Heavenly Soul Chapter 120: Time Long Pas
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"Chunyi, what is that?"
A young boy and a slightly older girl sat on the roof of a building, observing the vast night sky above with peaceful eyes. The younger boy was pointing up at a shooting star as he asked the older girl this, his eyes sparkling with curiosity.
The girl looked at him with a wide and mischievous grin as she made up another ridiculous explanation. "That is a god who was just kicked out of Heaven for being lazy."
With wide eyes shining with a worshipful light, the boy said wonderingly, "Really? Chunyi, you know everything, don't you?"
The corner of the girl's mouth twitched as if in disbelief. Then pinching the little boy's cheeks and stretching them, she scolded, "You silly brat, you can't just go around believing everything anyone tells you!"
But the boy laughed, an unfettered sound brimming with joy.
With an amused huff, the girl let go and the boy rubbed his cheeks marked by red fingerprints, his lips still stretched with a happy smile.
Her gaze softening imperceptibly, the girl wrapped an arm around the little boy's shoulders and pulled him close, letting him rest his head on her shoulder. "Ah-Ye, you're such an idiot. I guess I'll just have to keep you with me and take care of you then."
"Yeah!" The little boy smiled brightly and hugged the girl close.
And until many years later, the young girl really did take care of this brother she'd impulsively adopted as her own despite not having a home or family to support even herself.
Before she started her life on the streets, Hua Chunyi had once been a part of a caravan that acted as a mobile brothel. This caravan of pleasure houses moved from city to city and offered its services to anyone who could pay, catering to people of all tastes, no matter how unusual or disgusting.
At the tender age of five, the innocent little girl was made to serve her first customer as she cried desperately for her mother, who only watched impassively from the side as her only daughter was being brutally violated by a man four decades older.
At the young age of eleven, there was not even a single trace of innocence or childishness in Hua Chunyi's expression. Her wide smile had grown to become reminiscent to that of a mad beast, her eyes shockingly sharp and glinting with vicious intelligence.
One day, after carefully arranging various things in place over the course of the previous few months, Hua Chunyi set fire to the entire caravan and escaped into the city they had just stopped at, her hand clutching but a single rusted knife for protection. Running into the streets, she hid among the vagabonds to escape any pursuit until the decimated caravan left the city.
From then on, Hua Chunyi lived peacefully in the streets.
If anyone thought her helpless and tried to touch her with lustful intent, she would happily use her rusted blade to chop off their arm. Meanwhile, she skillfully stole food from the wealthy vendors and kept herself satisfactorily fed. Though living in the streets was not easy, Hua Chunyi still took to it like a fish to water.
One day, as she was wandering the streets leisurely and pondering on how to assuage her boredom, she came upon a lavishly dressed eight-year-old boy being beaten up for stealing from a fruit vendor. On a whim, she rescued the kid, curious to hear why he had tried to steal food when he obviously looked so richly dressed.
It turned out that this little kid named Xie Xingye, who was indeed from a wealthy household, had very firmly announced to his family that if he was to marry in the future, he would only marry a man. His family had grown furious at his open proclamation of homosexuality and had tried to dissuade him, all to no avail. Xie Xingye remained stubbornly persistent despite his young age, and his family had ended up throwing him out after declaring him a disgrace.
They thought that their sheltered son who had never had to face hardships before would soon come crying to their door once again, begging to be taken in and agreeing to leave behind his preference for males. But no matter what, Xie Xingye had resolved to live his life the way he wanted and not marry anyone he couldn't love. He would rather starve and be beaten up on the streets while living freely rather than going back to being so constricted as he had been in his house.
Hearing this, Hua Chunyi burst out laughing. As funny as she thought this little kid in front of her was, she couldn't help but admire his self-awareness and stubbornness even at this young age.
By this time, Xie Xingye had also realized that this older sister who had just saved him was far more experienced and successful in the art of street-living, and so he was determined to hug her thigh. As for his dignity as a young master, what even was that? Would it let him marry a man or live well on the streets?
And so, the young boy begged and pleaded for Hua Chunyi to take him in.
After reassuring herself that this kid was only interested in males and would never look at her in the same way as her caravan's 'clients', Hua Chunyi finally relented and accepted Xie Xingye as her little brother, agreeing to protect him and feed him in return for his absolute loyalty to her.
