When he was young, Chang An was raised by Zhe Yan as a wild child who liked to run up the mountain all day long. And since Zhe Yan had an embarrassing status, whenever there was an activity in the tribe, everyone would automatically forget about them. Later, Chang An followed Bei Shi. Bei Shi drank too much and didn’t even remember what he was called, so don’t even mention the 3 festivals, 5 days, and 24 solar terms13 festivals refer to the three major festivals: Spring festival (Lunar New Year), Dragon Boat Festival, and Mid Autumn Festival.
Not sure what 5 days is referring to, but it’s probably the five days of the working week.
24 solar terms is any of twenty-four periods in traditional East Asian lunisolar calendars that matches a particular astronomical event or signifies some natural phenomenon..
Therefore, it was his first time knowing that there was such a thing as an “aborning rite,” and it was quite grand.
Sometimes, people died too often that human lives seemed worthless. However, when they were just born, the tribe had also once celebrated together for them.
The people sat around in a circle, and the chubby-armed and fat-legged baby was placed naked on a big tray. In Chang An’s view, this image was like that of a roasted suckling pig. The child’s father, Jila, held him steadily before everyone.
On the other side of the tray was a small bowl of water. Everybody had to dip their thumbs in it and then press a mark on the baby’s forehead, representing one’s well-wishes. There was a small oil lamp beside the bowl, and inside which was a tiny flame no bigger than a pea. In the air, an iron bar was swinging around. Tied at its end was a short rope from which a little bell hung. Several times, the flame narrowly burned through the little bell’s rope, but it never did.
But as Jila carried his son towards Chang An, the little baby impatiently kicked around, hitting the small water bowl. The little thing’s kick was quite strong. It toppled over the water bowl, and it happened to collide into the place where the iron bar was tied. The iron bar creaked as it tilted to the side and got onto the flame. The rope was burned at once, and the little bell fell into the water bowl with a crisp sound, splashing droplets to the corner of Chang An’s eye.
For a moment, everyone stared at him. Chang An’s finger hung in midair. He was baffled, not knowing what had happened.
Hua Yi was the first to laugh. He pointed to Chang An’s big saber and said to Jila, “See that? Give your son something just like that when he grows up.”
Shan Xi also said with a smile, “Yeah, Jila, maybe your son will grow into a young man with many peach blossoms2桃花– metaphor for admirers in the future. Then you won’t have to worry about him not getting a wife. There might also be plenty of beautiful girls waiting outside the house to force marriage.”
After he spoke, a stone hit him on the back of his head—it was A’Lan who threw it.
Shan Xi said “ouch,” but he wasn’t angry. He pulled faces at A’Lan and made her so angry that she ran over to pinch him. The two of them chaotically chased each other in the cave. Hua Yi silently stretched out a foot, tripping Shan Xi to a tumble. Like a spirited little leopard, A’Lan swooped in and pinched him hard on the back of the arm.
Hua Yi said to Chang An, “If the bell is snapped off in your presence, it means that the child will be like you in the future and that he wants to recognize you as his godfather. It’s just that we don’t know how he’ll be like you—Silly boy, why aren’t you hugging him yet?”
Jila was very happy. Although Chang An was a sub-beast, he was a capable sub-beast. For the strong, even if they were born in the gutter, they were deserving of respect.
He joyfully turned to Suo Laimu and asked, “Then what does it mean when the water splashes to the corner of his eye?”
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Suo Laimu said with a faint smile, “The eyes are precious and important. Water splashing on the corners of the eyes is a good sign, indicating that your son will have sharp ears and keen eyes when he grows up.”
This explanation was very far-fetched, but Jila felt that there was nothing truer than this. It was even more pleasing than not knowing where they were, not to mention that, right now, Ground Fire was spurting all over and rain was pouring down. Even if the earth and the sky were to flip, it couldn’t stop him from wanting to laugh foolishly.
