The smoke cleared in the first light of morning.
Standing at the city gates, in his new armor and with his old blade, Luda proudly greeted the ragged refugees and the Black Wind Puya prisoners as they entered the city. The sunlight was hitting his face, but it didn’t dazzle him. On the contrary, it gave him some warmth amidst the cold wind. He straightened his back and struggled to look at the others in his peripheral vision, lest he might perform inappropriately.
The young man had been up all night and even had a wound on his back, yet he was strangely energetic.
After the battle, he felt he had become a warrior.
Chang An came back on his feet. The pair of dog men1Referring to Bei Shi and Hai Lan acting lovey-dovey hahaha. in front of him kept pulling and tugging on each other, so he had no choice but to pick up a relatively long saber on his own, hang twelve heads on it, and carry them all the way back terrifyingly.
Standing at the gate towers, Hua Yi looked down from above with his brows furrowed.
He did not panic when the enemy attacked, nor did he seem pleased when he won the battle. Suo Laimu took a half-step back away from him and didn’t stand beside him. He looked on, wondering whether it was a good or bad idea that the Chief, who wasn’t even in his prime, to have cultivated such composure early on.
It was not until he saw Chang An that Hua Yi turned around and walked down the tower without a word. The crowd parted to give way to him. Hua Yi walked up to Chang An with his eyes fixed on his face and said angrily in a low voice, “Where have you been?”
Chang An: “I…”
Hearing his question, Bei Shi calmly turned around and raised a hand to interrupt Chang An. Sweeping over Hua Yi out of the corner of his eyes, he said without any regard for him, “Little pup, come here quick. I’m hungry, and it’s been years since I’ve eaten what you roast. Come and roast me some jerky2肉干(ròu gān)- not really jerky, but it’s very similar to it. It’s a dried savoury sweetmeat that traditionally takes the form of thin square slices and is usually made from pork..”
Chang An: “……”
Regarding this, Chang An still had some self-awareness. His skill was limited to being able to eat. Eating what he made wouldn’t upset the stomach, but it certainly wouldn’t taste good. After experiencing his cooking, the master and disciple pair on the mountain would never try to make do with Chang An’s cooking, unless Bei Shi was too drunk to get up or too lazy to do anything.
Chang An felt that he was slowly getting wiser as he got older. For example, he could see now that Bei Shi was deliberately making things hard for Hua Yi
Hua Yi seemed to have not heard Bei Shi speak. His eyes just stared at Chang An, the corners of his mouth slowly showing a smile. “Well?”
Chang An: “I’ll go with Shifu…”
Bei Shi sneered and coldly looked up. “The majesty of the Chief is truly breathtaking. What? I am not from your city. When I’m looking for a place where I can teach my disciple, do I also need to first report to you where I’m going?”
Chang An had to swallow the second half of his words, feeling his head ache. He hadn’t slept all night. Although there were quite a lot of gains, there was also a lot of running around and laborious work. At this moment, it was like there were several bees flying by his ears and buzzing incessantly. He wanted to slap each of them in the face and tell them to shut up, but since he couldn’t raise his hand to anyone, he had no choice but to keep his head down and play dead.
Hua Yi’s gaze swept gloomily towards Bei Shi. There was a moment of silence, but he stiffly squeezed out a smile. “I wouldn’t dare.”
Bei Shi didn’t buy any of it. He beckoned, “Chang An, let’s go!”
Chang An only felt that Hua Yi’s gaze was almost staring through him. However, he couldn’t not follow Bei Shi, so he could only say to Hua Yi in an almost inaudible voice, “It’s my fault.”
But Bei Shi’s ears were somehow so good that he even heard this sentence, and he immediately flew into a rage. When this little pup followed me, I always had to smooth his hair correctly. When I smoothed it the wrong way, he’d immediately explode. The words he’d say then could choke a person to a tumble. How come when he goes to others, he’ll immediately turn meek and admit his mistakes as if it was natural?
What the fuck?
Bei Shi snorted, swung his arms, and strode away. Chang An could only look at Hua Yi with a thousand apologies. He put down the saber and the twelve heads on it, pressed on his stiff shoulders as he walked away, then hurriedly ran after them.
