Like a warrior boy who longed to be strong, every time Luda saw Chang An’s blade, his eyes would shine with a light of great desire. He knew that he was a slave, and that he had no hope of ever touching these kinds of things in his life, so he never talked about this deep-seated desire of his. He simply observed Chang An eagerly, as if he could remember a move or two by doing so.
Carrying Suo Laimu’s scimitar, Chang An felt that his wrist was soft.
Hua Yi had taken his blade and told him to rest, but even if he hadn’t taken it, Chang An may not have been strong enough to carry on with his old work.
Inspiration suddenly flashed in his mind, and he somehow recalled the scene of Hua Yi killing that person while saving A’Ye in the outskirts. Chang An arched his back a bit, the edge of the scimitar touching the ground as he focused and tried to remember Hua Yi’s actions.
The key to a silent blade was in the breathing. While breathing, the person’s center of gravity and the hand holding the blade adjust to an extremely harmonious and imperceptible state. All movements would be soft and tranquil1煞气 – the characters here can also mean “to vent out one’s anger (on someone innocent)” or “to take it out on something.” So the meaning here is like “hiding one’s killing intent.”, and only when the blade was sent out would it suddenly speed up. Gathering all the power and exploding it at that moment, the enemy would die before they could even sense the wind from the blade.
The giant beast of the ghost tribe bit Lu Quan’s shoulder, and the two rolled out together, almost knocking over the cauldron that the people used to cook the broth. At this time, Lu Quan slashed down his beast claw. Feeling pain, the enemy jumped up and pushed Lu Quan away. The two men separated briefly, panting.
When the giant beast retreated, he felt that he had hit something. It was pitch-black, and he didn’t know what was there. He also didn’t hear a person’s voice. As he was about to turn around, he felt someone stick to his back as lightly as a feather. The giant beast was creeped out, and he snapped his head back, but he didn’t see who it was. And before that extremely shallow breathing could reach his ears, a scimitar was sent into his neck from the bottom up.
After that, Chang An grasped the handle of the scimitar with both hands, and then lifted it up grimly using his arm strength. The giant beast’s head went off, and it rolled on the ground, dying the legs of Chang An’s pants red.
No one noticed where he had come from, and no one had noticed his movements.
Lu Quan was stunned—when he was still a mercenary, he was always following Hua Yi. They had done many life-and-death missions together, so at a glance, he recognized this kind of near-assasination tactic. It was exactly the same as what Hua Yi often used.
Of the three giant beasts that took advantage of the chaos to mount a sneak attack, the most ferocious one was cut down by Chang An. The other was kicked off the cliff during the fight, while the other was quickly caught by the guards. The battle on the top of the mountain was soon settled.
Chang An had borrowed someone else’s blade, yet like usual, he meticulously cleaned every groove. Then he strolled back to Suo Laimu and returned it to him.
Suo Laimu leaned on one side and angrily ordered2颐指气使 – lit. to order people by pointing the chin (idiom); to signal orders by facial gesture, “Tie it for me.”
Chang An crouched down obediently and tied a proper knot to bind his belt.
At this time, Suo Laimu heard the young man say: “Actually, I understood what you meant. You’re right. A sword cannot be like an axe that can chop firewood endlessly. But regarding this, it also has no reason to hide in a scabbard during a battle. You don’t need a blade, so you don’t understand—By then, it wouldn’t be a blade. It would just be broken copper and rotten iron.”
Suo Laimu didn’t expect that this simple-minded boy could actually say such reasonable and well-founded words. He was immediately stunned when he heard it, and then he heard Chang An explaining it again for fear that he wouldn’t understand. Pointing to the scimitar on Suo Laimu’s waist, he used himself as an example: “It’s just like that junk of yours. It’s not good at all. I had to force the blade out ‘cause its handle is crooked. What’s more, you never sharpen it. I can see it won’t be long before it rusts. It would be even more useless, and hitting someone with something like a stick wouldn’t hurt at all.”
The corners of Suo Laimu’s eyes were twitching. He had lived this long, and only now did he finally understand what it meant to look cheap and sell well3便宜还卖乖 – I can’t quite explain it, but the gist is that Suo Laimu feels like Chang An is just “pretending to be dumb” when he’s actually not—this kind of natural shamelessness was practically even more than all of Hua Yi’s acquired and cultivated shamelessness that was already at its peak.
