Thank you to Claudia, emy, and Dilyn for the Ko-fis!
Arc Five: Grave of the Common Folk
It was said that when a mortal suddenly encountered serious illness, calamity, or death, their soul would grow unstable and they would be weighed down by worries. The aching grief that swept over them abruptly would be laced with obsessions, and it was possible for a mortal to bind and imprison themselves within those fixations; that was a cage.
It was said that the people in cages were all dreaming of things they could not bring themselves to let go of. At times, forcing someone to wake from that dream was incredibly difficult and unspeakably painful; that was why this line of work was an arduous one.
And it was said that perhaps the most terrifying, agonizing, and sorrowful moment a person could experience in this world was the one in which the cage master realized the truth of their dream.
All of that boiled down into a few brief paragraphs that didn’t occupy many pages in the books. They seemed like the most basic of principles, and every panguan descendant knew them by heart.
Those learning the principles often thought of them as something that was innately so and to be expected. It never occurred to them that someone had written those principles into existence in the very beginning, word by word, sentence by sentence.
In that life, Zhang Wan had looked on helplessly as her family’s noble, refined, and high-spirited young master became a cage. Day after day, he stood amidst the clamor of the Xie residence, watching people come and go—submerged in a long, beautiful dream.
Then, she continued to look on helplessly as he “woke” himself from that dream and tore it to scattered pieces with his own two hands.
The moment in which the cage was undone…
Everything prosperous and thriving receded from Xie Wen’s side like the tide.
The red lacquer of the open-air corridors faded from vivid to dull and then to a murky muddiness. Eventually, broken beams of wood collapsed onto the ground with a few creaking groans, stirring up thick clouds of dust.
The figures that came and went departed into the distance, smiling. Like smoke and fog, they dispersed in the wind and returned to stillness.
Standing there amidst the silence, Xie Wen quietly surveyed his surroundings…
Henceforth, he was all alone in the world.
That was truly a heartrending scene to witness, and Zhang Wan once thought that she would remember it forever. But in reality, she too ended up going properly on her way and dissipating in the wind the instant the cage was undone, alongside the sounds of people talking and laughing.
By the time she finished traversing the cycle of reincarnation and returned to the realm of the living, countless seasons had already passed her by. After undergoing death, no one remembered the events from a past life.
She experienced many lifetimes. Some were good, while some were bad. Some were joyous and peaceful, filled with wealth and longevity, while some were somber and mirthless, filled with suffering of all kinds.
She also encountered countless people. Some she found disagreeable, while some she found familiar at first sight. She was oblivious to the predestined connections that bound them together, and so like the majority of people in the world, she attributed it all to fate.
She had long since forgotten her previous life, and the life before that one—even the version of herself from much longer ago: what her name was, where her home was, what kind of life she had lived.
Nor did she recall that she had once lingered in the world for quite some time, observing a person named “Xie Wen.”
Little did she know that this person had embarked down a completely different path after personally undoing his own cage. From that point forward, Xie Wen no longer existed in the world; there was only Chen Budao.
By the time she remembered all of that, a thousand summers and winters had already cycled by.
Zhang Wan looked at Xie Wen for a long moment. Then she let out a laugh that was a little tinged with emotion. “This was clearly supposed to be a message left behind for you, yet I suddenly don’t know what to say anymore.”
They were once family, but with a thousand years between them, they were just two strangers that never truly got a chance to meet each other.
As a result, there was too much she wanted to say, and she didn’t know where to even begin.
Xie Wen saw that her eyes had grown red, and he said after a long pause, “Then tell me how you came to be here.”
He gently offered up a topic, and Zhang Wan accepted. “I purposefully found this place by following a few trails.”
Xie Wen: “Why were you looking for this place?”
Zhang Wan sighed and said, “To fulfill a wish.”
“Mine.” Zhang Wan gazed at Xie Wen. “In one of my lifetimes, I was born in a little mountain village. Most of the villagers were related in some way, and they all shared the surname Liu, hence why it was called Liu Village. One day, a disaster took place and the mountain bordering the village collapsed. Over a hundred households were buried alive. I was among them, and I also became a cage…”
Eyes flicking over to Wen Shi, she nodded and flashed a smile at him. “It was the two of you who entered the cage and helped me undo it.”
