“Do you know who you’re talking to?“
Translated by: Zryuu
Edited by: Amelea, Juurensha
A sudden clap of thunder struck the ground; Great, Chan, Yu!
Chen Xing searched for this title in his memory, and remembered that he had forgotten most of the time he spent living in Jinyang nine years ago. His father had once mentioned that the title ‘Great Chanyu’ originated from the Xiongnu people, to identify the monarch of the Hu tribes. However, after Liu Yuan led the Xiongnu people through the pass and founded the country Han Zhao, Great Chanyu turned into an empty title used to beguile Hu people beyond the Great Wall — it was a title with no real authority.
Over several decades, Han Zhao collapsed, the Xiongnu people’s imperial Liu clan was decimated, and the Han’s Ran Min established the State of Wei, conferring the title of Great Chanyu onto his own son to govern all the Hus. After the fall of Ran Wei, the Hus in the north could no longer tolerate the Hu people attacking one another after entering the pass; they smeared blood on their lips to take an oath under Chi Le Chuan, reestablished the covenant and termed it the “Ancient Chi Le Covenant”, as well as electing a Great Chanyu — the Shulü tribe of the Tiele people.
Since then, the Great Chanyu became the Hu chieftain in-name and naturally commanded all of the Five Barbarians. All the tribes of the Central Plains’ imperial court took turns performing on stage after the previous performer left, everyone took turns sitting on the Emperor’s throne, yet they still couldn’t ignore the effects of a Great Chanyu both within and beyond the Great Wall.
Aside from the Di, Jie, Qiang, Xianbei, and Xiongnu, there were many nomadic people beyond the Great Wall as well, and those tribes still treated the chieftain as their leader and would obey his orders. However, all the tribes are unable to work together. After all, they had always been divided in terms of the way they lived their lives, the places they lived in, their conflicts of interests, and there was often a great amount of internal strife within the tribes themselves. The Great Chanyu position in the Ancient Chi Le Covenant was thus established to mediate, or even suppress the internal disputes within tribes and the disputes they had between tribes. More importantly, although the Five Barbarians had entered the pass to live there, their ancestors’ bloodlines and roots still lay beyond the Great Wall.
Entering the pass had resulted in an endless number of disputes among the tribes, but it was only right and proper for everything old to be replaced with the new. The old elders in each tribe had no power to stop their tribes from abandoning their homes and their large-scale migration to within the pass, yet they were still unwilling to lose the power they held in their hands, so they elected a Great Chanyu with the intention of controlling the Central Plains.
No matter if it was Han, Zhao, or Ran Wei, including the Qin Dynasty at present, as well as the Yan kingdom under the Murong clan that was wiped out by the army Fu Jian commanded, if one wanted to establish a country and be called emperor, they can not avoid going through a ritual—— that is, to wait for the leader-in-name of all the Hus, the Great Chanyu, to come forth from the north of the Great Wall. He would then confer a scroll to the Emperor marked with the blood of the various tribes, with parchment bound with a gold ribbon to express the loyalty and allegiance of all the tribes both within and beyond the Great Wall.
This process was also known as “Golden Conferment of Purple Scroll”, because blood smeared on sheepskin would appear light purple in colour. No matter how stable a foreign emperor’s rule was after entering the pass, this process could not be neglected. And it was precisely because of this that the emperor himself seldom holds a concurrent post as the Great Chanyu. No one would want to confer the purple scroll upon themselves after all, otherwise they would definitely turn into the joke of the Five Barbarians.
During the reign of the Ran Wei Dynasty, the Great Chanyu was a mere nominal title, but it may not necessarily be so for Fu Jian. When Fu Jian conquered the area within the pass as the Chieftain of Xirong for generations, he had once obtained tremendous help from the ex-Great Chanyu, Shulü Song. Not only did the Allied army of the Hus control the enemy for the Fan family, but they had also turned into a powerful chess piece in the hands of Fan Hong.