After Chang An delivered his profound insights, he honestly returned to the place where A’Ye was taking care of him. Luo Tong’s son had been crying over there when he saw Chang An unfeelingly chop off a man’s head. Seeing Chang An coming over, his eyes went wide open in fear that he forgot how to cry.
However, Luda refused to let him go. He poked out his head from behind Chang An, and teared open the corners of his mouth to pull a big scary face. Luo Tong’s son was so scared that he choked on a sob. Immediately after, he started coughing, his face turning red all over.
Chang An closed his eyes to compose himself. There was a trace of distress on his face, but out of sight, out of mind.
On the other side of the mountain, the battle also didn’t have a bit of suspense. They had won beautifully. Only three comrades were lost and a few others were slightly injured on their side.
But no matter how small the loss was, in the end, it was still a death.
Unlike in the past, this time, every person who could fight was highly skilled. Hua Yi ordered the people to bring the three dead comrades before him. His eyes gloomily swept over them, and then he thrust the saber on the ground. He brought his fingers to the space between his eyebrows, to his lips, then to his chest, and murmured something in his mouth—This was bidding farewell to the dead in the tribe, hoping their souls will not linger, and hoping they’ll rise all the way to a place where there was no sorrow and no pain.
After completing these actions, he showed no mercy, saying to Shan Xi: “You don’t need to keep any of the people caught. Kill them on the spot. After a while, take them to the hillside and stab their bodies again to make sure that no one’s faking their death.”
Shan Xi complied, but just as he was about to turn around and leave, a baby’s cry suddenly sounded from behind them. Everyone turned their heads at nearly the same time.
A’Ye let out a long sigh. Her hands were covered with blood and dirt, but she looked unconcerned, sweating all over her body and revealing a bright smile. With the help of a few older women, she wiped the dirt off the newborn baby. She picked up the baby who was red all over, looking like a big wrinkled mouse, and awkwardly carried him in her arms.
Those tense, ferocious warriors seemed to have all been frightened by the crying. For a long while, no one spoke, and the killing intent that pervaded them miraculously retreated.
Someone suddenly burst out and yelled, “Jila, that’s your son!”
Standing beside Hua Yi was a young man half covered with blood. He looked at the man who was shouting and could hardly understand his words.
Hua Yi raised his foot and gave him a push. He said with a smile, “You have a son, so what the fuck are you still doing here in a daze?”
That young man broke out of his stupor and frantically ran over. In one breath, he had reached A’Ye, but then he didn’t know what to do. Seeing that the child’s dad had come, A’Ye stretched out her hands to give the child to him. However, the young man seemed to be frightened. He jumped back in a panic, but since he didn’t jump so well, he stepped on the edge of a big stone and fell firmly on the ground.
Having only seen his son for the first time, this old man who couldn’t hold him instead prostrated in admiration.
From the distance, Luda looked at the little baby who was surrounded by the crowd, and suddenly there was an ineffable look on his face. He looked a bit disdainful, but at the same time, envious.
As soon as he turned around, however, he found that Chang An had actually opened his eyes sometime ago and had been looking at him.
Luda hurriedly lowered his head and poked his fingers in the dirt on the ground.
Chang An suddenly asked him, “Where’s your A’die?”
Luda froze for a moment, and said, “Dead.”
“Oh,” replied Chang An. After a while, he seemed to have thought of something and said, “I also used to have an A’die, but we weren’t related by blood.”
Luda, who rarely spoke to him, looked up again and asked, “Where is he?”
“Also dead,” said Chang An. “He was killed.”
Luda was stunned.
Then in the blink of an eye, Chang An seemed to have forgotten about this topic. He said, “What are you always looking at my blade for? Do you want to learn it?”
Luda was taken aback, not expecting to be found out even though he thought he’d been looking secretly enough.
For a moment, he faltered and couldn’t speak. He was partly afraid and partly ashamed. But then Chang An stood up, looked down at the slave and said, “You can learn if you want. I can teach you.”
Luda’s eyes widened, but before he could react, Chang An had already left—He had never seen a newborn baby before. It was rare of him to want to join in the fun and enrich his experience.
Luo Tong’s son at the side had been listening to them eagerly. He tried to speak several times, but his face turned red, unable to muster up the courage. It was not until Chang An had gone far that his courage finally came, and he called out to him with a voice that was like the buzzing of a mosquito: “I… I also want to learn…”
Facing him, Luda’s face changed at once, and he snorted haughtily. “You want to learn? You want to go to heaven?”
