Hua Yi had been out on patrol, so he soon arrived.
As he swept his eyes down, he was silent for a moment.
A tribe had to be made up of men, women, young, and old in order to live on. Never had it been that only beastmen were left in the group. In the past, it would almost certainly be a ghost tribe.
Traveling merchants were the only link between the tribes, which were relatively isolated from each other. The old merchant gave them a copy of the map, but it was nothing new for him to sell it to someone else later when the price was better.
Lu Quan only heard Hua Yi suddenly say, “Did you see how their group walked?”
Lu Quan paused.
Beastmen were naturally fast on their feet, but the speed of this team was not very uniform.
From a distance, the first thing that Hua Yi noticed was that the people in front were not the same as those behind them.
The ones in front were strong and risking their lives to rush forward, while those behind were either old or young, or had injuries or illnesses, and were obviously struggling to keep up.
From this point of view, they were not quite like the ghost tribes that burn, kill, and plunder all day long. However, they were also not quite like wandering refugees seeking shelter from disaster.
It was only a few moments after Hua Yi had gone up to the city gate tower that the group arrived at the bottom. All the guards on the tower were young and strong, and with eyesight that was naturally good. When they looked down, they could see them clearly.
All those people looked weary from travel, as if something had been chasing them. Seeing the high city walls, they were shocked and felt ill at ease. The leaders of the group looked at each other for a moment, then came up to knock on the gate.
“A bunch of sharp men with armor, but pretending to be a motley crew,” Hua Yi said in a low voice. “It’s a bit interesting. Get someone down there and ask what’s going on.”
With a glance from Lu Quan, one of the guards trotted down and shouted to the people outside through the small hole in the gate.
Hua Yi put his hands on the cold stone, and he seemed to be tapping his fingers on it. Then he said to Lu Quan, “Go call Chang An out. Tonight, the city gate is his. As for you, come with me.”
Lu Quan was stunned for a moment. Although he was a three-legged good who couldn’t kick shit1三脚踹不出一个屁 – Someone who is very honest, reticent, and quite introverted. It’s often used to derogatorily describe someone who is indecisive and easily stepped on by others., his mind wasn’t dull. When he was very young, he had worked with Hua Yi as a mercenary, so at this moment, he immediately understood that Hua Yi intended to let the people in.
Lu Quan frowned. In his opinion, these people coming from who-knew-where were a menace. They had been doing fine. If people were just gonna be let in casually, how could they deal with them in case of trouble?
Hua Yi exhaled into his hand, then rubbed his hand and patted Lu Quan on the shoulder.
The guards wore a protective iron armor, and when the winter wind blew, it would become colder and harder. It was like pasting a sheet of iron over the person. When one patted it with their hand, they’d be unable to feel any warmth.
Hua Yi said in a low voice, “The city walls have been built, but there will always be people coming. And the bigger the place, the more people would want to come. Do you want to just be with the tribe and spend the rest of your life in this city with high walls? When you meet these people with bad intentions, are you just gonna ignore them and turn them away, thinking they can’t get in anyway?”
Lu Quan wasn’t a hypocritical, and he nodded his head bluntly. “That’s exactly what I think.”
Hua Yi smiled contemptuously. He seemed to have lost some weight, the contours of his face appearing more and more defined. In addition, he was born with a high nose and thin lips. When he wasn’t smiling, he looked cold. It wasn’t an amiable-looking face.
“If we don’t go out for a year, we can rest assured. If we don’t go out for three years, we can still prosper by ourselves. But after five or eight years of occupying such a good place, some people are gonna have thoughts about this gold mine. If you don’t go out on your own, others would demand entry sooner or later. Are these things rare to you? Walls? What’s so great about city walls? Isn’t it still built by people? That being the case, do you think people won’t push it… Ai, I can’t say it to you clearly.”
Lu Quan muttered, “Then who can you talk to cleearly? Chang An?”
Hua Yi smacked him on the back of the head. “Are you making fun of me?”
Lu Quan smirked. “Hehe.”
Hua Yi rolled his eyes and said, “Even if he doesn’t understand other things, he’s bound to understand more about this than you. If not, he would’ve just been a carpenter—Don’t look at him nowadays as if he were just a man holding himself aloof from the world. He doesn’t even raise his eyelids when someone pokes him, and that’s because he’s gained quite a lot of confidence in himself over the years. If he was still young or hadn’t learned his skills yet, he would bite you to death with his teeth if you provoked him.
