Chapter 22: Don’t Leave
Although it was a July day, Chu Xie felt a bone-chilling cold in the wind. The flames burned their clothes and shoes as they walked.
Chu Xie was stunned for a long time.
The system’s voice kept ringing in his head.
“I know what’s wrong now! I know! The other host didn’t have a problem with his brain and entered the wrong world. Instead, he was squeezed out by another soul! Host! The Xu Chunmu in front of you…”
“He’s a reincarnator ahhhhh!”
Chu Xie was completely dumbfounded.
When he tried to push the person in front of him away with force, it strained his wound on his back. He pushed for a moment, but then was held tightly in place. “Don’t move, the wound might burst open.”
“Let go! You… cough… cough, cough…” Chu Xie became agitated and started coughing. Xu Chunmu immediately released him and stepped back a few paces.
Xu Chunmu saw him coughing heavily, with a faint blush on his face under the mask. He seemed to sway slightly, as if struggling to maintain his balance.
In an instant, his eyes were filled with deep pain.
“What I said was all true. Chu Xie, if you kill Chen Lianzhou, you will definitely die. You have no idea, you… “
No matter how fast Chu Xie’s mind worked, he couldn’t cope with the sudden turn of events in front of him.
All he could do was pretend to be distressed, take a few steps back, and then gather his thoughts about the current situation.
This Xu Chunmu is actually reborn!
Is he trying to make the situation even more chaotic?
Stay calm… Stay calm…
“I want to give up on this world,” Chu Xie said seriously after calming down. “It’s really too difficult. Can you believe there’s even reincarnation here?!”
“Ah ah ah… Host, please don’t cry… we’re just seven days away. Seven days from now, when Chen Lianzhou dies, we can die and be reborn directly! I don’t seek a perfect completion of the task, just the chance to be reborn! Please, Host…”
“What about the character compatibility rating for Xu Chunmu?! He’s a reincarnator too! He knows all the plotlines like the back of his hand! What can I do? I’m so desperate!” Chu Xie roared in his mind. “To h*ll with this, I want to change worlds, immediately, right now!”
“Please, Host, just seven days. Trust me, this plot is really easy to follow, and there won’t be any surprises! In seven days, as long as you maintain a character compatibility rating of no less than 60%, we can shield ourselves right on the spot!”
Seven days, even if it’s just one day…
Yes, seven days.
Chu Xie took a few deep breaths and calmed down.
Seven days, 168 hours… Yes, as long as Duke Rongguo, Chen Lianzhou, dies, he can die and be reborn immediately.
No matter how difficult it is, it’s just the darkness before dawn.
Chu Xie checked the character compatibility ratings again. One at 100%, the other at 80%. It was still stable. No matter what, as long as he could barely complete the next plot, he would definitely be reborn.
No matter how chaotic the situation is, it has nothing to do with him!
Anyway, I’m going to bid farewell to this world soon.
After adjusting his mindset, Chu Xie slowly raised his gaze and did his best to maintain his character. “Xu Chunmu, what do you really know… cough, cough… Aren’t you afraid, afraid that I will kill you…”
“Wuuuu…. Host, keep it together…”
Before the system could continue, Chu Xie abruptly shut it down.
Xu Chunmu’s jaw tensed. He had been full of worry before, but hearing Chu Xie’s questioning made him feel somewhat relieved.
“You won’t kill me.”
Xu Chunmu said with certainty.
Young man, where does your confidence come from?
Chu Xie thought silently in his heart, “I’m someone who can even kill myself.”
“My affairs have nothing to do with you,” Chu Xie said coldly. “If you know what’s good for you, go back to your Northern Border immediately and never meddle in the affairs of the Imperial City of the Western Capital again!”
“Ah Xie, you…”
Chu Xie suddenly turned around and, with his weak body, pushed Xu Chunmu forcefully against the wooden door behind him. There was a loud creaking sound echoing in the narrow alley. “Call me Lord Chu.”
Xu Chunmu pursed his lips. His excessive worry had exacerbated Chu Xie’s injuries. Under Chu Xie’s stern gaze, he eventually yielded.
Chu Xie released his hand, draped his cloak over himself, covering half of his head. He turned and walked away. “Don’t follow me, and don’t… stay in my mansion anymore.”
In the bustling streets of the imperial city, with lanterns and decorations, Chu Xie walked against the crowd. He looked up at the brightly lit city walls and the colorful lanterns, and flower petals showered down from the sky as the auspicious moment arrived.
He opened the system and heard a somewhat listless voice on the other end. “Host…”
“Why did Xu Chunmu and Chu Xie’s character arcs collapse in the original world?”
“Host…. does this really matter? You never cared about these things before. Can’t we just follow the plot….?”
Chu Xie remained unusually silent for a moment and then replied, “Yes.”
“Host, what’s going on with you? This is the second time I’ve sensed strong emotional fluctuations from you. The last time was when Duan Se faked her death.”
He had been in this world for ten years.
