At this time, a familiar cry reached Chang Geng’s ear. He turned back and saw the head of Butcher Ge hanging on the railing together with several pig heads. His wife was pale and blue as she was crushed under the collapsed walls. She had long since stopped breathing. The choked cries of Ge Ban Xiao came from afar, and Chang Geng was taken aback. He didn’t have the strength to be concerned about anything else anymore and he subconsciously said: “It seems to be Ge Ban Xiao of the butcher family…”
Shen Yi kept on charging ahead without stopping his feet.
Chang Geng thought he didn’t hear it properly: “Wait!”
Shen Yi said: “Your subject was ordered to protect Your Royal Highness to leave the city. There cannot be any delay.”
His voice came from behind the iron mask, cold as metal that had been submerged in ice.
Chang Geng was dumbfounded.
The hissing wind grazed past his ears, and sticky cold sweat slid down his spine. Everywhere he touched were dark iron—extremely cold, just like the iron wristband that could never be warm around his wrist.
Ge Ban Xiao often act spoiled, showed all his teeth when he smiled, and his personality was a little strange and quirky. There was not a single person who didn’t love the boy.
Chang Geng suddenly muttered, “Isn’t that your student?”
In Shen Yi’s eyes, were these students who were close to him day in and day out nothing more than an imperial mission of two years ordering him to be in disguise?
That’s right. For the grand characters of the Black Iron Camp, what was one puny Yanhui Town?
What was just one child from a butcher family?
In this world, some people’s lives were worth more than others; just because one was lovable does not mean one was valuable.
Of course, Shen Yi was not as cold-blooded as his cold armor, but he was only alone at this moment. His highest priority remained to be to complete this task without fail.
The Western Region had just surrendered, and the entire elite force of the Black Iron Camp was currently keeping guard on that side. They could only afford to bring here a very small fraction of their force. After two years of netting, they must make one precise move and haul in this big fish.
If they could seize it, they will be able to exchange peace and stability that would last a few years for the Northern Border. Otherwise, they will lose all their efforts.
Due to the complexity of this situation, how could he explain everything clearly to this kid in just a few words?
Shen Yi said with all earnestness: “Your Highness please forgive me… Your Highness!”
It seems that while Shen Yi was unprepared, Chang Geng had taken advantage of this brief moment to bend over and touch the lock placed on the elbow of the iron armor.
The Heavy Armor of Black Iron Camp would certainly not be easily opened by him with just one push, but he did successfully push out Shen Yi’s arm, creating a gap of about one inch.
This was the first time Chang Geng had seen a Heavy Armor; he did not know the difference between this expertly-made armor and the copper junks used by the city defense officers.
If someone used such a strong external force to destroy the Black Iron armor, the force of the pop-up lock bursting out could break down a large tree.
With this one inch, Chang Geng quickly took his foot out and with agility, flipped off from Shen Yi’s shoulder.
”I am not ‘His Highness’,” Chang Geng stood two steps away and looked at him. His face was even more bleak than the black iron:
”My feet are not ‘dragon claws’ either. It is a deformity that my mother created by using a broken piece of porcelain. If she really is just as you said and have connections with the royal family, perhaps it is her aim to create a counterfeit to confuse the royal lineage. The General is rushing like this, I can see that you have other heavy responsibilities. I am not afraid of death, and I have no intention of stealing royal identity either. I have made this matter transparent to you, I will not hinder you any longer.”
Shen Yi’s black iron mask was pushed up and he looked at the teenager in front of him in bewilderment.
Chang Geng no longer looked at him, he jumped out over the wall and ran to the direction of Ge Ban Xiao’s cry for help.
A set of dark armor could be spotted easily in this tiny town of Yanhui. Shen Yi was surprised only for a brief moment yet a group of barbarians already surrounded him. Chang Geng was not worried. Even though he was an outsider, he could still see that those barbarians were basically seeking death by confronting this expert from the Black Iron Camp. It was clear that although the folklore was somewhat exaggerated in saying that merely forty Black Armors swept through the savanna from that year, it was not completely untrue.
The martial arts that the teenager has been practicing for many years was not just for naught. He was extremely agile as he sprinted towards the narrow road, crossing the courtyard wall. As he came in, he saw a barbarian punching a hole into the chest of an old veteran in charge of guarding Yanhui. The old soldier fell over without making a single sound. It seemed that he could not survive.
Ge Ban Xiao’s small face was puffy, holding his head and hiding away in the corner in fear.
Chang Geng saw the sword of the old soldier landing a few feet away. Taking advantage of having the barbarian’s back towards him, he stepped forward and grabbed it. The tail of the sword sprayed out a thin stream of steam. It was an “iron armor sword”, but unfortunately it had not been properly maintained for a long time. There was no telling whether it could still be used.