The Fan family had even been loyal to the Jin Dynasty before for a short time and had obtained the tacit consent of the Great Chanyu, such that they could gain a firm footing. Fu Jiàn established the Qin state, and after his death, his son, Fu Sheng, succeeded him, and Fu Jian was appointed as the King of East China. Fu Sheng was both licentious and despotic and always acted in perverse ways, resulting in the eruption of a civil war within the Great Qin. It was the Great Chanyu, Shulü Wen, who united the tribes to help Fu Jian take control of Fu Sheng’s army.
In the end, aside from the contribution of his own talents, the most important reason Fu Jian was able to obtain half of the country in the North was due to the help he obtained from the Shulü family beyond the Great Wall.
But what Chen Xing never expected was that the Protector he had inadvertently saved from Xiangyang City would actually be the heir of the Shulü family!
Fu Jian burst out laughing and draped an arm around Xiang Shu’s shoulders to welcome him into Dengming Palace, yet Xiang Shu seemed accustomed to it and casually pointed somewhere to ask Chen Xing to sit there.
“Serve some food,” Xiang Shu said, “Haven’t had lunch yet even though it’s this late, I’m hungry.”
Fu Jian immediately dismissed the officials in the palace and asked someone to deliver their meals. Tuoba Yan was as baffled as Chen Xing, and both of them just looked at each other. Surprise emerged in Chen Xing’s eyes; he gently waved his hand to signal that he has absolutely no clue about anything at all either.
Dengming Palace was the place where Fu Jian read and amended memorials to the throne. In order to govern the north, this Qin Emperor shouldered an immense responsibility. Even if few people could understand him, he was indeed doing his utmost and consumed most of his three meals in the palace. At this time, Murong Chong had already been designated as the Taishou of Pingyang, and had gone over to take up his office. Ever since Murong Chong left his side, Fu Jian had rarely even seen the concubines of his imperial harem and spent most of his time diligently handling political affairs.
“You disappeared from the face of the earth just like that for a whole year,” Fu Jian said, “I’ve sent news out and have been searching everywhere for your whereabouts!”
Very soon, wine was served. Xiang Shu drank a little and answered, “Well, life is too short, and it’s a long story.”
You copied me, you copied me!! Chen Xing thought.
Fu Jian made a gesture to dismiss Tuoba Yan, indicating that there was no need for him to stand on guard any longer. Only the remaining three people and an eunuch who could be ordered around remained.
“And who is this little brother?” Fu Jian looked at Chen Xing, his interest piqued, “You haven’t introduced him yet.”
“A kid picked up from the streets,” Xiang Shu said, “I thought he looked beautiful, so I brought him over to present him to you as a catamite. But he’s a mute, unfortunately.”
“You……” Chen Xing immediately turned to Xiang Shu, and Xiang Shu added, “You’re not a mute?”
Fu Jian burst out laughing again. Chen Xing said to Xiang Shu, “Xiang Shu! Why didn’t you tell me you’re the Great Chanyu?”
Xiang Shu answered coldly, “How is my identity any of your business? In any case, I’m not a Protector.”
Fu Jian smiled at Chen Xing and asked, “How exactly did the two of you get to know each other? And what other nonsense did Shulü Kong spout? This fellow must have slandered Zhen quite a bit in front of you.”
Chen Xing had completely accepted everything by now. Hold on, isn’t this person Fu Jian? I’m talking to the Qin Emperor, Fu Jian, right now?! Too many things had happened tonight, confusing him so much that he didn’t know what to ask for a moment.
We’re sorry for MTLers or people who like using reading mode, but our translations keep getting stolen by aggregators so we’re going to bring back the copy protection. If you need to MTL please retype the gibberish parts.
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She was practically the most beautiful girl Chen Xing had ever seen in his life, though he hasn’t seen many girls in the first place. She was dressed in a plain robe and wore no rouge or powder, but she was still clearly of the Xianbei race — her skin was as fair as jade, her eyebrows so perfect that they looked as if they were drawn with dai, and she seemed slightly cold and amorous.
“Princess Qinghe,” When Fu Jian saw Chen Xing study her, he smiled, “have you heard of her?”
Chen Xing immediately nodded out of courtesy, his eyes filled with admiration. Fu Jian was a broad-minded person and read it as a sign of Chen Xing lauding the beauty of his favourite concubine, and felt as if something he loved had received a commendation, so he was very pleased.