Lu Quan was even more confused, but before he had time to digest anything from his words, the guard who asked the question came running up. Sure enough, those people claimed to be a few scattered tribes sheltering from the calamity and had gathered together. Their families were far away, and they told them to go and explore the way first.
“Explore the way.” Hua Yi sneered. He nodded his head, then pushed Lu Quan and said, “Double the city defense today. You and Shan Xi each have half of your men. Freeze those outsiders for a while, then let them in when Chang An comes.”
Lu Quan went off in response, but in a few moments, Chang An had come over. He still refused to wear armor, and he’d probably been asleep, for the animal skins had been hastily wrapped over his outer clothes. Following behind him were his two little shadows, Luda and Qingliang.
Hua Yi frowned as soon as he saw him. He took off his last layer of cotton-padded leather jacket, and smashed it into his face, scolding, “Do you wanna freeze to death?”
After forcing Chang An to put on a layer of clothing, Hua Yi pointed to the people below the tower and whispered, “There are outsiders. You keep an eye out at night. These ‘outsiders’ may become ‘insiders,’ or they may end up being half-hung on the city gate tower.”
Chang An looked down, then raised his eyelids and asked, “What do you want me to do?”
Hua Yi said, “Anyone who comes in, enemy or guest, doesn’t need to go out again. If there are more people outside, don’t let any of them in without my nod, regardless if they are dead or alive.”
These words sent a shiver down Qingliang’s spine.
However, immediately, Hua Yi began to laugh again. The killing intent in his words went up in smoke and disappeared in a moment, and the Chief became the gentle and amiable Chief again. Hua Yi untied the wine jug from his waist and put it into Chang An’s hand. “Take this. It’s cold in the tower at night. It will ward off the cold. I’m leaving.”
Chang An took it, but then Hua Yi turned back after taking two steps and said to him in a sticky voice, “Oh right, I’ll ask A’Ye to cook some medicine to ward off the cold and then bring them to you.”
Chang An was slightly impatient and wanted to tell him to get lost, but in the end, he restrained himself and gave a good-tempered nod. “En.”
Who would’ve thought that after walking for a few steps, Hua Yi would turn around for the third time. He cheaply leaned into him and said, “Wait, I remember something else. I have to kiss you.”
Before he could finish his sentence, he quickly lowered his head, cupped Chang An’s chin, and abruptly pecked him on the lips, only to find that Chang An’s tongue was numb from the cold winter months, and he couldn’t taste it.
When he finished kissing him, Chang An finally couldn’t stand it and stepped back. He asked, “What else do you have to do? Can you do it all at once?”
Hua Yi sighed. “So unromantic.”
Chang An was as unromantic as a pillar standing in the cold wind.
Hua Yi shook his head, strode down the stairs, and shouted to the guards, “Open the door and let them in.”
The guards were sheltered from the wind in small compartments in the gate tower, where the wind was too strong for the voices below to be heard. A small fire was burning inside the sheltered compartment, and several beastman guards shivered together.
Chang An took Luda and Qingliang out. The snow was reflective of the light, so the people and the horses moving around could be seen very clearly from above.
One of the guards behind him shouted, “Chang An, why did you get those two cubs out? To drink the wind?”
Chang An watched the group of men getting inside, and without looking back, he said, “Hang up the wooden spikes.”
The guards were startled with what he said. An older beastman came forward and asked, “What do you need those spikes for?”
Chang An rubbed his fingers on the saber and replied in a low voice, “To hang some heads.”
The old guard trembled. “What?”
Pointing to the men in tattered clothes, Chang An asked Luda, “What do you see?”
Luda was surprised, not expecting an unexpected exam. He squinted his eyes and looked closely.
Chang An said in his ear, “Whether it’s swordplay or swordsmanship, they are all powerful weapons. Therefore, to a certain extent, it doesn’t matter how much strength you have, but whether you understand your opponent or not. Look closely at the shoulders, the movement of the limbs, and the footprints of those people.”
After hearing this, Luda and Qingliang both stretched their necks and looked at them carefully. However, being young, they failed to grasp the point. On the contrary, the old veteran beastman, pondered the words carefully for a moment, then turned around, strode back to the cubicle, and kicked a young man. “Get up, all of you. Don’t hide here like a turtle. All of you go out and stand guard. Damn it, laozi’s armor and arrows are getting rusty. Finally some grandkids without long eyes2Since the old guard is referring to himself as “laozi” (I, your grandfather), he derogatorily refers to the outsiders as “sunzi” (grandchildren). And not having long eyes mean… err, I can’t quite explain it, but it’s like not recognizing that what is before you is actually way beyond you? Something like that. have bumped into us!”
