“Shut up! Che Luofeng! He saved your life!”
It was barely half a day into the Autumn Close Festival, and trouble already came. A state of bitter enmity grew between Xiang Shu and Che Luofeng. Chen Xing didn’t expect the news of Tuoba Yan’s arrival in Chi Le Chuan would spread so quickly like this. Perhaps that group of Rouran cavalry went back and reported it right away to Che Luofeng.
Xiang Shu said in a deep voice, “That man has left. In Chi Le Chuan, fighting is forbidden. This has been the rule for over the last 400 years.”
Che Luofeng refused to yield at all, saying in a clear voice, “Xianbei’s Tuoba clan screwed my Rourans’ people and also captured my Rourans’ old and young! It doesn’t matter if he is your friend, Divine Doctor! We cannot live under the same sky! It’s a grave offense!” Speaking so, he prepared to lead the troops to give chase.
But Xiang Shu shouted angrily: “Who dares to kill!”
That sound was like a blossoming thunderstorm, jolting Chen Xing, his ears throbbing with sharp pain, his eyes going dark, and he nearly fainted. Xiang Shu was enraged. The Rouran cavalry members’ hearts immediately felt dread, and simultaneously retreat half a step.
“Che Luofeng,” Xiang Shu coldly said, “if you do take revenge, if you kill Tuoba Yan, you and your tribe need to scram out of the Yin Mountains, and throughout the rest of your life, you may never step into Chi Le Chuan ever again. The Great Chanyu always keeps his word.”
Che Luofeng, who was in a daze, gasped for breath. He was shouting so hard he had nearly sobered up. When Chen Xing was about to open his mouth to ease the tension, Xiang Shu raised his hand, prohibiting him from speaking, then he swept his eyes across the cavalry, his eyes carrying an imposing aura.
Many years ago, on behalf of the country, Tuoba Yan’s paternal grandfather, Tuoba Shiyijian, along with the rest of Tuoba clan, tried to set up an independent political division in the Northeast, which was later stopped by Fu Jian. Chasing the descendant to take revenge for that at risk of offending the Great Chanyu was clearly not worth it. The cavalry sobered up soon, one after another, they gave Che Luofeng a meaningful look, hinting for him to forget about it.
“Shulü Kong, you... you...” Che Luofeng laughed in anger, then angrily said: “You really think the Rourans are seriously afraid of you!”
“Try me,” Xiang Shu said, “you will leave before sunrise tomorrow morning.”
The number of Rourans in the Ancient Chi Le Covenant almost reached 60,000, and if they were really driven out of the Covenant, it would be no small matter. Many people around the plain heard their quarrel, and they came out one by one and formed a circle. Still, Xiang Shu didn’t stop there, he raised his hand, pointing at the venue, and continued: “This is your choice. I will count to three, and either you raise your soldiers and take your revenge, or you go back and celebrate the festival. Three.”
Che Luofeng ruthlessly threw his weapons down on the ground and using his horse, he galloped out of the crowd. The Hu people busily tried to part, making an exit path for him. A moment later, the Rouran cavalry cleanly and clearly withdrew.
Even though he saw Che Luofeng go north, Chen Xing was still anxious. After the crowd had dispersed, Xiang Shu once again called over a Tiele man and whispered an order that Chen Xing roughly understood. Basically it was to get a group of cavalry to catch up with Tuoba Yan and escort him until he reached the Great Wall to avoid being chased for revenge by Che Luofeng.
Chen Xing breathed a sigh of relief and said: “Thank you.”
However, Xiang Shu didn’t say a word, and with a gloomy face, he turned around and walked away. Chen Xing remained standing in melancholy for a moment, and he suddenly felt that under the lively and flourishing scene of the Autumn Close Festival, there was a sense of emptiness and solitude. He then dragged his heavy legs back to the tent.
Xiang Shu took the lead in returning to the royal tent. When Chen Xing opened the curtain to enter, he saw that the inside was in a complete mess. Clearly, Che Luofeng had come here, taking with him the things he had used during his stay on Xiang Shu’s tent for the past few days. Xiang Shu saw this scene and was obviously infuriated by it.
Chen Xing didn’t comment on it either, just bending down to clean up the mess, saying: “Tuoba Yan is my friend, I’m sorry for troubling you.”
Xiang Shu spoke, “Che Luofeng has always been like this. Wait a few days for him to think it over, and he’ll come asking for your apology.”
Recalling what had happened at today’s venue, Chen Xing said: “I have purchased a horse and tomorrow, I will trade it for some food with your clansmen again and also for a sufficient amount of clothing to defend against the cold. I will immediately set out north.”
