Hanging there precariously, Chang An stretched out a little foot and probed the slippery wall around him. The straw sandals were immediately pierced, and the burning digestive juice of that thing that swallowed him quickly corroded a small layer of skin on his toes. Chang An quickly retracted his feet and hung there in distress, not daring to move.
Soon, his little hemp-rod-like arms turned sore and began to tremble uncontrollably. Chang An knew that he mustn’t fall down anyway, lest he turn into a pile of bones. It wasn’t easy for him to escape from big-headed monsters, the giant bird, and the two-headed snake.
If he were to fall now, then he wouldn’t have even seen what it was that had eaten him. He would just turn into a pile of bones, and he really couldn’t 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 prone to do bold things.
Chang An gritted his teeth and suddenly deeply inhaled the rancid smell around him. Then with his small, badly-mangled hand, he firmly caught that slimy digestive tract in a death grip!
That thing wasn’t very hard. Instead, it was soft, with fine hairs all over it. Chang An tightly held onto those hairs, even sacrificing a small foot to climb on them as well.
His palm quickly stuck to it, and it was like being set on fire. It hurt so much, it darkened his vision. Chang An took advantage of this pain to force himself, pulling out the knife stuck on the digestive wall. Afterwards, he aimed at an area and firmly stabbed it back in. With each stab he made, the thing trembled violently. The dangerous digestive juices beneath his feet made tiny waves, and the bones floating within it shook.
Chang An was soon out of breath. His chest ached like it was cracking open, and his head throbbed endlessly. Despite this, he still stubbornly clung to that thing’s digestive tract. Layers of skin on his hands and feet were corroded, and it hurt so much that they began to turn numb.
But in his eyes, nothing else mattered except piercing through that place.
At last, the pain became unbearable and he cried out, screaming at the top of his lungs. Yet it did not stop him from moving his knife. The digestive juice had eaten away much of the knife’s rust and made it sharper. This bright and beautiful child now looked like a little demon demanding for life, and it was terrifying.
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 like he couldn’t lift his arm anymore. He was bleeding a lot, and it seemed as if his whole body was running out of blood. It was cold, but Chang An gnashed his teeth and thought, It’s not over yet.
The two of them—he and this thing that ate him. It wasn’t over until it had digested him into a heap of bones and left him completely out of breath, or until he had stabbed it to death.
Finally, that thing got scared first. It had probably never eaten such prey that would make a lot of fuss in its stomach. With its stomach hurting so much, Chang An was vomited out.
Chang An’s surroundings shook intensely, then he was suddenly flipped over. Fresh air poured at once into his lungs, and he was thrown heavily on the ground where he fell flat on his face… But in his mangled little hand, he still held his little razor blade, which had become so shiny after being soaked from the digestive juices.
He saw clearly what had eaten him—it turned out to be a flower.
The flower bud was as tall as two adult beastmen, not even counting its stem yet. However, this big guy who had oppressed Chang An for a while seemed to have remembered that very terrible feeling just now and slowly shrank back. Chang An’s sharp eyes caught sight of an inconspicuous hole in the bud with liquid gurgling out of it.
“I stabbed a hole through it.” Chang An was hurting all over, but at the thought of his accomplishment, he felt very happy.
What use is your big size when you’re useless, he said of his opponent in that narrow match. Then he rose with a grimace, limped with his blade, and went on his way.
The long night finally passed. The first rays of sunlight penetrated through the depths of the dense forest and leaked down. The perennially icy peak of Yufeng Mountain was plated with a layer of gold, and it was so beautiful.
Unfortunately, those in despair couldn’t enjoy such scenery.
When Bei Shi picked up the strange child he had met last time at the foot of the mountain, he almost didn’t recognize him.
At this time, Chang An had been wandering around the mountain for an unknown number of days. He’d been finding streams to drink from when he was thirsty and eating dead animals and wild fruits when he was hungry.
Now, he was lying on the brink of death under a dead Eagle Wolf1 雕狼 – The 雕 (diāo) character here is not specifically “Eagle,” but is instead a general term used to refer to any bird of prey..
Bei Shi prodded his chest—there was still some life in it, but it was close to death.
The middle-aged man thoughtfully turned over the Eagle Wolf’s corpse and found a curled up knife pierced into its throat.
He recognized this move. It was what he had personally taught him before. However, in this move the saber had to be sent out with a force of ten thousand jun2 钧 – 30 catties, and then pulled back. The knife of the little guy curled up and got stuck in the wolf’s throat. He was probably unable to pull it out, so at that point, the kid just made a stupid move and clung to the handle of the knife. As a result, he was knocked unconscious by the Eagle Wolf’s corpse.
Fortunately for him, the Eagle Wolf just had sharp teeth and claws and wasn’t much of a big guy. He was at least not crushed on the spot.
Bei Shi gently kicked the body of the Eagle Wolf to the side with his toes, and then went to open the child’s hand—but it couldn’t be opened. It was clutching too tightly, and Bei Shi dared not use any force. The little guy’s hand, even with all five fingers stretched out, was not big enough to fit in his palm, and it was also covered with wounds of all sizes. Bei Shi was afraid of accidentally breaking his fingers, so he instead used two fingers to hold between the broken copper handle and the iron blade then broke it cleanly in two from there.
