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Chen Dahai gave a horrifying cry, and lost his grip on his sword. He stumbled backwards, his back against the wall and could only pant. The two swords were so deeply embedded in his armpits that only the hilts could be seen. The tips of the daggers pierced through his back. His muscles were broken, and both his arms had not a single iota of energy. He wanted to stretch his right hand to pull out the dagger in his left arm, but how could he lift up his right arm? One could hear all the people in the cottage cheering loudly, yelling, “The evil bandit is defeated, the evil bandit is defeated!” Even Su Lu’ke began to yell. Su Pu and A’man embraced each other jubilantly. Only old man Ji continued to tremble, gritting his teeth quite audibly.
Li Wenxiu knew he was afraid as he was worried for her. She walked over and clasped his large rough hands. Placing her lips at his ear, she said in a low voice, “Grandfather Ji, don’t be afraid, this evil bandit could not defeat me.” She realized his palms were ice cold, and he still trembled terribly.
Li Wenxiu turned her head, and saw Su Pu embracing A’man tightly. In her heart, the original happiness she felt from her victory melted into thin air in a twinkling. She felt herself trembling. Old man Ji’s palms were no longer cold, but her own palms had also become ice cold.
She let go of old man Ji’s hands, and walked over to take hold of the long leash still around A’man’s neck, and coldly said, “You are my female slave, and will have to follow me for the rest of your life.” Su Pu and A’man both felt coldness in their hearts, and their four arms embracing each other loosened. They knew this was a Kazak rule passed down for generations, and a destiny they could not resist. Both their faces turned deathly white! Li Wenxiu sighed, and removed the leash from A’man’s neck, saying, “Su Pu likes you, I… I will not let him be sad. You belong to Su Pu!” As she spoke, she gave A’man a gentle push, allowing her to lean on Su Pu’s bosom.
Su Lu’ke struggled to stand up, and his large hand clapped Li Wenxiu’s shoulder heavily. He said, “Even among Hans, there are actually good people. But… but, I’m afraid that you are the only one!” Che Erku called out, “Bring wine, bring wine. I’ll treat everyone to wine, treat the good Kazak people to wine, treat the good Han people to wine, to celebrate the capture of that evil bandit, eh! Where’s that bandit?” Everyone turned their heads, only to see that Chen Dahai had disappeared. A while ago everyone had been concentrating on Li Wenxiu and A’man, giving the bandit to chance to escape from the back door. Su Lu’ke was furious, and cried, “Let’s chase him quickly!” He opened the door, and a strong gust of wind blew into the cottage. His legs had no strength, his body swayed and he fell to the ground. Combined with snow, the frosty wind was fierce and unbearable. Everyone felt breathless. A’man said, “I doubt he’d be able to go far in such a great snowstorm. He’ll definitely die in the snow if he tries to struggle on. Let’s wait until the storm has died down tomorrow, before going into the snow to find this evil bandit’s corpse.” Su Pu nodded and shut the door.
Su Lu’ke stared at Li Wenxiu. After quite a long time, he said, “Little brother, you are a Kazak, are you not?” Li Wenxiu shook her head and answered, “No, I’m a Han!” Su Lu’ke said, “Impossible, if you are a Han, why did you attack that Han bandit and save us Kazaks?” Li Wenxiu replied, “Among the Hans, there are bad people, but there are also good people. I… I am not one of the bad people.” Su Lu’ke muttered, “There are good people among the Hans?” He shook his head slowly. But his life and that of his son’s, were saved by this young Han. He had no choice but to believe.
He had hated Hans his entire life, but now this belief was wavering. He was furious at himself for being so drunk last night and was thus unable to battle with that Han bandit. Instead, he needed another Han to come and rescue him. In his entire life, when something critical happened, he was always so unfortunate, always so unlucky. But when that bandit’s long sword had struck his head just now, that young man had arrived in the nick of time to rescue him. Could this be considered misfortune? Could this be considered bad luck?
When dawn broke, the snowstorm finally died down.
Su Lu’ke and Che Erku immediately set off to gather their tribesmen to pursue that Han bandit. His footprints clearly showed in the show. Furthermore, he had suffered serious injuries and could not have gone far. It would be best if he attempted to rendezvous with the other bandits. That way, they could finally take revenge after twelve years.
Three hundred of the most able-bodied Kazak men formed the first batch of pursuers. The remaining two batches set off in succession. There was of course no need to mobilize so many men just to catch one Chen Dahai, but their real motive was to exterminate the Han bandits who had been terrorizing the pastures.
Su Lu’ke and Che Erku were the vanguards. They wanted the remaining tribesmen to maintain a distance of ten li between them and follow them slowly, to prevent Chen Dahai from realising their presence and abandoning his rendezvous with his fellow bandits. Su Pu had suffered injuries last night, but since his condition was not serious, he wanted to accompany his father. A’man also insisted on accompanying her father, but everyone knew that she did not want to leave Su Pu’s side. Che Erku picked two of his disciples to follow him. One was the agile Sang Si’er, and the other was a young man as strong as a camel. His nickname was “Camel”, and that was what everyone called him, resulting in everyone forgetting what his actual name really was.
Li Wenxiu also wanted to join the vanguards, and Su Pu was the first to welcome her. After what happened last night, Li Wenxiu had become a hero, respected by all. Che Erku did not object to her taking part. Su Lu’ke was a little unwilling, but could not bring himself to voice his opposition.
Old man Ji seemed to have been thoroughly terrified by the events of the previous night. When he was drinking sheep’s milk in the morning, he accidentally dropped the milk bowl and broke it. Li Wenxiu poured a bowl of tea for him. When his trembling hands received the bowl, he splashed the tea onto his clothes. When Li Wenxiu asked after him, the light in his eyes revealed both fear and anger. Abruptly, he returned to his room, and shut the door with a loud bang.
The ground was covered with a deep layer of snow, and it was hard to ride. The seven-man vanguard went on foot, following footprints in the snow all the way. Chen Dahai’s footprints went in a straight line towards the west, as if towards the Gobi Desert. Although both his arms were injured, his legs were still very agile. The six Kazaks suddenly recalled the legendary demons which supposedly inhabited the Gobi Desert, and could not help but have some misgivings.
Su Lu’ke said loudly, “Even if we know that we are going to meet demons today, we must still go and capture the bandits. Su Pu, are you going to seek revenge for your mother and brother or not?” Su Pu replied, “Of course I will go with Father. A’man, you’d better return go home!” A’man said, “If you can go, I can go too.” But her heart said, “If you die, do you expect me to live on alone?” Su Lu’ke said, “A’man, you’d better accompany your father home. Che Erku is extremely timid, and is most afraid of demons!” Che Erku gave him a hard stare, and rushed to the front.
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