When the barbarian detected the movement, he turned back around instantly but clumsily due to his armor. Ge Ban Xiao’s mouth was agape –
Chang Geng twisted the steam support under the steel sword, the sharp blade started to rumble and spin in a circle, a burnt scent filled the air. No one knew how many parts inside were already busted. Cheng Geng almost could not hold on to it, he shouted and slashed the large tree next to him.
Although the squeaky sword resembled metal scraps, it chopped down the tree with utmost ease. Before the barbarian could react, the large tree had already toppled over and crushed him. Chang Geng growled towards Ge Ban Xiao: “Why aren’t you running?!”
Ge Ban Xiao’s face was cover in snot and tears, he shouted on top of his lungs: “Big brother!”
Not waiting for him to give his long speeches, the man who got crushed suddenly roared, violently cutting through the tree the size of a house pillar and hurled it out of the way. He was like an ox that had been provoked, staring at two vulnerable children in front of him with blood-red eyes.
Chang Geng saw this situation had taken a turn for the worse, he simply had to engage in direct combat now.
He took a deep breath, leaned forward, slightly squared his shoulders, clenched the sword in his hands, and put on a solid starting stance.
It’s a pity that no matter how solid his stance was, it was useless. He just stood still when he heard a cracking sound, then the steel sword was completely stuck. It creaked twice, sputtered out black smokes, and immediately became a pile of scrap metals.
Ge Ban Xiao quivered: “This is… this…”
”Move aside!” Chang Geng hissed at him.
Ge Ban Xiao wasn’t called quick-witted for nothing. Upon hearing this he instantly became a harmless meatball and rolled into the corner, staying perfectly out of the way.
The barbarian roared; he was about to use this pair of fists to smash this little kid into pieces.
Chang Geng bent his back and avoided the big iron fist that only grazed at the top of his head. He quickly darted through the cracks, passing by the veteran’s body, lowering himself and removing the old soldier’s steel leg guards with the fastest speed.
At this point, the wind had caught up behind him. Chang Geng hugged the pair of “steel leg guards” into his arms and rolled over to a small hole under a nearby wall. He immediately put them on his own legs right after he landed, not caring if he equipped them correctly or not.
A crashing noise rang out; the flimsy walls of the commoner’s home were not so strong, the barbarian crushed through them with a single punch. Rubbles and broken bricks immediately rained down. The steel leg guard under the foot of Chang Geng squirted a small amount of steam thanks to the leftover Ziliujin around the ankle area, propelling his entire body three feet forward in that decisive moment.
Chang Geng almost had the illusion that he could fly up.
Aside from the iron wristband, this was the first time he put a part of the iron armor on himself. In this life and death situation, he desperately tried to maintain balance and grabbed the corner of the remaining courtyard wall.
Ge Ban Xiao screamed: “Be careful -”
The barbarian had violently shaken off the bricks. His iron armor created an unbearable creaking sound. The steam under his feet resembled a cloud. He was somewhat surprised that this little child was quite difficult to deal with. He retracted his iron fists back, the gear in front of his chest turned in a circle, and a dark-colored explosive was aimed at Chang Geng.
Preparing to finish him in one quick move.
Chang Geng had not yet learned how to coexist peacefully with this pair of feng huo lun(1) under his legs. Hearing a buzzing sound, he instinctively rushed forward; suddenly there was a painful scorching heat on his back. The sand that splattered onto him from the ground were like steel nails, showering down on him; he only had time to protect his face and head with the scrap-metal sword.
The Central Plains’s iron armors undoubtedly did not dare to equip explosives on the chest area. The powerful recoil from this explosive could shatter a person’s bones. Only the sturdy barbarians with their naturally born indomitable strength would dare to do something like this.
Some say that the reason the three major factions of Black Iron Camp could clean through Eighteen Barbarian Tribes that year was because the Man Tribes were underdeveloped and have not yet known how to produce their own iron armor.
Now no one knew where and how they could get their hands on such a huge amount of heavy armors. Coupled with the endless streams of Ziliujin underneath their savanna that spread out for thousands of miles, would they still let themselves be dominated like sheep in the hands of Central Plains people?
How horrifying this could become, the young Chang Geng could not afford to think in this moment.
When Teacher Shen… General Shen taught him how to take care of iron armor, he accidentally mentioned that the explosive space on the steel armor was limited, and the ice tube for cooling was not so efficient.
In order to prevent the person in the armor from being baked alive, every time an explosive was shot out, there needs to be a cooling period around the time it took to burn an incense, during this period the mechanism for launching from the iron armor was automatically locked. Hence Chang Geng still had room to breathe.
The barbarian screamed in accented Chinese: “Run away, little worm! Scared to death! Run!”
