[Seriously? Still depressed, which sucks, because this chapter is so so good. I’ve decided that if Hu Ge doesn’t end up being Huo Qu Bing, it doesn’t matter because he’s HQB in my novel translation version. So. There. Suck on that, Tangren!]
I’m going to take issues with Tong Hua‘s title for this chapter of Da Mo Yao. Not only is it ridiculously spoilery (okay, I confess, when I glanced at the chapter titles for volume 2, my eyebrows went into the top of my head when I saw the title for this chapter, and then I read it right away), it’s shockingly blunt. I chose a old-school euphemism for the title, but if I were to translate it more accurately, it would be “Losing my virginity.” Gee, since only one guy is beside her while the other one is thousands of miles away, it doesn’t take a crack scientist to figure out the person responsible for this turn of events. But we’re talking wolf girl and cocky general here, so the hows and what-to-dos aren’t always easy to predict. With the death of Yu Er’s beloved Xiao Qian and Xiao Tao, yet another of her ties are severed with Jiu Ye. It’s a startling loss, but will Yu Er finally see that even when it seems like she’s all alone, there has always been someone beside her this entire time?
Chapter 20: Deflowered
When I open my eyes again, I find myself in Huo Qu Bing’s embrace. In the dark night, with the vast desert, the only sounds are the horse hooves. I look at the two or three faint stars in the sky, my heart completely empty. Mischievous Xiao Tao, constantly destroying things Xiao Tao, loves to annoy me Xiao Tao. Gentle Xiao Qian, always taking care of Xiao Tao’s Xiao Qian…..
“Awake?” Huo Qu Bing lowered his head and looked at me. I was silent for some time before answering “Where are we? Xiao Yue Shi?”
He raised his head and looked towards the distance “You’ve slept for a day and a night now. We’ve passed Xiao Yue Shi, and are almost at the Qi Lian Mountains. You’re familiar with the Qi Lian Mountains, right?” I softly answered yes. My body feels weak but I straighten myself “I want to ride by myself.” He gently said “You were so distraught back there so the doctor upped the dosage to knock you out. Even though you are awake now, you likely can’t exert any strength. I’ll take you the rest of the way.” I was silent and then nodded my head.
In the darkness the shape of the mountains grows closer. In the distance comes the sound of wolf howls. My heart lurched and I tightly gripped Huo Qu Bing’s arm “Can you hurry? I hear…..” I bit my lip and swallow the rest of what I wanted to say, only turning my head towards the Qi Lian Mountains.
Huo Qu Bing urged his horse faster and quickly bypassed everyone, rushing straight ahead. Gradually we’ve left everyone behind. I turn to give him a startled glance and he just smiles “I hope it’s that wolf of yours.”
A few wolves are lurking in the base of the mountains eyeing us. My heart leapt and I howled towards the Qi Lian Mountains. Huo Qu Bing’s horse almost stumbled and wanted to throw me off. From the mountains came a distant howling, joining my howl and reverberating through the hillside. The horse continued to go wild so Huo Qu Bing had no choice but to get off the horse, holding me and leaping to the ground.
I immediately tear myself from his embrace and he doesn’t stop me. He lets me howl and run towards the wolves at the base of the mountain. I can’t believe that when they saw me, they gave a few low howls and then ran away with their tails twitching. All my emotions hit a roadblock and I angrily yelled “Wolf 89, why are you hiding from me? You don’t recognize me?” A few small wolves came out and looked at me, and I tried to gesture for them to come over. They were getting close when their mother howled and they hid again. I stomped my foot “I won’t force you to go warm yourself next to a fire.”
Huo Qu Bing stood to the side and laughed, shaking his head “Yu Er, I thought you were the princess of the wolves, and the wolves would come welcome you back. But it appears no one wants to see you right now.”
I glared at him and I hear a wolf howl getting closer and closer, with a final resounding howl that shook the trees. A silver wolf bounded out from the forest directly for me. I leaped forward to embrace him, grabbing his neck and the two of us rolling on the grass. Brother Wolf sniffed my face and neck while I hugged his neck, my nose all wet and my eyes all teary.
