If Zeno currently had a physical age of five or more, he would rebel. The problem is that his present body is only about a year old. If he rashly shows a strong sense of gender, then he will just be courting death.
Aside from the silly Hua Li, the other two are not helping this situation at all!
Xiao Wu helps him flatten the skirt, then complains for a while about Xi Wei’s poor quality of clothing, and then happily turns around to appreciate the baby, her eyes bending like a crescent.
Hua Li lands gently on Xiao Wu’s shoulder, her two small wings fluttering intermittently. She looks at Zeno’s cute and chubby face, and then takes a look at Xi Wei’s unchanging and expressionless face, musing thoughtfully, “It seems the more time goes by, the more this little one looks like that big bastard.”
Xiao Wu curls her lips into a grin, “Sons look like their mamas, and daughters like their papas. Everyone also said I looked like baba,” she adds the last bit as if she is not reconciled with the idea and then whispers, “Compared to this pale soul, that little one is much more cute and lovable.”
Zeno is not even sure anymore what he should cry about, he can only suffer in silence.
His family’s protagonist is not worried. In Xi Wei’s heart, things like their appearances are secondary. It is far more important that Zeno has clothes to wear, whether it is men’s or women’s wear, it only needs to be in good shape.
So, Xi Wei commented an unprecedented, “Very good.”
Hearing that the older boy is in favour of her idea, Xiao Wu cannot help but feel a little prouder, and throws her chin up high. The bow that is tying the end of her scorpion braid swings around so fast it seems like she could fly.
Finally free of Xiao Wu’s ministrations, Zeno breathes a sigh of relief. Women’s clothing really is better than being naked. Bu, in any case, Xiao Wu and the Elf Queen are not his goal!
The sky dims as the hour grows later, and a steady mist of raindrops begin to fall. Afraid his precious baby would become soaking wet, Xi Lun comes personally to pick her up.
The rain’s intensity grows stronger and stronger, especially since they have ventured further into the summer. This rain has been building for a long time, a sweet and smooth drizzle ready to grow into a downpour, but fortunately its path is broken over the top of their boat by a small bridge. If it weren’t for that, they would be able to enjoy experience of being truly pelted by a storm in their tiny, decrepit boat.
Through this type of long and endless night, they can only sleep.
After playing quite a bit during the day, Zeno is fairly tired. He lays in the boat cabin, listening to the steady thrum of rain, its gentle rhythm lulling him to sleep. As soon as Xiao Wu left, Hua Li was not slow to follow behind, flying off on her own.
As a little beggar, the protagonist has no entertainment available, it seems that they can only really survive.
As fate would have it, this is not destined to be a quiet night. The two young boys had just closed their eyes when Xi Wei feels a familiar tingling from the ring that had lain dormant for months. His whole body involuntarily spasms as the feeling progresses to a stabbing pain for a moment, and he instinctively clenches teeth in an attempt to suppress the low groan that is trying to escape his throat.
Fear begins to well up within his heart as he wonders what new disaster the ring will bring him this time. The piercing pain from a few months ago remains fresh in his mind, and this fresh wave of pain is already threatening to surpass it.
Xi Wei trembles so violently that Zeno, who is right next to him, almost immediately discovers his abnormality.
This time, Zeno is no longer an impulsive little baby. He crawls up, taking advantage of the dim glow the ring is emitting to see the protagonist’s pain-filled and distorted face1. This time would be different; he was not just being accepted as the master of the ring. Zeno realized that this must be when the power contained within the ring would begin to refine Xi Wei’s body.
This should be a good thing, but it is bad news if things go poorly without Hua Li present!
“Curse” mentioned the refinement process, but when it transpired in the novel, the Elf Queen was present. Even though the seal within the ring contained most of her power and memories, she still took pity on the protagonist and helped to guide the power through his body. Although Xi Wei paid a great price to go through this trouble, in the end he was able to reap great benefits2.
Now that Hua Li was gone, who knows what kind of impact this could have on the story. Even if it is only a 1/10000 chance, Zeno does not want to cause the protagonist any more difficulties.
The torrential rain persists, indifferent to Zeno’s rising anxiety.
Xi Wei begins to bleed from every capillary in his body, and the blood gradually dyes his tattered clothing a deep crimson, the excess pooling beneath his body. Soon, his skin begins to tear and crack, the vessels in his body in complete disarray. Although Xi Wei refuses to make a sound, his consciousness is slowly fading out.
Zeno sees his pupil gradually dilating, and knows that if nothing is done this could be it—he must find the Elf Queen.
Burning with impatience, Zeno cannot even take the time to change his clothes for today. He grabs Xi Wei’s old rusty knife and cuts off his sleeves, using them over and over again to wipe the blood and sweat from his protagonist’s face.
