Thousand Miles of Heaven Chapter 71

Ch 71 “Qing Qing”* 

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* a Chinese term of endearment used between lovers, typically translated to “darling” or “honey” in English.

It was already dark outside.

Xie Chaoling sat cross-legged on a mat, half-leaning on it, one hand propping his chin, listening to Xie Chaoyuan’s voice talking to someone outside the hall.

It seemed that the Xirong King had sent someone to serve him, but Xie Chaoyuan sent them all away, he naturally would not give anyone the chance to spy on him.

“After we leave the palace and establish our own fiefdom, we can buy some people from the slave market, picking those who were captured from Daliang or Bailing,” Xie Chaoyuan finished giving instructions and turned to enter the room.

Xie Chaoling remained sitting on the ground, with an even more relaxed posture, and a blush on his face, as if he were drunk. He didn’t open his eyes even when he heard the footsteps.

Xie Chaoyuan came over, sat down beside him, and embraced him, lightly brushing his cheek, “Brother, are you drunk?”

“No,” Xie Chaoling closed his eyes for a few moments, trying to clear his mind, “The Xirong people’s alcohol is too strong, and I have a slight headache.”

Xie Chaoyuan chuckled softly.

He fed warm water to Xie Chaoling’s lips and he drank it from his hand, looking more clear-headed now. “When can we move out?” he asked.

“The eunuch who came to deliver us the people said that if we’re in a hurry, we can choose one of the houses that’s already built. We’ll go see them the day after tomorrow and pick one. Once we’ve picked, we can move out of the palace,” Xie Chaoyuan replied.

Xie Chaoling nodded. “Let’s do it as soon as possible.”

He leaned against Xie Chaoyuan and stayed still for a while, then asked, “You said the Xirong King helped you change your name. What name did he give you?”

“I don’t remember. It was a really long and ugly name,” Xie Chaoyuan said dismissively.

It was a custom of the Xirong people that the more important one’s status was, the longer their name would be. A name with three to five characters was nothing, and some people had names that were more than ten characters long. Even the Xirong King himself had a long name, which he made even longer after ascending the throne. No one knew what the meaning behind it was.

Xie Chaoling’s lips curved slightly. “Well, nobody dares to call you by name anyway.”

“Brother, can you give me a name?” Xie Chaoyuan suddenly said.

Xie Chaoling looked up at him.

Xie Chaoyuan begged with a smile, “Can you help me, brother?”

“Me give you a name?”

“What’s wrong with that?”

There was nothing wrong with it, and Xie Chaoling didn’t care. 

“Whatever you think sounds good.”

He thought for a moment, then randomly dipped his finger in the tea water and slowly wrote down two characters on the ground.

Qing Qing.

Xie Chaoyuan looked slightly surprised, and repeated those two characters, “My name?”

Xie Chaoling laughed and fell back into his arms. “Does it sound good? Let’s go with that.”

When they left the palace, the two of them changed into the attire of the Xirong people. The Xirong people were a nomadic tribe who preferred simple and tight-fitting clothes without too much complexity or layers, which made it easy to move around. However, regardless of gender, they all had thin braids that looked too casual and unruly. Xie Chaoyuan didn’t care about this and told Xie Chaoling that he could wear the Da Liang clothing if he didn’t like it. However, Xie Chaoling shook his head and said, “Forget it, anyway, this face is fake.”

So Xie Chaoyuan stopped insisting. In fact, the palace maid who came to braid their hair did a good job. She even decorated Xie Chaoling’s hair with small, colorful seashells, which shimmered under the sunlight. Even though it wasn’t his original face, it made Xie Chaoling more beautiful.

“The three houses have a similar design, but each has its own unique style due to the preferences of the previous occupants. If there’s anything you’re not satisfied with, you can always renovate it later. We Xirong people aren’t as strict as the Da Liang people when it comes to rules. If you’re willing, we can even make the interior better than the palace, and nobody will say anything about it,” said the internal official who showed them around the houses. He was very polite and introduced everything to them along the way.

Xie Chaoyuan let Xie Chaoling choose, but Xie Chaoling wasn’t interested. However, he didn’t want to dampen Xie Chaoyuan’s enthusiasm, so he asked casually, “Who used to live in these houses?”

