"Your son murdered many of my warriors, murdered my Zhou Zhen! Even dying wasn't able to wipe clean his crimes!"
Chapter revised by Elestrea on 06/02/2021.
Xiang Shu rattled out of the water while showing a merciless, barbarian-like smile; the two turned their heads to the water and saw those unstoppable living corpses had fallen into the water one after another. They still weren't sure how many were left on the north bank, but then they saw a living corpse with a height almost reaching 9 chi by the river. The corpse was draped in Xiongnu leather armor and was holding a scimitar in his hand; it would seem he was the leader of the living corpses.
Chen Xing: "......"
Both the Tieles and Xiongnus who were told to come to provide support with horses and carriages had already arrived, and with the whole Akele tribe in tow, they all withdrew southward. In no time, the snowstorm covered up the area, obstructing their line of sight.
Why are the drought fiends here too? When he suddenly caught sight of the drought fiends, Chen Xing's heart seemed to have skipped a beat.
Just a moment after Xiang Shu had fallen into the water, his hair and eyebrows became covered with bits of ice; Chen Xing was unable to ask about the Akeles anymore. At top speed, he put Xiang Shu in the carriage at the end of the line and said, "Go! Back to Chi Le Chuan!"
Xiang Shu took a deep breath, yet he was unable to stop the shivering. Chen Xing quickly threw away Xiang Shu's soaked fur coat before tearing off his clothes and then wiping down his body first. Chen Xing then took off his own outer robe, but having second thoughts, he also shed off his inner clothes. Wearing only his underpants, he lifted a blanket and squeezed into Xiang Shu's bosom, wrapping them both in it.
Xiang Shu immediately embraced Chen Xing, burying his head into his shoulder. Chen Xing wailed, "God! So cold aaaaaaah!"
Xiang Shu's skin was cold beyond compare; he might as well be frozen stiff. Chen Xing's body, however, was warm, and being embraced by Xiang Shu like that, he had no choice but to bear with it.
"Hu..." Xiang Shu slowly took a breath.
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, his whole body slowly warming up.
Chen Xing touched the back of Xiang Shu's shoulders while leaning his cheek on Xiang Shu's chest. The cold wind outside of the open carriage was blowing violently. Chen Xing once again felt Xiang Shu's eyelashes that still had some shards of ice left on them, thinking to himself, This guy's eyelashes are so long, just like a girl's.
Xiang Shu let go of Chen Xing not a moment later while saying, "Alright, I'll survive."
Expressionless, Chen Xing answered, "I really should've taken advantage of when you had still been frozen stiff a moment ago to beat you up for revenge."
Xiang Shu: "Then beat me now? I won't retaliate."
Chen Xing said, "You really won't fight back?"
Xiang Shu: "Now I won't, but when we reach Chi Le Chuan, I'll retaliate."
Chen Xing: "......"
Chen Xing poked his head out of the blanket and peeked outside. He looked at the group of carriages ahead and asked, "Why exactly are there drought fiends in this place? Who's going to give me an explanation?"
Xiang Shu held Chen Xing's head and pressed it back into the blanket, motioning for him to sleep. "You'll know once we reach Chi Le Chuan."
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 to clutch King Akele's robe, dragging him inside the royal tent and then commanding all the tribal chiefs of the Ancient Covenant to come and attend a meeting.
On the northern side of Chi Le Chuan, as if they were to face a great enemy, every tribe cavalry assembled outside the plain while sending out more troops to patrol at the same time. The anti-cavalry barriers were pushed out. Amidst the violent snow, the archers had their quivers ready on their backs as they held lit torches, laying in ambush in front of the camp, while the scouts were all dispatched to investigate the movements along Xarusgol River.
Inside the tent, they were having a quarrel so big it could even overturn the sky; the tribal chiefs were each on a different page they weren't able to communicate with one another, questioning and cursing over and over again in equal measure. King Akele's face had turned into a dying ember, while Xiang Shu just changed into his royal garment and silently sat and listened from his Great Chanyu's seat.
Listening to them, Chen Xing could more or less understand what was going on, yet the more he listened, the more alarmed he became.
The truth was, King Akele had been attacked by living corpses as early as half a month ago in the eastern part of the Barkol region, which resulted in them withdrawing towards Chi Le Chuan's direction in a panic. Yet, each time anyone asked a single question, King Akele only answered with a single sentence; it was clear he was still unwilling to elaborate further.
"Why don't you be thorough with it?" the Loufan chief angrily demanded.
The chief of Tiele added, "When the Great Chanyu heard your tribe was surrounded, he led his men to assist you without demur. And this is how you repay Chi Le Chuan?!"
"I didn't think 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, rejoiced in his misfortune and sneered several times. Xiang Shu gave him a threatening look, telling him not to be unruly.
Chen Xing used the Han language to ask, "King Akele, since you've known about it since the beginning, then tell me; the appearance of this group of living corpses must have something to do with you. If you don't make it clear now, when they come back again later, how are we going to deal with them then?"
