Chu Xie’s nose was slightly damp, his eyebrows furrowed. After a few forceful coughs, he finally caught his breath and gently pushed away the outstretched hand, as if declining it.
Huchi Er glanced down at the delicate hand resting against his palm. It felt cool, like white jade, and he felt as though tiny ants were gnawing at his hand.
His thoughts began to wander.
After he had another thought and clasped onto Chu Xie’s wrist, pulling him closer. He placed his other hand on Chu Xie’s waist and asked, “Chu Xie, don’t be so stubborn. I’ve come all the way to the foot of Langya Mountain. At this moment, I want the silver from Great Wei, and I want the person too and they have to give it.”
Chu Xie tried to resist, but he felt the weight of the restraints around his waist, as if he had caught a wolf cub ready to escape at any moment.
Huchi Er pulled him into his arms, inhaling the fragrance that filled the air, and his desires began to stir.
Chu Xie, a slender figure draped in luxurious clothing, once a sight of elegance and grace in Great Wei.
Now, he looked disheveled but still carried an air of refinement.
Yet holding this person in his arms, who was so fragile, it felt as if that delicate wrist could snap with the slightest pressure.
The slender neck was like a white crane by the water’s edge.
Always proud, it would take flight upon approach, leaving only ripples in its wake.
“Chu Xie, I can refrain from attacking the Northern Territories if you want.”
Huchi Er’s fiery breath echoed in Chu Xie’s ears, his voice low and tinged with a hint of wildness. “I’ll marry you. Will you come with me to the Northern Xiong?”
Chu Xie struggled harder this time, suddenly doubting his own ability to “retreat unscathed.” He had a basket full of words that he hadn’t had time to arrange and was choked back by this unexpected turn.
Huchi Er was incredibly strong, and Chu Xie couldn’t break free.
The warm breath continued to caress his earlobe.
Chu Xie could only force a dry laugh, addressing Huchi Er by his name. “Huchi Er, I’m very expensive.”
“I know,” Huchi Er smiled lazily. He listened to Chu Xie’s words, and then, he loosened his grip on him a bit. He gazed into those clear and calm eyes.
“But as you said, with the current situation, whatever I say, that little crown prince has to agree. Besides, you’ve been a street rat in Great Wei for a long time, and everyone wants to beat you up. Why go through all this trouble? Our grasslands have vast skies and endless horizons. Isn’t it better than these small cities in the four directions?”
“Nine commanderies in Wei’s west, thirteen commanderies in Wei’s north, all in exchange for you, Chu Xie.”
Chu Xie’s temple was pulsating.
He reached up and pressed his forehead. “Well, it’s not that expensive.”
Huchi Er smiled lazily, took a few steps back, and his demeanor and tone returned to their usual calmness. “Others might not know, but I’m well aware.”
“If you’re willing to willingly submit and serve me for the Northern Territories, the day I become the Chanyu, I won’t worry about conquering the fifty-seven commanderies of Great Wei.”
Huchi Er smirked. “It’s not just you who’s a businessman. Ten years ago, I gave you this riding crop, helped you onto a horse, and taught you archery. You told me…”
“The essence of business is to buy low and sell high.”
Chu Xie wiped his sweat.
“I think your current ‘price’ is quite low.”
If Chu Xie were to rise to a high position in the future, and Great Wei were to thrive once more, the opportunity they had now wouldn’t come again.
Teaching a disciple to starve the mentor.
“I’m no longer a businessman; I’m a subject of Great Wei,” Chu Xie replied, his eyes showing a hint of detachment.
Huchi Er seemed to find something smusing. “A subject who killed his king? A subject who abused his power? A subject who incurred the wrath of his king, leaving a foul stench for eternity?”
“Chu Xie, are you really a Yue Clan Member? What is it that you truly want?”
Seeing that Chu Xie remained silent, Huchi Er’s expression gradually turned colder. He suddenly reached out, pinching Chu Xie’s chin, forcing him to look directly into his eyes, as if he wanted to see all the impurities and remnants hidden deep within his soul.
“Glory? Revenge? Whatever you want, Su Mingan can provide, and so can I.”