Hua Yi watched his back with a smile on his face.
At this time, the shirtless Ka Zuo strode over. He looked down with a “whoah” and shouted to Lu Quan, “Hey, hey, didn’t you say you guys didn’t find the twelve dogs? This is exactly twelve heads ah! Chief, which yingxiong3英雄 – Literally “hero.” A yingxiong is a person who has excellent character and has made achievements that surpass ordinary people carried these back?”
Hua Yi turned his head around with a steady smile and stared straight at Ka Zuo.
Ka Zuo was smiled at by him for so long that his hair stood on end. He immediately pulled an animal skin shawl out of nowhere, wrapped it around his body, and ran away with his tail between his legs.
Only then did Hua Yi look down at the heads on the ground which blood had dried up. He lightly kicked them with the tip of his foot, then instructed the man next to him, “Hang them on the city walls, together with the Puya clan master. Let the master and his servants reunite.”
After saying that, he turned away with his hands behind his back. His expression was blank, but in his mind, he was dragging Bei Shi out and cutting him to death4凌迟 (ling chi) – a corporal punishment of killing by a thousand cuts. However, he didn’t feel much comfortable. He simply began to feel uneasy at the mere thought of the name.
Ever since he heard about Chang An’s master entering the city, he had a faint foreboding, and now, it had really come true.
In the following days, Hua Yi sent people to hunt down the scattered survivors of Black Wind Puya, making every effort to completely wipe them out. And following the spread of this news, he used the merchants under his control to go far and wide.
In addition to the refugees who entered the city in the beginning, more people kept moving in over the days. In less than a month, the population doubled, and the city walls expanded. Hua Yi, Suo Laimu, Shan Xi, and the others had to work out the city laws overnight, which were then engraved on the back of the stone city gate tower. The garrison and the guards became first in line in maintaining the order of the city.
On one hand, he was fully satisfied in the realization of his wish in opening up new territories as he absorbed the population and expanded his domain. On the other hand, he was completely being tormented by Bei Shi, making him feel helpless.
Seeing Chang An was even more difficult than reaching the sky. In the beginning, Hua Yi would still brazenly go sit at Chang An’s place. However, Bei Shi would accompany him, not at all finding it tiresome to sit all day. When this daye5大爷 – a term of respect for an older man, but can also be a slang for a self-centered show-off or arrogant idler was in a good mood, he would talk about random things. And when he was in a bad mood, he would quietly sit in place, looking surprisingly similar to how Suo Laimu would look when he was muttering to himself as he did some fortune-telling.
After Hua Yi realized that this method didn’t work, he took advantage of the Chief’s privilege to arbitrarily transfer the shifts of the city guards, then went to work at night himself, waiting for Chang An.
But then Bei Shi braved the cold and risked being half-drunk as he brought a wine flask with him and followed Chang An up the city gate tower in order to, as he euphemistically called it, exercise the muscles and bask in the moon. Hua Yi cursed internally, Why don’t you6Hua Yi is using the polite form of the “you” pronoun here hurry and become an immortal?
However, he couldn’t call Chang An out for a vigil every day. Among the three of them, it was obvious who couldn’t stand it first.
After a few days, Hua Yi came up with another trick. He somehow found out that Hai Lan was Suo Laimu’s second uncle, and he immediately had a crooked idea. He had seen the ambiguity between Bei Shi and Hai Lan, so he shamelessly coerced A’Ye, a woman, to grind the Wuse shells into powder and give it to him, making A’Ye’s face turn very red. He also threatened and tried every means to get Suo Laimu to hand the thing over to his “second uncle” as a sign of filial piety.
As a result, the two of them were mercilessly invited out by “Er-shu” that day.
Hua Yi found it inconceivable, and he quietly asked Suo Laimu, “Is your Er-shu’s lower body still healthy?”
Suo Laimu already thought that the matter was so humiliating. Seeing his wretched face, he simply felt that talking to him would get his tongue dirty, so he immediately left without saying a word.
Hai Lan closed the door and turned around, just in time to see Chang An standing there in silence. He asked, “What about Bei Shi?”
Chang An said, “He drank a few more sips today, then went to take a nap.”
