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The Vast Desert Chapter 31


Chapter 31 – Restoration of Past Regime

Hu Tiehua continued to laugh and said, “For a girl, not only this is contempt, practically it could be called come kind of insult; thereupon, in her rage, that Zhenzhu Guniang [Miss Pearl] wanted to give this playboy a bit of lesson, is that right?”

Princess Pipa said, “Plus that Zhenzhu Guniang was afraid that once they parted, she would never see this playboy anymore. So by doing this, there is no need to worry that he would not be obediently coming to look for her.”

Hu Tiehua clapped his hands and laughed aloud; he said, “Interesting, interesting, it is simply extremely interesting. Chu Gongzi, don’t you think this is interesting?”

Chu Liuxiang spoke with a straight face, “If suddenly your tongue broke and fell off, it would be even more interesting.”

But Ji Bingyan sighed and said, “After all, a child is a child, he will never grow up. Grownups have a load on their mind, he will never understand.”

Princess Pipa laughed coldly and said, “Whatever loads on your grownup’s mind, say it out, let us hear it!”

Knitting his brows, Chu Liuxiang said, “We originally thought that the rebellion in Qiuci was masterminded by Hei Zhenzhu in secret; because he knew my relationship with Yidian Hong, hence he sent Yidian Hong to come here.”

Ji Bingyan said, “Now we know that Hei Zhenzhu has nothing to do with this matter whatsoever; therefore, the secret mastermind must be Shi Guanyin. But how did Shi Guanyin …”

Princess Pipa did not wait for him to finish, she interrupted him, “That’s the load on your grownup gentlemen’s mind? In my opinion, this matter is practically too simple; even a three-year old will be able to guess it.”

Chu Liuxiang and Ji Bingyan were waiting for her to continue. She went on, “Hei Zhenzhu invited Chu Liuxiang’s three … three close relatives to come here, perhaps all her subordinates are aware of it. Even more, Shi Guanyin has numerous eyes and ears; naturally this matter entered her ears quickly. Therefore, she used a tiny little trick to let Chu Liuxiang think those three Guniang were in her grab. This way, our Passionate Prince[1] would not dare to act blindly without thinking?”

Ji Bingyan cast Chu Liuxiang a glance; smiling wryly, he said, “I never thought there are so many very complicated things in this matter, yet in a child’s mind, everything become so simple.”

Princess Pipa paid no attention to him; she simply continued, “But she is still afraid that Chu Liuxiang did not believe, so she intentionally had Yidian Hong coming here. You guys, these deceitful-in-many-ways grownup gentlemen think it through from different angles, you decided that only Hei Zhenzhu, one person, knew the relationship between Chu Liuxiang and Yidian Hong; therefore, you also decided that Hei Zhenzhu was the secret mastermind behind this, so it is only natural that Su Guniang and the others must be in their hands; thereupon you guys obediently fall into their trap.”

Noticing that Chu Liuxiang and Ji Bingyan were listening to her with blank expression on their faces, she could not help laughing proudly of herself; she said, “Don’t you see, isn’t this matter very simple? It’s just that you people’s own brains are too complicated, always like to indulge in flights of fancy, such a plainly a very simple matter, you overthink it to make it complicated.”

Smiling wryly, Chu Liuxiang said, “So, according to you, there must be someone else who knew the relationship between Yidian Hong and me, so he could exploit Yidian Hong to make me take the bait; is that right?”

“Now you finally understand,” Princess Pipa said.

Knitting his brows, Chu Liuxiang said, “But the people who knew my relationship with Yidian Hong, except for Hei Zhenzhu, everybody else is dead!”

Laughing coldly, Princess Pipa said, “Meeting Chu Xiang Shuai, perhaps even dead people might come back to life.”

She made that remark intentionally; originally it was to anger Chu Liuxiang, but when Chu Liuxiang heard it, it was as if he was suddenly hit by an arrow; his entire body jumped up.

