Luda was already taller than Chang An’s shoulders, and the traits of a beastman were beginning to show on him. He was lean, but not the kind of lean that young sub-beasts were when their flesh couldn’t keep up with their bones when they were leaping around. Instead, he looked sturdy. Although it was turning warm, it was still quite cold, but he didn’t mind it at all. His firepower was as strong as a little animal that he exposed two bare arms, showing off his increasingly defined muscle lines, smooth and full of strength.
However, right now, Luda was in a terrible state. He held a three-feet long jiandao, while his opponent was still carrying a mere wooden sword.
Suddenly, Luda attacked. He stepped forward to the left and struck the jiandao out in a fierce and wide open cross.
Chang An turned the wooden sword, and the “sword edge” was just in time to deflect the jiandao past its top three inches.
Luda didn’t panic. Immediately following the force of the retreat, he deftly sidestepped in place. With a yell, he sent out a forward thrust right to Chang An’s jaw as if he were going to open a hole in the man’s head.
Chang An took a half-step backwards. His wooden sword crossed the edge of the jiandao, and a strip of wood was chipped off. Then he lifted his wrist, and Luda felt that his weapon seemed to have sunk into a whirlpool and was about to be stirred down.
The young man, however, refused to admit defeat so easily. Seeing himself forced to let go with the jiandao flying out, he took the risk of delivering his chest right into the hands of the “enemy.” Then he instantly jumped up and yanked back the sword by the handle. Without hesitation, he returned the blow with a series of motions that were like moving clouds and floating water1行云流水 – natural and smooth.
This time, Chang An didn’t even dodge, and there was a bit of helplessness on his face. His little disciple always liked to rush forward, never remembering what he was holding in his hand.
The wooden sword was several inches longer than the jiandao, so before the tip of Luda’s weapon could even reach him, Chang An had smacked him on the wrist. This time, the jiandao was completely knocked away. Luda sat on his butt on the ground and was covering his hand that was beaten red.
Before he could even look up, the wooden sword was already pressed against the back of his neck.
The circle of spectators around them shouted, “Nice!”
Chang An withdrew his sword and pointed at the stake on the side. “Three inches in. Go chop across the front three hundred times each.”
Luda scratched his head in frustration, then sat up and went to accompany Qingliang.
Chang An raised his eyes to look at Qingliang, only to see him turning red in the face as he held back his strength in chopping the wood with both of his hands on the scimitar. It was a standard motion of splitting wood, but it was difficult work. The surface of that very small stake was like a randomly chopped meat mixture. Chips of wood were flying out, so not a person was around within a foot of that place.
The corners of Chang An’s eyes twitched.
Qingliang was like a block of rotten wood. He was already a beastman, but until now, he still hadn’t learned how to turn into the beast. It wasn’t that he couldn’t transform; his four legs just didn’t cooperate well. He’d walk with the gait of an octopus, and when he ran, he could tangle his front legs with his hind legs. Don’t even mention four legs. When he normally walked with two legs, he was so tense, his feet would step in the same direction his hand swung.
Chang An was puzzled by this situation. Finally suspecting that Qingliang’s brain might be a bit faulty, he took out a little compassion and became a bit gentler towards Qingliang.
But even though Chang An was being gentle, Qingliang still shivered at the sight of him. Hence, most of what he had learned had been taught by Luda. If he hadn’t learned anything at all, Chang An suspected he might have strangled this stupid and odd disciple right from the beginning.
Hua Yi and Suo Laimu came from afar. It turned out Ahero wanted to take her leave, saying that they were to set out early in the morning the next day.
Suo Laimu said in a low voice, “It’s time for her to go. We’ve set up most of our tent houses here, and once we move out of the cave, this will be considered our new tribe. If she doesn’t leave, I’m afraid she’ll first want to wage war.”
After saying so, Suo Laimu shook his head and sighed. “If it weren’t for the birdmen’s young having to be incubated with the small five-fingered leaves in the Far North, do you think she could’ve been a good friend and neighbor willing to let go of past conflicts?”
