"Till the mountains flatten and heaven and earth join together, only then will I part from you."
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"Such a strong wind."
At night, Chen Xing heard swooshes coming from outside the tent. The gale, seemingly having managed to overcome the mountain ranges on all three sides, converged toward Chi Le Chuan at the center.
After finishing dinner, Xiang Shu said, "Sleep. While you should have enough sleep, Guwang is practically about to die from work."
"Oi, magical artifact." Chen Xing and Xiang Shu each occupied a bed. Covered in a blanket, Chen Xing stretched his hand out and poked Xiang Shu who was lying down. "Are you asleep?"
Xiang Shu: "?"
"The displays outside won’t fall over, right?" Chen Xing was worried. "If they're blown away by the wind, we won't be able to celebrate the Autumn Close Festival tomorrow."
Xiang Shu: "The pasture isn't located where the wind is blowing; it's going to be okay."
"What were you busy all day long with at the tribe's meeting today?" Chen Xing asked again.
"And your business with that is?" Xiang Shu turned over, his back at Chen Xing.
Chen Xing felt a little jealous. As a matter of fact, following their return from Saibei, he had been feeling that while Xiang Shu was his Protector outside of Chi Le Chuan, he must return to his identity as the Great Chanyu once they came back. He had a lot of matters to attend to and had clansmen to be taken care of, so Chen Xing also couldn't monopolize him all the time.
Although he felt that based on their current relationship, Xiang Shu would surely accompany him to the South, they had never brought up about the future.
"Before the Autumn Close Festival has been concluded," Xiang Shu directly cut him off, "I don't want to talk about anything related to exorcism."
"All right," Chen Xing acquiesced and put the matter off until after the festival. As the strong wind blew all night long, Chen Xing had many bizarre dreams. Amidst the total darkness outside the tent, a dark qi hurricane embodiment of Chiyou manifested and roared, wanting to wreak havoc to their royal tent. However, sitting cross-knee by his side, Xiang Shu protected him as he summoned a golden rock dragon that flew around the royal tent that made Chiyou unable to get closer to him.
It wasn't until Xiang Shu pushed aside the covering did the morning sunlight begin to pour into the tent and shine on Chen Xing's face as he heard hubbub and laughter from outside.
"Get up!" Xiang Shu said. "Freshen up, change your clothes. Still asleep?"
Some Tiele youths swarmed in as soon as the royal tent was opened. Chen Xing said, "Wait, wait! I still haven't properly dressed yet!"
After getting up with much fanfare, he went behind the screen to freshen himself up. Generous laughter could be heard amidst the chaos, and Xiang Shu, sitting calmly on the couch in his undergarment, was exposing his fit, fair, and beautiful chest.
The youths came forward and began to serve him by straightening out the royal robe. Wearing a warrior royal apparel with a martial-style sleeve and wide-style sleeve on another, Xiang Shu looked more magnificent than in the previous martial armor that he had been wearing during the previous Autumn Close Festival. The black royal robe that covered his whole body was not traced with dark totems this time around, but golden threads forming clear patterns instead. White jade loops were hung down decorating his braids, while on his fingers were three brilliantly glittering rings.
"Go change his clothes," Xiang Shu, looking at Chen Xing came out from behind the screen, commanded.
Chen Xing immediately refused, "I'll do it myself."
"You don't know how to wear the Hu clothing," stated Xiang Shu.
Chen Xing had wanted to say that he was actually fine wearing the Han clothing, but the youths already pressed him on the couch. They dressed him in a navy-blue robe embroidered with dragon, deer, and wolf patterns sewn in purple and golden threads.
Chen Xing: "…..."
This Hu suit was of Xiongnu standard, but it was custom made in such a way for him to preserve the Han people's custom of wrapping the right side before the left.
"The queen of Akele people rushed her people to make it just for you," Xiang Shu supplied. "There's no need to specifically go to thank her since she will come to see you in a moment."
A burst of warmth couldn't help but bubble forth in Chen Xing's heart. Continuing on, the four youths untied his hair and weaved it into fine braids before gathering them into one at the back of his head and finally securing it with a pure gold deer brooch.
"This isn't really necessary ba?" Chen Xing felt rather shy; dressed in accordance to the Chi Le Chuan's people custom, he saw a completely different self when looking at his appearance in the mirror.