Wen Shi was startled for a moment before he nodded back at her.
“I remember you asking me a few questions as you sent me on my way,” Zhang Wan said to Wen Shi.
Wen Shi couldn’t remember the specifics anymore, but he vaguely recalled inquiring about the events that took place prior to the natural disaster; he was trying to see if there had been any warning signs or suspicious activity.
“I was worried that the disaster was artificially induced, not an act of nature.” Wen Shi paused briefly. Then, just like how he used to talk to Chen Budao back when he was nineteen, he said bluntly, “Right before that incident, we also foresaw an impending natural disaster. The divinations indicated that it was going to occur on Mount Songyun, so we laid down some arrays and added some reinforcements—”
“No wonder…” Zhang Wan said, “No wonder you asked me those questions. You were worried that the disaster at Liu Village was brought about by your actions, is that right?”
Wen Shi let out an “mn.”
“You really aren’t afraid of meeting something head-on.” Zhang Wan shook her head. “If another person had the same misgivings, they probably wouldn’t even dare to ask those questions. After all, wouldn’t you just be looking for trouble?”
She said to Xie Wen, “Even after a thousand years, he’s still the same.”
Xie Wen glanced at Wen Shi and chuckled. “Mn.”
“To tell the truth, I had also inferred his intentions back then, so…” She fell quiet for a moment before she said, “So I concealed and avoided mentioning a few things. I told you that there weren’t any unusual warning signs—it had simply been raining for a long time beforehand. Since cracks had already developed in the bedrock of the mountain ages ago, it was indeed likely to collapse.”
At that, Wen Shi frowned.
If she was admitting that she had concealed and avoided mention of certain things, that meant that the situation she initially described wasn’t what truly took place.
“So, in reality?”
“In reality…” Zhang Wan lowered her gaze and said, “The landslide at Liu Village really was artificially induced.”
Wen Shi was caught off guard, and his expression immediately changed.
He shot a look at Xie Wen before redirecting his gaze towards Zhang Wan. Right as he was about to say something, she spoke first. “But it had nothing to do with you all.”
“What do you mean? How do you know that?” Wen Shi asked.
“I actually do know it to be true.” A little lost in thought, Zhang Wan said softly, “I saw it.”
Xie Wen: “Why did you not say anything at the time.”
Zhang Wan: “Because I was a bit apprehensive…”
She was rather unfortunate in that lifetime. Her mother died when she was born, and her father died when she was three. A day and a night passed with her hugging the arm of a corpse in her house before a next-door neighbor discovered her and scooped her out of there.
But at the same time, she was lucky in her own way. There was a mute woman in the village whose son was stolen from her not long after he was born. When a painstaking search produced no results, she lost all hope of finding him. Upon seeing that version of Zhang Wan alone and helpless, she kindly took her in and raised her as if she was her own daughter.
The mute woman was sweet and gentle, and she took very good care of her. She taught her how to weave and sew, and she never let her do any tasks that required heavy labor. The other villagers were also warm-hearted and good-natured; they would always lend the mother-daughter duo a helping hand, knowing that they didn’t have it easy.
That version of Zhang Wan had a rather unique constitution: she was naturally a little clairvoyant. At a young age, she was already capable of helping villagers inspect their residences and pinpoint auspicious opportunities.
There were quite a few times when she woke up in the middle of the night to see the mute woman staring at a tiny shoe and quietly wiping away her tears. She knew that the other woman still missed her lost son, so she surreptitiously performed a few divinations on her behalf.
The results were very strange—it would always indicate that the mute woman’s son was right there in the village.
That was essentially a ghost story at that point. Anyone would be extremely frightened by it, to the point of randomly speculating nonsense.
However, that version of Zhang Wan had a calm and steady temperament. Even after divining such an outcome, she still didn’t dare to recklessly tell the mute woman about it.
She remembered the mute woman once telling her that her son had a birthmark on the back of his neck, about the size of a thumbprint. As a result, she began to constantly keep an eye on everyone who was around the correct age both inside and outside the village. Whenever she went into the fields, she would also often be a little more alert out of fear that she would one day unearth something.
