We should have talked like that a long time ago.
Chen Xing simmered a concentrated bowl of Mafei soup and wanted to pry Che Luofeng’s teeth open for him to consume it. However, Che Luofeng’s face was ghastly pale. After suffering such grievous injuries in the mountains and forests in the north, he had staked it all on his last breath to make it back here and it had already exhausted almost all of his strength.
Without saying another word, Xiang Shu took the bowl, raised his head, held the soup in his mouth, then bowed down and fed it to Che Luofeng.
Chen Xing grasped a bent sewing needle as he came out and got Xiang Shu to wash his hands with hot wine and assist him by his side. He murmured, “It’s fortunate that his companion covered his stomach with a bowl to contain his stray intestines. Otherwise, if they had broken, then he can’t be saved even if he was an immortal. Move the lights and mirrors all over here.”
His subordinates had already driven away everyone else who wasn’t involved. Chen Xing first cleaned up the unconscious Che Luofeng’s wounds with hot wine, then removed the pus, blood, and filth. More and more blood was streaming out. Che Luofeng’s body was gradually turning ice-cold. Chen Xing got two of the subordinate Rouran lads to press down on acupoints to staunch blood flow, then he inserted needles and stopped Che Luofeng’s bleeding.
“You have saved people who suffered from this sort of injury before.” Xiang Shu said as he saw how familiar, skillful, and quick Chen Xing was with his treatment.
“Never.” Chen Xing answered, “I’ve only stitched bears up before.”
Xiang Shu: “....”
Chen Xing said, “I was just kidding, don’t be so nervous.”
Chen Xing and Xiang Shu’s hands were both trembling a little, because Che Luofeng was really bleeding too much, so much so that the cotton and gauze wrapped around him would get soaked through soon. Xiang Shu’s voice was extremely unstable, “What about the medicine you fed me before?”
“I don’t have any left,” Chen Xing calmly answered, “That was the last one from the Exorcism Department.”
Xiang Shu took a deep breath. Chen Xing said, “Don’t be nervous.”
Chen Xing could sense that this young man called Che Luofeng was extremely, extremely important to Xiang Shu. Chen Xing was confident in treating his injuries but couldn’t do anything about his bleeding. He was just afraid that Che Luofeng would die from blood loss before he could sew up his abdomen.
But he didn’t dare tell Xiang Shu this. He really wasn’t sure if he could save Che Luofeng or not; he could only say that 70% of it depended on his medical skills, while the remaining 30% depended on this person’s desire to live.
Che Luofeng’s face was pale, and his eyes were squeezed tight, as if he had sunken into an endless dream. He looked to be around the same age as Xiang Shu, and he had the characteristic features of the Rouran people -- thin lips, long eyelashes, high cheekbones, and distinct facial features that gave him an air of stubbornness. He looked just like what Chen Xing had seen on portraits before -- the appearance of a Rouran cavalry member who wore helmets.
His arms, shoulders, and back were all very sturdy, while he had long legs and a strong waist, so one could tell that he was a martial arts practitioner. Chen Xing could only hope that he would be able to make it through by relying on his constitution.
Chen Xing sewed up half of his abdomen first before leaning over to listen to his heartbeat, which was very slow……
Chen Xing took a deep breath. He lit up the Heart Lamp in his palm and pressed it against Che Luofeng’s chest. He whispered, “Che Luofeng, your Anda is waiting for you to wake up. You must make it through no matter what.”
Xiang Shu’s breathing grew rapid. His voice trembled as he said, “Che Luofeng! Live! You promised me before, you promised Shulü Kong!”
After the light from Chen Xing’s Heart Lamp was injected into Che Luofeng’s heart, his heartbeat became a little more stable. However, he was bleeding even more now, so Chen Xing had to sew him up right away.
“How much longer?” Xiang Shu could feel that Che Luofeng wouldn’t be able to hold on for much longer. More and more blood was gushing out, and it had already drenched their clothes.
“Soon.” Chen Xing’s hands that he was using to stitch up the wound kept trembling. “After stuffing the intestines back, his viscera will return to their original places and grow properly by themselves. Be careful not to make any knots.”
The two worked together to restore Che Luofeng’s abdomen to its original state. Chen Xing inserted all of the silver needles into Che Luofeng’s acupoints and used injection techniques into the arm to staunch the bleeding that really made Chen Xing exert everything he had learnt throughout his life. This moment was truly a pinnacle for Chen Xing’s medical career ever since he started learning from his master.
