Don’t Be a Kept Man
Chapter 140: “I would confide no sorrow to the moon on high”1
As if Xiao Feng Wu knew that he would say as such, he lowered his head, not saying a word as his hand hit against the bars again and again.
Each time was heavier than the last, revealing the turmoil in his heart until the jail bars were shaking with each clang.
“I’m not worth it —-“
Xiao Feng Wu’s whole palm had turned red at this point, and he suddenly lifted his eyes up to look at Qin Ming Yue.
The intensity and expression hidden in those eyes were quite frightening as he said each word clearly, as if dropping stones into water and creating numerous splashes in the pool,
“The one who had thrown you away and kicked you out of the Xiao family, the person who first made that decision was me.”
“Your years of wandering in destitution was because of me, your finger being cut off was because of me……”
“You do not need to accompany me to death, you do not need to accompany such a person like me to death.”
Qin Ming Yue seemed stupefied by his words and the expression on his face was frozen in place.
Before his mind caught up to the words, he asked,
“What are you saying?”
Xiao Feng Wu didn’t respond as he knew that Qin Ming Yue understood.
Humans were indeed so strange.
When they had it, they did not treasure it.
Yet when they lose it, they would regret and hate for the rest of their lives.
As if they have to hold a regret in their heart to actually fully experience what it is to be human.
Xiao Feng Wu thought, perhaps this was the last time they would meet… how could it become like this.
He reached out a hand out between the bars, grabbing on to Qin Ming Yue’s ice cold wrist,
It seemed as if all the blood had drained out of Qin Ming Yue, leaving him deathly pale.
His eyes became tinged with a darkening glow, one that would frighten anyone who saw it and would keep anyone from daring to look him straight in the eye.
His entire body was taut, yet it was also trembling non-stop.
His weak, paper thin wisp of a body was standing in this dark and damp jail, so weak as if even a single breath could dissipate him into nothing.
Qin Ming Yue felt as if all of his strength had been sucked out of him and he couldn’t even push Xiao Feng Wu away, only remaining tightly held against him.
After a long while, his beautiful pair of eyes began to redden and as he spoke, each word was so feathery and trembling, disbelieving as he asked,
“You have been deceiving me this entire time?”
A voice that was normally so heavenly became so hoarse that it could not make a sound.
Silence was the only answer.
Qin Ming Yue pulled his lips up into a rigid expression of mockery, yet it was as if to laugh at himself,
“……I have only been nothing but a plaything to you.
When you love me, you’ll put me in the heart of your palm, and when you hate me, you’ll just toss me aside…… I had looked upon myself too highly.
I am nothing but a despicable, lowly, dirty theatre actor.
Should I have really believed that you would like me?”
“You have always treated me, played me, like an idiot……”
Large beads of tears began to fall, rolling down an all too skinny chin and disappearing into the shadows of his clothes.
Qin Ming Yue had not cried for many years.
Even when he roamed around, destitute and poor during all those years before, doing whatever dirty work, whatever tiring work, even when he ate leftovers that had been thrown out by others, food that was sour and aged, he had never cried.
He knew, tears had no use.
You could only grit your teeth and climb, climb up.
He had persevered for so long until he finally got to where he was today.
There were many words that Xiao Feng Wu held in his heart, words that he wanted to say out loud, but he felt that this was not the right time for them.
He could only tightly grab onto Qin Ming Yue’s hand, his voice hoarse,
“I have never thought that you were despicable, dirty, beneath my status, and I have never seen you as a plaything…..”
I do like you, but this like, had come too late.
When he was wealthy, there were numerous people surrounding him, but when he had fallen down in disgrace, the only one who had stood by his side was Qin Ming Yue.
If his heart was not touched, that would be a lie.
It was only that he was normally unwilling to show it nor was he willing to think about it.
Qin Ming Yue suddenly hit the jail bars harshly with great strength, creating an echo from the outburst and chipping the iron bar which broke into his flesh.
