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Chapter: 42


Chapter 42: Coolness of the Shining Night

Corpses were sprawled on the ground, blue and white porcelain bowls were shattered all over the ground, and flies buzzed as they flew about. Shen Wenxing endured it for a while, but in the end, he couldn’t help it and ran to the yard to vomit. A pot of rhododendron flowers was placed by the angled counter, and they were a brilliant red and had bloomed like fire. The dirt was also red, as it had been splattered by blood when the old shopkeeper had been cut down.

In total, there were seven dead. The person the assassin had actually wanted to kill was Eunuch Wang, and he was dead in the center of the main hall. His eyes were staring at the beams on the ceiling, and one could tell that he hadn’t even had time to run before his throat had been slashed with one stroke. Two people had fallen under the table. They were Eunuch Wang’s servants, one on the left and one on the right, and they were staring at each other at a loss. The assassin had used Garan’s dual-wielded sabers and had cut their throats at the same time. The remaining three people were waiters, and they had died on the threshold of the door, one in front of another. The centers of all of their backs had been cut, and that fatal stroke had been extremely swift and fierce, practically cutting them into two halves. The assassin should have been afraid that they would notify someone, so they had smoothly ended them. 

Situ Jin’s brows were deeply knitted, and he looked through the corpses as he said, "The methods of this assassin are extremely ruthless. They were all killed with one fatal stroke, not sloppy at all. The servants found out that Eunuch Wang provoked and caught several people in the martial arts world last month and beat a few to death in the prison. I’m afraid the people in the martial arts world were seeking revenge and chipped in to buy a Garan assassin to take revenge."

Shen Wenxing came back only after he had finished throwing up all of the acid water in his stomach and continued, "Serves him right. The year before last, this Eunuch Wang succeeded a son from his relatives and was very worried, as he was a famed spoiled child who went to entertainment venues. The prostitutes on Qinhuai River can be stacked into tall pyramids, and he was in deep debt. The money and resources Eunuch Wang had saved up for over ten years had been used up, and he had no other way, so he had gotten this idea of helping people in the martial arts world. He didn’t expect that he would lose his life, it really wasn’t worth it."

Shen Jue glanced at him and saw that there was vomit on the embroidery on the knees of Shen Wenxing’s robes. He used his fan to cover his nose in disgust and said, "Go aside and stay away from me."

Shen Wenxing knew that his governor liked cleanliness and disdained dirty things, so he tactfully moved to the side.

Loud cursing sounded from the kitchen, and there was the sound of breaking bowls and dishes, crisp like cracking ice. Shen Jue looked over. A few underlings dragged a man with disheveled hair and a dirty face and walked over, pushing him in front of Shen Jue.

"Governor, we found a survivor."

The man looked a little crazy. He salivated at the corners of his mouth and kept saying, "The ghost is coming! The ghost is coming!" He widened his eyes and happened to see the embroidered pythons with bared fangs and brandished claws on Shen Jue and instantly went crazy, his feet kicking as he crawled backward. He hugged a pillar and shouted, "Don’t kill me! Don’t kill me!"

"He was hiding on the beams in the kitchen. When the assassin assassinated, it was night, so it was dark on the beams and he was able to get away." An underling said, "Unfortunately, he became crazy."

Shen Jue gave a meaningful glance, and an underling went up at once. He pulled out a carved agate snuff bottle and moved it close toward the edge of the man’s nose. It was something that had been passed in by the Russians, and it could make people come to their senses. Sure enough, the man smelled it, and his sanity became a bit clearer. He looked blankly at Shen Jue.

"I’m asking you, what did you see?" asked Shen Jue.

The man was still blank.

Shen Wenxing slapped him. "The governor is asking you something, what did you see? Did you see what that assassin looked like?"

