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Bestial Blade Chapter 11: Old Man

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[Chapter was last revised on June 23, 2020 (GMT+8). ]

Chang An was hanging there in danger. He stretched out a little foot and probed the slippery wall around him. The straw shoes were immediately pierced. The hot digestive juice that swallowed his shoe quickly corroded a small layer of the skin on his toes. Chang An quickly retracted his foot and hung there in distress, afraid to move.

Soon, his small numb arm began to tremble. Chang An knew that he mustn’t fall down anyway. Otherwise, he would turn into a pile of bones. It wasn’t easy for him to escape from the big-headed monsters, giant birds and double-headed snakes.

If he were to be eaten now, he wouldn’t even see where he’ll end up in, but he knew that, nonetheless, he would end up as a pile of bones. He could not accept it.

But then, he still had a knife. Chang An was at ease when he thought so.

Once the child was at ease, he was apt to do bold things.

Chang An bit his teeth and deeply inhaled the rancid smell around him. Then he stretched out his little hand and seized the slimy digestive tract!

It was not very hard, but rather soft, with some fine fluff on it. Chang An seized the fluff and sacrificed one foot to climb on it.

He grasped it hard, and it was like being baked on fire. It hurt so much that it darkened his vision. With this pain, Chang An pulled out the knife which had been inserted on the digestive wall and thrust it in deeper. When he stabbed it once, it trembled violently, and the dangerous digestive juice under his feet started to pick up tiny waves.

Gradually, Chang An was unable to breathe. He felt a splitting pain in his chest, but he foolishly persisted. He jumped towards the digestive tract, clinging desperately. His hands and feet were being corroded by the acid around him, making it burn and turn numb.

But in his eyes, nothing else mattered except piercing through that place. 

In the end, he screamed in tears and couldn’t help but shout. He did not delay his knife. The rust, corroded by the digestive juice, became sharper. The bright little child was like a desperate terrible little devil.

He was exhausted and in so much pain. How much strength could such a small arm have?

Every time the knife went out, Chang An felt that he could no longer lift his arm. He bled a lot, like the whole body’s blood was almost running out. It was cold, but Chang An gnashed his teeth and thought: It’s not over yet.

The two of them–the monster had not completely eaten him. Until it had digested him into a pile of bones or is stabbed to death by him, they were not finished.

Eventually, the thing was frightened. It had probably never eaten such prey, which made a lot of noise in its stomach. In the extreme stomach pain, Chang An was spat out.

Chang An was shocked, but then he was suddenly turned over again. Fresh air rushed into his lungs. He was thrown heavily on the ground and fell in a very bad position. But in his small hand, he still held his knife, which had become shiny after being washed and rinsed from the digestive juice.

He saw clearly what had eaten him–it turned out to be a flower.

The flower bud was as tall as two adult beastmen, let alone the flower stalk. However, this big fellow stood up for a moment and confronted Chang An. But it seemed to recall the feeling of what just happened and shrank back. Chang An’s eyes were sharp. He saw an insignificant small hole in the flower bud. The liquid was gurgling outside.

“I gave it a leak.” Chang An was painfully happy and full of accomplishment.

The plant grew to be so big but its size was wasted. He evaluated his opponent who had been dead for a while. Then he rose with a grin, limped with his knife, and went on.

The long night finally passed. The first ray of sunshine penetrated the depths of the forest and leaked down. The perennial icy peaks of Yufeng Mountain were coated with a layer of gold, and it looked beautiful.

Unfortunately, not everyone could enjoy the scenery.

When Bei Shi found the strange child he had seen under the hill last time, he almost didn’t recognize him.

At this time, Chang An had been on the mountain for a few days. When he was thirsty, he looked for a stream to drink. When he was hungry, he ate some animal carcasses and wild fruits.

Now, he was lying on the brink of death under a dead carved wolf.

Bei Shi probed his chest–the child was still alive, but he looked the same as a dead person.

Bei Shi thoughtfully turned over the wolf’s body and found a knife pierced into its throat. 

He recognized that this was the trick that he had taught the child before. However, this move required a lot of strength. Afterward, the knife had to be retracted. The little guy’s knife got smashed and stuck in the wolf’s throat. He couldn’t pull it out. The boy simply made a stupid move. Although he could not pull it out, he still held onto the knife’s handle.

Fortunately, he had good luck. The carving wolf was just sharp-toothed and not a great big fellow. The boy was not crushed to death on the spot.

Bei Shi gently kicked the body of the carved wolf to the side with his toes and then went to pick up the child’s hand. The hand was clenched in such a tight grip that he couldn’t open it. He did not dare to force it open. Even if his five fingers were all open, the little fellow’s hand was still not satisfied with his palm, which was covered with large and small wounds. Bei Shi was afraid to break his finger carelessly. With two fingers in the middle of the broken copper and iron handle, the knife broke easily with a crisp click, and it cleanly and neatly broke into two pieces from the handle of the knife.

Then he bent down, picked up the child and went deep into the mountains.

How much had this little guy struggled these days for him to have reached the brink of death?

