Chapter 17: Mercenaries

Hua Yi knew that those days of rushing through the dense forest may have caused his wounds to fester. The wound on his chest, which was from the claws of a beast, had been torn open in the scuffle earlier, and one could almost see the bone underneath the skin. It didn’t look like it would be healing anytime soon, but he would have to endure it until he met up with his people. 

This situation wasn’t the most dangerous one he had encountered, so Hua Yi didn’t panic. Everything was still under control. He took a few deep breaths and waited for the piercing pain to pass.

Ten years ago, after struggling to get away from those assassins from the tribe he was born in, Hua Yi didn’t go into hiding. He chose to become a mercenary1亡客 – The author actually made up her own term here. The first character (wang) means “to die, to lose, to be gone, to flee, or deceased.” 客 (ke), on the other hand, can mean “customer, visitor, or guest.” I’ve interpreted WangKe to mean “to die/risk life for customer,” which is basically the nature of their job.

In this continent full of infinite danger, every day, there would be countless bold young people desiring to become famous overnight by joining the ranks of the mercenaries. They would undergo the most rigorous training, venture into the most dangerous places, do what others dared not do, and take the money that others dared not take. With a stretch of a hand, their lives would be on the line, but once pulled back in, they gain incomparable honor and riches2出手必是 生死一线
到手必是 富贵无双。

It’s only one sentence, but I’m putting it into two lines so you can notice the stuff I’m pointing out. In the first line, 出手 (pronounced as chū shǒu, and literally the characters for “exit” and for “hand”) means “to undertake a task.” And parallel to that on the second line, there’s 到手 (pronounced as 到手 and also has the hand character), which means “to take possession of.”

Basically, the whole sentence is about how when a mercenary accepts a task (i.e stretches out their hand), they would be putting their life on their line. But once the task is accomplished, they would get lots of reward and honor.

As long as one had the money and could afford the price, they could buy anything through the hands of the mercenaries.

However, these daring young people usually died very quickly. Mercenaries didn’t get to live as they please. When they take risks but gain nothing3火中取栗 – Literally, “pulling chestnuts out of a fire.” Idiom comes from one of the stories in Aesop’s fables, The Monkey and the Cat. Bertrand the monkey persuades Raton the cat to pull chestnuts from the embers amongst which they are roasting, promising him a share. As the cat scoops them from the fire one by one, burning his paw in the process, the monkey gobbles them up. (Wikipedia), they could barely survive.

Without the mindset that one wouldn’t be able to see the sun unless they forced themselves to be stronger, most of them would have a hard time getting through the first assignment.

This was the path that Hua Yi chose for himself back then. The once simple and worrywart teenager gradually learned to conceal himself, to be suspicious, to be cautious, and to never give up searching for a way out even when in dangerous situations.

A mercenary who could survive for ten years would have his name become a legend in this world bordering on the edge between life and death.

The mercenary Silver Fang, whose shadow was found over the entire Northern continent, had never failed even once ever since his name became known. However, most people didn’t know that he was once called Hua Yi. He was the youngest and kindest son of the former Chief of the Snow Wolf tribe at the foot of Yufeng mountain.

The teenage sub-beast who had been sitting in the corner finally moved at this time. He was like some kind of feline, walking without the slightest sound under his feet, and in a flash, he was in front of Hua Yi. The teenager stopped five steps away from him. Seeing the blue veins on the back of Hua Yi’s hand that was holding the short saber4短刀 (duǎn dāo) – a smaller version of the saber that allows for fast, light, single-handed use in combat. The small size of this weapon makes it ideal for smaller people and for fast, light, fighting styles. In addition, the duandao is a good weapon for concealed carry or for an easy to carry secondary weapon., he knew that the other party was still very wary of him.

The teenager spread his hands out and presented them in front of him to show that he meant no harm. Then he crouched down and looked straight into Hua Yi’s slightly bloodshot eyes.

Amidst all the beastmen corpses on the ground, he didn’t look the least bit uncomfortable or scared, nor did he try to draw closer with a smile. The teenager seemed to regard Hua Yi as a wounded, wild wolf. He slowly adjusted his long and shallow breathing and looked at him motionlessly, his eyes clear and firm.

For a moment, the killing intent in Hua Yi’s eyes gradually subsided. Maybe he felt that it was a little silly to glare at such a young sub-beast. He recovered his simple and honest smile that was full of indescribable cunning, and in a voice that was rather diffident but not feeble, he asked in a somewhat harsh tone, “Well, what do you want to tell me? Don’t worry, I don’t think a sub-beast like you is worth taking advantage of…”

The teenager ignored his words and said, “More than ten years ago, when you were traveling outside, you saw a man holding a child. You saved his life and gave him a horned deer, remember?”

Hua Yi was stunned.

The teenager continued, “That child was me. My name is Chang An. Zhe Yan told me that I must remember to repay you. Now, do you have any wishes?”

Hua Yi’s wounds hurt so much that he winced. The other party’s words sounded too bizarre, and he couldn’t help but ask offhandedly, “Zhe Yan? What Zhe Yan?”

