We hurriedly led the cavalry to search for He Shi. While I was worried to death, Gu Xiao Wu said: “Tujue people die hard.” Originally, I thought his remark was a comfort to me, but it made me annoyed.
We looked for He Shi around Tian Gen mountain till the sun was about to set. I was almost desperate. When would we find He Shi since the mountain was huge? I hoped He Shi was not eaten by wolves, otherwise, grandfather’s heart would be broken. Meanwhile, I was wondering He Shi was a well-known warrior on the grasslands who could not be eaten easily even if he had no horses or arrows. He would survive.
While the sun was about to set and the wind blew cold at night, the scout at the front of the line suddenly shouted loudly, which made me rein the horse. I asked: “What’s up?” Those cavalries shouted in Central Plains Mandarin and I saw He Shi climbing out of the rocks with one sharp-edged stone in his left hand and some blood on his right arm. There were several people behind him, who had climbed up and stood on the rocks. Although they looked embarrassed with faces covered with dust, they stared at the cavalry of the Central Plains fearlessly still like warriors.
Screaming and dismounting, I rolled and crawled all the way to He Shi and embraced him. I might have touched his wound that made him frowned. However, he grinned at once: “Hello, my little Crown Princess!” Everyone was jubilant including the cavalry of the Central Plains who felt happier than winning a battle in the morning.
(Original Translation from WWW。wangmamaread。com)
We camped at the foot of Tian Gen mountain in the evening. People from the Central Plains didn’t take many tents, but they gave them to the injured. He Shi’s right arm was fractured, so the chiliarch asked someone to cover He Shi’s wound with traditional Chinese herbs, but He Shi didn’t even make a sound. After finding He Shi, I felt relieved and wolfed down a crusty pancake. Gu Xiao Wu sat opposite to me and looked at me while I was eating, which made me choke on the last bite. Seeing I was choked, Gu Xiao Wu laughed without giving me a cup of water.
I found my water pocket with an effort and took a mouthful of water to swallow that pancake. I didn’t make a fuss with him because I had something to ask him, “How on earth did you persuade the protectorate to send cavalry last night at Grand Protectorate General to Pacify the West?” Gu Xiao Wu grinned and showed his white teeth, “I told him that if he refused my request, there would be no quality tea for him.” “I believe what you had said – No!”
Looking up into the sky, I found the stars were bright and resembled innumerable storm lanterns that were thin and shining from afar. There was a faint white band in the middle, which was a river of stars. According to the legend, it was the place where gods bathed. While bathing, gods scooped up stars by hand, which was like we picked up sand, and thousands of stars leaked through the fingers of the gods and went back to the Milky Way. Occasionally, one star splashed out and became a meteor. Just then, there was a twinkling meteor, flying across the sky like a bright arrow and disappearing in a flash. “Oh,” I shouted. It was said that knotted the lace and made a wish after seeing the meteor, your wish would come true. However, I was so awkward that I either forgot to make a wish or to tie a lace every time I saw a meteor… I lay on the grass annoyedly and the meteors had long disappeared. Gu Xiao Wu asked me, “Why did you shout?” “There was a meteor flying by!” “Is a meteor so strange?” “Knot the lace and make a wish after seeing the meteor, your wish would come true,” I was not in the mood to tell him about that. “You people from the Central Plains don’t understand it.” He seemed to laugh, “What are you going to wish for?” I buttoned my lip and didn’t answer. I was not so impatient. But I didn’t expect that after a short pause, he then said in a prolonged tone, “Oh, I know, you wished to marry the Crown Prince of Central Plains.” I was so mad that I almost jumped from my feet, “What is good about the Crown Prince of Central Plains? I will never marry him!” He continued with a smile, “I know you are not willing to marry him, of course, you should wish to marry me.” I realized that I was trapped into a trick of him, then I gave out a “pooh” and stopped talking to him.
I lay back on the grass and looked at the stars. Low in the sky, they were so close to me that I could touch them with your hands. There were so many stars in the place where the gods lived, it must be very lively and full of vigor.
A small cricket jumped into my hair, entangled in it while still chirping there. I held it by hand and slowly untied the hair from it. It was struggling in my palms, making me feel itchy; then I blew at it, it jumped into the grass and disappeared. But it didn’t leave here as I heard it kept chirping in the dark.