The last stitch was made. Bandages were wrapped, and medicine was applied. The bodies and hands of the two were already covered in blood.
“Ginseng soup, hurry!” Chen Xing ordered.
After which, Xiang Shu followed his command and poured the ginseng soup that had been prepared for Che Luofeng to keep him alive into his mouth. Chen Xing applied anti-inflammatory herbs and ointments to stop the bleeding and promote muscle growth to Che Luofeng, regardless of his current situation.
Chen Xing was utterly exhausted. He said, “We’re done.”
Xiang Shu hugged Che Luofeng, who was in his arms. His face was still ghastly pale, and he breathed a slight sigh of relief.
“Hopefully, he’ll be able to wake up.” Chen Xing listened to Che Luofeng’s heartbeat, then tested for his breath -- it was weak, yet extremely stable. He went out to wash off the blood covering his entire body. Only then did he realise that the stars had flooded the sky -- it was already midnight.
Xiang Shu dismissed his subordinates to go and rest. Everyone had already busied themselves for a whole 12 hours. Xiang Shu’s next worry turned into whether Che Luofeng would be able to wake up or not. That night, Chen Xing simply ate a bit, washed off the blood on his body, changed into a new set of clothes, and took over from Xiang Shu. Xiang Shu soon tidied himself up and began keeping vigil.
“Go and rest.” Xiang Shu half-embraced Che Luofeng as he said.
Chen Xing said, “Just raise his upper body a little higher.”
Yet Xiang Shu insisted on sitting on the blanket himself. He held Che Luofeng’s upper body and covered him with a blanket. Chen Xing didn’t say much either. He was thoroughly spent and fell sound asleep. After he woke up, Che Luofeng wasn’t awake yet, but Xiang Shu held him like that for an entire night.
The next day, the Great Chanyu had his doors closed and declined to meet any guests. The sun rose and set, Che Luofeng still didn’t wake up. One day and night passed just like that.
At midnight the next day, Chen Xing could sense that something was a little off with Xiang Shu. He went forward, knelt down at one side and listened to Che Luofeng’s heartbeat, then tested his breathing.
Xiang Shu’s gaze seemed a little dazed. He glanced at Chen Xing. From the looks of this situation, Chen Xing was afraid that if the worst outcome eventually happened. Che Luofeng wouldn’t be waking up anytime soon.
“It’s okay,” Xiang Shu whispered, “There’s no need to comfort me.”
Chen Xing said, “When I was a child, my father told me that everyone’s life -- when they are born, when they start talking, the first time they come to like someone, when they start a family, marry, have children, and bid farewell to their parents, and even when they leave this world have all been predestined. It’s just that we don’t know anything about it, so we don’t believe in those who talk about fate.”
“Do you believe it?” Xiang Shu’s voice now seemed to contain a lot more warmth. He extended a hand and gently placed it on Che Luofeng’s forehead.
Chen Xing kept silent, then sighed at last.
Although he had never met Che Luofeng before, he couldn’t help but envy him a little. If now was really the time when his life comes to an end, he still had his best brother, Xiang Shu, accompanying him. Chen Xing just didn’t know who would accompany him by his side on the day he dies three years in the future.
Seriously speaking, Chen Xing couldn’t really say if he believed it or not. Ever since his Shifu told him that he wouldn’t be able to live past the age of twenty, he would often bank his hopes on ‘what if’s’. He had always thought, what if he was wrong?
Although his Shifu had never deceived him, and he had hardly ever made any mistakes when it came to his predictions of anything, Chen Xing always thought, I’m living so well right now, so it can’t be that once I turn twenty, I’ll just die like that right? Don’t tell me that while walking on the road, a rock will fall from the sky and smash me to death?
So Chen Xing always paced back and forth between the conflict of ‘believing’ and ‘not believing’. On the one hand, he felt like he had little time left, while on the other hand, he secretly had the intention to challenge the Heavens. If worst comes to worst, on the day I turn twenty, I’ll find a place where no one’s around to hide in. Within a vast plain that stretches for ten thousand miles, I’ll put a pot on my head, make full preparations, and wait there from the moment the sun rises until the sun sets. Once I manage to get through that, wouldn’t everything be fine then?
Just as Chen Xing’s mind was bogged down with all these thoughts, and he wanted to get up to leave, Xiang Shu said,
“Don’t go, keep me company for a while ba.”