And so, the two children became siblings by bond.
From then onwards, Hua Chunyi stole both of their shares of food every day and made sure that no one would bully Xie Xingye. She encouraged him to proudly state his views and sexual orientation, telling him that if anyone dared to try and shut him up, she would gladly beat some sense into them.
Realizing that Xie Xingye's high quality clothes would attract too much attention, Hua Chunyi sold them off and bought him a few sets of simpler clothing. But rather than spending the rest on herself, she used the extra money to buy Xie Xingye a pair of simple yet sturdy amber colored earrings, each comprised of a large stone that gleamed brightly. Hua Chunyi claimed that this was so that she could recognize him more easily in a crowd, but Xie Xingye rather thought that it might be because this new older sister of his just wanted to pamper him somehow.
As he thus spent his days with Hua Chunyi, Xie Xingye deeply felt both the joys and sufferings that life had to offer. But despite the uncertainties of living on the streets, every day was more fulfilling than he could have imagined.
Be it running away from child traffickers, evading or fighting back against perverts who tried to get their claws on them, huddling together to keep warm and dry under a thrown away blanket when it rained, roasting plump rats that Hua Chunyi deemed healthy enough to eat, climbing over walls and trees to sneakily pluck fruits from a wealthy merchant's orchard, splashing and playing in the lake when the days got too hot, or simply spending the night quietly watching the stars from the highest roof in the city―Xie Xingye treasured all these experiences equally, no matter how grueling or fun they were, as long as it was something he did together with his beloved sister Chunyi.
In this way, a couple of years passed.
One day, a few elegant and white-robed cultivators came to the city, announcing that they were here to test children and see if they had the ability to cultivate.
Since getting chosen by a cultivation sect to be their disciple would guarantee that they would at least have a roof over their heads and warm food in their bellies, Hua Chunyi and Xie Xingye decided that it wouldn't hurt to try and thus went over to let themselves be tested.
The result was that both of them were discovered to have good aptitudes, especially Hua Chunyi, who could wield the wood element and seemed to have very high comprehension skills.
And so, without much fuss, the two children were inducted into a righteous sect and began cultivating. Within a few years, they formed their cultivation cores and became well-known in their sect.
But throughout this time, Hua Chunyi and Xie Xingye were hardly what one would call model disciples. Whenever Hua Chunyi chose to make trouble, either by standing up for herself or her brother, or just inciting mayhem to entertain herself, Xie Xingye would always faithfully follow her. No matter how much they were lectured or punished, nothing changed, and Hua Chunyi continued on her merry, troublemaking ways, her junior brother in tow.
Today was one such time.
On this night, the town near the sect was celebrating a festival, the atmosphere full of bustling cheer and lively smiles. The townspeople were each dressed in vibrant clothes, laughing joyfully as they walked with a spring in their step.
The various food stalls lining the streets outside were lit until they glowed golden, making it seem as if streams of light were flowing between the buildings. Occasionally, brightly lit lanterns floated up in clusters of luminous dots, flying high until they seemed to become one with the stars in the sky.
And against this starry sky, two silhouettes could be seen leaping nimbly from building to building, their toes barely touching the roofs as they sped forward.
"Chunyi, was all this really necessary?" Xie Xingye exasperatedly asked the woman leaping in front of him even as he hurried to keep pace with her.
With a melodious laugh, Hua Chunyi turned towards her brother. "What necessary unnecessary? Ah-Ye, didn't we have fun? That's what's important!"
Xie Xingye shook his head with a helpless smile. "But why did we have to go through all this trouble just to steal a basket of chicken drumsticks from a street vendor? Chunyi, I really don't understand you even after all this time."
"That's because I'm too special for little Ah-Ye to understand~" she teased playfully.
Rolling his eyes, Xie Xingye muttered under his breath, "Yes, yes, you're so special in the head that some people would call you insane."
Hearing her brother's grumbles, Hua Chunyi was far from offended. Instead, she threw back her head and laughed, the sound free and exuberant, her eyes shining brightly with reflected light and her white teeth gleaming.
Looking at her, Xie Xingye couldn't help but marvel.
His sister was so beautiful and intelligent, with such a sparkling personality that shimmered with vitality. Any person who she deemed lucky enough to spend her life with would be beyond fortunate.
But if there was truly someone extraordinary enough to catch his Chunyi's eye, then would Xie Xingye seem too dull by comparison? Would his company then be unwanted?
