Ahero, the Chieftess of the Far North, once had quite a reputation.
It was said that, aside from her, her father had two other sons. But somehow, both of her brothers died before reaching adulthood. Ahero’s father had to marry her to a warrior in the tribe and let his son-in-law become the Chief after his death.
It was a pity that her damned dead old man, whose vision had been blurry his whole life, didn’t see that his son-in-law was a useless thing. Not three years after the old Chief’s death, his daughter and son-in-law turned on each other.
After quietly overthrowing her husband’s authority, Ahero washed her tribe with blood then thunderously placed her husband under house arrest. From then on, she became the Chief.
She led her tribe to conquer the Far North, as if her bones were submerged in warlike blood. And although she had not yet conquered it, the Queen of the Far North’s reputation had spread to the north and south of the beastman continent.
Ahero had originally planned to play dirty. Birdmen were good at hiding. Before Shan Xi discovered them, Ahero had already scouted the terrain of the place. She had intended to draw the beastmen out of the cave, then secretly follow them back, killing them in a night attack and taking the cave for herself. However, she didn’t expect that Hua Yi, this young beastman Chief, would take the initiative to accept them and would also recognize the winged beastmen hiding in the air.
It was true that when it came to hunting, land beastmen had a much bigger advantage than winged beastmen. Ahero, who had been travelling around the Far North for more than a decade, had never been too ruthless. She could afford to make friends, and she knew what choices were wisest.
She also expressed her sincerity. Under A’Ye’s shining gaze, she allocated many herbs to the beastman tribe. The herbs of the winged beastmen were rare and effective. After two doses of medicine, Chang An’s fever subsided and he was able to walk around.
Hua Yi’s attitude towards Ahero was immediately more sincere.
As for the mermaid, he was still completely unable to communicate.
Three days later, Suo Laimu and the others returned. Even the omniscient Suo Laimu, who had so far acted as if he knew everything, was also unable to do anything about this “AAAH.”
“AAAH” was still acting like a baby. Ever since he was beaten to tears by Chang An, he kept stalking Chang An, following him like a tail. He’d follow him from morning to evening, while he was eating and while teaching Luda how to use a blade. If it weren’t for Hua Yi kicking him, perhaps he might even follow Chang An to bed and nestle beside him.
It was unknown if the mermaid was mentally limited or if “AAAH” had been hit in the head or something. He was like a little kid who’d show his emotions very openly. He’d laugh heartily when he was happy, and cry out loud when he was sad. His laughters were incessant, and his crying would have no end.
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Finally, After Chang An’s deadly cold had cleared, Hua Yi could no longer bear this shameless “AAAH.” To keep the mermaid out of sight and out of mind, Hua Yi went up the mountain, carrying Chang An with him.
Meanwhile, Suo Laimu and Ka Zuo patrolled the seaside for several days. They discovered that the seawater would rise every morning and would recede later at dusk. Many things from the sea would wash up on the shore, so the beastmen stopped going into the sea, gaining a lot just by picking things up from the shore.
Even the offshore corals were like water plants. They’d pick them up one after another. It was just that, right now, no one was really in a mood to fiddle with these things that were normally considered priceless.
Suo Laimu was worried, always feeling there was some kind of tremendous energy from the ocean that was eager to explode. However, the ocean was too big, and so was the continent. He didn’t know when and where it would erupt.
Therefore, he called for an urgent construction of a small temporary house built of wood and boulders on a hill near the sea. It would serve as a lookout post. He then ordered the beastmen and the winged beastmen living with them to send men up in shifts to keep an eye out for any movement in the sea.
The hut was sealed with animal skins at the corners and edges to prevent draughts, and the room was very crude. There was only a makeshift cooking pit dug out of the ground, and animal skins right next to it to be used for sleeping.
In the evening, Hua Yi made a fire and carefully roasted a few big fish. Chang An waited quietly on one side. The room was so quiet that only the crackling of firewood and the sound of the sea outside could be heard.
The silence gave Hua Yi the illusion that there were only the two of them at the end of the world.
No one asked anything, and Chang An rarely spoke up, so Hua Yi scooted closer, and looking for something to talk about, he asked, “This morning, how did Luo Tong beat that darling son of his?”
Chang An said, “Luo Tong wanted his son to learn the blade with Luda, and he asked me if I could teach him.”
Luo Tong’s injured leg had been dragging on for too long. All day long, it would be covered with a blanket so that nobody could see it. It was so rotten inside that one could already see the bones. Ahero took a look at it and said that it was beyond recovery. Only sawing off his legs might still save his life.
“And so, his son was forced to say a word to me.” Chang An added a bit of firewood, his face showing a little subtle expression. “He said he didn’t want to learn how to kill people and that he didn’t dare. He just wanted to learn how to install a handle on a blade… which I don’t know how.”