The man’s face was turned to the side by the slap, facing directly toward the yard in the center of the courtyard. It was a small Jiangnan courtyard and wasn’t very big, and in the center, a sapphire blue porcelain pot held a tuberose. A few drops of blood had splattered onto the plain white petals, making it look a bit freakish. When the man saw the tuberose, he shuddered and stammered, "He came from there… from there…"

"Where? Where?" Shen Wenxing followed the man’s gaze and looked over.

The man trembled as he got up, and he suddenly drew out the goose quill saber at an underling’s waist. Everyone was startled and pulled their sabers out of their scabbards, surrounding the man.

"He stood there, just like this. Look, just like this!" The man picked up a stick from the ground and stood with his waist slightly bent. He crossed his hands and sliced out a weird arc. Suddenly, he raised his face, showing a ferocious smile under his messy hair. "The Nameless Ghost of Garan of Seven Leaves, sending Eunuch Wang to be reborn in the Land of Bliss."

At that moment, Shen Jue seemed to see that assassin stepping on the ground covered in moonlight that was like silver frost. His hands were holding a long saber that sparkled with flowing light, and he walked toward him slowly.

In the silence, he spoke, and his voice coincided with that crazy man’s, low and hoarse.

"Did you clearly see the saber he was using?" Shen Jue waved his hand, signaling to the underlings that they didn’t need to be nervous.

"I did… I saw it very clearly. Hengbo, it was Hengbo!" The man’s hands loosened, and the saber and stick clattered as they fell to the ground. He himself also knelt down. "Ghost, he was a ghost!"

Shen Jue’s face that was as calm as still water finally had cracks, and underneath his sleeve plackets, where others couldn’t see, his fists slowly clenched.

Under the moonlight, he seemed to see the assassin’s face gradually become clear. That was Xiahou Lian’s twenty-one-year-old and mature appearance, in which naivety and childishness had faded away, yet it revealed a dangerous and ferocious smile he was unfamiliar with.

Seven years, they had already been separated for seven years.

Shen Jue knitted his brows and was silent for a long time, not saying anything.

"Hengbo?" Shen Wenxing made a big fuss over nothing. "Isn’t Hengbo the Garuda’s thing, how come this nuisance Nameless Ghost picked it up?"

"Does the Eastern Depot have a file of the Nameless Ghost?" Shen Jue asked Situ Jin.

Situ Jin replied, "Yes. Among the assassins who have risen to fame in recent years, this person’s file is the thickest. In it, Gao Dahu in Suzhou who was decapitated was also killed by him. This person is ferocious and vicious and goes even further beyond the Garuda. He seems to also know the face-disguising technique. The Embroidered Uniform Guard investigated for a long time, but they still have no clue to date."

"When we get back to the capital, pull it out, I want to see," instructed Shen Jue. He turned and went down the steps, and Situ Jin and Shen Wenxing followed behind him mightily. The person in power of the Eastern Depot naturally had a scene that could topple mountains and overturn seas. There was a circle of common people watching the excitement surrounding the inn. Shen Jue’s eyes didn’t even blink as he stepped onto Shen Wenxing’s shoulder and into the carriage. Before he had even sat steadily, a letter and a knot 1 made of gold thread was handed to him through the gap of the curtain.

An underling outside said, "The noble consort sends some words and would like the governor to spare a moment and take a look. The knot was made by Zhu Xia, who is at the noble consort’s side. She says that last time when the governor came to wish them good health, she saw that there was no knot hanging on the governor’s fan. She thought that the servants were careless, so she made one herself and hopes that the governor won’t dislike it."

Shen Jue scoffed and threw the knot out of the window sash. The knot floated lightly, and under the sunlight, it was like a butterfly with broken wings. It landed right next to a carriage wheel, and when the carriage started, the wheel crushed the knot, imprinting a deep rut.

After changing into light clothes, Shen Jue turned around and went to Qinhuai River, riding on a small boat and going up to the houseboat.