Thinking so, Xie Xingye couldn't help but sink back into the worries that had been plaguing him for the past few months.
His entire world till now had only consisted of this sister of his, his focus always gravitating towards her as if pulled in by the whirlwind of energy that was Hua Chunyi's unique character. They had spent so much time together and weathered so many hurdles. They always stayed together and supported each other, banding against the rest of this world filled with unreasonable cruelties and hidden dangers.
But if one day his Chunyi chose to leave his side and push him away in favor of someone else, what would Xie Xingye live for?
Without his Chunyi, who would elbow him in the middle of hallways to show him handsome men for him to admire? Who would keep trying to teach him swordsmanship despite his lack of talent in that area? Who would tell him he was stupid when he sobbed pathetically about all his unrequited loves? Who would pat him on the back and earnestly say that he was worthy of the best man in the world? Who would he gossip with about the latest happenings in the sect? With whom would he make fun of all those uptight Elders and their pedantic rules? Who would he share his smiles and laughter with?
For Xie Xingye, no one could replace Hua Chunyi. Chunyi was his beloved sister, her presence already an indelible part of his life. Just the thought of her one day leaving him behind…
No, he couldn't bear it.
Just as Xie Xingye's thoughts were on the verge of beginning to spiral downwards, Hua Chunyi suddenly spoke, "This seems like a suitable place. We're getting down here, Ah-Ye!"
And then the figure of his sister vanished from before his eyes.
Xie Xingye immediately halted, looking down to see that Hua Chunyi was standing in the empty space beside what seemed to be a small courtyard on whose roof he was currently standing.
Also jumping down, Xie Xingye only needed to send a brief sweep of his spiritual senses to realize that this building was empty, its occupants presumably off to celebrate the festival outside.
"Why did we stop here?" Xie Xingye asked confusedly. "We should get back to the sect as soon as possible before those old fogeys hound us for staying out past curfew again."
Hua Chunyi simply laughed. "The worst they'll do is whack us a bit. Why are you so worried?"
Xie Xingye sighed as he complained, "They'll hold back when they hit you because of your talent in cultivation and your 'delicate female body', as that Elders' pet put it the last time, but I'll get whacked full force, my dear sister."
Then batting his eyelashes exaggeratedly and pouting pitifully, Xie Xingye asked, "Can you bear to see me get hurt like that?"
Hua Chunyi burst out into giggles. "Stop making that face, it looks ridiculous."
Xie Xingye added some more embellishment to his expression, widening his eyes until they were bulging as he stuck out his lower lip further, causing the Hua Chunyi who was already easily prone to laughter to double over while clutching her stomach.
"No, no! Stop!" she yelped.
After tormenting his senior sister a bit more until tears were streaming from her eyes, Xie Xingye finally relented and let his expression return to normal.
Once her uncontrollable bout of laughter finally subsided, she asked surprisedly while wiping tears from her eyes, "Ah-Ye, where did you even learn to make that face?!"
Smiling smugly, he replied, "I saw that Elder Shu's head disciple―that woman called Gu or Yu or something―making this expression at her master to try and act pitiful. That Elder Shu even fell for it, but I thought it looked very funny."
Chuckling, Hua Chunyi tsked, "You're learning so many bad habits in that sect, dear brother mine."
Xie Xingye lightly stuck out his tongue. "You are far more of a bad influence on me than any of those people from the sect."
"Eh, that is true," Hua Chunyi easily admitted with a tilt of her head, her lips still stretched in a wide, lively smile.
Seeing this, Xie Xingye felt himself smiling warmly in return, his gaze softening.
Looking at his sister clad in white, he couldn't help but think that such a plain and blank color really didn't suit his Chunyi's high-spirited personality. She should be clothed in rich and vibrant hues, as bright and vivacious as herself.
Meanwhile, walking nearer to the edge of the small courtyard, Hua Chunyi unceremoniously plopped down onto the porch, leaning into a red-colored pillar beside her and gazing up at the star-studded night sky speckled with the occasional flock of lanterns floating by.
Xie Xingye also went over to sit down at a small distance from his sister. Then taking out the freshly-made basketful of fried chicken drumsticks that they'd just stolen and absconded with, he placed it between them and asked, "What do we do with this now?"