"Just for one day," Xiang Shu casually opened his mouth and spoke. "After the festival is over, feel free to take it off."
Chen Xing sprung up. Examining himself in the mirror, he felt that he was actually quite good-looking. "Okay, since you're going to be busy for now, I'll go out and play!"
Chen Xing knew that Xiang Shu wouldn't be able to relax first thing in the morning, and only in the afternoon would he get some free time. He was ready to come back and pester him then, but for now, he planned to go out and stroll around first since it must be quite lively outside.
"Sit. Don't go anywhere." Xiang Shu pointed to the other side of the royal couch.
"No way!" Chen Xing said. "I want to go out and watch them tame horses ah!"
Chen Xing, being stared at by Xiang Shu's imposing eyes, was left with no other option; he had to turn toward the royal couch and sat on his knees. The Tiele youths came forward again, this time bringing a small table, which was then placed between Chen Xing and Xiang Shu. On it were milk tea, dried fruit and other snacks, as well as the Great Chanyu's official seal.
There was also a golden tray with dozens of hemp bags, each embroidered with a division totem.
Chen Xing picked one up out of curiosity and asked, "What is this?"
"Don't fiddle around. Put it back," Xiang Shu reprimanded. "That is what we called the sacred grass of the Ancient Covenant. Inside of it is the seed of grass that has been offered as sacrifices to the Yin mountains."
A Tiele youth explained, "All tribes pursue dwellings that are abundant in water and grass. Each time they find a suitable place, they will hang this thing in front of the clan leader's royal tent, which signifies their prayers for vitality and prosperity."
Chen Xing realized that this should be similar to the Han people's custom; these were rewards the Great Chanyu would bestow upon people as a symbol of well-being.
Resting his elbow on the table with his left leg leaning toward the tray and right leg hanging on the couch, Xiang Shu said, "Pass my order: unveil the tent for the Autumn Close Festival."
The Tiele youths replied "yes!" in unison; they withdrew from the tent, rolled up the curtain, and set up the sunroof. There were golden lights everywhere outside the tent early in the morning, its light shining on Chen Xing and Xiang Shu's bodies.
Xiang Shu, dressed in a royal garment with golden-embroidered totems of sixteen Hus, a wing-shaped shoulder guard, and a golden belt, shone under the illumination of the morning sun. On the other hand, Chen Xing, looking elegant and bright in a navy-blue martial robe, was currently...
...stuffing food into his mouth because he got hungry after getting up.
"The Four Seas and the prairies are all the Great Chanyu's land, and all of the people under the sky are all the Great Chanyu's people!"
The sixteen Hus outside the tent entered in succession to pay homage.
The moment Chen Xing heard the sound, he choked on the nuts he was eating.
"Stop eating," Xiang Shu frowned as he handed the milk tea over.
"I didn't know you were going to open the tent up to accept homage." Chen Xing, who almost got choked to death, gulped down the milk tea.
"We, the people of Rouran tribe, highly praise the Great Chanyu's martial prowess..."
The first one to enter the tent was none other than the leader of the Rouran tribe, Che Luofeng. When he saw Chen Xing sitting by Xiang Shu's side, a dull look couldn't help but appear in his eyes.
"...hail the number one warrior under heaven, whose name is known as the master of the land beyond the Great Wall..."
The elders and warriors of the Rouran tribe entered one by one and knelt down to worship Xiang Shu. Chen Xing, who had already experienced this during their time in Chang'an, immediately dared not be reckless; he sat well-behaved on his knees and put his hands on his lap.
Che Luofeng personally offered a feathered crown decorated with sixteen feathers, their color ranging from black, indigo, navy blue, emerald green, ashen, and even pure white, but the most eye-catching of them all were the golden bird's feathers found on the summit of Mt. Qilian, which glittered under the sunlight that seeped in from outside the sunroof. Every single golden pattern on the crown was carved personally by Che Luofeng, and every single feather attached, not including the golden bird ones, was also personally sought out by him from traveling all over the land north of the Great Wall for Xiang Shu, while every single jewel was brought from a traveling merchant by him using a large sum of money.
"This feathered crown was handcrafted personally by I, Che Luofeng, the chief of the Rouran tribe, and the late Zhou Zhen, the greatest warrior of the Rouran tribe, for my Anda."
