a secret.”

Yan Xiaohan massaged his forehead, having absolutely no desire to talk to this fellow.

“Sir,” Wei Xuzhou circled around him twice, finding his reaction strange: “The Marquis of Jing Ning himself has not started to worry about having such a hobby, how come you’re worrying in his place?”

It was strange. Too strange.

A man who had been lucky for many years suddenly having a completely reversal of fortunes and running out of luck10… What had Fu Shen done to arouse the wrath of heaven and the anger of men? Why were monsters and demons coming out like a swarm of bees, all using countless tricks and methods to scheme and plot against him? 

“There is something off about this matter. Brother Wei, if I may trouble you to check where exactly this news about the Marquis of Jing Ning being a cutsleeve originated from——” Yan Xiaohan had not finished speaking when a young eunuch in blue robes suddenly entered the outer hall. This newcomer was a disciple of Tian-gonggong11, the Pen-Holding Eunuch12 for the emperor himself. Seeing his arrival, the two men hurriedly halted their dialogue and went forward to listen to his words. That little eunuch spoke the verbal instructions he had been given: “His Majesty orders Sir Yan to present himself before the emperor in the Hall of Mental Cultivation13.”

Hearing this, Wei Xuzhou consciously moved to withdraw, but Yan Xiaohan suddenly made a hand gesture to him behind his back, while he said: “Gonggong11 please wait for a moment, I have a few words of official business I wish to hand over to General Wei.”

The little eunuch’s reply was unreasonable: “This is an order from the emperor himself. Does Sir Yan wish to have His Majesty wait for you?”

Yan Xiaohan’s lips showed a hint of what could be a smile. This was his most commonly seen expression, incredibly gentle while also seeming like he was about to enjoy a meal of human flesh.

“As the Flying Dragon Guard Royal Inspector Envoy, this official’s every move and action is in accordance with the imperial will. Gonggong’s words just now render this situation rather difficult for me.”

The eunuch was originally all false bravado and bluster in the first place. Now seeing Yan Xiaohan’s smile, the eunuch immediately remembered the horror stories told around the palace regarding the Flying Dragon Guard Royal Inspector Envoy. His face changed dramatically, and it took great effort for him to calm down and yield the way: “If this is the case, Sir Yan may do as he wishes.”

The very confused General Wei was pulled by him to the writing desk. Yan Xiaohan casually picked up a few random files just for show, while lowering his voice to whisper: “Take a trip to the Marquis of Jing Ning’s residence in my place, and inform him of the news being passed around outside. Tell Fu Shen he must take care and start preparing early. No matter what happens, he must first hold on and refrain from acting rashly and recklessly.”

The flames of Wei Xuzhou’s gossip-loving heart were stoked, but seeing how Yan Xiaohan had a serious expression that did not seem to be joking, he hurriedly nodded: “Sir, please rest assured, you may leave it to me.”

No matter how just confident and assured Yan Xiaohan made himself out to be in his words, he couldn’t actually make a eunuch conveying imperial orders wait for too long. He could only temporarily drop this messy affair and rush towards the Hall of Mental Cultivation. 

 

 

The Pen-Holding Eunuch12 Tian Tong had never been on agreeable terms with the Flying Dragon Guard. This little eunuch shared his Shifu’s hatred for this enemy, and was thus unwilling to disclose any information. As a result, only when Yan Xiaohan entered the Hall of Mental Cultivation did he discover that besides the Yuantai Emperor, the crown prince Sun Yunliang was also inside the hall. 

“This insignificant minister pays respect to Your Majesty, as well as to Your Royal Highness the crown prince.”

“My beloved subject, you may rise.”

The Yuantai Emperor was well-built and tall in stature, with an imposing and majestic aura. The cast of his face showed a hint of plump fullness in his cheeks, and two deep lines of wrinkles ran down the sides of his nose, above his slightly thin lips. These features came together for an overall stern, dictatorial, and ruthless appearance. This emperor could indeed be called intelligent and capable, leaning towards the serious side given his usual reserved and taciturn nature. But at this moment, he looked to be in a good mood—there was even the hint of a smile on his face, which swept away the anger and gloom that had been brought on by the case regarding the diplomatic corps a while back, making him appear significantly more kindly and amiable.

