Transmitting magic energy1 was 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 Queen of the Elf’s magic was sealed within the ring, and she was reluctant to use all the energy she had to heal Zeno. Even so, it was still the blessing of the elves that he was receiving.
Knowing this, Zeno was 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 developed in the story, there were surely some hidden clues pointing in that direction. Some of them were so vague that they were 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 anything about the author’s thought process behind the ending. He could 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 was 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 focused on the only choices in front of them. One option was to restore the memory and magic quickly while Hua Li was merely innocent, meng2 sister. The second option was to restore the memory of the Queen after she chose to join the more powerful protagonist’s ranks.
Despite having Zeno tightly wrapped, Xi Wei had his hand resting on Zeno’s back for extra support. Realizing that Zeno’s fever had finally gone down, and that his face and forehead were not so hot, Xi Wei’s face finally relaxed a bit. His expression was no longer identical to the icy landscape around them.
Hua Li, who was secretly looking at his face, smiled coyly and muttered, “This little one is your son, you must have been so nervous.”
The Elf Queen was very 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 set down on. The corners of her mouth turned down, and a small sigh escaped.
She finally settled with resting on Zeno. To avoid being squished she curled up next to his neck and snuggled in to sleep. Her small figure looked so cute curled up with that sweet baby; the meng factor was exploding off the charts.
Zeno tilted his head slightly to avoid touching her. In the present, Hua Li was his saviour. The future betrayal had not yet come to pass; he did not want to bite the hand that fed 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 would not act unfavourably towards them, so Zeno could temporarily rest assured.
Of course, Xi Wei did not care if she betrayed them or not. He tolerated Hua Li’s presence only because she was able to save Zeno’s life. He thought to himself that, although unknown to him, this race seemed to be of lower intelligence. They just look intimidating.
Enough time had passed that daylight was starting to break. The waterways criss-crossing Ye Sa City only had 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 were all clad in silvery white. Combined with the river that remained unfrozen, it all gave 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 cupped his hands underneath Zeno’s little butt and pushed 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 looked down at the same time, and it turned out that it was the jade pendant passed on by Zeno’s mother before she left.
One glance at the pendant revealed that it was not ordinary. It was a rich emerald green and completely flawless, the carving depicted an unknown beast that looked very domineering. Although it maintained its lustre, you could tell that it had likely been passed down for generations. No matter how you looked at it, it was 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, before holding it in the palm of his hand.
He was left with a tough decision. If he sold 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 presented a quandary; the mother originally gave Xi Wei 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, or maybe just to leave a message. However, now that the ring had been absorbed by Xi Wei, the only thing that he could sell was this jade pendant.
Xi Wei did not dwell on these thoughts, and quickly determined that the pendant was unsellable. Drawing back 10,000 steps3, 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 was about money.
In Ye Sa City, if you could not protect it, then you should not dream of having wealth—jealousy could 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 was not unusual at all.
In addition, he remembered the panic of the woman when they met. Obviously Xi Wei could not afford to offend the people who inspired such dread in someone like Zeno’s mother. If the pendant could be used to find relatives, it was obvious that those people could use it to find them. Xi Wei was always overly cautious; he absolutely would not gamble on that one in ten thousand chance of exposure.
As if they were trapped in dead end, there was no light ahead.
Xi Wei lowered the pendant around Zeno’s neck, allowing the cold jade to rest against his skin. The sudden coolness caused him to shiver.
Xi Wei exhaled a large cloud of white vapour, and finally decided to go out. Anything was preferable to waiting for the little baby’s death on the boat, not to mention they should also search for more food.
Hua Li was still fast asleep. Due to her tiny size she was able to remain out of sight, tucked into Zeno’s swaddling cloths.
It always proved difficult to find food in winter. Xi Wei was often required to search through the trash for leftovers and scraps. Begging on the streets not only required standing in place for long periods of time, but there may not be anyone willing to stop and give something. Just kidding, everyone must be really busy!
Zeno watched Xi Wei as he mucked around in a foul smelling dumpster. Fortunately the weather was cold, reducing the smell a bit, although even that was almost enough to make him faint. Despite being asleep, even Hua Li wrinkled her nose in disgust—she could not tolerate the smell either.
Zeno found himself filled with feelings of bitterness. Reading about a difficult childhood had little impact on him, but this was the protagonist of his house ah. So young to experience such hardship; the protagonist seemed accustomed to this, and such a hard-working look made Zeno even more distressed.
He thought he was distressed when he read the ending of “Curse”, but now he realized that there was a more persistent and painful feeling, the silk threads of distress wrapped about him until he was breathless with worry.
Xi Wei’s luck was 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 were not all that big, but they were tasty and would fill their bellies. Even the impassive Xi Wei could not suppress his happy expression.
Seeing Xi Wei in a good mood, Zeno could not help grinning as well. Who would have thought that true happiness was 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 than 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 was even worse off than Xi Wei, who at least had a broken down boat for shelter. It was likely this youth lived out in the open; it must have been difficult for him to survive until now.
As an impoverished person, one often had to do hateful things. He slowly opened his mouth and a thick atmosphere of violence revealed itself. He could see the bread that Xi Wei held in his hands, and approached with evil intentions.
This was not the first time they had crossed paths. Xi Wei was small for his age, and his movements were inferior to the youth, Ya Sang. Whenever he stopped Xi Wei with food in this area, he always took it away. Xi Wei never rebelled, neither did he speak; he simply handed over whatever he had.
In response to his silence, Ya Sang gave him a nickname, always calling him the fool.
Today was no exception—despite seeing that Xi Wei held a baby against his chest; he was 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 turned cold; he understands their current situation. As soon as he 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 threw the bread on the ground and then turned to leave.
Ya Sang picked up the bread quite happily and when he glanced up he caught sight 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, and instead picked 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. ↩