Chapter 35: Ground Fire

A’Ye carefully washed Chang An’s wounds, and then gave him some medicine to stop the bleeding.

Although girls generally wished to marry strong and courageous warriors, they would always prefer getting close to beautiful, young men.

When she first saw that large and bloody blade in Chang An’s hand, A’Ye was a bit frightened. But when she caught sight of Chang An knitting his brows, she was suddenly no longer afraid and she attended to him with utmost care.

At this moment, she saw Chang An lowering his head and procuring a herbal leaf medicine from his arms and then stuffing it into his mouth.

A’Ye had been learning about herbal medicine ever since she was a child. At a glance, she immediately knew what it was. She quickly snatched it, and then frowned. “This is a Shuttlemelon1梭瓜 – Another thing Priest made up for this novel. A Shuttlemelon keeps the blood, well, “shuttling” lmao. 瓜 generally means “melon,” but it can also refer to other “melon-like” fruits/vegetables like papaya or a gourd leaf. I’m still trying to stop the bleeding, how can you eat this?”

Chang An blinked. “I eat this all the time.”

A’Ye put the leaf aside and continued to carefully sprinkle medicine on his wound. She said casually, “You can’t eat it now. The Shuttlemelon leaf will make your blood flow faster, and you won’t stop bleeding. Do you want to be bled out clean?”

However, after saying this, her hand suddenly paused. With the oil lamp, A’Ye bent down and carefully looked at Chang An’s face. She asked hesitantly, “Why are you eating the leaf of the Shuttlemelon? Do you… Well, do you have some kind of heart problem?”

Chang An was stunned for a moment, then suddenly started to look at her differently. It was his first time meeting a “normal” doctor and, as expected, she was a hundred times better than that good-for-nothing Bei Shi.

“Looking at your face, I can tell,” A’Ye bandaged him, wiped the blood and dust from his face with a soft towel, and said, “A man of your age should be full of blood. The shifu who taught me about herbal medicine said that if you don’t look ruddy, then it’s probably because your blood vessels are too thin. The blood can’t flow out, and your chest would feel tight and painful.”

When Hua Yi heard this from the sidelines, he was alarmed and asked, “You have this problem?”

Before Chang An could answer, Hua Yi turned to A’Ye. “A’Ye-guniang, if the blood can’t flow from his heart, then wouldn’t he be like Luo Tong’s son? How can he still carry such a large blade?”

A’Ye suddenly became uncertain when he asked. Hearing this, she stared blankly, hesitating. “Maybe… It’s not entirely not flowing out? Probably just less than others? Hang on, I’ll examine him properly after I tie up his wound.”

Chang An was most afraid of this kind of hesitant look. The moment A’Ye was uncertain, he could see in her the Bei Shi in those days, carrying a large handful of herbs. He had that hesitant look, not knowing which herbs were of use and which could harm him. All of a sudden, Chang An felt his hair stand on end.

He was truly afraid of dying in the hands of these bastard quacks.

Hua Yi half-knelt, and in all seriousness, observed Chang An’s complexion. Very probingly, he asked, “What does it feel like when the blood doesn’t flow out from the chest? Is it any different from others?”

Chang An thought about it, and it seemed like there really was no difference.

Hua Yi smiled. In his heart, he thought of how his xiao xiongdi was this alive and kicking. How could anything be wrong with him? He really scared himself.

At this time, Ka Zuo strode in, dragging along a huge leaf. On top of the leaf was a big, translucent insect. His footsteps were somewhat anxious as he walked towards Hua Yi. “Chief, look, even the WanNian Worm is trying to run out the woods! It’s also going south.”

The WanNian2万年虫 – WanNian (万年) means “ten thousand years” Worm was a kind of animal that hid deep under the ground. It was born slow, and it was said that, unless a catastrophe were to happen, this thing wouldn’t move for even ten thousand years; hence, its name.

For the WanNian Worm to run out of the forest, what could it mean?

Hua Yi stood up and poked the fat worm’s fleshy body with a finger.

“Yo, so even you are out of the den. Probably not a mistake then,” he muttered to himself, and then asked Ka Zuo, “Do you smell that?”

Ka Zuo asked, “Stinky?”

“Suo Laimu said that this is the smell of Ground Fire,” Hua Yi whispered. “How I wish he was also talking nonsense on that.”

A’Ye was dumbfounded, and so was Ka Zuo. He was a brave and peerless man, but in his mind, the word “Ground Fire” only existed in legends—Over hundreds and thousands of feet under the ground lay the Devil’s Land, which would spout out fire that smelled of the decaying wings of the devils. The already dead True God wouldn’t be able to stop it from exploding. The blue sky would lose its color, the meadows would lose its life, and all creatures in the forest would run away. There would be no life left in the place where the Ground Fire passes.