Outside, the storm rages on. The dark night is like a gaping mouth, swallowing everything that enters. Despite such forbidding weather, the river still has ships floating about at ‘work’, their magic stone lamps casting a weak halo of light into the night.
So many people, so many ships; yet Zeno does not know where to seek assistance. Apart from Hua Li, there is no one who can truly help them.
This is a moment of choice. Zeno forces himself to calm down, running over everything he knows about Hua Li over and over, trying to find some sort of pattern to her actions.
Pleasure boat? No, she would hate that type of place.
Moonlight Bridge? She only ever complained that the Moonlight Bridge is too high for a walk at night. For some reason it was only suitable in the evening.
Only Fenhong Street makes sense. Xiao Wu lives there, and she will occasionally find her for a chat. There is also a beautiful garden there with her favourite green calyx flowers, so she will definitely ensure that the flowers have not been drenched.
Fenhong Street is far too dangerous for a one-year-old child, but Zeno has no choice. Even if he dies, if there is a possibility of finding Hua Li—he will take that chance in order to save Xi Wei.
If Xi Wei dies, what is the point of him being here to save himself?
With this thought, Zeno speaks to Xi Wei in a tender, yet determined voice, “Wait for me to come back.”
After wiping Xi Wei’s damp forehead with the already saturated sleeve once more, Zeno totters to a standing position, and then heads out the cabin door without hesitation.
Xi Wei, who is hovering on the edge of unconsciousness, feels that familiar heat suddenly move away from himself. He instinctively stretches out his hand to grasp it, but comes up empty handed.
He has become pain. Pain to the extreme leaves him waiting for death, but at the same time he is filled with the intense desire to live and breathe. This time he cannot even bear to roll about this boat’s deck, this time there is no little baby to accompany as he thrashes about the cabin.
After Xiao Wu goes back home, she thinks back on today’s matter with a good mood, humming a tuneless ballad while she combs out the scorpion braid adorning her head. She puts on the cute and comfortable pyjamas sitting by the window, and listens to the raindrops fall, while looking at her collection of brave warrior storybooks, and gradually grows sleepy.
As for Zeno, although he suddenly runs out excitedly, he forgets that he does not recognize the Fenhong Street. The only time he was there, the scar-faced man had led the way. With so many twists and turns, even those who walk about town often would get lost. After following along the general direction of his spotty memory, Zeno finds he is completely lost in the dark and rainy night.
The little one is absolutely drenched, his vision blocked by the barrage of raindrops. Zeno wipes his face without stopping, yet he can barely see the road. He even stumbles and falls several times; his knees and palms so cold they are dull to the pain.
He walks along through puddles shallow and deep. Because of the unending rain he cannot find a single pedestrian nearby, so there is not even a way to ask for directions. Anxious, he continues to stumble about with all of his strength, shouting Hua Li’s name, but his tiny voice is almost completely drowned out by the downpour. After swallowing a few mouthfuls of rain, he begins to choke, and can no longer raise his voice.
The child has limited physical strength. The only thing that has kept him walking for this long is his single-minded desire to save Xi Wei. Gasping for breath, he stops at the next junction, doubling over with his hands resting on his knees to support his upper body.
Perhaps heaven never seals off all exits, because at this moment a drunk staggers through the crossroad toward Zeno. Zeno’s eyes light up, and he immediately seizes this opportunity; toddling up to the fellow and grabbing his pant leg, he begs, “Uncle, can you tell me how to get to Fenhong Street?”
Although a drunk is not his first choice, Zeno desperately needs help, and he is willing to accept it from any avenue.
The man is completely inebriated, squinting with a small pair of muddy eyes, he looks down at his leg at the ‘stumbling block’. His head finally receives the signal carried from his ears and manages to makes sense of the words ‘Fenhong Street’, before wordlessly turning around, tripping, and walking off.
Zeno hesitates for a moment, decides that this might be his only hope, and follows along behind.
The man walks like a headless fly, his movements chaotic. Following him is a huge gamble on Zeno’s part, he can only hope that the protagonist’s halo can cover him, and prevent this drunk from taking him the wrong way.
The man is big as a horse, and although his gait is crooked, his pace is still quick. Despite his best efforts, Zeno can barely keep up.
Luckily, the goddess of fortune takes mercy on him, and the drunken man actually did not take the wrong way, and walked all the way to Xiao Wu’s home. Zeno can see the flickering of flames inside, and excitedly cannot wait to jump into the house. When he draws a bit closer, he can even see Xiao Wu dozing off at the head of the table, jerking awake every few seconds.
Zeno wipes his face again, and turns back to say thank you to the man. He needs to rush in to Xiao Wu now, and then get Hua Li right away.
Who could know that, at this moment, the man would finally sober up a bit. He finally noticed the perfect, jade pale ‘little girl’ that he had led along the road when the “thanks” were given.
