Joy of Life - Chapter 243

[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:47:48]
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Chapter 243: Close Your Eyes and Be at Peace

Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio

In the silent night that fell on the ravine, looking upwards, one would not see weeds, but a thick, ink-black night that stretched all the way across the precipices on both sides. Fan Xian adjusted his clothing, binding together his ripped left trouser leg.

“That fairy’s name was Ye Qingmei,” he said quietly.

“Ye Qingmei?” said Xiao En, shocked. “What are you talking about? Do you mean to tell me that the young lady of the Ye family was the fairy that I met?”

When the Ye family had suddenly risen to prominence, Xiao En was still the spymaster of the Kingdom of Wei, so through his spy network, he had some knowledge of her life. Fan Xian was not surprised at all. He laughed. “Who else but the ‘fairy’ you speak of could turn the House of Ye into a name known all across the land in such a short time?”

“So that’s what happened!” Xiao En began coughing once more. “No wonder the Kingdom of Qing could rise so quickly. They had the temple behind them.”

“No,” said Fan Xian. “You’re dying, so I’ll tell you. Ye Qingmei was the ‘fairy’ that you speak of. She wasn’t an immortal of the temple at all… She was just like you and me. Just an ordinary person; nothing more.”

Xiao En still hadn’t recovered from his shock. He couldn’t believe what Fan Xian was saying. Instead, he asked a question in his final moments. “…Why… did the fairy want to capture me and take me to Qing?”

He had been the spymaster of Wei at the time, so naturally he knew of the connection between the Ye family and the Overwatch Council of the Kingdom of Qing.

“At the time, the Kingdom of Qing needed you dead.” He paused for a moment. “I must admit, at the time, you were a truly terrifying figure… The reason Ye Qingmei dispatched Chen Pingping to capture you alive was because when you broke through into the temple, she was finally able to come to this world.”

“Then… who… are you… really?” Xiao En spluttered in between violent bouts of coughing. In the dark night, his eyes, filled with dismay, were fixed on Fan Xian like arrows.

Though he was dying, the old man’s gaze was still sharp. Fan Xian couldn’t help but feel slightly startled. He laughed quietly. “Me?”

There was a moment of deep silence before he finally spoke.”I am Ye Qingmei’s son.”

Ye Qingmei’s son… In this world which was so familiar and so strange, so intimate and so distant, Fan Xian had never thought he’d say those words out loud. The night grew darker, reaching the darkest moment before the dawn. In a cave with just two people in it, Fan Xian had quietly said those words.

I am Ye Qingmei’s son.

For some unknown reason, as the words left his lips, he felt a sudden calm, like his heart had thrown off the weight it had been bearing, overturning the creeping vines and tendrils that covered it in an instant. At least he had found some fleeting peace in the sense of freedom that filled the night air.

Daylight came slowly.

There were not many memories left. But Xiao En spoke slowly, and as midnight came and went, Fan Xian had finally achieved his most important goal in this journey north. He looked at Xiao En. “Is there anything else you want explained?” he asked quietly.

Xiao En looked at him, a strange expression on his face. A long time passed before he finally spoke, wheezing. “You’re… her son?”

Fan Xian nodded and smiled. “I don’t take after my mother.”

Xiao En coughed violently, letting loose a few more of the last drops of blood in his veins. He looked like he wanted to laugh and cry at once. “No wonder you know so much. No wonder you’re so interested in where the temple is…” Facing death, the old men finally saw everything clearly. He gasped for breath as he spoke. “It looks like you’re not stuck in this cave.”

“I’ve made a habit of not dying.” Fan Xian had already prepared everything. He came in closer to Xiao En.

Xiao En suddenly fixed his gaze intensely on Fan Xian. “If you want to live a good life, don’t go to the temple,” he said.

Fan Xian’s face didn’t change. He said nothing.

Xiao En stopped looking at him. He cast his gaze at the precipice over the ravine behind Fan Xian and frowned slightly. It seemed he was thinking about something. A moment later, he spoke, gasping for breath. “I always thought I was the kind of man who didn’t fear death. All I wanted was freedom. Now death stares me in the face. And now I know that everyone fears it.”

“There is no one in this world who doesn’t fear death.” He didn’t know why, but Fan Xian looked at the dying man and slowly relaxed his left hand. “But… perhaps death is not the end. Perhaps you will find yourself in a strange new world.”

That was his greatest secret. His greatest sorrow.

Xiao En gazed into the distance, his bloodshot eyes fading. “Are you really the son of a fairy… no, the son of Ye Qingmei?” He didn’t wait for Fan Xian’s response. “But you’re so unlike her.”

“You only saw her when she was four years old. How can you be so sure?”

Xiao En smiled. “Because you’re nowhere near as pretty as a fairy.”

Fan Xian cocked his head unthinkingly. “There’s not many women in the world who are better-looking than me.”