Hua Yi lowered his eyes, and from his expression, Ka Zuo still couldn’t get a clue. It was as if, whether Ground Fire or Sky Fire, it would be no big deal.

Hua Yi said, “Tell everyone to pack their things immediately. Food, drinking water, herbs, and weapons should be prioritized. Betas can also be brought. As for other useless things, don’t be loath to part with them; there’ll be more of them. Then gather as fast as you can and listen to Suo Laimu; he knows where we should hide. 

“Let the sub-beasts carry things on their back, and let the women take care of the children and the elderly. Call Lu Quan and Suo Laimu, and let them take ten people each to lead the way. The doctors will follow right after them. As for you and me, pick another twenty brothers to stay in the back and bring up the rear. The rest of the people will be escorts along the sides of the road. If any beast dares to break in, then kill it on the spot so we can have meat to eat.”

He paused for a moment, then added, “Tell them that, if they come across people from other tribes, they can let them in. Just say that I agreed—Settling scores is not that important. Now is not the time for people to fight with each other.”

Ka Zuo looked up at him. At this time, the Chief’s calm could bring courage to all. Looking at this man, he suddenly felt that the Ground Fire was not invincible.

Hua Yi suddenly grinned, then placed that wriggling WanNian Worm on A’Ye’s table. With a sinister smile, he said, “Come, A’Ye-guniang, I’m giving you this worm to relieve your boredom.”

A’Ye was known for being afraid of bugs. She immediately jumped up in fright, shrieking and shrinking to hide behind Ka Zuo.

The only one left sitting there was Chang An, who was staring wide-eyed at that WanNian Worm. The boy curiously reached out his finger to poke it, and with a “pop,” the WanNian Worm met his poke by blowing out bubbles from the top of its head.

Hua Yi laughed and said, “This thing is rare. I heard that it can be used as medicine after being dried in the sun.”

No one had ever bullied a doctor like this. A’Ye couldn’t bear it, and she said loudly, “You can keep it, roast it, and eat it yourself!”

Ka Zuo shook his head and led his woman away—A’Ye still had a lot of herbs to organize.

With no one else around, Hua Yi bent down and turned more serious. He asked Chang An, “I can also see that you don’t look too good. Tell me the truth. Does the wound hurt? Can you fight or not?”

Chang An supported himself up with his blade. The wound on his shoulder had been bandaged and the blood on his face had been wiped clean. He looked as if nothing had happened to him.  He didn’t reply with a “can” or “cannot,” but simply said, “Let’s go. I’ll bring up the rear with you.”

Hua Yi suddenly felt a kind of warmth poking in his chest. That feeling was difficult to describe in words, but it felt reassuring. It was like when he had gone back to that night they were having a melee in the mountain pass. Knives, spears, swords, and halberds were all around, but when he turned around, he found that someone had been following behind him all along—it was that kind of feeling.

The wild animals in the forest all ran towards the same direction—to the high mountains in the south. After they counted all the people, Hua Yi, Ka Zuo, and Chang An, together with twenty strong, robust, young beastmen, set off on their journey. Among them was also the little slave Luda.

The little slave was a young beastman. In less than two months after his shackles were removed, he had gotten a little fat and had grown 7 or 8 inches taller. He had never drunk orchid water, and though he’d been doing rough work all year round, he was never short of a bite to eat. So although he looked like he hadn’t developed much, he was actually quite healthy. At the very least, he could silently keep up with this group of fast-moving people.

Along the way, they encountered many dead animals. Some were killed by the people in front of them, and some were trampled to death. Chang An looked back and found that the WanNian Worms, who weren’t able to hide, were still struggling to climb up. Climbing ever so slowly, they were soon left behind. Looking at them from a higher place, one could see that these large worms were stacked upon each other, like countless bubbles on the ground softly surging to the south.

“The WanNian Worms live several feet deep under the ground.” Chang An heard Ka Zuo say in a low voice. “My father said that if you see the WanNian Worms drilling out the ground, it means that there’ll be a big earthquake, which is always regarded as a bad omen. However, even with a big earthquake, only one or two of them would climb out. I… I have never seen so many WanNian Worms in my life. What is going on?”

Ka Zuo had broad shoulders and a thick back. At first glance, he was practically a bit taller than Hua Yi. Standing next to him, one could feel the oppressive power of his body and his brutality. People couldn’t help but want to get out of the way. However, Chang An took a look at him, and then looked at the WanNian Worms covering the foot of the mountain. He suddenly felt that even Ka Zuo seemed small. Not mentioning people, even the double-headed snakes running amuck on Yufeng Mountain seemed small here. 