I fussed with Brother Wolf for some time before we calmed down. Brother Wolf howled towards the forest and a snow white female wolf and a silver and white baby wolf slowly walked out to greet me. I laughed and went to embrace the baby wolf, turning happily to Huo Qu Bing “I have a little niece. She’s the real princess of the wolves. Isn’t she beautiful?”
Huo Qu Bing smiled and walked forward, but Snow Lady warily eyed him and gave a warning howl. I shot Huo Qu Bing a pleased expression “She doesn’t like you, they don’t think you’re a nice person!” Huo Qu Bing had no choice but to halt.
Little Princess has a small face and spiky hair, like a snowball she rolls all over me. Brother Wolf used his tail to play with her and Little Princess was non stop leaping and jumping, occasionally returning to my embrace. She would bare her teeth and stick her tongue out at her father. I can’t control my laughter, and the sound of human laughter and wolf happiness sounds through the hillside. Huo Qu Bing stands off to the side and watches us, with an expression of worry mixed with self-blame.
The sound of horses at the base of the mountain indicates that the troops have arrived. Huo Qu Bing looked towards the foot of the mountain and the looked at me “Yu Er.” I looked at him and he stared directly into my eyes for some time “I have to head back. You…..you guys have reunited after much time apart, so you should just stay with them for the time being!” I looked at him disbelievingly but he smiled warmly “Just don’t leave Qi Lian Mountain anytime soon, okay?” All the longing in his eyes almost obscured his smile that was wishing for me to be happy.
I solemnly nodded my head and he looked towards Brother Wolf “I’ll leave Yu Er in your hands for now” and then not even waiting to see whether Brother Wolf understood what he said, it was like he was treating Brother Wolf as an elder brother and he gave Brother Wolf a respectful bow before turning and quickly running down the mountain.
Little Princess follows behind me and Brother Wolf and awkwardly tries to play in the water. Our queen Snow Lady rests on a big rock and gazes gently down at us. I kick Brother Wolf, wondering how he managed to hoodwink such a beautiful wolf to be his bride. Brother Wolf howled and then his claws came towards my face, and I immediately chopped him on the neck. Snow Lady stood up in shock, but after watching us fighting as usual, finally quietly sat back down.
Poor Little Princess was sprayed by the water we splashed, causing her to choke and start sinking in the water. I stopped fooling around with Brother Wolf and pulled her up, and Brother Wolf halted his claw which was about to strike me. Little Princess, with her round baby eyes, was giving me the most pitiful look, with her four paws helplessly swatting the air. She gave a pitiful whimper, causing me to laugh and kiss her nose before dragging her back to shore.
Snow Lady immediately came to lick the water drops off Little Princess, who nestled next to her mother with her stomach in the air. She used her paws to swat her mother’s face and made happy noises, which made me happy to watch.
Brother Wolf came on shore and was ready to shake his fur. I gave him a warning glare, but he insisted on following me to shake. The water sprayed outward and landed on me, and I kicked him again. I start a fire to dry my clothes, but Brother Wolf doesn’t rests next to me like usual. Because Snow Lady is not used to the fire, he keeps her company a distance away. They occasionally give each other head rubs or lick each other’s fur.
Watching them, I know that Brother Wolf will never accompany me the same way again. He will be Snow Lady’s partner from now on, and I am all alone to sit by the fire.
As my thoughts swirled around, somehow two days have passed. How are Huo Qu Bing and those folks? Suddenly there came the sound of a howl from the forest and I howled back. A lot of people are fighting? I sat there in silence for some time. There are no absolute victories on the battlefield, not even Huo Qu Bing. I suddenly get up and dress myself. Brother Wolf gave me a quizzical look. I take the roasted meat off the spit and hand it to him. It’s still rare but he shouldn’t mind.
“I have to leave for a bit” and I stroked his head. He howled in protest but I could only apologetically slap him on the back before turning to leave. He got up to accompany me but I stopped him. I didn’t want him involved in our human battles.
Brother Wolf howled in frustration. Snow Lady gave a few low growls and Brother Wolf immediately calmed down. A well-forged steel nevertheless can’t withstand a gentle force. I laugh at Brother Wolf and then quickly leave before he gets mad. Looking back I see three wolves in the moonlight, their shadows intertwining. I smile but my heart hurts. Brother Wolf has his own family now, and all I have are a heart full of memories I don’t want to remember.
