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    Asianovel

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    Chapter 73: A New Life IV

    Zhe Dan pointed excitedly, exclaiming, "Over there! Over there! What's happening?"

    Shen Yuan glanced in the direction indicated and replied, "It's a wedding procession, a marriage ceremony for the bride."

    After a moment, Zhe Dan pointed again, asking, "And what about that?"

    Shen Yuan casually looked over, "That's a funeral, a mourning ceremony for an elderly person."

    Confused, Zhe Dan asked, "If it's a white ceremony, why do they make so much noise with drums and gongs, just like a red one? Look, there's even a stage for opera performance at the entrance."

    Shen Yuan explained, "The elder of that family likely passed away peacefully without any illnesses. It's called a happy death. In this world, such a funeral is celebrated with performances."

    Zhe Dan understood, "Oh, I see."

    Although Shen Yuan was supposed to be showing Zhe Dan around, in reality, it was Zhe Dan who eagerly dragged him from place to place, eager to explore anything he had never seen or tasted before, leaving no moment for rest.

    Understanding that Zhe Dan had never experienced the joys of life on Earth, Shen Yuan couldn't help but feel as if he were taking care of a mischievous child, one who was taller and stronger than himself.

    Fortunately, he didn't feel pain or exhaustion, allowing him to indulge in Zhe Dan's impulsive escapades without restraint, though inwardly, he was filled with resignation, forcing himself to appear cheerful.

    As the day wore on into twilight, Zhe Dan spotted a fragrant shop and tugged on Shen Yuan's arm, insisting they visit.

    Shen Yuan looked and recognized it as a roasted chestnut stall.

    An endless sigh of melancholy welled up within him. He asked Zhe Dan, "Aren't you tired after playing all day?"

    Zhe Dan shook his head, swaying the newly purchased windmill in his hand. "I'm very happy, not tired at all."

    Shen Yuan replied, "Even your favorite things can become monotonous if you indulge too much. The more you cherish something, the more you should savor it slowly. I see that you've played the whole day; let's go back and continue tomorrow."

    "True love for something would never lead to boredom..." Zhe Dan's lips turned downward, expressing his displeasure. Not having had enough fun, he wasn't keen on returning home just yet.

    Shen Yuan explained, "What you feel isn't love, but curiosity."

    Upon reflection, Zhe Dan found Shen Yuan's words quite insightful and nodded in agreement.

    A gentle stream becomes a mighty river, a tiny speck of dust a towering mountain; so it is with all things great and small.

    Zhe Dan led Shen to a high mountain by a shallow stream and said, "Rest here."

    Surveying the pebbles lining the stream, Shen Yuan said, "Here? ... How do we rest?"

    There, Zhe Dan transformed into a black serpent and swiftly slithered into the rushing stream. Swimming to a stone that protruded above the water's surface, he flicked his tongue and said, "This is how I've always rested on Yingzhou Island. This stone is clean and secure – naturally, we should rest here."

    Shen Yuan let out a long sigh. "You know that only in my snake form can I sleep on that. But I can't transform now. What am I to do?"

    Zhe Dan was in a dilemma, half-raising his serpentine body and looking around. Eventually, his gaze settled on a spot, and he said, "There is a crooked-necked tree standing by the stream over there. You can rest on it."

    ... Shen Yuan was speechless.

    After all, he was already dead and devoid of senses; sleep was no longer a necessity for him.

    He sat cross-legged directly by the streambank, facing the massive stone where Zhe Dan was. With his arms folded across his chest, he closed his eyes, resting in tranquility.

    As midnight approached, the chill of February loomed. Mist rose from the rippling stream, enveloping the air around them.

    In that moment, an unfettered breeze playfully danced with Shen Yuan's silver tresses while the water cascaded downstream, producing a soothing melody.

    Suddenly, a clear voice pierced the stillness.

    "Help! ——" A cry for assistance echoed from within the mist.

    Shen Yuan's eyes snapped open, gazing intently into the dense fog.

    Then, a faint rustling of hair caught his attention, followed by a dark figure dashing swiftly through the fog. In the blink of an eye, it came to a halt beside him.

    Shen Yuan turned to Zhe Dan and asked, "Did you hear that too?"

    Zhe Dan nodded, "Mm."