Arching an eyebrow at her brother, Hua Chunyi said matter-of-factly, "You'll finish the entire basket, of course. Or are you going to waste it?"
Xie Xingye's mouth twitched. "Chunyi, if you aren't going to eat it, then why steal it in the first place?"
After all, as a former street urchin, Xie Xingye knew the value of food and was very reluctant to waste it.
The humor in her eyes suddenly turning into something sharp and deadly, Hua Chunyi spoke, "Do you want to know why I stole it? It's because I hate the person who was selling them. The old man who runs that stall was the one who beat you up so badly that one time when he caught you stealing. He stomped on your legs and broke them so that you couldn't run away, then tried to beat you to death, all over a couple of chicken drumsticks."
Hearing this, Xie Xingye only blinked blankly. These sort of occurrences had hardly been rare during their time on the streets, so he couldn't be bothered to remember each and every single person who'd hurt him badly.
"That was a long time ago. Chunyi, what need do we have to remember those things?" Xie Xingye asked with a frown.
The color in her gaze deepening, Hua Chunyi answered darkly, "Ah-Ye, I cannot forget them. I remember each and every single person who wronged you while you were under my watch. And one by one, I will slowly, methodically destroy them. For now, I already set several things in motion so that that old man's business will get discredited and ruined soon. I have many more plans that will ensure that he will suffer his entire life. I could just beat him to death in return for what he did, but that will be too easy a death for him and too troublesome a cleanup for us. But don't worry, without fail, he will pay miserably for daring to hurt you!"
Xie Xingye just stared at the fierce expression on his sister's face, not knowing how to respond. His heart felt both warm and cold at the lengths his Chunyi was willing to go to avenge him.
Smiling softly, Xie Xingye finally said, "Chunyi, I don't care about those people, and I don't want you to waste so much of your energy on them either. As long as you don't abandon me in the future, I will be the happiest I can be."
Then his smile turning teasing, Xie Xingye continued, "Of course, if I could get a husband someday, I'll be even happier."
But for once, Hua Chunyi didn't use this topic to begin bantering playfully with her brother. Instead, she asked confusedly, "Ah-Ye, what makes you think I'd abandon you in the future?"
Xie Xingye's smile dimmed as he shifted his gaze away. "Well, if you ever found someone you love and wanted to spend your whole life with them, then wouldn't I just be a bother? If you wanted to start a family of your own with a spouse and children… then won't I be a hindrance to you?"
Hua Chunyi simply rolled her eyes and waved a hand as if to easily dismiss her brother's worries. "So what? Though I can't see myself being willing to get hitched to some bastard, even if I did start a family, what makes you think you won't be welcome to join it? You are my brother by bond, and if I ever get a brat of my own, he or she will call you uncle. No matter what, you will always be my family."
Then narrowing her eyes threateningly, she continued, "Or do you think I'm some heartless bitch who'll just abandon her own brother? Is that why you're doubting me?"
Xie Xingye hurriedly shook his head, unable to help the wide smile from stretching over his face. If his Chunyi said that she wouldn't abandon him for her family, then she definitely meant it!
Thus reassured, Xie Xingye finally put this matter out of his mind.
After Xie Xingye ate a couple of the greasy drumsticks, he gave away the basket with the rest to a few homeless kids while keeping just one for himself to munch on the way. Then the pair of brother and sister finally made their way to their sect, sneaking in as usual.
But this time, they found four disciplinary Elders waiting for them on the other side of the sect's high boundary wall, grim and reprobating expressions on their bearded faces.
"Disciple Hua! Disciple Xie! Once again you have broken the curfew! I hope you are ready to take your punishment!" yelled an Elder as soon as he saw them.
Sighing in his mind, Xie Xingye at least pretended to show a chagrined expression on the outside. But Hua Chunyi didn't bother to cover up her eye roll as she replied, "What if I said I wasn't ready? Are you lot going to just pack up your lectures and leave? Ha! You all are just as ridiculous and hypocritical as usual!"
The Elders' beards quivered with rage as their faces twitched.
Unable to bear this girl disrespecting them at every turn, a bald Elder finally snapped. Pointing at Hua Chunyi, he screamed hysterically, "Disciple Hua, is that how you talk to your Elders?! You filthy slut, do you think we don't know why you've been sneaking out?! Calling him your brother, then taking him out to fuck, you're nothing but a―"
Suddenly, a greasy, half-eaten drumstick landed right in the middle of the bald Elder's face, interrupting his tirade.
