Finally! After years apart and tons of unresolved issues, Yi Zhi Xie and Yu Er finally meet face-to-face. To no one’s surprise, the guy is clearly not over her, but whether it’s from guilt or love is hard to distinguish. It’s the old adage that with the pursuit of power comes the inevitable sacrifice. I think it telling that the person who helped Yu Er get over Yi Zhi Xie’s betrayal was Huo Qu Bing, and he’s always the one besides her when she runs into Yi Zhi Xie. It’s like he’s what Yi Zhi Xie could have been to Yu Er, if he hadn’t elected to seek power over finding his path within the status quo.
Chapter 22: Fleeing
Huo Qu Bing said “Ah” before asking “The Shan Yu of the Xiong Nu?”
I nodded and he was silent for awhile before suddenly laughing “What an exhilarating day this turned out to be. I actually beat the Xiong Nu’s Shan Yu. Too bad we have to flee for our lives now.”
I looked around as I urged my horse faster “This area is just open plains and we can’t hide. If we can enter the Qi Lian Mountains, I’ll have a way to shake them. The hundreds of miles of Qi Lian Mountain ranges, along with the help of the wolf pack, no one is more familiar with that area than me.” Huo Qu Bing smiled and agreed.
The horses Yi Zhi Xie gave us are indeed prime horse flesh. After riding for a few hours, it’s starting to get tired but continues to thunder ahead at full speed. But the pursuing army behind us can change horses, so they continue to bridge the distance between us.
If they don’t shoot at us, we might have a shot. But if they shoot….. Just as I was thinking this, Huo Qu Bing suddenly tried to pull me on his horse to ride in front of him. I pushed him away angrily “What’s faster. Two people on two mounts or two people on one? Who do you think I am? When you were practicing archery in the Yu Lin Army, I was already escaping for my life on these plains. I don’t need you to use your back to block arrows for me.”
Huo Qu Bing hesitated and agreed “Fine! But you can’t let them hurt you.” The Qi Lian Mountains are coming into view a distance away, so Huo Qu Bing and I get our energy back up. But behind us the arrows are starting to fly, though it is aimed for our horses. Looks like Yi Zhi Xie wants to capture Huo Qu Bing alive no matter what.
Huo Qu Bing uses one hand to control the horse and his other to deflect the arrows with his bow. I also use my sash to deflect the arrows near my horse. He smiled “Yu Er, help me deflect the arrows” and then he picked up three arrows in one hand and released it behind him. It flew out like shooting stars and the closest three horses whined and collapsed on the ground.
I used my sash to deflect the arrows and smiled at him “Excellent archery skill, you hit the horses directly in the forehead.” Huo Qu Bing proudly winked at me “I thank my madam wife for the compliment.” I coldly huffed and retracted my sash, leaving him scrambling to deflect the arrows.
Watching him fussing, I almost started to laugh, when suddenly an arrow came towards me aimed for my back. I shifted to avoid the arrow, but then a flurry of arrows continued to come towards me, all of them aimed for my vital parts. I concentrated now and used the sash to deflect the arrows. The arrows flying towards Huo Qu Bing continue to aim for his horse, and he yelled in rage “If you want to shoot, shoot me!”
When I turn back, I see Mu Da Duo with her arrow aimed at my throat. I couldn’t believe it. In my shock one arrow slips through and Huo Qu Bing has no choice but to reach over and deflect it. His horse is shot, but the arrow only makes it go faster.
“Yu Er!” he angrily yelled at me. I turned and saw his expression and it immediately woke me up “I’m sorry, it won’t happen again.”
Mu Da Duo continues to send arrow after arrow towards me, and I continue to avoid it. Her face is expressionless and now I am also calm, my movements swift and sure. But….but I couldn’t understand. Where was the person who called me big sister, where did she go? Was there only betrayal on these plains?
Mu Da Duo ordered the person next to her, who hesitated for a moment, and then also began to aim directly for me rather than for my horse. Yi Zhi Xie suddenly appeared “Duo Er, what are you doing?”
Mu Da Duo’s hand shook and she didn’t look at Yi Zhi Xie “Shan Yu, we want to capture Huo Qu Bing alive and use this to shake the entire Han dynasty and invigorate the Xiong Nu. But this woman is useless. We can do this to disrupt Huo Qu Bing’s concentration, and it will help us in capturing him.”
