In his dream, Chang Geng remembered things from many years ago. There was a pungent odor of burning oil, salty blood, and earthy scent of hay surrounding him. He dreamed that he had become a small lump of flesh, curled up in a shabby basket, bumping along with the step of a woman's unbalanced footing.
Hu Ge Er had long hair like a dark cloud, but her body was too thin, making her head seem oversized, appearing like a person who was piled up on a rack of bones. She went through the mountain bandit's nest like a mass grave by herself, singing a song of the Barbarians.
All of a sudden, she turned around and looked at Chang Geng. Chang Geng instinctively recoiled. Even though he had already grown up and was indestructible, this thin and frail woman could always hurt him. He had a deep fear of her, much like in the past.
However, she only looked at him silently for a while and did not do anything. Her face was stained with blood, her lips were pale, and her expression was dazed. Her entire spirit was concentrated in those eyes, like a pair of reefs hiding great waves.
Hu Ge Er sighed softly, her appearance at this time did not seem to be of an insane person. She stretched out her thin hand and caressed Chang Geng's head. Her lips changed to another tune. People from all over the world, from the north to the south - did not understand the language of one another; however, the songs that mothers hummed to coax their children to sleep were all similar. Chang Geng was a little surprised. He never knew that there was another scene such as this in his memory.
She carried him through a long and endless road of death, then stopped at the foot of a mountain. Behind the mountain, there was a big fire quietly burning. The smoke rose up to the sky, souls sank to the ground. She wiped a handful of sweat on her forehead, sat on the side of the road to rest, and carried little Chang Geng out of the basket on her back.
Chang Geng subconsciously struggled, Hu Ge Er raised him to her eye level, staring at his face. There was no telling what she was looking at. Suddenly, there was a little sorrow and tenderness on her face. She put little Chang Geng on her knee, and gently traced his little features with her fingers. Then, she leaned down and kissed him on his forehead.
Chang Geng didn't dare to blink. He saw the eyelashes of the Barbarian woman thick like butterfly wings tremble slightly, as if ready to fly up at any time. She suddenly wept without warning, and whispered, "Child, why were you born here? Is it God who sent you to suffer? "
Chang Geng looked at her through years of memories. When she placed her thin and bony hands on his neck, his heart suddenly became calm, and somehow he was not afraid of this woman.
When she tried to strangle him while in tears, her bloody hands were fierce, but her eyes were tender.
But when she exhausted her tears and came back to her senses, she released her hand from Chang Geng's neck and even breathed air into his dying throat, her eyes returning to cold and cruel.
Every time she dried her tears, she seemed to evaporate a part of her soul from her body, becoming more and more indifferent, and her life with little Chang Geng also became more and more peaceful.
Chang Geng followed her, wandering, some days here, some days there.
Until one day, she suddenly saw Chang Geng's foot. Her expression was shocked, she covered her face with both hands and stepped back a few steps. Under the helpless eyes of the little boy, she collapsed into herself, crying bitterly. Chang Geng in the dream looked down at his own feet, and he found that his toe was miraculously self-repairing.
What was 'self-repairing'?
Chang Geng tried to recall for a moment, the vivid dream suddenly brought him something that had been buried deep in his memories.
He thought of something that happened when he was very young — at an age he should not have any memory of. At that time, there really was a congenital defect in his toe. Later, it suddenly regrew normally, he did not know when.
'Wu Er Gu' would gradually reflect the characteristics of his devoured brother.
The healing toe had given Hu Ge Er a devastating blow, it seemed to remind her every second that she had made her own child into a Bone of Impurity, and the characteristics of that child began to reflect in this little 'evil god' that was merged from two to become one — much like what people had said.
Chang Geng looked at her with sympathy. When he watched all of this from the perspective of an outsider, he suddenly understood the feelings of the insane woman.
When a person was full of the humiliation of one's nation and hatred, it was easy to make extreme decisions — such as killing themselves, even going as far as killing their own children — but after all, these can be done only by a quick blade, even if blood pours, there would come a day when things would change in the flow of time, yet she had insisted on choosing a path of self-torment, long and endless.
Suddenly, Hu Ge Er rushed over, grabbed his foot, raised a stone, and smashed down.
The pain was very clear, very real — even in a dream.
"You are not my child, you are not my child..." she repeatedly said, bending his toes fiercely.
Chang Geng gave a groan of pain, stuck between dream and reality, his whole foot hurt almost to the point of numbing.
At this time, a cold but powerful hand suddenly grasped his foot, caressing and relieving the burning pain. Chang Geng gasped for a few breaths. Someone whispered in his ear, "Shh, it's alright. It's all in the past, I am here, everything has passed."