Then he bent down, picked up the child, and went deep into the mountains.
How on earth did such a little thing who’d been pinching his fingers to death struggled for so many days? Nobody knew.
Bei Shi walked so smoothly that there was almost no sound beneath his feet, and on his back he carried a small basket full of herbs.
His figure seemed rather small for an adult beastman. If not for the less obvious beast marks on the back of his hand, he could be easily mistaken as a gentle sub-beast doctor. He had inconspicuous lines at the corners of his eyes, coarse linen clothes casually rolled up on his sleeves and pant legs, and long hair neatly tied and hanging down behind him. Apart from his somewhat down and out look, there seemed to be nothing special about him.
Yet on this Yufeng Mountain where crisis was found at every step, he strolled casually without even glancing sideways, and walked all the way up to a small cabin halfway up the mountain. Those forest monsters and giant beasts all over the mountain seemed to be like little demons avoiding the Pixiu3The raws actually used 辟邪 (bì xié) instead of 貔貅 (pí xiū), but they’re the same thing. A pixiu is one of the five auspicious animals of traditional Chinese culture (the other four are the dragon, phoenix, turtle, and kylin). The Chinese people call it “fortune beast.” This lion-looking beast has the head of a dragon, the body of a horse, and the legs of a kylin, and is able to fly. in the legends. Along the way, not a thing dared to show its head. There was only the sound of animals fleeing from the short shrubs around them.
Including the two-headed snake that dominated the mountain.
By the time Chang An woke up, it was already ten days later.
If he never woke up again, Bei Shi had planned to throw him out. The man had never seen such a troublesome child before. His fever came in waves. After lowering his temperature with much difficulty, he would burn up again.
While he was having a fever, Chang An would unconsciously move around on the bed, curl into himself, and grip his chest tightly as if he couldn’t breathe. His mouth would unconsciously issue weak whimpers, and it made one wonder if he was really in a coma or was just having a nightmare.
Sometimes, Chang An would suddenly shed tears. His tears were very strange. He would make no sound when he cried, so it was hard to notice he had even cried. One could only touch his face to notice the wetness.
He looked very pathetic.
It was rare of Bei Shi to feel some pity 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 had been looking for. He was sitting with his back towards him, and he seemed to be napping by the window.
I… I found him?
Chang An blinked blankly. It was unbelievable.
Bei Shi didn’t 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.”
Bei Shi stood up and stretched. He glanced at Chang An, then went out for a while. When he came back, he brought a big bowl of porridge made from sprouted wheat. Chang An didn’t know what else was put in it, but it looked really dark.
“Eat.” Bei Shi placed the big bowl beside him.
Without thinking about it, Chang An picked up the bowl, but then almost dropped it—His wrists were too weak. He hurriedly used both hands to hold the bowl, and only then did he begin to drink in trembling mouthfuls. The porridge had a strange fishy taste, but when tasted carefully, it didn’t seem to have any fish. It was more like it had some kind of herb with a very strong taste. But at the very least, this was porridge. It was much tastier than the rotten meat and half-ripe fruits in the forest.
Bei Shi knew how strong the herb was, so he was already preparing to face Chang An sternly and force him to eat. Who would’ve imagined that this little thing would actually eat it up as if eating some kind of rare lingzhi and immortal grass4Lingzhi (spiritual mushrooms) and immortal grass are medicinal herbs that are often mentioned in xianxia stories, and they are said to have great medicinal properties.. In no time at all, he had drunk that big bowl empty.
Chang An put down the bowl then sat for a moment, painfully pressing on his stomach—he ate too much.
But he was reluctant to spit out, and he was ready to swallow it back if the food went back up. He ate it, it was his. No one else could take it.
It was strange. Didn’t all kids like candy and acting spoiled? Bei Shi looked at the little thing and thought to himself: He turned out to be a little freak.
He wasn’t given enough time to talk with the little freak. They stared at each other for a while, then the medicine kicked in. Chang An lay down and fell asleep. After finally having enough to eat, his rarely ruddy face had a bit more redness in it.
Bei Shi curiously extended his hand and carefully poked Chang An’s face. It was soft and tender. He found it quite intriguing, as if the little thing wasn’t the same kind as him.
However, Bei Shi’s curiosity completely disappeared after Chang An was able to run and jump. He was simply getting annoyed with the little thing. Whether he was eating, drinking, or doing other things, he could see this little thing persistently following behind him.
And he was like a myna, endlessly saying only one thing: “I want to learn how to use a saber.”
Finally, Bei Shi could not bear it. He jumped to his feet and shouted at him, “Learn the saber, learn the saber! Can’t you say anything else? Why should I teach you? You can’t learn it!”
“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 how to use a saber!”
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? If that won’t do, you could also be a doctor…”
Chang An: “I want to learn how to use a saber.”
