Chapter 24: A Farewell
They were, indeed, both women.
Jiang Ling would seem unreasonable if she kept acting shy.
She sighed then turned to take off her belt.
After some rustling, she folded up her belt and placed it on the head of the bed.
Then her outer robes came off, revealing the white middle robe.
Jiang Ling placed the outer robe to one side.
He Xi stood at the head of the bed, watching Jiang Ling’s movements from the other side of the half-draped bed curtain.
Her mouth went dry.
She went back to the table and poured herself a cup of cool water.
When she returned to herself, Jiang Ling had removed her middle robe to her waist, revealing her smooth shoulders and the red string of her under robes tied around her slender, white neck and her waist.
He Xi was unaware of her own breathing growing heavier.
The soft, fair skin had been discordantly broken up by the wound and pink scar, which was incompatible with the surrounding skin.
“He Xi.” Jiang Ling turned to look at He Xi, who met her gaze as she sat beside the bed.
“Is it ugly?”
“You don’t have to comfort me.”
He Xi restrained her thoughts.
She reached out and removed the lid of the medicine jar.
She dabbed some medicine on the scar.
Jiang Ling shrank back from the coolness of her touch.
Jiang Ling shook her head, “A little cold.”
He Xi continued applying the medicine for Jiang Ling, her fingers trailing along Jiang Ling’s back time after time.
For a moment, no one spoke.
The silence ignited, the atmosphere heated.
“He Xi, why do you treat me so well?” Jiang Ling broke the awkward tension.
“Killing your shixiong counts as treating you well?”
The two of them sank into silence again.
It was always like this with them, having these kinds of odd exchanges before falling into silence.
Jiang Ling’s attention, with nothing to divert it, returned to her back.
She felt herself grow hot.
He Xi at last withdrew her fingers, and Jiang Ling could finally relax and breathe out a sigh of relief.
“Alright.” She spoke as she replaced the lid on the medicine jar and placed it at the head of the bed, “You may put your clothes on after it has dried for a while.”
“Mm.” Jiang Ling replied dazedly, her expression blank.
If she had not turned her back toward He Xi, she would have seen the sheen of sweat clinging to her forehead.
“Have your shijie apply the medicine after you return.” He Xi thought for a moment, “I will have Na Xin prepare some rations for your journey to Zhangye tomorrow.
You can pack your bags and set out at noon.”
Jiang LIng nodded, keeping her back facing He Xi, who thought that her words just now had made Jiang Ling unwilling to talk.
While the two of them had passed these two days somewhat amicably, without being at each other’s throats, even if they returned to how they once were, Gu Yun’s death would always hang between them, reminding them that they had no way to be friends.
Since she would be saying farewell the next day, He Xi thought that the ending of this conversation went rather well.
It would be best for her not to think of her.
She was not a good person at all.
Everything Jiang Ling suffered seemed to be due to her.
He Xi shifted her gaze away from Jiang Ling’s exposed shoulders and stared at her own fingers.
The room was too stuffy.
She stood, “I’m leaving.” Her fingers curled into her palm.
Jiang Ling heard the sound of He Xi closing the door.
Immediately, she flopped down onto the bed and covered her head with her pillow, “So hot.”
The heat from her back had spread throughout her body.
As soon as she left the room, the fresh air alleviated He Xi’s mood.
Early the next morning, Na Xin arranged a camel with bags full of water and rations that she had prepared hanging from either side.
Along with an exquisite saddle, the camel also had bells hanging from its neck.
These bells were engraved with the holy fire, and thus conspicuously of the Manichaens.
Anyone from Xiyu, regardless if they were a member or not, would show her some respect.
Jiang Ling would be traveling with a trade caravan from Xiyu.
As a person of the central plains, she would become an outsider in the caravan.
For this reason, He Xi made especially sure to change the camel’s bells, to let others know that the camel’s owner had a connection to the Manichaens.
Like this, she should avoid a great deal of unnecessary trouble.
Jiang Ling had long already arranged her own things.
“Take care of yourself on the road.
I’ve had Na Xin prepare everything you will need, enough for you to reach Zhangye.”
Meeting her had unexpectedly borne a reluctance to part.
The time they had known each other was undoubtedly short, but it felt as if they had known each other for a long time.
She wanted to express everything that she could, “If you encounter someone who is infected with the febrile disease, put on your face covering and don’t get close to them.”
Jiang Ling’s eyebrows shot up.
So the Manichaens knew of this matter, as well.
“What is going on with this disease?” Jiang Ling asked, feeling her out.
“Unclear.” She had been going to investigate and had been delayed by Jiang Ling’s arrival.
By the look on He Xi’s face, the febrile disease and the Manichaens should not be connected; it was just an ordinary febrile disease.
Na Xin saw that the time had just about arrived, so she brought over the camel and gestured for her to join up with the caravan down the mountain.
Jiang Ling mounted the camel.
Her left hand gripped the reins while the other lightly draped over the saddle.
Her face was full of fighting spirit, “He Xi, wait until I learn to use my sword in my left hand.
I will settle the score then.” Against the rays of morning light, her body was outlined by a beautiful golden light.
He Xi’s lips curled upward, “I will be waiting for you.”
Jiang Ling had always been an adaptable person.
When she lacked internal force, she practiced swordwork based on nimble body movements, and if she could not beat someone, she would just run away.
If her right hand could no longer hold a sword, then she would switch to her left hand.
She was like an ant in the face of absolute power, whether it be foul weather conditions, He Xi herself, or someone even stronger than He Xi.
If she wanted to take revenge for her shixiong, she had to become someone powerful.
