"I'm handing Chi Le Chuan over to you. You're the only one I can trust!"
Thus, a big war began. Chen Xing mounted his horse, and behind him, warriors of all tribes poured out in full strength. In a blink of an eye, untold numbers of cavalrymen departed the camp with hands holding long sabres as they advanced into the group of living corpses, hacking and chopping them with their weapons!
"Cut off the head!" shouted Xiang Shu.
Chen Xing urged his horse and rushed over. He had originally wanted to assist Xiang Shu a little bit with the Heart Lamp, but he discovered he was not needed at all. This was his first time seeing Chi Le Chuan's cavalry in combat: every tribe was well-trained, one would advance while the other retreat. Because of Xiang Shu's reminder regarding their hands and legs, they all wore wrist guards and leg guards, and even the warhorses were wearing sets of iron armor. Glares reflected off the sabres were glinting and flashing everywhere. As soon as an enemy was encountered, a sabre would sever its head, and not a long while had passed until the group of living corpses was scattered completely.
Chen Xing found that inside this world covered in ice and snow, the movement speed of these living corpses had indeed slowed down a lot to the point where they might as well been frozen by the ice —— they had indeed fallen short than the nimble movement of the ones inside Chang'an City. And Chi Le Chuan's Hu cavalry, if compared to Guanzhong's Qin armored cavalry, was even fiercer and tougher. In less than a quarter of an hour, the battlefield was already covered with dead corpses lying on the ground with heads separated from the rest of their bodies.
At first, Xiang Shu led the Tieles back and forth to kill some corpses, but seeing that the battlefield situation wasn't critical, he slightly withdrew and went to direct the army from the outside.
"They're running away!" yelled someone.
But even when the group of living corpses had scattered and escaped to the north, their leader still had yet to appear. Chen Xing hurriedly went to the front and doubtfully examined the dead people throughout the battlefield in full detail.
Xiang Shu gave an order to retreat and stopped chasing after them since the outcome of the battle had turned apparent. Using their crushing numbers and strengths, Chi Le Chuan's Hu cavalry had obtained an all-around victory. It was at this time that Che Luofeng arrived at the battlefield bringing along the Rourans' troops.
"Too late, it's over." Xiang Shu took off his helmet and threw it to the ground.
Che Luofeng was riding his horse as he overlooked the dead bodies. Xiang Shu once again spoke, "Let your troops gather the corpses, put them in the same place then burn them all. Don't touch them!"
Chen Xing waved his hand to hint that it didn't matter and began inspecting one of the corpses. Xiang Shu took off a glove made of steel wire and threw it to Chen Xing. Chen Xing put that glove, which weighed several jin, on his hand before turning over the headless corpse. He then took off the corpse's breastplate then examined it carefully in the shade.
Unlike the drought fiends in Chang'an, which, for the most part, had been a combination of the Hu and the Han common people, these corpses outside the Great Wall were all Hus, and nearly all of them were warriors. Are they implementing the idea of 'using materials at hand'?
"Have you seen this kind of armor before?" Chen Xing asked.
Xiang Shu only frowned and didn't reply. King Akele came along with some warriors and said some sentences to Xiang Shu. They took the armor and began to discuss it.
"Xiongnu armor," said Xiang Shu. "These reanimated living corpses, they are all Xiongnu warriors who died hundreds to twenty years ago."
Chen Xing put down the breastplate and became even more suspicious. "Where were these people originally buried after their deaths?"
"In Carosha," Xiang Shu replied. "That place was once the Xiongnus' burial ground."
Chen Xing connected the dots with what the consort had said. That time, although the Akele Prince, Youduo had "returned from the dead," he still departed from his tribe and went further north not long after that. Several years later, when he once again returned, he brought thousands of Xiongnu dead warriors with him… The answer was almost at hand.
In Mt. Carosha, something must've happened.
They all dismounted and turned to the camp. On the side of Chi Le Chuan, the beheaded living corpses' skulls and bodies were placed separately, piling up into a small hill, with firewood stack underneath a lump of lard covering its top. Xiang Shu took the torch and ignited the firewood stack —— the resulting fire immediately soared and rose up to the sky, swallowing the stack of corpses.
Of the various Hus living inside Chi Le Chuan, the largest group was the Xiongnus, the second was the Tieles, followed by the Rourans and the Shiweis. The Xiongnus from all over the plain came and knelt down outside the corpses' burning ground and sang a sorrowful ballad.
"Youduo never appeared," Xiang Shu said. "It must still be around."
Chen Xing, "In the end, what were they all doing here?"