Hai Lan nodded sullenly, and after a while, he saw Chang An looking out the door in a bit of trance. So he said suddenly, “Don’t blame him. He always blames Chief Hua Yi for being too scheming and acting inappropriately.”
Elders had always wanted their children to be smart and clever. The sillier the children in other families were, the better.
Chang An rubbed the space between his eyebrows, his head still aching.
“Actually, you won’t have a headache in a few days. He…”
Hai Lan’s voice came to an abrupt end. Chang An turned his head and saw the tips of the man’s eyebrow quickly move lightly, his eyelids drooping slightly. Sadness seemed to flash for a moment, but then soon disappeared, leaving only a wooden look.
A sharp blade7尖刀 – Specifically referring to the jiandao here, which also happens to be the weapon Bei Shi uses, if you remember. I went with its literal translation instead of the pinyin, because author made a comparison on sharp vs blunt, after all, was no more graceful or matchless than a blunt axe. It would always use up the blood of a man’s heart8心血 (heart’s blood) – refers to hard work, efforts. Since ancient times, how many of the unparalleled divine weapons could last for long?
Hai Lan’s voice broke for a moment, but then he soon continued calmly, “He said we’d be leaving in a few days.”
“Leaving? Where are you going?” Chang An was taken aback. He had a feeling that what Hai Lan had wanted to say wasn’t this.
“Your master likes peace and quiet. There are too many people here and it’s always bustling with activity that he can’t live comfortably.” Talking up to here, Hai Lan suddenly smiled, and his face, which had always seemed rather stiff, immediately turned soft. “The mother-in-law always likes to make things difficult for the daughter-in-law, and the father-in-law always cannot bear seeing the son-in-law. He treats you as if you were his own child, so just let him stir up trouble for a few more days until he’s satisfied.”
On the day they left, Hua Yi could hardly wait to give them a city-wide send-off. He had been enthusiastically looking forward to this day.
In his opinion, once he kicked these two scourges outside and closed the city gates, all would be well in the world.
Then he’d go settle his accounts with Chang An from these days.
However, when Chang An silently sent them off far away, Hua Yi, fearing that he’d be abducted by those two old men, had to hold his breath and smile servilely as he followed them all the way. He also had to listen to a few words from Bei Shi from time to time.
Not knowing how far they had gone, Bei Shi looked back at Chang An and impatiently waved him off. “Why are you still following? You’re as sticky as a worm. Go, go, hurry up and leave.”
Chang An grabbed his wrist and asked, “Where are you guys going?”
He had asked this question over and over again, and each time, they were always deflected. But even then, he was as relentless as when he was pestering Bei Shi to teach him the blade.
Bei Shi finally looked helpless. He raised his hand to touch Chang An’s face, and said perfunctorily, “We’re going back to Yufeng Mountain, okay?”
Chang An knew that he was lying, but he had no proof, only a strong feeling that it would stir a hole in his heart, more clearly and sadly than when Zhe Yan had died.
Back then, he could still hold Zhe Yan’s body and bite whoever moved it. At this time, however, he could only reluctantly suppress it. He was already so old, how could he still clung onto his master’s thigh and not let him go?
But how could parting in life be lighter than being parted by death?
In the end, they were like sand between the fingers, one by one flowing through his hands without a trace while he desperately tried to keep them.
Chang An kept his head down for a long time, before finally letting go of his hand. He said, “Don’t tear down the house I live in. Keep it for me.”
Bei Shi laughed. “You’re still thinking about letting me keep it? There was such a big earthquake. Your crappy house wasn’t built so well back then. Even if there were ten of them, they would all collapse from the shaking. If you want a place to live in, scram back and build another one, and I won’t be tired to death by you.”
Chang An wouldn’t force himself to smile. He couldn’t smile, so he just looked at him sullenly.
With his smile gradually fading, Bei Shi looked at him deeply, and the hand that wanted to touch his head finally dropped and instead patted him hard on the shoulder. He turned to Hai Lan and said, “Let’s go.”
Then this callous man really moved ahead with Hai Lan all the way, never once looking back.
Until the two of them finally disappeared from Chang An’s sight.