Xiang Shu sat down in the tent silently. Chen Xing had come to a realization that Chi Le Chuan, although beautiful, in the end, it was not his hometown. Xiang Shu’s clansmen, although enthusiastic, at the end of the day, they were also not his clansmen. After staying in Chi Le Chuan for a month, he gradually became aware that perhaps, south of the Yangtze River, with its emerald-green terraces and songbirds cries all over the world, was a place he ought to go.
Xiang Shu took a quick glance at Chen Xing, seemingly seeing through to his inner thoughts.
Chen Xing simply tidied up the tent for Xiang Shu and spoke: “I’ve stayed here for too long, and I’m afraid of making more trouble for you. I’ll get lost at once.”
Xiang Shu: “...”
Chen Xing poured himself a cup of milk tea, sat down, considered it, scratched his head, and said: “The matter of being a Protector, just forget about it ba. You’re the Great Chanyu; you also have your own responsibilities and can’t always follow me to wander around all over the place. There are many people that need you. This person’s luck has always been very good, so you also don’t need to worry about me.”
Xiang Shu remained silent. Chen Xing examined his medicine bag and put away his dagger. He looked for the map, read through it carefully for a while, and by comparing the parchment copied by Xiang Shu as well as the terrain of the mountains and rivers beyond the Great Wall, he tried to speculate on the location of the gorge and the Great Lake. Based on the map and the direction of the Big Dipper, he had to go all the way north. Maybe, he could even meet the Akeles. He had learnt a little Xiongnu, and when he met them, he could ask for directions. Although the future was bleak, there was still hope.
He couldn’t afford to delay anymore, only wishing to find the legendary Dinghai Pearl before the start of next year’s spring. He wanted to settle the matter that weighed on his mind as soon as possible so he could go back to the South to wait for death.
Later in the evening, cheers could be heard from outside. Chen Xing went out to look, and it was snowing!
“Xiang Shu! It’s snowing.” Chen Xing said as he returned to the tent and pointed outside.
Xiang Shu frowned and observed Chen Xing, looking completely annoyed.
It was snowing heavier and heavier. The first snow after autumn of this year had finally arrived. The north wind wailed, and the feather-like heavy snow engulfed everything in Chi Le Chuan. The bonfire was moved to the center of the tents, and Chen Xing watched it alone for a while from in front of the royal tent before someone came to deliver supper. After a simple meal, Xiang Shu simply gazed at the tent, lost in thought. Chen Xing just drank some wine, already used to Xiang Shu’s ‘any-living-person-do-not-approach’ attitude. Soon, as usual, he lay down on his small couch and slept under a thin wool blanket.
“You won’t be able to go now.” Xiang Shu finally said, “The north road is closed during heavy snow. You can only wait until the beginning of spring.”
Chen Xing didn’t hear that. The wind came leaking into the tent, the blanket was thin, and the cold air blew over the night. He felt Xiang Shu covering him up with two more blankets in the middle of the night.
When he woke up early in the morning the next day, the outside was already wrapped in silver, and yesterday’s unhappiness was immediately swept away.
“Oh my god——!” Chen Xing was shocked.
Mountains, lands, and prairies, everything was blanketed by thick snow, it was as if the entire world was sprinkled with glittering, silver-light sugar. The scorching sun was high, and it shone brightly on the sparkling snow. The stream was frozen overnight and was now covered with a thin layer of ice. The early-riser Hus were breaking the ice on the stream so their horses could drink.
Chen Xing sneezed, his nose felt a little stifled, and Xiang Shu was nowhere to be seen.
“So beautiful!” Chen Xing said to himself. Saying so, he quickly washed up, saw the breakfast on the table, ate it, then wrapped himself in a thick fur. Wandering out while struggling through the snow, he saw that Chi Le Chuan had transformed overnight into something akin to a paradise.
“Xiang Shu!” Chen Xing shouted down from the top of the hillside.
Xiang Shu was dressed in a tiger-fur coat that reached his knees, a belt that lined up his well-defined waist, and a fox-tail hat on his head. He was instructing a group of Tieles. At the same time, the Tiele warriors were stowing the tents and supplies, seemingly wanting to leave for some business. Hearing the shout, he looked at Chen Xing, his lips red and his teeth white under the sunshine, making Chen Xing’s heart moved.
Xiang Shu made a gesture, motioning for Chen Xing to wait up there, then turned around and approached him.
“Let’s go skiing?” Xiang Shu said, “We couldn’t play at yesterday’s festival.”
Chen Xing was in a much better mood after waking up; he laughed and said: “Alright.”
He intended to leave tomorrow. Since today was his last day, he had to keep some memories. As a result, Xiang Shu, leading Chen Xing, carried a cavalry shield up to the slope, and with one foot, he stepped on it.