Che Luofeng came forward and put the crown on the table before earnestly saying, "There wasn't enough time to finish it back during the Great Chanyu's succession ceremony, so now, five years later, consider it as the fulfillment of my wish at that time."
"Thank you, Anda." Showing a rare smile, Xiang Shu's slender fingers picked up a bag by clasping it in between his index and middle finger, and he handed it to Che Luofeng. "In the name of all living things between heaven and earth, in the name of the Yin mountains, the Great Chanyu gives his prayer for the Rouran tribe: may your water and plant be abundant and your offspring be thriving in the year to come."
Bowing down, Che Luofeng received the bag and withdrew. Xiang Shu gave Chen Xing a signal with his eyes while pointing at the feathered crown.
Chen Xing pretended not to understand. "What?"
Xiang Shu: "..."
Chen Xing thus got up and put the crown on Xiang Shu after positioning himself behind him. When Xiang Shu raised his hand in order to make a slight adjustment, his fingers touched Chen Xing's hand instead; the two people, seemingly having a tacit understanding, each pulled back.
The Tiele people outside entered the tent to pay homage after Chen Xing sat down.
"The Four Seas and the prairies are all the Great Chanyu's land, and all of the people under the sky..."
Each tribe gave out a unique impression when saying this sentence, but after listening again and again, Chen Xing actually still felt that the Han language sounded the best with its tonal speech.
"Yeluosa." Xiang Shu seemed to be in a very good today; the corners of his mouth were slightly raised, carrying a faint smile as he looked at Che Luofeng, Shi Mokun, and the group of clansmen who had come to pay homage to him. It was they who had been watching him ever since five years ago when he began to take over from his father a responsibility that stretched long and unbroken beyond the Great Wall, a responsibility that would last for thousands of autumns.
Taking a golden crown decorated with eagle feathers from his fellow clan member, Shi Mokun then said, "We, the Tiele tribe, offer this crown for the Divine Doctor as a way to express our gratitude to this Han brother for helping my Hu people of Chi Le Chuan. We hope that for millennia to come, the two races will never wage war."
Chen Xing, who instantly felt flattered by this gesture, said, "It's for me? Thank you, thank you! I like it so much!"
Xiang Shu, taking the offered golden crown, impatiently beckoned Chen Xing to bring his head closer and casually put it on his head. Chen Xing, still fixing the crown on his head, asked, "Why weren't you the one coming over to put it on me?"
“Because I'm the Great Chanyu." Xiang Shu finally reached the end of his patience. After handing over the seed to Shi Mokun, he said in a deep voice, "The Great Chanyu gives his blessing to the Tiele tribe: may your cattle and sheep multiply and your military merit be everlasting."
People inside the tent suddenly didn't know whether to laugh or cry. After Shi Mokun withdrew, it was the leader of the Akele tribe, his consort, and his son who came in to have an audience.
"We, the Akele tribe, greatly admire the Great Chanyu's martial power..."
Chen Xing, who received a smile from the consort, smiled back at her. When they exchanged glances, the consort nodded in admiration: she thought he looked extraordinarily good on that garment.
"May the offspring of your Akele tribe be blessed with never-ending fortune and a long life free of disease and disaster," said Xiang Shu as he handed the seed over to King Akele.
Following that, it was Murong Chong who raised the curtain. He brought along Princess Qinghe and Tuoba Yan, followed by the clan leader of the Xianbei tribe in Chi Le Chuan, the elders, as well as their warriors.
"Murong Chong!" Chen Xing was shocked.
"When did you arrive?" Xiang Shu casually asked.
"Just last night." Murong Chong looked slightly awkward, but Princess Qinghe emerged from the crowd and said, beaming with a smile, "We of the Xianbei tribe hold the Great Chanyu's name in high esteem. We come to the Great Chanyu with a specific purpose on this year's Autumn Close, that is, to implore him to bestow us his blessing so our whole tribe will be able to pass any calamity."
"Yeluosa." Xiang Shu then picked up the seed and gave it to Murong Chong. "The Great Chanyu gives his blessing to the Xianbei tribe: may you emerge victorious in every battle and may your military prowess get ever stronger, so that you may finally return to your native land."
