“All right.” I clenched the machete’s handle and said, “I’ll inform him that.” He Shi nodded and loosed the water pocket from his saddle, then told me: “Go straight east for three hundred miles. If you don’t find Chanyu’s tent there, you could turn north. It is not far away from the left Guli (an official title of Tujue), just about a hundred miles.” “I know.” He Shi hit hard at my horse with his machete back and shouted: “HEEYA!!” The little red horse jumped out and the cavalry of Yuezhi clamored for that. While the little red horse ran fast like a flash of lightning and ran out miles away in an instant. I kept looking back and found that the dense cavalry of Yuezhi marched towards He Shi gradually as if the ants were moving before the rain. Then He Shi and dozens of cavalries of Tujue were surrounded by them, like grains of rice surrounded by a colony of ants.
There were some cavalries who wanted to chase me, while they all were shot ten horse away from me – although He Shi was begird, there was no one could avoid his shooting. Falling and rolling to the ground, these men could not gain around on me. The little red horse ran faster and faster, and the sky was dark gradually. At last, except the white gonfalon, all things faded away in the dark.
I galloped at full speed on the prairie. No moon and stars in the sky, it was so stuffy as to drip from the sky. I had never seen such weather and it seemed to rain. It was a terrible thing to meet a heavy rain on the prairie. I looked up and only found the sky was dark completely, like an upturned iron pot. There was no moon and star so that it was hard to identify the direction. I was really afraid that I went in the wrong direction.
There was nothing in the grassland so that one could rush without any worries. I rushed in the dark for half the night and fortunately, the cavalry of Yuezhi didn’t come up. But He Shi and dozens of cavalries of Tujue didn’t break through the enemy. I was worried about He Shi’s safety and afraid that I went in the wrong direction. So, I was anxious and angry and nearly cried out. At that moment, after a loud crack, a streak of purple lightning cut through the dark night, brightening for a while, then the thunder followed it and rang.
It was really going to rain and I had to find a shelter. Lines of lightning like stiff snakes were stalking around in the sky with dark clouds. By the light of these lightenings, I saw the rocks in the distance. It turned out that I had been running along Tian Gen Mountain for half the night. But I was still at the foot of the mountain.
It was better to find a shelter than being caught in the rain. I urged the horse to move forward. The little red horse dexterously stepped over the rocks. I was afraid that the gravel would hurt the horseshoe, so I dismounted from the horse and walked with it to get under shelter. The heavy rain had already been “squatting” down, and the thick white tendon-like rain was striking people constantly, making me very painful. The rain poured through my clothes and flowed into my eyes. I couldn’t even open my eyes, wiped the water on my face, and finally saw a big stone protruding out. It was a good place to shelter from the rain.
I climbed up to shelter under the protruding boulder, curling up there with my little red horse. The thunder was rumbling, with the fast and heavy rain. I was unutterably worried about He Shi. The little red horse half knelt under the rock. It seemed to understand my anxiety, licking my palm with its tongue once in a while. I held the little red horse’s neck in my arms and murmured, “Are He Shi and others alright…” It rained hard outside, and the water from the hill rushed down in front of the boulder to form a white curtain. The mist gradually came under the rock, which made me feel like a drizzle.
I had no idea how long had the rain last, but it stopped gradually. Water ran like a clattering brook beside the mountains and rocks. The wind blew away the dark clouds and a bright moon appeared.
I sneezed with my clothes soaked and clung to my body. A chilly wind was blowing, which made me feel even more cold. It was impossible to light a fire with the wet tinder.
The sound of the flowing water faded away. The little red horse came over affectionately and licked my face with its warm tongue. I thought it was better to go downhill and go on pathfinding since the rain stopped.
When I reached the foot of the mountain, the moon was about to set, so I found the direction easily. The little red horse stayed under the boulder uneasily for half a night. Now it was running vigorously towards the orient where the white light glowed. The sun was about to rise, otherwise why was I feeling so hot?
Thinking about it in a daze, I gradually loosened the reins. Riding the horse was like being in a cradle, which made me comfortable. I didn’t sleep the whole night, and now I simply drifted off.