After Chang An was driven down the mountain by his teacher Bei Shi, he first went to see A’Yan. He gave her a lot of food, flowers, as well as the precious skin of a large python. A python of that size wasn’t easy to hunt. Accepting it, she could trade it to others for a lot of things, enough for her to live well for a long time. Afterwards, he set off again.

He couldn’t figure out what Bei Shi asked him to look for at the foot of the mountain. The foot of the mountain was full of people, and the wild animals there were even much weaker than those on Yufeng mountain. Where could there be something to temper himself?

Chang An didn’t find it, so he kept wandering around. He had little desire to interact with others, and not knowing what else he could do, he just hunted and trained with his saber in the woods like a savage. He simply lived the same life he had in Yufeng mountain, completely unable to appreciate the painstaking efforts of his teacher who had wanted to expose him to people.

Nonetheless, Chang An still had his “life-saving benefactor” in mind. He was seven years old when he went to Yufeng Mountain, and over those years, the number of people he had met could be counted on one hand. He had killed those he had enmity with, but he didn’t have the time to repay those whom he owed grace.

“Find a man named Hua Yi who has silver beast marks on his hand, and repay him for saving your life.” This was what Zhe Yan had entrusted to Chang An when he was still alive. A day of him not accomplishing it was a day he couldn’t be at ease.

However, the continent was too vast and boundless. Finding someone was too difficult.

This was practically giving Chang An distress, but who would’ve thought that after half a year of idling around, he would actually run into the person he was looking for in a guest house in the middle of nowhere.

Hua Yi couldn’t recall this incident, but when Chang An bluntly asked him what he wished for, he couldn’t help but laugh out loud.

He reached out and propped himself up on the ground. The pain was over, and the wound was slightly numb. Hua Yi sat down against the wall of the guest house and casually teased, “How do you want to repay me? With your body?”

Chang An had an indifferent expression. His temper had long been worn out by Bei Shi, so he didn’t get mad at the other party’s rude words. He just pointed to Hua Yi’s wound and asked, “Want me to help you?”

Hearing this, Hua Yi once again looked at him, right into the teenage sub-beast’s calm and undisturbed face. Suddenly feeling it was somewhat boring, he curbed his smile and fell silent for a moment. He said, “Many thanks, xiao xiongdi. If it’s not too much trouble… could you light a fire for me?”

Chang An silently lit the fire in the hearth pit on the ground. Hua Yi put his small saber over the fire for a while, then used the blade to cut out the festering skin on the wound. His cheek twitched, and the cold sweat on his forehead fell into the hearth pit in a pit-pat. But he endured it without uttering a sound as he spread the medicine he had with him on the wound.

Hua Yi clenched his jaw so tightly that his lips turned white.

For a while, it was very quiet in the little guest house. Only the man’s suppressed, heavy breathing and the crackling of the damp firewood in the hearth pit could be heard.

After some time, Hua Yi lightly exhaled. He suddenly had a vague impression, remembering that it seemed to be that year he was on the way to the trial… At that time, he did come across a sub-beast with a broken arm and a baby. And it was after that incident that he got the name “Silly Big Man5傻大个 (shǎ dà gè)- referring to a person who has a big build, but is not clever.”

Hua Yi turned his head and glanced at Chang An, who was quietly sitting at the side. His voice softened a little and he asked, “The one you were talking about… a man with a broken arm?”

Chang An nodded and said, “That’s Zhe Yan.”

Hua Yi coughed in a low voice, and it took a while for it to abide. He then asked in a hoarse voice, “Then… that Zhe Yan, how is he now?”

Chang An lowered his eyes, casually fiddled with the fire in the hearth pit, and replied, “Oh, first, he coughed like you, and then he died.”

Hua Yi: “…”

He realized that this strange child was a little bit unable to speak human language.

Hua Yi looked at Chang An from head to toe—both the man and the baby were from too long ago for him. Their faces were blurry in his memory, and all he could remember was that the child was a tiny blob that could be grasped with one hand and whose cries were very weak.

Looked like he was all grown up now, but he still wasn’t mighty and strong. It seemed that his body wasn’t very well. The night made his face look even paler. It reminded Hua Yi of the kind of porcelain that was only available in the South, which was made through extremely high temperatures. It was gorgeous, but fragile, shattering at a touch.

“What’s your wish?” Chang An asked him again when he saw him falling into a daze.

Hua Yi smiled and shook his head. He took a roll of white cloth bandages from his parcel, and said casually, “Then you can go wrap my wounds.”

Chang An took the bandage and knelt beside him on one knee. He was very skillful in stopping the bleeding and tying the bandage. This was a bit of a surprise to Hua Yi. Generally speaking, sub-beasts didn’t need to hunt. They didn’t leave their tribes, and they rarely suffered any serious injuries. Some people had never even seen blood in their lives.

Hua Yi inclined his head to look at the meticulous young sub-beast who had his head down and whose serious expression made it look as if he were doing something remarkable. With his head lowered, his collar revealed a small red rope, where a faintly discernible domino was hung.