Yi Zhi Xie said nothing so Zhao Xin piped up “The Shan Yu values talent and wants Huo Qu Bing to defect. But Huo Qu Bing’s personality will never consent. If the Shan Yu wants to capture Huo Qu Bing alive, what the queen said makes sense.” Yi Zhi Xie looked at Huo Qu Bing and then nodded. Huo Qu Bing saw my face change and worriedly asked “What were they discussing?’
I see that we are almost at the base of the Qi Lian Mountains so I forced a smile “I’m going to take a gamble. If I’m right, then maybe we’ll earn us an opportunity.” Huo Qu Bing nodded “But don’t do anything stupid. I won’t accept it. Either we live together or we die together.”
“I know!” and I slowly reached for my face veil, staring at Mu Da Duo. She finally lost her calm and a look of fear passed through her face. Her hands swiftly sent more arrows towards me. Seeing her behavior, then my suspicion is probably correct.
My veil floated away in the air and I smiled back at Yi Zhi Xie. His expression changed immediately and he hollered “Stop!” He looked confused and dazed. My horse leaped into the Qi Lian Mountains and Huo Qu Bing’s horse followed.
Yi Zhi Xie looked at Mu Da Duo “Duo Er, did you see that? Was that…..was that Yu Jin?”
With a few hundred soldiers chasing us, suddenly there were no arrows shooting at us. Mu Da Duo cried “I……I don’t know. But it shouldn’t be. Shan Yu, Yu Jin is dead. If she was really Yu Jin, she wouldn’t be like this.”
Yi Zhi Xie blankly nodded “She ought to hate me, and not smile at me.” He suddenly shouted at me “Yu Jin, is that you? Is that really you?” I laughed back at him “What do you think?”
Zhao Xin bowed to Yi Zhi Xie on respectfully said “Your humble servant doesn’t know who that girl is, but none of that is important. Shan you, the person we want to capture is Huo Qu Bing.”
Yi Zhi Xie suddenly snapped out of it, and I glared at Zhao Xin. If anything happened to us, then I will make sure to drag you down with me. Yi Zhi Xie stared at the Qi Lian Mountains and coldly ordered “A million pieces of gold to anyone who kills Huo Qu Bing. But do not hurt that girl.” The hate from Mu Da Duo’s eyes hit me like fiery daggers, sending a shiver up my spine.
“Qu Bing!” at the edge of life and death, we have no time to waste. I exchanged a look with him and we both leaned on our horses. A flurry of arrows like the rain came flying towards Huo Qu Bing. I used my sash to deflect it for him, but in a second his horse has been shot through and falls to the ground.
The moment the horse collapsed, he grabbed my sash and used the pull to leap towards the forest. The moment we entered the hillside, he immediately dove between the trees and pulled his bow. In a flash three arrows flew out and three more horses collapsed. The road is narrow in this mountain range and the fallen horses send the pursuers into a disarray.
I slapped my horse and let it fly while I leaped into the forest. I glanced over and saw Yi Zhi Xie pulling back his bow. I turn to look in the direction Huo Qu Bing went, seeing that it is dense and hard to see through. Yi Zhi Xie cannot see Huo Qu Bing at all, but he calculated in the direction where Huo Qu Bing launched his arrows and used that to lock in his target. He sends three arrows flying, all aimed to kill in three different vital organs. Huo Qu Bing managed to deflect two, but the third hits him.
I tightly bit my lip and refrain from making any noise. I run up to assist Huo Qu Bing and he just smiles and shakes his head at me, indicating that he can walk. I nodded and we started running. I let out a few low howls and got the wolves in the forest to answer back. I feel some relief, but when I turn back, I see that half his shirt is soaked through with blood.
The howling in the forest grows louder. Huo Qu Bing follows behind me, and when we reach a creek, I stop to examine his wound. I want to pull the arrow out but he tells me to wait. He runs around the entire creek once, and then jumps in the water, telling me now to pull out the arrow.
