The Rise of Phoenixes - chapter 243
Helian Zheng ignored Hongji Le, lifting his liquor and calmly sitting back in his chair.
“Uncle Hotega.” Helian Zheng said warmly, once again changing his tone.
“Uncle Hotega,” Helian Zheng repeated unhurriedly, quietly refilling the man’s cup. “Thirty years ago at the Winter Battle of Green Sea, Da Yue advanced into the steppe up to Quenga River. Da Yue attacked during the night and countless lives were lost on those banks. My father was just a private at the time, and when he could not walk on his broken leg, you carried him thirty miles to safety. Father King always remembered this great kindness and remains grateful even in his grave.”
Helian Zheng calmly lifted the filled cup and offered it. Hotega looked down at the cup with complicated eyes, not moving to accept it, but Helian Zheng remained unperturbed, not pulling his steady hand away.
Silence fell over the tent.
Hotega’s Blue Bear Tribe was the fourth strongest tribe in the union. All of his men were great warriors with strong lower-body Kung Fu and were easily some of the most important men in Hu Zhuo.
Blue Bear’s style mirrored its name; sober and steady and enduring, strong on its own feet and neutral in politics. Their tribe had faced a population growth recently and had been arguing over steppeland resources with the Old King, and thus the Blue Bear Patriarch had accepted his invitation to the Gold Alliance Meeting.
That Helian Zheng should begin his maneuvering with the difficult Blue Bear Tribe surprised the patriarchs and kindled just a little bit of respect in some hearts, but no one believed that the wet behind the ears Jadran would be able to persuade the stubborn Hotega. The patriarchs waited avidly, their breathing a touch heavy.
Finally, Hotega’s deep voice broke the silence: “You did not finish the story. I did carry your father from the pile of corpses, but the enemy caught up to us. Your father stopped my blade and pressed me to the ground, covering me as we lay by the water, playing dead. The Da Yue soldiers were cautious and stabbed every corpse, and your father took the blow to his waist, not moving until the Da Yue soldiers had moved on. I was only slightly injured… so it was he who saved me, not I him.”
“Really?” Helian Zheng smiled quietly. “I’m gratified that Uncle Hotega still remembers.”
Hotega’s eyes gleamed as he measured Helian Zheng’s sincere smile and he finally reached forward to take the cup and quietly drank.
Murmurs filled the tent as the patriarchs shifted in their seats, and to the side Hong Ji Le’s expression completely changed.
“Uncle Hunn.” Helian Zheng greeted, already by the side of a white haired old man. A prominent scar stretched between the corner of the man’s eyes, the tightness of the healed skin pulling his face together into a terrifying, inhuman visage.
Hongji Le smirked.
Hunn was not the steady and honest Hotega. He had never fought together with Old King Kuku, supporting each other on the battlefield. After a miserable early life, he had only grown more irascible with time and was especially sensitive about his scar. Anyone who mentioned it could be sure of his fierce reprisal.
Helian Zheng was young and unsubtle, and he turned to Hunn now because the Iron Cheetah Tribe Warriors had the greatest endurance and had to be won over. But if he said the wrong word, hehe…
And Hongji Le had already secured a marriage alliance with Hunn’s family…
Helian Zheng did not disappoint as he stared honestly into Hunn’s face, his voice gentle as he said: “Uncle Hunn, your wound…”
Hunn grunted darkly, his terrifying eyes already twitching with growing anger.
The old man’s fingers twitched as his hand slowly crept down to the sabre at his waist.
Amusement and glee and silent anticipation filled the tent as Hotega watched on worriedly, but Helian Zheng seemed blind to all the reactions around him as he continued: “Father King has always been thinking about it…”
Patriarch Hunn’s eyes flickered in suspicion and surprise, but his hand stopped moving downwards.
“The night before I Left for the Central Plains, Father King summoned me. He said that the Central Plains are vast and hold great resources and that all the things in the world can be found in Dijing, so he entrusted me with the search for a Fire-Heart Holy Lotus for Uncle Hunn.” Helian Zheng explained, retrieving a small box from his robe and offering it up with both hands. “But the Holy Lotus that can heal Uncle Hunn’s wound is extinct, and I was only able to find a Fire-Heart Lotus. Although it will not be able to heal Uncle’s wound, I’ve been assured that this lotus is of exceeding quality and will be able to ease some of Uncle Hunn’s pain… Jadran has not been able to fulfill Father King’s task… please accept my deepest apologies…”
Patriarch Hunn looked down as Helian Zheng opened the box, his eyes glittering as he examined the maroon three leafed flower.
Hunn had suffered all kinds of accidents and sicknesses in his youth and carried great pain through his whole life. He had searched for this Fire-Heart Lotus for decades, spending untold time and wealth. In all his search, he had only ever found a single leaf Fire-Heart Lotus much less a true Holy Fire-Heart Lotus, and he had never known that the Old King had been searching as well, sending his son off to bring back his medicine.
A wave of warmth swelled up in the old man’s heart as he looked at this young man and his sincere, apologetic eyes. Patriarch Hunn ignored the box, helping Jadran to his feet and patting his shoulder as he asked: “Did you really wipe out the Pixiu Tribe.”
“Yes!” Helian Zheng replied firmly. “Men of the steppe should be straightforward and honest. If they wanted to kill me, then they should fight me face to face, but instead they abducted the Queen to trick me and colluded with Golden Roc Tribe assassins. If they don’t deserve death, who does?”
“Ha!” Patriarch Hunn laughed after a moment, his bark biting and fierce. “Fuck ’em, and fuck the rules. Rules are made by the powerful. Jadran, very good!”
Helian Zheng laughed, loudly calling back: “Of course!”
Still chuckling, Patriarch Hunn accepted the box and patted the young King on his shoulder once more. The old man waved Hongji Le off, calmly saying:
“Hongji Le, I’m not persuaded by the medicine. I am dying and this means less than you think. The survival of our steppe is the most important, and though you and I are related through our children’s marriage, I still think Jadran is a more suitable King.”