A young man turned pale with fright and asked, “A’die, how about the city defense!”
The old beastman spat. “Mind your own business. Are the Chief’s eight hundred minds no wiser than you?”
When Qingliang heard their words, a layer of cold sweat immediately appeared on his hands. Panicked and frightened, he couldn’t set his mind to deal with Chang An’s sudden exam.
But then Luda suddenly brightened up and said, “I got it! Those few men in front. Their shoulders are stiff when they walk, and their bodies sway a little. They walk fast, but very firmly. And their hands swing slightly outward, because they’re wearing armor under their clothes.
“Those men are obviously about the same size as those in the back, but their footprints are heavier than theirs. This shows that, aside from the armor, they’re carrying something else that’s heavy, like weapons.”
Chang An showed a small smile on his face. He thought that his disciple was quite clever, making him feel accomplished. So he took out a piece of malt candy from his arms and rewarded it to Luda.
Luda was no longer a child. Standing tall and strong on one side, he felt a little embarrassed when he accepted the “reward” meant to coax a child.
Chang An seemed to think it was not right to favor one over the other, so he also took out a piece of candy for Qingliang. Unfortunately, Qingliang had already lost his mind, and he unconsciously clutched onto the candy like a lifeline. Neither in the mood to eat, nor in the mood to be embarrassed, he buzzed like a mosquito, “Then… then what about the people in the back? Do they also carry weapons?”
The old beastman arranged the sentry, took over Chang An’s words, and said to Qingliang, “Most of the people in the back were coerced into coming. Look at those last few people. Their legs twist awkwardly. You can see that they’re injured, but despite this, they grit their teeth and catch up with the men in front. They go into the city, not at all happy, but trembling with fear. I’m guessing their families have been held captive. In the middle of the night, we might have a battle—both inside and outside.”
Qingliang trembled at his words.
The old beastman looked at him and leisurely cautioned, “Son, don’t pee in your pants. There’s no place to change if you pee here, and it will freeze soon. In this kind of weather, you might freeze your d*ck off!”
As Qingliang’s name suggested, his face turned green3The 青 (qing) in Qinglian’s name means green/blue.
The old beastman had no choice but to pull a face and smile helplessly at Chang An. “Your disciple, ai… your disciple.”
As expected, come midnight, when Chang An had just switched shifts and rested his eyes for a moment, he was awoken by Luda tugging on his sleeve. “Shifu, there are many people outside the wall!”
Chang An said “en,” and motioned him to be calm. He stood up and walked out of the shelter, only to see the old beastman turn around and gesture at him.
The old man was getting on in age, but he was no less deadly. His eyes were as bright as a will-o’-the-wisp in the dark.
At that moment, several shadows came towards the city gate tower in the darkness of the night. That pitch-dark gate tower was like a hibernating giant beast—dormant, indistinct, but also oppressive.
The one leading the way was a beastman in beast form, and his steps suddenly stopped. Somehow, he felt that there was something evil about that gate tower.
The person behind him urged, “What are you doing? Is something wrong?”
It was inconvenient for the huge beast to speak, so he had to pick the snow with his front paw anxiously. He was immediately kicked in the ass. “It’s just opening a door. It’s not asking you to kill anyone. You don’t have as much guts as the big, stupid Chief over here.”
Another person said, “How did Black Wind-laoda4老大 – Boss know that this Chief is stupidly bold? I had thought of bringing a few women so we can disguise as a tribe, but here we are, and he’s still letting us in.”
The man who spoke before snorted, “You know shit. The Chief of this place has built such a wall and circled such a large area, so of course his ambition is not small. Naturally, he needs more people to be able to hold more places, so he’s happy to have people come seeking shelter. With that bunch of waste dragging us back, he knew right away that we’re a group of ‘refugees,’ and there was no reason not to let us in.”
While talking, the beast and several other people took a few steps forward.
But just then, something suddenly changed.
In the darkness, a torch suddenly lit up, blinding people’s eyes, and at the same time, an earth-shattering roar sounded. The man who spoke felt a hot stream all over his face, and his mouth was splattered with a fishy taste before he could close it.
At this moment, the head of the giant beast in front was actually beheaded.
It was only then that they could see that behind the torch was a young man with an unreadable face. As soon as the man raised his hand and stuck the torch in a groove in the wall, a saber dripping with blood shone in the fierce light of the flames.