Xi Wei was squished smack dab in the middle of the crowds with his hood up and his head down, leaving half of his face submerged under the shadow of the hood. He pretty much looked like all the other mercenaries trying to register. Even so, Zeno still couldn’t help but shrink back further into the midst of the tree branches, paranoid about being spotted.
Hua Li let out a laugh, but the sweet laughter only made his ears redden upon hearing it. He gave an awkward cough before his gaze unwittingly returned to chasing after that most eye-catching, yet also most low-key, person.
Over on the other side, the giant and the Mercenary Guild Meet’s employee hadn’t even quarreled for five minutes yet when the giant was knocked out and taken away. It was unknown what would happen next.
The table at that registration point was utterly wrecked, so everyone had no choice but to patiently wait for another table to be brought over. Xi Wei was no exception.
It was in this interlude that the crowds of people suddenly hushed, and a snow-white-clothed, remarkable beauty sauntered in. Her countenance bore a haughtiness all too familiar to Zeno; actually there was even a trace of maliciousness not present before, making her look both holy and evil at the same time. She was a mess of contradicting appearances, yet it only made her all the more striking. The mercenaries present had never seen such a beautiful woman before, and one-by-one all stared with wide eyes. They moved to make way for her on their own, and so she had an unobstructed path all the way to the registration point.
The new table had only just arrived, and the two mercenaries who carried it over accidentally dropped it. The table legs dropped straight onto their feet yet they weren’t aware of it in the least. It took them a good while before they scrunched their faces in pain, inhaling sharply yet they didn’t dare to make a sound in case any sound would disturb the beauty.
Sounds of swallowing continued one after another. The lazy youth at the registration point also sat up straight and broke through the silence, asking, “How may I assist you?”
His tone was neither servile nor overbearing, completely unlike those mercenaries who were acting like pigs.
The white-clothed beauty languidly replied, “I’m here to register.”
Her voice was cold and cutting.
The youth inadvertently glanced her over. He was just in charge of registration, so as long as the person met all the prerequisites, he wouldn’t question them any more than that. Therefore, he took out a registration form and handed it over to this supreme beauty.
The beauty received the form and filled it out. The youth glanced over. The name ‘Belle’ sounds kind of familiar.
Discovering that Zeno had shrunk back even more, Hua Li laughed at him. “You’re so afraid of Belle. Can’t you have just a bit more backbone?”
“She’s just a demon forever falling through reincarnation cycles.” These last words were spoken very softly, and Zeno actually didn’t even hear them.
Zeno clearly couldn’t mention anything about “Curse,” so he just worriedly said, “Something seems off about Belle. Why would she come sign up for something like this?”
Hua Li didn’t have much of an interest in Belle. For her, using Plague Demon Resheph to snatch away Belle was for nothing more than to lure out a certain person. With that plan down the drain, Belle was no longer of any value to Hua Li.
From all appearances, it didn’t look like Belle was there to make trouble. She got up and left as soon as she finished quietly filling in the form. When she passed in front of Xi Wei who had his head down, she paused imperceptibly before turning towards the other side of the registration plaza and unhurriedly left.
In that moment when she’d paused, a voice resounded in Xi Wei’s mind, “I’ll be waiting for you at the palace.”
Xi Wei’s expression didn’t change, and tugged his hood down further. He smoothly got in line in the registration plaza that had begun clamouring again to an even greater extent than before, and successfully registered.
This was the last day of registration. Zeno had already quietly registered on the first day the lines opened, but for whatever reason, he hadn’t told Xi Wei.
He sat in another daze up in the tree. Seeing that Xi Wei had finished registering and begun heading in Zeno’s direction, Zeno felt his heart clench. He was afraid of being discovered, yet he also hoped he would be discovered. His confliction made him feel trapped, and could only remain rooted to the spot.
Xi Wei stopped in front of the tree and Zeno’s heart leapt up into his throat. Just when he cautiously peeked through the tree branches, Xi Wei raised his head and looked up, locking gazes with Zeno without warning. Then, Zeno heard that familiar voice say, “How long are you planning on staying in that tree?”
Hua Li fluttered to Zeno’s backside and with her two, thin legs, delivered a powerful kick utterly unbefitting of the weak image they gave off to Zeno’s back. So, poor Zeno was knocked out of the tree completely unsuspecting and fell straight towards Xi Wei.
As an extraordinary warrior, Xi Wei wouldn’t be knocked down by this kind of small surprise. He had no trouble casually stretching out an arm and catching Zeno who ‘fell’ out of the tree. Zeno’s chin knocked against Xi Wei’s shoulder, and he almost teared up from the impact.
In order to hold him steady, Xi Wei’s two sturdy and powerful arms encircled around Zeno. Zeno reflexively wrapped his own arms around Xi Wei’s neck, and his body was filled with warmth and a sense of stability. Zeno very lightly rubbed his face against Xi Wei’s shoulder before quickly jumping down so that none of his inner thoughts would be discovered by Baba.
Xi Wei was a man of few words. He merely nodded before turning to walk back to the palace.
Zeno was very distressed. After affirming his own feelings, on one hand he was delighted by the implications behind Xi Wei’s words. On the other, he was afraid he’d misunderstood. Afterall, there had been no difference in the way Xi Wei was towards him after that day. Everything continued pretty much the same as before.