Hua Yi said with a smile, “If not, how could I have let her in and sell her a favor for no reason? She’s a she-wolf, so I have to make sure that there’s nothing she can do in the ‘house’ before I can let her in.”
Suo Laimu laughed and said, “Not really. This is a good place. It’s by the sea and close to the mountains, where the top of which have dense forests. The terrain stretches narrowly all the way to the mountain pass, and behind it is a large plain, where you can plant whatever you want. However, if it really did come to a fight, then it wouldn’t be very clever. There are no barriers in the front, and no way out in the back. What do you say should be done?”
Hua Yi sneered. The man’s facial lines tensed and looked a little colder. “Barrier? This whole plain is mine. Don’t worry. When this winter is over, those who are lucky enough to be alive will be too busy resting and recuperating for three to five years to even fight. After three to five years, I’d like to see who still dares to act rashly in front of me.”
When the two of them walked into the crowd, they saw Ka Zuo itching all over to jump up and spar with Chang An. Both of them were using wooden swords, and the group of people around them started cheering and making noise.
Hua Yi’s face that was full of coldness softened. After gazing at Chang An for a while, he said to Suo Laimu in a low and absent-minded tone, “Once the houses are more or less built, you draw out a plan. I want to build a ‘city’ here like those in the South… You’re also right in that the plains and the wilderness are not easy to manage. Even if we occupy more places in the future, losing it would also be as easy as how we have taken it. If there were such barriers, then it would be much easier.”
Suo Laimu had intended to propose this to him, so when Hua Yi brought it up first, he should’ve been happy. But now, looking askance at the colors of spring on Hua Yi’s face, Suo Laimu practically lost the mood to talk, afraid that he’d be infected by his silly look.
Ka Zuo and Chang An went at it. Ka Zuo had a lot of strength, and he swung his wooden sword like a roaring tiger while occasionally howling at the top of his lungs. It was so lively. On the other hand, Chang An’s movements were not big, and if one looked closely, his arms and legs almost seemed limp. Only at the moment the blade was sent out would he suddenly accelerate, refusing to waste any energy.
Taking refuge in the cave, they had nothing to do for a while. Before the days when they were short of food and had to gnaw on tree bark, the group of extremely bored men had a lot of strength all the time yet nowhere to use it on. Their balls were hurting2蛋疼 – Slang which means “doing almost anything out of boredom.” The term came from how excessive masturbating will hurt men’s balls, and this usually happens when they’re so bored haha. from being so idle in the cave that they had to punch at each other everyday just to exercise their bones and muscles.
Suo Laimu looked on from the sidelines. He didn’t know whether it was because they were using wooden swords, or if it were those days of wandering for two years that caused the boy’s frame of mind to change, or simply because he had no one to guide him, but Chang An, by some uncanny enlightenment and perception, had his blade gradually turn reserved.
Ka Zuo used brute force to block his opponent, refusing to be careless. It seemed like he wanted to use the same move that Chang An had used to send Luda’s blade flying. Ka Zuo was a big man, and he could easily break a wooden sword with a two-inch thick spine without even blinking.
Chang An naturally refused to wrestle with him, and he immediately let go of his hand.
Having lost the force on one end, the wooden sword was sent whirling in the air by Ka Zuo.
Then Chang An suddenly stepped to the side, and with incomparable precision, pressed on the handle of the sword from above. The wooden sword immediately borrowed Ka Zuo’s own strength as it turned to stab him in the lower abdomen. Ka Zuo was startled, and he hurriedly backed three or four steps, and as he blocked it from below, his upper body lost its defense.
It was at this moment that Ka Zuo saw something flash before his eyes. His hand went empty, and his chest felt tight. By the time he reacted, Chang An had already pressed the wooden sword against his throat from below.
The onlookers once again burst into cheers.