I traveled all night and it was almost dawn by the time I reached the battlefield. I hid on a tree and looked into the distance. After battling for a day and a night, the battle is nearing the end. The ground is littered with corpses and the trees and grass have all been stained red. The sound of steel striking steel reverberates in the air, giving what was a warm sunny morning a chilly aura.
I jump off the tree and traverse through the corpses. How many of these dead are Li Chengs of the Han dynasty, and how many are Li Chengs of the Xiong Nu. And all these dead bodies, how many more Li Chengs will be created because of this. Will more people put on armor to avenge the death of their fathers and brothers? How many dead bodies are there? Are there forty to fifty thousand people laying silently here? I ought to have been prepared to walk into this living hell, but my heart still shuddered. I walked for a long time but there was only an unending sea of dead bodies. The bottom of my robe was long soaked through the blood. Everywhere I look there remains just dead bodies and blood.
From the clothing, it looks like the Xiong Nu have suffered a great defeat, with the Xiong Nu dead greatly outnumbering the Han dead. A few lingering Xiong Nu soldiers see me and quickly grab their weapons. I send my gold ball flying and knock away their weapons. I walk right past them and a young man grabs his dagger and rushes me. I give him a cold look and speak in Xiong Nu “Hurry up and leave. Run as fast as you can. Your mother is at home waiting for you.” They halted and looked wary, but ultimately decided to leave.
The Summer sun was shining on the Qi Lian Mountains, turning the trees extra green. In the verdant mountain greenery, Huo Qu Bing, wearing a black robe with a silver armor, holding a broad sword in his hand, standing straight and tall, was surveying the battlefield from a high vantage point.
The silver armor and the reflection from his broad sword is so glittering that one can’t look directly at him. Mixed with the blood scented breeze, his robe and his hair, which is free of his circlet, billows in the wind. On the ground is the ugly truth of blood stained dead bodies, but up high there are green trees and red flowers under the warm sun. The contrast is vivid, especially because he is standing there. These two seemingly contrasting images somehow meld together because of him, giving off a heart shaking type of astonishing visual clarity. The warrior gods of the legend could not possibly be more breathtaking than he is.
He’s fine, so I let out a pent up breath. I turn to leave “Yu…….Er……” a loud and joyful cry reverberates in the mountains, shattering the chilly aura in the air. I turn around and he is quickly traversing the trees and the flowers, his hair flying in the wind “You came here to look for me? You were worried about me?” I checked him out “What happened to your hair?”
He laughed “The circlet accidentally got shot off by an arrow.” I point to the battlefield “Did the Xiong Nu suffer a defeat?”
He smiled and nodded his head “Not just a defeat, a complete and utter defeat. I captured one tribal leader and five small tribal heads. We had less men but they lost almost all their soldiers and we only lost a third of ours.”
Zhao Puo Nu came up and bowed “General, sir! We have counted the Xiong Nu dead, a total of thirty thousand two hundred men.” Huo Qu Bing nodded and Zhao Puo Nu continued “The Xiong Nu will have no ability to amass more forces here at the Qi Lian Mountains, so tonight we can rest. The General can admire the beauty of this mountain vista so prized by the Xiong Nu.” Huo Qu Bing looked at me and then waved Zhao Puo Nu off.
“How come you don’t look the least bit happy?” Huo Qu Bing asked me. “This battle is for the Emperor to win more territory and expand his empire and open more roads to Xi Yu. What does it have to do with me? Perhaps this battle avenged Li Cheng’s death, but then this type of vengeance will never end.” He raised his eyebrow “It’s rare to meet a Han person who doesn’t hate the Xiong Nu.” I change the subject and point to his head “Go bathe and change! I also need to change.”
He smiled and tried to grab my hand but I brushed him away “Right now you might not be able to beat me in a fight, so just behave yourself.” He kept smiling behind me “We’ve been more intimate than holding hands, so what’s the reticence with hand holding all of a sudden?”