At dusk, the red clouds were reflected in the water between the glistening light of the waves that flickered, like silk cut by scissors and also like residual rouge on a woman’s cheeks. The curtain of night hadn’t shaken down yet, but girls had already come out. They waved colorful sleeves on boats, their sweet and charming fragrance faintly spreading out, held up by the river waves and rippling in the centers of the waves. Some girls were holding huqins 2 and singing Wu folk songs. Hearing their warm and soft voices and the winding tune made one intoxicated, as if one couldn’t find north.

On the banks of Qinhuai River, thousands of doors opened toward the river, and some river houses had chiseled steps that led directly to the water. Wives squatted on the steps as they washed clothes, and it was as if the clothes were covered in red clouds. Peddlers rode on small boats as they came and went, like a small leaf drifting along in the water. They carried boatfuls of things and yelled out from time to time, spreading very, very far along the river water.

In total, this was Shen Jue’s first time coming to Qinhuai River. When he had still been studying, Dai Shengyan had brought him to Fuzimiao and lectured about the "Classic of Poetry" in Zhuiyue Building. Zhuiyue Building was tall, so when one strained their eyes to look into the distance, one could see the babbling river water. The river was filled with fireworks, and Dai Shengyan had never let him get close. He still remembered the crab roe buns in Zhuiyue Building. Biting into it filled one’s mouth with juice, revealing the bright yellow filling.

"This really is a treasure place, it’s many times more elegant than our capital’s Eight Great Alleys. I heard that most of the prostitutes here were Yangzhou harlots, and that they began learning how to play musical instruments and sing, as well as poems and songs, from childhood. All of them even know how to compose poems and come up with lyrics, not much worse than the top scholar." Shen Wenxing smiled and turned his head to look at Situ Jin, who had no expression. "Captain Situ, you’ve been working hard to guard us all the way. Why don’t you rest here tonight, wouldn’t it be a waste if you don’t try something fresh?"

Situ Jin lowered his eyes to glance at him and shifted his gaze, still looking at the glittering river waves and ignoring him.

When the head of the brothel servants saw Shen Jue, his brows curved as he came up to him. He handed him a booklet with a gold lacquer border and the repertoire written in tiny text on it. "Childe, what songs do you like to listen to? Our girls can sing everything, and you can even listen to Eighteen Touches 3."

Shen Jue ignored him. Shen Wenxing took the booklet but didn’t look at it and only said, "We come from the North, so our tastes are hard to satisfy and we only listen to Kunqu Opera 4. I wonder if there are any girls who can sing it?"

The head of the brothel servants put on a smile and was just about to answer when he suddenly realized that his tone had twists and turns, and that he seemed to be from the palace. He squinted his eyes and looked them up and down before his heart thumped, and he hastily bent his waist. "Sirs, please come with me."

The night had darkened, and lights had been hung up on the river houses on the two shores. The lights connected into a brilliant cluster, seemingly giving Qinhuai River two dazzling golden borders. Servants carrying bamboo poles with loads on them were hanging up red gauze lanterns on the eaves of the houseboat, a shadowy red. Men and women fed each other wine under the lantern shadows, and the wine fragrance mixed with the smooth and sweet smiles, like a dream that wasn’t real.

The head of the brothel servants brought them into a box on the second floor next to the water. He didn’t even use a towel to clean up, and he left by himself. This box was at the frontmost of the houseboat, and three sides of it were windows. Through the window, they could see the river water that was reflecting the galaxy that filled the sky. In the center, there was a set of table and chairs made out of yellow pear wood, and there were a few square stools with gold-lacquered inlaid pearls, which were for prostitutes that sang to sit on. There was even a fake painting hung quite elegantly on the wall. Shen Wenxing pulled out a handkerchief himself and dusted the table and chairs before Shen Jue took a seat.