Princess Qinghe was choked with emotion, her eyes reddening immediately, while Murong Chong was stumped in place. Chen Xing gloomily thought, This is anything but good. For what reason would Murong Chong come to visit during the Autumn Close Festival? He's most likely hoping to get Chi Le Covenant's support when starting a war with Fu Jian!
"But today is not the time to talk about affairs of the world," added Xiang Shu. "Just celebrate the festival properly."
Princess Qinghe, highly cherishing it, put away the bag and led her clansmen to kowtow to Xiang Shu in gratitude.
Following that was the Xiongnu, the Mohe, the Gaoche, and the rest of the tribes who came one after another to pay homage to the Great Chanyu. Chen Xing had to use all of his might just to control himself from yawning all the time to the point that his face was showing a very strange expression.
Xiang Shu, who was observing him, was simply between laughter and tears. After a full shichen, all of the tribes finally finished paying homage to Xiang Shu. After the final division withdrew, Che Luofeng, who had been waiting outside the tent, led the crowd to enter again and offered the Chi Le's jade bow as he knelt on one knee.
It's finally time! Chen Xing thought. I can finally go out and have fun aaaaaaaaaaah——
Xiang Shu got up with confidence and patted Che Luofeng on the shoulder before taking the jade bow.
Chen Xing nearly stumbled when he went down the couch, but the very startled Xiang Shu immediately turned around and half-hugged him.
"Cra-cramps..." Chen Xing hobbled over a few steps.
Xiang Shu frowned. "You sat for so long, of course they turned numb."
Drumbeats came from the foot of the mountains. Xiang Shu said to Chen Xing, "Keep up."
Chen Xing shouted "wow!" the moment he went out of the royal tent. The cold wind from yesterday night had passed, replaced by snow that had now covered half of Chi Le Chuan! With golden-yellow plain and white snow covering the mountains on its three sides, it looked like wonderful scenery straight out of a painting.
Xiang Shu led everyone to the platform after mounting his horse, yet the moment he looked back after arriving in front of it, he couldn't see any trace of Chen Xing. When he was still busy knitting his brows as he looked for the man, Chen Xing, who had arrived in front of another spot, waved his hands. "I'm here! I can see more clearly from the outside!"
Tuoba Yan, who was currently talking with Lu Ying and Xiao Shan with all smiles, saw Chen Xing and quickly beckoned him over. "Chen Xing! Here!"
Chen Xing was thinking of going over there when a hand from behind pressed his shoulder. Turning his head, he saw that it was Murong Chong, who then brought him over to the wooden table set by the Xianbei people on the western side. The two stepped on the table, and the geese-shooting platform could be seen across the crowd in the distance.
"I can't believe you actually came here," Chen Xing said in a low voice. "Did you hit any setback inside the pass?"
"No, don't be tense," Murong Chong said as he lightly touched Chen Xing, motioning for him to stop talking and look up.
Xiang Shu had his eyes fixed on Chen Xing who was standing on the long table faraway; the two thus looked at one another, separated only by a distance. Xiang Shu, a longbow in his hand, had his royal garment fluttering in the air. At this time, those earth-shattering drumbeats coming off the platform, sounding alike to thousands of galloping horses, suddenly stopped.
That dashing look and noble bearing were truly beyond compare.
Chen Xing couldn't help but recall the past. At what time did he start falling in love with Xiang Shu ne? It might've been when he had first caught sight of him doing this act... no, it should be said that he realized he had fallen in love with Xiang Shu on this day, but that unclear emotion might've been preordained to be born as early as the moment they had first met.
A Rouran man offered up two geese, yet never once did Xiang Shu look at anyone by his side; from the very beginning, his gaze had gone past the crowd and landed on Chen Xing who stood twenty steps away. For a moment, the noisy crowd seemed to have completely gone far away; it was as if, among Chi Le Chuan's mountains, rivers, sky, and earth, there were only the two of them.
"Wei!" Chen Xing eventually couldn't bear it and shouted from afar. "You, the Great Chanyu who rules over the Four Seas and all of the people under the sky!"
Xiang Shu, who was in his royal garment, raised his eyebrows as he gazed at Chen Xing.
The first time around, Chen Xing had once racked his brain trying to recall all of the lessons he had learned in his life, only for him to still be unable to find the right words to describe what he had been feeling at this moment. But today, when all of this once again gently came back in front of him amidst the flow of time, a ballad that his father had taught him once upon a time unexpectedly appeared in his mind.
