The four seasons in the northern continent were very distinct. After the long, hot summer and early autumn, leaves began to fall from the trees, and late autumn came in somberly.
It was a rough time. Winter was coming. The cool air from below would slowly rise to the surface, turning the air dry. Sometimes, the sun would shine brightly all over, and sometimes, the autumn wind was bleak1秋风萧瑟 – Can also refer to the sound of autumn wind blowing through the bare trees; it can also be used to describe a desolate and sad atmosphere.
In the mountains, at this time of the year, Chang An would lessen his activities. Even if he had changed into clothes for autumn and winter, and even if he sat quietly and didn’t move at all, his chest would still feel stuffy. Come the rainy season, it would be even more difficult. It was like he couldn’t suck in any air into his chest. It would linger in his throat for a moment, then drift away. It always made him feel suffocated.
Standing in front of Suo Laimu’s Tree God, Hua Yi silently raised his head and then lowered it again. He stooped down to pick up a leaf that had been scraped by a sharp weapon and only had veins left. His eyelids twitched for a moment, but in the end, he was helpless.
All those leaves on the ground had been piled together, and on top of it, a sweet-smelling incense was inserted. It was most likely that, this morning, Suo Laimu had been paying homage to this Tree God-gexia2阁下 – your distinguished self; your majesty; sire who had gone bald this year.
The envoys of the other tribes, who had said they would arrive today, were never seen, not even a shadow. Hua Yi sent several people to check along the sides of the road to see if they had encountered any mishaps. Then as he strolled around with a heavy heart3心事重重 – to have a lot of worries in your mind; to be preoccupied with troubles, he finally arrived here. He hoped to see Chang An as he waited, talk a bit with that little cub, and let him train with his blade somewhere else and not mess with the soft persimmons4 软柿子 – a pushover… (I think HY is referring to the Tree God.).
But he waited for a long time, and Chang An didn’t come.
For Chang An, eating, sleeping, and training with the blade were of utmost importance. Everything else was dispensable. These days, while living in the Giant Mountain tribe, it could be said that he had been training with the blade, regardless of rain or shine. Hua Yi didn’t know what had been holding him back, so he decided to personally check it out himself.
There was a scent of licorice root all over Chang An’s house. Chang An never closed the door, so Hua Yi just lifted the curtain and went right in.
The young slave wasn’t around, and Chang An was sitting in front of a small, exquisite furnace. Of course, when Hua Yi saw it was getting cold, he was the one who secured for him that little furnace. A small furnace was a good thing. One could carry it to bed, and it could burn special charcoal. It could also be used even when covered by the quilt. It didn’t produce smoke, and if one were to sniff closely, they could smell a fragrance. And so long as the fire wasn’t put out, it was said to last for two days and two nights. It was unlike the kitchen pit in the room, for which you had to get up in the middle of the night just to start it again.
These things were sold by travelling merchants, and the price was very high. The charcoal fire inside was also very precious.
When Hua Yi came in, he helplessly looked at this rare and precious little furnace. At present, Chang An, who couldn’t tell between good and bad, had put the little furnace on top of the table and was using it to cook soup.
Chang An didn’t even raise his head when he saw him coming in. He was still very much focused on slicing a neatly washed taro egg fruit5芋蛋果 – It literally says “taro egg fruit” in the raws, and I’m pretty sure Priest is making this up coz I only get pictures of milk tea when I search for it sdfghjkl. And since “taro egg” already sounds weird enough, I decided to omit the “fruit” word in future mentions of it. Besides, neither taro nor an egg is an actual fruit… . The skin of the taro egg had already been meticulously scraped off. Chang An was using a small razor blade as long as an index finger to slice the pulp. Every time the blade came down, it cut off an even slice as thin as a cicada’s wings. The taro egg slices fell from his hand one by one, and they soon filled an entire plate.
Hua Yi couldn’t help but stretch out his hand to pinch a slice of it. However, that slice was actually so thin that it didn’t wait for him at all before getting accidentally crushed halfway.
He couldn’t help asking, “Is this for eating?”
Chang An nodded.
When people eat taro eggs, they just peel them and directly throw them into the kitchen pit. They’ll casually use a poker to stir it, and then they take it out and sprinkle rock salt over it before taking a bite.
Hua Yi, who had never heard of this way of eating it, blurted out, “Have you eaten your fill?”
