Xiang Shu rattled out of the water, showing a barbarous smile. The two turned their heads and saw that the unstoppable living corpses had fallen into the water one after another. They still weren’t sure how many were left in the north bank, but a living corpse with a height almost reaching 9 chi, dressed in a Xiongnu leather armor and armed with a scimitar, stood on the riverbank, appearing to be the leader of the living corpses.
Chen Xing: “...”
The Tieles and Xiongnus, who were told to come provide support with horses and carriages, had already arrived, and with the whole Akele tribe in tow, they all withdrew to the South. In no time, the snowstorm had covered up the area, obstructing their line of sight.
Why are the drought fiends here too? When Chen Xing suddenly saw the drought fiends, his heart seemed to stop beating.
Just a short time after Xiang Shu had fallen into the water, his hair and eyebrows were already covered with bits of ice. Chen Xing couldn’t ask about the Akeles again. At top speed, he put Xiang Shu in the carriage at the end of the line and said, “Let's go! Go back to Chi Le Chuan!”
Xiang Shu took a deep breath, but he couldn't stop shivering. Chen Xing quickly threw off his wet fur coat, took off his clothes, wiped down his body first, then took off his own robe. Having second thoughts, he took off his inner clothes too, so he was wearing only his underpants. Lifting a blanket, he squeezed into Xiang Shu's bosom and wrapped them both in the blanket.
Xiang Shu immediately hugged Chen Xing, burying his head into his shoulder. Chen Xing wailed, "Mother! So cold ah, ah, ah!"
Xiang Shu’s skin was cold beyond compare; he was almost frozen stiff. However, Chen Xing’s body was hot, so being embraced by Xiang Shu like that, he had no choice but to endure it.
“Ha...” Xiang Shu breathed slowly.
Chen Xing continuously stroked his chest to protect his heart pulse while Xiang Shu kept breathing in and out. After a short period of time, he recovered, and his whole body slowly warmed up.
Chen Xing felt the back of his shoulder, then leaned his cheek on Xiang Shu’s chest. The cold wind blew violently outside the open carriage, and Chen Xing once again felt Xiang Shu’s eyelashes that still had some ice shards on them. He thought to himself: This guy's eyelashes are so long, just like a girl’s.
After a moment, Xiang Shu let go of Chen Xing, saying: “OK, I’ve come back to life.”
Chen Xing was expressionless as he said: “I really should’ve taken advantage of when you had still been frozen stiff a moment ago and hit you for revenge.”
Xiang Shu: “Then hit me now? I won’t fight back.”
Chen Xing said: “You really won’t fight back?”
Xiang Shu: “I won’t fight back now, but wait until we reach Chi Le Chuan, then I’ll fight back.”
Chen Xing: “...”
Chen Xing poked his head out of the blanket, peeped outside, looked at the group of carriages ahead, then asked: “Why on earth are there drought fiends here? Who’s going to explain it to me?”
Xiang Shu held his head and pressed it back into the blanket, motioning for him to sleep, saying: “When we reach to Chi Le Chuan, you’ll see.”
After moving for nearly 4 shichen, the group of carriages finally arrived in Chi Le Chuan. After Xiang Shu got out of the carriage, the first thing he did was seize King Akele’s robe before finally dragged him inside the royal tent. He then commanded all the tribal chiefs of the Ancient Covenant to come and attend a meeting.
On the northern side of Chi Le Chuan, every tribe cavalry, as if they were going to face huge enemy, assembled outside the plain and reinforced the numbers and sent more patrols. The anti-cavalry barriers were pushed out. The archers were carrying their quivers amidst the violent snow, holding lit torches as they lay in ambush in front of the camp, and the scouts were all dispatched to investigate the movements along the Xarusgol River.
Inside the tent, there were having a quarrel that could overturn the sky. Each of the tribal chiefs was using a different language that made them unable to communicate with each other, questioning and cursing in equal measure. King Akele’s face looked like a dying ember, but Xiang Shu just changed into his king’s robe then silently sat on the Great Chanyu’s seat and just listened.
Chen Xing listened and roughly understood, yet the more he listened, the more frightened he became.
It turned out that King Akele, as early as half a month ago, in the eastern part of the Barkol region, had been attacked by the living corpses. As a result, he withdrew to Chi Le Chuan in a hurry. When anyone asked a single question, King Akele only answered with a single sentence, clearly unwilling to elaborate.
“Why don’t you clear things up?” the Loufan Chief angrily demanded.
The Tiele Chief said: “When the Great Chanyu heard your tribe was stranded, he led his men to assist you without saying anything further. And this is how you repay Chi Le Chuan?!”
“I never thought they would come here!” King Akele said, “How could I ever imagine that this group of mountain ghosts would pursue us relentlessly, not at all willing to let go?”
Che Luofeng, his face red and swollen after being hit by Xiang Shu, was rejoicing in his misfortune and sneering frequently. Xiang Shu gave him a threatening look, telling him not to be arrogant.
Chen Xing used Han language to ask: “King Akele, since you’ve been aware this entire time, then tell me, for this group of living corpses to appear, it surely has something to do with you. If you don’t make it clear, they will come back again later. How are we going to deal with them then?”
Everyone just stared blankly since no one understood Han language, so Xiang Shu translated it for them.
King Akele said: “Are you a sorcerer from the Central Plains? Surely you have a way to handle them!”
Xiang Shu snarled: “Impudent!”