Princess Qinghe led the palace maids to serve them food, then personally poured wine for Xiang Shu, Chen Xing, and Fu Jian. Immediately afterwards, she led the rest of the people out, leaving the three of them to talk among themselves. Chen Xing saw Princess Qinghe whisper some instructions to Tuoba Yan outside the palace, then Tuoba Yan bowed, left, and the door to the palace closed. Only then did Xiang Shu motion for Chen Xing to eat before saying to Fu Jian, “A year ago, Guwang was investigating a matter and headed south from the North Boundary, all the way across the Yellow River……”
Chen Xing knew that Xiang Shu was giving an account of his disappearance to Fu Jian, and that he was finally willing to give Chen Xing an explanation as well. He paused for a moment and decided not to ask any more questions. In any case, he was hungry, so he could think about it again after eating.
How curious must Fu Jian be about Xiang Shu and Chen Xing’s relationship? He first scrutinised Chen Xing for a while before his attention returned to Xiang Shu.
“Oh?” Fu Jian said, “Something should have happened after your father died of illness ba.”
“Yes.” Xiang Shu raised his glass and drank with Fu Jian, then continued, “Happened in my first year after taking over the Great Chanyu post.”
Fu Jian frowned deeply. He guessed that for Xiang Shu to suddenly charge into Weiyang Palace right now, he must want to warn him of a major occurrence. Actually, in recent years, the Hu people beyond the Great Wall had been crossing through the pass one after another, and the Hu and Han lived together and even roved around as nomads to the north of the Great Wall. Calculating up the total, while only considering adult men, there would be close to 100,00 of them — it couldn’t be considered a small number, but it was definitely not a huge one either.
Xiang Shu took over the post of Great Chanyu from his father at the age of sixteen, yet vanished without a trace in the second year. Fortunately, for the various tribes beyond the Great Wall, the Great Chanyu was accustomed to a lifestyle like drifting clouds and wild storks, so disappearing for a few years did not cause any serious issues. However, Fu Jian had not undergone the Golden Conferment of the Purple Scroll from Xiang Shu yet, so he was extremely anxious to determine his whereabouts.
“On the South bank of Liaohe River, the Valennu tribe was exterminated overnight.” Xiang Shu said.
When Fu Jian was reminded of this, he immediately recalled, “A small tribe. Descendants of the Eastern people.”
The Valennu tribe was one of the subordinate tribes of the Xianbei people, who the Hans called the Eastern Hu. Fu Jian naturally wanted to avoid such a taboo, but this kind of tribe wasn’t that important to him.
Xiang Shu said, “The cause of death was very strange, they had all turned into living corpses.”
Chen Xing paused again, then looked up and stared at Xiang Shu in disbelief.
“Oh?” Fu Jian was baffled as he asked, “Living corpses?”
Xiang Shu answered, “The Hans call them ‘drought fiends’. Legend has it that once drought fiends appear on earth, severe droughts will last for years.”
This was what Xiang Shu heard from the conversations Chen Xing had with Feng Qianjun on their way to Chang’an. Chen Xing continued eating his dinner, but a multitude of thoughts were running through his mind. Every incident started to get strung together—— Xiang Shu’s words finally answered the doubts he had along the way!
“Oh……” Fu Jian seemed skeptical and apparently still did not understand what Xiang Shu was trying to say.
Without waiting for Fu Jian’s response, Xiang Shu continued, “The murderer fled south at that time. When I chased him to the south, I somehow fell victim to his sorcery and lost all the strength in my body. A Jin army just so happened to find me then and trapped me in the pass, then took me to Xiangyang to be imprisoned. After that, due to a strange combination of circumstances, I was able to escape from prison when the city fell.”
Chen Xing, “……”
Xiang Shu’s tracks gradually became clear in Chen Xing’s mind; that mysterious black robed man’s accomplice had already appeared as early as a year ago?! What were the forces behind the black robed man secretly plotting? Thousands of people from the tribe had all been turned into living corpses, and Xiang Shu set out south in order to pursue the matter. In the end, he was taken prisoner in the South and escorted to Xiangyang……no wonder he would head out to Mt. Longzhong alone when he passed through to investigate the turning of corpses!