    Both men fixed their gaze on the heart of the fog. Suddenly, a heavily pregnant woman stumbled into view.

    Upon seeing them, she halted, instinctively placing a hand on her belly, her face fraught with fear. "You! You're accomplices of those bandits!"

    Shen Yuan shook his head. "We're just travelers resting here in the middle of the night."

    Upon hearing this, the woman grew even more terrified. Pointing at Shen Yuan, she shrieked, "Monster! It's a monster!!"

    Zhe Dan declared, "So what if I'm a demon? I'm still a black snake demon!" As he spoke, he flicked out his long, serpentine tongue.

    Shen Yuan slapped Zhe Dan hard and scolded, "Can't you see her belly? She's pregnant, carrying two lives!"

    "I...," Zhe Dan asked pitifully, "What's a pregnancy?"

    "It means someone is nurturing life within them. She's a mother." Shen Yuan then explained to the woman, "There are good and evil among both humans and demons. We are not of the wicked kind."

    "The way you look! You're demons! Demons!" the woman exclaimed, staring at Zhe Dan.

    Zhe Dan met her gaze head-on.

    As they locked eyes, she shrank back and took a step backward. Unbeknownst to her, she stepped on a smooth, fog-dampened pebble, causing her to stumble and fall heavily to the ground with a thud.

    "Ow!" Instantly, the woman's features contorted in pain as if she was undergoing torture, clutching her stomach tightly.

    A metallic scent of blood permeated the humid mist.

    "Something's wrong!" Shen Yuan immediately sensed danger and rushed towards the woman without hesitation.

    "What's wrong with that—" Zhe Dan didn't understand and stood still, indifferent.

    The woman lay on the ground, her face pale from pain, lips turning blue. Her chest heaved violently as she gasped for air in large gulps.

    She clutched her belly, wailing in agony. In a short while, she was drenched in sweat, as if she had just been fished out of the nearby stream.

    Upon seeing Shen Yuan approach, she tried to escape but couldn't due to the pain. She shakily warned, "Stay away from my unborn child!"

    Shen Yuan noticed the pool of blood beneath her and knitted his brows. "I only want to help you," he said, then bent down to lift the woman up.

    "Let me go!... You, you mustn't eat my child!..." The woman cried.

    "Zhe Dan!" Shen Yuan couldn't ignore the woman's condition. He yelled, "Go and check if there are any houses nearby. If there are, tell them that there's a pregnant woman who's miscarried and needs immediate help with childbirth!"

    Zhe Dan reluctantly agreed, "Why bother about her life or death..."

    "Hurry up!!" Shen Yuan barked.

    Zhe Dan reluctantly acknowledged with an "Oh," and left to search for the nearest residence.

    ...

    Amidst three or four vegetable patches and a fence entwined with blooming Ipomoea, stood a humble bamboo cottage.

    Shen Yuan successfully guided the woman to the home of the elderly couple.

    The pair had hair as white as snow, their faces beaming with smiles, exuding kindness. Upon hearing about the woman in labor, they paid no heed to Shen Yuan's white hair. Without hesitation, they welcomed them into their home.

    The old man promptly set out under the cover of night to find the nearest midwife.

    The old woman bustled about, heating water to ensure that there would be warm water ready for the baby's first bath as soon as it was born.

    Truly inexperienced in midwifery, Shen Yuan stood helplessly by as the woman on the bed writhed in agony, her cries filling the room.

    Zhe Dan sat in the chair, savoring the peach cakes with the tea from the elder's house, paying no attention to the woman at all.

    The woman seemed on the verge of exhaustion. Shen Yuan stepped outside to check, but the old man had yet to return with the midwife. He said, "Zhe Dan, you'll have to assist in the delivery."

    Zhe Dan's shortcake fell from his hand in fright, his eyes wide as he pointed at his own nose. "Me? I, I, I can't..."

    Shen Yuan firmly pulled him to his feet and nudged him toward the woman's bedside. "You'll do."

    "I..." Zhe Dan was bewildered.

    Shen Yuan inquired, "I know you're a good person at heart, caught helplessly obeying Jiaomiao's commands without the chance to explore your true nature. I believe that fundamentally, you are not wicked. So, can you truly stand by and witness their tragic end, a life taken along with its unborn potential?"