I use my sash to bind his elbow, and with my teeth clenched, I swiftly pull out the arrow. His blood splurts out and falls into the creek, quickly washing away. He smiled as usual and showed me how to bind the wound so it would stop bleeding yet not affect his movement. I’m used to seeing blood, but seeing his blood flying turns me dizzy and my hands weak. I don’t want him to have to reassure me at this time, so I try to look calm and keep my hands still. I bandage him up without saying a word.
To hide our scent, we walk in the water upstream. Because Yi Zhi Xie’s is so strong, the wound was very deep. Even after bandaging, it still continues to bleed. Even though Huo Qu Bing looks fine, but his face is growing ever more pale. I looked around “It’s almost dark, we need to find a place to rest.” He nodded.
Suddenly a black form darted out, and I gasped and placed myself in front of Huo Qu Bing. He also turned and protected me. We have the exact same instinct, fearful that the other person will be harmed. When I see that it is Brother Wolf, I am so happy and run to embrace him. Brother Wolf leads us a way to a small waterfall. He howled to me and then ran under the waterfall.
I held Huo Qu Bing’s hand and we walked under the waterfall together. Who knew there was a cave behind the waterfall. It’s a little damp, but a good place to hide out. A normal person would never suspect there was a cave behind this waterfall. This area being so damp, even a tracking dog would lose our scent.
I picked a higher area and had Huo Qu Bing sit down. I checked his arm before turning to leave “There should be leaves nearby that can stop the bleeding. I’ll go find some.” He immediately stopped me “I can handle this little wound. Yi Zhi Xie is intent on capturing me. Even if you have the wolves scaring them off, but the animals are still no match for trained soldiers. We haven’t shaken them yet…..”
I covered his mouth “Because we haven’t shaken them is why I need to staunch your bleeding. If you keep losing blood, do you want me to piggyback you and escape? As a General, don’t you know what is more important?” He stared at me and didn’t say a word. I laughed “I’ll take Brother Wolf with me. Don’t worry, nothing will happen.”
He handed the bow and arrow to me “Do you know how to shoot?” I wanted to decline, but then to let him feel more at ease, I accepted it “I know how.”
A bright clear moon out, the creek waters are rushing, the insects are humming. It’s a beautiful Summer night, giving off the illusion that there is no danger.
Brother Wolf swiftly bounds between the grass and rocks, with me following him and leaping to catch up. I grab some fruit to eat along the way. Brother Wolf’s eyesight is better than mine and he spots the healing grass first. I actually don’t know that the grass is called, I just know the wolves use it to heal when they are hurt, so I call it the healing grass.
I bit down on the fruit as I race back towards the waterfall. Just before I reach the waterfall, Brother Wolf let out a warning howl and protectively crouched in front of me. He faced off with a few large black dogs.
Yi Zhi Xie and Mu Da Duo walk out of the trees. We face each other with Brother Wolf and the dogs between us. My eyes dart all around, seemingly to check if they brought more men, but really to assess whether they noticed the waterfall.
Yi Zhi Xie looked at me without talking, so Mu Da Duo asked “Where is Huo Qu Bing?” I tossed the eaten fruit aside “To distract your attention, we split up.” Mu Da Duo looked at Yi Zhi Xie, while Yi Zhi Xie stared at my eyes, not wavering for a moment. Mu Da Duo’s face starts to turn white. Yi Zhi Xie softly asked, as if making a loud noise will scare me away “Are you Yu Jin?”
After so many years, he’s barely changed. He is still the Xiong Nu’s most handsome man. But I am no longer the girl who gazed adoringly at him. I was silent and then I shook my head “I’m not.” Mu Da Duo appeared to let out a pent up breath. Yi Zhi Xie wanted to walk forward but Brother Wolf gave him a loud piercing warning howl. The entire forest lit up with howls.
I was so angry I kicked Brother Wolf. I howled once and the howling ceased in the forest. Behind the waterfall, Huo Qu Bing might not know what is happening out here. But with Brother Wolf’s meddling, Huo Qu Bing clearly must be aware now.
Yi Zhi Xie slowly walked towards me, one step at a time. My words were intended for Huo Qu Bing, so I shouted at Yi Zhi Xie “Don’t come any closer. If you come closer, I will…..I will…” I pointed the arrow tip at my heart “I will kill myself.” Yi Zhi Xie hurriedly backed up a few steps, joyfully saying “You are Yu Jin.”