Liu Village was only so large. Even after watching attentively for a while, nothing came of it, and she felt both disappointed and relieved. She pondered over it for some time before ultimately concluding that the issue must have been her own limited abilities—they had probably skewed the accuracy of her divination results.
Considering how vast the world was, the son that the mute woman missed so much was most likely growing up well in a place she didn’t know.
“Back then, I frequently found myself having strange dreams that occasionally contained omens,” said Zhang Wan. “Those omens helped me and several others avoid quite a few incidents.”
And it was precisely because she had successfully avoided such events so many times that she started to have a little too much blind faith in herself. She grew certain that she would see some indicator of trouble or disaster in her dreams before it arrived; the timing was also always coincidentally perfect, giving her ample time to do something about it in advance. Conversely, if she didn’t foresee it in her dreams, that meant that nothing too important was going to happen.
“Yet that one time just had to be the exception.” Zhang Wan recalled, “It was also the middle of the night…”
It had been raining for many days in a row in Liu Village, and the downpour showed no signs of stopping at night either. On days with heavy rain like this one, the village was always exceptionally quiet. The sound of the rain induced slumber, so everyone was deeply asleep—except for Zhang Wan.
She slept rather well in the beginning of the night, but in the latter half, she suddenly found herself sinking into a dream.
She dreamt of a village that looked quite similar to Liu Village; it was also situated next to a mountain. There was a main road next to the village as well, with a rest station nearby that had hitching posts for horses and a stand that served tea and wine.
It was also raining there, and there was endless thunder and lightning. She watched as two youths in brown robes ran out of the village and took shelter from the rain next to the deserted hitching posts.
The shorter one wrung water from his clothes and said, “How did you hear that the mountain is going to collapse? Zhuang-shixiong told you?”
The other person was taller and a bit more well-built. “No, he only said that he would not be leaving the mountain for a few days. Never mind how I got my hands on that information, just know it to be true. Otherwise, why else would Zhuang-shixiong and Zhong-shixiong coincidentally pick these next couple days to stay on the mountain?”
He answered his own question. “To avoid a disaster, of course.”
The shorter boy more or less believed him after that, and he looked a little pale. Still, he said, “But… but it cannot be too terrible, right? If the disciples who live on the mountain already know, what is there to fear?”
“So what if they know.” The other person was rolling up one of his sleeves, and he spoke without bothering to raise his head. “When have you ever seen them intervene in matters such as this?”
The shorter boy blanched. “But—”
“Besides, there have always been two distinct groups: those who live on the mountain and those who do not. The ones on the mountain are the real disciples. The ones at the bottom are merely…” After folding up one of his sleeves, the taller boy pulled out a strip of cloth and used his teeth to hold it in place as he tied it tightly around his sleeve. “Merely the mediocre disciples, kept purely because they cannot be driven away otherwise. No matter what sort of disaster strikes down here, it will not end up affecting those up there, so why should they go through the trouble of doing something about it?”
“You cannot say that. You used to claim that you were going to train diligently and strive to—”
The taller boy interrupted him a little irritably. “That was just some nonsense I said when I was younger. Trifling words from the past.”
As he tied up his other sleeve, he told the shorter boy, “You and I both grew up here in this village. The village surname is Zhang, and so is ours. Quite a few other disciples down here were also born with that name, so at our core, we are all one family.
“The reason why I pulled you aside and not someone else is because to me, the two of us are as close as brothers. You also value friends and family more than anything; you are nothing like those sham cultivators who are constantly trying to pursue a path of no emotion.”
The shorter boy was filled with fear and trepidation at his words, and the color drained from his face. “What do you mean by ‘sham cultivators’? Did something happen to you recently? Why are all your words wrapped in thorns?”
“I have just been holding it in for too long, that is all. In conclusion, the village is now facing a disaster, and a major one at that. Do you want to help save it, yes or no?”
“Yes! But how?”
“All we have to do is find a desolate mountain with a similar divinatory diagram. Then, we transfer the calamity over,” the taller boy said.
A bolt of lightning suddenly cracked down from the sky, turning their complexions ghostly white. Flinching in surprise, the shorter boy couldn’t really hear the other person. Although he wanted to question him further, the taller boy was already walking back out into the rain.
After determining the cardinal directions, he crouched down and pulled out a talisman from his robes. As he lowered his head, the back of his neck was exposed.