“The look in your eyes is different.”

“In what way?”

Xiao En looked at him, a hint of indifference in his voice. “Now I understand. In those snowy wastelands, the fairy looked out at that vast stretch of white, and her gaze was still soft, compassionate… I’ve never known how to describe it. Now it seems that I can feel the darkness coming. And I can understand the emotion that was behind her gaze, and what it showed.”

“What did it show?” Fan Xian’s heart skipped a beat.

“A burning love for life itself.” Xiao En smiled. “Although you’ve a clear and bright smile in your eyes, it’s not the same… your mother was filled with love. Underneath… you’re empty.”

Fan Xian laughed. “I won’t deny that.”

“I’ve killed a lot of people in my life, so I’ve never held out hope for a happy ending.” Xiao En would say no more on the topic. He just looked out spellbound at the daylight as it filtered through the thin mist. “If I am to die in this cave, as you say, it will make a fine tomb.”

Fan Xian crouched down beside him. His left hand rested on the old man’s shoulder, and he found that the flesh was already soft.

The daylight coming over the precipice was still dim, but as it scattered through the fog that covered the ravine, there was a feeling of holiness to it. The light rays shone on Xiao En’s wizened face. His hands were stained with the blood of countless men, and the old spymaster had spent the last part of his life in miserable loneliness. But somehow, the light made him feel as if he were leaving it all behind.

“There aren’t any date trees in Danzhou, are there?”

These were Xiao En’s last words.

Fan Xian withdrew the last needle from underneath the old man’s ear, then checked that he had passed. He turned his head and looked at Xiao En’s body. “Though there are no date trees in Danzhou… Maybe there’s a better world waiting for you after your death.”

Xiao En’s eyes had already softly closed. His bloodshot pupils would never look out on this strange world again.

Fan Xian exhaled, and laid Xiao En’s body out flat deep in the far end of the cave. As for whether the hawks who encircled the mountain might peck at his corpse, it seemed he hadn’t thought about it, so he appeared a little indifferent.

He walked out of the mouth of the cave, reaching his hands out into the air over the precipice outside. The white mountain fog moved along with the movements of his fingers, but all he could grasp at was air.

The Brocade Guard were probably still searching for traces of the two of them, or their corpses, in the valley below and the roads leading away from the area. The cliff face of the Yan Mountains was as smooth as a mirror. No one imagined that anyone could jump from the cliff edge and land safely, and they certainly never thought that someone could manage to scale the slick surface.

Fan Xian’s body clung tightly to the cliff face like a poster on a wall. The thick dawn fog around him effectively hid his figure. Even if someone were directly facing the cliff edge, they would have no way of seeing the person who was scaling it like a gecko.

In Danzhou, from the age of 12 to 16, he had spent four years controlling the zhenqi outside his body. It was a very silly way to practice. But Wu Zhu had not been concerned for him. He had practiced thoroughly himself and unexpectedly saved Fan Xian from a great many scrapes later on in his life.

Crawling like a gecko, pressed up against the wall like a snake against the floor, he carefully made his ascent, his face expressionless. The ephedra pill had worn off. His zhenqi was flagging, so he dared not lose focus.

The grasses trembled slightly as a hand gripped the stone of the cliff edge. Clad in his night-walking clothes, a ghost-like figure climbed up from the ravine.

His hood covering his face, Fan Xian turned around and looked. All that was there was the ravine, completely silent, as if nothing had happened. A moment later, his heart skipped a beat. Gazing through the thick fog, he looked toward the mountain forest in the distance. There was nothing there.

But it seemed like someone had been watching him; like he could feel the physical presence of their gaze on him.

Fan Xian lowered his head slightly and turned around. He didn’t think – there wasn’t time to think. He pierced through the fog like an arrow clad in black, running toward the capital.

And outside the diplomatic mission compound, Gao Da’s hand gripped his longsword. His eyes were as ferocious as a tiger’s as he glared at the people in front of the building. The young master had not been seen for a day and a night. All the visits from the officials of Qi had been turned away but today, early in the morning, men from the Brocade Guard had come to relay a decree from the palace. They said that the young Emperor wished to speak with Fan Xian at the palace.

There were few people who knew that Fan Xian was not inside the diplomatic mission compound. Shen Zhong, Provost of the Brocade Guard, hoped that Fan Xian was not in the building, but after a whole night’s search, they still had not found his body, so suspicions had been raised for Northern Qi, and it was urgent that they confirmed Fan Xian’s whereabouts.

They had not expected the southerners to be so rude and unreasonable, making the excuse of Fan Xian’s drunkenness to prevent Northern Qi officials from entering the building. Tempers were about to flare, and at that moment, there was a rustling sound from the street.

It was not the sound of street-sweepers, but the sound of footsteps. The people of Northern Qi were overjoyed.