In the beginning, he naively believed that after meeting his destined Protector, they would entrust themselves to each other without any hesitation, share life and death together, and trust each other. But what made him greatly disappointed along his journey was that it wasn’t as easy as he had imagined for people to trust one another. What’s more, Xiang Shu is a Hu, while he’s a Han. It would be even more difficult for them both to identify with each other.
But no matter what, this was a good start. Chen Xing squatted down by the stream and washed his face with the ice-cold water. Now he just hoped that Che Luofeng would be able to wake up as soon as possible, or at least not have his condition deteriorate. Otherwise……
Right at that moment, he heard Xiang Shu shout madly from within the tent!
Chen Xing almost fell into the stream. He immediately turned around and rushed back into the royal tent, shouting, “What’s wrong?!”
Xiang Shu embraced Che Luofeng and couldn’t stop trembling. He had his head buried in his body, raised his head, and with tears pooling in his eyes, he gazed at Chen Xing.
Che Luofeng opened his eyes and his lips moved slightly. He said something softly, while his eyes were blank.
“This is great!” Chen Xing felt his nose sour upon seeing this as well, “This is great! You finally woke up!”
Xiang Shu wanted to cry, but laughed instead. This was Chen Xing’s first time seeing him lose himself like this. The three of them started laughing, as if they were a bunch of fools.
Che Luofeng awoke -- this news spread like wildfire on the day itself. The Rouran people flocked over in droves and kowtowed to thank Xiang Shu and Chen Xing for Che Luofeng’s recovery. They even delivered a lot of gifts over that filled the entire tent. Chen Xing ate the fried sazi and jerky that was sent over. With gold and silver jewelry hanging all over his body, he drank a cup of milk tea and looked just like a local wealthy landlord as he continued treating patients.
Meanwhile, Xiang Shu was so tired he knocked out in the tent and slept for a whole day and night.
Che Luofeng stayed in Xiang Shu’s tent temporarily, so that it would be convenient for Chen Xing to take care of him at any time. This Rouran heir could barely speak the Han language in a strange manner and was a very cheerful and active man. From time to time, after saying a few words, he would start laughing by himself with “hahaha”s. After Che Luofeng regained consciousness, Xiang Shu resumed his reserved expression. Even in front of his sworn brother, he was as mild as ever and always appeared like he couldn’t stand him.
From the looks of it, that guy’s like that to everyone. Chen Xing thought cheerfully, so I’m not the only one he can’t stand.
“That wolf rushed over,” Che Luofeng began describing the day he encountered danger to Chen Xing, “And like it was kneading dough, it began kneading me over and over, then wrapped me up like a dumpling……”
“Hahahaha——” Chen Xing almost choked on his milk tea. Che Luofeng’s analogy was rather strange, and he corrected, “You can’t say it like that!”
Che Luofeng said, “If it wasn’t because I was scratched by the wolf before I was ambushed by the Akeles, this small injury wouldn’t be much.”
Chen Xing said, “Why did the Akeles ambush you?”
Che Luofeng said nonchalantly, “Rouran fought with them over the river water. They killed the strongest warrior under my command, then we killed their tribe leader’s son, that bastard……”
“Are you sure it was them?” Xiang Shu said coldly.
“Who else could it be aside from them?” Che Luofeng replied.
Xiang Shu reprimanded him in the Rouran language, so Che Luofeng didn’t speak any further. Chen Xing didn’t understand, but he roughly knew that it was along the lines of, ‘if you didn’t see it for yourself, then don’t jump to conclusions so rashly’. On the prairie, it was common to see murders, robberies, and even fights occur merely because of a minor disagreement or because one party couldn’t stand the sight of the other. To the north of the Yin Mountains, massacres became even more unbridled; there were many hunters who, as soon as they felt like something was amiss, would rather strike the first fatal blow to prevent themselves from landing in a predicament due to carelessness.
Che Luofeng couldn’t tell the origins of the people who ambushed him. He had been wounded by a wolf by then after all, and after staggering to a bush, he was on the verge of losing consciousness. Right after the other party attacked him, his Rouran subordinates rushed over to rescue him, so his enemies could only retreat. They didn’t see who his attackers were and couldn’t discern their weapons either.