“That was when I startled awake,” Zhang Wan said. “Upon waking, I discovered that I wasn’t in bed anymore. Instead, I had wandered outside in my sleep, and I was crouched next to the hitching posts in the rest station by Liu Village’s main road, just like the person in my dream.”
At that moment, Zhang Wan felt as if she was helping the other person carry out his plan from afar.
His plan to transfer the disaster from that mountain to somewhere else.
“I could sense that something wasn’t right, and I immediately sprinted towards the village like I had lost my mind. I wanted to wake up everyone else, but—”
Just as she reached the foot of the mountain, she heard the sound of the earth splitting apart.
She looked up to see an enormous boulder plummeting down from above as the entire side of the mountain collapsed and crumbled into pieces. All she could do was let out a piercing scream, but there was no one left to hear it.
Not a single person escaped the shadow that descended over the village with a thunderous roar—not even her.
“One reason I didn’t say anything at the time was because I kept feeling as if I had also played a role in creating that disaster. Even though it wasn’t by choice, I was never able to get past that. As for the person in my dream…” Zhang Wan said quietly, “I didn’t want to bring him up either because I had caught a glimpse of the back of his neck, and I saw a thumbprint-sized birthmark there.”
In the same exact location as the birthmark of the mute woman’s son.
It was as if the heavens had played one huge joke on them.
She had taken the place of the mute woman’s son, growing up under her care in his stead. Meanwhile, through various twists and turns, the person that she replaced ended up in a village at the bottom of Mount Songyun that had the same divinatory diagram as Liu Village. And eventually, with a single talisman, he had buried his real home with his own two hands.
“I hated that person, and I found the entire situation preposterous.” Zhang Wan let out a sharp laugh. “But even such intense hatred was forgotten utterly and completely as soon as I reincarnated again.
“As you know, subverting the natural order of things will result in divine retribution, especially in cases like this where the price is paid by innocent lives.” She pointed at herself and said, “There’s a marking on me. It’s very faint, but it has followed me for many lifetimes now, which is why I have always met an unfortunate end. By now, it has faded almost completely. That person also has a similar marking—other people might not be able to tell, but I can see it because he and I are bound by the same string.”
Wen Shi noticed what she was implying. “You’ve seen that person before.”
Zhang Wan: “I have.”
Wen Shi thought a little and said, “Is it the current head of the Zhang family?”
Then he added, “I don’t remember his name.”
According to the identities of this lifetime, the current family head was Zhang Wan’s grandfather. To tell the truth, it would’ve been easier just to ask if it was her grandfather, but since Wen Shi knew who Zhang Wan really was, he couldn’t bring himself to say it.
Zhang Wan was originally wearing a grave expression on her face, but thanks to his earnest and frank admission of forgetting the other person’s name, she couldn’t help but burst into laughter. She answered, “Zhang Zhengchu. Not a surprise, huh?”
Wen Shi nodded.
Zhou Xu told him before that Zhang Wan had fallen out with her grandfather—Zhang Zhengchu—a long time ago for unknown reasons. She left the Zhang family shortly afterwards and never went back again. When Wen Shi connected that with her tone of voice and reaction from earlier, it made it truly very easy to guess.
Xie Wen looked even more calm and unruffled; he didn’t seem astonished in the slightest.
“However, I was still very surprised when I first found out.” Zhang Wan smiled bitterly and said, “It would’ve been better if I hadn’t remembered anything at all, but something just had to go wrong one time while I was undoing a cage. By some odd twist of fate, I ended up recalling the events from every single one of my past lives.”
Xie Wen and Liu Village were her strongest and most irreconcilable attachments. Although the first one always filled her with sorrow, the second one filled her with hate.
The marking on Zhang Zhengchu was also extremely faint. His situation was likely similar to hers: reincarnating for many lifetimes and meeting an ill-fated end in each one, thus serving as divine retribution and atonement.
Zhang Wan couldn’t help but feel disgust and resentment every time she saw that marking. At the same time, she knew very well that each reincarnation represented a new life and a new person that bore no connection whatsoever to the past.
Caught between those two emotional states, she clashed repeatedly with Zhang Zhengchu. When the other person eventually ended up casting her out of the Zhang family in a fit of fury, she unexpectedly felt as if a heavy weight had been taken off her shoulders.