Hua Yi couldn’t help asking: “Are you a doctor?”

Chang An shook his head.

Hua Yi wanted to ask something else, but Chang An’s hand suddenly tightened. Hua Yi didn’t expect this teenage sub-beast to have such a strong hand. He was wrapped so tightly that he almost couldn’t breathe. His face distorted, but Changan had already tied the knot quickly and said, “This is a good way to stop the bleeding.”

Hua Yi couldn’t say anything for a while, but he determined that this guy was definitely not a doctor. Otherwise, eight out of ten patients would be killed alive by him.

Chang An didn’t realize that he had inherited Bei Shi’s underhanded6杀人不见血 – Literally, “to kill without spilling blood” XD quackery, and he asked earnestly, “Is there anything else you want me to treat?”

Hua Yi hurriedly waved his hand, not daring to bother him.

But Chang An said persistently, “This isn’t enough to pay for a life. Do you have other wishes?”

Hua Yi took a long time to catch his breath. In cold sweat, he looked at the eccentric teenager sitting on the side, raised an eyebrow, and asked, “I have lots of wishes. The question is, can you do it?”

Chang An said boldly, “Just say it and I’ll have a way.”

Hua Yi said in a low voice, “Can I ask you to kill someone?”

Hearing this, Chang An sat upright and still, as if he had received some kind of official commission. He leaned forward and asked seriously, “Kill who?”

Hua Yi stared at him for a while, then suddenly laughed out loud. He casually peeled a piece of malt candy that he had with him, placed it in his hand, and put on a righteous and gentle expression as he said to Chang An, “It’s better you eat candy, young summer child… It’s alright. What’s the point of killing people?”

Chang An sucked on the candy, but his eyes seemed to pierce through the man’s hundreds of faces and stab him all the way to his heart. Hua Yi couldn’t help but avoid his sight for a moment.

When Hua Yi said the word “kill,” Chang An felt that his eyes clearly contained killing intent. That killing intent like a tense, tight string was something Chang An was familiar with. He knew that there was a person that Hua Yi… really wanted to kill.

Hua Yi unceremoniously packed up his things on the ground, put on his straw raincoat and bamboo hat, then walked out, saying, “Okay, I still have some urgent business and I can’t take you. Take care of yourself. Fate will let us meet again in the future.”

With that, he strode into the rain without looking back.

The footsteps of a beastman were not something a sub-beast could catch up with. Hua Yi regarded the chance encounter with the young man as a novel thing. He thought, if he himself could live to old age, one day get rid of all favors owed and those he had enmity with7 “all favors owed and those he had enmity with” is a very looong translation for the two-character word, 恩仇 (ēn chóu), which means “debt of gratitude coupled with duty to avenge.”, and be lucky enough to have a home of his own, his feet surrounded by little guys with runny noses who didn’t know anything as he had in those days, he could tell them about this fortuitous meeting on a rainy night with a strange young man with petal-like eyes.

That young man was as handsome as a demon8精魅 – Actual term used would be more closer to the word “succubus,” but it’s not exactly the characters for succubus (魅魔) or immortal from those age-old legends, but he spoke with a straight face and was quite dim-witted. He was very interesting.

Hua Yi walked around a tribe, and for the whole night, he didn’t stop to rest. Just as the day was about to break, he heard a sudden rustling sound behind him.

He turned around with a jerk and surprisingly found that the teenager in the guest house had followed him, even carrying that large package that was suspected to be a large house beam.

Hua Yi was a little surprised. He hadn’t expected the child to actually have some talent to keep up with his pace.

However, he knew that the road ahead was very difficult and dangerous. If he were to ask this young man who knew nothing of the immensity of heaven and earth to keep up with him, it would surely harm him.

When Hua Yi thought of this, he suddenly transformed into a beast. The silver beast looked majestic as it gloriously shook its fur. It then ran in the heavy rain to throw the young man off.

Every time Hua Yi turned into a beast, he’d wonder why beastmen had to keep their human form, why they had to keep such a weak side. The body, bones, and muscles of the beast were much more powerful than those of humans. Only when he turned into a giant beast could he feel the pleasure of running.

Hua Yi didn’t understand. If they could be beasts, why did they have to form a tribe with those sub-beasts and women and usually appear in human form… Being human, what was so good about it?

He didn’t know how long he had been running. He had even passed by several guest houses, but this time, Hua Yi didn’t stop.

The day was beginning to dawn. The rain was also much lighter, but the ground was getting muddier. Just when Huayi felt that he was about to get out of this forest area, he heard a low roar.

Hua Yi’s footsteps didn’t stop. He sharply lunged to the right, just in time to avoid the giant beast that pounced out from the side. The giant beast bit into air, and it once again issued a roar. At once, seven or eight adult beastmen emerged from the bushes. It turned out they had been waiting for him here.

Avoiding a fight seemed impossible.

Hua Yi sighed inwardly and stopped in his tracks. With powerful front paws pressing on the ground and leaving deep marks, he revealed his sharp fangs.

**✿❀ translated by Lizonka ❀✿**
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