With tears in his eyes, Luo Tong’s son looked at him aggrievedly. Luda looked around, and when he found that no one was paying attention to him, he jumped up, pushed Luo Tong’s son who was a head taller than him, and then left triumphantly.
The next day, Hua Yi ordered them to pack their bags and go down the other side of the mountain to continue on their journey
On the tenth day after they set out on the road, at high noon, Suo Laimu, who was leading the way, suddenly stopped in his steps and said, “We’re going back.”
His words were quickly passed on from those in the front all the way to the rear. Hua Yi, who was at the back of the line, hurriedly ran from the end to the head of the team. From afar, he shouted at Suo Laimu, “What’s going on? What demon moth4幺蛾子 – It’s a slang from Northern China, which means “creating trouble out of nothing” or “giving bad ideas.” So essentially, Hua Yi is asking why the heck they’re going back when nothing has happened. is making noise?”
Suo Laimu looked solemn and said briefly, “It’s going to rain, and there was a cave in the place we just passed by. Now, listen to me. Immediately take the people back and hide in that cave for shelter. The faster, the better!”
“This deceitful weather. It’s got nothing to do all day, so it just tosses people around for fun. If Laozi grows a few zhang taller, then sooner or later, I’ll stab a hole in it.” Hua Yi sighed after he spoke. Making a vulgar gesture towards the sky, he said in a loud voice, “Beastmen! Every robust one of you, transform into a beast for me. Those who can’t run fast can ride on their backs. Don’t hold us back. Now hurry and retreat!”
The people were in a lot of doubt, but their trust in this new Chief these past days was already reaching the peak. Nobody came out to question, and they all followed his orders at once. Practically running at a speed as if they were fleeing from a calamity, they went to the cave that Suo Laimu spoke of.
The cave was quite big, and it had a lot of traces left by men. The tribe around here probably used it before to get through the winter. There was more than enough space to hold the entire tribe. It’s just that, nobody knew where the original tribe had fled to.
As the Shengun had said, a moment after they settled, rain poured down heavily.
Suo Laimu stood at the entrance of the cave and let out a long sigh of relief.
“Why are we running?” A’Ye came down from Ka Zuo and asked in a low voice.
“This is rain brought by the Ground Fire.” Ka Zuo returned to his human form. He was tall and burly, but he spoke very gently to his woman. He explained, “When I was a child, I heard my father say that the rain will carry the resentment of the vengeful ghosts below, and one cannot touch it.”
A’Ye shuddered. “What will happen if you are touched by it?”
Ka Zuo couldn’t tell. He just shook his head with a dignified expression.
Everyone was stranded like this in the cave. The road ahead was precarious, and they all felt jittery.
Suo Laimu had described many terrifying scenes, and this was just the beginning. What would’ve happened if he hadn’t noticed something wrong along the way and didn’t ask them to go back? Or what if they didn’t happen to pass through a cave and had no place to hide in?
Where were the former owners of this cave? Were they dead or alive?
A’Ye thought of this and was frightened.
What would happen in the future? Did the True God really die cleanly and no longer cared about them?
An invisible enemy cannot be defeated, and fear was a human instinct. For a while, no one spoke, except for Jila’s newly-born child who had woken up. Who knew what provoked him, but he suddenly started crying softly.
After ten days, the baby’s face was no longer crumpled. He was a little beastman boy, chubby and endearing. Hua Yi frowned in his heart. Knowing that they couldn’t go on like this, he pretended not to pay attention to the depression of the people around him, bent down, looked at the baby and asked, “Yo, why are you crying?”
The baby blinked at him with moist eyes in his mother’s arms.
Hua Yi was awkward for a while. He stretched out a finger and poke the baby on the face. Making faces at him, he said, “Smile.”
Don’t know if this baby was hurt when poked or was frightened by Hua Yi’s faces, his small round face quickly turned from white to red, his face twisting as he let out: “Wa—”
Hua Yi: “……”
“Ai, you don’t like me,” Hua Yi chuckled, then raised his voice and said, “Alright guys, we’re all in hiding anyway. No one is injured or dead. I think this ghost rain is gonna pour down for several days. Although we can’t go out, we can eat and drink. You might as well take advantage of today’s fuss and give this guy an aborning rite!”