A little after sitting down, Shen Jue nodded toward Shen Wenxing. Shen Wenxing walked to the wall and took down the painting, and a small square as wide as a palm was revealed on the wall. He pulled the square open, and a tiny bit of the light in the neighboring box filtered out. Shen Wenxing knocked on the wall very rhythmically with three knocks, a pause, and then one knock. The other side returned with four successive knocks. Shen Wenxing nodded at Shen Jue and stood back to the side.

"I, Gao Nian, greet the governor." From the other side of the wall, the voice of a middle-aged man sounded. "I have already gained Garan’s trust and taken control of the secret den of Fuzimiao."

Shen Jue sipped his tea and said, "Very good. My hard work to cultivate you hasn’t been in vain. As long as you work well for me, your wife, son, and mother naturally won’t be treated badly."

"Thank you, Governor!" Gao Nian kowtowed twice on the ground, before getting up again. "I wonder what questions you have for me, as you have summoned me today?"

Shen Jue stroked the jade-white porcelain cup in his hands and asked, "How much do you know about the Nameless Ghost?"

Gao Nian pondered for a long time and said, "It’s been just over a year since I’ve entered Garan. Garan has rules: don’t ask questions, kill without inhibition. The spies are usually tight-lipped, and they only occasionally reveal a little. I can only hear some rumors, but I’m afraid they can’t be taken seriously."

"Let’s hear it."

"This person’s real name is called Xiahou Lian, and he’s the son of the former Garuda, Xiahou Pei. He’s only risen to fame in recent years, and he can be considered the bright younger generation, but his reputation in Garan isn’t very good. He’s the same as his mother. He never contacts us spies, and he works alone. I’ve heard others say that he himself dug out several secret dens."

"Oh? Do you know where his secret dens are?"

"I don’t know." Gao Nian said, "Only Tang Shiqi and Shu Qing know where his secret dens are."

"Who are they?"

"You have stayed in the capital for a long time and you’re in the deep palace, so you haven’t heard the rumors in the marketplaces. Now, in brothels, teahouses, and taverns, a verse of a poem is popular——‘An arrow like the reflection 5 of a startled swan goose, a flying flute in Spring City and the cries of hundreds of ghosts. Misty water and transverse waves 6 worriedly cannot be crossed, forgotten souls who have been wronged fill the rivers with blasphemy.’ It’s talking about the weapons of the three of them. Zhaoying is Tang Shiqi’s crossbow mechanism. Tang Shiqi was a disciple of Tang Sect, but three years ago when he left the town to travel, he was caught by Liu Guizang. Xiahou Lian saved him, so from then on, he did things with Xiahou Lian. Two years ago, Xiahou Lian disguised himself as Tang Shiqi’s appearance, snuck into Tang Sect, and burned the building of books. He then used a mechanism wing to escape, and now, the two of them are on Tang Sect’s kill list."

"I have reported this matter to the governor before," said Situ Jin. "I sent people to Tang Sect to ask questions, and Castle Lord Tang said that the Nameless Ghost had secretly learned Tang Sect’s seventy-two mechanism techniques, stolen their mechanism Aspara wings, and escaped from a narrow gap between two mountains. The day the Nameless Ghost escaped, he had set up an inescapable net in the narrow place between the two cliffs in advance. The Tang Sect disciples behind him that were using mechanism wings and pursuing him were trapped in the net, and they watched helplessly as the Nameless Ghost flew down to Jialing River and escaped on a boat."

"Later, he snuck into each major sect and stole saber techniques from hundreds of clans. Now, even the Seven Stars Chained Saber that’s far away in Tian Mountain 7 has been brutally murdered," said Gao Nian.

He was doing it for revenge. He stole mechanism skills because saber skills were of no use and would be difficult to defeat Liu Guizang with. He practiced the saber skills of hundreds of clans so he could find a unique move to restrain the Qi Clan Saber. Shen Jue tapped his knee, and the woven gold embroidery threads on his kneecaps scraped his hands coarsely, hurting dully.

