Chang Geng’s lips and teeth won’t stop bleeding, he could taste the sweet stench of blood as soon as he closed his mouth.
Ge Ban Xiao ran only a few steps and was already gasping for breath, but this little boy was really aware of his limit. He always held onto the sleeves of Chang Geng tightly, his hands cold and sticky with sweat. Chang Geng, even with his cleanliness, did not pull his hands away. The two children were like two young animals who had nowhere else to turn, baring their small fangs in this dead-end.
At the end of the path, the person raised his hand and lifted the protective mask onto his forehead revealing his handsome facial features.
His cheeks were thin, and there was a shadow in his eye sockets reflecting the land of the Central Plains stretching for thousands of miles. When his gaze fell on Chang Geng, the emotions contained in it were extremely complicated. It seemed to be a little nostalgia mixed with a little bit of pride which made him seem very compassionate.
It was a pity that this compassion did not last long. In the end, it was covered up by deep hatred, resembling a red thread that had been buried in the boundless snow. Although it existed, it had disappeared without a trace.
The roar of the heavy steel armors came one after another, more and more gleaming barbarian armors continued landing down behind the man. The number had soon reached up to more than twenty.
There was a sudden wind coming from behind, Chang Geng turned back in alert, but a hand pressed down on his shoulder — the person who just arrived was Shen Yi in Dark Armor.
There was even more blood on him now, causing the already dark armor to become even darker.
Ge Ban Xiao was not aware of the situation. His eyes were so wide that it seemed as if they could pop out: “Tea…Teacher Shen?”
Chang Geng turned his head and spat out a mouthful of blood: “That is the General of the Black Iron Camp, subordinate of the Marquis of Order. Don’t be rude.”
Ge Ban Xiao’s tongue suddenly twisted together like a rope, the whole body of meat and fat trembled altogether as he stuttered: “Mar-Mar-Marquis of Order!”
Shen Yi outstretched an apologetic hand towards Ge Ban Xiao.
The hand was as big as the little boy’s head, and it was still stained with blood. Ge Ban Xiao instinctively jerked his neck back, but the iron hand only gently patted the back of his head: this touch was even softer than a feather falling onto one’s head, not a single hair was damaged.
Shen Yi guarded the two children behind him, standing firm and turning towards the man at the end of the path: “I heard that the ‘head wolf’ of The Heavenly Wolf’s Eighteen Tribes, King Ge Tu, has a talented son named-“
The man coldly continued: “Jia Lai — in the language of you Central Plains people, meaning ‘entranced’(1).”
”Greetings to you Prince Yinghuo(2).” Teacher Shen supported himself with the Wind Slasher, slowly raising his fist to the front his chest, using the greeting etiquette of the Man’s tribes.
The Barbarian Prince asked: “Demon Crow, state your name.”
”Just a lowly nameless pawn, not worthy for the ears of royalty.” Shen Yi smiled, then asked using his gentle scholarly tone of voice, sounding immensely sensible:
“The Eighteen Man’s tribes have been in acquaintance with our imperial court for more than ten years. In the past few years friendship between the two countries has been good. The tributes have been adequate, and business is in good development. The two countries have been at peace, Great Liang has never mistreated you. Yet now you have come without invitation involving defenseless and unarmed civilians in this skirmish. What is your reason for this?”
Ge Ban Xiao was stunned — Teacher Shen this morning still had on a funny apron, scolding as he strolled around the kitchen. Right now as he stood among rows of barbarian men, donned in dark armor, he gave off an aura of ‘I will advance even in the face of thousands and millions’. Completely unshakable.
The Barbarian Prince looked at Shen Yi for a brief second, then let out an unamused snort.
Then, his gaze fell on Chang Geng again, and he proceeded to speak in fluent Great Liang’s Mandarin: “I just heard my brothers reported that apparently, there was someone from the Black Iron Camp here in this town. I soon assumed they were only exaggerating. But it really seemed to be true, if so then… the other rumor was also true? The son that the Goddess(3) who was robbed from us by your Central Plains Emperor gave birth to, was he really hidden away here?”
Chang Geng’s heart jumped.
The Barbarian Prince looked at Chang Geng only for a moment; it almost seemed like he could not bear to look at him for any longer.
The tall barbarian raised his head slightly. The sky was dark, overcast in layers of clouds, and reflected into his eyes that seemed to contain an abyss.
