With an indifferent look on his face, Hua Yi dragged the beastman’s corpse into the trees not far away without even bothering to hide it.
Afterwards, he calmly twisted the conical hat on his head and continued on his way. This time, he didn’t rush. He moved forward slowly. As they got farther and farther away from the place where the long, tragic tribal war was taking place, Hua Yi even had the leisure to hum a little, offbeat tune.
Chang An looked at him curiously and finally discovered the weirdness of this “benefactor” of his—he’d say one thing but do another.
He asked, “Why did you say one moment that you don’t have the ability to save someone, but then went ahead to do it?”
Hua Yi’s cheek twitched.
Chang An nodded without waiting for an answer. “Bei Shi said this is called the mouth saying no, and the heart saying yes. It’s like when the mouth says you like this person, but your heart actually hates him very much. Or when the mouth pretends to disapprove, but the heart actually likes it a lot. This is especially true when it comes to women… Why are you also like that?”
Hua Yi wanted to say, “Just listen to yourself. Is that a human question?” But when he looked at Chang An, he helplessly didn’t want to say it. Facing Chang An, he found himself always seemingly unable to lose his temper.
“You can’t even understand this?” Hua Yi rolled his eyes and pretended to be profound. “You wild ignorant mountain boy, do you know what this song I’m singing is called?”
Chang An shook his head honestly.
Hua Yi said, “This is a little song from an extremely cold place. It’s sung by those birdmen. You see, their heads are so small, and they also think that their small heads are not right. So every festival, they will put a circle of flowers around their necks, making themselves look like flat-faced sunflowers. When they shake, it’s so funny, people could laugh off their teeth. Do you know what they mean by singing?”
Chang An’s attention was easily diverted by novel things. He seemed to have forgotten his question just now as he followed along Hua Yi’s deliberate lure and asked, “What does it mean?”
“What can a birdman sing? It must be the thing of laying eggs!”
Actually, Hua Yi didn’t understand the unique language of the birdmen. He was just guessing blindly and blurting out nonsense to fool Chang An. Seeing the young man even thinking it made sense, Hua Yi nodded seriously and went on to say, “These birdmen are also pitiful things. The people of their race—men and women, old and young—all crawled out of eggs. As humans, they look like freaks, and when they transform into their beast forms, they are still freaks. There’s only a small group of them in this world, and this small group of their kind has to hide from others all day long, live in that extremely cold Far North, and associate with strange poisons. It’s really pitiful.”
Chang An actually believed in his nonsense and even listened very carefully. As he listened, he even grasped the key problem. He asked, “What they spit out that day was poisonous? How could poisonous things be kept in their mouths? And why were those beastmen with them again?”
So long as Chang An didn’t impetuously ask questions that no one could answer, Hua Yi was very willing to talk to him. Every time he saw those eyes that were like the ones deep in his memories, his mood would improve.
When Hua Yi saw that he had already forgotten about the thing from earlier, he immediately explained patiently, “Birdmen carry poison all over their bodies, and it’s even in their blood. They cure illnesses with poison, so naturally, they’re not afraid of the substances they themselves made. Their so-called alliance is merely a convergence of interests. But even if there’s a temporary alliance, who would sincerely believe them? You must always be guarded against those who are not of the same race.”
No one had ever told him such a complicated thing before. After listening to this, Chang An frowned and thought for a while, feeling that this matter was very unreasonable. Some people had big eyes, some had long noses, and some had small mouths. Everybody looked different. Why did it not matter if they were big or small in other parts, but when it came to having a small head, they were considered as not of the same race?
Was it because the head was more important than any other part?
“When the Twelve Gods made the world, they made it so that birdmen were in the extremely cold places, beastmen were on the mainland, and mermen were in the sea. These people in different places believed in different gods. If the gods lived in harmony, then the people would also live in harmony. If the gods quarreled and started a war, people within thousands of miles would be killed, and there would be rivers of blood.” As if seeing Chang An’s doubts, Hua Yi, like a reliable laodage1老大哥 – Literally, “old dage.” Dage alone refers to 1) older brother (like gege, but more respectful), or 2) the eldest son in the family. Laodage, on the other hand, is a polite term used to refer to an older male who has a close relationship with the speaker, particularly one who is experienced in a certain field., slowly explained, “Then legend said that the Twelve True Gods fell one after another. The world was in chaos. The ground froze for thousands of miles, and the fishes in the sea died in large numbers. The people who luckily survived lost their faith, and they no longer fought with each other because of the gods. However, the enmity between them was already carved deep into their bones.”
Chang An opened his eyes wide and held his breath as Hua Yi described it.
“This matter between the races is no trivial matter. If two continents rub against each other, the earth will tremble and the mountains will shake. It won’t be a matter of only one or two lives. Each and every debt will inevitably be blood debts, so how will it be clearly settled?” Hua Yi looked at Chang An’s eyes that were so bright and clear, it seemed as if one could see the bottom of them. “For thousands of years, we have lived with such enmity.”