"What is the second weapon?" asked Shen Jue.

"Dizhong Saber 8, a spring branch, is Shu Qing’s weapon. He’s young, inexperienced, and immature, and it’s rumored that he’s Xiahou Lian’s junior fellow apprentice. Last year, Xiahou Lian brought Shu Qing to make transactions of lives. It’s rumored that that kid is cowardly and weak, and isn’t made to be an assassin. As for this third weapon, it is naturally Hengbo."

"Xiahou Lian also isn’t made to be an assassin, but he has still become an assassin that makes people terror-stricken." Shen Jue said coldly, "I told you to pay attention to the location of Garan Mountain Temple. Have there been prospects?"

Gao Nian sighed. "I’ve received great trust from you, but to this day, there still hasn’t been any clues. Garan’s rules are strict, and violators of the rules won’t be provided with Mid-July anymore, so everyone keeps their duty and doesn’t dare to step beyond the limit. However, do you know about Garan’s Underground City?"

Shen Jue looked up. "Underground City?"

"Underground City isn’t a city, but it is relative to a city out in the open. Where there is white there is black, and where there is light there is darkness. The imperial court has post stations and Garan has courier houses. The streets and markets have teahouses, and so does Garan. They even have brothels, exchange shops, and taverns, not lacking anything. Robbers, thieves, fugitives, prostitutes, and assassins can all stay, stop briefly, eat, and drink at these places. What ordinary common people can do, they can also do."

"An imperial court in the darkness," Situ Jin said in a low voice.

Shen Jue sneered, "So, is Garan’s abbot the king in the darkness?"

"Not entirely." Gao Nian said, "Underground City isn’t operated by Garan. Garan dispatches a person to stay at each station, and they’re responsible for receiving assassins that are coming and going. Underground City is shared by all people in the underworld society. Robbers provide food for thieves, and prostitutes warm the bed for assassins. People who cannot see the light live there."

"We who walk under the sun originally thought that these filthy things spin around in sewers. I didn’t expect that a decent city could be built in nooks and crevices." Shen Wenxing tsked.

Shen Jue squinted. "Who are you calling a filthy thing?"

Shen Wenxing saw that Shen Jue’s expression wasn’t very good, and he didn’t know which of Shen Jue’s nerves he had struck. He hastily knelt down and hit his own mouth. "I talk too much, I deserve to be hit, deserve to be hit!"

The moon rose, white and gloomy, like the white chest of a bird, curled up on top of households’ eaves. A small boat rowed its paddles as it slowly docked by. On it sat a showgirl who was playing a pipa and loudly singing Wu folk songs, a sweet and mellow tune. A painted pleasure boat and the small boat were side by side as they drove through layers upon layers of green reflections of poplar branches, docking into three consecutive tall culverts. The singing voice was accompanied by the babbling ripples of the river water, sweet and intoxicating, like wine that was mixed with honey.

Shen Jue had an unreal feeling. All he saw was singing and dancing to celebrate the peace, but in the shadows of this fine day and beautiful scenery, on the back of Great Qi, a huge city was hidden. Xiahou Lian was walking there, appearing on the streets in the dark night, hunting souls and claiming lives.

"Gao Nian, you did very well. Your wife, son, and mother will receive the care they are due. Your son is already going to school now, and he writes poems quite well. Wenxing, show him."

Shen Wenxing answered with a yes and pulled out a stack of thick rice paper from the fold of his clothes, handing it to Gao Nian through the small square.

Gao Nian read it as wiped away tears and said, "It’s fortunate that this child is promising, unlike his father, who has no abilities. Governor, thank you very much for cultivating me. With your looking after, I feel at ease."

Shen Jue was just about to nod when the sounds of the instrument from the small boat suddenly stagnated, pulling out an ear-piercing scream. 