I glared at him and he quickly retracted his hand with a smile “Fine, but at least you’re more spirited now than a minute ago.” I startle for a moment before realizing I fell into his trap again. I shake my head and silently walk away, and he also quietly walks beside me. We gradually leave the battlefield behind and the smell of flowers permeates the air. My emotions have calmed down considerably.
As we walk through the wooded forest, our shadows are overlapping. I suddenly remember how the shadows of Brother Wolf’s family overlapped under the moonlight.
A fire is blazing in the mountain side, everyone is happy and celebrating, the wine is flowing. Only Huo Qu Bing and I sit around our fire, but soldiers would come toast him before swiftly departing. Huo Qu Bing handed me a flask of wine. I’m about to decline when I smell it and immediately ask “Is this horse wine?” He nods “The spoils of today’s battle. Our wine can’t even compare with this taste.” I take it and gingerly take a sip, the taste bringing back memories.
Huo Qu Bing takes a few sips and then hands it back to me, but I shake my head. He smiles, which is when Zhao Puo Nu arrives with two bowls to toast us. Huo Qu Bing laughingly yelled at him “Are you trying to get me drunk? You toasted already so why are you back?’
Zhao Puo Nu handed a bowl to me “This wine is not for the General, it’s for Brother Jin. I want to apologize for earlier. I have never seen pigeons who dare to battle a falcon, and I never knew your pigeons would be so brave. I could never replace those pigeons of yours, and I ask you to please forgive my ignorance and insensitivity earlier.” I can see the regret in his eyes. I didn’t say anything or accept the wine, so his smile freezes “If you do not accept my apology, I understand.” and he downs his bowl of wine and bows to me before turning to leave. I grab the remaining bowl from his hand and down it in one gulp with my eyes closed, causing me to choke a little.
Huo Qu Bing smiled at Zhao Puo Nu “That was quite a response, with such bad alcohol tolerance and gulping that bowl down. Normally this one doesn’t drink much.” Zhao Puo Nu smiled and bowed to us before leaving.
I sat for awhile and then my head started to spin. I stand up “I should go back before the alcohol hits my head.” He also stood up and grabbed the flask “Let’s go together.”
Huo Qu Bing’s tent is set up at the back of the mountains. Because of consideration for me, he ordered other tents to be set up some distance away. Before I arrive at the tent my body is already starting to grow weak. Huo Qu Bing assisted me but I shook off his hand. But I was barely standing so he ignored my struggling and picked me up and brought me inside the tent.
In the darkness, my mind suddenly feels especially clear. The past comes flooding back in moments of clarity and then confusion. I can’t control what I’m thinking, and the things I rather not think about keep coming back the clearest, causing my heart to hurt.
Huo Qu Bing lit the lamp and then sat down next to me, giving me a look. He sighed and took out a handkerchief to wipe my tears “Are you still sad because of Xiao Tao, Xiao Qian, and Li Cheng?” I grab his sleeve and keep sobbing “My Papa is gone, Jiu Ye doesn’t want me, Xiao Qian and Xiao Tao are gone, and even Brother Wolf has his own wife and daughter. I’m all alone now.”
Huo Qu Bing’s hand froze and he took a drink from the flask before continuing to wipe my tears “Nonsense! What do you mean you’re all alone? I’ll be by your side.”
My nose was running and I grabbed his sleeve to blow my nose “Why are you so good to me and spend all this effort on me?”
He stared at his own sleeve and shook his head with resignation. He jerked my hand away and shoved the handkerchief in my hand before taking off his outer robe. “Are you really that stupid or just pretending to be stupid? I may have never explicitly said it, but can’t you see that I want to marry you?”
I grab for the flask but he keeps it out of my reach “You’re not drinking anymore” and then he took another swig.
I reach for it again and he grabbed my hand “Answer me this, and I’ll let you drink. Do you like me even a little bit?” His piercing eyes stared at me, and I cocked my head to one side, thinking before answering “I don’t know.”
Huo Qu Bing let out a long sigh “Then in the past, did you ever feel sad when you saw me hurting? Did you worry about me today?”
I nodded my head vigorously “Even today I refuse to look at an acacia flower. The moment I see it my heart hurts. I was so afraid you would be injured by the Xiong Nu that I rushed all night to get to you.”