A Xiongnu warrior came and said a bunch of words to Xiang Shu. Chen Xing frowned because he didn't understand, but then Xiang Shu explained, "The Xiongnus believed that the reason why the corpses were turning into mountain ghosts, cheating death, and returning to life, was because they still have some unfulfilled wishes from their lives."
Chen Xing pondered the idea for a while, then shook his head and replied, "I doubt that's the case."
"It's just a legend." Xiang Shu obviously also didn't believe it, but he didn't say much and only showed a slightly unnatural look. Chen Xing suddenly had a dreadful thought that the living corpses might have come for himself.
They suppressed the drought fiend chaos in Chang'an, yet the mastermind didn't show up at all. The corpses seemed to make light of traveling a thousand li. Is it so they can eliminate him, to stop him from thwarting their plan? Thinking about this, Chen Xing vaguely felt like there were two eyes watching him from the dark.
"I have to go," Chen Xing said, "I'm afraid they're coming for me."
Xiang Shu naturally knew what Chen Xing was thinking and rejected it flatly, "It's impossible! Kjera went to the prairie three years ago, how do you explain what happened then?"
Che Luofeng, who was listening on the side, suddenly asked, "Do you know where the mountain ghosts come from?"
Xiang Shu said to Che Luofeng, "Tomorrow, I will leave for the North. Anda, I'm leaving Chi Le Chuan in your care."
Chen Xing felt as if he was relieved from a burden.
Xiang Shu once again said to Chen Xing, "The luggage had already been prepared on the day of the Autumn Close Festival. We can leave at any time."
Che Luofeng, since his last dispute with Xiang Shu, had never said a thing to Chen Xing. Now, he used Rouran language to ask Xiang Shu, "Where do you want to go?"
"Carosha," Xiang Shu answered, "where the ancient dragon fell down."
"You can't go!" Che Luofeng said, "I heard from the Akeles that the mountain ghosts will be back again!"
Xiang Shu, "I need to find out what's going on. Chen Xing followed me to Chi Le Chuan precisely because of this matter. You don't know, but drought fiends' upheaval also happened in Chang'an. Because we didn't know the cause, it led to a massacre..."
"I said," Che Luofeng realized something and shot a glance at Chen Xing, "it was you who brought them here!"
"It has nothing to do with him!"
Without waiting for Chen Xing to reply, Xiang Shu quickly said with a rather depressed tone, "Che Luofeng! Forget it..." He reached out his hand for Che Luofeng, yet was blocked by him. It was clear that the other party begrudged Xiang Shu for beating him up.
In front of the royal tent, Chen Xing felt that the situation was a little abnormal. He hurriedly said, "I'll go pack up my things."
"What's the matter with you?!" Xiang Shu knitted his brows.
"I want to ask you that!" Che Luofeng spoke, "You're Chi Le Chuan's Great Chanyu! The enemy still hasn't been eliminated, that monster Youduo is still hiding somewhere, and you're leaving now? Going north with this Han?"
"This place has you!" Xiang Shu's tone was also hardening as he seriously said, "I'm handing Chi Le Chuan over to you. You're the only one I can trust!"
Chen Xing went into the tent. When he heard this, he felt inexplicably touched by Xiang Shu, yet he also felt a little sad. Maybe what he had once imagined was also this kind of life-and-death friendship.
Che Luofeng said, "I'm not the Great Chanyu! I don't care what happens here!"
Xiang Shu sighed tiredly, looking at Che Luofeng.
"Are you a child?" Xiang Shu frowned deeply and looked patiently at Che Luofeng.
"You've changed," Che Luofeng said, "Anda, you've changed. You went into the Central Plains a year ago and vanished without a trace. Then, you came back with this shady Han dog, and now you're head over heels for him. This is improper even for the Great Chanyu, right?!"
Xiang Shu, "You..."
"Who the hell are you calling a Han dog!" Chen Xing was finally at the end of his patience; he threw down the medicine box, grabbed a longbow from the royal tent, readied the bow and nocked an arrow, went outside the tent, drew the longbow, pointed it at Che Luofeng, and snarled, "Han dog? This Han dog saved your life! Is this how you treat a benefactor who saved your life?! You Rouran! You trash! You're worse than a dog!"
Chen Xing, in the end, had had enough, and it was more than he could bear. These days during his stay in Chi Le Chuan, he had always tried to be patient and accommodating. As a guest, he was unwilling to argue with Che Luofeng and usually pretended not to see his jealous eyes. But this time, he finally exploded and didn't want to tolerate Che Luofeng anymore.