Chang An had to stand amidst a group of rowdy people and extend two stiff arms reluctantly3勉为其难 – hesitating to do something that is beyond your ability… Lmao Chang An, I feel you. I get scared when holding a baby too haha. By the time Jila put his baby son in Chang An’s arms, the latter was already like a stone jiangshi4僵尸 – A kind of Chinese reanimated corpse, also known as the “hopping zombie.” It’s so stiff that it moves around by hopping with its arms outstretched.. Hua Yi suspected his neck would even make a rattling sound when twisted.
Soon after, the child’s mother, A’Fen, finally arrived and took her son, rescuing two people, one big and one small.
The little baby wiggled his arms and hooked Chang An’s hair. However, he couldn’t grasp things yet, and the hair soon slipped from his chubby arms. The little guy drooled, and he puffed up a bubble that smelled of milk.
Someone suddenly started singing a birthday song, and they all joined in. Chang An carefully reached out a hand, rubbed the baby’s face, and laughed.
Suo Laimu turned his head amidst this cheerful singing, and looked worriedly at the heavy rain outside the cave, thinking in his heart, How could it be a good sign?
Chang An’s hand was over the mouth of the bowl, but not a drop of water was splashed on it. It just had to drop on the corner of his eyes. How is the corner of the eyes a good place? Suo Laimu saw it clearly. When Chang An looked up in astonishment, that drop of water ran down the side of his face. It looked like… Didn’t it look like tears?
All day long, it rained heavily, not stopping until evening came.
After a busy day, everyone dispersed, each finding a nook in the cave to rest in.
Chang An slept until midnight, but it was so noisy, he could no longer sleep.
There was a large flat area in the cave, and there were also many corners and forked paths. He was originally nestling in a recessed area, having just enough space for him to put down his blade. Who would’ve thought that at this moment, in a small forked path, a little “couple” would rely on the bit of cover provided by the fork and actually take advantage of the dead of the night to do it. All their sounds followed along the small breeze in the cave and poured into Chang An’s ears.
The people in the northern continent had doughty customs. During festivals, they’d have too much wine, and if someone were to copulate in public, people would cheer them on. Unfortunately, Chang An did not want to be an audience at all.
In fact, he knew only little of these things, yet he always felt that he understood them very well—It was just making babies. But even though he had already “understood,” he was still very curious.
How could a big baby be stuffed in the stomach? Could it be that they cut open the stomach?
Chang An went on a tangent as he thought of this, and thinking of himself in such a situation, he felt a cold chill without warning.
But this bloody question didn’t occupy his mind for long. Soon, a man’s low and hoarse voice could no longer be restrained, and it floated into his ears. It seemed very painful, but… it didn’t sound like the kind of pain when a belly was cut open and intestines were scooped out.
Chang An was taken aback for a moment, and a layer of goose bumps quickly formed on his body. For some reason, his ears became warm.
He finally glanced secretly into that small, black passageway. However, it was too dark in the cave, and he could barely make out their figures. It turned out they weren’t a man and a woman. He caught sight of the beastman he had seen during the day now pressing on a male sub-beast. They were on top of each other, hands and feet seemingly turning into snakes as they entangled together.
Chang An’s gaze roamed around for a while, but he couldn’t figure out where the “little baby” was. He also didn’t know what step they were at now, so he drew back his head in confusion.
He closed his eyes again and wanted to go back to sleep. However, the sound seemed to have long legs. It drilled into his ears, making him restless. A small fire seemed to be running all over his body. Chang An wanted to stretch out his hand and scratch it, but he didn’t know where to start.
He finally couldn’t bear it. He was wide awake now and couldn’t go back to sleep.
After sitting in place for a moment, Chang An decided to replace the night watchman. He got up and reached for his blade.
But before he could touch it, his hand was grabbed—Hua Yi asked right into his ear, “What are you gonna do if you’re not gonna sleep honestly?”
Chang An also whispered, “I’m gonna replace the night watchman.”