He gave a sad smile “Then I am in your heart” and he continued to drink “That day at the Yue Ya Spring, you had walked away, but why did you turn back? When you turned back to look at me, did you know your face was all red? Why was your face red? If your heart didn’t want to see me, why did you save a viewing room at the Luo Yu House for me? When you’re not happy, I will always try to make you laugh. But when I’m unhappy, you always try to change the subject. When I was stewing over the criticism of those scholars like Xi Ma Qian that day, normally you don’t like to tussle with me, but that day you grabbed my sleeve and kept chattering. I knew you were trying to make me laugh. Awhile ago, you were cooking up ideas because I had kept you here, but the moment I mentioned my father, you immediately changed the subject and kept nattering about random topics. Yu Er, I was only wrong once, late once. If in Chang An……”
I laughed and pointed at his face “You’re getting drunk. You’re face is so red, like a monkey’s bottom.” He smiled and shook his head “You’re the one who is drunk. Otherwise how can you cry one moment and then laugh another moment.”
I shook my head and then splayed open my hands “I’m not drunk, I’m completely lucid.”
I stared at the flask in his hand “I want to drink, I haven’t drank horse wine in a long time. I snuck some as a kid and it tasted terrible.” He took another drink “Now you don’t think it tastes terrible anymore?” I make a weepy face “It still tastes terrible, but the taste reminds me of Papa.”
He handed me the flask and I took a big drink. He finished up the rest and then tossed the flask aside. “Yu Er, don’t return to the wolf pack. Marry me!” Huo Qu Bing laid down on the carpet and gave me a drunken twinkling smile. I giggle back at him but don’t answer. He continued “Meng Jiu is indeed not bad. Like a willow tree, with a calm smile like the moonlight. He is indeed one of those rare young men in this world. But I’m not bad either. And I will always be good to you. So just forget him!”
Before I can answer, he started laughing “I am drunk. If I wasn’t drunk, I couldn’t possibly have spoken aloud what I just said, even if that is what I believe in my heart.”
I furrowed my brows. The warm shadow under the lamplight, that gentle calm shadow, the kind and caring shadow….. Huo Qu Bing’s face was suddenly in front of my eyes “Right now I’m the person in front of you, don’t think about someone else.”
I stare at him and start to cry. Huo Qu Bing wipes my tears away and his hand caresses my face. He hesitated when he touched my lips, his hand turning burning. He stiffened and I just stared at him. He suddenly took a deep breath and kissed me. My heart both knew what was happening and didn’t know what was happening. My body became light and soft, like I was about to float away, or suddenly fall to earth. Only his lips, his hand, his body, it was like a burning flame. My heart was so cold, and I wanted this heat……
I vaguely heard the sound of wolf howling and it woke me up. My head hurts and my body feels weak. I struggle to open my eyes, but when I see that I am entwined intimately with Huo Qu Bing, I immediately shut my eyes. In shock, what happened yesterday night came flooding back. I’m too afraid to move and my mind is muddy. Another wolf howl sounded, so I closed my eyes and softly slid out of Huo Qu Bing’s embrace. I turn my back to him and hurry up and get dressed.
There is a flickering candle but I can’t face such a bright room so I blow it out. I stand in the darkness, while behind me Huo Qu Bing turns over. I startled and then quickly run out of the tent. I can see the soldiers doing their rounds so I dart into the forest and run towards the direction of the howling.
A crescent moon hangs in the sky, shining down on a small lake in the forest. Brother Wolf is resting on a big rock next to the lake, howling into the sky. Snow Lady howls with him. Little Princess sees me and immediately jumps forward, but she stops herself when she reaches me. She makes whimpering sounds and hesitates. I bit my lip before picking her up “My smell changed?” I walked over to Brother Wolf and he suspiciously sniffed me and howled a few times. I ignored him so he just flopped back down.
My smell changed? Because I’m no longer a girl anymore, I’m a woman now. I splash my face with the cold water, wanting it to wake myself up. But what can I do after I am awake? I stare at the lake surface, with a thousand thoughts I can’t make sense of.
