Qinglian Chronicles - LightNovelsOnl.com
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Our bizarre ensemble gets on the road to our destination . My hopefulness grows larger, hiding my also-growing frightened turmoil . Sometimes I don’t dare think about it, even hoping that us not arriving there would be better . I would rather be in the torment I am right now then have to confront the outcome of what happened .
If, and only if… even though Jinzi’s martial arts are outstanding and his adaptability incomparable, he’s just a human in the end . Even a stronger one, in the face of natural forces, is an extremely fragile existence . If I’m… moving forward, while Jinzi is actually still… in the mud in the riverbed… what will I do?
I refuse to think about it . Just giving it one thought will shoot chills through my heels and cause my whole body to tremble, even in these canicular days .
At times, I feel like whipping an already quick horse . Jinzi might be with Hong Feng and Zhou Zizhu, waiting for us at the end goal . My impatience burning, I just want to get to Xinyang, go through the city gates, see a youth holding a sword and quietly waiting in the middle of the mainstreet or under a willow tree, and have it all be okay .
Worrying about my gains and losses every day, I talk less and less, not feeling right . Jinfeng started out not wanting to talk to me much and is probably as fretful about Jinzi as I am, so he’s uncommunicative as well .
Yuan Qingyun is relatively fond of talking, but as his mute point’s. .h.i.t for most of the time, he’s unable to use his skills .
We went Southwest in near silence, getting closer to Lingyang day by day .
I tried to force a confession out of Yuan Qingyun on the road, but he refused to say anything, only giving me a cheesy grin no matter how I threatened him . Sometimes the grin is even unbridledly provoking, probably from watching me be unsuccessful . I can’t actually mess around with torture . The most I can do is ask Jinfeng, “Didn’t your brother teach you any kind of point-pressing method that would make him feel like endless ants are boring through his heart, to the point where he loses the will to live but can’t have death?”
Jinfeng just turned his head disdainfully and paid me no attention .
So old pal Yuan is actually just chump change . A pure deadweight I can’t just toss . Whatever, worst comes to worst, I’ll hand him over for my G.o.dson in the Ministry of Justice to use!
As I’m greatly bothered by him right now, he can’t move a muscle . Jinfeng isn’t easy to instruct, so him being willing to take Yuan Qingyun to go to bathroom and such is already pretty good, which leaves all the tedious tasks of feeding him and whatnot to me .
Yuan Qingyun is unusually open and doesn’t seem to want to escape, having quite a ‘content with this situation’ att.i.tude . Every day, no matter what kind of noxious hog chow he’s fed, he’ll be delighted . That such a man hasn’t gotten fat is a miracle .
I sometimes try to entice him . “Don’t you want to find Shao Qing for revenge? Just tell me who that Lord is and I’ll let you go . Otherwise you can wait until you’re sent to the Ministry of Justice and your lack of talking gets your skin cut off . ”
He’s completely unafraid, laughing as he said, “I’ll go when I want to go, of course . You wanting to send me there won’t be so easy!”
“What’s so difficult about not allowing you to escape?” I say . “I could waste your martial arts, sever your heel tendons, or just chop your leg off . ” I’m not in a good mood, so my face is cold and my tone is especially bone-chillingly sinister, but all this good-for-nothing guy does is grin right at me .
As for why he’s eating hog chow, it’s because we’re getting closer and closer to the disaster area and our money is slowly becoming not enough to buy food; the mantou is wiped out, and even sweet potatoes are now a rare delicacy . Jinfeng is a still-growing child, so I have to save as much of the food I find for him as possible . I made the excuse that this crude stuff was hard to put in my mouth, but I’m getting dizzy from the hunger to the point where Yuan Qingyun couldn’t even stand to see it continue . Taking advantage of when his mute point had temporarily been undone so I could feed him, the old pal sighed . “My Grand Young Master, where are you right now? How can you still be a picky eater? Keep going like this and not only will you not be taking me to the capital, you won’t be going back yourself!”
I didn’t respond .