Hua Yi was stunned for a moment, and then suddenly laughed. “This broad-minded little guy with ‘big ambitions’ is actually a bit like me when I was a kid.”
Chang An saw that the fish was already cooked, so he picked it up and began to nibble on it, “Did you also want to learn how to install a blade handle when you were a kid?”
“I wasn’t referring to that,” said Hua Yi. “When I was a kid, I wanted to go hunting with the hunting team every day when I grew up.”
Chang An was at a loss for words. In his opinion, what they were doing right now was precisely the job of the hunting team.
“The son of the Chief is different from others. When he grows up, he’ll either be a Chief or an Elder with authority in his hands. How can he go hunting like everybody else?”
While Chang An was eating, dust got onto his cheeks. Seeing this, Hua Yi’s tone unconsciously softened a bit, and he explained gently, “Now, we are too busy running for our lives, and we have nothing. But after winter, the weather will ease, and the days won’t be so hard. When the time comes that one person has his own ideas, how can you suppress the power in his hands when your own might has no weight? Naturally, you’ll have to show some noble bearing. Hunting and farming are not jobs for a Chief and an Elder.”
Chang An listened and thought carefully for a while, but he still didn’t get it. Fortunately, when he didn’t understand something, he would drop it right away. He wasn’t like Suo Laimu who’d drill into the tip of a bull’s horn1钻牛角尖 (idiom) – to waste time studying an insignificant problem.
Chang An dropped the topic, but Hua Yi refused to let him go. Although the man’s voice was still soft, his eyes were full of indescribable complexity and scrutiny. He asked meaningfully, “For example, if, in the future, you get a hundred responses to a single call2一呼百应 (idiom) – to be able to rally many people, and at the drop of your word, have people ready to work for you, then what will you do when someone wants to rob you of this power?”
Chang An asked in turn, “What do I do if I ask someone to do something for me?”
Hua Yi looked into his eyes. “You don’t have to do anything. Just enjoy the respectful treatment you get from others.”
Chang An gnawed one fish clean, leaving only a large skeleton in the cooking pit. He wiped his mouth, picked up the second fish, and said without a care, “How could that be? You’re dreaming.”
He tore off the fish skin with his sharp, little tiger teeth, and the food was so hot that his voice slurred. It was rare of him to like to lecture others, and it was evident in his tone that he regarded Hua Yi like his little slave Luda. “If all the people that pass by the roadside don’t pick up the wild fruits, then the fruits must be either unripe or poisonous. Every creature has their place in the circle of life3一报还一报 – I often translate this as “enmity for enmity” or “hate for hate.” Basically, it’s about karma or divine retribution, but in this context, it’s more about the balance between things.. That balance is what keeps everything going. Otherwise, like a wooden stake, if you keep pushing it to one side, it won’t be long before it falls.”
Hua Yi laughed bitterly, then reached out to wipe the dust off his face. “How could it be so simple? Oh well, you’re still young. You will understand later.”
Chang An ducked and muttered to himself, “Where was I wrong?”
Hua Yi went dumb for a moment. True, he couldn’t tell where he was wrong.
After a while of silence, he suddenly said to Chang An, “I have a blood-related gege who treated me very well since I was a child. One day, when he heard that my A’die wanted me to marry the daughter of the Chief of another tribe, he thought that A’die wanted me to become the Chief. And so he took his men and killed my A’die and all my other gege’s.”
Hua Yi spoke casually, but Chang An was so dumbfounded that he forgot to chew the fish.
“He was going to kill me too, but I ran away.” Hua Yi reached out to touch Chang An’s hair. His actions were intimate, but his words made people feel cold. “You see, what you said is not wrong. There is balance between all creatures. If he wants to get the position of Chief, he must kill his father and brothers first. However, killing his father and brothers is nothing to him. For decades, he’s had no affection for us. He killed them one by one like slaughtering pigs. Those cumbersome flesh and blood brothers of his, how could they be better than the throne of a tribal Chief?”
What he said was unheard of and simply unimaginable to Chang An. When Hua Yi saw that he was stunned, he suddenly felt like he was making dirty footprints on the clean snow. The snow was clean and beautiful, but the naughty child always wanted to step on something that no one else had stepped on before. After stepping on it, he’d feel pity and regret, but at the same time, he’d feel carefree and happy.
As he thought of this, he was caught off guard. Suddenly, he put his arm around Chang An’s neck. Chang An was unprepared. He was scooped up vigorously and slammed straight into Hua Yi’s arms. Then the man’s breath, still hot despite the cold, came over and shrouded him, and with a bit of force and aggression, attached onto his lips.