I didn’t know how long I had slept, maybe I had slept for a while or for a long time. Finally, the horse waded into a river, and I was suddenly woken by the ice cold water splashed on me by the horseshoes. There were no one in the wilderness, and Tian Gen mountain was far left behind. The huge mountain range behind me looked like a sky-high giant. The giant’s head was covered with a white snow hat, which was made of ice and snow that never melted. Snow water from the Tian Gen mountain collected here to make this river, so the river was bitterly cold.
I hadn’t eaten anything for a long time, which contributed to my exhaustion. But the dry food was tied behind the saddle. I was thirsty and had no appetite at all. While I was wondering whether to stop and drink some water or not, I suddenly saw a black shadow wiggling not far away, which looked like an cavalry coming towards me. I feared it was Yuezhi’s cavalry, so I looked afar, only to see a vague shadow. It ran fast, fortunately, there was only one rider and a horse.
If only it was the Left Guli’s (an official title of Tujue) scout… I tried my best to pull out the tulwar on my back in case I encountered an enemy. I would fight to the end.
This was my last thought, and then everything went dark and I fell off the horse.
People in Western Liang started practicing horse riding and archery since they were very young. Both men and women could ride horses when they could walk. As the ninth princess in Western Liang who grew up on the horseback, falling off the horseback would make everyone laugh at me in the city when they heard the news.
When I woke up, I was still clenching the tulwar. I blinked and saw the clear blue sky and the white clouds which seemed within touch. I was lying on the darkside of a gentle slope that blocked most of the scorching sunlight. I felt relieved with the cool wind in autumn and the red horse’s neigh not far away. “Awake?” The voice was familiar, I got up dizzy and blinked, still feeling incredible.
It was Gu Xiao Wu, the tea merchant from Central Plains. He sat lazily on the grassy slope, eating dried beef in his hand.
I was startled: “Why are you here?” He said: “I came here by accident.” I wouldn’t believe his words!
I was so hungry that my stomach kept rumbling. I remembered the little red horse carrying dry food, so I made a whistle. I saw the little red horse ran towards me, only to find that there was nothing on its back, and even the saddle was disappeared. I took a closer look and noticed that Gu Xiao Wu was sitting on my saddle, and his beef was the dry food I brought here! “Hey!” I was very angry and asked aloud, “Where is my dry food?” With his mouth full of beef, he raised his hand where only a little beef was left: “The last piece…” That was not the last piece – it was only a bite of beef!
I stared at him putting the last bite of beef into his mouth, screaming: “You ate them all? What do I eat?” “You’ll fast.” He took a sip of water from a water bag, saying casually, “You just had a fever, so you can’t eat this kind of thing now.” Fever? I jumped to my feet: “Why did you come here? Besides, you ate all my dry food! Pay for me! Pay for me!” He smiled: “I ate your food, and that’s all. I have nothing to compensate for your food.” I got so exasperated that I started looking for the sword that He Shi gave me.
Seeing me as restless as on a hot pan, he said slowly: “If you go back to the city with me, I will pay you a cow.” I rolled my eyes: “Why should I go back to the city with you?” “Your father posted a reward notice, saying that anyone who can find you and bring you back to the city will be rewarded with 100 gold ingots.” He looked at me seriously, “100 gold ingots! How many cows can I buy with them?”
I was really irritated by nothing but “100 gold ingots”. “My father really posted such a notice?” “Of course”, He said, “It’s absolutely true!” “I’m worth only 100 gold ingots?” I was so disappointed, “I think I’m worth at least a million gold ingots, along with countless cattle, sheep and slaves…” Father always said that I was his favorite little princess, but he only gave a reward of 100 gold ingots. He was stingy! Really stingy!
Gu Xiao Wu burst out laughing, but I didn’t know what he was laughing for. I disliked his laugh, especially when he looked at me with a smile, as if he was looking at 100 gold ingots.
I said loudly: “Dream on! I won’t go back with you!” Gu Xiao Wu said: “So where do you want to go? After your leaving, people at Yuezhi were very angry and said that your father deliberately let you go. Yuezhi dispatched a large group of soldiers to bring you back. If you go around on the prairie and meet them, then you will get in trouble.” It was true, because I already met them. Thinking of that, I let out a cry – I almost forgot He Shi! I had to deliver the message to my grandfather!
Gu Xiao Wu saw that my countenance changed, so he asked: “What’s the matter?” I didn’t want to tell him, but he was the only one by my side on the prairie. Shifu’s swordsmanship was so brilliant, so maybe Gu Xiao Wu was also a good swordsman.