If Zeno currently had a physical age of five or more, he would rebel. The problem was that his present body was only about a year old. If he rashly showed a strong sense of gender, then he would just be courting death.
Aside from the silly Hua Li, the other two were not helping this situation at all!
Xiao Wu helped him flatten the skirt, then complained for a while about Xi Wei’s poor quality of clothing. After that she happily turned around to appreciate the baby, her eyes bent like crescents.
Hua Li landed gently on Xiao Wu’s shoulder, her two small wings fluttering intermittently. She looked at Zeno’s cute and chubby face, and then took 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 curled her lips into a grin, “Sons look like their mamas, and daughters like their papas. Everyone also said I looked like baba,” she added the last bit as if she was not reconciled with the idea and then whispered, “Compared to this pale soul, that little one is much more cute and lovable.”
Zeno was not even sure anymore what he should cry about, he could only suffer in silence.
His family’s protagonist was not worried. In Xi Wei’s heart, things like their appearances were secondary. It was far more important that Zeno had clothes to wear. Whether it was men’s or women’s wear, it only needed to be in good shape.
So, Xi Wei commented an unprecedented, “Very good.”
Hearing that the older boy was in favour of her idea, Xiao Wu could not help but feel a little prouder, and threw her chin up high. The bow that was tying the end of her scorpion braid swung around so fast it seemed like she could fly.
Finally free of Xiao Wu’s ministrations, Zeno breathed a sigh of relief. Women’s clothing really was better than being naked. But, in any case, Xiao Wu and the Elf Queen were not his goal!
The sky dimmed as the hour grew later, and a steady mist of raindrops began to fall. Afraid his precious baby would become soaking wet, Xi Lun came personally to pick her up.
The rain’s intensity grew stronger and stronger, especially since they had ventured further into the summer. This rain was building for a long time; a sweet and smooth drizzle steadily grew into a downpour. Fortunately its path was broken over the top of their boat by the small bridge. If not for that, they would be able to enjoy the experience of being truly pelted by a storm in their tiny, decrepit boat.
Through this type of long and endless night, they could only sleep.
After playing quite a bit during the day, Zeno was fairly tired. He lay in the boat cabin and listened to the steady thrum of the 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 had no entertainment available. It seemed that they could only really survive.
As fate would have it, this was not destined to be a quiet night. The two young boys had just closed their eyes when Xi Wei felt a familiar tingling from the ring that had lain dormant for months. His whole body involuntarily spasmed as the feeling progressed to a stabbing pain for a moment, and he instinctively clenched his teeth in an attempt to suppress the low groan that was trying to escape his throat.
Fear began to well up within his heart as he wondered what new disaster the ring would bring him this time. The piercing pain from a few months ago remained fresh in his mind, and this current wave of pain was already threatening to surpass it.
Xi Wei trembled so violently that Zeno, who was right next to him, almost immediately discovered his abnormality.
This time, Zeno was no longer an impulsive little baby. He crawled up, taking advantage of the dim glow the ring was 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 was bad news if things went 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 knew what kind of impact this could have on the story. Even if it was only a 1/10000 chance, Zeno does not want to cause the protagonist any more difficulties.
The torrential rain persisted, indifferent to Zeno’s rising anxiety.
Xi Wei began to bleed from every capillary in his body, and the blood gradually dyed his tattered clothing a deep crimson while the excess pooled beneath his body. Soon, his skin began to tear and crack, and the vessels in his body were in complete disarray. Although Xi Wei refused to make a sound, his consciousness was slowly fading out.
Zeno saw his pupil gradually dilating, and knew that if nothing was done this could be it—he must find the Elf Queen.
Burning with impatience, Zeno could not even take the time to change his clothes for today. He grabbed Xi Wei’s old rusty knife and cut off his sleeves, using them over and over again to wipe the blood and sweat from his protagonist’s face.
Outside, the storm raged on. The dark night was like a gaping mouth, swallowing everything that entered. Despite such forbidding weather, the river still had 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 did not know where to seek assistance. Apart from Hua Li, there was no one who could truly help them.
This was a moment that required a choice. Zeno forced himself to calm down, running over everything he knew 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 was too high for a walk at night. For some reason it was only suitable in the evening.
Only Fenhong Street made sense. Xiao Wu lived there, and she would occasionally find her for a chat. There was also a beautiful garden there with her favourite green calyx flowers, so she would definitely ensure that the flowers have not been drenched.
Fenhong Street was far too dangerous for a one-year-old child, but Zeno had no choice. Even if he died, if there was a possibility of finding Hua Li—he could take that chance in order to save Xi Wei.
If Xi Wei died, what was the point of him staying here to save himself?
With this thought, Zeno spoke 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 tottered to a standing position, and then headed out the cabin door without hesitation.
Xi Wei, who was hovering on the edge of unconsciousness, felt that familiar heat suddenly move away from himself. He instinctively stretched out his hand to grasp it, but came up empty handed.
He has become pain. Pain to the extreme left him waiting for death, but at the same time he was filled with the intense desire to live and breathe. This time he could not even bear to roll about this boat’s deck. This time there was no little baby to accompany him as he thrashed about the cabin.
After Xiao Wu went back home, she thought back on today’s matter with a good mood, humming a tuneless ballad while she combs out the scorpion braid adorning her head. She put on the cute and comfortable pyjamas sitting by the window, and listened to the raindrops fall while she looked at her collection of brave warrior storybooks, and gradually grew sleepy.
As for Zeno, although he suddenly ran in his excitement, he forgot that he would not recognize 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 found he was completely lost in the dark and rainy night.