When his hand came down, a trail of blood could be seen snaking down his arm.
Qin Ming Yue’s eyes were completely reddened as he furiously glared at Xiao Feng Wu,
“You do not need to say such frivolous words!”
Xiao Feng Wu paused in shock, letting go of Qin Ming Yue’s left hand.
He turned to look at his right hand that was dripping blood when he was suddenly caught off guard by Qin Ming Yue’s grip on his wrist and then by the sharp pain that pierced through him.
Teeth sunk into the flesh; it was indeed extremely painful as Qin Ming Yue bit down with a hatred burning in him, as if to bite off a chunk of Xiao Feng Wu’s flesh.
People would normally be crying and yelling in pain from this.
But Xiao Feng Wu wished for nothing more than to receive as much pain as he could get.
So that when he dies, he will never forget about this little actor.
The moon in the sky was held by the branches of the crabapple tree, but the moonlight of the humans was in his embrace.2 Xiao Feng Wu had no way to wrap him in his embrace again, only able to look through the narrow gaps of the ice cold barrier between the both of them.
Looking at Qin Ming Yue, looking with his gaze strict and detailed, compiling into a thick and sturdy net.
After a long while, Qin Ming Yue finally let go of him with a face full of tear marks, his lips tinted with a bright red smear of blood, and the hatred in his eyes growing in strength.
Xiao Feng Wu reached out to wipe away the tears on his face,
“Ming Yue, if I can live and get out……”
Before he even finished speaking, Qin Ming Yue coldly turned his head to the side, avoiding his hand and retreating backwards.
Then, right in front of Xiao Feng Wu’s face, he tore the written prescription into pieces and said darkly,
“You should really stay here and endure, endure until the day you step onto the chopping block.”
Qin Ming Yue didn’t spare him another look before turning to leave.
Xiao Feng Wu’s hand, still in the motion of wiping away Qin Ming Yue’s tears, froze in midair.
It was only after a very long while did he slowly retract it back.
He lowered his head, his expression hidden away from view, yet there was an aura of depression around him as if his soul had been taken away.
The Xiao brothers had been quite eager to watch the drama unfold for the first half, but the latter half immediately scared them into not making a sound.
The both of them, one had slammed against the cell until his hand was bleeding and the other was bitten to the point where blood was flowing.
The situation seemed to have spiraled completely out of control, becoming even crazier than what just happened in the torture chamber.
Silence descended around them, and after a while, Xiao Feng Min twitched, his mouth dry as he tried to make Xiao Feng Wu feel better,
“That, um, Sixteen, look on the bright side.”
Xiao Liu-Ge immediately burst out laughing at that,
“Look on what bright side.
This is what’s called rightfully deserved.
Who let him go around flirting with so many people, creating so many love problems.
When Xiao Lao-tai-ye had told you to cut it off with the actor, I really thought you did, but it turns out you had not been willing to let go.”
And then shook his head, concluding with the words,
“Sixteen, what luck you have with love.”
When they had first arrived, they had all been crying with only Xiao Feng Wu undisturbed.
Yet now that they were not crying, the emotions in Xiao Feng Wu were suddenly storming over like a tsunami, and he couldn’t tell what kind of bitterness it was.
Everyone has their own period of craziness, their own unfathomable attitudes and beliefs, during their youth.
But Xiao Feng Wu’s unhindered actions and attitude had harmed Qin Ming Yue.
It was a wintery day a few years ago.
As thick layers of snow came down, turning even dripping water into ice, Xiao Lao-tai-ye was just in the midst of marriage arrangements for his most precious grandson, his sixteenth.
The wife in question was Chen Family’s eldest daughter, Chen Zi Qi.
Yet Xiao Feng Wu had almost made her angry enough to cut all her hair off and become a nun until she finally killed off her love to marry someone else, and thus creating a metaphorical wall between their families.