Right this moment, suddenly they heard a burst of rapid hoof beats. In the desert, the ground was soft, so that by the time they heard the hoof beats, the speeding horse was already near them, and suddenly stopped.

Hu Tiehua’s eye lit up; greatly delighted, he said, “Could it be that Hei Zhenzhu is back?”

Before he finished speaking, Chu Liuxiang and the others already scrambled out of the tent. Only to see there were indeed three horses outside, the saddles were untied, their body was covered all over with windblown sand.

Although all three of these horses were one-in-a-thousand fine colts, this moment two of them already collapsed from exhaustion, their mouths were foaming, they nearly died from being forced beyond their strength.

Normally, desert warriors regarded this kind of good horse more important than life itself, yet this moment unexpectedly no one came over to take care of these three horses. Everybody was crowding outside the first tent in the east, their expression looked extremely excited. Apparently the three men who had just arrived on the horses were swarmed and brought into the tent.

Chu Liuxiang and Hu Tiehua were about to rush over to look, someone already saw them and hurriedly came over to meet them. Bowing, he said with apologetic smile, “Xiaoren already settled Gongzi’s four friends separately, this moment they are all resting. Due to another distant visitor’s arrival, Jiangjun [general] is unable to accompany Gongzi drinking wine, we are asking for Gongzi’s forgiveness.”

What he meant by ‘four friends’ were the injured Qu Wurong, Yidian Hong, and Liu Yanfei, the two martial brothers. As for the ‘General’, it must be the greenish-black-bearded man.

Hu Tiehua could not help asking, “Turns out you have a guest from afar; but I wonder who they are?”

The man smiled apologetically and said, “I am afraid Gongzi would not know them.”

“Oh!” Hu Tiehua responded.

The man laughed again and said, “Actually, speaking about them, we can’t consider them guests at all; rather, they are Xiaoren’s [plural] employers.”

“Employers?” Hu Tiehua echoed.

The man sighed. He said, “Since Lao Wangye passed away, practically even living has become a problem for Xiaoren [plural]; therefore, we have to find small jobs here and there to survive, and to maintain this situation.”

Hu Tiehua could not refrain his curiosity again; laughing, he said, “But I wonder what they are hiring you to do?”

The man smiled apologetically and said, “What we are doing is more or less similar to what your Central Plains’ armed escorts are doing. This time it is also another not-worth-mentioning small thing. Furthermore, the first two days have been accomplished.”

Hu Tiehua wanted to ask further, Chu Liuxiang already saw this man was showing signs of reluctance and embarrassment, thereupon he immediately pulled Hu Tiehua away and said with a laugh, “Since that’s the case, Xiongdi [brother] needs to quickly take care of your guests; we can take care of ourselves.”

Returning to their tent, Hu Tiehua was still constantly muttering to himself, “We are their Xiao Wangye’s good friends, yet they regard these three people as more important than we are. Who are these three men anyway?”

Chu Liuxiang chuckled and said, “Who those people are, what does it have to do with us?”

Although his mouth said so, in his heart he also felt very strange.

No matter where, divine spirited horses like the ones outside were not many, yet these three definitely did not cherish the horses at all, unexpectedly they did not have any scruple in exhausting the horses to their death.

What urgent matter was it that they had to get here in such a hurry?

Also, to hire people like the greenish-black-bearded man, there must be a steep price to pay, plus what they were doing must be extremely important. What exactly were they doing? Why all these secrecy?

Although Chu Liuxiang did not say it out loud, but Ji Bingyan had already guessed what he was thinking. The two looked at each other. Ji Bingyan suddenly said, “I am going to check on Yidian Hong.”

“You’d better be a bit more careful,” Chu Liuxiang spoke heavily.

Just to see Yidian Hong, why did he need to be more careful?

Hu Tiehua’s eyes were flashing, he said, “I want to see him too.”

“You don’t need to bother,” Ji Bingyan said, “Why don’t you stay here and drink wine?”