“They were all royal officials who committed crimes and were punished. Once the people were taken care of, these houses naturally became vacant,” the palace official smiled and replied, “If the little prince and the princess consort are concerned about this, then we’ll have to wait for the new houses to be built. If we’re lucky, it will be done by next year.”

“Alright then,” Xie Chaoling said without any objection to the title of “princess consort.”

They visited all three houses and finally discovered a Qiong flower tree in the backyard of the last one. Even though it looked desolate at this time of the year, the branches appeared to be growing well, and it would surely blossom beautifully when the time came.

Xie Chaoling took a liking to it at a glance and didn’t think too much about it. He turned to Xie Chaoyuan and said, “Let’s take this one.”

“Are you sure?”

“Mm, it’s good.”

Thinking of the day when Xie Chaoling went to Qionghua Island to pick qiong flowers and giving them to himself, Xie Chaoyuan smiled and nodded. “Okay, then let’s take this one. If you like it, it’s good.”

“The little prince and consort have good taste. This house is indeed the best of the three. There are mountains and water behind it, which, as the Daliang people say, is good feng shui. Moreover, it was built only a few years ago and no one has died in the house. After a little cleaning and refurbishing, you’ll be able to move in,” the internal official said warmly.

Xie Chaoyuan said “thank you” and had some silver coins given to the official by Wang Rang, making him become even more enthusiastic.

After that, they said they wanted to go out and explore the streets by themselves. The man showed them the way and did not follow them. Xie Chaoling was quite interested in the various customs of Xirong. The carriage stopped and started along the way, and they got out and walked around from time to time. When they saw something interesting, Xie Chaoling asked Xie Chaoyuan to buy it for him.

On the market, there were goods from Daliang that could be found everywhere, even items that only the wealthy in the capital could afford were sold here. Xie Chaoyuan explained to him, “Although Xirong and Daliang are constantly at war, trade between several border towns has never stopped. The goods from Daliang are good, and the wealthy people here like to buy them, and they are willing to spend a lot of money to buy them.”

“It’s good that people are willing to spend money, but I’m afraid there are more people who want to snatch things directly,” Xie Chaoling sneered.

After a few more words, there was suddenly a commotion ahead, with shouts of fighting and killing. Xie Chaoling looked over and saw a male servant running frantically, with many fierce pursuers behind him. Soon, the man was caught and beaten to the ground with sticks, and his screams could be heard throughout the street.

Xie Chaoling frowned as he watched, but the people around him had a look of watching a show. The vendors behind him whispered to each other, saying that the man who was beaten was from Daliang, and he might have done something wrong at his master’s house, so he deserved to be beaten to death.

Xie Chaoling’s expression became even more ugly.

Seeing that the man was already dying, Xie Chaoling was about to order someone to stop the beating. At this moment, a team of officers and soldiers came around the corner, loudly reprimanding the onlookers to step back. A tall and mighty man came forward, and it was Tebumu who was in charge of the defense of the entire entire city.

The thugs finally stopped, and Tebumu looked coldly at the scene before him, asking in a deep voice, “What’s going on here?”

The thug who led the group smiled apologetically and explained that they had beaten the Daliang slave because he had stolen a jade bowl from his master’s house and dared to run away. They only caught him then.

The beaten man struggled and sobbed, “I didn’t steal it…”

Before he could finish, he was kicked again.

Tebumu’s face was cold, “You’ve beaten him enough, let’s stop here. Today is the birthday of Buddha. Do you really want to cause a death on the street?”

As he said this, the group of thugs finally realized the gravity of the situation. The Xirong people believed in Buddha, and killing someone on this important day would be a major crime. They themselves would not be able to escape death so they quickly picked up the man from the ground and apologized.

As they were about to leave, Tebumu added, “According to the law, if a servant survives after being beaten with one hundred sticks, he can be released from his contract with his master. Since this man is not dead yet, he is considered free from now on and is no longer under your control. You can leave him alone and go back.”

“But he’s a Daliang slave,” the men were not convinced and mentioned the master’s background, “we are people of King Kunxi. This Liang slave stole something from the prince, how can we just let him go?”