He whispered to an unknown god in the sky:
“The goddess of our Heavenly Wolf’s Eighteen Tribes… is the cleanest spirit on the prairie. Even the wind wanted to kiss her skirt. All living creatures bow their head before her. Where she sings and dances, herds of cattle and sheep will gather the following year, lush vegetation and countless flowers will bloom under the feet of the Goddess of Longevity…”
His voice had a strange rhythm to it, resembling a pastoral song from the savanna.
”This General,…” said the Barbarian Prince. “You people have seized our pastures, hollowed out the heart of the earth, and robbed our Goddess away. Now you ask why we have come, it is truly too absurd!
”Your country’s philosophy has lasted since ancient times, educating thousands of people. Did they teach you how to be a thief? Even if you are from the Black Iron Camp, there is only one of you here. I advise you to step aside, give me the bastard child, let him become the fire that will appease Chang Sheng Tian(4), to soothe the grievance of the Goddess that had been defiled. I really… simply can not look at his face!”
Ge Ban Xiao’s heart was in a mess, but after hearing this, he could generally understand parts of the situation: “Big brother, he said bastard…,” he coughed, “Is that you?”
Chang Geng was already irritated and he coldly replied: “Can you talk less?”
“The Prince has said things like this…” Shen Yi shook his head helplessly: “Truly a villain who accuses first! It is futile for the two of us to stand here trying to trace back the reason for the Northern Expedition fourteen years ago. If you want to battle, then come forward!”
These words were as firm as a nail. Low walls on two sides of the narrow path were pushed down by two rows of northern barbarian soldiers whose heights were even higher than the wall itself. They divided into two groups, surrounding Shen Yi and Chang Geng in their killing intent.
Shen Yi took a short sword from his armor and handed it to Chang Geng: “Your Highness, be careful!”
Teacher Shen spoke politely, but his hand was sneaky: his sentence was not yet finished but he had already acted first.
The back of the Black Armor spurted out nearly three meters long of steam. The blades from the Wind Slasher in his hand shrieked and darted out like a whirlwind, as bright as a blizzard, and the three barbarian warriors who were closest to him were caught off guard, their golden boxes were crushed all at once, their heavy armors instantly deadlocking them in place.
The Barbarian Prince shouted and rushed forward, leading his men by action, bringing with them the stifling hot wind.
Shen Yi did not hesitate to confront his move, and at the same time shouted towards Chang Geng and Ge Ban Xiao: “Run!”
Black Iron Camp’s Dark Armors were very incredible, but this might be too incredible — it was said that a set of Dark Armor was lighter than an ordinary Heavy Armor by around forty pounds. Shen Yi originally resembled a gentle scholar, his strength was far less compared to that of the Barbarian Prince. He lifted the Wind Slasher with both hands, although he was able to hold off the thundering clashes of the opponent, his entire body was driven backward.
Two heavy armors clashed with each other, the surrounding low walls, courtyards, stone houses… even the thick large trees, nothing was spared: they all came shattering down at once.
The Barbarian Prince screamed: “Leave that little bastard here!”
Several heavy armored soldiers responded to his order, snow white steam spread all around, intercepting the two boys whose running legs added up to three.
Chang Geng guarded his chest with the sword, one of his legs was unable to bear any force and had to limp down weakly on the side. His heart was thundering loudly and seemed to burst open, there was a childish and sullen expression on his face, the wolf-like instinct in his blood had all been forced out in the confrontation with the sinister barbarian warrior — regardless of whether or not the so-called “Goddess” truly was his mother, even if it was so, what was this outlandish belief that burns the child to pay homage to his mother?
Ge Ban Xiao wiped his nose in the midst of smoke and dust, he dumbly asked: “Big brother, are you really ‘His Highness’? Does that mean we’re getting rich?”
Chang Geng: “Rich my ass, they just have the wrong person – we’re all going to die soon, why aren’t you running yet?”
Ge Ban Xiao held his head high: “I won’t run! I want to follow my big brother… Ah, my God!”
Two barbarians flew over, one to the left and one to the right. Ge Ban Xiao who just now was still making a grand speech, one of them have already lifted him overhead and was about to throw him to death.
Ge Ban Xiao with his quick reflexes, his limbs started kicking about in a frenzy, then hugged the branches of a large tree next to him. Inhuman strength suddenly burst out in this situation of life and death, making him successfully clutch onto the tree.
It was a pity that although his strength was “inhuman”, his trousers were still a piece of mortal cloth. It was ripped apart in one move.
