To Chang An, words spoken were like spilt water1泼出去的水 – one that cannot be retrieved. In his whole life, he had never gone back on his words, except for that one time he killed that bastard carpenter, inevitably letting Zhe Yan down. He could hardly remember what happened that day, but either way, he didn’t regret it.
However, upon thinking about it carefully, this time was different than before. Chang An felt bewildered the whole time. All along, Hua Yi had pitted him. Chang An didn’t even know what he had promised.
What should he do?
It wasn’t right to grow fat eating your words2食言而肥 – to not make good on a promise, and it didn’t seem right to go with the flow.
Chang An couldn’t figure it out even after thinking it over many times. For now, it seemed only logical to catch the culprit Hua Yi, and beat him up and make him cry like he did with “AAAH.”
In the midst of all the excitement, Chang An’s face was still so calm that one couldn’t see any anger on it. He sat comfortably by the bonfire like a dummy, staring at the bowl of wine in his hand before taking a sip. Meanwhile, in his mind, blood was already flowing in rivers.
And so this Autumn Hunting Festival that took place two years later ended with the beating of their mighty and powerful Chief.
Hua Yi had guessed the beginning, but apparently not the end. When Chang An came with a big stick that he had found somewhere, he instinctively did a triple jump, nearly hitting his head on a tree.
Chang An was used to the saber, so this big stick about the length of a saber was easy to handle, allowing him to wield it in a treacherous and tiger-like fashion.
For half a year, Chang An had been responsible for the defense of their unfinished “city.” Although he knew he couldn’t kill people, he was never soft-hearted. As soon as he started, the crowd was very tense. Even when he beat the Chief in public, no one reacted. They all automatically made room for him.
Hua Yi had drunk a jar of yellow mud soup3黄汤 – referring to beer, but now he was sober. He leapt up to avoid the stick, then landed on his spot and rolled, turning into a giant beast. After cowering and struggling for a few times, he finally managed to get in front of Chang An with great difficulty. He pitifully hooked his paws onto his clothes, and shamelessly rubbed his big head against him.
Chang An stabbed the big stick to the side with a bang. He frowned and looked at Huayi with a grim expression, then yanked back his clothes.
Hua Yi hurriedly loosened his claws to prevent them from ripping off Chang An’s clothes. Currying favor, he once again rubbed the side of his head against Chang An’s shoulder.
But then Chang An stepped back, and pointing at him, he admonished, “You are unreasonable.”
As soon as the words were spoken, silence suddenly fell around them. It was so silent, even the sound of leaves blowing in the wind could be heard.
For the first time in his life, Hua Yi had nothing to say in reply.
Under everybody’s gaze, Chang An had beaten him a couple times. It wasn’t a deep hatred, so it wasn’t right for him to keep on hurting the Chief’s face. However, he was still furious in his heart and felt that Hua Yi had done something very wrong. After a long while, he couldn’t hold it in any longer and questioned Hua Yi again. “How could you… How could you be so unreasonable?”
With that, he threw the stick aside and turned away with a gloomy face.
The crowd was silent for a moment, but led by Suo Laimu, they all burst into laughter.
Out of breath from laughing, Suo Laimu asked, “Chief, you never said a word about such a big matter and just silently tied the person down. How can you be so unreasonable?”
Ka Zuo was swaying, and he said, “Chief, you’re not being unreasonable. You’re being mean!”
Shan Xi, who had drunk too much, stood up wobbling and put his arm around the shoulders of Hua Yi, who had reverted to human form. “Chief, you are so unreasonable. How would things end now?”
Lu Quan thought deeply for a moment, and in a muffled voice, concluded, “Yes, very unreasonable.”
The mermaid moved close to him and gestured to his fellow victim4同病相怜 (idiom) – fellow sufferers empathize with each other who was also beaten up. “Aaah, aaah.”
Hua Yi kicked him away. “Get lost. What the hell is your problem? If you go howling at my person’s door again, I’ll gut you and roast you in mint leaves.”
He pondered for a moment, and then, with a sudden flash of light in his mind, he said to himself. “Laughing and laughing, all of you, shut up! Hey… Why do I feel like there’s a silver lining in this?”
After saying that, he lifted his feet up like a demon5魔障 – metaphor to describe someone who is fascinated by something and becomes obsessed over it and walked away firmly and decisively.
He went all the way to Chang An’s place.