It looked like whatever happened was not bad news. Yan Xiaohan’s heart settled down slightly. He quietly thought that perhaps the successive chain of shady tricks and plots in the past few days had made him too high-strung, if he was becoming flustered and frightened at the slightest things.

The crown prince’s expressionless face was stretched taut as he stood to the side in attendance. Yan Xiaohan could sense his gaze falling on himself, not with maliciousness, but with a kind of probing inquiry akin to a threading needle.

“The crown prince may return to the East Palace.” The Yuantai Emperor expressed his desire to have Yan Xiaohan stay for a one-on-one talk. Upon thinking it over, he gave the crown prince a rare sentence of encouragement: “You handled the matter today excellently.”

Having received this praise, the crown prince’s primary purpose today had been achieved and he was no longer so reluctant to give up his spot. He retracted his gaze towards Yan Xiaohan and even smiled at him, before bowing and asking for leave to withdraw. 

That smile seemed to contain some form of ridicule and pity, which caused an ominous premonition to suddenly rise in Yan Xiaohan’s heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Footnotes (doing research into these phrases with historical origins is surprisingly fun, though it takes a lot of time):

1. This sentence uses three antiquated Chinese euphemisms for homosexuality, all with somewhat historical references. 

A) 断袖 “Cutsleeve” is a reference to Emperor Ai of the Han Dynasty, who cherished his male lover Dong Xian so much that he cut off his sleeve rather than wake the sleeping Dong Xian in his arms. (They did not have a happy ending.)

B) 龙阳 “Longyang” is a reference to another historical figure, the Lord of Long Yang who was favored by King Anxi of the State of Wei during the Warring States period. According to one legend, Lord Long Yang was out fishing with King Anxi when he caught a fish and then began to weep. When King Anxi asked him what was wrong, Long Yang expressed his worries that just like how he would discard the fish upon catching a bigger one, King Anxi would discard him upon finding a more beautiful lover. King Anxi reassured him and declared he would execute anyone who mentioned any other beauties to him.

C) 分桃 “Bitten peach” is a reference to the semi-legendary figure Mizi Xia, who was favored by Duke Ling of Wei. In one story, Mizi Xia bit into a peach and found it sweet, so he offered the other half of the peach to the Duke. (Later on when the Duke lost interest in him and accused him of a crime, “he once offered me a half-eaten peach” was no longer framed in a romantic way RIP.)

 

2. 庙号 lit. “Temple title” refers to the name given to an emperor after his death, when his spirit tablet is erected in the imperial ancestral temple. Usually it includes 宗 (zōng) or 祖 (zǔ), which mean “ancestor.”

3. 贵君: 贵 = “noble” just like in the title of Noble Consort, while 君 can mean anything from gentleman to lord to ruler. 

4. There were a total of nine ranks of officials, which are themselves split into a “higher” and “lower” 从. For example, the top rank 正一 [“Higher 1st-Rank”] would include the highest three civil official posts of 太师 [Grand Preceptor], 太傅 [Grand Tutor], and 太保 [Grand Guardian]. Sadly I still can’t give very good approximations of how high a “3rd rank official” is since it tended to change between dynasties, but overall it’s pretty up there.

5. 赐婚 lit. “gift/grant/bestow/confer + marriage” is usually used in the context of the emperor “gifting” someone a bride. This could be a reward for meritorious service, it could be a very undesirable marriage, or it could even be both of the above. And of course, there are very few who would dare refuse a “gift” from the emperor. 

6. 耳目闭塞 lit. “Ears stuffed and eyes shut”

7. Yeah I probably completely butchered these troop names, and yes this is going to continue happening. Pretty much all of these names are actual historical names for troops in the 禁军 [lit. “forbidden army”] AKA the imperial guard. Here’s some extra background that might explain the names better:

  1. 金吾 doesn’t really mean anything on its own, but it’s pronounced the same as 金乌 [golden crow] which refers to the Three-Legged Sun Crow of Japanese and Chinese myth. 
  2. 鸾仪: 鸾 = Luan = a mythological Chinese bird said to be red in color and related to the phoenix. 仪 = “ceremonies, rites”
  3. 九门 is literally “Nine Gates/Doors”
  4. 骁骑 literally means something like “valiant/well-trained cavalry”
  5. 豹韬: 豹 = “leopard, panther” while 韬 = “bow case/scabbard” or “military strategy”. This was apparently an actual historical imperial guards unit in the Tang Dynasty.