Hu Tiehua suddenly roared in laughter and said, “You guys don’t have to conceal it from me. I have been friends with the two of you for twenty, thirty years; seeing your sneaky appearance like this, do you think I cannot guess what ghostly trick you are playing?”

Chu Liuxiang cast a glance toward Ji Bingyan. Smiling wryly, he said, “Grownups’ other things can fool a child, but if you want to conceal from them that you are going out to play, they will find out. And then they will make such a commotion that you will have no choice but to take them out too.”

Pursing up her lips, Princess Pipa laughed and said, “I did not expect that you haven’t been a Papa, yet you already have experience dealing with children.”

Right this moment, they suddenly heard another burst of hoof beats.

This time the hoof beats were thunderous; the incoming people must be over five hundred riders. Evidently, because they discovered that there were people ahead, the sound of hoof beats was slightly halted, but then immediately it rose up again, as they were dividing themselves into left and right, two wings, to become an outflanking momentum, to surround the greenish-black-bearded man’s group in the middle.

Ji Bingyan spoke heavily, “Could it be that these people are chasing those three men earlier?”

“That’s right,” Chu Liuxiang replied, “They did not hesitate to exhaust those famous horses to death, turns out it was to escape the pursuing troops.”

Without waiting for them to finish their discussion, Hu Tiehua already rushed out, only to see the warriors under the greenish-black-bearded man already had their bows taut, their sabers out of the scabbards, as they stood in tight formation. All around them the yellow dust was filling the whole sky, the sound of hoof beats was gradually stopping.

Stamping his feet, Hu Tiehua said, “There is a fight, why didn’t that greenish-black beard come to look for us? Could it be that he looks down upon us?”

Ji Bingyan coldly said, “How did he know that you like to meddle in other people’s business this much?”

Suddenly, a rider rushed over; reining his horse in front of the formation, he called out loudly, “Your honorable army is the warriors from which country? Have you seen three horses escaping to this place?”

From this side, a man also immediately shouted back, “You guys are the warriors from which country? Why do you put on a formation in front of our army?”

The other man shouted, “Our side is Qiuci State Army, under Da Zongguan [big chief manager], Min Jiangjun’s [General Min] command. The escapees are the major criminal Guowang Bixia [His Majesty king of a country]. If your honorable army hand them over, there will be heavy reward, but if you cover it up and not reporting it, very soon when the main forces arrive, we will burn both jade and common stone, if you want to regret, it will be too late.”

Listening to this point, Princess Pipa spoke in shrill voice, “Not good, could it be that the one they are chasing is my Diedie [daddy]?”

She immediately ran toward the tent, and called out loudly, “DiedieFu Wang [father king] … is it you?”

From inside the tent a man slipped out; indeed it was His Majesty the King of Qiuci. While admittedly that when they suddenly saw him, Chu Liuxiang and the others were surprised and delighted at the same time, when the King of Qiuci saw them, he was even more pleased beyond his expectations.

Clapping his hands and laughing heartily, he said, “I never thought that everybody would be here. Very good! This is indeed very good.”

Princess Pipa threw herself into her daddy’s arms; she said with a laugh, “But Diedie, how could you come here alone?”

The King of Qiuci laughed and said, “There’s no harm in you and I, father and daughter, have a chat back home later; now …”

His gaze turned toward Chu Liuxiang, he said, “Xiao Wang [little king] was about to go to their formation to reply; I wonder if three Zhuangshi [hero/warrior] would be willing to escort Xiao Wang?”

Smiling, Chu Liuxiang bowed and said, “Zaixia [plural] solemnly waiting to be sent.”

The King of Qiuci laughed heartily and said, “Great! That is really great!”

Chu Liuxiang saw that this King of Qiuci, who previously only knew how to indulge in wine and women, who seemed to be extremely cowardly and incompetence, this moment unexpectedly appeared to have his spirit trembling with excitement [idiom: lively and full of enthusiasm], his face was glowing with ruddiness, as if he was suddenly changed into a different person. Although inevitably he felt strange in his heart, he knew that this moment was not a good time to investigate this matter.