Everyone just stared blankly at this question; since no one understood the Han language, Xiang Shu had to go over and translated it for them.
King Akele said, "Are you a mage from the Central Plains? You must have a way to handle them!"
Xiang Shu snarled, "Impudent!"
King Akele trembled at once; he was already both anxious and scared at first, and now, no words could even come out of his mouth. Chen Xing practically felt as if his head was going to explode at any moment; he wasn't familiar with this barbarian language, and their way of speaking also made no sense to him. 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 soft voice. "You see, the one who leads those mountain ghosts, he's my son."
Chen Xing: "......"
"Three years ago, that Rouran Che Luofeng killed my son." With tears in her eyes, the consort looked towards Che Luofeng who was sitting on the side. She then slowly continued, "He dug out his heart…"
Xiang Shu leaned to the side, translating the words to Chen Xing in a whisper. Chen Xing's mind grew more suspicious, only to hear Che Luofeng sneering and interjecting, "Your son murdered many of my warriors, murdered my Zhou Zhen! Even dying wasn't able to wipe clean his crimes! I want to rip your hearts out as well!"
"Shut up!" Xiang Shu angrily roared all of a sudden. "Che Luofeng! Do you still want to be beaten up?!"
Che Luofeng had to stop speaking, albeit still resentful. The consort somewhat calmed down and 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 the side of Barkol Lake. He, just like your Han friend, possessed a superb, god-like medical expertise…"
Xiang Shu stopped translating all of a sudden. Since Chen Xing had only heard half of it, he pulled the corner of Xiang Shu's robe, motioning for him to continue.
"Kjera," Xiang Shu spoke out a name.
The consort was startled before nodding her head soon after.
For a good while, Chen Xing was still at a loss, although, he soon 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 asked in Han, "What did he do to your son?"
The consort said, "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, and he also gave him another dose of medicine. Three days later, Youduo came back to life."
Since Xiang Shu and the consort used the Han language in the latter half of their conversation, Chen Xing could understand what they were talking about.
"But, after he came back to life, he didn't eat nor drink, and he also didn't sleep," the consort lamented. "He couldn't recognize me, his father, nor his tribesmen. And finally, one day, he left us and went to the North, never coming back until this autumn. But when he did come back, he actually brought along mountain ghosts under his commands..."
The consort buried her head on her hands as she wept, choking with emotion as she continued to say, "I had a dream about him. He pointed at his own heart and asked me why I didn't help him take his revenge, why..."
Hearing this, Xiang Shu just got up and left the royal tent. "From now on, all tribes will take turns to prepare to meet the drought fiend army head-on. In the meantime, any tribe that complains about personal grievances will all be expelled without exception 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 was snowing a little that the moment. That afternoon, the Tiele tribe had constructed wooden defensive lines in the northern part of Chi Le Chuan.
Chen Xing came to the front of that defensive perimeter. Xiang Shu was covered in iron armor from head-to-toe as he instructed each tribe's group leaders to make sure they were well-prepared.
"Don't let them scratch nor bite you," Xiang Shu repeatedly warned. "When you see a living corpse, behead it. Don't prolong the fight."
Chen Xing, sorting out the consort's narration and his understanding of Kjera, was now almost certain that this doctor must have been a member of the mysterious group who used resentment to create "drought fiends."
It wasn't out of possibility that he was the reason why all of this happened, that he was the black hand behind the scenes, or even the mastermind hiding in the dark.
He had gone outside the Great Wall three years ago, first turning the prince of the Akele tribe into a living corpse, before giving the former Great Chanyu a special drug while on his way to the South.
"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, "As early as three years ago, that guy had already gone to the South, and now, he's hiding in the Central Plains; it's even possible he has reached the Yangtze River's southern bank by now. But this matter, even if Guwang has to chase him to the ends of the earth, Guwang will find him."
Chen Xing took a deep breath. "The living corpses are most likely crossing the river by now."
Xiang Shu nodded. "The scouts have already returned. They're now wading through the snow."
Chen Xing frowned as he raised his head to look at the sky. "It would be better if the snow were heavier…"
The living corpses had a hard time moving, so if only the snowstorm happened a few days earlier, maybe they would've been buried in the snow before even arriving in Chi Le Chuan.
Why are they so persistent in going southward, what's their purpose? Even after pondering over it hundreds of times, Chen Xing still couldn't find the answer.
Where are they coming from? And where are they going?
Countless questions whirled inside Chen Xing's mind.
"Xiang Shu," Chen Xing's knitted his brows, pondering over the matter. "I don't know why, but I have a feeling that there's a relation between the origin of this group of drought fiends and Mt. Erchilun, that area where the dragon had fallen spoken in the Xiongnu legend. We have to leave as soon as possible and set off to the North."
From the foot of the Yin Mountains, a signal horn resounded.
Xiang Shu said, "Repel them first, we'll talk later! Get ready! Prepare to fight!"
The snow had stopped. On the snowy plain that stretched out as far as the eye could see, untold numbers of living corpses wearing worn-out and rusted armors 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 and Elestrea.