I looked at Mu Da Duo and asked “Yi Zhi Xie, whether or not I am Yu Jin, is that important? If I am Yu Jin, what you are you going to do?” He looked dazed still, murmuring “You’re still alive. You are actually still alive.” He stared at me as to confirm that I was really there “But you don’t hate me?”
I laughed “I already said I am not Yu Jin. Yu Jin is dead. The me today has no relationship to you. The person you want to capture is Huo Qu Bing. If you are still that great and honorable young lord, then don’t pressure a simple girl like me. Let me go!”
Yi Zhi Xie spoke to me in Xiong Nu, but I kept responding in Han language to let Huo Qu Bing understand that I was trying to extricate myself and he needs to stay calm. Yi Zhi Xie looked up at the moon, while Mu Da Duo just stared at him with her eyes filled with unshed tears.
Yi Zhi Xie’s sleeve billowed in the wind and he smiled at the moon “Yu Jin, I wish that when you saw me, you would strike me. I wish that you were filled with hatred for me. That would prove that I was always in your heart, and you had never forgotten me. But….but I could never have imagined that you would look at me like I was a stranger.”
He lowered his head and looked into my eyes “No matter what the occasion, whether it was the Shan Yu or the Crown Prince, when everyone else paid attention to them, you only had eyes for me. It was filled with admiration, and trust. You were still young, but it was like your eyes understood everything. My hurt, my tolerance, my anxiety, you saw everything in your eyes. You would be sad for me, you would be happy for me. Is all of that gone now?”
I unconsciously touched my eyes, and then looked at Mu Da Duo “Perhaps in the past Yu Jin looked at you that way, but now there is someone else who looks at you that way. What she sees is different than what Yu Jin saw, but in her eyes there is only you.” Yi Zhi Xie turned to look at Mu Da Duo, and she stopped resisting and her tears spilled forth. Yi Zhi Xie looked conflicted in that moment, and he took out a handkerchief for her.
He suddenly said “Yu Jin, since you don’t hate me, then come home with me”.”
I laugh and reply in Xiong Nu “Unless you want to see me dead and cart back a corpse, then go ahead!” And then I switched to Han “Yi Zhi Xie, my Papa was a Han person. You know he always wanted me to go back to the Han dynasty. I am really happy there right now. Don’t force me, if you have any regret left in you.”
Yi Zhi Xie asked “Huo Qu Bing just left you and took off? Did you……marry him? Forget it, that doesn’t matter to us Xiong Nu.”
I was getting angry “He did leave me. You shot him with your arrow and he can’t move fast. He didn’t want to burden me, so he lied that he couldn’t move and needed me to go find some food. When I got back, he was gone.” I bit my lip and tears came to my eyes. “Don’t let me find him, otherwise I’ll shoot another arrow into him.”
My words sounded real enough based on our personalities, and Yi Zhi Xie clearly believed me. He was silent and started walking towards me, ignoring Brother Wolf’s warning “Yu Jin, come back with me.”
His eyes were steady and unwavering, causing me to lose my calm and I pointed my arrow at him “Don’t come closer, I will never go back with you.” He smiled and shook his head “Yu Jin, you want to use the arrow that I taught you how to use to shoot me? Remember when you were small, you sat in front of me on a horse, I held your hand and taught you how to shoot….”
He continued to walk calmly towards me, ignoring the arrow in my hand. A few dogs surrounded Brother Wolf. My hands were shaking and I said in Xiong Nu “Stop. I won’t go back with you. I wont……” I heard Brother Wolf’s howl, telling me that Huo Qu Bing is getting close to us. I was so nervous that before I could think clearly, the arrow had flown out.
I stare in fear at the arrow, while Yi Zhi Xie pins a look of despair and disbelief at me. Mu Da Duo flew forward and collapsed on the ground in a soft thud. Yi Zhi Xie was stunned for a moment before realizing what happened. He looked at Mu Da Duo with fear and went to pick her up.
I walked over to them “I’m sorry, Mu Da Duo, I…..” I couldn’t continue. How did we come to try and kill each other? I suddenly started viciously hitting Yi Zhi Xie. With his skills, he didn’t avoid me and allowed my fists to rain over his body “It’s you, why do you have to keep doing these things. Why do you force us so that we can’t live in harmony. Why didn’t you let my Papa go? Why didn’t you let me go? And now because of you, us sisters have turned against each other…..”