Bei Shi walked very smoothly, with almost no sound at his feet. He carried a small basket full of herbs.

His human figure seemed rather thin. If not for the less obvious animal pattern on the back of his hand, he could be easily mistaken as a gentle sub-beast doctor. There were no obvious fine lines at the corners of his eyes. Coarse linen clothes rolled up his sleeves and trouser legs at random. His long hair was tied neatly behind him. Aside from being somewhat unconventional, there seemed to be nothing special about him.

On this crisis-stricken Yufeng Mountain, he strolled casually as if he were in a courtyard. He went to a small log cabin in the middle of the mountain without even looking sideways. The monsters and giants that rose and fell in the woods were like ghosts avoiding evil spirits and beasts. Along the way, besides the sound of animals fleeing from the small shrubs around him, nothing ventured.

Including the two-headed snake that dominated the mountain.

When Chang An woke up, it was ten days later.

If he never woke up again, Bei Shi had planned to throw him out. Men had never seen such a troublesome child, getting a high fever wave after wave. After lowering his temperature with much difficulty, he would burn up again.

During the fever, Chang An unconsciously rubbed up and down the bed, rolled himself into a curled shape, gripped his chest like he was out of breath, and uttered a fragile sob. It looked like he had a nightmare.

Sometimes, Chang An would suddenly shed tears. His tears were very strange. He would make no sound when he cried that it was hard to notice he had even cried. One could only touch his face to notice the wetness.

He looked very pathetic.

This made Bei Shi feel some compassion for him beyond the initial curiosity.

When Chang An opened his eyes, he knew he was no longer in the woods. He was sitting in a cabin next to the mysterious middle-aged man he was looking for. He was facing him with his back and seemed to be napping by the window.

He… had found him?

Chang An blinked blankly. It was unbelievable.

Bei Shi did not look back, but he felt it when the child opened his eyes. He muttered, “Little boy, your root bone is not good, but this time you were lucky.” [1]

Bei Shi stood up and stretched out. He glanced at Chang An, then went out for a while. When he came back, he brought into a big bowl of porridge made from malted wheat. Chang An did not know what else was put in it, but it looked really dark.

“Eat it.” Bei Shi placed the big bowl beside him.

Chang An did not want to lift up the bowl and almost rejected it. His wrists were not strong enough, so he held it with both hands. Trembling, he brought it to his mouth and gulped it down. There was a strange smell coming from the porridge. He tasted it carefully. It wasn’t stinky, but the scent of herbs was very heavy. For better or worse, porridge tasted much better than carrion and half-baked fruit in the woods.

Bei Shi was aware of the astringency of the herbs. He sat across Chang An and was ready to force him to eat. Who knew that this little thing would drink the porridge as if it was some kind of delicacy? After a while, he even finished it clean.

Chang An put down the bowl then sat in pain for a while–he ate too much.

But he was reluctant to spit out, and he was ready to swallow it back if the food went up. He ate it, it was his. No one else can take it.

It was strange. Didn’t all children preferred sweet things and liked acting spoiled? Bei Shi looked at the kid and thought to himself: He’s a little freak.

He didn’t get the time to talk with the little freak. They stared at each other for a while, then the herbal medicine began to work. Chang An fell asleep. This time, he looked healthier. After eating, his face was a little rosier.

Bei Shi curiously extended his hand and carefully poked Chang An’s face. It was soft and tender. He felt wonderful. The little thing was not like himself at all.

However, Bei Shi’s curiosity completely disappeared after Chang An was able to run and jump. He was almost bored to death by this child. Whether he was eating or drinking or solving other problems, he could see this brat following behind him.

And he was like a myna, endlessly saying only one thing: “I want to learn the blade.”

Finally, Bei Shi could not bear it. He jumped to his feet and shouted at him, “Learn the blade, learn the blade! Can’t you say anything else? Why should I teach you? You can’t learn anyway!”

“I can learn.” Chang An raised his head and stared at Bei Shi with his big grape-like eyes. He stalked his neck and roared like Bei Shi, “I want to learn the blade!”

Bei Shi said patiently, “You are a sub-beast. Why don’t you learn how to be a carpenter? Or how to settle accounts for others? I really can’t be your teacher.”

Chang An: “I want to learn the blade.”

Bei Shi continued to say bitterly, “What’s the use of learning the blade? You see, I’ve mastered it, but I still have to eat and drink every day. I’ve got no money, no power, not even a beautiful wife. Why are you so persistent?”

Chang An: “I want to learn the blade.”

Bei Shi grabbed his hair painfully and asked, “Can you even hold and move a blade?”

Chang An “shua”-ed a bit and took out a pocket knife as big as an adult’s palm, then showed it to Bei Shi

Bei Shi: “…”

He was dumb for a moment, but then asked, “Where did you get it?”

Chang An calmly said, “In the small house next to your yard. I can only carry this now, but I will grow up. When I grow up, I can pick up the biggest one.”

Bei Shi sneered, raised his eyebrows and looked at him and said, “The saber? You still wanna toy with a saber? You are really… If you think too much, you won’t grow very tall.”