He had always been a person with acting skills but lacked immersion. He knew that these were all paper characters, and what he did was just one act after another.
However, in that brief moment, he saw profound pain in Xu Chunmu’s eyes. Genuine emotions.
“Do you know why I absolutely have to be reborn?”
The system was completely caught off guard by the fact that Chu Xie was sharing his thoughts. No, it was even more surprised that someone like Chu Xie could have any personal concerns.
It had always believed that this host was an emotionless plot-following machine. Indecisive or melancholic, such emotions had never appeared in Chu Xie before.
He had always been resolute, efficient. He could be furious at times but never wavering.
—Although he could be remarkably obtuse in some aspects.
But indeed, out of all the hosts thet’ve encountered, he’s the one who completes the storyline best. It had seriously analyzed this before, concluding that Chu Xie’s success wasn’t solely due to his intelligence and acting skills. What set him apart was that he never allowed himself to feel genuine emotions towards the characters in the story; he always maintained a detachment from the narrative.
There were many hosts who, as they followed the storyline, became too emotionally involved, ultimately choosing to stay in the original world.
But not Chu Xie.
He viewed the boundaries between the real world and the fictional one with absolute clarity.
“I have a sister. My own sister,” Chu Xie revealed.
“When I was thirteen, she was only five. My mother tried to commit suicide at home with charcoal… To put it in technical terms, it was, uh, a sort of forced group self-harm?”
The system was shaken.
His tone was far too casual, considering the subject matter.
“The doors, windows, and vents all blocked… The entire house was pitch black. It took all my strength to finally break the glass and call the neighbors for help. But the day after we were rescued, my mother slit her wrists, and the entire bathroom was covered in blood.”
The sparse words were filled with heart-pounding intensity.
How could he narrate such harrowing events with such calmness?
“So that’s why you saved Duan Se three years ago… I found it strange, why would someone as calculated as you suddenly decide to use a vial of potent medicine to save a cannon fodder…”
“The year Duan Se was supposed to die, Jiang Yanchi was also thirteen. But his life was even more unfortunate, and he didn’t even have a sister.” Chu Xie stood still amidst the bustling crowd, like a solitary island. “That’s why, at that time, I decided not to kill Duan Se.”
The system still found it strange.
Based on its previous experiences with bonded hosts, individuals with a sunny disposition and a strong desire to return home, like Chu Xie, should have grown up in a happy environment.
But it was the complete opposite.
“Host, aren’t you…aren’t you sad at all?”
“Face the mountain and make a path, encounter water and build a bridge. There are so many troublesome things in this world, tackling them one by one leaves no room for sadness,” Chu Xie replied. However, the intense look in Xu Chunmu’s eyes when he tried to save Chu Xie reminded him of the time when he had desperately hoped for someone else’s survival.
Chu Xie sighed for a brief moment and then shook his shoulders, resuming his confident stride forward as if nothing had happened. He continued until he reached the bustling main city square.
“Wuuuuu….” The system whimpered again, “Host, you, you, please hang in there. I will always love you…”
Chu Xie rolled his eyes, “Your love is worthless.”
Chu Xie noticed the carriage of Duke Rongguo, which had stopped below the city gate. He looked up and saw the old man standing on a high tower, overseeing the crowd.
Chu Xie contemplated this for a moment and suddenly felt another intense gaze upon him. His eyes shifted, and he saw Jiang Yanchi on the opposite side of the city tower, their gazes locking momentarily.
In an instant, Jiang Yanchi rushed down the stairs, the wind whistling as he descended.
Seeing Jiang Yanchi, Chu Xie felt his wounds throbbing even more. He instinctively wanted to run away but touched his mask on his face, making sure that Jiang Yanchi wouldn’t recognize him as Chu Xie.
As he was preparing himself mentally, an unexpected hand landed on his shoulder.
Damn it, you haven’t been scolded away yet!
Chu Xie quickly pulled Xu Chunmu and led him through the bustling crowd into a narrow alley.
“Host, what should we do? It’s been so hard to align with Xu Chunmu’s character with an 80% match. If the protagonist finds out you’re not Xu Chunmu, won’t everything we’ve done so far go to waste? There are only seven days left, we can’t afford a character breakdown! Host, think of a solution quickly…” the system pleaded.
Chu Xie thought hard as he proceeded. When he spotted a small door up ahead, he promptly pushed Xu Chunmu inside.
“Xu Chunmu, listen to me. No matter what happens, you must not come out, absolutely not. Otherwise, I… I’ll kill you!”
Just as he closed the door, he sensed a dark figure appearing at the entrance of the alley.
It was Jiang Yanchi.
“Ah, Ah Mu.”
Jiang Yanchi’s eyes were red, and he had been racing towards this spot. However, now he seemed hesitant as he approached Chu Xie. “Is… Is it you?”
“Yes,” Chu Xie replied softly. “Your Highness.”
“Are you… feeling better?”
Jiang Yanchi stepped closer, but when Chu Xie saw his face clearly, he couldn’t help but remember the cold and indifferent gaze Jiang Yanchi had in the Prison.