    After a moment of deep contemplation, Zhe Dan felt the weight of responsibility upon his shoulders. He straightened his back, nodded solemnly, and said with gravity, "Very well!"

    Feeling a sense of triumph in his plan, Shen Yuan smiled to himself silently.

    ...

    Amidst the echoes of a robust infant's wail, Zhe Dan held the baby, her smile brighter than any bloom as she repeatedly declared, "I delivered this child! I delivered this child!"

    Shen Yuan also smiled with satisfaction. "In the past, you ended lives with your own hands. Today, for the first time, you've welcomed a life into the world, haven't you?"

    "Ha!" Zhe Dan's grin faltered, and she promptly returned the infant to the unconscious woman with a disdainful expression. She grumbled, "Whoever displeases me shall die! All life eventually ends in death. As long as I'm content, who cares? I'll kill without hesitation!"

    Shen Yuan took the child and offered it back to Zhe Dan. "Then kill him."

    The woman had already passed out and showed no response.

    Without hesitation, Zhe Dan extended his arm but hesitated to strike. Eventually, he angrily shrugged his hand and muttered, "He didn't provoke me, why should I kill him..." As he spoke, his face visibly flushed red.

    Realizing his reaction, he immediately turned around and was about to leave the bamboo house.

    Just as he opened the door, three dark shadows swooped in.

    Zhe Dan swiftly dodged, and those objects landed with a thud not far from him.

    Upon closer inspection, they were three gruesome, bloodied human heads!

    Upon recognizing them as the two elders of the bamboo house and an unfamiliar woman, Shen Yuan quickly covered the child's eyes to prevent them from being frightened by the ghastly scene.

    Following that, a group of burly men, brandishing long blades and resembling Zhang Fei in appearance, jumped into the house and declared loudly, "Hand over the pregnant woman!"

    Zhe Dan's expression fell, and he asked sternly, "Are you the bandits she mentioned? What's your relationship with her?"

    A man on the opposite side hoisted his bloodied long blade onto his shoulder, and the crimson liquid trickled down the edge, dripping onto the ground behind him, creating droplets resembling shattered red candle wax.

    He proudly thumped his chest, pointing at his own nose, and declared, "She's my captured maiden bride!"

    Zhe Dan asked, "She's carrying your child, yet you still pursue her with the intent to kill. Aren't you afraid that you'll lose your child?"

    The man spat, "Fuh! That woman sneaked around with some pretty boy behind my back. That kid might not even be mine. Better off if it's gone!"

    Just as he finished speaking, the baby in Shen Yuan's arms squirmed and let out a wail.

    The bandits immediately focused their gaze on Shen Yuan, shouting, "Oh, great! This stinky woman is quite the seductress, flirting with two pretty boys even while pregnant!"

    As they spoke, they casually set their long blades down from their shoulders and strode forward, lifting their sharp weapons to strike at Shen Yuan.

    Unfazed, Shen Yuan stared intently at Zhe Dan, who was standing behind the bandits.

    A gleam flickered in Zhe Dan's eyes, and in an instant, he transformed into a massive, robust black snake. The circumference of his body required two people to wrap their arms around it completely.

    He raised his snake tail and swung it at the bandits, violently slamming into their waists and tossing them all out of the bamboo house.

    As they scrambled to their feet and caught sight of Zhe Dan, they cried out in terror, "Monster! It's eating people!!" Abandoning their leader without hesitation, they fled.

    The long knife was still descending when a glob of slime landed on the blade. The man looked up to see an enormous black snake with its massive jaws open, aiming its sharp fangs at his skull.

    Clang! His hand trembled, and the sword fell to the ground. His legs turned to jelly, and he slumped back down.

    Shen Yuan spoke gravely, "Don't you want to leave? Are you waiting to be eaten?"

    The man obediently crawled away.

    Zhe Dan turned to pursue, but Shen Yuan said, "Just now, you could have swallowed that bandit whole, but you didn't. In truth, you don't want to kill indiscriminately, do you?"

    "I'm not as indecisive as you," Zhe Dan replied without turning back. "They've all had blood on their blades. Spare them, and the woman and child will only face death." With that, she shot into the darkness, chasing after the fleeing men.

    --------------------

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