At the same time, a short, jet-black arrow suddenly shot out from the other side of the square, emitting an owl-like whistling sound. The whistling sound was shrill and sharp, as if it could stab into one’s mind. Shen Jue swiftly dodged. The arrow brushed past Shen Jue’s hair and shot out the candle flame on the lamp holder behind him.

In an instant, it was pitch-black in the box.

"Alert!" roared Situ Jin.

The wall was penetrated by three long sabers at the same time. The partitioning wall between the two boxes was a wooden board that was as thick as half of a palm. After the assassins slashed it, they used their shoulders to strike the wooden board, treading on the flying sawdust as they stepped into Shen Jue’s box. In the heavy night, only the plain white moonlight permeated the window screen, shining in a bit of a slight light. In the terribly white light, the assassins with bent bodies and who rushed in were like demons and monsters.

On the river water, the sounds of the pipa suddenly became urgent. Shen Jue didn’t move, and he held the porcelain cup in his hands as he listened quietly. He could imagine the prostitute’s fingertips that were white as scallions quickly plucking the strings, like disturbing a pond of river waves, and the sounds of the instrument were as crisp and sonorous as pearls and jades falling onto the ground.

Situ Jin’s loud roar resounded throughout the entire houseboat. The clients who had originally been drunk suddenly burst up, pushed away the women in their arms, and pulled out the sharp goose quill sabers that had been hidden under their robes. They threw out grappling hooks at the same time, hooking onto the angled railing on the second floor, and flew up into the air. Their long robes spread, and people saw the yesa robes underneath their robes. 

The windows on two sides were broken through by Eastern Depot underlings, and the window lattices and door broke into pieces. The assassins swiftly turned around, and their three-foot piercingly cold long sabers collided with the gold-lacquered goose quill sabers. The lights of the sabers splashed, like clear and chilly sprays of water.

The disorderly sounds of footsteps, the sounds of weapon meeting weapon, the sounds of blood and flesh tearing, and the sounds of a woman falling into the water mingled together. In the darkness, under the cold and white moonlight, everyone was moving, except for Shen Jue. He gazed at the boundless galaxy under the river waves and suddenly recalled Xiahou Lian’s eyes. He suddenly felt that his heart was very empty, so empty that he was a bit sad.

He suddenly understood why it had been hard for Xiahou Lian to accept him regarding his enemy as kin at the time and why he had stubbornly wanted him to go and take the imperial examination again. It was just that fate played tricks on people. No one could escape or avoid it; that damned fate. 

The sounds of the instrument changed again!

The speed of the fingers plucking the strings became faster and faster, and Shen Jue seemed to hear thousands of troops crossing the long river. 

Underneath the surface of the water, many black-clothed assassins leapt out. All of them were wearing white porcelain masks. There were only two dark eye holes in the pale masks, and there were no noses and no mouths, like faceless ghosts. However, just as they were about to board the boat, a line of underlings suddenly appeared! It turned out that they had already been hiding under the side of the boat, just waiting for the assassins to board the boat. The underlings sent out sharp blades at the same time, and sprays of blood splashed. The black-clothed assassins didn’t have time, so when they got on the boat, their abdomens had already been cut, and they fell into Qinhuai River, one after another. Dark red blood mixed with the dense black flow, pulling it out into a line that swayed like the red sash of a showgirl.

"Light the lamp!" Situ Jin shouted sternly.

The candle flame was reignited, and the box was lit up once again.

Shen Jue finally saw the situation in the room clearly. The window sash was tattered, and the underlings were holding their sabers, standing still. All three assassins had been taken down, and one person’s arm was broken. Gao Nian was lying on the floor of the neighboring box, and an assassin’s dagger was inserted in his chest, blood gurgling out along the blood groove. 

Shen Jue coldly ordered, "Catch that pipa woman, she’s the sheath!"

The underlings were like black tidewater as they swiftly surged out of the box and jumped into the water. When the woman on the small boat saw this, she threw away the pipa and also jumped into the water to escape. But in the end, she wasn’t as fast as the underlings, and dark red blood soon surged onto the surface of the water.