Cheng Xing: “....”
Xiang Shu: “Come up, and hug me tightly from behind.”
Chen Xing: “How do we do this? We’re gonna fall down, ba! Not even a rope?! One wrong step and we’re going to roll all the way down!”
Xiang Shu said impatiently: “Rubbish! Quick!”
The cavalry shield was not big, Chen Xing tried to step on it, but Xiang Shu grabbed his hands and pushed him back, locked his arms in an instant, dragged him onto his back, and pulled him hard so he ended up hugging Xiang Shu tight. Stepping sideways on the shield, woosh, they slid down!
“AAAH——” Chen Xing was taken along by Xiang Shu and immediately dived down from the top of the cliff, his heart almost jumped out of his throat. Xiang Shu stepped on the shield’s tail, leaped out, and took him flying high up in the sky before finally landing safely.
Chen Xing: “...”
Xiang Shu: “Again?”
Chen Xing still had some lingering fears, but he felt extremely excited. The slope was very steep, and it felt like jumping off an overhanging cliff.
“I didn’t even open my eyes...” Chen Xing said.
“Coward,” Xiang Shu ridiculed. He whistled to summon a horse, flipped over and mounted it, taking Chen Xing to a higher and steeper slope. Chen Xing looked down, it was almost three li, and his feet immediately felt a little soft.
“You’re in the front this time.” Xiang Shu said, “Keep your eyes wide open!”
Chen Xing madly shouted: “WAAAAH——”
Given no time for explanations, he was hugged by Xiang Shu, and they slid down. But just before they reached the end, Chen Xing turned his head around and told Xiang Shu: “Xiang Shu, tomorrow, I’ll...”
As soon as he turned his head, the two men’s lips almost met. Xiang Shu’s foot suddenly slipped, Chen Xing’s foot became unsteady, the shield went out of control, and they fell into the snow.
“Hahahaha——”, Chen Xing, with snow covering his whole face, got up and mocked Xiang Shu, “You, a moment ago, did you just blush?!”
Xiang Shu got up quickly with anger mottling his face, saying: “What are you doing?!”
Chen Xing hurriedly waved his hand to apologize, assuming that Xiang Shu, this sort of man, unexpectedly became very embarrassed when he was so close to other people that he even blushed! The other day, when he was almost kissed by Che Luofeng, Xiang Shu’s reaction had been even more intense than this.
Chen Xing picked up the shield, then said: “One more time?”
Xiang Shu took the shield. As they walked over towards the horse, Che Luofeng came from one side. He stood alone in the open ground and looked at the two men from afar.
Xiang Shu motioned to Chen Xing, as if saying “See? What did I tell you ba?”
Che Luofeng: “Snowball fight?”
Xiang Shu measured Che Luofeng carefully, then asked: “Sobered up?”
“Yes! Yes!” Che Luofeng waved his hand, then suddenly laughed again.
Xiang Shu put Chen Xing on the horse, sat behind him while carrying the shield on his back, then put his hands around Chen Xing’s waist. He shook the reins, went up the hill, and took a few steps before looking back.
Only then did Che Luofeng come over and followed him, albeit bitterly. The Tieles, Rourans, and Xiongnus, who had been heavily drunk last night, had also sobered up. With each of them bringing their own shield, they went uphill and followed the Great Chanyu to make up for the ski fights they couldn’t do at the Autumn Close Festival. Thousands of people slid down from the hilltop down to the cliff; it was a magnificent sight. Xiang Shu held Chen Xing, and they slid down ahead. Che Luofeng soon caught up from behind them.
“Che Luofeng!” Chen Xing tried to turn his head, but Xiang Shu grasped his head and forcefully turned it back, saying: “Look ahead!”
From start to finish, Che Luofeng never replied, and they slid again several more times. Soon, more and more people, men and women, arrived. All the people started to have snowball fights at the foot of the hill, shouting and yelling; it was extremely lively.
Chen Xing was hit by Che Luofeng’s snowballs several times in a row and immediately sensed his hostility. When he looked at Che Luofeng, Che Luofeng smiled back provocatively, his meaning quite clear: ‘You have snatched my Anda.’
“I will go back first!” Chen Xing felt unpleasant to say anything, so he said to Xiang Shu: “You guys play!”
Xiang Shu also sensed the hostility. He held a snowball in his hand, weighing it. Chen Xing turned around and left. Xiang Shu glanced at Chen Xing, then looked at Che Luofeng, faintly smiling. Che Luofeng quickly assumed a fighting stance under the sunshine, and facing Xiang Shu, he smiled, like a big boy who lived a carefree life.