He narrows his eyes, and then instinctively grabs the neck of Zeno’s clothes, pulling the child in front of his eyes, and ignores his struggles. “Where’d such goods come from, Old George still complains he can’t find anything, but look at this.”
Hearing these words, Zeno’s heart goes cold. He has encountered a human trafficker; Ye Sa City, in the end, is truly chaotic. Just leaving your home has such a high probability of stepping on a land mine!
Zeno opens his mouth to yell, but the man sees and quickly covers it with his hand. The small child is easy to toss over a shoulder to carry, and the man hums a song as he leaves.
Zeno whimpers, waving his arms in an attempt to arouse the attention of a Xiao Wu, but it is futile. He can only watch as her room moves further and further away, his hope for rescue diminishing with every stride.
Xiao Wu, whose head had been so heavy, suddenly wakes up, and realizes she has just been sitting at the table dozing off. She gets up, closes the window, extinguishes the magic stone lamp, and climbs into bed to continue her dream.
In the garden, the green calyx flower has reached the end of its natural life, and does not have the tenacity to survive the rain. Hua Li is sad, but there is nothing she can do about it, and so she chooses to head home early.
Who could know that waiting for her in the cabin is not the usual quietly sleeping duo, but only the young beggar, struggling near death. The stench of blood that permeates the cabin of the boat is so intense that the Elf Queen, who prefers to keep close to the freshness of nature, almost faints. She brings her head close to Xi Wei, finding that he is drawing his last few breaths.
At the same time, Hua Li can also feel the familiar breath of the unknown things she is looking for. The familiar force surges through Xi Wei’s body, circulating through, it transforms and destroys—over and over. However, this force lacks proper guidance, it is too reckless, it only brings destruction, and never repairs.
Hua Li is very excited to find what she has been looking for. She does not know what Xi Wei was playing at, but she thinks that perhaps this big bastard thought of some new tactics for bullying others. Just in case, she carefully places her little hand on Xi Wei’s temple, and contentedly guides the energy force back to her own body.
Though it is not by her design, this is of great help to Xi Wei. Any later, and Xi Wei may have drawn his final breath.
Xi Wei, finally pulled back from the precipice of immeasurable pain and imminent, instantly notices the absence of the little figure that has accompanied him day and night since his arrival. Sorting carefully through his hazy and pain filled memory, he has a fuzzy recollection of Zeno running out near the start; his entire complexion changes.
Hua Li is in a good mood, and asks curiously, “Big bastard, are you playing hide-and-seek with the little one, where did he go?”
Xi Wei is still panting, lying on the deck, unable to move. Even a little move, and those tiny wounds in his body will once again crack open and bleed.
But, he does not have time to rest. That little one disappeared, on a rainy night, where could he go?
Hua Li did not speak to him again, anxiety growing in her heart, calling out, “Little guy?”
Xi Wei closes his eyes, thinking of that four-toothed smile that Zeno always shares with him, and suddenly feels that a hole has opened up in his heart. He states in a seemingly calm tone, “He ran out and disappeared.”
Hua Li is not nearly so calm, asking where he could run.
Where did he go? Xi Wei also wants to know.
Hua Li starts to panic, but suddenly remembers Xiao Wu. Xiao Wu is her best friend, and she believes that the little girl can help them find Zeno.
Xi Wei does not object. Once he has recovered enough strength to stand, he and Hua Li brave the rain and head towards Fenhong Street together, despite the fact that his wounds begin to crack open almost immediately.
Xiao Wu is sleeping soundly, kicking the quilt a little, but also tossing and turning without concern.
Suddenly, a “peng, peng” sound echoes from the window and awakens the sleeping Xiao Wu. She yawns and stumbles to open the door. Her eyes open wide with shock when the soaking wet Hua Li and Xi Wei greet her.
Xi Wei still sports his filthy, dilapidated clothes, his exposed skin riddled with wounds large and small. After being soaked in the rain, he has mostly been washed clean of blood, but his ashen face made him look like a walking corpse.
To the utter shock of Xiao Wu, Xi Wei slowly lowers himself into the kneeling position in front of her.
How about that ending!? Sorry I don’t magically have the next chapter ready. This one was a ton of work actually, and long. Heal your cliff-hanger heart with my new project here, it’s one of my favourites! Or, if you’re looking for some plot-light smut, go here (I haven’t translated as far as the smut yet hehe).
- So, originally the ring has actually been absorbed into Xi Wei’s body. It wasn’t clear if it is re-emerging at this point, or if his finger is glowing, or if it shows up as a tattoo now, or what. Pick your favourite. If it’s clarified in the story in the future, I’ll try to remember to come back and fix this. If I can recall where I need to come.
- This entire paragraph is referring to the plot of the novel, none of it is the present situation