“I’m training my hand. After training, I can eat in passing and avoid wasting time.”
As Chang An said this, his hands were so quick that one couldn’t see clearly when a taro egg as round as a ball was already done peeling. He smoothly6轻车熟路 – Literally, to drive a lightweight chariot on a familiar road (idiom); fig. to do sth routinely and with ease; a walk in the park picked up the second one, and then slices as inconceivably thin as snowflakes fell from his hand one by one.
Hua Yi didn’t know which otherworldly master7世外 and 高人 – 世外 means “beyond the mundane world,” and 高人 means “man of noble character” or “man of superior attainments.” taught Chang An his blade techniques, and how he could have had such novel training methods. He set his eyes on that little furnace, and it made his molars ache. Pointing to the bowl on top of it that had a green or yellow kind of soup, he asked, “What is that thing? Insecticide?”
“Herbal medicine,” said Chang An. “I drink it.”
Hua Yi was startled when he heard it, but then turned grim. Raising his hand, he pinched Chang An’s chin and leaned closer to inspect his complexion. However, Chang An’s face was still the same8几十年如一日 – What one does for decades is what one does everyday… This expression is often used to refer to one’s persistence. In Chang An’s case, I guess he’s still as deadpan as always hahaha, always looking like a weak person who had just recovered from a serious illness. Even after staring for a long time, he couldn’t see the difference. He asked a bit anxiously, “What illness do you have?”
Chang An’s eyes were forced to shift, but the small blade in his hand still seemed alive as it shuttled between his fingers. The spine of the blade rolled over his index and middle fingers, and then fell between the most inflexible fingers of his hand. That taro egg turned over in his palm, and in the blink of an eye, three whole rings of skin had been peeled off in one breath9一气呵成 – to do something at one go; to flow smoothly. Let alone taking a break, he didn’t falter for even a bit.
Chang An shook his head and threw Hua Yi’s hand off. Then he used his small blade to put those fragile taro egg strips onto the plate and said, “My shifu said I was born with it, that I got it from my mother.”
Illnesses brought from the mother’s womb were all serious ailments which could never be cured. Hua Yi was taken aback and he asked, “What are the symptoms?”
He wanted to suggest to Chang An to try to find A’Ye and let her have a look, but then Chang An glanced at the herbal medicine that was more or less cooked, picked it up, and then drank it all in one gulp. He wiped off the greenish smear around his mouth, smacked his lips twice, then frowned and complained at the giver of the furnace, “It doesn’t have any symptoms—This damn shit is not easy to use. I’ve been cooking all afternoon, but it hasn’t boiled at all and it’s still cold.”
Not boiled… That froth of herbs and unboiled water, though undercooked, was drunk to the last drop. Hua Yi looked at him for a while and didn’t know what to say. Then at last, he got it that this guy wasn’t spouting nonsense.
“That’s because that ‘shit’ is supposed to keep the quilt warm. It’s not for cooking grass mud soup,” Hua Yi said in a quiet voice. “You’re just a country bumpkin who specializes in spoiling the good stuff.”
However, country bumpkin Chang An walked a different path from him10道不同不相为谋 – Literally, persons who walk different paths cannot make plans together; to go separate ways (idiom). Using a small stick with a long handle, he took out the charcoal fire from the little furnace and then blew out the small flickering flame in two breaths. The scent was a bit strong that Chang An had to pinch his nose, turn his head around and sneeze. After that, he discontentedly scooped out a lump of grease from the side and then roughly lathered the “delicate charcoal fire” with it. When that delicate flame met the grease, it immediately burned high and strong, melting the grease into hot drops of oil. When those drops of oil fell on those extremely thin slices of taro egg fruits, the slices immediately curled up from the heat, giving off a subtle fragrance.
However, Chang An soon lost his patience and loosened his grip on the charcoal fire, throwing it to the plate. With a bang, it evoked a burst of sparks. After a while, the grease was burned out and the fire was finally extinguished. Chang An once again clamped up the dying, noble little charcoal fire, then casually dumped it at the edge of the table. He wiped it twice, then conveniently threw it back into that useless11 中看不中用 – Pleasant to the eye, but has no use. (Lizonka cries for Hua Yi) furnace.
On the plate, all that was left were those slices of taro eggs that were roasted black—This was truly an eye-opener for Hua Yi.
Chang An politely pushed the plate forward and asked Hua Yi, “Do you want to eat?”