But Xiang Shu threw the snowball to the ground, turned around, then walked away.
Cheng Xing returned to the royal tent with his brain spinning with dizziness. He realized he must’ve caught a cold last night, so he ground a medicine pill and drank it down with boiled hot water, before laying down on the couch to rest.
Not long after, Xiang Shu came, bringing over a bowl and sweets cooked by the Tieles. It was a tradition on the first day of snow to drink a black ginger dark-brown sugar drink and stewed rice cakes. He frowned, asking: “Is the air chilly?”
“En...” Chen Xing smelled ginger. Knowing it was a kind of food that repelled cold, he got up with much difficulty to drink it, “Just sweating a bit.”
Xiang Shu said: “Even a doctor still gets sick.”
Chen Xing: “It’s normal if a doctor gets sick, I am not you, even all kinds of poisons dare not to invade your body.”
Xiang Shu sat in the tent and once again taunted him: “Are you still an exorcist? How about the Heart Lamp?"
Chen Xing helplessly said: “The Heart Lamp is merely made of mana; it doesn’t have the ability to protect one’s body and grant immortality. In fact, it’s precisely because of the use of the Heart Lamp’s mana that my body has been weakened. I also want to be as good as you guys, OK? The Han’s military power is not weak.”
‘The Han’s military power is not weak’, this point was indeed not wrong. Even after hundreds of years, all of the Hus outside the border were still very afraid of the formidable army, just like the time when the Wu Emperor was still in power. Chen Xing meant that his constitution was no good, but you shouldn’t generalize from that that all of the Hans were no good as well. Moreover, ever since his childhood, because of the Heart Lamp, he tended to cast magic, which must have somewhat taken a toll on his spirit and physique. He was basically a waste, a trash fish.
Chen Xing spoke incoherently, trying to explain in several sentences, then lay down on his stomach again to sleep, sweating, thinking: Tomorrow should be alright.
Xiang Shu didn’t leave. He got up very early that day, so he decided to mind his own business and lie down to sleep. In the evening, the sky was dusky, the wind was biting cold, and there was a blizzard.
Che Luofeng braved the snow to come, saying outside the tent: “Anda, come and let’s talk.”
Xiang Shu glanced at Chen Xing, got up and went out, afraid of waking him up.
Chen Xing who had been sleeping, without knowing why, suddenly woke up. Perhaps it was the heavens that wanted him to hear this conversation. Moreover, his consciousness was bright and clear. Che Luofeng spoke in Rouran, but Chen Xing had been living in Chi Le Chuan for some time and had studied a little bit, so from the tone of his voice, he could more or less guess that Che Luofeng was a little dissatisfied with him.
“If you want to talk, let’s go outside,” Xiang Shu turned to leave, “or, do you want to fight?”
“This is my own home, yet to talk, I have to hide from that Han man?!” Che Luofeng said.
Xiang Shu: “...”
Xiang Shu’s eyes began showing obvious anger. Che Luofeng continued: “Anda, just how much provocation did you hear from that Han?!”
Xiang Shu angrily said: “Shut up! Che Luofeng! He saved your life!”
Che Luofeng snarled: “Blackmailing me with my ‘life’? Can I return this ‘life’ back to him?” As he said that, he pulled out a dagger, gesturing at his stomach, and shouted: “Get him to scram out of Chi Le Chuan for me!”
Chen Xing inside the tent immediately stood up, thinking that he must go out now and say something, else he, this outsider, would truly incite disharmony between Xiang Shu and Che Luofeng, and he had no interest in doing so.
Xiang Shu was just about to step forward to seize the dagger in Che Luofeng’s hand when he suddenly stopped.
Amidst the violent snowstorm, several Tiele cavalrymen were showing the way for a Hu person, entering the valley.
“The Akele’s messenger wishes to see the Great Chanyu——!” shouted the leader.
Chen Xing immediately pulled open the curtain, coming out from inside the royal tent, looking for Xiang Shu.
“Go in,” Xiang Shu said, “you’re still sick.”
Che Luofeng’s complexion was clearly not good, Xiang Shu saw that Chen Xing had woken up, then motioned everyone to come in.
So happy there are a lot of readers drawing/writing Dinghai stuffs these days!
Lycieratia and Asami from Discord drew some cute sketches of ShuXing!
namio from Twitter also drew a fanart of them based on the physical book’s design.
There’s also a Dinghai Gaming AU fanfic by namio that you can check here! The characters have yet to appear but don’t worry, the only thing you need to know is that THEY ARE A PERFECT COUPLE! It’s spoiler-free too so feel free to check it out!
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), namio and Caro.