But, with He Xi, someone she had only known for a short while, her heart bent on revenge had already been deeply shaken.
Jiang Ling did not know what in the world was wrong with her, but in her heart was an unparalleled longing for her and He Xi to be friends.
Her reason told her ‘No! No!’, but so long as they remained in contact, Jiang Ling feared that she would forget about what happened to her shixiong.
It was a good thing that she was returning.
Once she did, she would have enough time to contemplate what to do with her and He Xi.
The camel had traveled far away, and He Xi went to find Luo Zhu to explain that she was heading down to investigate the febrile disease.
“Have you sent away that central plains person?” Luo Zhu asked.
The matter with Jiang Ling and He Xi had already reached his ears.
Zhu Li had reported it many times to Luo Zhu, with the hope that he would reprimand He Xi, but Luo Zhu rejected this notion each and every time, making Zhu Li infuriated without an outlet on which to vent.
He Xi said, “By now, they should have already set off.”
“You and him?” Luo Zhu knew He Xi’s disposition, but, after all, He Xi had kept Jiang Ling at her side for over a month, and was young and full of energy, besides.
There were some things for which he ought to receive clarification.
“We are just friends.
When I went out of the city, I found her injured and saved her.
She is almost fully healed, so I sent her back.” He Xi recognized the intention behind Luo Zhu’s words, and remembering that Jiang Ling had always worn mens’ robes, she explained to prevent an inevitable misunderstanding.
“As the Saintess, I trust that you know what’s proper.” Upon clarifying this matter, the weight on Luo Zhu’s shoulder’s lightened, but he had other matters that were even more troubling, “From what I can see, the leader is not doing very well.
Sometimes well, sometimes ill.
When clear-headed, he entrusts me with many tasks.
But it is unclear when he will leave seclusion, and if forced out of seclusion, I fear there will be trouble.”
“Is the medicine not working?” The reason He Xi had gone to the central plains was twofold: first, she was to purchase precious herbs from the central plains to treat the leader, and second, she was to retrieve the Moon blade and resolve this significant issue for the leader.
Luo Zhu did not answer He Xi and instead continued where he left off.
“If it were Zhu Li and his faction alone, I could handle them.
But if the leader comes out of seclusion and still seeks, as before, to dominate the central plains, then it will be difficult for me to manage.
My efforts these years will have been in vain.” Luo Zhu sighed and sat down, “The leader was not like this before.”
Luo Zhu told He Xi the story.
When he was young, Luo Zhu had followed Azar.
Azar had another person with him, a good friend of the central plains named Xue Fang.
The two of them were like old friends upon the first meeting, as close as brothers.
They even shared their own martial arts techniques with each other.
Luo Zhu likewise had many opportunities to go to the central plains and fell deeply in love with the culture there.
Both were crazy about the martial arts, but Azar would always lose to Xue Fang.
The pride in Azar’s bones did not permit him to be below Xue Fang, and so, when he returned to his sect, he studied a forbidden art, the demonic ‘Return to the Beginning.’ This art, while capable of increasing the martial arts capabilities of the wielder, allowing Azar to finally defeat Xue Fang, would also greatly alter their disposition and temperament.
From then on, Azar became someone prone to anger, filled with a need to subjugate others.
His dream to conquer the central plains was thus born.
Luo Zhu pulled out an exquisite, wooden box and from inside, he took out the Holy Fire Order.
The Holy Fire Order was shaped like fire; its wooden body was silvery-white, while the fire was blood red.
“Take this Holy Fire Order in case of trouble.” Luo Zhu handed the Holy Fire Order over to He Xi, “Zhu Li’s faction will soon create a disturbance.
A fierce fight is inevitable.
This Holy Fire Order could save your life at a critical moment.”
“Shifu, what about you?” He Xi accepted the Holy Fire Order, but the burden felt too heavy for her to bear.
“Do not fret.
With the leader present, they will not do anything to me.
Otherwise, the leader would not have entrusted me with the Manichaens.
I just worry that, if you are not by my side, I will not have the opportunity to attend to your safety.” Luo Zhu saw that He Xi was weighed down with worry, “There is no need for you to be anxious, I am just taking precautions.
The trouble within the sect is just my guess, as well.
You may investigate the febrile disease at ease.
The most important thing right now is the common people of Xiyu.”
Luo Zhu lowered his voice, “And the leader has already entrusted me with the Ming blades so I may sink into the Lake of Rebirth.”
“Shifu!” He Xi did not dare continue to listen.
“Everything I have said is just a precaution, no need for you to worry.
Afterward, you may decide on your own.
Ever since you broke your dual blades, I have not seen you wield a blade.”
He Xi had studied dual blades since she was a child, but after her blades were broken by an evildoer while rescuing Na Xin, she had not carried her blades again.
She was nimble in body and quick with her wrist, so she always carried silver needles to protect herself.
Furthermore, silver needles were very convenient to bring along, so He Xi soon grew accustomed to them instead.
Luo Zhu patted He Xi’s shoulder, then had her return.
In a daze, He Xi walked along the return path.
The split within their group was more severe than she had imagined.
Zhu Li and his faction were just using the matter with Jiang Ling to stir up trouble; even without Jiang Ling, the increasing number of central plains caravans within the city was kindling that just needed a spark.
Right now, she would investigate the matter of the febrile disease thoroughly, resolving the crisis faced by the commoners of Xiyu in the name of the Manichaens so either she or Luo Zhu may have a firmer standing within the sect.
Jiang Ling: *takes off clothes*
He Xi: *heavy breathing*
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