In actuality, those who specialized in divination rarely went out of their way to divine their own future. Though the results would be accurate, it was highly possible that said future would’ve already changed as a result of being known.
But Zhang Wan still performed a divination on herself. Because of that, she learned that she had to go up north where her blessed place was. There, she would be able to see someone she missed dearly, as well as make up for some regrets.
Thus, she found Xie Wen’s puppet in Tianjin.
She knew he was a puppet at first sight, because he looked just like Xie Wen when he was a child. It wasn’t possible for something like that to happen with reincarnation.
That puppet was very different from all the other puppets she had ever met. He was crafted extraordinarily well, and nobody could tell that he wasn’t actually a living human—apart from Zhang Wan, who had a fated connection with him. As soon as he located a place to anchor himself, he would start to grow older with the passage of time.
Yet simultaneously, he was also incredibly unlike the average person, because he only ever absorbed information without producing any of his own. He would remember all the various things he witnessed and overheard, but he would never express any response in return.
Zhang Wan could tell that the puppet was waiting.
He was swiftly adapting himself to the modern world, all the while waiting for someone’s spiritual consciousness to take its place.
She knew that the real Xie Wen would one day use this vessel to return to the living realm; perhaps then, they would have an opportunity to meet again.
Since Zhang Wan herself was proficient in divination, she wasn’t going to just sit by and wait idly. She had performed numerous divinations in the past regarding matters related to Xie Wen, and she attempted to predict where they would meet again.
The results led her to this cage, which she eventually tracked down.
“Actually, when I first entered this cage, I still didn’t understand why it was going to be here.” Zhang Wan said, “Why the divinations were telling me that I would see you in a place like this. As a result, I started wandering around the cage with the mindset of searching for someone. I met every person in here, and I attempted to ask each of them where they were from. After that, I understood why.
“This cage should’ve originally formed around Mount Songyun, and the people caught up in the cage should’ve also been the villagers living at the foot of Mount Songyun. But in reality, this was not the case—most of the people here were from Liu Village. Of course, they all told me they came from different places when I asked them, but that was merely due to the way a name changes with the eras and the passage of time. All of them originally came from Liu Village, which is why they fear rainy days, thunder, lightning, and the wrath of the mountain god. Every legend they revere is related in some way to mountains or torrential rain.
“In that lifetime, we switched Liu Village’s destiny with the destiny fated for the village at the bottom of Mount Songyun. It turns out that the effect of that switch has been lingering around this entire time. The divinations guided me here most likely because the heavens wished for me to see things through to the very end—to sever this connection that shouldn’t have existed in the first place, and to give Liu Village the liberation they deserve.
“But in the end, this cage was still a bit too much for me to handle. The malevolent energy was too condensed, and there were too many dead zones, not to mention the countless huigu that were always spawning endlessly out of random places. Most importantly, there was no way I could dissolve the black mist enshrouding Mount Songyun. It was also easy to get affected by heart demons here, and my spiritual consciousness grew unstable as a result of them. When I originally created this array gate, I was trying to link the other end to Liu Village so that the people in the cage could return home, after which I would sever the connection. But due to the interference from the heart demons, I picked the wrong place.
“And after that… you should know the rest,” Zhang Wan said.
It was true.
Everyone knew that Zhang Wan went into a cage when Xie Wen was eighteen years old, and everyone knew that she had stepped into a dead zone in that cage. From that point on, she vanished completely and was never heard from again.
“At the time, I had a faint suspicion that I probably wouldn’t be able to make it out of here, so I left behind this message. I trusted that the divinations wouldn’t deceive me—if they said that I would see you here one day, then that day must eventually come, right?”
Zhang Wan gazed at Xie Wen and said, “I waited for so many years.”
Fortunately, her wait was successful.
Perhaps her wish had been fulfilled, or perhaps the segment of her soul that she left behind couldn’t last for much longer. After she finished talking, her body slowly started to fade, and the outline of her silhouette grew blurry.
The black mist began to roil around them again, and the sound of the huigu crawling about—which was originally muted by the mist—was made audible once more.
Wen Shi could even hear Xia Qiao’s indistinct cries of alarm, the Zhang siblings’ conversation as they coordinated with each other, and Bu Ning’s responses.
