*Note translation of the title slightly off, I didn’t notice the first word of title :'( – more accurate title would be Both Shadow Guard and White Moonlight [Rebirth]
“Hand… hand over the gu to His Majesty… His Majesty knows its exact usage. It’s crucial. If we don’t find the next host soon, the poor soul who takes my place will die… This is my waist token. I am the shadow by His Majesty’s side…” Fu Nian gritted his teeth, his breath like a fragile thread as he uttered the last syllable. Soon after, the blood-soaked bundle he held fell to the ground, within the mess of flesh, faintly revealing a struggling tiny insect gu.
The onset of poisoning this time was too sudden.
… If there was a trigger, it was probably the moment he heard news of the emperor’s impending wedding.
Upon hearing this news, Fu Nian’s immediate reaction was to rush back to the capital. Unfortunately, just as he reached the outskirts of the city, the old poison within him suddenly flared up.
As he collapsed on the road, Fu Nian felt that his life was nearing its end. In order not to burden others, he exerted his last bit of strength to reach the Imperial Guards, extracting the gu from his body and handing it over to them.
The intense pain at his heart’s location had not yet subsided, but the sensation of blood flowing had stopped.
Fu Nian struggled to move his fingers, only to find that he couldn’t even manage such a simple action. He wondered, am I… already dead? Or am I about to die?
Well, his heart had been removed along with the gu, so how could he possibly survive…
At this moment, what slowly appeared before Fu Nian’s eyes was not someone else, but the little highness he cared most about.
Back when Chu Zhaoyi was still a prince, Fu Nian had paved the way for him, eliminating obstacles one by one, even committing fratricide and patricide for Chu Zhaoyi, all for the sake of ensuring Chu Zhaoyi, his Senior Brother, and Master’s safety.
… It was also when Chu Zhaoyi was still a prince that they had performed a secret ceremony of marriage when there were no witnesses, making promises to each other as a naive gesture of love.
Fu Nian had known from the beginning that these childish games wouldn’t count for much.
After all, he was initially a chess piece placed by the late emperor beside Chu Zhaoyi. From the start, Fu Nian knew that Chu Zhaoyi had never truly trusted him.
Even though he later turned against the late emperor and betrayed his sect, eventually assassinating the late emperor himself, his entanglement with Chu Zhaoyi only grew stronger.
But the deep misunderstandings between them were overwhelming – new grudges, old hatreds, suspicion, jealousy, conflicting personalities – all these factors led them to their current separation…
Thinking about these matters at his dying moment was futile…
Yet Fu Nian hadn’t expected that Chu Zhaoyi, who had voluntarily left him back then, was still the one he couldn’t let go of in the end.
As the toxins spread, the pain gradually dulled. Fu Nian stubbornly tried to open his eyes, but no matter how he struggled, it was all in vain.
He refused to accept it.
He hadn’t had the chance to seek revenge on the master, the one responsible for afflicting him with this poison for the latter half of his life.
And his Senior Brother… though they had been separated for years, Fu Nian still felt a sense of guilt towards him.
Most importantly, he had no idea who the unfortunate soul was that had planted the heart-connecting gu inside his body. They’ve taken on all the guilt for him for so long. If there were another life, Fu Nian would willingly serve this benefactor as a cow or a horse.
The fading pain gradually dissipated, and after an indeterminate amount of time, Fu Nian finally heard someone speaking. The voice was icy, devoid of emotion.
It sounded as if it came from the underworld itself.
[“During your time in the mortal world, you’ve accumulated countless resentful spirits, and you cannot enter the cycle of reincarnation…”] Well, he was originally an assassin. Under his hands, if there were no wronged souls then they were righteous swordsmen who stood up for justice.
Extreme evildoers weren’t much different, it seemed.
Fu Nian thought to himself.
[“Furthermore, your worldly attachments run deep… with a hint of remorse and a desire to do good. In the mortal world, is there any benevolent attachment that you’ve left unfinished?”] There were indeed many attachments, but as for benevolent ones… aside from seeking revenge and repenting, perhaps there was only repaying the person who took on the heart-connecting gu for him, which could be considered a benevolent attachment.
Fu Nian thought.
[“Very well, go then. Purge some of the impurities from your being, enabling your transformation in the underworld, and then your return to the cycle of reincarnation. This time, your mortal vessel will undergo some changes, making it more convenient for you to fulfill your gratitude.”] Wait… does this mean the underworld finds him too wicked to admit?
Before Fu Nian could fully process this, he felt the intense pain in his chest returning bit by bit. “Wait, can I ask… who planted the heart-connecting gu for me…”
I don’t know?
Before Fu Nian could even respond, the excruciating pain in his chest engulfed him.
Amidst the haze of agony, Fu Nian seemed to regain a sliver of consciousness, hearing someone chattering nearby.
“It’s the one with the severed arm and leg, brought back just like this. I was actually thinking of healing him and having him marry my foolish daughter…”
It was the voice of a woman.
Fu Nian was taken aback.
The one with the severed arm and leg… wasn’t that him?
In his previous life, he was born without a right arm and leg. Later, his fortunate master had retrieved him, crafting prosthetics for him, teaching him how to control them, teaching him martial arts… although the later poison within him was also a gift from this master.
However, just now, the voice said his body would change, yet his missing limbs were still missing. It seemed like there was no change at all.
Fu Nian was still marveling at the fact that he actually hadn’t died…
So, even the underworld has its standards for collecting souls. No wonder there are so many wandering spirits and restless ghosts left unclaimed.