Chang Geng’s eyes darkened, he slid down the wall in one swift movement and turned to rush towards the man currently chasing him at a high speed.
The barbaric man was caught off guard. He didn’t expect Chang Geng to have such big guts. He instinctively used the long sword to slash him. The heavy armor was almost double the boy in height, naturally, there was a blind spot below. Chang Geng laid backward and slid against the ground. The steel leg guards rubbed against the slate on the ground creating sparks that scattered everywhere.
Chang Geng dismissed the steel sword that was done for, smashing it right on the middle of the barbarian’s back. The barbarian instinctively dodged. At this moment, Chang Geng pressed down the iron wrist buckle on his wrist, the Xiu zhong si inside immediately darted out like a snake, cutting through the heavy armor like hacking a watermelon.
Chang Geng: “…”
He merely tried his luck. He didn’t expect that the iron wristband that Shen Shiliu throws to him to use as a plaything was actually such an incredible weapon.
The Xiu zhong si broke through the golden point of the barbarian’s heavy armor. The precise heavy armor lost its mobility for a moment. To prevent explosion caused by the leakage of Ziliujin that could kill the wearer inside, the heavy armor activated its self-protection mechanism: all joints from the arms to the back were locked in an instant.
At this time, if the person in the Heavy Armor was still clear-minded, they would use the other half of their body that could still move to first unload the armor, then kill the enemy – even without Heavy Armor, he was still a barbarian man with advantage in height and strength, there was no reason he couldn’t deal with these two little children.
However, although the barbarians obtained these Heavy Armors in some way, it was obvious they have not yet learned how to master this iron monster. The moment the Heavy Armor dead-locked, the barbarian inside was completely dumbfounded. His first reaction was wanting to use brute force to deal with this mechanical lock.
How could a human body of flesh and blood, even if naturally born with godlike strength, withstand the force of the Heavy Armor?
He lost his balance and tumbled to the ground.
Chang Geng took this opportunity to make a conclusive move, he did not hesitate to step forward. The steel leg guards under his feet mobilized maximum power. He took aim at the golden box placed near the explosives and stepped down with all his strength.
Even if the quality of the leg guard were much worse, it can still crush a stone of three inches tall when powered up: the golden box immediately cracked.
However, Chang Geng’s steel leg guards were also destroyed in the process of hitting the hard armor surface. He used too much force, and some of his strength rebounded back onto his leg. One side ached to the point of numbing, he couldn’t tell if it had already broke or not.
Chang Geng clenched his teeth and turned around with one leg.
Just as he retreated back one step, the smashed golden box exploded, the head of the barbarian blowing up into little pieces on the spot.
Bits of red and white brain inevitably splashed onto Chang Geng. He took his leg back and wiped the blood off of his face with a blank expression. With this horrible stench filling the air, there was no fear in his heart.
Maybe Xiu Niang was right, he was a monster.
At such critical time, Ge Ban Xiao still had his wits about. Even though his entire body was shaking terribly, his brain was still working. He told Chang Geng: “Big brother, let’s find a hiding place. I will take you to my father’s cellar!”
Chang Geng only took just one step forward but the jolting pain from his leg forced him to cry out and fall over. Upon seeing this, Ge Ban Xiao ran over without delay and carried Chang Geng.
He was still young but his body had gotten considerately large from meat and fat, they shake altogether as he runs, Ge Ban Xiao has soon started panting.
But even when running out of breath he did not delay his pledge of loyalty: “Big brother, my mother and father have been killed by them, you saved my life, I will follow you from now on! I will do whatever you tell me to do! Let’s kill all these barbarians!”
His voice broke at that last sentence as he choked out the words between sobs.
Chang Geng’s hand couldn’t hold on to the busted sword anymore, he let it fall onto the ground with a loud ringing noise. The muscles on his arm were spasming, he struggled to smile and cracked a joke at Ge Ban Xiao: “What am I keeping you around for? Saving for year of famine to bring out to eat?
Ge Ban Xiao: “I can at least wash your feet…”
At this moment, Chang Geng’s ear suddenly twitched, he could make out an ominous clicking sound, he immediately shouted out to shut Ge Ban Xiao up: “Shh!”
Ge Ban Xiao: “My mother always said that I am very good at washing feet. My father’s feet are even whiter than steam buns when I’m done…”
The voice of Ge Ban Xiao suddenly went quiet. He stopped dead on his tracks then took two steps back in fear.
At the end of the small path, a barbarian donning a silver-colored Heavy Armor slowly emerged.
(1) 风火轮; lit. wind-and-fire wheel; In the mythological story Fengshen Yanyi, the Immortal Taiyi gave Nezha a wind-wheel and a fire-wheel to serve as a magic vehicle that helped him fly around.