Then slowly, deliberately, the chicken drumstick slid down from the Elder's face while smearing an unsightly streak of thick oil over the front of his pristine white robes, then it finally fell onto the ground with a splat.
Stunned silence reigned over the entire area.
Beside Hua Chunyi, Xie Xingye stood with his hand extended, bits of grease still on his fingers and an expression of cold fury on his face.
Into the silence, Xie Xingye spoke darkly, "Don't you dare speak about my sister like that with your disgusting mouth, you stupid old geezer. Or do you want that rotten tongue of yours wrenched out with a pair of rusted tongs?"
The remaining three Elders could only stare at him with wide eyes while the bald elder trembled with inexpressible fury. He lifted a hand to furiously wipe off the thick smear of oil imprinted on his face by the impact of the chicken drumstick, then lowered his head to look at the streak of orangish-brown grease drawn down the front of his snowy robes when the drumstick fell.
Lifting his head up, the bald Elder fixed a deadly glare saturated with ill-intent at the person who had caused such indignity to him.
"Xie Xingye, prepare yourself!" he roared in rage.
Then with a flick of his wrist, the Elder took out a thick whip and charged at Xie Xingye with his face contorted with ferocious fury.
Xie Xingye pressed his lips together. He already knew that he wasn't powerful enough to stand against this Elder, so Xie Xingye chose to just calmly stand his ground, neither fleeing nor flinching in the face of this threat.
But just before the approaching whip struck at him, Xie Xingye felt another body pushing him down to the ground and covering him.
Falling on his backside and automatically supporting himself on his palms, Xie Xingye sat on the ground and looked up with shocked eyes to see his sister covering him.
With horror, he saw her body jerk forward sharply as the whip whistled and lashed at her back.
Uncaring that the person who was receiving his blows was someone else, the bald elder continued to work his whip relentlessly to vent his anger, the sounds of whistling wind overlapping with each other as fabric and flesh tore and blood flowed down from the back of the slender young woman.
And yet, even as strike after strike tore her back open, Hua Chunyi's face was still stretched with a wide grin, her eyes black as the night, swirling with a vicious madness born of pain and fury.
Meanwhile, no matter how much Xie Xingye tried to get up and pull his sister behind him, Hua Chunyi did not budge. Her level was above his, so it was impossible for Xie Xingye to match against her even in physical strength, but he still kept trying while pleading.
"Chunyi, Chunyi! Stop, this is enough! Don't do this, don't let yourself get hurt like this for me! Please, stop this, Chunyi!"
But Hua Chunyi silently bore the lashes until her strength gave out. With so much blood lost, she couldn't help but lose her balance, and when the whip struck next, she fell down onto Xie Xingye.
Without Hua Chunyi's body covering him completely, the whip sliced open a corner of Xie Xingye's cheek before continuing on to fall upon the amber stone of his earring, cracking it in the middle. But Xie Xingye remained uncaring of the blast of pain spreading over the side of his face, all his attention focused entirely on his Chunyi.
Their sect did not provide its disciples with anything like healing pills, artifacts, talismans, or weapons. And without anything to use except the wooden practice swords given to everyone, Xie Xingye knew that he and his sister wouldn't fare too well against these Elders who were dead set on teaching them a harsh lesson, uncaring of whether these two disciples would survive it.
And so, gathering his collapsed sister into his arms, Xie Xingye made the decision to flee for now and quickly ran towards the sect's wall, aiming to leap over it and escape.
But the four Elders immediately gave chase behind him, the bald Elder with the greasy robe in the lead, the bloodstained whip in his hand having been put away for now.
Xie Xingye clutched his sister closer and gritted his teeth, speeding up as much as he could.
In his arms, Hua Chunyi's eyelashes trembled, her cultivation having healed her just enough to let her regain consciousness even as blood streamed from the deep lacerations on her back.
As her eyes slid open, the first thing she noticed was the deep gash on her brother's cheek that had been sliced open by the last strike of the whip.
Her eyes narrowing, Hua Chunyi flicked her gaze to the side to see the four bearded men chasing and gaining on them, the corners of her lips rising into a silent snarl.
Since they dared hurt her brother, she would make them pay for it with their lives!
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