There was a small courtyard outside of Chang An’s tent. It wasn’t big, with the courtyard wall only about half the height of a big kid and made of neatly-piled stones. Inside the yard, there was a ring of wooden stakes of varying heights—this was used by Chang An to train on the basic skills. In this respect, he was like a small child learning the blade for the first time. His basic skills training was a daily requirement. Whenever he was free, he never fell behind.
Chang An sat on the wall of the small courtyard and watched condescendingly as Hua Yi tentatively tried to walk over. His cheeks were taut, and he didn’t say a word.
Hua Yi dawdled until he stopped at his feet. Then like a flash of lightning, he suddenly grabbed Chang An’s ankle. Seeing that Chang An didn’t move, he rubbed his thumb on it and asked softly, “What do you say?”
Chang An frowned and didn’t speak.
Hua Yi stretched out his other hand and put it on his knee. Then he stepped forward as if he wanted to bury his head in Chang An’s arms. He continued to whisper, “Why don’t you hit me again?”
Chang An: “You didn’t tell me that shedding hair meant that.”
“……” Hua Yi said, “It’s not shedding hair, it’s…”
Saying it was “pulled out” didn’t sound good, so he had to swallow the second half of the sentence back.
Hua Yi sighed. Restraining his weak smile, he gently squeezed Chang An’s hand under the moonlight, and said, “Be with me—Do you know what this means?”
Chang An nodded calmly.
With a lonely smile, Hua Yi said, “You know shit. No matter how good A’Lan is, she is gone, and the living cannot live with the dead for a lifetime.”
He unfolded Chang An’s slender fingers and lovingly caressed the calluses on his palms and fingers.
Chang An whispered, “I know.”
Hua Yi still shook his head. “Do you know what it means to put someone in your heart? When you don’t see each other for a day, it’s like a hundred claws are scratching at your heart. When you see them with someone else, you’d want to cut them up and drag them out to feed the dogs. It’s just like… how Jila treats A’Fen.”
“I put you in my heart,” Hua Yi said this very deeply and slowly, as if he were saying something very important and serious. Then he paused for a moment, looked up into Chang An’s eyes, and said almost word for word, “If you throw that hairband back into my face, you’ll be stabbing me in the heart. That… would feel so painful. I won’t be able to live, but I also won’t be able to die. If you find it so pleasurable, go ahead and throw it.”
But then Chang An said, “I’ve already promised you, how could I swallow it back?”
Hua Yi didn’t expect to get such a natural answer, and he suddenly choked.
After a moment’s silence, Chang An followed his example and sighed, saying, “My Shifu says it costs a lot to get married, and he’s a poor man, so he’s been a bachelor all his life. What will it cost me? What if I can’t pay it?”
As he spoke, his mind began to work out what he had. While calculating, he thought that Hua Yi was simply the greatest no-good person for tricking him into finding such a big thing for him.
Hua Yi, who had not yet recovered from the touching romantic scene, was immediately subdued by how far ahead Chang An was planning, almost making him go weak at the knees. Stammering, he said, “Don’t… Don’t bother…”
After thinking about it, Chang An suddenly lowered his head, took off the small domino around his neck, handed it to Hua Yi, and said, “I can’t give you the saber, and this is the only thing I have, so I’ll give it to you.”
Hua Yi was both anxious and honored as he accepted it with both hands. That domino was so old that the writing on top of it had turned fuzzy. It still carried the warmth from Chang An’s body, and with it was his characteristic clean smell. Hua Yi held it in his hands, and not sure if he had drunk too much or what, but he was so excited by the practically imaginary “smell” that his nose actually started bleeding.
Chang An was shocked. “Hey, why are you bleeding? Did I punch you in the nose?”
Hua Yi thought that it would be better for him to slip away for a while and slow down.
After the Autumn Hunting Festival, the weather began to cool down. People had just been through a deadly winter, so when it cooled again, they were all on guard.
And yet, their Chief still swaggered proudly through the streets every day. He even cut the red thread of the domino just enough to allow the small domino with Chang An’s name on it to hang from his collarbone, afraid that others wouldn’t see it.
The initial completion of the city walls and gate towers were done at an incredible speed this winter.
After the first heavy snow, the city wall ushered in its first wave of enemies.
That day, it was Lu Quan and his men guarding at the city gate tower. After noon, he saw a row of dark shadows in the snow field of the remote wasteland. They were moving very fast in the cold wind, and they seemed to be a group of beastmen heading this way.
Lu Quan quickly sent someone to inform Hua Yi. Standing on the high tower, he looked into the distance.
The fear of the cold was still rooted in the hearts of the people. He wondered if these people had strayed into their territory by mistake, and whether they intended to be enemies or friends.