Chen Xing didn't expect this kind of question.
"What's our relationship?” Chen Xing also didn't know because each time he talked about ‘exorcist' or ‘Protector Martial God', Xiang Shu never gave any sign of affirmation. Friends ma? But it wasn't as if they could instantly be called ‘friends' just because they got along with each other. Vaguely, Chen Xing could feel that Xiang Shu's heart cared about him, but this kind of lukewarm feeling was very complicated.
"I don't know him very well,” Chen Xing thought about it over and over. On one hand, he didn't want Che Luofeng to think that he and Xiang Shu were close and use him as a bargaining chip. On the other hand, he still didn't understand what was going on in Xiang Shu's mind.
In the end, he just added: "You should ask him that.”
Since the day they first met, they've always maintained this kind of not-close-not-distant relationship. Sometimes, they were just like strangers, while at other times, they gave out this "we're okay-ish with each other” feeling.
Che Luofeng scoffed when he heard this, obviously not believing Chen Xing. Chen Xing just said: "No, you really misunderstand. I'm with him just because we're investigating your people's matters, regarding the drought fiends.”
Saying so, Chen Xing gave a brief summary of the whole process of his acquaintance with Xiang Shu. Some crucial information was appropriately hidden, and of course, he also wouldn't be foolish enough to tell Che Luofeng the details about his intentions to deal with Shi Hai and this group of drought fiend princes, drought fiend generals, and drought fiend soldiers. Che Luofeng’s face finally relaxed somewhat after listening to the story, but in the end, he still had some doubts. However, when Che Luofeng heard that before he died, Xiang Shu's father, Shulü Wen had taken the same ‘medicine' as him before ultimately becoming a being that was neither human nor ghost, his eyes showed traces of fear and worry.
Chen Xing observed his appearance and could already speculate that there were three ways to make such living corpses.
The first was to get by with ordinary people who had no real strength and had died amidst the war —— It would seem that a magical artifact full of resentment, namely, this rattle drum, was able to turn the dead into animated living corpses.
The second was to have a living person take the potion containing the Devil God's blood. That way, they would be gradually transformed into animated living corpses while they were still alive.
The third was what they had seen in Longzhong Mountain. That mysterious masked man, namely, Shi Hai's group, gathered resentment and injected them into the corpses of the Jin Dynasty's Eight Princes, directly bringing them back to life. These black-armored drought fiend princes seemed to be the strongest so far.
"Really, you don't need to mind me,” Chen Xing said honestly, "I know you like Shulü Kong. Also, I won't be together with him.”
"Rubbish.” Che Luofeng coldly said, "He's the Great Chanyu. He'll marry and have children. You think he's going to marry a man?”
"That's not what I meant.” Chen Xing explained, "We're not in the kind of relationship you think we are in, but even if it was true, I still won't be together with him. After this period of time, in two or three years at the most, I have to go.”
Che Luofeng looked at Chen Xing skeptically. Chen Xing said: "Look, I'm dying. Why would I need to lie to you? And you see, Shulü Kong also doesn't think much about me."
Che Luofeng said in a cold voice: "He thinks a lot about you, but you don't appreciate it. Who else can make him ride North alone in that kind of weather just to bring them back?"
Chen Xing: "He's the Great Chanyu. Whoever the person is, if any of your clansmen went missing, he certainly would…”
"Bullshit!” Che Luofeng rudely cut him off, "I've been his Anda for 14 years, and also, you went North in the eleventh lunar month; it was a suicidal act! The clan chiefs had begged him again and again to not go after that old bastard Akele. But on that day when Shulü Kong found out you had left alone, he still… forget it!"
Chen Xing: "...”
Chen Xing hadn't seriously thought about that time. Until today, he only knew that the Hus outside the Great Wall had a unique set of survival rules. One of them was that they were strictly forbidden to hunt outside the group in the cold season, nor were they allowed to go North alone during the cold winter, because this act was no different than suicide. In order to avoid their people getting into more accidents, the Hus wouldn't support those who rode alone outside Chi Le Chuan, and the rules also forbid rescue, so as to prevent more people from dying. They would rather let the people who refused to follow the rules die, becoming an example so those "senseless” people wouldn't follow their footsteps.
Yet on that day, Xiang Shu himself broke the rule.
"It's my turn,” Chen Xing said. "How did Zhou Zhen come back to life? What did he say to you? What do they want to do outside the Great Wall?"
"Him? As early as the day he died, he was granted a new life by Shi Hai-daren," Che Luofeng said in a cold voice.
Many years ago, following the bloody battle between the Rourans and the Akeles, under the mediation of the Great Chanyu, Shulü Kong, the two sides ceased their fighting and vowed not to seek revenge at the price of convicting Youduo and Zhou Zhen. Both weren't granted sky burials and had to be buried instead.
A few months later, when Che Luofeng went to pay tribute to Zhou Zhen, he discovered traces suggesting that the grave had been touched by someone. After an excavation, he found that Zhou Zhen's corpse had disappeared.
Just this winter, when he went to Carosha to hunt, he seemed to catch sight of Zhou Zhen's figure. After pursuing him all the way, a dark shadow that suddenly leaped up from the side of the road and in a flash, it cut open his stomach with sharp claws.
Zhou Zhen appeared near Carosha? What was he doing? Chen Xing suddenly pondered this question. He always felt that there was something he still hadn't figured out. Some hidden matters containing important information were hidden inside a dense fog, and from the beginning until the end, he couldn't see the outline of them at all.
When going north with King Akele, he must've overlooked something important.
Che Luofeng looked at Chen Xing. Seeing that he was even more puzzled, Che Luofeng casually replied, "I'm just following their orders.”