“Alas, what a pity. He’s been fed over twenty bowls of porridge and six or seven bowls of medicinal soup, and he’s still not awake. Doctor, your acupuncture, is it effective? If not, we might have to bury him…”
Upon hearing this word, Fu Nian struggled to open his eyes, attempting to move his fingers.
As soon as his eyes opened, Fu Nian saw his chest covered in densely-packed silver needles.
Many of these needles weren’t even precisely inserted into acupuncture points – if they didn’t stab him to death, that would be fortunate.
Fu Nian attempted to focus his qi, trying to mitigate the damage caused by the silver needles piercing his body.
Unfortunately, his body was now too weak. Not to mention manipulating his qi, even breathing became a struggle.
With no other option, Fu Nian lifted his remaining hand and chose to physically remove the needles.
“You see, he’s awake now, isn’t he? This old man has practiced medicine for many years—”
“Mediocre physician—” After Fu Nian had removed the blood-stained needles from his chest, he softly interrupted the self-praising doctor by his side.
“He’s really awake! You’re like the living Hua Tuo!” The woman hadn’t heard Fu Nian’s voice, busy showering praises on the charlatan, “Oh, my family doesn’t have much to offer, but if you don’t mind, stay for a meal. The vegetables are homegrown… I’ll have my husband kill a chicken for you, to nourish your body. Please don’t refuse.”
“No, of course not. I don’t mind at all.” The doctor smiled, collecting the blood-stained silver needles. He glanced at Fu Nian, lying on the mat, tidying his medical pouch like he was packing away something monstrous.
Fu Nian didn’t have the energy to speak. He subconsciously tried to clench his right fist, only to realize his prosthetic was missing. No matter how hard he tried, it was all in vain.
After the doctor left, Fu Nian heard the woman return.
“Where am I?” Fu Nian surveyed his surroundings and coldly asked.
“My home, where else could it be? Look at you, we saved you, yet you don’t even say thank you. You’re like a bottomless pit, consuming so much food and medicine just to wake up—”
“What happened to my hand and leg?” Fu Nian didn’t let her finish, cutting in with a gloomy tone.
This body was still his… after all, it was nearly impossible to find someone else with identical limb deficiencies.
His body was intact, but the traces of prosthetics that were once attached were evident, clearly removed intentionally.
“You mean those false limbs on your body? The carpenter removed them. I don’t know what they were made of, but they fetched a dozen or so taels of silver. The money for your medicine and porridge for these days was exchanged with them. Using two sticks to support your arms and legs is just as good, why bother with such fancy prosthetics? If those false limbs of yours weren’t worth some money, I wouldn’t have bothered to pick you up—”
Fu Nian gritted his teeth, “What do you mean false limbs? They’re prosthetics!”
Those prosthetics were made by the stonemason of Chu Zhaoyi’s household, from a rare and solid jade he had searched for years to find.
Regardless of Chu Zhaoyi as a person, those prosthetics were undoubtedly the most comfortable ones Fu Nian had ever used.
“They’re just a pair of false limbs, what, having more false limbs makes you less of a cripple?”
How could those precious jade prosthetics be worth only a dozen taels of silver?
“That can’t possibly be worth only a dozen—”
Wait, Fu Nian realized, he should be angry at the fact that the woman in front of him had sold his prosthetics.
“Where did you sell them?” Fu Nian’s tone shifted, coldly asking.
“I told you, I sold them to a carpenter. Who knows?” After saying that, the woman glanced at Fu Nian’s severed limbs, as though looking at livestock. After retracting her gaze, she muttered, “A useless cripple with severed limbs, even selling him to serve tea and water to others is annoying…”
Hearing this, Fu Nian rolled off the mat.
His years of martial arts training were still intact. Even with his limbs missing, not only could he stand steady, he could even perform various actions with ease.
He silently circled behind the woman and spoke once again, “Where’s the carpenter?”
“I already said, once it’s sold, it’s gone. Why can’t you understand—”
Fu Nian didn’t give her a chance to finish. He grabbed the back of her collar and hoisted her up with one hand.
Watching the woman who had been calling him a “cripple with severed limbs” just moments ago, now struggling for breath and unable to even plead, was satisfying. Even the thought of pleading was beyond her capability now.
“You better find it,” Fu Nian’s voice remained calm, continuing to press for answers he hadn’t received earlier. “My prosthetics, where are they?”
The woman, her throat constricted, couldn’t speak and could only tremble, weakly raising her hand and pointing north.
Fu Nian released his grip on her, allowing her feet to touch the ground.
With a lingering fear, the woman finally spoke, thinking she had encountered a ghost, “The carpenter’s shop at the North Street intersection. I don’t know if your limbs are still there…”
“Thanks.” Fu Nian didn’t let her finish her rambling. Interrupting, he used his remaining leg to swiftly jump towards the exit. As he reached the doorway, he seemed to recall something, turning his head to look at the woman before him. His head tilted, he observed her, “By the way, I’ll repay you for the medical expenses. The over twenty bowls of porridge and six or seven bowls of medicinal soup will be repaid. However, you selling my prosthetics without my consent and calling me a cripple made me quite angry.”
The woman dared not meet Fu Nian’s eyes, her hands still trembling.
The strength Fu Nian had exerted just now could have easily strangled her.
Fu Nian paused for a moment, pondering, and then continued, “But regardless of your intentions, I’m very grateful for saving my life. My master taught me that gratitude is a must towards life-saving benefactors.”
“Sorry for grabbing you earlier, and thank you for saving me. The debt of saving a life will be repaid in the future.” Fu Nian said expressionlessly.
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