After several rounds of deductions, even Xiang Shu couldn’t figure out who were the ones who hurt Che Luofeng, so he could only keep it in mind for now and slowly investigate it in the future. He chided this Anda of his who feared nothing in Heaven or Earth again and asked him not to do such dangerous things so recklessly again.
These days, Che Luofeng would come over before dawn and wake Xiang Shu up, then get Chen Xing to change his dressing. After which, he would stay in the tent without any care for courtesy, and during the occasional times when he came before Xiang Shu woke up, he would even burrow under his blanket and sleep with him. But Xiang Shu would just look irritated as he pulled him out and kicked him aside.
In the day, Che Luofeng wouldn’t lose any of his energy. Every other minute, he would have to go disturb Xiang Shu -- if he wasn’t playing tricks on him, then he would be pestering him to talk. Chen Xing thought, you’re being way more arrogant than me. Luckily you’re his Anda, so you don’t need to be afraid of dying. If I were the one doing all that, I would definitely be strangled by Xiang Shu to death in an instant.
“Look at Shulü Kong, isn’t he beautiful?” Che Luofeng tsked as he studied Xiang Shu while Xiang Shu was taking an afternoon nap, as if he were showing off a possession of his. He said to Chen Xing, “I think he’s like Wang Zhaojun.”
“He is really beautiful……” Chen Xing’s mouth twitched as he agreed with Che Luofeng’s praise of Xiang Shu’s beauty, “But what’s the deal with Wang Zhaojun? Have you met Wang Zhaojun before?”
Che Luofeng said, “Legend has it that Wang Zhaojun is the most beautiful woman in the world, right?”
Hu people who live beyond the Great Wall never really had much of a conception of the appearance of those who lived in the Central Plains, and only knew of the legend of “The Procession of Zhaojun”. It was also rumoured that Zhaojun, who once married the Great Chanyu Huhanye, was the world’s most beautiful woman. Even wild geese passing by would land on the grassland for the sake of seeing her beautiful face.
Che Luofeng said, “The Great Chanyu Huhanye married the most beautiful woman in the world, while the Great Chanyu Shulü Kong ma, what should he do about his marriage? Don’t you think he can only be given away in marriage?”
Chen Xing said, “He’s not asleep, he heard you.”
Xiang Shu, “......”
Chen Xing scrutinised Xiang Shu for a while and thought, in conformance with Fu Jian’s male marriage decree, if this guy wasn’t a rabid dog who only has a beautiful face, I would be very willing to marry you. But if I were to marry you and take you back home, I would probably get beaten every day and worry about my life all the time. However, he didn’t know why, but Chen Xing could vaguely sense that Che Luofeng’s feelings towards Xiang Shu was a bit strange at times.
Xiang Shu had woken up, so Chen Xing asked Che Luofeng, “After you fought the Akeles, would they still come to Chi Le Chuan?”
Che Luofeng was instantly vigilant. “Why are you looking for them?”
Chen Xing felt apprehensive. He looked at Xiang Shu; he remembered that the Akeles people was one of northern nomadic tribes in the Ancient Covenant. In just a few days, they would return from the north and spend the winter under Chi Le Chuan. He just didn’t know if their enmity with the Rouran this time would lead to their dissatisfaction with Xiang Shu again.
Xiang Shu knew what Chen Xing was thinking about and said, “Don’t worry. If they stand against the Great Chanyu, it would mean that they’re standing against the Ancient Chi Le Covenant.”
Chen Xing gradually felt more relieved. The weather was getting colder and colder by the day, but the first snow after autumn’s arrival never came. Every morning, the grassland would be covered in a layer of frost. Until the agreed upon date of 3rd October, there were still no news from the legendary Akeles tribe.
It would be the Autumn Close Festival on the grassland on the 15th of October. Chen Xing went around inquiring about this tribe that was active in the North and learned that the Akeles was a branch of Shiwei, and they had nearly three thousand people in the entire tribe. They were active farther north, which even included the North Sea area.
“They’ll come,” Xiang Shu said nonchalantly, “Otherwise once the snow comes, they’ll freeze to death in the North.”
“Shulü Kong,” Che Luofeng smiled, “When will you take me to the place where the Hans live?”