"Why are you doing this?” Chen Xing said, "Does your enmity with the Akeles run this deep? Even if it is, and you want to get your revenge, why should you bring it against the whole Chi Le Chuan, even committing crimes against your own people?
Che Luofeng shouted, "Shut up! You son of a bitch! What do you know about the feud between us?!"
Che Luofeng glared at Chen Xing, breathing deeply. He took a deep breath before saying: "The Rourans are the true master of Chi Le Chuan; Shulü Kong is just a coward! Fu Jian has already traversed the pass, and the Murong clan has also been subjugated! If we don't take advantage of the current situation and capture Guanzhong now, until when do we have to wait?”
"You Han people have a saying, 'To view the sky from the bottom of a well'," Che Luofeng was full of hatred, "Shulü Kong only understands martial arts, but every day, he has to become the peacemaker of many useless matters. When clans were fighting over water and plants, he mediated. When people had nothing to eat, he helped them out. At heart, he has already become a weak and incapable coward!"
"Is that so?” Chen Xing murmured, "Therefore, you want to be the Great Chanyu? Go south with the whole Ancient Chi Le Chuan Covenant, sharing a soup with Fu Jian? But have you ever sought your clansmen's opinion?"
"When Fu Jian assumed the position of emperor of the Central Plains,” Che Luofeng questioned, "did he ask Di people's opinion?”
"That's true.” Chen Xing, who had always been a man who knew when to let go, laughed and said, "Compared to your immortal deeds, as well as your emperor's aptitude which transcends even rivers and mountains, these eyes of mine could only see an inch of light.”
Che Luofeng of course heard that Chen Xing was ridiculing him, but while the Rourans could show-off their eloquence, they were still far from being an opponent to Chen Xing, this "debate powerhouse”. During the Jin Dynasty, people put much importance on light intellectual conversation, and Chen Xing, ever since his childhood, was used to reading things such as "A white horse is not a horse.” He really wanted to debate with Che Luofeng, and he was sure he could make him talk until he vomited blood, but since his purpose now wasn't to quarrel, he didn't talk about this and that with him.
"Since the topic has come up, I have no objection with a Hu becoming the emperor of the Central Plains.” Chen Xing thought about it. "But, leaving aside whether they’re Hus or not, can the dead still become an emperor? Now that's quite strange.”
Che Luofeng: "…”
Along the way, Chen Xing could roughly guess Shi Hai's plot. It seemed that he planned to resurrect Chiyou and establish a completely new world. However, this group of living people who had turned into living corpses, while they were not afraid of death, they would still eventually rot. How meaningful is it to make the Divine Land a place full of dead people? In the end, will there be anyone left ba?
Che Luofeng breathed in and was about to retort, but his breath got stuck. He was unable to breathe out, and his complexion gradually changed.
"Wei!” Chen Xing immediately said, "Don't be angry… calm down first, Che Luofeng?"
Xiang Shu had yet to come, but somehow Che Luofeng was already dying. He gradually collapsed, but Sima Wei didn't even spare him a glance, as if he was already accustomed to it.
"Che Luofeng!” Chen Xing personally witnessed the process of Che Luofeng's transformation from a living person into a living corpse. He immediately got up and wanted to examine his body, dragging the iron chain with him. Sima Wei untied the chain and held it in his hands. He didn't stop him, allowing Chen Xing to get close to Che Luofeng.
Che Luofeng, from the moment he started talking to Chen Xing, had always been taking deep breaths, and occasionally gasping for breath. At this moment, when Chen Xing tried to feel his breath, he discovered that it was growing weaker and weaker.
Che Luofeng's eyes started to become cloudy. Chen Xing dragged his shackles, leaned on his body, and listened to his heartbeat. After that, he pressed on Che Luofeng's pulse. He picked up an arrowhead and used it to lightly pierce his skin before continuing to sniff the scent.
Corpse venom —— it was similar to the poison coming from the bite of living corpses, only it was fiercer. In just a few days, it had eroded his whole body and made him emanate the same scent as that of Lu Ying. It seemed that the scratch and the bite of the living corpses contained poison, and the original source of it was precisely the Devil God's blood. The difference only lay in the speed of the toxin's flaring up.
Sima Wei pulled down the iron chain, meaning that he wanted to keep Chen Xing away from Che Luofeng.
Che Luofeng's whole state wasn't right, he said in a trembling voice: "I… I'm cold… It's so cold… Zhou Zhen… Are you there? Zhou Zhen?”
From far below the mountain came the sound of battle, as well as signal horns. Chen Xing quickly raised his head. He realized that Xiang Shu was leading people to climb the mountain to rescue him. Zhou Zhen must be busy dealing with Xiang Shu at this moment, and there was also the Donghai Prince, Sima Yue, blocking the way.
"Che Luofeng?” Chen Xing looked at Che Luofeng and suddenly had a little sympathy for the enemy.
"It's so cold.” Che Luofeng was at the end of his life. He couldn't perceive his surroundings anymore, and finally said what he really thought at the bottom of his heart. He did his best and stammered out, "Shulü Kong, save me… I… I don't want to die… I… regret it…”
Chen Xing: "…”
Chen Xing was in a very complicated mood as he held Che Luofeng's hand.
"That cup of wine,” Che Luofeng said, "I didn't want to drink it at first. I was afraid. Shulü Kong… Shulü Kong… I'm sorry…”
Che Luofeng's eyes gradually became cloudy, and two lines of tears dripped down from the corner of his eyes.
The title for this chapter refers to the type of “ambition” which is born because you’re coveting something you don’t have.
Also may I present…
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Caro.