Yi Zhi Xie didn’t respond to what I said, only looking down at Mu Da Duo’s wound. She took a few deep breaths and looked at me “Big sister, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t hate you. It has nothing to do with you. I even hired Xi Yu people to go to Chang An….” I shook my head at her “It’s not your fault, it’s all Yi Zhi Xie’s fault.”
Her tears kept falling “It’s not his fault, it’s all me. He cherishes me only because my personality is so similar to yours, and he’s filled with so much guilt towards you. I was just envious, it was my fault….”
Yi Zhi Xie covered Mu Da Muo’s mouth “Don’t say anymore. Yu Jin is right, it’s my fault.” He whistled and the picked Mu Da Duo up and walked away “Duo Er, you won’t die. I’ll make sure you live. Didn’t you always want to go to the lake with me to play? When you’re all better, let’s go immediately.”
Yi Zhi Xie turned around and looked at me, like there was a million things he wanted to say. Mu Da Duo held his arm and coughed “Re….really? My body feels so cold, so cold….” Yi Zhi Xie looked down at Mu Da Duo “Really. I will take you to a doctor immediately. You’ll be fine…..” He carried Mu Da Duo farther until they were already at the trees. He turned back to look at me, but then a violent cough from Mu Da Duo made her bleed more. He didn’t hesitate anymore and quickly disappeared into trees.
Under the cold wind and the lonely moon, I stand there staring in a daze at where they disappeared. Huo Qu Bing embraced me from behind “If she gets to a doctor in time, she’ll live. Even though she lost a lot of blood, the arrow didn’t hit a vital area. And when you were shooting you didn’t intend to kill and your hands were shaky. The arrow likely didn’t pierce her very deep.”
Bleeding? I immediately cleared my head and looked around, quickly pulling him back into the cave with me. I gave him the fruit and then applied the medicine on his wound. Huo Qu Bing said “Tear off pieces of your robe and tie it on the wolves. Have them run around the areas you’ve been. Because Yi Zhi Xie has to consider how that girl feels, he can’t come for you. But he will absolutely send people back to find you. Let’s stay here and not leave for the next three days until they have completely searched the area.” I did as he suggested.
The medicine worked like a charm and his bleeding has stopped. I feel relieved and suddenly remembered what just happened. “Mu Da Duo will be fine?” He laughed and hugged me “The powerful Shan Yu can’t save the life of a girl? She’ll be fine. You’re just fazed right now, but if you think clearly about what just happened, don’t you realize that the girl was intending that. In a short moment she used a very powerful tactic to win. How could a girl like that die?”
I was silent and then snuggled into his embrace “I’m sorry. We should have left immediately after we visited Papa. I shouldn’t have wanted to go play, causing all this trouble.” Huo Qu Bing caressed my cheek and smiled “I’m the one who should be sorry. My lady wife wants to go play and I didn’t protect her properly, causing my lady wife to be alarmed. After I chase the Xiong Nu out of the Desert South and it falls under Han rule, then you can play all you want and never get bothered.”
I grabbed his hand and bit it hard. He howled that it hurt and I chided him “Don’t you dare call me lady wife again.” He thought and then said “Then darling wifey?” I acted like I wanted to bite him again so he quickly said “Yu Er, I’ll call you Yu Er.” I glared at him and then started laughing with my face pressed against his hand. Before I finished laughing, I was already crying.
He didn’t say anything and just stroked my hair “Qu Bing, you should know who Yu Dan was, right? My Papa was his teacher. I am not Papa’s real daughter, just someone he brought back from the wolf pack. Back then I didn’t want to be there…..the first time I met Yi Zhi Xie, he……”
This was the first time I discussed my own past. When I got to a happy part, I would laugh and laugh, and when I got to a sad part, my tears wouldn’t stop flowing. From the moment I heard that Papa died and I cried for days, I have never cried about the past before. I was afraid that I wasn’t strong enough, and if I started crying then all my courage would disappear. I pretended that I wasn’t sad and tried to live my life. But today I’m not afraid. I can cry and laugh as much as I like. In talking and talking, I actually don’t even remember when I fell asleep.