King Akele immediately trembled. He was originally already anxious, and at this time he became speechless. Chen Xing practically felt as if his head was going to explode. He wasn’t familiar with these barbarians’ languages or their speaking habits. They were exactly like chickens speaking with ducks, unable to communicate at all.
“I’ll talk ba,” The Consort, who was sitting on one side of the tent, spoke in a low voice. “You see, the one who is leading the mountain ghosts, he’s my son.”
Chen Xing : “...”
“Three years ago, a Rouran, Che Luofeng killed my son.” The Consort looked towards Che Luofeng who was sitting on the side with tears in her eyes, then slowly said, “He dug out his heart…”
Xiang Shu leaned to the side, translated it to Chen Xing in a whisper. Chen Xing’s thoughts became even more doubtful, only listening as Che Luofeng sneered and said: “It’s because your child murdered many of my warriors and my Zhou Zhen! He deserved to die! I just want to rip your hearts out as well!”
“Shut up!” Xiang Shu suddenly said in anger, “Che Luofeng! Do you still want to be hit?!”
Che Luofeng had to stop speaking, albeit still resentful. The Consort slightly calmed down, then once again said to everyone: “During the time when my son’s coffin was kept in a temporary shelter before burial, a doctor came to Barkol lakeside, and just like your Han friend, he possessed divine medical expertise…”
Xiang Shu suddenly stopped translating. Chen Xing had only heard half of it, so he pulled the corner of his robe, motioning him to quickly continue.
“Kjera,” Xiang Shu spoke out a name.
The Consort was startled, then nodded.
At first, Chen Xing was still at a loss for a good while, but then tensed up and suddenly recalled: That man, was he not a doctor who had previously taken care of Xiang Shu’s father, the former Great Chanyu?!
Xiang Shu said in Han language: “What did he do to your son?”
The Consort: “He told us that he happened to have a ‘heart’ in his hand, and he was going to give it to us as a present. From inside a wooden box, he took out a black heart and put it inside Youduo’s chest cavity. He also gave him another dose of medicine. Three days later, Youduo came back to life.”
Xiang Shu and the Consort used Han language in the latter half of their conversation, so Chen Xing understood.
“But, after he came back to life, he didn’t eat or drink, and he also didn’t sleep,” the Consort said. “He couldn’t recognize me, his father, nor his tribesmen. Finally, one day, he left us and went to the North, never coming back. Until this autumn, when he did come back, he actually brought with him mountain ghosts under his commands...”
The Consort buried her head on her hands and wept, choking with emotion as she said: “I dreamt about him. He pointed at his own heart, asking me why I didn’t help him take his revenge, why...”
When Xiang Shu heard this, he just got up and left the royal tent: “From now on, all tribes will take turns to get ready and meet the drought fiend army head-on. Meanwhile, any tribe that complains about personal grievances, all without exception will be expelled from the Ancient Chi Le Covenant.”
Che Luofeng looked at Xiang Shu with a complicated expression, yet Xiang Shu had already signaled Chen Xing to get up and leave.
It snowed a little that afternoon, and the Tieles constructed wooden defensive lines in the northern part of Chi Le Chuan.
Chen Xing came to the front of the defensive lines, Xiang Shu was covered in iron armor from head-to-toe, instructing each tribe’s group leaders, making them well-prepared.
“Don’t be scratched or bitten by them,” Xiang Shu repeatedly warned. “When you see a corpse, behead it, don’t prolong the fight.”
Chen Xing, sorting out the Consort’s narration and her relationship with Kjera, was now almost certain that this doctor’s identity must’ve been a member of the mysterious group who used resentment to create “drought fiends”.
It was even possible that he was precisely the reason why everything happened, the black hand behind the scenes, or even the mastermind hiding in the dark.
He went outside the Great Wall three years ago, first turning the Akele Prince into a living corpse, then on his way to the South, he gave the former Great Chanyu a special drug.
“Youduo was the same as your father,” Chen Xing muttered, “they all turned into living corpses. As long as we can locate Kjera, maybe we could shed light on the origin of this drought friend chaos.”
Xiang Shu said, “That guy, as early as three years ago, already went South. Nowadays, he is hiding in the Central Plains and could even have reached the Yangtze River’s southern bank. Dealing with this matter, even if Guwang has to chase him until the ends of the earth, Guwang will find him.”
Chen Xing took a deep breath, saying: “The living corpses are most likely crossing the river now.”
Xiang Shu nodded then said: “The scouts have already returned. They are now wading through the snow.”
Chen Xing frowned, raised his head to look at the sky, saying: “It would be better if the snow were heavier…”
The living corpses have a hard time moving, so if only the snowstorm happened a few days earlier, maybe they would have been buried in the snow before even arriving in Chi Le Chuan.
Why are they so persistent in going South, for what purpose? Chen Xing remained puzzled even after pondering hundreds of times.
Where are they coming from? Where are they going?
Countless questions whirled in Chen Xing’s mind.
“Xiang Shu,” Chen Xing frowned and pondered over it, saying, “for some unknown reason, I always felt that the origin of this group of drought fiends and Mt. Erchilun, the area where the dragon fell in the Xiongu legend, are related. We have to leave as soon as possible and set off to the North.”
From the foot of Yin Mountains, a signal horn resounded.
Xiang Shu said: “Repel them first and talk later! Get ready! Prepare to fight!”
The snow has stopped. On the snowfield that stretched out as far as the eye can see, innumerable living corpses wearing worn-out and rusted armor waded through the snow and rushed towards Chi Le Chuan!
Merry Christmas, everyone! I have a couple of great news to share:
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This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Caro.