Hua Yi’s voice seemed to be drowsy and a little hoarse. He said languidly, “The cave has only one entrance. One person is keeping watch for the first half of the night, and another one for the second half. Two people is enough. It’s not your turn, so sleep honestly for me.”
Chang An was silent for a moment and said honestly, “Can’t sleep.”
Hua Yi naturally knew why he couldn’t sleep, so he laughed slyly and got up.
Though Hua Yi had good eyesight in the dark, he could only see a rough outline of Chang An. Only his eyes reflected light, and they appeared very bright, allowing Hua Yi to see it clearly—Chang An’s eyes were flickering. He seemed to be embarrassed and at a loss with what to do, but he couldn’t explain why.
Chang An said, “What are you laughing at?”
Hua Yi sighed and shook his head. “How come you don’t know anything when you’re already this old? Who told you that that kind of thing is for making babies? When have you ever heard that a man can give birth to a baby?”
Chang An was stunned and said, “My Shifu.”
Hua Yi asked with interest, “What else did your Shifu say?”
Chang An racked his brains to remember, then shook his head. “Nothing. He said I can’t give birth anyway, so I should talk less nonsense. Why are you asking?”
Hua Yi held his breath, lest his voice turn loud and disturb those sneaky wild mandarin ducks5鸳鸯– metaphor for a couple… Wild mandarin ducks. Hua Yi muffled his laugh as he leaned over Chang An’s shoulder. After a while, he took a deep breath and said, “Your Shifu is really a freak.”
Chang An was surprised. “How did you know?”
Hua Yi’s air of eloquence nearly escaped. He pretended to sigh for a while, the tip of his nose rubbing against Chang An. Smelling his scent, his heart couldn’t help but be like a galloping horse6心猿意马 (idiom) – The full idiom is “heart like a capering monkey, mind like a galloping horse,” and its used to describe restlessness, or the inability to control your thoughts. The original idiom is quite long when translated in English, so I shortened it so it flows better. again.
This won’t do. I have to mend my ways—Hua Yi reigned in the wild horse in his heart, but soon after, he found an excuse for himself: This is a major event in his life. This silly boy is already an adult. Though we can say his health is bad and that’s why he understands it later than others, but he shouldn’t be utterly ignorant about it. Otherwise, what’s to be done in the future? Informing him nicely can still be regarded as a thing between brothers. What am I so guilty about?
So Hua Yi patted Chang An’s back, bit his ear, and whispered, “They are doing a very happy thing. If a man and a woman do this, sometimes, a baby is made—but of course, not every time. Just like how the moon is not round everyday. As for a man and a man… it’s just a way to be happy.”
Chang An listened with an open mind, but Hua Yi’s voice stopped abruptly.
The movement over there became more intense, and when he was silent like this, the sounds seemed even more distinct.
Hua Yi breathed slowly.
His throat bobbed, and his palm unconsciously followed along Chang An’s shoulder, sliding down to stroke his back. He walked around from behind and rubbed his lower abdomen in a provocative way, going all the way down. He said casually, “I can’t say it clearly. You have to experience it yourself…”
Chang An suddenly pinched Hua Yi’s wrist and stopped his movements.
Hua Yi only heard him say something that ruined the mood: “My Shifu said that if the place where you pee is touched by someone, you’ll have to marry them and be responsible for them your whole life.”
Hua Yi: “…”
Chang An feared that he’d been deceived by Bei Shi again, so he seriously asked the question: “Is what he said true or false?”
Hua Yi felt that nodding would be wrong, and shaking his head would also be wrong.
Chang An waited for a while, but there was no answer. He threw his hand aside and said in disappointment, “So you don’t know either.”
With that, he quickly got up, picked up his blade, and ran to the cave’s entrance to replace the night watch.
Hua Yi’s mouth was dry, and he couldn’t help but lick it. Then he lay back dejectedly. This time, he was the one who couldn’t sleep.