Now for the Northern Office…

  1. 羽林 lit. “feather + forest”. The name doesn’t appear to make much sense, but apparently it’s pronounced the same way as 御林 or “Imperial + forest” so it might have been a misnomer that became official.
  2. 神枢 = “divine + pivot/hinge”
  3. 神武 = “Divine Martial.” You might recall that back in Chapter 3, it was mentioned that Yan Xiaohan is the general of the Left Divine Martial Army. I guess that means he’s the commander of that unit in particular, but he also has unofficial power over the entire imperial guard.

 

8. 二婶 is “second + aunt”, but more specifically it is referring to the wife of his father’s younger brother. In particular, the 二 “second” implies Wei Xuzhou’s father was the eldest son of his generation while this aunt is the wife of the second son.

9. 表姐 specifically means an older female cousin.

10. 喝凉水都塞牙 lit. “even cold drinking water gets stuck between their teeth” is used to describe an extremely unlucky person

11. 公公 (gōng gong) is how eunuchs in the imperial palace are addressed, similar to how the women of the imperial harem are called 娘娘 (niáng niang).

12. 秉笔太监: 秉笔 can mean either “hold the pen” or “write.” Essentially, this eunuch surnamed Tian is a very close confidant of the emperor, since he is allowed to write for the emperor.

13. 养心殿 lit. “Nourishing/Cultivating + Heart/Mind + Hall/Palace” is an actual hall that still exists within the Chinese imperial palace.

 

 

Oh boy, guess what the emperor’s going to say!

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Pulling Together a Villain Reformation Strategy – Chapter 38

Trigger warning for more mentions of sexual assault, as well as an encounter that has definite tinges of attempted sexual assault.

Please let me know where my translations can be improved! (You should be reading this at penjournalhappy.wordpress.com)

 

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Chapter 38 – The Edge of Lust’s Blade1

 

Yun Xie stumbled over from the kick, but actually started to smile. He jumped up from the ground and pointed a finger at Jiang Xunyi, before rolling up his sleeves2 and rushing over to begin wrestling with Jiang Xunyi. 

Neither of the two used spiritual power, but rather exchanged blows without any rules or standards to speak of. They did not have a shred of proper appearances at this moment, instead resembling two scuffling children. Jiang Xunyi ended up pressed down on the ground open to Yun Xie’s beating, when he heard the footsteps of someone walking towards them. He hurriedly used one hand to obstruct the evilly grinning Yun Xie’s attempted stranglehold. Upon looking up, he saw it was Feng Qiu coming over once again.

He nimbly flipped Yun Xie onto the ground, and then got up and patted his clothes, calling out with elegant grace: “Qiu-shijie.”

Yun Xie: “…….” Oof3.

Feng Qiu was about to open her mouth to speak, when she saw Yun Xie getting slammed onto the ground. She quickly rushed over to help him up: “Ah-Xie, are you alright?”

Jiang Xunyi: “……..” Oof3

Yun Xie smoothly blocked her hand. Shooting Jiang Xunyi a glance, he deliberately gave a slight smile, and generously said: “It’s nothing, at most just a few bruises. They’ll be fine once I go back and massage them, Shijie does not need to worry.”

Jiang Xunyi’s eyes silently asked him: “Is there any limit to your shamelessness?”

Yun Xie did not change expression, his smile as refreshing as the spring breeze.

The two of them were used to horsing around since childhood, actually growing closer with every fight. However, from Feng Qiu’s perspective, their silent eye contact4 seemed akin to some surging undercurrent. She therefore bowed her head slightly and picked up the cloak draped on her arm: “I came to return these clothes. Ah-Xie, these are yours, right?”

Jiang Xunyi watched Yun Xie take them back with a smile, and itched to give him another couple good kicks—that cloak was indeed Yun Xie’s, sure, but he was clearly the one who gave it to Feng Qiu!

