Book 7 Chapter 46: The Right to be Weak

Ruan Zhan was still as though made of wood, but his insides were like boiling water, steaming his perforated soul!

The night wind cycle, yin and yang poles, are you sure he is dead?

Si Ma Nan’s smile as he died contained a trace of mockery, a trace of pity and a trace of heartache. Had he known everything? Had he known that Ruan Zhan’s life had been a joke? A meaningless fabrication?

He had asked Si Ma Nan three questions: their relationship, his past and his father’s mysterious death. Si Ma Nan had only responded with those three phrases, without any other explanation. He had assumed Si Ma Nan was being deliberately vague. He figured Si Ma Nan probably had his reasons not to speak clearly. Yet he immediately figured out the answer to his first response.

Night wind cycle.

He didn’t know what sect his father belonged to, but knew that its most powerful spell was called the wind blade. The reason he learned the flaming handprint and lightning palm was because the wind blade had harsher requirements for spirit power. He had to undo his seal and raise his abilities further before he could use it. He hadn’t known this when he was young. He merely saw his father occasionally wipe out a powerful ghost using the wind blade, and was very fond of it. Although he liked it, he didn’t ask his father to teach him. His father always told him the same thing: they were merely two strangers who encountered each other. No need to get too close. He also didn’t have the qualifications to obtain things that didn’t belong to him. When he turned eight, he hadn’t yet started receiving his father’s forceful instructions on the Daoist arts.

That summer, he and Wan Li had a fight with some kids on the street and he came home injured. Because he hid his injuries, the wounds ended up getting infected and he ended up with a high fever. He spent a week in the hospital before managing to keep his life, and was taken home by his father to recuperate.

It was extremely stuffy and hot at night, and he felt extremely uncomfortable lying in the stifling room. Yet he wasn’t strong enough to go cool off in the yard. As he was trying to figure out what to do, his father suddenly strolled over. That was a little strange. The two of them rarely spoke, and his father entered his room even less. The day he was adopted, he had learned to take care of himself. He watched his father pace around the room as if coming to a difficult decision. Then, his father sat by his bed and grabbed casually at the air before waving towards his face.

He immediately felt a gentle breeze. It seemed to be close yet also distant, suddenly scattering the instant it reached his face. It was like a cycle that wrapped around his head before flowing down his body.

He had still been young at the time. Although his personality had already formed, he was still immature. The wind was both comfortable and fun, and he couldn’t help but laugh. He asked his father if he could do it again.

His father didn’t speak, but did it again. And then again, and again for the entire night, until he drifted off to sleep. Even while he dreamt, he still felt the wind cycle caressing him, making him feel cool, refreshed and cozy.

The next morning, his father was already gone. But he would never forget the events of that night. His stern, taciturn father had the hint of a smile as he comforted him, and even stroked his head. He was like a father who doted on his son. Afterwards, he mustered up his courage and asked about that spell. HIs father had told him it was called the “Night Wind Cycle”. His father’s master, which was to say his grandmaster, had created the spell to amuse his apprentice. It wasn’t of much use, but apart from his father, only his grandmaster knew it. His grandmaster had promised his father that since the spell was created for him, he would never teach it to anyone else.

Therefore, when Si Ma Nan spoke those three words with a hint of kindness, he immediately knew Si Ma Nan was his grandmaster. How laughable was that? Even if they had fought to the death, he had still killed his own grandmaster!

When he heard the words yin and yang poles, he was even more indescribably shocked! He didn’t understand how Si Ma Nan knew about that matter!

He had a strange black birthmark on the sole of his foot. It never hurt nor itched so he never paid it much heed. Yet when his father once inadvertently saw it, he had told him that this sort of birthmark was extremely rare, and called it the Yingyang poles. People with the Yingyang poles possess strong innate abilities, and it can only be passed from father to son. If he ever saw someone else with the same birthmark, that person was his biological father.