(Original Translation from WWW。wangmamaread。com)
Gu Xiao Wu also lay down and rested on his saddle. I thought he was asleep, but then he said lazily with his eyes closed, “Hey! Sing a song for me.” The night wind was really soft, just like my mother’s hand touching my face gently. I was in a good mood, but I was used to going against Gu Xiao Wu, “Why should I sing? How about you sing a song for me?” “I can’t sing.” “Liar, everyone can sing. Just sing! Sing the song that your mother sang to you when you were young, okay? ” Gu Xiao Wu remained silent for a long time. Finally, I heard his faint voice, “I grew up without a mother. ” I felt a little apologetic, as I had a brother who also had no mother. His mother died of illness very early, so my mother treated him better than me. But I knew in my heart that it was because he led a life without mother since childhood, so my mother took special care of him. I got up and peeked at Gu Xiao Wu’s face as I was worried that he was not happy. But the starlight was dim, I couldn’t figure out his expression at all. “A fox sits on a sand dune, it sits on a sand dune looking to the moon. Oh, it turned out that it was not looking the moon, but waiting for the shepherd girl to return…” I hummed like a cricket, “A fox sits on a sand dune, it sits on a sand dune basking in the sun… Oh… it turned out that it was not basking in the sun, but waiting for the girl to ride by on her horse…” Gu Xiao Wu eventually spoke, frowning: “It’s too unpleasant! Change another one!” “I only know this song…” Then the sound of Guan rang out not far away. I used to know that He Shi was an outstanding archer, but didn’t expect that he could play Guan so well. He only used one hand, so there were a lot of sound holes that couldn’t be pressed, but the melody was still fluctuating and reverberating, especially in such a cool night wind. I listened with my head up. The tone of He Shi’s playing was very sad, and I gradually heard more than ten Turks started to sing together. The men’s voices were sullen and powerful, making the tune even more tragic and desolate. Their voices were like the wind in the desert, the eagle flying over the grassland, hovering and resounding in the deepest place on and on. The heavens and the earth were so quiet that even the bugs in the grass ceased chirping, the horses stopped humming, the Central Plains people quit talking and all listened attentively to their chorus.
I was obsessed for a while until those Turks finished the song and started to laugh and taunt again. Gu Xiao Wu casually asked: “What song is this?” “It’s the battle song of Turks. ” I thought about it, “The song that those warriors often sing before going out to battle. Sang Ge in the song is Tujue’s famous beauty. Her lover left her to join the army and never returned. But his horse came back. So she held the saddle, looking at the arrows that her lover had not used up, singing the song. He said with a smile: “Why did he go in the army?” “He is a warrior fighting for Tujue – he had to do that.” I gave him a fierce glare: “You don’t understand anyway.” He said: “Of course I understand. ‘The bleaching bones scattered in the valley of the Wuding River are men still living in the fond dreams of their wives¹’, written by a poet from the Central Plains, is actually a story expressing the same meaning as this.” I was elated when I heard there was a story, so I nagged Gu Xiao Wu to tell me that story. Unable to turn me away, he thought for a while and said, “Okay, I can tell you the story, but you can’t ask why. As long as you ask, I will stop.” Although this was a harsh term, it was not difficult for me to hold back the word “why”. I immediately nodded in agreement. But Gu Xiao Wu hesitated. After thinking for a moment, he said: “A long time ago, in a country called Zixu, there was a young girl…” “Was she a beauty? Was she good-looking?” I couldn’t wait to ask, “Could she ride?” He smiled: “She was a great beauty who could ride. The girl always wore a weimao², a hat with a veil, when she rode. One day the girl was riding on her horse in the street, but her weimao blew away… A boy picked up her weimao and returned it to her. Although they met for the first time, they fell in love and promised to marry.” I liked the beginning of this story. I asked: “Was the boy handsome? Was he worthy of the beautiful girl?” He said: “I don’t know if he was handsome, but he was the son of a general. He was very brave and skillful in warfare. After the couple promised to stay together forever, the boy received an order to go out to battle, so he led troops to fight against enemies.
(Original Translation from WWW。wangmamaread。com)
“The girl waited for the boy at home for many years, but he did not return. The girl’s family advised the girl to marry someone else. After all, older a girl was, more difficult for her to find a match. But the girl refused, and insisted on waiting for the boy. Finally, word came that the boy died on the battlefield.” He stopped here. I hurriedly asked, “So what about the girl? She knew that the boy was dead, what would she do next?” “The girl was very sad, but she was also very confused. The boy was a superb martial arts master having a good command of military strategy and tactics. He was out in the battlefield all year round, experiencing numerous wars. How could he be ambushed and easily killed by enemies? The girl shut herself in the house, pondering for ten days and ten nights. She finally made up her mind to find out the truth of the boy’s death. But she was a girl having no power. Although some of her relations were officials, they were not powerful enough to help the girl investigate the affair. At this time, the Emperor of Zixu gave an imperial edict selecting imperial concubines. So the girl, a great beauty, volunteered to become the Emperor’s concubine. The Emperor was deeply attracted by her docile temperament and incisive mind, and she got a position of eminence in the imperial harem. Then she associated with officials, using their power to investigate the war a few years ago. She wanted to know how on earth the boy died on the battlefield. Later, she got some clues, learning that the boy was not ambushed by the enemy, but was killed by someone on his own side. She followed these clues, wanting to find out the truth, only to find that this matter was related to the Empress. The Empress had been jealous and fearful of the girl for a long time, because she was in the Emperor’s favor while she wanted to find out the real cause of the boy’s death. If the Emperor knew the truth, the Empress would be deposed.”
1. (The Battle) West of the Long Mountain — by Chen Tao (812-855)
Pledged to wipe out the Hun invaders, and all regardless of self,
Five thousands of the very best warriors have fought in borderland, and fallen.
Alas, the bleached bones scattered in the valley of the Wuding River
Are men still living in the fond dreams of their wives.