The arrow was pointing at Che Luofeng. Silence reigned outside the royal tent, snow fell once again, and snow crystals fluttered about, flying back and forth around the place. Some snowflakes fell on the arrow, Xiang Shu extended his hand and pressed down Chen Xing's bow and arrow. Chen Xing trembled in anger and put down his bow and arrow.
Instead, Che Luofeng laughed and stood up, then said, "Come? Shall we go outside to the plains and compete in equestrian archery to determine who will win and who will lose? One man gets three arrows, a fight of life and death. You dare or not, little Han?"
Speaking of equestrian archery, how could Chen Xing be Che Luofeng's opponent? If they were to meet face-to-face, he would be shot to death. Xiang Shu said angrily, "Che Luofeng! If you keep making such a fuss, don't blame me for being angry!"
"Wait!" A woman's voice said, "I'll go in his place for your fight of life and death!" Unexpectedly, it was the Akeles' Consort.
Chen Xing, "..."
King Akele and the Consort had arrived in front of Xiang Shu's royal tent and had seen Che Luofeng's and Chen Xing's confrontation. The Consort said, "The Divine Doctor saved me and my son's life so that Youduo who died in your hands could have a younger brother, and the Akeles have an offspring to inherit the tribe. I'll take your challenge and act as a substitute for the Divine Doctor. Che Luofeng, do you dare or not?"
Chen Xing hurriedly said, "Hold on, I haven't accepted his challenge yet."
Not to mention that the Consort should be resting at home for at least a month, protecting her body following childbirth. Looking at Xiang Shu, it was also impossible for him to respond to Che Luofeng's challenge. In fact, he wasn't worried about losing his life since his archery skill had always been "shoot-there-hit-there"... But if by any chance he wasn't careful and shot Che Luofeng off the horse, he was still the one who had to treat his injury in the end. Was it not just giving himself more trouble?
Sure enough, Xiang Shu taunted, "Anda, don't underestimate this Han. I have seen him use a crossbow with great precision, shooting down a fully-armored Han general."
Che Luofeng said in anger, "Come on! You accept or not?"
Xiang Shu waved his hand, coldly said, "He won't accept. If you truly want to, why don't you compete with him on saving human lives?"
Che Luofeng sneered, "Compete with a doctor to save people? How could I ever compete?"
Xiang Shu, "So? You want to put a doctor on a horse to compete with a warrior like you on equestrian archery? Do you really want to be this shameless?"
With a sneer on the corners of his mouth, Xiang Shu dissolved the tense atmosphere. Chen Xing hatefully put away his bow, turned around, and entered the royal tent. Xiang Shu then motioned for everyone to follow him. Che Luofeng frowned, "What are you doing?"
Xiang Shu took Che Luofeng, along with King Akele and the Consort, and also every tribe's cavalry leader who had also arrived, to discuss some matters. Before leaving, he once again looked at Chen Xing, "I'll be back in the evening."
Chen Xing said in his heart: Get lost ba, all of you just get lost. Then, he sullenly sat inside the tent, spread out his hands and feet, and lay down on the ground, feeling rather bad in his heart. By the time it was dark, Xiang Shu still hadn't returned. Someone came and deliver the meal, saying, "The Great Chanyu is still discussing some matters and asks you to wait a bit more."
"Got it," Chen Xing said in a bad mood. He already knew that Chi Le Chuan had dispatched cavalry and scouts to cover every area in order to search for Youduo's whereabouts, and that they were discussing what to be done regarding this matter, maybe getting into a quarrel again in the process. Xiang Shu most likely had to find Youduo and burn him first before feeling at ease to accompany him to investigate the North.
Yet the more he delayed, the colder the weather would become. He also didn't know what kinds of events were going to happen next. Hearing what was said this afternoon, Chen Xing couldn't help but feel rather bad. These days, he thought Xiang Shu didn't want to be his Protector, and in fact, it was impossible for him to be one. He was the Great Chanyu; Chi Le Chuan's 300,000 warriors and common people all respected him. If he put down this responsibility, how could he ever feel relief?
Chen Xing thought about it over and over again, and in the end, it would be best for him to go first. In any case, he still had Iuppiter's protection. Even with the 200,000 Qin army outside Xiangyang city, when he said he woul, "break through", he indee, "broke through". Taking with him a map and enough supplies, at most, he was just going to be cold.
Thus, Chen Xing simply packed up some medicine, took a longbow, and put it on his back. He didn't bring any money with him. After all, a place without people also had no use of money. Outside the royal tent, the horse he had purchased had already been loaded with rations and lard, and also with flint and wool. When he turned around, he saw King Akele standing in the dark with his horse.