There was a sudden commotion outside, and someone came to report, “Your Highness, there is a small detachment of Changming Army cavalry about twenty miles away, numbering around five thousand. It’s possible they have ulterior motives. Should we retreat thirty miles and reconsider?”
Huchi Er’s grip on Chu Xie’s chin intensified, causing him pain.
“When did you become so close to the Northern Territory? Are you here with those people surnamed Xu to deceive me?”
Chu Xie’s heart skipped a beat. Two hours had passed since his agreement with Xu Chunmu.
If he didn’t go out now, Xu Chunmu might come to take him by force, which would lead to an unintended fight.
“I did enter your tent alone, but who would risk their life to deceive you like this? I’ve genuinely come for peace talks.”
“Alright, I’ve stated my conditions. Will you agree or not?”
Xu Chunmu was still injured, and even if they delayed, they couldn’t afford to start a fight.
Huchi Er seemed as if he hadn’t anticipated it at all, even though it was clear that the troops from the Xu family were only twenty miles away. Nevertheless, he readily agreed.
Strangely, he hesitated for a moment before cautiously letting go of his hand.
“You… Do your words carry weight? What about the forces of Xu Chunmu, twenty miles away…”
“If you don’t attack, he won’t either,” Chu Xie clenched his teeth. “I’ve never failed to deliver on my word.”
“Alright, I’ll trust you once more.”
With that, Hu Chier ordered the camp to retreat thirty miles.
Indeed, when Xu Chunmu saw him retreating, he didn’t rush to attack. Instead, he stood his ground, as if waiting for some news.
After a while, a shabby sedan chair slowly approached, stopping in the mountain valley. It was followed by a small group of Northern Xiong cavalry, their banners fluttering in the wind. Under the banner, the figure appeared thin and frail.
“What’s the situation?”
Xu Chunmu approached, keeping a watchful eye on the cavalry behind him. “Is he willing to negotiate?”
Chu Xie reached out to touch the thick bandages on Xu Chunmu’s shoulder. He couldn’t help but wonder when that deep wound would fully heal.
He sighed inwardly and withdrew his hand into his sleeve.
“He agreed to it. You should return and recover from your injuries. I’ll… stay here for a while.”
Xu Chunmu was thoroughly perplexed. “Why won’t you leave with me? What’s the point of mingling with these Northern Xiongs?”
“I have an old relationship with him; it’s no problem,” Chu Xie replied casually. “You should head back quickly.”
Xu Chunmu fell silent.
After a moment of contemplation, he shook his head and said, “You’re coming with me. I won’t leave without you.”
Seeing that Xu Chunmu was about to reach out and pull Chu Xie away, the Northern Xiong cavalrymen behind him tensed up. Xu Chunmu sensed that the atmosphere was becoming tense, and he looked back at Chu Xie, asking, “What did you promise them?”
Chu Xie remained silent but, at the moment when Xu Chunmu extended his hand, he subtly pulled away from it and surreptitiously handed over a command token into Xu Chunmu’s hand, his eyes flashing with hidden meaning.
Xu Chunmu sensed something was awry but had no choice but to release his grip, concealing the jade token within his sleeve.
Chu Xie smiled and said, “Chunmu, take care of your injuries. Look after yourself.”
Xu Chunmu’s face turned somewhat pale.
He must have made some significant promises to that person and was now stalling for time. The command token he held was a royal seal that belonged to the Northern Xiong’s royal family.
“Make sure you eat well. When marching and fighting, it’s important to have a full stomach.”
Chu Xie left these words behind as he followed the cavalry back to the Northern Xiong camp, located fifty miles away. The forces brought by Xu Chunmu this time were not sufficient for a direct confrontation. Xu Chunmu pondered Chu Xie’s final words.
Suddenly, he understood.
Chu Xie was implying that he should use the jade token to cut off the supplies and retreat of Huchi Er and his forces.
This wasn’t a negotiation trip but rather a plan to deal a hidden blow to the other side if the negotiation failed.
Xu Chunmu was now in a situation where he had to act. If this plan didn’t succeed, Chu Xie might fall into the hands of the Northern Xiong, and his life would be in grave danger.