Hua Yi took a glance at this pile of black repulsive things and shook his head, politely refusing his kindness.
But Chang An didn’t even wait for him to finish shaking his head, lest he changed his mind. He pulled the plate back and directly ate from it with his hands. He ate very fast, and a layer of black ash soon emerged around the sides of his mouth, looking like he had grown a mustache as he was still very much eating with gusto.
Hua Yi’s heart was consequently put down—He had seen Luo Tong’s son before, and he remembered what that little guy used to be like. He was like a little paper doll, truly looking like someone who carried an illness from the womb. He couldn’t hold or touch anything, and other people couldn’t speak loudly when beside him. Otherwise, he’d break when the wind so much as blew.
How could he be the same as this brat?
Hua Yi’s lust made him unable to see it. And now, Chang An had made himself look like this. Hua Yi stretched out his hand, and although rude, he gently wiped off the ashes from Chang An’s face. He thought with regret, The beauty’s skin is white in vain.
At this time, three people suddenly burst in together from outside and said, “The people sent out have returned. They…”
The one who spoke was Suo Laimu. As soon as he rushed in, he happened to see Hua Yi holding Chang An’s face in one hand and using his thumb to smear something on it. As if someone had pinched his neck, Suo Laimu said “aiyo,” darted his eyes away, lifted his foot, and turned around to leave with an awkward laugh. “It’s nothing, it’s nothing. Not a big deal at all, and nothing urgent. Hahaha, nothing urgent. I don’t want to be a bother, and I’ll scram at once—What are you doing here? You two are leaving with me.”
There were two people behind him. One was Lu Quan, and he was exactly the kind of person who liked to make wild conjectures. The other person was a tall and thin man—one of his arms was bare, showing how he was actually a beastman with beast marks. However, this beastman grew to look like a bamboo pole swaying in the wind. It was really bizarre. This was obviously Lu Quan’s xiongdi, Shan Xi.
It seemed like Hua Yi realized that his actions didn’t look decent in other people’s eyes, so he drew his hands back, pretended nothing had happened, and sat down in all seriousness. However, his actions only made it seem more inconspicuous. So he started cursing at Suo Laimu: “You get out of here! Just wiping someone’s face already makes you think of a lot of dirty things. Why don’t you have a god more prominent than a pile of broken leaves to show up and purify your filthy soul?”
Suo Laimu grinned and didn’t refute it, his whole person surrounded by a vulgar aura.
Hua Yi asked, “What did the people who came back say?”
“An accident happened at the mountain pass.” This time, Suo Laimu briefly explained, only hearing him say, “There was a small earthquake a few days ago. Since we didn’t feel anything over here, then it shouldn’t be serious over there. But who would’ve thought that this little bit of shaking was enough to cause a landslide. The water up the mountain overflowed, pushing some boulders and sent them rolling down. Several tribes suffered from the disaster. They are anxious and frightened12惴惴不安 – to be on tenterhooks and have no time for other things. Now, they are planning to migrate and they don’t have time to make trouble with us.”
Migrating a tribe was a big thing. On a continent densely covered with forests, how could it be easy to find a place to settle in? They couldn’t make a living in a very poor place, and many pairs of eyes would be keeping an eye on fertile land, waiting for a chance to grab it. How could such a trivial calamity urge them to leave?
Hua Yi went to the point, asking, “So what’s going on?”
Shan Xi interjected and said slowly, “I heard that the Great Elder of the White Wing tribe looked at the sky13天象 – meteorological or astronomical phenomenon (e.g. rainbow or eclipse), but in this case, I guess it’s referring to astrology and saw the scene of countless stars falling. He came to the conclusion that this plain would soon be shrouded in disaster, that they couldn’t continue living here.”
Hua Yi scoffed. “Nonsense, the Twelve Gods are all dead. How could they get the stars in the sky to manage the affairs of the earth? You tell me what that person said.”
Shan Xi didn’t mind and continued to speak unhurriedly14 慢条斯理 – very slow and unperturbed; leisurely, “Apart from this, the Great Elder also listened to the sounds of the earth. He said that something was coming in large numbers, at least thousands and tens of thousands of them, and that they were heading to the mountain pass. In not more than ten days to half a month, they would reach the White Wing tribe. Such a commotion is no small thing, and the ones coming are definitely not good. I’m afraid they could trample the entire White Wing tribe under their feet.”