The repeated use of “Liang slave” was extremely harsh. The people of Xirong referred to the civilians who were captured from Daliang as Liang slaves, who had no freedom at all. Xie Chaoling knew this before, but today was the first time he witnessed their arrogant behavior that completely disregarded the people of Daliang.

Tebumu was unmoved. “I always follow the rules in my actions. One hundred beatings have already been carried out. He is no longer a member of King Kunxi’s residence, even if he is a Liang person who is forced to serve as a government slave. Do you have any objections?”

After hearing this, those men dared not have any objections and could only accept their bad luck, cursing as they left. Tebumu didn’t even glance at the man on the ground and ordered his soldiers to carry him away.

After watching the scene, Xie Chaoyuan smiled and said, “This General Tebumu is indeed interesting. He is so straightforward that it’s no wonder he is not well-liked.”

Xie Chaoling asked, “Who is King Kunxi?”

“The biggest contributor to the Xirong King’s ascension to the throne. The Xirong King is always respectful when he sees him,” Xie Chaoyuan answered casually and then asked him with a smile, “Are you interested?”

Xie Chaoling shook his head.

Tebumu had already spotted them and came over to greet Xie Chaoyuan, “Today is the Buddha’s birthday, and the streets are crowded. The King has specially instructed us to provide you with protection if the little prince wants to join in the fun.”

Xie Chaoyuan did not refuse, as he could not reject them. “Thank you, General Tebumu.”

Although they called it protection, it was clear that the Xirong King did not trust him and sent people to keep an eye on him. Xie Chaoyuan was too lazy to expose their intentions and asked Xie Chaoling, “Do you want to look from the front?”

Xie Chaoling nodded casually, “Let’s go.”

As they continued to walk, General Tebumu personally led the way with his men following them. Besides the vendors, there were also various performances on high and low stages along the street. Xie Chaoling was attracted by a dance combining martial arts and music that was unique to Xirong. He stopped and watched for a moment.

“This is a dance that combines martial arts and music, demonstrating strength. When two armies are facing each other, there will be such dances in front of the formation to inspire and uplift morale,” Tebumu explained in a low voice to them.

Xie Chaoyuan glanced at him and said, “Is that so? It’s quite interesting, but wouldn’t this delay the timing of the battle?”

Tebumu replied, “This practice has been around for a long time and has been used for many years. Everything has its reason.”

Xie Chaoling lowered his gaze, hiding his emotions.

As it approached noon, Xie Chaoling said he was tired and wanted to go back. Xie Chaoyuan sent someone to bring the carriage and thanked Tebumu, “Thank you for your hard work, General. We’re leaving now, and there’s no need for you to see us off.”

Tebumu took a step back and bowed again.

Xie Chaoyuan helped Xie Chaoling onto the carriage, and as he stepped onto the carriage, he heard a crisp sound, and something fell to the ground.

Tebumu had already bent down and picked it up. It was the jade pendant that Xie Chaoling always carried with him. Tebumu secretly rubbed it in his palm and handed it back to Xie Chaoling.

Xie Chaoling thanked him and got into the carriage.

After closing the carriage door, Xie Chaoyuan asked Xie Chaoling where he was going to put that jade pendant and wanted to help him re-thread the broken red string. 

“Since it’s a memento left by your mother, don’t keep losing it. I’ll have someone help you find a sturdy string to tie it on later,” Xie Chaoyuan said.

Xie Chaoling looked at his movements and suddenly smiled. “It’s rare to see Qing Qing so attentive.”

Xie Chaoyuan looked up.

Xie Chaoling teased him on purpose, “Don’t like the name?”

Xie Chaoyuan bent his lips slightly and gestured for him to come over. He hung the jade pendant back around Xie Chaoling’s neck and then gathered Xie Chaoling’s long braids, asking in his ear, “Brother, when do you plan to make this name truly fitting?”

Xie Chaoling slapped his hand away and said, “Whenever you’re ready. Just make the preparations.”

Since they had come this far, they might as well indulge themselves completely.

As for the future, they would deal with it when it came.

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