Chang An glared at Bei Shi with his cheeks bulging. It was very funny that Bei Shi could not help but poke him.

Then he squatted down, curled up as much as he could, lowered his sight to Chang An’s level,  and ruffled the kid’s hair ‘til it looked like a bird’s nest.

The man smiled gently, but his words were very cold. He asked, “Little silly child. I’m doing very well alone. Why should I take in such a small burden like you? On this Yufeng Mountain, the carving wolf is the weakest thing, yet it can almost toss you to death. You can’t even chop wood. What can you do?”

Chang An looked at him for a moment and thought about it. He took it like an entrance exam, and he thought about it very seriously for a long time. Then he said to Bei Shi, “If you teach me the blade, I can use it to chop wood for you, can hunt for you, and can fetch meat for you to eat.”

“Yeah, you are not stupid.” Bei Shi straightened his back and stood up. He was amused. “You know to eat first and pay later.”

Chang An looked at him in dismay for a while, somewhat hesitant, not knowing if his answer had passed the test.

“You’re still so young. Can’t you live well? Why do you want to fight with these weapons?” Bei Shi said so and watched Chang An shake his head, ready to refute him.

Chang An was anxious. He opened his mouth, but then closed it. He didn’t know where to start.

But then a little tune in the depths of his memory suddenly came up–he did not know where he had heard the song, nor who had sung it, but the tune seemed to be engraved in his soul, always there, with the smell of blood, rot, and vastness.

“The True God fell from the heavens, morals collapse and decay, the heavenly law wellaway, and men can turn into beasts.”

The child’s tender voice sang a nondescript song. He did not seem to understand what it meant. He just sang it word by word according to the text. It was funny, but Bei Shi suddenly stopped.

“The blade-bearer roars, the grazer rushes. It rushes and rushes, lightly and resigned.” [2]

“Who taught you this?” Bei Shi turned around and the smile on his face disappeared, the kindness gone, revealing a sullen look full of knives, but the voice was very soft. “Who taught you this, kid?”

Chang An shook his head blankly. He did not remember.

Bei Shi looked at him for a moment, then noticed the red line hanging around his neck. He picked it up with his finger. He saw the old domino card hanging on the child. It was very old, with the words “Chang An” written on the back and a huge tusk carved on the front.

The man pondered for a while and then asked, “So, you are from the Azure Dragon tribe? Why did you run here?”

Chang An still looked at him blankly. Obviously, he did not know what the “Azure Dragon tribe” [3] was. He said, “It was Zhe Yan that taught me… I don’t know anything else.”

“Zhe Yan? Where is this Zhe Yan?”

This time, Chang An lowered his head and looked at the tips of his shoes expressionlessly. After a long time, he said, “Zhe Yan is dead.”

Bei Shi was stunned for a while. The child called the man Zhe Yan instead of Daddy. It was obvious that he was not a relative. Zhe Yan left the tribe with a child and joined other tribes. The child was obviously not a little boy with unknown origin. He even got the blessing of the elders of the tribe and got the only token of the old man.

All Bei Shi could think of was these guys’ former tribe…

Suddenly, he sighed heavily and looked across the dense woods on Yufeng Mountain. The expression on his face was obscured. In this mountain, the morning and evening were indistinguishable, and the sun and the moon were not divided. In a twinkling of an eye, the outside world had turned alive, reincarnated.

Like touching a kitten, Bei Shi gently pinched the back of the child’s neck and asked softly, “What is your name?”

“My name is Chang An.”


Translator’s Notes

1小东西,根骨不行,到有点运气。”

I’m not sure what root bone is, but from reading different martial arts novels, I infer that it refers to a person’s innate qualities for martial arts. I did some research and Baidu gave me this and this (both are Chinese sites), so it’s basically, more or less, the same with what I just said

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2 执刀者呼啸,食草者奔走,奔走奔走,瑟瑟苟苟

食草 – Literally, to feed on grass, and hence, “grazer.” Probably a metaphor for the weaker ones (i.e. sub-beasts and women)

Alternative Translations:

[Updated as of Jun 23, 2020 (11:21 pm, GMT+8)]

瑟瑟苟苟

The 瑟瑟 here refers to light sounds, such as the rustling of grass or the sound of wind. Like an onomatopoeia (pronounced as sè sè). It can also mean “to tremble” or “to shiver.”

can mean indifferent, but it could also mean careless. A modern definition, as especially used in the Chinese internet world, would be “preserve one’s own life at all costs.” It got this meaning from the expression 苟全性命, as it’s the first character in it. [Thanks to Jouicifer for pointing this out!]

The point is, I don’t fully understand what this song means, so I won’t give an “absolute” interpretation of it. I’m putting out all these alternate definitions, so you can try to interpret it as you see fit. I will be occasionally updating this footnote if I find out more about it.

If you want to follow the changes made specifically on the full song’s translation, you may bookmark this post I made about it and just refresh the page every week or so.

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3 青龙 The Azure Dragon is said to be a legendary creature, who is part of the Four Symbols, also known as the Four Spirits of heaven. It represents spring and the east. So from that alone, you can infer that Chang An’s original tribe must be something supreme…

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