Shan Xi jeered, “Ka Zuo, you’ve lost in every battle but you’re still going at it! If this were a real blade, you’d have already been skewered into several skewers of meat and be completely grilled!”
Panting, Ka Zuo cursed and lunged at him. “I’ll skewer you first!”
And then they went at each other.
Hua Yi beckoned to Chang An with shifty eyes and said, “Chang An, come here. I have something nice to give you.”
Chang An’s forehead was sweating. He wanted to take off his coat. but Hua Yi firmly stopped him. “I’ll beat you if you get a cold. Take this and bind your hair. And brush that bushy hair of yours well.”
Saying so, he took out a headband from his arms. It was inlaid with bright red corals, and on its base, a ring of snowy white fur was sewn.
Seeing it, A’Ye was taken aback, her eyes widening as she stared at Hua Yi. “This is…”
Ka Zuo couldn’t care less about Shan Xi’s incessant provocations. He swooped in to cover his woman’s mouth and used his eyes to tell her to shut up.
Seeing him being so sensible, Hua Yi nodded, looking very satisfied.
This headband wasn’t just a trinket. When a beastman found his true love, he would give that person such a thing as a token of love. Most of the time, it was a headband; sometimes, it was a belt. For young girls, there were also necklaces. All these had to be woven with the fur from his beast form—In other words, it was like telling the beloved to smell like him. Like a male dog peeing, it was like announcing to others that this person was now his territory.
If the other person accepted it before getting married, then anybody else who wanted to hit on them would have to first duel with the owner who had given the belt or the headband.
The crowd around them saw it, and though they despised such tactics, they were hindered by their Chief’s abuse of territory. Aside from the righteous A’Ye, none of them planned to open their mouths to warn Chang An.
Seeing Chang An accept it unsuspectingly, Hua Yi raised a hand and gently ran it through a lock of hair that hung down over his shoulder. He asked with a smile, “Is it pretty?”
Chang An: “Pretty, but what thing is this fur pulled out from?”
With that “what thing,” the smile on Hua Yi’s face stiffened.
Chang An curiously stretched out his hand to touch it and asked ignorantly, “Is it from a dog?”
He was under the impression that only dead animals would shed their fur.
Suo Laimu fell to the ground, laughing quietly. Ka Zuo, the most clever one, knew that the Chief’s jokes were not to be watched. He directly carried A’Ye over his shoulder, made an excuse about going to see his family’s newly-built tent, and then disappeared. The people sitting on the ground were also not slow to react. They immediately followed, standing up in two’s and three’s, making any excuse to get away.
Then Hua Yi suddenly turned into his beast form and nudged Chang An to a stumble with the tip of his nose.
Sitting on the ground, Chang An looked up at the giant, snow-white beast and finally realized it. “Oh! So it’s from your body!”
Hua Yi gave low “awoo,” and feeling wronged, he rubbed his head against Chang An like a petulant child.
Then he saw Chang An sit up. He looked a bit worried as he patted the giant beast’s large head and said, “Hey, it’s fine. Why are you losing your hair? You’re not sick, are you? Don’t go bald.”
Hua Yi finally had enough. He bit the back of Chang An’s collar and threw him far away.
Changing back into his human form with a scowling and fuming face, he was now in the mood to discuss the “city” planning with Suo Laimu.
Hua Yi had an ominous feeling that if he were truly gonna live with such a thing for the rest of his life, then sooner or later, he’d be pissed off to death by Chang An.
Come spring, the grass gradually trailed up the entire hillside, and tiny flowers bloomed. They were much more resilient than humans. Many long winters had failed to freeze them, and now spring had blown them back to life.
The wild sprouts of wheat on the plains were starting to put out new branches, and critters who’d been hiding from who knew where were popping up.
Hua Yi led his tribe to gather large stones from the mountains, carried them to the other side of the great plain, and, with Suo Laimu supervising the work, began to build a great wall like that of the South. It was as if they were going to sack in the entire fertile plain all in one fell swoop.