He hadn’t believed those words back in his youth. He stubbornly believed that the man from his previous home had been his biological father. He didn’t know whether that person had the birthmark, but he knew that person hated him. He had tossed him onto a coal truck when he was a child! He detested the couple who had abandoned him. He had even thought about going back for revenge, though he had been too young to remember where he was from.

Now, it seemed he actually hated the wrong people! The couple who abandoned him were merely his adoptive parents. When they realized his abnormalities, their fear and disgust was understandable. He had hated those who didn’t really deserve it. His biological father actually pretended to be his adoptive father while remaining at his side for over a decade. He never told him anything, and merely treated him coldly! Along with his unfulfilled desire for affection, he carried the burden of this favor. He carefully accepted some things, cautiously rejected others, and was filled with gratitude towards that man’s “kindness”!

His father’s “casual” words back then must have been intentional. But why? Why was he unwilling to reveal himself as his real father? Had his father abandoned him when he was too young to remember? Or had he given him away? When he was later brought back, had it been an intentional arrangement or some twisted coincidence?

He finally understood the complicated expression on his father’s face when that ghost brought him to his side! He must have known immediately who the child was? Should he accept or reject, love or hate, was he curious or pleasantly surprised? Those thoughts must have all crossed his mind.

But so what? What had he treated own son so emotionlessly? Why didn’t he give him any warmth, but still taught him so many things? Did he hate him or fear him? Did he have no choice but to take him in, or did he have other plans? Even a dog would get some playtime, some hugs or rubs. Why could he remain so cold? It was like he wanted to avoid any emotional entanglements. He didn’t want any deeper connections with him at all? Weren’t they connected by blood, the most intimate of connections?!

Then why did he give him the occasional warm memory? What about the summer night he spent casting the Night Wind Cycle, or the egg yolk pastry he baked for him? Also, why would he tell him about the Yinyang Poles? Was he hinting at something?

Thinking of this, a wave of sorrowful and cold laughter rose from his heart. It was no longer important. How sad was that? He always thought himself aloof enough. But compared to his own father, he was like a minor mage in front of a grand wizard! At least he still had emotions. He knew to repay debts, to treat friends earnestly and to cherish the woman he loves. What about his father?

He maintained a distant relationship with his own son, one that was forged from gratitude and debt, for over a decade. He was even able to tell his own son calmly about an upcoming deadly tribulation like the Calamity of Threes. It was like it didn’t matter whether his son lived or died.

Therefore, the answer to the last question was no longer important. It was fine if his father was dead, and if he wasn’t, it had nothing to do with him. It didn’t matter whether his father didn’t want any connections with him, or if there was some huge secret he was hiding. Besides, his father had faked his death once back then. Now, he was certain of his death. At least, the body was dead. But why did he fake it in the past? Why did he appear now?  Who had killed him? Where had his soul gone? Who was the hidden person in the vision back then? All of this had nothing to do with Ruan Zhan. He didn’t want to get involved!

He wasn’t sure whether he was resentful or sad. He just felt his life was meaningless. He knew about his Calamity of Threes before he even came of age. The reason he could calmly live his life despite his impending death was his debt of gratitude towards his adoptive father for taking him in after his parents abandoned him. He couldn’t choose to give up because he had to find the reason for his father’s death. Now, the reason was gone. He suddenly had the vicious thought of immediately ending his own life to screw with his destiny and his father’s prophecy! There would be no Calamity of Threes, because before it could happen, he would end his own life!

His neck was wet. Who was crying so sadly? Where was the warmth spreading from his chest throughout his body coming from?

After his nihilistic thoughts arose, Ruan Zhan suddenly felt weird. He snapped out of it and realized he had already stood up. His left hand held the crystal dagger while his right hand pointed in the air, seeming about to step out and teleport away. However, two arms gripped his waist tightly as someone pressed against his chest.

“You have to take me wherever you go, even if it’s to the underworld!” A voice filled with tears said stubbornly.

He suddenly woke up!

This was Xiao Xia’s room. The crystal dagger was the one he had hidden in the bookshelf. He had subconsciously set his hometown as the coordinates, and planned on ending his life in his old house. An act of defiance towards all the unfair arrangements!