Gao Nian was muttering to himself on the ground. His face was already ashen, and his hands clawed wildly on the ground.

Actually, Gao Nian had already accidentally exposed himself a long time ago, and Garan had promised him a large sum of money for him to lure Shen Jue out. But how would these homeless fugitives know that there were things more important than life in this world. And those things were being held in Shen Jue’s hands.

Situ Jin held his hand and asked in a low voice, "What else do you have to tell us?"

"I… I fulfilled my duty… My wife and son… mother…"

"Yes, the governor will take good care of them." Situ Jin used a firm and persistent gaze to look at him.

Gao Nian nodded. "Xiahou Lian… Xiahou Lian also has a maid, her name is Zhaoye 9… She’s very… very strong, and she’s inseparable from Xiahou Lian… Tell the governor to… be careful."

Shen Jue was suddenly shocked, and he couldn’t help but ask loudly, "What maid?"

However, Gao Nian was already dying. He opened his mouth a few times, and his eyes completely lost their spirit, like a dried up well. His head tilted, and he died.

Shen Jue grabbed an assassin’s collar and asked coldly, "What maid? Explain clearly to me, otherwise I’ll have you dead."

He was a man with a chiseled face and sunken eyes. The light in his eyes was chilly, like the gaze shot out darkly by a venomous snake. He didn’t answer Shen Jue and only said in a low voice, "Governor of the Eastern Depot, your name has already been written on Garan’s kill list. Garan remembers you."

An icy smile arose at the corners of Shen Jue’s lips. Shen Wenxing was close by, and when he saw Shen Jue’s chilly smile, he couldn’t help but shudder.

Shen Jue actually didn’t like to smile. When he smiled at someone, it was either because he was on guard in his heart, or that person would be faced with imminent disaster.

"You won’t talk?" Shen Jue stood up. His face was covered by the shadow of the lamp, half of it bright and half of it dark, which had an icy glitter. "Isn’t Fang Cunzhen still short of people? I gave him azalea flowers, but he still asked me recently for test subjects who have the Mid-July medicine in them. Before, we caught a few Garan spies and sent them over, but I heard they were all tortured to death?"

"Tell me about it. Actually, they can’t be considered dead, they’re just bleeding from the seven facial apertures and have lost all five senses," Shen Wenxing continued for him.

"Okay, then send these over together."

"How about those assassins outside?"

"Only these three are Garan assassins, the others are all spies. Using three sabers to kill me, you must think very highly of me." Shen Jue smiled coldly.

The assassins were dragged away, and it was quiet at once in the room. Shen Jue didn’t move, so no one dared to leave.

He stood alone in the shadow of the lamp, and no one knew what he was thinking about. Shen Wenxing’s eyes turned a few circles, and he glanced meaningfully toward Situ Jin. Situ Jin ignored him.

"Situ," Shen Jue suddenly spoke, "if Mingyue changes and becomes someone you don’t know at all anymore, what would you do?"

"Will not," said Situ Jin.

"I’m just making a hypothetical," Shen Jue said impatiently. "What if she changes?"

"I mean," Situ Jin’s eyes were steady, "that Mingyue is my wife. No matter what she becomes, I’ll always know her."

Translator Notes:

Complicated knots used to tie cloth belts or sweat towels and also as decoration for one’s hair, fan, or curtain. A family of bowed string instruments consisting of a sound box at the bottom with a neck that protrudes upward, and usually has two strings. A traditional Chinese folk song that is flirtatious and erotic. One of the oldest forms of Chinese opera and is known for being very elegant. Translation of Zhaoying, the name of Tang Shiqi’s weapon. Translation of Hengbo. Lit. Heavenly Mountain, a large system of mountain ranges located in central Asia. Lit. Saber Within Flute. Lit. Shining night.

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