All for an actor.
All because of an actor.
Xiao Feng Wu’s mother had also been an actor, but she was not one destined for a long life, passing away quite early on.
Her husband had also fallen deeply in love with her, and not long after her death, he had also bid farewell to the human plane.
Xiao Lao-tai-ye’s most precious son had been ruined on an actor’s hands and he couldn’t just keep looking on as his most precious grandson followed in the same footsteps.
“Sixteenth Lang! Sixteenth Lang!”
Xiao Lao-tai-ye slammed down his cane and walked back and forth in front of Xiao Feng Wu,
“You are the most talented out of all my grandsons and you will one day inherit this family.
You cannot discard it all for such childish affairs, for love, and waste your talents, especially when he is just a theatre actor, a man!”
Xiao Feng Wu knelt on the ground, without a care in his bones, evidently not taking his words seriously.
Almost halfway to being an adult, his bones were carved with stubbornness and a flippant attitude — whatever others kept saying he can’t do, he will absolutely do.
Especially when their grandfather-grandson relationship was in a strange place, unlike how it was rumored to be so good.
Xiao Lao-tai-ye was old, but his pair of eyes were sharp, clever and ruthless, deterring anyone from meeting his eyes directly,
“I had not cared because you were still young, still fooling around, but you have reached the age of maturity and you cannot be so foolish, so foolish as to be walking down the same path as your father.
He had– he had been like you, been mesmerised by an insignificant, despicable, lowly theatre actor, not even remembering what his own name was!”
The insignificant, despicable, lowly theatre actor on his tongue was Xiao Feng Wu’s mother.
Who had, in the year when Xiao Feng Wu turned nine, died.
How did she die? It was not because she was so beautiful that the heavens dictated her life must end early in compensation, but because of human actions, with one bowl of medicine forced into her and she died without a fuss being made.
Physicians could save people, but they could also kill people.
Xiao Lao-tai-ye had saved numerous, uncountable lives but his hands were also stained with blood, so much so that he would never be able to clean them in this lifetime.
“Sixteenth Lang, let go early.
You pamper him, but you have to see if he can withstand and handle that pamperance.”
Xiao Lao-tai-ye sighed deeply, his murky eyes gleaming with a sharpness, as if it were reflecting the gleam of a blade that had killed.
So many years ago, he had taken the life of a theatre actor, and now, he will force another life on the line.
Xiao Feng Wu didn’t say a word.
The house was warmed by the burning coal basins, yet his hands and feet felt as if they were slowly turning ice cold as his mother came to his mind.
She was a really beautiful woman, whose voice was gentle and full of love, who would help him repair his clothes, who would cover him with blankets.
She had a really good looking pair of phoenix eyes, her pupils dark but clean and bereft of anything bad, interspersed with a greenness that reminded him of a picture perfect breezy sunny day.
Whenever she looked at him, she would always have a smile on her.
But then she died, her corpse nowhere to be found.
Not even her memorial tablet could enter the ancestral hall to have descendants offer her incense.
Xiao Feng Wu really missed her, but he could only tell himself that he could not think about her.
Because if he did, then the uncontainable storm of hatred would rise up in his heart, unable to be tamed nor snuffed back down again.
Yet who should that hatred be pointed towards? To the one who has raised him since he was so young, to his grandfather?
It seemed to be a soundless stalemate between the two of them, and yet it also seemed as if it was only Xiao Feng Wu’s contemplation and pause.
Xiao Feng Wu did like Qin Ming Yue, but that like was too shallow, so shallow that he could not plan for his future, so shallow that he could push him up to the top and yet be so powerless when he fell down.
As Xiao Lao-tai-ye had said, pampering him, also needed to see if he could withstand it or not.
Just like how the Shang Dynasty had ended, the fault lay with Daji.