The number of refugees is progressively increasing, each one bone-thin and gaunt . It’s good that it’s summer and they won’t have to suffer the frost, but the probability of a plague outbreak has risen substantially . A gradually increasing number of bodies dead from starvation or illness can be seen on the roadside, a vast number of the refugees looking dead-eyed as well, yet a dark green light burns within them like a pack of hungry wolves .
Though I have the money, there’s nowhere to buy food from now, and there’s nothing I can do for them .
As a matter of fact, I’m quickly getting half-dead from hunger, too . My steps are getting more unstable and I’m frequently getting dizzy spells, so much so that I don’t feel very hungry anymore . I currently had a few bundled-up sweet potatoes that I’d inadvertently dug up yesterday, there being four in total . Jinfeng ate one, I ate a smaller half of one, and gave the leftover bigger half to Yuan Qingyun, because mistreating captives isn’t something I do . These other two mustn’t be used as I don’t know when the next time I’ll find food is; the day before I bought a thin congee made of wheat bran and tiny bits of rice for 5 liang .
Even Jinfeng is starting to go hungry, but Xinyang isn’t far now, and it’ll naturally be better in the city .
Famished people will do anything . Though I haven’t really witnessed anyone exchanging children with another family and eating them, today is the third day someone’s tried to rush over and kill my Hearth for meat . The 30-something man is nothing but weak skin and bones and isn’t a martial artist, so he was naturally flattened in a second . Looking at the one we’ve messed up laying on the ground, though, sinks my mood down to rock-bottom .
We stay in the woods in the night, most of the bark on these trees sc.r.a.ped off and eaten . I tied Yuan Qingyun to a tree, Jinfeng leaned against another, and I laid on the ground with my arm as a pillow . Hearth is nibbling at the gra.s.sroots for any morsels that escaped the net; the poor thing’s lost a lot of weight in these few days and is now hard to look at .
My sleep is fleeting, and come midnight, I’m suddenly woken by an extremely faint sound . The danger here is immeasurable, so I’ve unconsciously been extremely alert and taken to sleeping very lightly .
Under the moonlight, there’s an extra person at Yuan Qingyun’s side, as well as the sound of that person taking a small knife to cut the ropes . I got up, the dried branches around me making noise, and the two looked at me at the same time; it’s Lan Guan, as I expected .
When he saw me, his pretty face got panicked and pitiful, eyes flas.h.i.+ng with watery light . He wanted to talk yet could only stare, mouth opening and closing, and a long time later could only get out, “S-Sir Zhang…”
Jinfeng had also been startled awake, and stood behind me like a vigilant cat .
To say the truth, though my martial arts’ skills are novice and Jinfeng is just a kid, our side still has the absolute advantage: Yuan Qingyun’s internal injuries haven’t healed, and he won’t move about easily; even if Lan Guan had any martial ability, it’d have some sort of seduction-based framework .
I feel for that s.h.i.+ny golden hidden weapon within my lapels, but upon noticing Lan Guan’s fright-filled gaze, I can’t help but recall the night he held and comforted me . My heart softening, I take my hand back .
Lan Guan had clearly been following us for however many days and had felt today would be a good opportunity for his task, but he was unluckily found out .
“Lan Guan, tell me who your Lord is and you can take him away . ” I use an unyielding, yet tender, hypnotic voice to speak .
“I-I…” He seems to be in a dilemma, nearly falling into tears .
“No need to say it . ” I don’t know when Yuan Qingyun’s acupoints had been undone, but he forcefully broke apart the ropes that had already been more than halfway sawed through . It takes a bit of hard effort for him to stand, supporting himself on the tree, but he still gives me a blindingly brilliant smile . “I’ll pay my respects to you, Sir, for granting me that panacea, hehe . If I tried to put myself back together by force, I’d be laying down for a few months after . ”
I’m internally angry at myself for being too magnanimous, but I’m unfeeling on the surface . “It’s not merely a panacea . ”
Yuan Qingyun laughed, saying softly, “Tsk, tsk, Qinglian . You really aren’t obedient, always swindling people . ”
Though I’m weak from hunger, I still can’t help but get gooseb.u.mps from the way he’s speaking . My vision swimming, I look at him and then look at Lan Guan’s hopeful face, and finally say, “Fine . I presume you’re leaving . ”
Lan Guan looks beside himself with joy . After hesitating, he whispers, “Thank you . ”
I powerlessly smiled .