“Xiao Xia, let go.” He said wearily. He loved her so, but at this moment he wasn’t even able to bear such affection.

“I won’t! I won’t!” Along with her response, the arms around his waist tightened, almost suffocating him.

“Let me go, Xiao Xia. I’m just…I’m just…”

“You’re just going to go, and never come back!”

“I’m not.”

“You are! Don’t lie to me, I’m not stupid. I also won’t let go. Otherwise, you’ll disappear in a flash! I can’t stop you, so you can go where you please. But you’ll have to bring me along!” Xiao Xia continued crying, he tears dripping onto his chest. The ache in his heart eroded the strength of his resentment.

“Stop crying, ok? Did someone die?” He tried to joke. “Oh, someone did die. But the one who died was my father. The one who was betrayed was also me. So why are you crying, and so sadly at that?”

“I am crying in your stead, since you refuse to show weakness.” Xiao Xia raised her head and looked at his cool expression.

The handsome face looked calm, but his eyes were filled with rage and determination. The lines on his face were stretched tight, as if he planned on fighting to the death against his unfair fate! There was boundless sorrow and helplessness in his expression, making her wish she could bear it for him, bear his pain, his sorrow. Why was his fate so different from everyone else? Why did he have to bear burdens no one else had to bear? Why was only his life so difficult, so hopeless.

She thought she understood him, but she only knew now how unyielding he was. Despite facing such a devastating blow that caused his inner world to crumble, he still stood so upright, unwilling to reveal any weakness in front of others. The repeated shunning and lack of love during his childhood caused him to become solitary, tough and stubborn. Yet he might not realize that no matter how strong someone was, everyone had the right to be weak!

Therefore, she hurt even more at the weakness underneath his tough exterior!

“Crying in my stead?” Ruan Zhan murmured, the emotion in his tone unclear.

Xiao Xia pulled his raised hand down, removing the threat of him suddenly disappearing. Then, she pried open his other hand, unceremoniously throwing the possibly precious crystal dagger to the floor. Then, she wrapped her arms around his shoulder.

“You can come hug me.” Xiao Xia said gently. “Transfer all your grief and dissatisfaction onto me. Let me cry in your stead for everything that’s making you sad.”

“Xiao Xia!” He helplessly tried to get free but realized there was no way she would let go.

“You’ve done so much for me. Just let me help you this once.” Xiao Xia blinked away her tears. “I can’t let you leave me. There are still many things I want to do with you. If I let you go now, there won’t be any more opportunities in the future. Therefore, I will help you unload your burdens. Come, treat it as me begging you. You just have to relax. Stop forcing yourself for just one minute!”

His body was rigid. Xiao Xia used all her strength before he bent over slightly, leaning his head against her shoulder.

The scent of her body and her hair, the warmth of her neck caused a crack in the ice around his heart. He wanted to resist but she desperately wanted to melt him. He hesitated, not sure whether he should comply.

Might as well give it a try. Perhaps he won’t be as tired if he relaxed a little. What was there to worry about in front of her? Furthermore, if he didn’t listen to her, she really wouldn’t let him go. How about just this once. He would let loose just this once. He didn’t have much time left anyway.

These thoughts flashed across his mind in a blur, making his body subconsciously relax. His body relaxing caused his emotions to relax. His tensed nerves abandoned their resistance and his past that no one knew about suddenly welled up. He thoroughly dropped his mask as he held the person in his arms tightly, shedding all his burdens on her along with his full weight.

He felt his rigid body soften as Xiao Xia grit her teeth and remained upright. He was much taller than her, and supporting him like this almost made her fall over. But she was very happy he could slowly recover from his sudden burst of emotions. She was very happy she could give him a little warmth. He was truly a pitiful man. He appeared elegant and tough. Yet the toughest were often the weakest. She was very happy she could help him shoulder some of it.

He still didn’t cry. Perhaps he had already lost that capability long ago, but he trembled uncontrollably. She let him silently vent his many years of loneliness, sadness and grief!

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