The three of them, plus the greenish-black beard, and left and right guards of the King of Qiuci, on five horses slowly walked out. The warrior in front of the troops in formation, which were showing off their military strength and were constantly yelling and shouting – was immediately shocked; he could not utter even one word.

Staring at him, the King of Qiuci spoke heavily, “Do you still recognize this king?”

The warrior was actually his former subordinate. Now that he suddenly saw his former master, inevitably he was startled and ashamed at the same time. His face turned beet-red, he stammered, “Wangye already abandon our country for a long time, Xiaoren …”

The King of Qiuci smiled and said, “Although you have abandoned this king, but this king has never abandoned you.”

The warrior’s face was turning even redder; hanging his head low, he said, “Xiaoren in the capacity of a sergeant, only know how to obey military orders. If there is any offense, certainly it is not Xiaoren’s intention.”

“Very well,” the King of Qiuci said, “I understand your difficulty. No need for you to answer, go call Min Hongkui and Hong Xuehan to talk to me!”

“Yes,” the warrior replied.

He pulled the rein and rode away. Half a day later, they saw several horses galloping over. The ones at the front were precisely General Min, Hong Xianggong, and Wu Juxuan, three men.

When Wu Juxuan suddenly saw Chu Liuxiang in here, his countenance immediately changed. He had never expected that Chu Liuxiang would escape from the Stone Guanyin’s claws.

But Chu Liuxiang looked at him and smiled; the two obviously had so many things they needed to talk about, but in front of the two battle formations was definitely not the place for them to talk.

The King of Qiuci’s very good-natured face suddenly became dignified and grave; he spoke in heavy voice, “Min Hongkui, Hong Xuehan, this king has never treated you meagerly, but why did the two of you want to rebel against the emperor? How could you listen to the flattery of traitor minister? Everybody has to be punished.”

General Min’s dark face seemed to be turning red as well. Hong Xianggong’s face, however, did not show any emotion. Throwing his head back, he laughed aloud and said, “The position of the King really is not bestowed by the Heaven, only virtue can put you there. We are just executing the Will of Heaven. If you are willing to obediently come back with us, remembering the sentiment in the past, not only we are not going to harm your life, we will definitely put good words on your behalf in Wangye’s presence, to bestow you a place where you could pass the remainder of your life in peace.”

The King of Qiuci angrily said, “The sky will not have two suns, a country cannot have two rulers; other than this king, who dares to call himself king?”

Hong Xianggong laughed and said, “That’s right; the sky will not have two suns, a country cannot have two rulers. Now that the new king has ascended the throne, you have not bowed before him, wouldn’t it be extremely unwise?”

The King of Qiuci suddenly laughed aloud and said, “New king? Do you know where your new king is now?”

Hong Xianggong’s countenance finally changed; but instantly he laughed and said, “Naturally at the Imperial Palace, quietly waiting for the good news, waiting for us to escort you back.”

The King of Qiuci laughed heartily and said, “Look at this first, what is it?”

He took a sandalwood case from the greenish-black-bearded man’s hands and threw it hard.

Hong Xianggong caught it, opened it and took a look; his countenance immediately turned ugly. His hands trembled, he could not hold the wooden case anymore, ‘Bang!’ it fell to the ground.

A human head immediately rolled out of the box. The greenish-black-bearded man leaped off his horse, rushed several steps forward, and using a long saber he picked up the head and lifted it high.

The King of Qiuci shouted, “The traitor An Deshan who stole the country has already been executed two days ago, his head is here. Those who are implicated by the traitor in the past, if you surrender now, your guilt will be reduced three grades down, I will be lenient toward you.”

As soon as the shout was out, all the three armies immediately roared in clamor.

Wu Juxuan suddenly shouted, “This is his frightening words to scare people [idiom], to confuse the troops’ heart, we must not fall into his evil scheme.”