Upon sending the cloak, Feng Qiu left. Yun Xie stood in place, following her with his eyes. Jiang Xunyi took a step forward to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with him. He still felt something strange about the situation: “I always have this feeling that today Qiu-Shijie is acting odd, as if there is something she wishes to speak with us about. Do you have that feeling too? When you followed her, what did you two talk about?”

Yun Xie agreed: “I was thinking so too. She didn’t say much—the moment I asked her, she cried, so I came back.”

Jiang Xunyi glared at him: “Be honest, do you actually like Qiu-Shijie? Literally no one would believe it5 based on the way you talk.” 

Yun Xie absent-mindedly gazed out into the foggy distance: “It doesn’t seem as if I like her? Then let me ask you… if I liked a person, how do you think I would treat him6?” 

Jiang Xunyi’s brows furrowed, and he actually considered the matter seriously for a while. In the end, he only let out a sigh: “It’s hard to imagine. My primary problem is that I cannot even contemplate which type of woman would be able to stand you.”

Hearing this, Yun Xie’s originally reserved face became a little more vivid. He laughed and said: “Ah-Xun, by those words are you actually saying that there is no woman worthy of me?”

“……” Jiang Xunyi turned right around: “Okay, loving to dream big is a good thing. Keep it up, I’m going back to sleep first.”

Behind his back, the smile on Yun Xie’s face gradually disappeared. Without saying a word, he watched Jiang Xunyi’s silhouette fade into the distance. His clothes rippled in the night wind, delineating the outline of his slender figure to add a touch of lonesome frailty.

 

 

After bathing, Jiang Xunyi lay down on the bed, feeling as if all the bones in his body were falling apart to the point where they creaked when he moved. He was probably truly too exhausted—the moment his head touched the pillow, he shut his eyes out of dizziness.

He didn’t know how long he slept, as he was continuously disturbed by dreams of numerous bygone events. In the midst of one dream, he suddenly heard some kind of vague rustling sound right by his bed. Given his longstanding training, Jiang Xunyi woke up in an instant, his mind already clear. He vigilantly opened his eyes a tiny fraction while his body still lay motionless, intending to see who exactly this visitor was. 

Unable to see the scene outside of his bed, he couldn’t see the scene outside the bed. He could only hear the person’s light and graceful footsteps. It seemed to be a woman, a woman with excellent footwork ability7. But when the footsteps were around one step away from the bed, they fell silent, as if that person was standing still and sizing him up. 

Jiang Xunyi’s breaths were even and natural, his skill7 at faking sleep attaining new peaks of perfection8. His falsely closed eyes spied the dim and hazy outline of a person slowly bending closer to him. He was just secretly sneering in his heart, when suddenly a warm and slippery hand came down to rest on the exposed back of his hand, and immediately afterwards the characteristic soft flesh of a woman actually leaned on his own body.

Out of all the possibilities, he absolutely could never have imagined this!  

Jiang Xunyi felt his scalp tingle. Without even thinking, he abruptly sat up and lifted his hand to push the person away. Upon opening his eyes, what entered his vision was a half-naked woman leaning on his bed with one knee on the sheets. And the absolutely most horrifying realization to Jiang Xunyi, was that the woman was actually his Shigu9 Wanderer Zihui!

Jiang Xunyi moved to sit on the side of the bed, utterly aghast: “You… you…….”

Upon receiving this particularly bad scare, he simply had no idea what would be best to say in this situation. He shut his eyes, trying his best to suppress his emotions, before coldly speaking: “What are you doing here? Given how you just casually strolled into my bedroom, if I decided to strike pre-emptively, you would already be dead.”

Although Wanderer Zihui was one generation older than him, there was not that large of an age gap between them, and she still maintained the outer appearance of a young woman. Jiang Xunyi had never had a close relationship with her in the first place. Now at this time where he had no idea what this woman was up to, he did not bother speaking with the slightest bit of respect.