Hua Yi spoke well, but Chang An didn’t fully understand it. After listening for a long time, he only figured out one thing—All these fighting that had been going on for generations turned out to have been caused by those bullshit True Gods that people didn’t even know actually existed. Since they were gods, why didn’t they do something useful instead of acting like a shit-stirrer2屎棍子 – Shit sticks were something that farmers used to stir the dung to evenly spread them when using them as fertilizer. Figuratively, “stirring the shit stick” or just “shit stick” refers to someone who loves to sow discord.?
He couldn’t help asking, “Are there really gods?”
“I don’t know, but I have a friend who likes to talk about the gods all day long. You can ask him. However, even if the gods weren’t real, there will always be other things. If people wanted to fight, they could always fight.”
Hua Yi’s words were very vague. Chang An didn’t expect that there was such an unreasonable thing in this world, so he asked, “What do ‘other things’ mean?”
Hua Yi looked at him and thought almost fondly: This silly boy. He can’t even distinguish between betas and pearl stones. All he knows is that if one person eats his fill, the whole family won’t be hungry3 一个人吃饱了全家不饿 – Referring to those living independently without having to worry about what a child or spouse would have to eat. So long as that one person eats, he won’t be hungry. He just has to take care of himself and not worry about other things.. How could he understand the boundless desires in the hearts of men?
He didn’t know what to say, but from the teenager’s question, he felt that being human was a bit miserable. He shook his head, and after a long while, he said, “There are some things you don’t need to look into too much. Like when wolves eat meat, and birds lay eggs, you can only keep going. The more people you see, the more strange things you’ll also see. There’ll be many things you’ll understand and also not understand, okay?”
These random words had really strayed too far. Hua Yi had carelessly muddled through his words that it could even be said he had reached the pinnacle of bullshitting. Sure enough, he had successfully confused Chang An.
Having successfully diverted Chang An away from that awkward topic, Hua Yi thought smugly of how this brother of his was really odd—He was so gullible.
He was so pleased with himself that he unconsciously started humming that little song of the winged race which he didn’t even know the meaning of. He strode ahead, and the more he thought about it, the more he felt that travelling with Chang An was really good, better than with any of his former companions. He could assist during fights, and when Hua Yi was free, he could amuse himself with him. In this way, even his abominable behavior of just standing by and watching from the sidelines could be forgiven.
As a result, before Hua Yi was even finished feeling smug, he heard Chang An inexplicably ask from behind him, “But what does this have to do with what I just asked you?”
Hua Yi tripped over the protruding root of a large tree and fell down in a bad position.
He rolled on the spot and fell flat on his back. When he looked up, he saw Chang An’s puzzled face as he looked down on him.
The young man was against the light, and he looked so beautiful that he could put people in a trance. Hua Yi knew he was a lustful man. Once he saw this scene, his heart softened, and he thought, Ah, a beauty. Even though this beauty is a guy who takes jokes seriously, I still can’t bear to berate him.
At last, he paused for a while, sighed, and covered his face with his hand.
However, at this moment, a trembling came from a distance. Hua Yi’s movements stopped, and under his palm, cold light flashed across his eyes. From the shaking, he could tell the number and the speed of his opponents. This was obviously a team of beastmen with more than a hundred people rushing over fiercely. At this speed, they were definitely not a group of travelling merchants.
Hua Yi was about to give a warning, but when he looked up, Chang An had disappeared. He was stunned for a moment, then realized that he hadn’t noticed when and where the teenager had hidden.
Hua Yi frowned. He looked around and finally found Chang An on a big tree. The other party had deliberately exposed a hand, apparently indicating his own hiding place.
Was this “beauty” actually a demon? He must be a demon, right?
With an infinite feeling of frustration, Hua Yi also nimbly jumped onto the tree.
Soon, that group of men and horses arrived majestically. When Hua Yi saw the familiar tribal flag, he was instantly shocked—that was his employer’s flag. And in the crowd, he saw a familiar person.
That man was blind. Half of his face was in beast form, and there was long hair near his nose, making him look like one who was neither beastman nor beast. With a sudden wave of his hand, those rushing beastmen stopped at once.
The blind man’s nose tipped gently, and he soon locked onto Hua Yi’s position. He turned his head towards the direction of his hiding place.
Hua Yi knew this person and of his unique skill of walking all over the world by relying on his nose. The blind man had probably already noticed his scent earlier, so Hua Yi no longer hid. He quickly jumped down from the tree, stopped two paces away from the blind old man, and asked with some hesitation, “Old Blind? Why are you here? What about Suo Laimu and the others?”