But Xiang Shu must have concealed some things……or in other words, he didn’t think it necessary to reveal anything more to Fu Jian. Chen Xing began planning. He had to discuss this in detail with Xiang Shu later.
“Half a year ago, due to a strange combination of circumstances, I managed to escape from prison, and when I passed by Mt. Longzhong on my way to the north, I found new……”
“Fortunately, you made it out,” Fu Jian smiled, “Otherwise I really wouldn’t know how to account for it to the Ancient Chi Le Covenant.”
“My imprisonment is secondary,” Xiang Shu continued, “I really can’t figure out the oddity in this……”
“Never mind,” Fu Jian waved his hand to indicate that there was no need for him to continue, “Let’s not talk about this first today. We can continue this small topic another day, it’s good as long as you’re back.”
Xiang Shu narrowed his eyes slightly, but didn’t answer.
Chen Xing could keenly detect the sudden emergence of Xiang Shu’s anger. After getting interrupted twice by Fu Jian, Xiang Shu didn’t continue any further. Both sides suddenly fell silent for a moment, as if they were both thinking about something else respectively, then Fu Jian smiled again. “Stay in Chang’an during this period, don’t leave ba.”
Xiang Shu did not answer. Fu Jian continued, “When summer comes, I’ll set up an office for you after I offer a sacrifice to the Heavens. Brother still has many things to slowly discuss with you.”
Xiang Shu was still thinking, his gaze seeming quite complex. Chen Xing finished his meal and observed Xiang Shu, while Xiang Shu caught a glimpse of him from the corner of his eye and instantly called out in a loud voice, “Servants!”
People came in from outside the palace, and Xiang Shu motioned, “Take him away to rest.” Then he said to Fu Jian, “Talk here if you have something to say.”
Chen Xing smoothed out his clothes and hesitated, “Then, I……” He saw the palace maids make a “please” gesture, so he left Dengming palace. A group of eunuchs were bowing as they waited for him; seeing as how he was someone by the Great Chanyu’s side, they dared not slight him and quickly led him to the sleeping chambers to rest.
But after they had taken just three steps, a loud noise blared from the palace behind. Chen Xing got a huge shock and was about to look back when a group of eunuchs rushed forward and peered through the cracks of the door. Once in awhile, they would hear Fu Jian’s angry rebukes. Chen Xing wanted to peep as well, yet the eunuchs quickly waved their hands to indicate that nothing was wrong and sent him to the sleeping chambers for his rest.
This was the most comfortable place Chen Xing would sleep in ever since he left Qinling mountains. Below Fu Jian’s palace were heating tunnels; the whole room was warm, incense fumigated the bed, and the palace was bright inside. A screen was set up in the center of the room, and smoke curled upward from the incense burner. Washing utensils, hot cloth towels, and every other necessity had been prepared. A screen with a beautiful woman painted on it served as a partition between the interior and exterior; the exterior was for entertaining guests, while the interior had one large and one small bed — one for the master, while another for a guest. After the eunuchs withdrew, Chen Xing walked one around and saw that there were beds both inside and outside the screen and wondered if Xiang Shu would return to this room later as well. Then he lay down to sleep on the large bed with his clothes on.
Great Chanyu……while Chen Xing tossed and turned about, he was thinking. Xiang Shu had revealed too much information to Chen Xing in front of Fu Jian. From the looks of it, Xiang Shu and Fu Jian seemed very close; in that case, the hopes of him recruiting a Protector seemed to become even dimmer and dimmer.
Chen Xing waited for a long while and didn’t see Xiang Shu come in, so he simply fell asleep. He didn’t know how long he had slept and was in a muddle-headed state when he heard a noise coming over from the palace door — someone had entered.
“Get up.” Xiang Shu’s voice rang out.
So Chen Xing had to sit up drowsily.
Yet Xiang Shu continued standing and looked down at him, then stretched his hand out a little.
Chen Xing was all muddled from sleeping and didn’t understand what Xiang Shu wanted. A hug? So he shifted closer, hugged Xiang Shu’s waist and leaned on him.
Xiang Shu was stunned, as if he had just seen a fool. He lifted Chen Xing and pushed him aside, then said angrily, “Are you crazy?”