Chen Xing was in the middle of changing Che Luofeng’s dressing, while Che Luofeng was sticking together a Great Chanyu feather crown for Xiang Shu. Xiang Shu didn’t reply to him.
Che Luofeng hooked Chen Xing’s chin with his finger and said, “I heard that there are a lot of places to play in your Central Plains.”
Chen Xing patted Che Luofeng’s hand away and said, “Another one who wants to enter and rule the Central Plains? Unfortunately, the North doesn’t belong to us now, feel free to fight with Fu Jian for it.”
Che Luofeng smiled again, “If I were to bring troops into the pass and go to war with Fu Jian and become a Rouran emperor, will you help me, Chen Xing?”
Xiang Shu harshly reprimanded Che Luofeng in the Rouran language, yet Chen Xing said seriously, “Everyone thinks that there’s a large area of land owned by no one in the Central Plains, and that it would belong to whoever who’s good at fighting. Have you guys ever thought about how everyone would think if the Hans were to come in trampling all over your homeland and robbing your property?”
Che Luofeng said with a smile, “It was just a joke. If the Great Chanyu doesn’t agree, the Chi Le Covenant won’t head south.”
Almost all of the patients within the area have been seen as they came in one after another. Within one month, Chen Xing had treated thousands of patients, and he had to see almost two hundred people per day. His reputation as a “Divine Doctor” had already spread throughout the entire Chi Le Chuan, and no one dared to treat him as a servant again. As he entered and exited, all the Hus would treat him with respect, and ever since that night, Xiang Shu’s attitude towards him had improved as well.
Che Luofeng had almost completely recovered and could now ride a horse. On an ordinary day, Xiang Shu would occasionally take him out for a stroll. Chen Xing had followed along on a few occasions, but he didn’t like moving about in the cold, and patients would come see him once in awhile, so he didn’t join them afterwards.
Che Luofeng was very interested in the world of the Han people after all. Not only did he learn a bit of the Han language, but he would also pester Chen Xing to ask all sorts of questions, and his words seemed a little covetous as well, which made Chen Xing feel a little uncomfortable.
“Teach me how to write Shulü Kong’s name with Han words ba.” Che Luofeng asked.
Chen Xing thought, why don’t you learn how to write your own name?
The Autumn Close Festival arrived. This was an annual grand festival of the Hus beyond the Great Wall. After the 15th of October, the prairie would begin its winter. On this day, all the Hus would sing and dance, slaughter lambs and drink wine, as well as begin to prepare for many winter Tibetan activities. Chen Xing learnt quite a bit of the Rouran, Xiongnu, and Tiele languages, so he roughly knew that the first snow was supposed to come in late September or early October, but this year’s snow never fell, and the Akeles tribe never came either.
If the Akeles tribe didn’t come, Chen Xing would have no way of confirming the location on the map. Once the snowfall turned heavy, it would be even more difficult to traverse through the path that leads to the North, so he would have to wait until spring. As time went by, Chen Xing couldn’t help but feel anxious.
“After today,” Xiang Shu was still drinking tea in his tent, “If they still haven’t come, I’ll send some people out to the North to find them.”
After Xiang Shu returned, he changed into the king’s robe worn by the Great Chanyu. His attire was extremely gorgeous, and he wore a feather crown on his head with three feathers inserted into it. His martial robe was embroidered with the deity insignia of the 16 Hus, and it looked rather grand. After observing him for a long time, Chen Xing discovered that Xiang Shu did have work to do too. The position of ‘Great Chanyu’ was unlike that of an Emperor; he rarely involved himself with the internal affairs of the Hu tribes. Instead, he was more involved in mediating disputes, dividing up responsibilities, and acting as a symbol of the ancient covenant. When he was busy, he would be very busy, and he would often have to listen to the elders of each tribe lament all their grievances while denouncing and criticising one another. After dealing with his affairs, he would become very idle when he was free and would often have nothing to do for the entire day, so he and Chen Xing would just stare at each other in the tent.
“Without snow,” Xiang Shu said, “We won’t be able to ski in late autumn this year. Can you stop frowning all the time?”
Chen Xing thought, after the end of this year, I’ll only have three years left to live! Why don’t you tell me if I should frown or not?!
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Caro.