For a moment, Chu Xie’s emotions were unsettled, and he took several steps back. Jiang Yanchi, seeing Chu Xie’s intention to leave, quickly closed the distance and firmly grasped his wrist. “Don’t leave!”
The tug of their struggle caused pain to flare from Chu Xie’s wound, and he couldn’t help but let out a stifled groan.
There was some movement at the other end of the door.
“Who is it?” Jiang Yanchi, with his sharp senses, immediately cast his gaze towards the thin, weathered vermilion door.
“It’s, it’s the wind,” Chu Xie quickly raised his voice to explain, “Your Highness, please let me go. I won’t leave.”
However, Jiang Yanchi didn’t release him. Instead, he pulled Chu Xie into an embrace. This time, Chu Xie endured the pain without crying out, allowing the young prince to hold him.
“I thought, I thought you… It’s good that you’re back,” the prince mumbled with his head buried in Chu Xie’s neck. His voice was close and filled with a hint of grievance, as if a young girl were complaining about her husband who hadn’t returned home for a long time.
Sigh, why did the protagonist have to be bent?
Chu Xie thought about Xu Chunmu’s recent activities, realizing that he had mostly stayed within the Chu residence without going out. After briefly preparing his response, he spoke carefully, “Chu Xie found out about my betrayal, so I fled overnight. I heard that you granted my older brother the authority over the Imperial Guards, which gave me the confidence to return to the capital.”
Jiang Yanchi released his grip on Chu Xie’s hand and stared at him intently.
After a while, he murmured softly, “If he had discovered you, why did you still choose to reside in Chu Xie’s mansion after returning to the capital?”
Oh, he had forgotten about this part.
How to explain it?
Jiang Yanchi fell silent, gently stroking Chu Xie’s hand.
“Are you… truly Chu Xunmu?” Jiang Yanchi lifted his gaze and questioned abruptly, “Then why did you say the last time at the Eastern Palace that it was our first meeting?”
What? The real Chu Xunmu had met the young crown prince?
He had been so secluded while recovering, and now information had become so obstructed. This could be disastrous.
My character value—
Could it be that it was about to collapse?
Chu Xie’s mind was in turmoil for a moment, and his whole body began to tremble uncontrollably. The wound on his back was still causing sharp bursts of pain, making his face turn deathly pale.
Jiang Yanchi’s complexion shifted slightly, and he added, “You… don’t rush, take your time to explain. I’m listening.”
Chu Xie was truly nervous now, observing the character compatibility values to see if the plot was still intact.
He took a deep breath, then began to craft his response carefully, launching into a meticulous defense.
“I… I had three hundred thousand military troops under my command, and my older brother was granted the authority over the Imperial Guards. Naturally, we weren’t afraid of Chu Xie. Currently, His Majesty and Chu Xie are at odds, so when I moved into the Chu residence, it was to help keep an eye on him for His Majesty. As for our last meeting, Your Highness, I’ve told you many times that I don’t like you…. We men of the Xu family have ambitions beyond the capital; we don’t seek to attach ourselves to the throne. If you refuse to cancel the engagement, then whether it’s in public or, as it is now, privately, I’ll act as though I’ve never met you before.”
It’s still at 80%, not a point lost.
The values remained stable. Was he successful in convincing him?
“I see,” the young crown prince responded softly.
He was being remarkably quiet. Chu Xie began to worry if he had said too much and decided to sweeten the deal with a little flattery. “Now that Your Highness has ascended to the Eastern Palace and the most dangerous period has passed, I believe that even without my brother’s military authority, Your Highness will protect me. Isn’t that right?”
“Yes, I will protect you,” the young crown prince said, his gaze like a torch. Chu Xie finally let out a sigh of relief.
“Your Highness doesn’t need to worry. The Xu family will forever be your staunchest supporters,” Chu Xie said as he raised his hand to pat the young prince’s head. “I sincerely hope that one day, Your Highness will ascend the throne.”
“Alright, I will cancel the engagement with… you.” Jiang Yanchi seemed to be contemplating something. He took a step closer, reached out, and held Chu Xie’s slightly cool hand. Bathed in the moonlight, he stared intently into Chu Xie’s eyes as if trying to peer into his heart. “From now on, don’t avoid me anymore. Can you promise that?”
As they locked eyes, Chu Xie suddenly remembered the cold and disdainful gaze he had encountered in the Prison.
His whole body tensed up, and he couldn’t help but take a step back, stumbling until his back hit the wall, causing intense pain that made his vision darken.
There was another sound coming from behind the door, and this time, Jiang Yanchi heard it clearly. He didn’t ask any more questions and was about to push the door open.
Chu Xie desperately grabbed onto him, his forehead sweating, and his voice trembling as he said, “I… I’m in pain. Can you take me back?”
Jiang Yanchi frowned, his gaze darting rapidly between Chu Xie and the vermilion door.
In the end, he helped Chu Xie, his voice gentle as he looked him up and down. “Where does it hurt?”