Why would Chu Xie go to such lengths for his sake?
Xu Chunmu couldn’t comprehend it.
Gripping the jade token tightly, he took out a scroll of parchment, a topographical map, and began to speculate on the Northern Xiong’s supply locations.
This strike had to succeed in one go, or else he’d have to rescue Chu Xie amidst chaos. Cutting off their supply route was the key; Huchi Er couldn’t afford to drag the battle out when faced with dwindling supplies. He would have to retreat to the second line of defense behind the southern mountain barrier.
At that point, they could breathe a sigh of relief.
Outside the tent, the campfire roared, and preparations were made for a feast, with chickens, sheep, and cattle being prepared for cooking. Delicious dishes of all kinds were ready to be savored. Huchi Er had a few more sips of wine and felt invigorated. He gazed at Chu Xie’s face, illuminated by the flickering firelight.
His appearance was truly extraordinary—three parts elegance, seven parts radiance, and altogether breathtaking.
Even if one ignored his temperament and character, just keeping such a face was enough to satisfy anyone. Chu Xie, who didn’t indulge in greasy foods, drank a bowl of tea while sitting by the campfire.
He sat alone in a corner, appearing out of place among the Northern Xiongnu with his refined demeanor.
Huchi Er seemed dissatisfied with something and dragged Chu Xie into his tent. Cheers and whistles could be heard from the campfire outside, with some saying, “King, you haven’t performed the rituals or had the marriage bed wine yet,” “You can’t rush this,” and “People from Great Wei are very traditional.”
Chu Xie didn’t believe that Huchi Er was such an impatient person—Chu Xie knew him well. The more certain he was of victory, the more cautious and prudent he became. Impulsiveness was more likely to occur when he felt pressured.
As expected, Huchi Er tossed a set of Northern Xiongnu clothing to Chu Xie and summoned two women to help him change clothes.
Chu Xie didn’t want to wear those barbarian-like clothes, but before he could say anything, Huchi Er coldly remarked, “Chu Xie, from now on, you belong to the Northern Xiongnu. Naturally, you can’t wear these Wei clothes anymore.”
Chu Xie reluctantly changed into the clothing, and when he bared his back, he noticed layers of gauze and medicinal herbs covering a wound that had yet to fully heal. The two female attendants were stunned and exchanged glances, with one of them silently retreating to report the situation.
The other attendant, who spoke broken Great Wei language, asked, “Do you need us to change your bandages for you?”
It wasn’t necessary.
After putting on the inner layer of clothing, Huchi Er suddenly entered the tent without warning. Without saying a word, he grabbed Chu Xie’s collar and pulled it down. Chu Xie let out a surprised cry as half of his shoulder was exposed, revealing the wrapped wound that had not yet healed.
Huchi Er was taken aback and asked, “Did they torture you like this?”
Chu Xie silently pulled up his collar to cover the wound and contemplated how to respond.
“Even after all this, you’re still negotiating with them? Chu Xie, did your brain get scrambled?”
Wanting to take another look, Huchi Er realized that Chu Xie was unwilling, so he gestured to the attendants on either side to leave and then dropped the curtain of the tent. Chu Xie immediately warned, “Don’t close the door.”
“Why? Do you think I’ll do something to you?” Huchi Er scoffed. “Whatever I want to do, whether the door is closed or not, you won’t be able to escape.”
His words sounded harsh, but he was careful when moving Chu Xie’s body. He wanted to untie Chu Xie’s clothes and take a look at the wound on his back.
When Chu Xie’s half-naked figure was revealed, wearing Northern Xiong clothing that exuded a rugged and heroic aura, Huchi Er couldn’t help but admire the scene. Chu Xie was like an ethereal being, with long hair cascading down, adorned with a fox fur cap adorned with a few white pearls, and a beauty mark on his brow like a speck of cinnabar.
No matter what he wore, he looked like he belonged to a different world.
Like a deity.
Author’s Note: Chu Xie: I hope that when you’re in dire straits tomorrow, you’ll still think of me as a deity.