Chen Xing was extremely heavy-hearted and could only sit back down. He understood that Xiang Shu needed someone to accompany him right now.
“Thank you.” Xiang Shu said.
Chen Xing dismissed it with a laugh. He thought, you didn’t say thank you when I saved you from Xiangyang City’s death prison, yet you’re thanking me for Che Luofeng’s life. That really is rare.
“Doctors should have a benevolent heart,” Chen Xing answered, “It’s my duty.”
“Che Luofeng grew up with me,” Xiang Shu said, “I’m an only child. My mother only gave birth to me, and she later died of illness. My father never had another heir for many years after that. When I was a child, I often envied the brothers in other Tiele families. Che Luofeng was sent to Chi Le Chuan when he was four to act as a hostage from the Rouran side, in order for us to lend the Rouran some troops to save their people in the destroyed Country Dai.”
“Che Luofeng said, ‘I don’t have brothers, so he’ll be my brother.’ When I was 7, I left Chi Le Chuan and chased a wounded stag to the north, then got besieged by a pack of wolves. After being trapped in the wasteland for three days and three nights, my tribesmen all thought I was dead. Only Che Luofeng took his guards with him and searched the entire wasteland just to find my whereabouts.”
“If we’re alive, we must see each other; if we’re dead, we must see the other’s corpse.” Xiang Shu was immersed in his memories as he murmured, “We had that arrangement since our childhood. As Andas, if one dies, then the other will definitely take revenge for him. You Han have something called ‘sworn brothers’, and I think it should be the same for you guys as well.”
Xiang Shu glanced at Chen Xing. Chen Xing was a little sad. He tried to smile and said, “Actually, I envy you a lot.”
Xiang Shu didn’t know about how Yuwen Xin had personally hung Chen Xing’s father. He nodded and said, “When I was 10, the Rouran people finally returned to beyond the Great Walls, but Che Luofeng would come back every year to see me. It was like that every year, until that period when my father fell gravely ill. After I took over as the Great Chanyu, all the tribes were at loggerheads with one another. It was Che Luofeng who led the Rouran people to stand on my side and assist me.”
“When I first took office as the Great Chanyu, I really didn’t have the energy to continue taking care of my father. It was Che Luofeng who treated my father as his own and stayed by his bedside to wait upon him, so I had the free time and energy to take care of the stray Hus.” Xiang Shu said, “This kid used to pester me about bringing him to the south to play in the place where the Hans live. He heard that the Central Plains was a very prosperous place. I really didn’t have the time to spare, so I kept dragging it on and on. If I had known this would happen……”
“He’ll get better.” Chen Xing comforted.
Xiang Shu nodded.
“You’re much better than me,” Chen Xing continued, “My sworn brother……forget it, that doesn’t need to be mentioned.”
Xiang Shu, “……”
Chen Xing didn’t really know how to comfort others and only knew how to use the simple and crude way of saying, “I’m worse off than you, see? So you aren’t in that bad of a situation in comparison.”
“You’re a very good Han,” Xiang Shu said seriously, “You have a good temper and a good heart. In the beginning, I always regarded your tolerance as cowardice, but looking at you now, you’re really not like that.”
Chen Xing said somewhat wearily, “It’s only because there are a lot of things before me now that I have to let go of grievances for now. I have more important things to do.”
Xiang Shu sighed again and said, “But I still don’t understand why you’d be willing to be an exorcist.”
“The Heart Lamp is in me, do I have any other choice?” Chen Xing laughed bitterly and helplessly.
Xiang Shu, “What if you had a choice?”
Chen Xing fell silent. After a long while, he said, “I’ll still be one ba. Perhaps that’s why the Heavens chose me instead of someone else. Sleep for a while, Xiang Shu, you haven’t slept for a whole two days and two whole nights.”
Chen Xing let out a prolonged breath, then got up and left the tent. Xiang Shu nodded but didn’t move. He still held onto his Anda and never let go.
The marble white colour of the dawn sky could be seen in the horizon. Chen Xing breathed in the cold air of Saibei and stopped walking.
Xiang Shu had said a lot today, which made Chen Xing feel like he had seen a different side of him. In his heart, he also had people he cared about, and he also had affection for his family. Just like how Xiang Shu had said, “looking at you now, you’re really not like that”, their impressions of each other had changed as well.
We should have talked like that a long time ago, Chen Xing thought.
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Caro.