Rolling his eyes, Hong Xianggong also immediately shouted, “That’s right; he had people rebelling and friends deserting [idiom: to find oneself utterly isolated], he cannot even run to save his life, how could he have the power to do this kind of big thing?”

The King of Qiuci laughed aloud and said, “You think this king is solely preoccupied with running for my life? Let me tell you, this king has already mobilized five-way army in secret; three days ago the restoration of the country has been completed.”

General Min said, “Five-way army, fart! It’s simply a fart.”

The greenish-black-bearded man leaped back onto his horse again and raised his voice, shouting, “Five-way army, four are hired from the neighboring countries on the west, and the other one is precisely my, the Qing Huzi’s [Greenish-Black Beard] brothers. Could it be that gentlemen still do not believe?”

It may be assumed that this greenish-black-bearded man already had a resounding reputation in the desert; among General Min’s men, not a few had heard about him, also a lot of them could already see that the head was not a fake. Thereupon they were thrown into commotion again; their hearts were shaken even more.

General Min sternly said, “Where’s the Iron-armored Army? Quickly arrest this muddleheaded king away!”

Although his military order was strict, this moment unexpectedly no one was listening to him, except for several personal guards who were dead-loyal to him. Raising their sabers high, they yelled and charged forward.

Hu Tiehua roared in laughter and said, “Looks like our business is finally here.”

Amidst his laughter, he urged his horse to charge forward as well. Stretching out his arms, two men were already taken under his ribs, two other men were shocked, and were knocked off of their horses by the two men under his ribs.

The greenish-black-bearded man also raised his saber and charged forward. His left hand was holding the head of the rebel king, the saber light in his right hand was like snow. Two riders moved forward to intercept him, his long saber flashed, two heads were rolling down to the ground.

General Min was still shouting orders. Seeing the turn of events was not too encouraging, Hong Xianggong wanted to slip away; suddenly he heard someone spoke coldly, “Where is Gexia going?”

Hong Xianggong turned around with great alarm, Ji Bingyan, nobody knew since when, was already in front of his horse, staring coldly at him.

Hong Xianggong hissed, “Zhuangshi please let me off first, I will reward you with ten thousand gold.”

Ji Bingyan coldly said, “My wealth is already too much, I don’t even know how to spend it; you want to give me ten thousand gold reward, wouldn’t it add to my headache?”

Hong Xianggong laughed and said, “If Zhuangshi dislike the amount being too little, how about a hundred thousand gold?”

While his mouth was talking, suddenly he pulled a dagger with gilded hilt and stabbed backhandedly.

Laughing coldly, Ji Bingyan said, “You want to use your mouth to fight, it is still all right, but if you think of using your hand to fight, it is still far too inferior.”

Before he even finished speaking, his hand had already snatched the dagger away, pulling Hong Xianggong’s entire body off his saddle. Swinging his hand, he shouted loudly, “Catch!”

Unexpectedly Hong Xianggong’s entire body was thrown away by him toward the greenish-black-bearded man’s brothers, who caught him right away. Four horses carried him between them, and brought him into the tent.

On the other side, General Min was, after all, a military man; he pulled the saber hanging on his waist, and was thinking of staking his life in this battle. Seeing Hu Tiehua coming over with his horse, he shouted loudly and hacked his saber down.

Without even looking, Hu Tiehua snatched the saber away and sent a backhand slap, and struck General Min on the face. Gold stars were dancing in General Min’s eyes, he fainted right away.

The King of Qiuci raised his voice, “This king has recovered his place, abandon your saber and you will live, rebel and you will be beheaded.”

Immediately a series of ‘clatter, crash’ was heard, several hundred sabers were thrown in the ground.

It should be noted that the warriors under General Min’s command were all veterans of a hundred battles, to have them abandoning their sabers and surrendering was not an easy thing at all. However, these men were the King of Qiuci’s former subordinates. Although they belonged to the rebel forces, but they did so because they were forced by military orders. Now that they saw the old king has returned to power, and their general has been captured, they were like a snake without a head; how could they be willing to continue staking their lives?