Chang An didn’t say a word. He felt like he was seven again, bringing a broken razor to the top of Yufeng Mountain and encountering that boned-wing giant bird and that double-headed snake as they fought for their lives—he was small and weak.

But after all was said and done, these “small and weak” people represented the strongest fighting strength of the Giant Mountain tribe. They hurried along the road, and even the most ferocious beasts would bypass them. Only occasionally would a few of them mindlessly rush in, and as a result, they’d be cut down in one strike.

They barely stopped to rest, and after walking less than half the way, they caught up with the rest of the tribe.

Suo Laimu took the people higher and higher, and they ran into the refugees from several tribes scattered here and there. All of them were accepted under Hua Yi’s order, and this time, no one raised any objection. Whether the matters were big or small, Hua Yi had the final say.

People walked the whole night without stopping to rest once. Hua Yi let the old, weak, sick and disabled sit on the backs of transformed beastmen.

The sky should already be bright, but thick clouds covered the sun, making the surroundings look like it was night. Lightning and thunder rang the whole time, making people’s ears numb, yet not a single drop of rain fell.

They went all the way to the peak of the mountain, and at last, Suo Laimu up ahead stopped. All the exhausted people gave a low cry at the same time. Unable to move anymore, they collapsed listlessly on the ground and rested against each other. 

Chang An subconsciously wanted to reach for the herbs and eat it, but remembering the doctor’s advice, the hand stretching out to his sleeves stopped yet again. He really wanted to lie sprawling out on his back and sleep in the dark, but after hesitating, he didn’t even sit. Instead, he embraced his blade and leaned against a large rock.

He was afraid that once he relaxed, he would never get up again.

Someone set up a big wok and stewed some game meat from the roadside, added with some refreshing herbal medicine. Hua Yi brought a bowl to Chang An, only to see him cup it in his hands for a long time, brows frowning hard as if he was gonna swallow medicine, before drinking it slowly, mouthful by mouthful.

This young man had a large appetite and could eat fast. Nothing had ever troubled Chang An’s appetite. In Hua Yi’s impression, Chang An never seemed to have eaten so refinedly. 

The broth was boiled deliciously, but Chang An couldn’t taste it. As soon as the warm soup entered his stomach, the stomach seemed to be turned over, and he nearly vomited out several times. The smell of blood filled his throat, yet he swallowed it forcefully—He absolutely had no idea what he had eaten. 

But he had to bear it anyway. Chang An believed he still hadn’t fulfilled his duties.

Suddenly, Hua Yi caught his wrist and reached out to wipe his forehead. In the end, he wiped away a handful of cold sweat. He rushed to ask, “What’s wrong?”

Chang An didn’t have any extra energy to waste on talking, so he just shook his head, swallowed the last mouthful of the broth as if he were  tortured, and closed his eyes. His mind was blank as he waited for his rolling stomach to settle down.

He mustn’t vomit, especially not for many times. After vomiting two or three times, he could collapse. At that time, he’ll be completely out of strength. He had experienced it before.

At this moment, a new round of tremors came from the depths of the earth.

Someone suddenly cried out in alarm and pointed to the north in a daze.

People couldn’t help but stand up, yet in no more than a moment, they couldn’t help but kneel down again.

The view from a high place was bright and clear. In the distance, several peaks suddenly and simultaneously burst into blazing flames. Then the flames rolled down, as if the earth was torn apart and boiling blood came flowing out. That movement overshadowed the thunder and the lightning, and clamors immediately rose from all around, the sound of howling incessantly spreading to thousands of miles. The sky sank into darkness, looking like it would never light up again and that the entire world had become the territory of the devil.

Thunder struck an old tree, and in autumn, with not much moisture in the air, it soon ignited into flames. The wild animals that hadn’t ran away in time were caught in the tongue of fire. And perhaps because they were too far away, or maybe their voices were too weak, even their final howls of grief were imperceptible.

In that moment when ten thousand beasts wailed, everyone, without exception, held their breaths.

All those tyrant beasts with great ambitions were extinguished here. Before that monstrous Ground Fire, they turned into flying ashes. Heaven and earth was so vast that, until now, no one could see where those beasts would end. Just standing on this small mountain peak and thinking like this filled people with heaviness and a stifling kind of despair.

[liz_box title=”Translator’s Corner” box_color=”#fed7de” title_color=”#5e4c4f” class=”tlbox” id=”tlnotes”]Lizonka: And it only gets heavier from here…[/liz_box]

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