Even considering that Zeno had never dated, it’s not like he’d read all those novels for nothing. The way Xi Wei was towards him held no trace of the attitude of a lover. He hadn’t even been like this in the original novel, towards those lovers who only pretended to love him.
They returned to the palace just in time for dinner. Seeing the addition of a new member at the dining table, Zeno’s eyes turned into saucers. Th-th-this, wasn’t this Belle? Why would she be here?
A smile had finally returned to Xiao Wu’s face. She happily called out to the fake father-son pair, “You guys are back, Belle-jiejie also returned! Today’s truly a blessed day.”
Except, the only one so joyful was Xiao Wu alone. The mood was heavy all throughout dinner. Only Xia An remained unaffected, leisurely petting Qiqi with one hand as he ate with the other.
Each party returned to their own rooms to rest after eating. Zeno tossed and turned on his bed, unable to drift off. Belle’s sudden return made him deeply uneasy. He felt that nothing good would come out of being in the company of that venomous beauty.
Hua Li was actually snoozing quite peacefully in her little flower petal nest, her visage looked as if she was without a care in the world.
Zeno treated himself like a pancake, flipping himself over and over on the bed, but in the end still scratched at his head and prepared himself to go talk things over with Xi Wei. He had to remind Xi Wei that he must absolutely be on guard against Belle.
He’d only just placed his hand on the door handle when he heard Xi Wei’s door one room over creak, and then Xi Wei’s footsteps fading with distance.
Zeno was puzzled. It was already so late, where was Xi Wei going? Out of curiosity, he quietly opened his door just a sliver and peeked out just in time to see Xi Wei turn around the corner at the end of the corridor.
Like he was possessed, Zeno quickly opened his door fully and quietly chased after Xi Wei along that corridor. There were no forks in the corridors, so even though there was still no sign of Xi Wei even after turning the corner, Zeno wasn’t afraid of losing him.
Xia An’s palace wasn’t actually that big, so after turning around the fourth corner, Zeno caught sight of two people standing at the end of the corridor.
Xi Wei and Belle.
Zeno’s night vision had become superb after his awakening as a member of the shadow race. He could even see the details of the baby rose embroidery on Belle’s sleeves.
The nightly wind couldn’t carry over the contents of their conversation and Zeno could only hide himself some distance away out of caution.
Burning with the desire to know what they were talking about, Zeno tried to poke out spiritual feelers in the general direction of the two people. His spiritual strength was already very good. As long as he was careful to not actually touch them, there shouldn’t be any problems.
His heart drummed in his chest. Zeno poured all of his concentration into extending his spiritual awareness, until gradually he began to catch wisps of the conversation.
“So, how about it? Do you agree to my condition?” Thiat sounded like Belle.
“I can,” Xi Wei replied.
Belle coldly snorted, “Then that’s how it’ll go.”
The night winds swept away the unparalleled beauty, leaving behind only Xi Wei onsite, who was submerged deep in contemplation.
It turned out that Zeno had arrived too late afterall. He was only able to catch the concluding lines of their deal. He couldn’t help but feel anxious from the bottom of his heart. When he thought about the trap Belle had set up to ensnare the protagonist in “Curse,” his entire being felt like it had been submerged in ice.
Just as he wanted to rush out and warn Xi Wei to not believe whatever Belle told him, the sight in front of him blurred and he couldn’t even find a trace of Xi Wei’s shadow anymore.
As a magician, he had no choice but to backtrack through the same route. He was at the point where he could all but seize Xi Wei’s collar and force him to rescind this kind of deal that would only harm himself. At the present time, Xi Wei was no opponent for Belle yet. It was way too dangerous. He still needed more time to grow.
Yet he would inevitably be disappointed. Zeno stood huffing and puffing with his hands braced on his knees in front of Xi Wei’s door. It was silent inside with no sign of movement no matter how many times Zeno knocked.
Xi Wei hadn’t even returned. After his meeting with Belle, who knew where he’d gone.
Zeno was anxious, yet there wasn’t really anything he could do.
Clenching his teeth, Zeno decided to go ask Belle to clear things up. Even though he was terrified of Belle, terrified to meet that even more sinister than before gaze, his worry for Xi Wei outweighed all. He rushed across the quiet palace garden, heedless of everything, charging towards the side for female residences.
Belle had returned to her own room. The smooth progression of the deal had elevated her mood somewhat. She felt over her heart for a black bead, rubbing at it with her delicate fingers in a gesture filled with love.
“Resh,” she said, “I will definitely save you.”
After caressing it a bit more, she pressed the bead back against her chest, over her heart, and prepared to enter meditation.
At that moment, the sound of banging against her door suddenly sounded through the quiet night.
Belle frowned, with a trace of ferocity in her gaze.
The first person to open her door wasn’t Belle, but Xiao Wu who was next door. Her long hair hung loose, and she gave Zeno an indescribable look, since it would be more accurate to say he had pounded on the door rather than knocked on the door. “Zeno, what are you doing?”
The next chapter is pretty much done, just needs a little cleaning up. Unfortunately(?) I’m just too tired to deal with that right now hah. So, expect it relatively soon. Unless I go into labour. Then not quite so soon.