“This cage has existed for too long. It is indeed time for it to come to an end,” Xie Wen said to Zhang Wan.
“I know, I know.” Zhang Wan nodded. “I only left behind this message because I wanted to see you one last time. I wanted to see if you had returned to this world, if you were doing well, if you were still the same as I saw all those years ago when I was lingering around—the only one left, all by yourself.”
As she spoke, her gaze shifted towards Wen Shi. A beat later, she looked back at Xie Wen. “I’ve already gotten to see you again. I have waited for over ten years here, so it is also about time I go.
“The black mist on Mount Songyun has dissipated; all you have to do is create a gate and connect Liu Village to it. Those people have been stranded elsewhere for many years now, and they have long since been yearning for home, so they’ll return on their own after the gate is connected. Once they’re liberated, this cage will disperse.”
Compared to the sealing array on the mountain, these were all trifling matters that could be resolved with the wave of a hand. Both Xie Wen and Wen Shi understood full well what had to be done, but Zhang Wan still couldn’t help but impart her instructions on them.
“Okay,” Xie Wen replied. He had kept his withered hand hidden behind him from beginning to end, and his long, loose robes fluttered in the wind like the clouds.
He had lived as Chen Budao for a thousand years now, and all that he saw and heard in that time had long since become a core part of him. It was very difficult to catch a glimpse of the Xie family’s young master from all those years ago anymore.
He bent down and picked up several round stones from the ground before he filled in a few gaps in Zhang Wan’s array and adjusted some other pieces of it. Everything seemed to come as easy as breathing to him, and he always exuded an aura of effortless leisure.
But when he set down the final round stone, violent winds whipped up out of nowhere and bundled the black mist into a sphere. The black mist then transformed into an enormous vortex that was suspended in the air above the round stones.
That was the gate he had re-opened, ultimately leading to Liu Village.
The moment the gate opened, the countless huigu that had crawled out of places of filth suddenly stopped moving and froze in front of the vortex. After a long pause, they began to tremble ceaselessly.
Their necks and limbs writhed, as if their souls were trapped in an endless back-and-forth struggle with their bodies.
Although they were a horrifying sight to behold, their ghastly pale faces were filled with sorrow, rendering them both terrifying and pitiful as they continued to weep.
Then, with a curled finger, Xie Wen rapped on a space somewhere in the midst of the array stones.
In less than a second, the wind grew even more fierce, and the huigu were scattered and bowled over by the gales. At last, with one final, aggressive shudder, they released the souls that they had devoured.
Countless ashen figures reached out and scrambled frantically towards the gate leading to Liu Village.
Zhang Wan was correct: they had been away from home for too long, and they had long since grown desperate to go back.
As those people continued to depart, the entire cage grew unstable and tumultuous. It was as if millions of invisible hands had sprouted from the earth and were attempting to forcefully drag back down the people who were trying to return to Liu Village—this was likely a lingering effect from switching fates all those years ago.
A portion of the people suddenly stalled in mid-air halfway to the vortex, unable to advance, and began struggling wildly in the wind.
Right as they let out shrill shrieks, Wen Shi extended his fingers before curling them shut abruptly. Numerous strands of puppet string shot out in all directions like piercing swords. They stayed pressed against the ground as they moved, and—as if they were the sharpest of blades—they severed all of the forces that were gripping onto the figures.
In the span of a breath, those people regained their freedom.
They surged into the vortex like the tide, and from that moment on, they were home and would never need to wander elsewhere again.
When the last figure left, the giant cage that had existed for a millennium finally splintered apart. All of the scenery swiftly retreated into the distance, and all of the sounds started to grow indistinct.
At the same time, Zhang Wan also began to fade into smoke.
Right before she disappeared completely, she suddenly asked Xie Wen a question. “Besides that time at Liu Village, have I seen you elsewhere as well? In other lifetimes, in other places.”
Xie Wen said, “You have.”
Gazing at him, Zhang Wan said, “I’ve seen the others too, haven’t I.”
For example, the hundred or so people, old and young, who used to live in the Xie residence at Qiantang.
Just like before, Xie Wen answered, “You have.”
Zhang Wan asked softly, “Do you… send us off in every lifetime?”