Just like Tang Dynasty’s Consort Yang, Yang Guifei, who had been pampered and beloved and yet her only conclusion was to be forced to die, blessed to be hanged by the Emperor himself.3
Xiao Feng Wu liked Qin Ming Yue, but he only knew how to spoil and spread the word about his golden treasure.
He had never really thought about what kind of catastrophe it would bring to Qin Ming Yue.
With so many years of repressed emotions and memories, it finally reached the point where Xiao Lao-tai-ye’s bottom line was touched.
His voice sounded so aged and old as he said,
“Sixteen Lang, will it be you who makes the move, or will I help you move.”
Him? Do what? Nothing but to make something up and end it with a bowl of medicine being forced down his throat.
After all, no one cares about the life and death of an insignificant theatre actor.
Xiao Feng Wu rose up, using his knees to help himself up from the ground,
“……Give him some taels of silver to live out the rest of his life in comfort.
Let him go.”
At this time if Qin Ming Yue was a 10/10 in his like towards Xiao Feng Wu, then Xiao Feng Wu to Qin Ming Yue’s like was about 5/10.
Their relationship wasn’t that deep, so even though he had to end it, he was a bit unwilling but not to the point where his heart would have felt like it was going to be ripped out of him.
A beautiful carved wood door opened, blowing in frosty air.
Xiao Lao-tai-ye looked at Xiao Feng Wu’s departing back and asked,
“Will you be going to see him?”
Xiao Feng Wu didn’t even turn his head, his voice transmitted through the icy snow slowly,
One word, and it was enough to give a conclusion to this story.
There was no right or wrong; no one could say who was right and who was wrong, as sometimes destiny, fate, these things were really not in the hands of humans.
When Xiao Feng Wu opened his eyes again, it was still to that scenery of an icy cold, damp, and dark jail cell.
From not too far away, he could hear crying and sobbing from the next cell over, and he looked over, finding that it was Xiao Feng Ming, a proper, seven foot tall man, now shrunken into a ball, with his shoulders jerking over and over.
Xiao Feng Wu knew, he was thinking about his wife and son.
It wasn’t shameful, nor an embarrassment, as after all no one knew if they would die tomorrow.
Xiao Feng Wu was also thinking, thinking about Qin Ming Yue.
He was sorry towards this little actor, and it wasn’t worth it for the other to end his life to follow him.
*1 title is from a poem by Li Bai called “To Wang Changling Banished to the West” (translations taken from the book 300 Tang Poems by Xu Yuanchong) -> “All willow-down has fallen and sad cuckoos cry / To hear you banished southwestward beyond Five Streams.
/ I would confide no sorrow to the moon on high / for it will follow you west of the land of dreams.
/ The only thing that could join the poet and his banished friend together is the moon.”
It’s the most easily searched English result i got so I kept it, but technically the poem only has 4 lines and it’s sort of close but i would say the last three lines are kind of out of order if i read them literally in raws but as i am not a literature scholar, we’ll leave that to the experts lol.
However as a translation it makes sense because the poem was Li Bai to his good friend Wang Changlin who as the title says was banished and this specific line and the latter half was him saying please let me put all my sorrows and thoughts that I have towards you and give them to the bright moon hanging on the sky, and may it accompany you all the way until the west where you are banished.
Interpretations can be varied but I take it as to have the moon remember our relationship and may it comfort you as you leave so far away and never to be seen again but of course, beyond what the poem means, the “bright moon” part can also be referenced to Ming Yue of Qin Ming Yue’s name so double meaning!
*2 If you recall, Qin Ming Yue’s name means clear moon as a literal translation, so he’s using that and the crabapple tree is very likely the one he’s mentioning in the courtyard
*3 Both metaphors he used were basically examples of emperors who indulged and pampered one specific consort (overly indulgent and gave too much love) that they ignored their duties and one caused the end of their dynasty and the other was ordered to hang herself – although of course that’s just simplifying it and there’s quite a bit more to their stories
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