Chang Geng looked up at a loss. Suddenly the scene around him changed greatly. His body gradually grew, becoming taller — however, his clothes were still ragged and his body was full of injuries. The boundless cold seemed to soak into his bones.
In the forlorn and endless field outside the pass, he narrowed his eyes and saw a man coming against the light, his cloak flying in the wind, his footing steady. There was an old black iron wine bottle hanging at his waist.
The man's hands were as steady as iron, but his facial features resembled a painting. He held out a hand to him and asked, "Follow me?"
Chang Geng looked at him. His body and mind were almost empty from exhaustion, he momentarily could not speak.
"Come with me, there's no need to return again in the future."
Chang Geng grabbed the hand and let the other lead him forward. He felt that he was growing taller, becoming stronger, as if he could walk across mountains and rivers with just one step.
He suddenly turned around and saw that the bitter cold scenery of the outside of the pass and the wolves was gradually left behind. In her yellow dress worn before her death, her hair done up in the style of an unmarried woman, Hu Ge Er silently watched him.
And beside her, no one knew when they appeared, but there was another person. At first, he was a little boy, then, as Chang Geng grew up, he also became a teenager, then a young man, step by step.
His facial features were almost identical to Chang Geng's, standing side by side with Hu Ge Er.
Suddenly, Hu Ge Er turned her face, pulled down his head, stood on tiptoe and kissed the young man beside her on the forehead.
Together, they watched Chang Geng walk further away.
Chang Geng suddenly opened his eyes. The sky was already bright. He suddenly had a very different feeling. It seemed as if a pair of shackles that had been tied to him all his life were suddenly gone. His body was so light that he was almost unaccustomed to it.
There was the scent of tranquilizer around him. As soon as Chang Geng raised his eyes, he saw Chen Qing Xu sitting silently on one side, with a book in her hands. Seeing that he had awakened, Chen Qing Xu gently raised a finger. Chang Geng hurriedly turned his head along her line of sight and saw that Gu Yun had fallen asleep on the side, with one hand still resting on his shoulder.
Chang Geng felt his heart thud, many emotions surged in him.
Chen Qing Xu was very understanding. She rolled up her book, after burning the tranquilizer, she lifted her robe to pay courtesy then quietly retreated from the room.
In the silence, he could hear the sound of the other person's shallow but peaceful breathing. Chang Geng took the hand on his shoulder very gently, clasped it in his own, and ten fingers intertwined. Chang Geng silently watched Gu Yun for a moment, held his breath, climbed up, and slowly took off the liuli glass on Gu Yun's face.
Then, he carefully touched Gu Yun's lips.
Unfortunately, the light kiss could not startle Gu Yun awake. Chang Geng reluctantly increased his strength a little, gently licking open Gu Yun's lips. Hearing that his breathing rate finally changed, he dragged Gu Yun's whole body closer, embracing him in his arms, wanting to help him into a more comfortable position.
Gu Yun didn't open his eyes, but he patted his back by habit and coaxed him vaguely: "Sleep, I'm here."
Chang Geng closed his eyes slightly and buried his head contentedly in his neck.
The nightmare was over.
Then the war ended.
On the day when the Western Army sent the letter of surrender to the capital, Shen Yi sent an urgent message to ask Gu Yun how to escort them into the city.
Gu Yun replied briefly, "Giant Kite."
Eleven years ago, Jia Lai Ying Huo used a Giant Kite to sneak into Yanhui Town of the Northern Frontier, casting a dark shadow over Great Liang. That shadow was also the starting point of the Son of Heaven's journey from a small town to the capital thousands of miles away. Now, the smoke of war was gone, the wind and rain were beginning to stop as if they were about to come to a conclusion.
Unlike Yanhui Town, the capital city had no function ready to welcome the Giant Kite. The Northern Camp had to take charge of defense, opening up a path on the moat outside the nine gates. The place for people to watch in the inner city was covered with small iron fences to prevent too many people in the crowd from pushing someone into the water.
The new Emperor led the civil and military officials to meet them outside the city. Waiting until evening, a whole row of Giant Kites came from the south like birds returning to their nests.
Tens of thousands of fire wings rotated in the dusk. The setting sun plated a layer of flowing gold on the Giant Kites through the steam. The roar came from several miles away, they landed into the moat, like the sun setting, in an orderly manner, melted the gold into the water, and made a detour around the city.
All the generals on the Giant Kite lined up on the deck, their hail of "Long live the Emperor" raised as high as mountains.
The people watching all around placed thousands of lanterns into the water, drifting along for thousands of miles, small spots of fire faintly flickered, carrying souls back to their home.