Oh, Heaven High! Chen Xing, looking at Xiang Shu from afar, began to sing from the bottom of his heart.
Che Luofeng untied the rope on the geese's feet.
"I wish to be your love for ever and ever..." Hearing Chen Xing's ballad, Murong Chong immediately responded.
The moment people heard Chen Xing singing this ancient ballad in Xianbei language, they seemed to have been transported back to a certain time in the past. At that period, the Han people would sing "Chi Le Chuan, under the Yin mountains" and the five Hus, translating the Hans' Yuefu poems into each of the tribes' ancient language, would also eagerly pass them around.
Chen Xing's act spread fast from one to ten to hundreds of people; the Qiang people scattered all around began to play their Qiang flutes one after another, and soon enough, the lonely ancient rhythm reverberated all over the world!
"All my life, everlasting, never waning..." Chen Xing said in a clear voice.
"Till the mountains flatten and the rivers run dry..." Tuoba Yan, following the rhyme of the Qiang flute, also sang in a low voice.
The geese, dragging a red silk, soared into the sky the moment the Rouran man let go. The golden gong glittered in brilliance under the sunlight and quickly became a bright dot as the geese flew toward the horizon.
"Till it thunders in winter and it snows in summer!"
After nocking the arrow, Xiang Shu did a 360-degree turn before drawing the bow in a full arc.
Chen Xing: "Till the mountains flatten and heaven and earth join together."
Three arrows, fired in succession, flew toward the boundless, clear sky. Xiang Shu's gaze, no longer fixed at the sky after shooting, once again returned to Chen Xing in the distance.
"Only then will I part from you." Chen Xing smiled as he recited.
First, the sound of Qiang flute reverberated, followed by a melody that resounded all over the sky. When the ancient ballad that echoed throughout the land stopped, a soft "dang!" followed, indicating that the golden gong had been successfully smashed to pieces. Next, cheers, loud laughter, and shouts rang through everyone's ears. A tide of people completely dispersed and suddenly, it was chaotic everywhere. Hundreds of thousands of people were either fighting over drinks, flocking around, or taking up places; they scattered to various venues as if competing with each other. And thus, the grand Autumn Close Festival began!
Chen Xing hurriedly jumped off the table. The first thing the Hu people did once they came was grabbing the wooden cups of kumis; if Chen Xing hadn't left quickly, those drunken people would've most likely gotten some wine splashed over his body. Murong Chong also walked away, and the open space was quickly filled with people. Chen Xing stood on tiptoe and called out, "Xiang Shu!"
After handing over the jade bow to a warrior and coming down the platform, Xiang Shu walked toward Chen Xing.
Che Luofeng shouted, "Anda! I want to have a drink with you!"
Xiang Shu, turning around, continued to walk in reverse for a few steps. The feathered crown on his head, glinting under the light of the sun, shook a little bit along with his movement.
"I'll come find you again in a while!" Xiang Shu said before turning back again and looking for Chen Xing's whereabouts.
Chen Xing drowned among the all-drunk crowd on the wine table. At the beginning of the Autumn Close Festival, regardless of everything, everyone would grab one round of wine and get themselves intoxicated before going to play. People had begun to push and shove, their blank eyes already failing to recognize Xiang Shu.
"Xiang Shu! I'm here!"
Chen Xing was unable to squeeze away from the crowd. Xiang Shu, who finally managed to push a group of drunkards away, crossed over the crowd and grabbed Chen Xing's wrist, dragging him out.
"I told you not to run so far." Xiang Shu brought Chen Xing along and pushed a man who stood in their way. Chen Xing said, "Want to drink?"
Xiang Shu halted his steps while Chen Xing picked up two filled wooden cups. Xiang Shu then said, "The Great Chanyu allows it. You drink half a cup; Guwang will drink a full cup."
Chen Xing dared not drink everything for fear he might get himself drunk and wouldn't manage to do anything today. Thus, he and Xiang Shu saluted each other and only drank half a cup as they stood under the ancient tree. After drinking, Xiang Shu wiped the corners of his mouth as he looked up toward the snow-covered Yin mountains. When he once again lowered his head, he looked at Chen Xing as if he was hesitating to say something.