Lan Guan supports Yuan Qingyun to turn around and go, when the latter suddenly pauses and asks the former, “Do you have any dry foods on you?”
Lan Guan looked at him with a lot of surprise, but replied obediently, “Yes . ” He took out an oiled paper bundle and pa.s.sed it to him .
Yuan Qingyun opened it to have a look, then re-wrapped it and tossed it towards me . “Don’t be so picky with food . Eat that, ‘kay?”
I only opened the oil paper wrapping when the two had gone without a trace, and there were three thin, white cakes .
We finally got to Xinyang .
This is the nearest place to the disaster area that hasn’t yet been affected .
There were indeed disaster victims outside the city walls, densely packed together in a huge area . There’s the dying eldery, the lifeless-looking women with prominent cheekbones, the dust-covered toddlers with unsteady steps, and the children who can’t find their parents . Most of them are waiting quietly, but from time to time came a few sharp, hoa.r.s.e wails from within the crowd, likely due to a friend or relative’s death . This tragic scene is outstandingly worse than the one on the road .
It’s not that Xinyang isn’t allowing entry, it’s just not allowing the poor entry, as I had to pay 3 silver liang a person to go in with Jinfeng . The victims beside the city gate noticed that we had money and came up to beg, surrounding us . A young woman wept and pulled at the edge of my clothes . “Lord, I can be your maid, I don’t need money, just take me with you!” There is also a man with a child kowtowing non-stop to me, knocking his head open . “Lord,” he calls to me with a hoa.r.s.e throat and mournful voice, “bring my child in with you! Do what you want, just let him live to burn incense for my family!”
There’s a stone weighing down my chest . I want to cry, but I know there’s too many people around now and there’s nothing I can do . Only when I enter the city would I be able to try and rescue them, so I forcefully restrain myself and heartlessly lower my head to ignore them . Jinfeng has been watching with wide eyes the whole time, plainly shocked at the sight before his eyes .
There are no willows on the inside of the city’s gates, and Jinzi is doubtlessly not waiting for me in the middle of the mainstreet . My heart sinks, empty and at a loss .
Finding a hotel, we take baths, change clothes, and have a meal . Xinyang’s prices are now at an exorbitant rate, as such an extremely basic meal cost me 14 liang, and the mainstreet is practically desolate .
I hurried to finish eating, as I planned to go outside the city gate to ask victims of the disaster about the flood damage and then find the governor of Xinyang about the situation with the relief aid .
Out of the gates, I ask several people, though they didn’t completely clear it up . I just know that they’re all from Lingyang and the water levels are very high, so at least Guo Zhengtong didn’t falsely report that point .
As for Guo Zhengtong’s official popularity, 5 out of 10 of them don’t know who their provincial governor even is, and the rest each have their own opinion; some say he’s a very good and honest official, and some say that the compulsory servitude under his jurisdiction was too heavy .
As for the relief aid, no one had heard anything about it .
Most of the people are sluggish and not very willing to answer my questions . I had bought a very expensive basket of steamed buns and brought it with me, but I’d been robbed the moment I left the city gate .
I was just about to go back in when I suddenly took notice of four people coming in who looked very familiar . Staring at them, I see it’s Zhou Zizhu, Ah-San, Hong Feng, and Xiao Lu; all of their clothes are in disarray and they cut a real sorry bunch of figures, as if they’ve been moving non-stop . Ah-San’s mule is as lively as it was before, but the other two horses are very worn-down; without a careful look, one really wouldn’t be able to tell that they’re two of my previous four-count piebald horses that had escaped calamity .
I’m ecstatic and want to rush over, but I freeze in place: there’s n.o.body behind them . No Jinzi, and no Xiao Zhu .