The little one was absolutely drenched and his vision was blocked by the barrage of raindrops. Zeno wiped his face without stopping, yet he could barely see the road. He even stumbled and fell several times; his knees and palms were so cold they were dull to the pain.
He walked along through puddles shallow and deep. Because of the unending rain he could not find a single pedestrian nearby, so there was not even a way to ask for directions. Anxious, he continued to stumble about with all of his strength, shouting Hua Li’s name, but his tiny voice was almost completely drowned out by the downpour. After swallowing a few mouthfuls of rain, he began to choke, and could no longer raise his voice.
The child had limited physical strength. The only thing that kept him walking for this long was his single-minded desire to save Xi Wei. Gasping for breath, he stopped at the next junction, doubling over with his hands resting on his knees to support his upper body.
Perhaps heaven never sealed off all exits, because at that moment a drunk staggered through the crossroad toward Zeno. Zeno’s eyes lit up, and he immediately seized the opportunity; toddling up to the fellow and grabbing his pant leg, he begged, “Uncle, can you tell me how to get to Fenhong Street?”
Although a drunk was not his first choice, Zeno desperately needed help, and he was willing to accept it from any avenue.
The man was completely inebriated. Squinting through a small pair of muddy eyes, he looked down at his leg and the ‘stumbling block’. His head finally received the signal carried from his ears and he managed to makes sense of the words ‘Fenhong Street’, before wordlessly turning around, tripping, and walking off.
Zeno hesitated for a moment, decided that this might be his only hope, and followed along behind.
The man walked like a headless fly, his movements were completely erratic. Following him was a huge gamble on Zeno’s part; he could only hope that the protagonist’s halo could cover him, and prevent this drunk from taking him the wrong way.
The man was big as a horse and although his gait was crooked, his pace was still quick. Despite his best efforts, Zeno could barely keep up.
Luckily, the goddess of fortune took 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 could see the flickering of flames inside, and could barely wait to jump into the house. When he drew a bit closer, he could even see Xiao Wu dozing off at the head of the table, jerking awake every few seconds.
Zeno wiped his face again, and turned back to say thank you to the man. He needed 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, pale as jade ‘little girl’ that he had led along the road when the “thanks” were given.
He narrowed his eyes, and then instinctively grabbed the neck of Zeno’s clothes, pulled the child in front of his eyes, and ignored 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 went cold. He had encountered a human trafficker! Ye Sa City, in the end, was truly chaotic. Just leaving your home had such a high probability of stepping on a land mine!
Zeno opened his mouth to yell, but the man saw and quickly covered it with his hand. The small child was easy to toss over a shoulder to carry, and the man hummed a song as he left.
Zeno whimpered, waving his arms in an attempt to capture the attention of Xiao Wu, but it was futile. He could only watch as her room moved further and further away, his hope for rescue diminishing with every stride.
Xiao Wu, whose head had been so heavy, suddenly woke up, and realized she had just been sitting at the table dozing off. She got up, closed the window, extinguished the magic stone lamp, and climbed into bed to continue her dream.
In the garden, the green calyx flower had reached the end of its natural life; it did not have the tenacity to survive the rain. Hua Li was sad, but there was nothing she could do about it, so she chose to head home early.
Who could know that waiting for her in the cabin was not the usual quietly sleeping duo, but only the young beggar, struggling near death. The stench of blood that permeated the cabin of the boat was so intense that the Elf Queen, who preferred to keep close to the freshness of nature, almost fainted. She brought her head close to Xi Wei and found that he was drawing his last few breaths.
At the same time, Hua Li could also feel the familiar breath of the unknown things she was looking for. The familiar force surged through Xi Wei’s body, circulating through. Tt transforms and destroyed—over and over. However, this force lacked proper guidance, it was too reckless and only brought destruction without any reparation.
Hua Li was very excited to find what she had been looking for. She did not know what Xi Wei was playing at, but she thought that perhaps this big bastard thought of some new tactics for bullying others. Just in case, she carefully placed her little hand on Xi Wei’s temple, and contentedly guided the energy force back to her own body.
Though it was not by her design, this was 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 death, instantly noticed 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 had a fuzzy recollection of Zeno running out near the start; his entire complexion changed.
Hua Li was in a good mood, and asked curiously, “Big bastard, are you playing hide-and-seek with the little one, where did he go?”
Xi Wei was still panting, lying on the deck, unable to move. Even a small movement would cause those tiny wounds on his body to crack open once again and bleed.
He did 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, she called out, “Little guy?”
Xi Wei closed his eyes, thinking of that four-toothed smile that Zeno always shared with him. Suddenly, he felt that a hole had opened up in his heart. He stated in a seemingly calm tone, “He ran out and disappeared.”
Hua Li was not nearly so calm, asking where he could run.
Where did he go? Xi Wei also wanted to know.
Hua Li started to panic, but suddenly remembered Xiao Wu. Xiao Wu was her best friend, and she believed that the little girl could help them find Zeno.
Xi Wei did not object. Once he had recovered enough strength to stand, he and Hua Li braved the rain and headed towards Fenhong Street together, despite the fact that his wounds began to crack open almost immediately.
Xiao Wu was sleeping soundly, kicking the quilt a little, but also tossing and turning without concern.
Suddenly, a “peng, peng” sound echoed from the window and awakened the sleeping Xiao Wu. She yawned and stumbled to open the door. Her eyes opened wide with shock when the soaking wet Hua Li and Xi Wei greeted her.
Xi Wei still sported his filthy, dilapidated clothes. His exposed skin was riddled with wounds large and small. After being soaked in the rain, he had 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 lowered 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 ↩