Transmitting magic energy1 is very exhausting. Hua Li wasn’t at it for very long before she had to take down her hand and stop, since even the fluttering of her wings had begun to slow. Most of the magic of the Queen of the Elves is sealed within the ring, and she is reluctant to use all the energy she has to heal Zeno. Even so, it is still the blessing of the elves that he is receiving.
Knowing this, Zeno is left feeling irresolute about the whole situation. On the one hand, there was no sign of Hua Li’s blackening before the finale of the last chapter. The novel did not reveal the reason why the Elf Queen betrayed Xi Wei, but perhaps it was revenge for mistreatment, or else it had to have been unwarranted.
Zeno followed “Curse” for two years, and you could say the he knew the author’s writing style from A to Z. Nothing in that plot was written unnecessarily. No matter what develops in the story, there were surely some hidden clues pointing that direction. Some of them are so vague that they are easy to miss.
Due to shock, Zeno did not take any time to peruse the ending before arriving inside the story, so he was unable learn the author’s thought process behind the ending. He can only slowly fumble through his memories for the answers.
When the author was in a good mood he would reply in the comments, directing readers where to look for hints. The readers could easily see where the plot developments were coming from. If he were in a bad mood he would just ignore the comments, leaving the readers to look back through the novel themselves. This built up a true love/hate relationship between the author and readers.
A reader once succinctly summarized it as such, “Anyone still following this novel is either a shaking M, or it really is true love ah!”
Dismissing these idle thoughts, Zeno focuses on only the choices in front of them. One is to restore the memory and magic quickly while Hua Li is indeed a mere innocent meng sister, the second is to restore the memory of the Queen after she chooses to join the more powerful protagonist’s ranks.
Despite having him tightly wrapped, Xi Wei has his hand resting on Zeno’s back for extra support. Realizing that Zeno’s fever has finally gone down, and that his face and forehead are not so hot, Xi Wei’s face finally relaxed a bit, his expression no longer identical to the icy landscape around them.
Hua Li, who was secretly looking at his face, smiled coyly, muttering, “This little one is your son, you must have been so nervous.”
The Elf Queen was really tired and she wanted to find a place to rest. However, even after examining the entire cabin space, she could not find a single clean spot to rest. The corners of her mouth turn down, a small sigh escaping.
She finally settled with resting on Zeno, and to avoid being squished she curled up next to his neck and snuggled in to sleep. Her small figure looks so cute curled up with that sweet baby, the meng2 factor was exploding off the charts.
Zeno tilts his head slightly to avoid touching her. In the present, Hua Li is his saviour. The future betrayal has not yet come to pass; he doesn’t want to bite the hand that feeds him.
They still have 18 years before those around the protagonist betray him, yet again, and the world perishes with him. At least during this period Hua Li will not act unfavourably towards them, so Zeno can temporarily rest assured.
Of course, Xi Wei does not care if she betrays them or not. He tolerates Hua Li’s presence only because she is able to save Zeno’s life. He thinks to himself that although unknown to him, this race seems to be of lower intelligence. They just look intimidating.
Enough time has passed that daylight is starting to break, the waterways criss-crossing Ye Sa City have only a scant few ships adrift with their passengers, while most remain moored at the docks. The volume of snow that accumulated had decreased and the buildings along the waterway are all clad in silvery white. Combined with the river that remains unfrozen, it all gives off a mysterious vibe.
Xi Wei silently weighed the feasibility of his options and found, in despair, that the success rate was essentially zero.
He cups his hands underneath Zeno’s little butt and pushes his entire body up, adjusting the little body that had slowly slid down back into a comfortable position.
With this motion came the sudden noise of something falling out of the Zeno’s swaddling cloths and landing on the deck. Xi Wei and Zeno look down at the same time, and it turns out that it is the jade pendant passed on by Zeno’s mother before she left.
One glance at the pendant reveals that it is not ordinary. A rich emerald green and completely flawless, the carving depicts an unknown beast that looks very domineering. Although it maintains its lustre, you can tell that it has likely been passed down for generations. No matter how you look at it, it is obviously very valuable.
With the baby on his chest keeping him from bending over, Xi Wei had to work hard to slowly squat down to pick up the jade, holding it in the palm of his hand.
He is left with a tough decision. If he sells this jade pendant, it would be more than enough for him to buy the medicine, and if they lived conscientiously they would not go hungry in this lifetime.
This presents a quandary; the mother originally gave the ring as a reward for raising her child. The jade pendant should be something like a token, maybe to help Zeno find his family in the future, maybe just to leave a message. However, now that the ring has been absorbed by him, the only thing that he can sell is this jade pendant.
Xi Wei does not dwell on these thoughts, quickly determining that the pendant is unsellable. Drawing back 10,000 steps2, even if he could still remove the ring he would not dare sell it.
Three years of vagabond living taught Xi Wei many lessons, one of which is about money.