Old Blind smiled at him with his strange face and said in a hoarse voice, “He’s a sub-beast, why would he be here with me? Don’t worry, they’re all at Luo Tong’s place now. Both Shan Xi and Lu Quan have arrived, but they weren’t as capable as you, who is still alive and kicking. The others are probably still on their way. Chief Luo Tong has sent me and the Grand Elder to pick you up.”
As his voice fell, an old beastman stepped out from the crowd. With one hand pressed on his chest, he bowed slightly to Hua Yi.
Hua Yi returned the etiquette, albeit it couldn’t be seen in his expression. With one hand behind him, he slightly waved to Chang An who was still hidden in the big tree.
The Grand Elder said to Hua Yi: “Please4请 – “Please,” in Chinese, is not only for requests. It can also be used to invite someone to do something, or to freely let them do something..”
As soon as Hua Yi lifted his leg, Old Blind’s nose shook a bit. He frowned and turned again to the direction of the big tree. He asked, “Is there… still a friend there?”
The scent of a sub-beast was lighter than that of a beastman, yet Old Blind unexpectedly still noticed him.
Hua Yi replied with a straight face, “He’s a child I ran into on the way. We were brought together by fate, so I brought him back with me. However, because of some sudden major unpleasant changes, he’s a little unwilling to meet people. Don’t take offense—Chang An, come down.”
Chang An climbed down the tree and swept his eyes over the men’s faces.
The Grand Elder was surprised. He sized up Chang An for some time and asked in wonder, “A… a sub-beast?”
Chang An just looked down at his toes and said nothing. He didn’t know what these people were up to, so he dared not speak rashly. Hua Yi said that he had “encountered a major unpleasant change and was unwilling to meet people,” so Chang An went along with it and put on the appearance of being “unwilling to meet people.” Fortunately, it wasn’t too difficult. It could even be said that he was just acting as himself.
Hua Yi lightly put his arm around Chang An’s shoulder and said, “I’ll look after him, so no need to worry.”
The Grand Elder’s eyes were like daggers as he swept them over Chang An. Seeing that he was well-dressed and without the haggard look of one travelling, and that he was also good-looking, the Grand Elder immediately understood what was going on. With a nod of understanding, he said to Hua Yi: “Please.”
Hua Yi turned to Chang An and said, “Sit on my back.” Then he transformed into a giant beast and bent down.
Without bothering to be polite, Chang An sat on Hua Yi.
Beastmen were naturally strong. The weight of Chang An alone was nothing, but when he picked up that large package that had been poked on the ground, it was not so.
Hua Yi had spun a cocoon around himself5作茧自缚 – to get caught in a trap you made. He hadn’t expected this boy’s large saber to actually be a real guy that was not at all adulterated. Carrying a man and a saber on his back was like carrying a large, wild boar that could knock down a house.
However, in front of other people, Hua Yi couldn’t show it. He could only grit his teeth and carry him. He thought, In case of a fight, this little brat would have to give me some face and put in more effort in consideration of my suffering along the way.
Old Blind hesitated for a while. He knew of a more peculiar sub-beast, so he’d always felt that these sub-beasts were either complete wastes or perhaps some kind of monsters.
Having dealt with Hua Yi several times before, he knew that the mercenary Silver Fang was a scheming thing. He wouldn’t be so lustful while on a task that he’d pick up a stranger on the way. He was afraid that Hua Yi had picked up another Suo Laimu, so along the way, whether intentionally or not, he’d rub against Hua Yi, wanting to say a few words to the teenager.
Unexpectedly, Old Blind soon found that this teenager seemed to be mute. No matter how he wore out his lips to pester him, the other party was unresponsive, his eyelids drooping as he remained silent.
The young sub-beast’s face was pale, as if he had some kind of deficiency syndrome. He kept his head down, tossed and turned the overly large package in his hand, and then sat for a while. He seemed uncomfortable. His breathing was slightly fast, and he unconsciously reached out and pressed on his chest.
A sick ghost6病鬼 – A discriminatory way of referring to someone who’s always sick?
Old Blind had been playing the lute to a cow7对牛弹琴 – to preach to deaf ears; to talk over sb’s head for a long time but didn’t receive a word of response. He could only awkwardly step away. Chang An lowered his eyes, routinely took out a few herbs, and chewed them in his mouth.
He could feel that Old Blind was guarding against him, seemingly afraid of him. Although his words were ingratiating, there was some wary hidden motive within them. Chang An couldn’t understand such fear and scheming. Growing up, he had seldom experienced the feeling of “fear.” After thinking about it for a while, he seemed to have finally understood what Bei Shi meant by asking him to go down the mountain to meet people.
There were so many things down the mountain.
The bitterness of the herbal medicine slowly spread throughout his body, and the stuffy pain in his chest caused by the days of rushing had exhausted him. Bored stiff, Chang An simply curled up with his saber on Hua Yi’s back, and once again fell asleep fearlessly.