Eventually night came and with it came Chuos chance to rescue Na Alun and yet he his first objective was something completely different. Creeping into Hebas tent, Chuo looked down at the medal that the Traitorous General had shown him… Loyalty and courage… What had happened to the former?

Picking up the medal, Chuo glanced over at the sleeping Heba. He could have slain the traitor in his sleep right then… But the fact was his parents had raised him better than that. He may have been inferior to his siblings, but he was just as honourable as they were.

Emerging from the tent, Chuo saw a Rouran guard standing before him. Immediately, the Young Tuyuhun reached for his sword only for the Rouran to raise a hand and shake his head.

”Heba may have defected to our side, but many of us have no love for he who slew so many of our people. ” Whispered the Rouran. ”Take the girl and return to your people. War is an ugly thing, lad. You best go home. ”

”Alas, I cannot and I will not. ” Stated Chuo, walking past the Rouran and over to Alun. Kneeling down, he untied her hands and lead her to his horse, after which they departed from the camp, to return to that of Buri Khans host.

All night, did Chuo and Alun ride, but alas, a horse with two riders needed rest. Thus, did boy and girl find themselves resting in the shadow of a group of trees by a river. Long before their time, the Xianebi state had been the first of its kind, the first Proto-Mongol state, and its capital had been located near a river such as this one, in the land that one day would be known as Mongolia.

During their long ride, Chuo and Alun had spoken with one another, starting with the former telling the latter his appellation. Curious, Alun had inquired why General Tuyuhun had not come to come to serve in the Khans host and so, did Chuo tell her everything. He told her of the attack that had wounded his father and slain his brother, he told her of how his sisters had gone off to avenge their brother and finally he told her of how he had decided to go and serve in the Khans host himself to prove himself the equal of his siblings.

”Is the possibility of never seeing your family again worth proving yourself the equal of your siblings? ” inquired Alun, staring at Chuo as he laid back upon the grass, closing his blue eyes.

Chuo gave no answer to Alun. He was not entirely sure, but it was too late now. He would not desert even if one or both of his sisters arrived at the camp to take his place. Even if granted a discharge, honourable or dishonourable, he would not leave. Would not, could not, would not leave the host…He would remain with them until the campaign had seen its end.

Ultimately, Chuo uttered: ”I am uncertain, but I am the only one who can serve. ”

”Your cousin can serve! ” exclaimed Alun.

”My cousin serves because his father, my fathers brother, my uncle, had. ” Stated Chuo, opening his eyes and just barely sitting up. ”As did his mother. Both died serving in the Khans host and he feels it is his duty to serve just as it was theirs. My paternal grandfather had a brace of children, my father and my uncle. They both served together in the Khans host and so my cousin Fu and I shall serve our beloved Khan together. The descendants of my paternal grandfather will always go to war together, so my paternal grandmother says. ”

”And where is she, this paternal grandmother you have only spoken of now? ” asked Alun, leaning in curiously. ”You never mentioned her when you brought up your brothers death though you mentioned your mother and your sisters. You never mentioned her when the Khans messenger came to your village. You speak of her as if she still lives, but where is she? ”

”My paternal grandparents had been born in the old capital of Shengle, during the reign of Shiyijian Khan, Last Ruler of Dai. ” Began Chuo, staring into Aluns green eyes, wondering how such a thing was possible. ”Ever since Gui Khan founded our khanate and later moved the capital from Shengle to Pingcheng, my paternal grandparents would make a pilgrimage to Shengle every twelvemonth… My grandmother continues to do so, ever since my grandfather died… Twelve twelvemonths have passed since then. ”

Twelve twelvemonths… Chuo had been little more than a baby then. He had little memory of his paternal grandfather, a shaman it was said who had been taught by a shaman who had been in the court of Yihuai Khan. His grandfather had chosen one of his grandchildren to teach what he had been taught and he selected his younger granddaughter. Chuo could only wonder, if he had not been born so late into his grandfathers life, would he have been considered as a candidate for teaching? Alas, he knew not.

Hearing a sound, Chuo stood up and held his bow aloft with an arrow ready for loosing. Out from behind the trees emerged a wolf, a female with a litter of pups following her. All stared at Chuo nervously until the Young Tuyuhun lowered his bow and sat back down.

Another person would have loosed the arrow, yet why had he not done so? Perhaps, it had been something his grandmother had once said to him: ”The wolves are our brothers and sisters, Chuo. ”

Their brothers and sisters. Chuo had loved his brother, just as he did his sisters and would never mean them harm. Thus, he had no reason to harm the wolves.

As the family of wolves went down to the river to drink, Alun uttered: ”They are so beautiful! ”

”Yes… ” agreed Chuo, staring at the wolves and remembering the one he had met prior. ”Yes, beautiful, swift, strong, noble, they are so many things. ”

Sighing, Chuo laid back down and closed his eyes. In his minds eye he saw a galloping horse, blacker than the night sky on a moonless and starless night. Galloping, almost flying and upon him a soldier, a warrior, among the greatest in the Khans host. Who was it? He knew not, could it have been him or someone he would be following into battle? Such a mystery and at the same time, perhaps it was no one. Just his imagination… Or his dreams? Dreams that he could have ascended to a rank just like his fathers?

His father… Opening his eyes, Chuo thought of his father. He had heard his father say that his children were better combatants than him or any many he had ever commanded… except, Chuo was not included in that lofty compliment. Why would he be? He was lesser than his elder siblings, lesser than his father and mother. Being at the bottom when it came to combat skill in the Tuyuhun Clan was not a good thing to be. It took his elder brother and sisters one attempt to hit a stationary or moving target, it took him three tries for the former and nine for the latter and his swordsmanship was woefully beneath that of his elders.

Still, that was one of the reasons he had come to serve in the Khans host. To prove himself his equal to his siblings, possibly even his parents.

Then Alun inquired: ”What are you thinking about? ”

”My family. ” Chuo answered.

”Your family has been spoken of quite enough, Chuo. How about a change of subject? Perhaps home, the area you come from? ”

Taking a breath, Chuo thought of home. He thought of the plain, the camel, the horses, the sheep, packing up the yurt to move it over a tad. He thought of some of the children he had grown up with, the children that had predeceased him. Suddenly the subject of home turned grim.

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