"Ah!" Chen Xing was scared out of his wits and said, "It's pitch-black here, why are you standing there, scaring a man?!"
King Akele said a few sentences in Xiongnu and used some gestures to talk to Chen Xing. Chen Xing was puzzled. King Akele mounted his horse and motioned for Chen Xing to follow him.
Chen Xing, "???"
Northern side of Chi Le Chuan, outside the Akeles' camp.
The Consort had prepared three riderless horses. She placed one of the reins into Chen Xing's hands and said, "That small horse of yours isn't able to stand the ruthless cold and will fall into the snow in three days. Ride this one instead, this riderless horse has everything ready."
Chen Xing said, "What's wrong? I'm not trying to find Youduo."
The Consort said, "I know. You're going to the North, right? Let this old man lead the way, having a person to keep you company on the way is also good. Wear these clothes. Additionally, this horse was given to me by Xiang Yuyan a long time ago. It's already 22 years old, an old horse, but still runs well. As the saying goes, 'an old horse knows the way', so you don't need to be afraid of getting lost when you return."
"Take this too... here," she handed over a dagger to Chen Xing.
Chen Xing, "..."
Chen Xing looked at the Consort, and then at King Akele. The descendants of the ancient Xiongnu who had prepared all their supplies, no matter the age, all went out one after another and bowed down to Chen Xing and King Akele.
The Consort said, "Go ba, you will certainly come back safe and sound."
"Jia!" King Akele, a big cloak covering his whole body, was the first to leave Chi Le Chuan.
Chen Xing's eyes became moist. He shook the horse's reins then followed him out. He turned his head and shoute, "Thank you!" and saw that the Consort was standing in the snow, leading the people to bid farewell to the two men. Snowflakes came down, and soon enough, Chi Le Chuan was gently blanketed in a vast snowstorm.
The distance to Barkol Great Lake was four-hundred li. First, towards the north, they had to cross the Xarusgol River. After that, according to the map, they had to turn to the east and pass through an ancient city with moat. Then, after turning again towards the north, they had to run again for another six hundred li. As long as they didn't go in the wrong direction, they would reach Carosha by then.
After the snowstorm, the road had piled up with snow, so it was difficult to walk on and slowed down the horses' speed. Luckily, the heavens pitied them, and there hadn't been anymore snowstorm covering the sky and obstructing the sun. After crossing the Xarusgol River, the weather cleared up, and the winter sun shone brightly. Furthermore, on the white and vast expanse of the snow, wild foxes were preying on birds.
It was obvious that King Akele was very familiar with the wilderness. His clan was well-known for taming and raising horses. He also remembered the terrain very clearly, knowing by heart where to go and where not to go. Chen Xing wasn't really familiar with his language and at first, he feared that this old man, who was already more than 50 years old, wasn't able to support himself. He didn't expect that the other party's physical capability was a lot better than his own and on the road, he often gave him game to be eaten.
A few days later, they finally arrived at their first stop. They stood facing a desolate city, half-buried in the wind and snow, with a few star-like lanterns lighting up from inside the city.
"I can't believe anyone lives here!" Chen Xing was shocked. After coming to the land beyond the Great Wall, this was the second time he saw a gathering place after Chi Le Chuan. He asked King Akele, "What is this place?"
"Karakorum," King Akele understood and explained.
Chen Xing followed King Akele to go inside the city, looked around, and saw that despite covering a considerably large area, there were only a few hundred small families in the city. Then, he caught sight of a monument in the middle of the city, and written in both Han script and Xiongnu language, was the name of the city: Longcheng.
It was more than 400 years ago since Wei Qing raided the Xiongnus' home. It was once a place for the Xiongnu to worship dragons, and also where all of the divisions' annual meetings had been located. After Wei Qing destroyed Longcheng, this place quickly degraded from greatly flourishing to rapidly declining. The Xiongnus one after another moved to Chi Le Chuan, leaving only merchants and elders in the city wall to live here temporarily and get through the winter.
DOG? NO YOU! CLF YOU B A S T A R D seriously though, my hatred for him just keeps rising and rising while rereading this chapter…. and trust me it won’t go down anytime soon! ALSO CHEN XING NOOOO DON’T LEAVE YOUR PROTECTOR ALONE AH
Anyway, Happy New Year! Dinghai AD Trailer is out and you can check it here: https://www.missevan.com/sound/player?id=1559311
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Caro.