It was unsure if Ge Ban Xiao had a sudden stroke of genius, or was just scared to death. When he saw that his pants were done for, he conveniently pissed on the face of the man.
The barbarian also had his mask pushed up, catching all of it.
He has turned completely mad; he let out a loud roar and attempted to kill this little brat in one sweep of his iron fist, but just then his legs suddenly went out of control. It turned out that while Chang Geng was hiding from the enemies, he saw that he had stood in the same place. Chang Geng took advantage of the situation and took aim, accurately stabbing right at the seam of the leg guard.
The short sword truly lived up to its promise as a product of Black Iron Camp. It was extremely sharp as if there was nothing it couldn’t break through. He sharply slashed one of the leg guards on the Heavy Armor. One barbarian lost his balance and stumbled down, directly blocking the way of his companion.
Ge Ban Xiao resembled a little monkey, he jumped off from the tree branch, quickly ran across the rooftop, crossing through walls. He gathered up all the bricks and shouted towards Chang Geng: “Big brother! Hurry get out of the way!”
White mist spurted out of Chang Geng’s feet, and it was too late for him to stand up, he could only let the leg guards drag him a few feet away, then a large stone landed right on the steel helmet of the barbarian. The ringing echoed endlessly in one’s ears.
Ge Ban Xiao: “You bastards! This is for tearing my pants!”
Chang Geng rolled over in the dirt and soil. As he was struggling to stand up with one leg, there was a sudden force behind his neck: a massive iron hand appeared right out of the sky and pulled his entire body up.
Chang Geng subconsciously reached for the iron wristband, but the barbarian did not allow him to. He was about to smash Chang Geng onto the wall.
Shen Yi who was currently having his hands full with the Barbarian Prince was completely out of reach —
At this moment, a horse’s sharp neighing rang out, a gleaming iron arrow pierced through the sky, broke through the thick steel plate, and directly nailed the barbarian who just grabbed Chang Geng onto the low wall.
The low wall wasn’t able to sustain the weight of the Heavy Armor: it collapsed into ruins. Chang Geng who was tumbling down in it suddenly heard a very penetrating sound of eagles in the sky. He looked up: there were two huge shadows hovering in the air, and the eighteen Iron Armors of the barbarians were enveloped inside the range of longbows and iron arrows.
The Barbarian Prince quickly looked up and glared: “Dark Eagle!”
Not far away, one person replied: “Isn’t it? Long time no see, greetings from Black Iron’s three factions to Your Highness.”
The voice was tremendously familiar, it had stunned Chang Geng’s entire body. Kneeling down on the ruins of stone bricks and rubble, he looked in disbelief at the man donned in a light armor coming over on a horse.
The man wore the lightest type of armor specifically designed for horse riding. The entire suit was only around thirty pounds, it was also called “lightweight suit”.
He didn’t have the protective mask on and even the helmet was casually held in his hand, revealing a face that had mistakenly entered Chang Geng’s dream. The cinnabar-colored beauty mark under his eye was blazing.
Ge Ban Xiao who was swaying back and forth on top of the wall almost fell forward on his head. He pinched his own thigh: “My God… Are you not my Uncle Shiliu?”
”Yes that’s right my nephew,” ‘Shen Shiliu’ moved forward without a care as if he completely didn’t take the battlefield in front of him into his eyes. He arrogantly pulled out the Wind Slasher from his waist, pushed the body of the barbarian aside, turned towards the wall and jokingly scolded Ge Ban Xiao. “Little brat, letting it hang in the middle of the street like that: hurry and go find a leaf to cover yourself!”
Ge Ban Xiao quickly tried to cover himself in embarrassment.
Chang Geng stared at him intensely, momentarily forgetting where he was.
‘Shen Shiliu’ caught his gaze, turned over to dismount, then bent over slightly, offering Chang Geng his hand:
”Your subject Gu Yun, late to the rescue.”
T/N: tune in next time!! (‘｡• ᵕ •｡’)
(1) The word used here was yíng huò [荧惑] which was also the Barbarian Prince’s name (refer to note #2)
(2) Traditional Chinese astrology also calls the planet Mars as Yíng huò [荧惑]
(3) Goddess here is just a religious belief of the barbaric tribes, there are no magical or supernatural elements here.
(4) Mongolia’s supreme and eternal God, referred to as “Chang sheng tian” . In short, this term is generally just another way to say “god”.