Chen Xing's heart violently thumped at once. He was a little bit tipsy as he waited for it; perhaps Xiang Shu would finally speak out that sentence.
"Anda!" Che Luofeng's voice was heard.
Chen Xing immediately raged. You again?! Why is it always you?!
Xiang Shu immediately turned around and realized something.
"Han man." Che Luofeng focused on Chen Xing. "Let's go drink together? And have a chat while at it."
The mood that had been brewing for a long, long time was suddenly interrupted by Che Luofeng. After staying silent for quite a while, Xiang Shu finally said, "Anda, since you're here, I have something I want to say to you. Chen Xing, wait for me here."
"Che Luofeng," Chen Xing ignored Xiang Shu and instead said, "I have this idea that has been lingering on my mind for quite some time. Why don't we have a fair-and-square, open challenge on this day?"
Che Luofeng was stunned. He didn't think Chen Xing would take a lead in issuing a challenge to himself. He laughed and asked, "What kind?"
Chen Xing said, "How about shooting on horse? One person gets three arrows."
Che Luofeng: "Okay, since there can be no fight inside Chi Le Chuan, let's go to the competition arena?"
Xiang Shu: "Che Luofeng!"
Chen Xing and Che Luofeng, each carrying a smile, just simultaneously looked at Xiang Shu.
Outside the riding competition arena, the Rourans, the Tieles, and the Xiongnus crowded in one after another. The two competitors each received three blunt-headed arrows smeared with lime.
Xiang Shu: "What are you betting on ne?"
"I think we all have a tacit understanding as to what it is ba!" Although Chen Xing was smiling at Che Luofeng, he was actually nervous to death in his heart; he only pretended to be indifferent on the surface and pleaded that by showing an imposing manner, he would get some advantage over his opponent.
Getting on his horse, Che Luofeng's eyes were locked on Chen Xing as he said, "Not bad. I'll give up one arrow for you. I'll only use two arrows."
Chen Xing: "No need! Each gets three, shoot them all!"
Che Luofeng: "You said it yourself, Han man. After this, don't blame me for bullying you. If it's a draw, regard it as my loss."
Chen Xing also flipped over and mounted his horse.
Over ten of thousands of people suddenly gathered on the sidelines. The arena was packed in and out as people watched Chen Xing and Che Luofeng on the field.
The consort of Akele people yelled in Xiongnu language, "Chen Xing, Che Luofeng is very swift when controlling horses! Don't let him get out of your sight!"
When Chen Xing mounted his horse, he actually forgot that he was wearing a Han-style, left-over-right martial robe. He tripped over the corner of his robe as he stepped on the stirrup and nearly slipped off, causing a burst of laughter from people.
Chen Xing, after much difficulty, finally stabilized himself on the seat. It was as if there was an unseen hand of heaven looking out for him, picking out his clothing and hairstyle. This Hu garment allowed for easy movement and was tailored for mounted archery, while his bound and thin-braided hair, not easily scattered by the wind, wouldn't block his line of sight. The martial-style sleeves also made it easy to draw a bow and shoot arrows.
Xiang Shu: "If you can't do it, just shout stop."
Xiang Shu only regarded this as a way for Che Luofeng and Chen Xing to swap pointers. He thought that Chen Xing, who had been learning how to shoot along the road, couldn't help but feel itchy to try his skill during the Autumn Close Festival. Measuring the two people's skills, while Che Luofeng's martial skill was taught to him by Zhou Zhen, since he often had Zhou Zhen protecting him, his mounted archery skill would most likely be out of practice. On the other hand, talking about archery alone, Chen Xing's skill was passed on from the greatest warrior himself. Moreover, along the way, he had used the White Deer as a target for dash-and-hit practice day after day, so he might really have the ability to fight.
No one on the field dared to strike the drum, however, since the identities of both sides were very special.
Xiang Shu, who had no choice but to walk over, was offered a signal arrow by a warrior. Xiang Shu bent his bow and fired the arrow, which, as it flew toward the horizon, let out signal noise.
THEY’RE SO GAY OH MY GOD JUST KISS ALREADY DAMMIT KISS KISS KISS GAH
Also today is namio’s birthday! Happy birthday, namio! BE GREAT YOUR HULEISHAN IS COMING SOON
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Elestrea.