Bei Shi continued to say bitterly, “What’s the use of learning the saber? You see, I learned the saber, but I still have to eat and drink every day. I’ve got no money, no power, not even a beautiful wife. Little one ah, you’re only so young, why are you so stubborn?”
Chang An: “I want to learn how to use the saber.”
Bei Shi grabbed his hair painfully and asked, “Are you able to hold a saber?”
Chang An quickly pulled out a small saber about the size of an adult’s palm and showed it to Bei Shi.
Bei Shi: “……”
He was dumb for a moment, but then asked, “Where did you get that?”
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. Looking at him with an eyebrow raised, he said, “The horse-chopping saber5马刀 (mǎdāo) – Actually refers to cavalry saber, a kind of saber that you can use on horseback. But based on the future chapters, I’m pretty sure the author is incorrectly using this term as a shortcut for 斩马刀 (zhǎnmǎdāo), the horse-chopping saber. More info about this when you get to Chapter 18, but for now, just keep in mind that whenever the author uses 马刀 to refer to Chang An’s weapon, I will be translating it as if it were 斩马刀.? You even want to play with a horse-chopping 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 up. It was very funny that Bei Shi couldn’t help but poke him.
Then he squatted down, curled up as much as he could, and with great difficulty, lowered his sight to Chang An’s level, then ruffled the kid’s hair until it looked like a bird’s nest.
The man smiled gently, but his words were very cold as he asked, “Little fool, why would I take in a little burden like you when I’m doing fine on my own? On this Yufeng Mountain, the Eagle 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 as an entrance exam, so he thought about it very seriously for a long time. Then he said to Bei Shi, “If you teach me how to use the saber, I can use it to chop wood for you, and I will be able to hunt and give you meat to eat.”
“Yeah, you’re not stupid yet.” Bei Shi straightened his back and stood up. He was amused. “You know to eat first and pay later.”
Chang An stared at him blankly for a moment, somewhat perturbed, wondering if his answer had passed.
“You’re still so young. Isn’t it good to live well? Why are you having thoughts about these murder weapons?” After Bei Shi said so, he saw Chang An shake his head, ready to refute him.
Chang An was anxious. He opened his mouth to speak, but as someone who had never been good with words, he didn’t know where to start.
But then a little tune from the depths of his memory suddenly came up—he didn’t know where he’d heard the song, nor remember who had sung it, but the tune seemed to be engraved in his soul, always there, along with the vague smell of blood and decay.
“The True God falls from the heavens, morals collapse and decay, the heavenly law wellaway, and humans can turn into beasts.”
The child’s tender voice sang a nondescript song. The singing child didn’t seem to understand what it meant. He just sang it word by word, which was a bit funny, but Bei Shi suddenly stopped.
“Those who wield blades roar, those who eat grass run away. They run and run, whizz and whoosh…6真神坠苍, 伦常崩朽, 呜呼天道, 人可成兽。
执刀者呼啸, 食草者奔走, 奔走奔走, 瑟瑟苟苟…
I’m really not sure what that last line means, but I feel like it’s just an onomatopoeia.”
“Who taught you that?” Bei Shi turned around. The playful smile on his face and his kind eyes were gone, instead revealing a sullen look full of knives, yet his voice was still very soft. “Child, who taught you that?”
Chang An shook his head blankly. He didn’t remember.
Bei Shi looked at him for a moment, then noticed the red thread hanging around his neck. He picked it up with his finger and saw the old man’s domino hanging on the child. It was very old, with the words “Chang An” written on the back and a huge tusk engraved on the front.
The man pondered for a while, then asked, “So you’re from the Azure Dragon7青龙 (qing long) – The Azure Dragon is one of the Dragon Gods who represent the mount or chthonic forces of the Five Forms of the Highest Deity. He is also one of the Four Symbols of the Chinese constellations, which are the astral representations of the Wufang Shangdi. (Wikipedia) tribe? How did you get here?”
Chang An still looked at him blankly, clearly not knowing what the “Azure Dragon Tribe” was. He said, “It was Zhe Yan who brought me here… I don’t know anything else.”
“Zhe Yan? And where is this Zhe Yan?”
This time, Chang An lowered his head and looked blankly at the tips of his shoes. After a long time, he said, “Zhe Yan is dead.”
Bei Shi was stunned for a moment. The child called the man Zhe Yan and not A’die8阿爹 – Ancient Chinese way of calling one’s father, so it was evident that he wasn’t a relative. A non-relative left the tribe with a child and joined another tribe. This child was obviously not a little guy with unknown origins. He even got the blessing of the Elders of the tribe and got the old man’s only token.
All Bei Shi could think of was their former tribe…
He suddenly heaved a sigh and looked over the thick woods on Yufeng Mountain with an obscure expression on his face. In this mountain, there was no distinction between morning and evening, and the sun and the moon were indistinguishable. In a twinkling of an eye, the outside world had already crossed over into the next reincarnation cycle9I don’t think this is meant literally. It’s probably just a metaphor about how being in such an isolated place makes it feels like time outside has flown so fast..
Like stroking a kitten, Bei Shi gently pinched the back of the child’s neck and asked softly, “Then what’s your name?”
“My name is Chang An.”