Little Princess started squirming in my arms but I don’t play with her like usual. She gets impatient and then jumps out of my arms to go bite her dad’s tail. Snow Lady suddenly jerks in the direction of the forest and gives a warning growl. I turn to look towards that direction but don’t see anything. I knew there was something in the distance that alarmed Snow Lady, yet Brother Wolf remained nonchalantly playing with Little Princess. He gave a low growl to Snow Lady, causing my body to freeze. Once Snow Lady heard Brother Wolf’s growl, she relaxed her attack stance, but remained cautiously protecting Little Princess.
A short while later, I heard someone softly walk up behind me. With worry and hesitation “Yu….Yu Er, I…..I…..” his voice trailed off. The surroundings turned silent again. One forward, one back, neither of us moving. Little Princess stopping goofing around and turned to give us a quizzical look. Brother Wolf got impatient and let out a long howl. He swatted me with his paw and then yelped at Huo Qu Bing before taking Snow Lady and Little Princess away with him.
Huo Qu Bing walked closer behind me “I’m…..I’m sorry. I….I…..”
A man like him actually has a moment when he is so nervous he can’t get a full sentence out. I hug my knees and look out over the lake “There is nothing to be sorry for. If we did something wrong, we are both equally to blame. It’s not like you forced me.” My voice was calm but my heart was churning.
Huo Qu Bing walked a few steps away and then sat down on another rock. He stared out on the lake and we sat there in silence for some time. He picked up a rock next to his foot and tossed it into the lake, happening to hit the reflection of the moon on the lake. The moon shatters. He suddenly stood up and walked back to me. He grabbed my shoulders and made me look at him. With an unwavering look “Yu Er, marry me.”
My heart was a mess and I don’t dare look at him, so I avert my eyes and look at the opposite side of the lake. I discovered Brother Wolf and Snow Lady were sitting side by side intently looking at us. Little Princess mimicked her parents and was sitting on the ground with her head cocked, staring at me with her bright eyes. In all my confusion I started to laugh. I picked up a rock and threw it towards Brother Wolf “See something interesting?”
Brother Wolf didn’t move or blink as the rock landed right next to him, but it frightened Little Princess who yelped and climbed on her father’s back. Even though Brother Wolf couldn’t talk, I can see the worry in his eyes, and his hope and encouragement. It was a look that revealed how much he wanted me to find happiness. It was the same look Papa gave me when we parted that final time.
I looked into Brother Wolf’s eyes and smiled “Yes.”
Huo Qu Bing grabbed my arms “You said yes? Was that yes directed at me?” I looked around and laughed “Is there anyone else here? If so then I might need to reconsider?” Huo Qu Bing stared at me, and then he let out a joyful holler before picking me up from the rock. He was hugging me and Brother Wolf let out a long howl towards the sky. Little Princess mimicked her father and let out a teeny baby howl towards the sky.
In that moment, the sound of happiness sounded through the forest. I looked at the slowly disappearing moon. Right now, is that same moon shining on that person still in Chang An? I looked at Huo Qu Bing and I could see the unfettered joy in his eyes. I stared at him and my heart started to twinge. I smiled and reached out to hug him, resting my head on his shoulder. Huo Qu Bing quietly embraced me, and then he shook me slightly “Can you say it again? Did you really agree?”
My heart was filled with both happiness and a touch of aching for him “Jin Yu is willing to marry Huo Qu Bing.” He loudly laughed “This is the best thing I have ever heard in my entire life. Can you say it again?” I punched his shoulder “Not saying it again.”
He lowered his forehead and rested it against mine, his mouth still smiling broadly, looking at me with eyes that shine brighter than the stars. He softly pleaded “Say it one more time. Just one more time.”
I stared a him even as my lips consented to his request “I am willing to marry you.” Huo Qu Bing kissed me on the cheek “My wonderful wifey.”
I stood there stunned, so immediately his smile froze and he looked at me with hesitation. “My wonderful wifey”, those three words tumbled through my mind. Only now do I really understand that my role in life is about to change. My face started burning up and I couldn’t help myself but smile. Huo Qu Bing understood what I was thinking and his worry went away. He stared at me with the most tender of expressions, without saying a word, continuing to embrace me tightly.
The Eastern sky is starting to turn bright, and in the forest all the birds are beginning to sing. The darkness is ending, and a new day is beginning, just like my life.