Xie Wen went quiet for a moment before he smiled and said, “No, only if we happen to meet.”
He would often encounter, in some corner of the world, someone like Zhang Wan who he once knew. Their appearances would’ve long since changed, and they would have new identities, new families. No matter how strong attachments were in previous lives—no matter how ardent the love or how vehement the hate—all of that became nothing but the dust-sealed past after undergoing reincarnation, never to be remembered again.
And even if they did recall something, too much time had passed at that point. The people had changed, and the good times were gone.
To them, he was merely an unfamiliar traveler passing by who they occasionally crossed paths with. Some would only cast a single glance at him, while others would think that he felt familiar and strike up a brief conversation with him. Afterwards, they would throw themselves right back into their respective lives, never to overlap with him again.
He wasn’t one to obsess over such things; instead, he would simply linger for a moment longer behind those people that he once knew, so that he could lean against a tree and send them off. After watching them walk to the end of the road and vanish around the corner, he would smile faintly and leave.
Zhang Wan seemed to have many more things that she wanted to say, but in the end, she only asked, “If you encounter us again in the next life, will you still send us off?”
Xie Wen said, “I will. I send off many people.”
“Alright.” Zhang Wan nodded.
After a long pause, she also smiled at Xie Wen with reddened eyes, and her last words were swallowed up by the fog.
But Wen Shi still heard them. He heard Zhang Wan say gently, “Don’t be all alone anymore, the way you were in the cage back then.”
As she disappeared, a figure materialized in the haze. Perhaps it was one last reflection born from all the things that she could not let go of deep inside.
The figure was leaning against the vermillion railing of a corridor, conversing and laughing with someone. He was still just a youth, and he carried himself with elegance and grace, nobility and splendor.
The reflection vanished in the blink of an eye. It faded without a trace into the thick mist, along with the rest of the overgrown trees and vegetation in the cage.
Wen Shi stared at that spot blankly. All of a sudden, he felt as if someone had pinched his heart hard, and an uncontrollable wave of sorrow welled up inside him.
Turning to look at Xie Wen, he said lowly, “Was the first cage you ever undid your own?”
Xie Wen didn’t answer. Instead, he stood there quietly for some time before he turned his head towards Wen Shi.
His gaze traveled over the corners of Wen Shi’s eyes, the tip of his nose, the curve of his lips. He looked at the other person for a long moment before he lifted his hand and cupped Wen Shi’s chin. Thumb brushing over the edges of Wen Shi’s lips, he said softly, “Those are all bygones from a distant past. I forgot most of it ages ago—it’s time to close that chapter.”
But Wen Shi couldn’t bring himself to close it, and he kept getting the urge to do something in response to it.
Maybe he got a little fed up with the thumb that kept playing with his lips. He grabbed Xie Wen’s hand and narrowed his eyes; then, he tilted his head to the side and leaned in.
He thought that he was the one taking the lead, but by the time he realized what was going on, Xie Wen was the one quietly kissing him.
The cage that had been bound there for a millennium crumbled into pieces around them. Everyone else had long since vanished, and their surroundings were utterly empty and silent, as if they were in a secret world of their own—untouched by worldly chaos, entangled hopelessly together.
The author has something to say:
Please note: they didn’t kiss in a public setting…
Yan: I translated the last chunk of this on an iPad on a 16 hour flight to Japan so please excuse any mistakes lol. End of this arc! One last big arc left 🙂
6 thoughts on “PG Chapter 85: Send-off”
waaaahhhh… so bittersweet </3
And pretty touching how it was all resolved and reminiscing about times past…
Thank you so much for translating!
can’t believe it’s almost over 😭😭
that last kiss! ahhh!
but this chapter is so bittersweet. of course Xie Wen’s first cage was his own.
Thank your for translating!! ❤
Thank you for the translation!
It’s so beautiful, the wording of these scenes is touching my heart. I think Wen Shi got her blessing with her side eye and that “Don’t stay all alone” line to Xie Wen 😉
The moment when Wen Shi thought he took the lead but he didn’t haha it’s so funny and they’re so sweet. They have such a long story, a lifetime, few lifetimes, many cycles and finally free to be together.
So beautiful I cry ;;
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Thank you for your translations! Each chapter is such an emotional journey!
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