In Ye Sa City, if you cannot protect it, then don’t dream of having wealth—jealousy can provoke even an innocent man to commit a crime. He could, on the forefoot, sell his valuable for good profit, and on the back foot wind up robbed and dead in a back alley. This kind of thing is not unusual at all.
In addition, he remembers the panic of the woman when they met. Obviously Xi Wei cannot afford to offend the people who inspire such dread in someone like Zeno’s mother. If the pendant could be used to find relatives, it’s obvious that those people could use it to find them. Xi Wei is always overly cautious, he will absolutely not gamble on that one in ten thousand chance of exposure.
As if they are trapped in dead end, there is no light ahead.
Xi Wei lowers the pendant around Zeno’s neck, allowing the cold jade to rest against his skin. The sudden coolness causes him to shiver.
Xi Wei exhales a large cloud of white vapour, and finally decides to go out. Anything was preferable to awaiting the little baby’s death on the boat, not to mention they should also search for more food.
Hua Li is still fast asleep. Due to her tiny size she is able to remain out of sight, tucked into Zeno’s swaddling cloths.
It always proves difficult to find food in winter. Xi Wei is often required to search through the trash for leftovers and scraps. Begging on the streets not only requires standing in place for long periods, but there may not be anyone willing to stop and give something. Just kidding, everyone must be really busy!
Zeno watches Xi Wei in a foul smelling dumpster. Fortunately the weather is cold, reducing the smell a bit, although even that is almost enough to make him faint. Despite sleeping, even Hua Li wrinkles her nose in disgust—she cannot tolerate the smell either.
Zeno finds himself filled with feelings of bitterness. Reading about a difficult childhood had little impact on him, but this is the protagonist of his house ah. So young to experience such hardship, the protagonist seems accustomed to this, and such a hard-working look made Zeno even more distressed.
He had thought he was distressed when he read the ending of “Curse”, but now he realizes that there is a more persistent and painful feeling, the silk threads of distress wrap about him until he is breathless with worry.
Xi Wei’s luck is not so good at first, and it was not until he reached the fifth dumpster that he found some mouldy bread. In the tenth dumpster there was actually a small package of flattened cookies.
The cookies are not all that big, but they are tasty and will fill their bellies. Even the impassive Xi Wei cannot suppress his happy expression.
Seeing Xi Wei in a good mood, Zeno cannot help but grinning as well. Who would have thought that happiness is to find a small package of discarded cookies?
Xi Wei patted his back gently, indicating that he should not worry, thinking that the little one was probably hungry.
Unfortunately, their simple happiness did not last long and was interrupted by outsiders.
“Yo, if it isn’t the fool! The big fool brought along a little fool today.”
Zeno was shocked by the coarse and raucous voice coming from this ugly duckling and could not help but look at the owner of the sound. It turned out that it was a rag-clad teen whose clothes were in worse shape that even Xi Wei’s. His face spoke of the ravages of frostbite and his smiled laid bare a mouth full of yellow teeth. Apparently he is even worse off than Xi Wei who at least has a broken down boat for shelter. It’s likely this youth lives out in the open; it must have been difficult for him to live until now.
As a poor person, one often has to do hateful things. He slowly opened his mouth, a thick atmosphere of violence revealing itself. He could see the bread that Xi Wei held in his hands, and approached with evil intentions.
This is not the first time they have crossed paths. Xi Wei is small for his age, and his movements are inferior to the youth, Ya Sang. Whenever he stops Xi Wei with food in this area, he always takes it away. Xi Wei never rebels, neither does he speak; he simply hands over whatever he has.
In response to his silence, Ya Sang gave him a nickname, always calling him the fool.
Today is no exception—despite seeing that Xi Wei holds a baby against his chest; he is not kind hearted. He would not leave even a tiny amount for the two children, wanting only to fill his own stomach.
Xi Wei’s eyes turn cold, he understands their current situation. As soon as he had heard someone approach, he hid the cookies in Zeno’s swaddling cloths, leaving only the mouldy bread in his hand. Recognizing Ya Sang’s unspoken threat, he simply throws the bread on the ground and then turns to leave.
Ya Sang picks up the bread quite happily and glancing up he catches sign of Zeno’s small and tender white face. On seeing him, he could not help but to shout out, “Stop.”
Xi Wei did not turn to acknowledge him, instead picking up his pace.
Seeing this, Ya Sang ordered, “Fool, stop running! Give me the child in your hands.”
- This actually translated for me as magic power, but based on the context I felt like she wasn’t giving him power, and that energy fit a little better.
- Meng – I know I’ve said it before, but just in case you forgot this is equivalent to the Japanese term Moe. To be honest I prefer moe, maybe just because I’m more familiar with it, but I decided to keep this one true to the source culture.
- I couldn’t find a corresponding proverb/idiom but figured it was fairly clear. I’m sure it refers to drawing far away from your initial position/stance on something.