The chaos gradually subsided. Hu Tiehua suddenly shouted, “Where’s the Old Stinky Bug? How could he disappear?”

In the quiet desert, suddenly two clumps of yellow cloud rolled up to the sky. Two horses, one behind the other, were running desperately. The one escaping in the front was, unexpectedly, Wu Juxuan. The one chasing behind was, naturally, Chu Liuxiang.

Turned out when Wu Juxuan saw that the situation had turned from bad to worse, he wanted to take advantage of the confusion to run away. How would he know that Chu Liuxiang was already paying close attention to him? His each and every move could not escape Chu Liuxiang’s eyes.

This moment the two men beat their horses to run at the top of their strength. But Chu Liuxiang was not prepared for this race; the horse he was riding on was just a random horse given to him by somebody just now, not a choice horse at all, while Wu Juxuan’s horse was a famous good colt.

In the beginning, by virtue of excellent horsemanship, Chu Liuxiang was still able to keep up head and tail. But afterwards, the distance between the two horses was growing. Chu Liuxiang suddenly let out a long whistle and leaped off his horse.

Unexpectedly he was going to use his walking-alone-in-the-world [i.e. outstanding] lightness skill to compete against the speeding horse.

His figure flew like a shooting star. Unexpectedly Wu Juxuan’s famous good colt was unable to match Chu Liuxiang’s two legs. In just a short moment, he already managed to close the distance.

Wu Juxuan beat his horse even more urgently. “Chu Liuxiang,” he thundered, “You and I have no grievance, no enmity; why are you pushing me too far?”

Chu Liuxiang did not respond. He knew that Wu Juxuan wanted him to open his mouth, simply because as soon as he opened his mouth, it would be hard to prevent his true qi from dispersing, his shenfa would also be unavoidably slowing down.

Wu Juxuan’s ears heard the rustling noise of the sleeves behind him was getting closer and closer, the sweats on his head had been pouring like rain. Suddenly he also leaped up from the saddle and made a somersault high in the air, unexpectedly he flitted across Chu Liuxiang, to run away in the opposite direction.

He calculated that currently Chu Liuxiang was rushing forward with all his strength, certainly he would not be able to stop his own momentum, and thus by the time Chu Liuxiang turned around and gave chase again, he would have been long gone.

Who would have thought that the level of Chu Liuxiang’s qinggong was unexpectedly far above his imagination? He had not run too far, already he heard the sound of rustling sleeves behind him again.

The strong wind hitting them on the face was as sharp as blade; the two men were heading directly into the wind.

Wu Juxuan suddenly swung his arm. ‘Pop!’ a purple smoke exploded on the ground, and was immediately blown by the wind, rolling directly toward Chu Liuxiang’s face.

By this time, Hu Tiehua already knew that Chu Liuxiang was chasing after Wu Juxuan. He also knew that the ‘secret shady business’ of the greenish-black-bearded man was to wipe out the rebel ministers on behalf of the King of Qiuci.

He already found out pretty much about anything, but he still did not know why Chu Liuxiang has not returned yet.

The King of Qiuci already had a celebratory banquet prepared, and he was constantly urging his guests to drink.

Noticing that Hu Tiehua appeared to be preoccupied, he said with a laugh, “Why are you worried about your honorable friend? Under the heavens, who could possibly strike him?”

Hu Tiehua sighed. He said, “That is precisely why Zaixia is wondering; no matter who he is going after, it ought to be as easy as stretching a hand and grab it. But now, he has been gone for a long time.”

The King of Qiuci laughed and said, “This king can guarantee you one thing: he will definitely not have any problem. You should just relax and drink some wine.”

[1] Passionate Prince; orig. duoqing gongzi, young master with lots of affection. I just think that ‘passionate prince’ sounds nicer, albeit not the most accurate translation. The same words are used in Hou Xibai’s title – see my note in Da Tang Shuang Long Zhuan, Book 5 Chapter 9.

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