Wanderer Zihui’s usually chilly and severe face actually turned bashful and coy. She stretched her arm out intending to hold Jiang Xunyi’s hand, but when he dodged away she could only grasp his sleeve. She did not grow angry, and gently said: “Don’t you remember that time I once called you a deceitful and wicked bastard, and even took advantage of Shixiong being away from the mountain to punish you with lashes from the discipline whip and make you kneel on shards of glass…….”

“…….” Jiang Xunyi said: “So you came bringing a bramble to ask for a flogging10? Then where’s the bramble?” He sneered and pulled his sleeve out of her grip: “If that is the case, you don’t have to say anything, I don’t give a damn about that.”

As Wanderer Zihui looked at him, her eyes gradually reddened. She suddenly rushed forward to hug Jiang Xunyi’s waist, one of her hands clutching his wrist in a death grip: “Then do you know why I am doing this? Because I could never have imagined that there is such a man in the world as beautiful yet as cold and detached as you! Why?! Why is it that I am clearly the one with higher status and position, but you are not the slightest bit willing to even give me a glance! Why aren’t you willing to get close to me and curry favor with me like other disciples? Why is it that… you look at me so differently, as if I am just a meaningless scrap of waste paper!!”

Jiang Xunyi tried to pull her off himself, but unfortunately she was grabbing him too tightly and also wearing too little clothing. Wherever he pushed, he was touching naked skin, to the point where he had no safe place to act. He could only indifferently give his evaluation: “That last metaphor isn’t bad. So, what exactly are you here to do?”

Zihui freed one of her hands, with which she ripped off her last remaining clothing. Her fully naked body11 was as glossy as congealed fat12. With soft fragrance and feminine charm, she pounced into Jiang Xunyi’s arms: “Tonight, I came here just to be together with you. I beg you, look at me properly, even if it’s just one look, even if it’s just for tonight……”

Jiang Xunyi’s expression was cold and harsh, his handsome face appearing like carved white jaded, without the slightest hint of being emotionally moved. What he didn’t expect was that in the next moment, Zihui began to sob as she whispered: “I really could not bear to part… I really couldn’t bear it…. If you allow me to fulfill my wish this once, I will tell you a secret…….”

In this single instant, numerous thoughts flashed through Jiang Xunyi’s mind. Even though he had some general awareness of the major events in Yun Xie’s life, he could not see his own past and future clearly. Just today, the system had released a task for him that he definitely would not complete. Now within just a few hours, Zihui was saying these kinds of things… what exactly was going on? Was she referring to his final fate of having his reputation ruined and getting killed by Yun Xie? But according to reason, at this time he had not touched a single hair of Feng Qiu, so Zihui naturally could not know anything about that future. So what would this the so-called secret be?

While he was caught in this daze, his hands slightly loosened their pushing, so Zihui took advantage of his lapse to lean closer. Her full red lips touched Jiang Xunyi’s neck, and Jiang Xunyi’s entire body froze. He had always had a penchant for cleanliness, so upon coming into contact with someone like this, his thoughts were not disturbed nor his passion stirred, but he was instead rather disgusted. He had originally vaguely considered the possibility of selling some charm to trick some truths out of her, but now he found he really couldn’t do it. 

With no small amount of effort, he pushed Zihui away. With this motion, Zihui’s sharp fingernails scratched a red line down Jiang Xunyi’s wrist. 

His wrist lit up with a burning pain, but Jiang Xunyi did not pay any attention to this tiny injury. He looked at Zihui’s beautiful body with the coldness of watching a dead animal: “I do not wish to use unpleasant words towards a woman. Take your clothes and leave right now.”

Given her usual overconfidence in her beauty, Zihui had not expected that even this would be rejected. She was both ashamed and furious, and bit out through clenched teeth: “You truly have a heart of stone, actually daring… actually daring……. Hmph, you don’t even want to listen to what I know?”

Jiang Xunyi was too lazy to even talk. He turned his head away and impatiently waved his hand. 

Zihui’s face flushed completely red. Unable to endure any more of the invisible humiliation brought on by this irreverent attitude, she clutched her clothes, threw them over herself, and strode out. 

Jiang Xunyi only turned his head back after she had left. He carefully examined the ground of the room, and found no abnormalities. Lost in thought, he had the vague feeling there were changing and treacherous dark tides behind the scenes, as if something was about to happen, but he was unable to find even the slightest whiff of a clue. After sitting alone for a while, he leaned backwards and lay back down on the bed, but did not feel any trace of sleepiness.

 

This night was truly a time of troubles13—as he restlessly tossed and turned in bed for a while, the system similarly showed no signs of slowing down: [Task released: Please immediately complete the plotline “Rape Feng Qiu”, without delay, without delay, without delay]

It actually knew the principle of “Important things must be said three times”14. Jiang Xunyi’s vexation gave him vigor, and he grew enraged: “Do you have any humanity at all? Even Foxconn15 doesn’t exploit their employees this much! Right now I am Absolutely. Not. Interested! You heard that? I’m not doing it! Not doing it! Not. Doing. It!!!!!!”

With those last few words, he roared louder and louder. Thankfully he had always liked peace and quiet so there were no guards posted at his door, and no one was alarmed his voice. The system seemed to have been frightened by his fierce resistance and became completely silent. 

Jiang Xunyi angrily turned over, furiously despising this bullying system that only picked on the weak16. In his irritation, he wrapped himself up with the blanket. After gaining the boundary of this quilt wrapping, his body probably felt physical safety, so this time he very quickly fell into a dreamless sleep. 

 

 

 

Author’s Comments: Young master Jiang, do you still remember that the cloak was draped over you by little Yun in the first place?

 

 

 

 

Footnotes:

1. The original Chinese title 色字如刀 references how the word 色 (which usually means color but in this context refers to lust and other licentious activities) is partially composed of the character 刀 [knife]. I just did some artistic translation.

2. 摩拳擦掌 lit. “Rub one’s fists and wipe one’s palms”

3. The original phrase is 心塞 lit. “A stuffy feeling in one’s heart”. This was too hard to translate directly so I tried to convey the feeling instead.

4. 眉来眼去 lit. “Eyebrows come, eyes go” isn’t always flirtatious, but this phrase is often used to describe two lovers making goo-goo eyes at each other 😛 

5. 鬼都不信 lit. “Even ghosts would not believe it”

6. Important note: in Chinese, “he”/“she”/“it” are all pronounced the same way, so Jiang Xunyi would not be able to tell what gender Yun Xie is referring to.

7. You might know 功夫 better as “Kung Fu”, but it often refers to martial skills in general. Here I chose to translate these separately based on the context.

8. 炉火纯青 lit. “the stove fire glowing turquoise” is a reference to Daoist alchemy concocting pills of immortality. The phrase basically means that this person is a master of their craft.

9. 师姑 lit. “Disciple-aunt”, referring to a woman who is in the same generation as (and younger than) Jiang Xunyi’s Shifu

10. 负荆请罪 refers to someone offering a humble apology and asking to be punished. The original phrase conjures up the image of someone bringing up a thorny birch and requesting to be flogged with it.

11. Fun fact: 胴体 is also used to refer to a slaughtered animal’s carcass lol 

12. Fun fact #2: 腻若凝脂 can be viewed in a positive light as in a woman having soft/smooth/glossy skin, but the literal words used do not conjure up a particularly nice image, so guess what I used lol

13. 多事之秋 lit. “an eventful autumn”

14. I’m pretty sure 重要的事说三遍 is a Chinese Internet meme/slang.

15. 富士康 or Foxconn is a Taiwanese company infamous for overworking its employees. You may have heard of the “Foxconn Suicides” in 2010.

16. 欺软怕硬 lit. “Bully the weak/soft and fear the strong/tough”

 

 

Yeah uh if you flip the genders of that last encounter, that is not something you want to wake up to. Despite Zihui’s sheer rudeness, Jiang Xunyi is probably slightly more polite to her since she is a woman and his senior in the sect. Ah, the demands of social etiquette x___x

To be honest a lot of the words used to describe Zihui’s actions could potentially be interpreted in both a positive and negative way. Ex: her skin could be called both “smooth” vs. “oily”, the way she leaned up to Jiang Xunyi could be described as “nestling up to him” vs. “pasting herself onto him”. I generally leaned towards the slightly negative descriptions since that probably fits the context best.

 

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