Chen Xing woke up in an instant.
“What are you doing?!” Chen Xing said angrily, “You’re bullying me again!”
The eunuchs outside heard the noise they made and hastily came in, saying “Great Chanyu, Great Chanyu, let me serve you ba.” Yet Xiang Shu raised his hand impatiently, motioning for all of them to leave. Only then did Chen Xing realise — Xiang Shu wanted him to serve him by changing his clothes.
Chen Xing, “Why should I serve you?”
The expression on Xiang Shu’s face was extremely unsightly, but Chen Xing suddenly realised that there was a purplish patch on Xiang Shu’s cheekbone. It was evidently a new wound, so he asked in astonishment, “You picked a fight with Fu Jian?”
Xiang Shu looked impatient and sat down on the edge of the bed, but Chen Xing just continued sitting in a daze, so Xiang Shu had to change by himself. He untied his belt, revealing the snow white underclothes within. Chen Xing thought, and I’m even the one who bought this set of clothes for you. He saw that Xiang Shu was obviously in a bad mood, so he went forward to hang up Xiang Shu’s outer garment and fetched some hot water for him to wash his face with. He threw the cloth into the bronze basin, and water splashed all over Xiang Shu’s lapel.
Xiang Shu, “……”
Chen Xing, “I don’t know how to serve people and have never served anyone before either. Don’t treat me as your servant. If you want to chase me away, I’ll leave right now. Even though you’re the Great Chanyu, I’m not afraid of you.”
Xiang Shu took a deep breath and just wanted to roll his sleeves up to hit him. But as the Great Chanyu, beating up a young man who lacked the strength to even truss a chicken would be too disgraceful, so he could only let it go. He casually pointed at the other bed to mean, ‘get your ass over there to sleep’.
Chen Xing climbed onto the other bed. Xiang Shu said calmly, “During this period, you’re allowed to live in the palace on the condition that you’ll get to the bottom of one matter……”
Chen Xing faced the wall, covered himself with the blanket, and lay motionless on his side.
Xiang Shu glanced at Chen Xing’s back and continued, “The matter being where the drought fiend chaos started from, and who the masterminds behind it are. Hear that?”
“I’m listening!” Chen Xing said impatiently.
The more Chen Xing thought about it, the more annoyed he became. Xiang Shu obviously didn’t think much of him. Yet after thinking about it carefully, he realised that it should be so. The two of them were not related to each other in any way, so he had no right to boss Xiang Shu around. Thus, he could only swallow his anger and say, “Okay, I got it, I’ll investigate it. But if necessary, you’ll have to provide me with assistance.”
Yet Xiang Shu refused, “I don’t have that kind of time to spare.”
Chen Xing, “You……”
Chen Xing couldn’t help turning over and had wanted to make a few sarcastic remarks like, ‘even though you’re so amazing, weren’t you still locked up in a big prison under Xiangyang? If Laozi hadn’t saved you, you would probably be dead by now……’ but after seeing Xiang Shu’s handsome side profile that was extremely good-looking as he lay down under the night lights, his anger completely dissipated, and the complaints he harboured couldn’t leave his mouth. He thought, never mind, never mind. At the very least, he’s someone I saved, so if I want to blame anyone, I can only blame myself for my bad luck.
“I don’t need you to follow me.” Chen Xing said, “I need to check Chang’an’s official books and records of the previous dynasty, so I’ll still have to investigate in the city. You just have to make it convenient for me.”
Xiang Shu didn’t answer. Chen Xing knew he had heard, so he turned back and slept.
It was the smoothest and warmest sleep he had had in the past several days. Winter left, and spring came. He slept until the sun had risen three poles high. Two or three peach blossoms had bloomed in the palace courtyard, and Chen Xing was awakened by the murmuring of voices outside. For a moment, he thought that he had been stealthily sold into a market beyond the Great Wall while he was sleeping; in the palace beyond the screen, it was so noisy that he woke up with a start.
Xiang Shu had already changed, washed up, and eaten his breakfast. He had changed into a dark blue brocade gown; the gown was embroidered an eagle, wolf, snake, fox, crane, bear, and so on, with golden thread — they were the sixteen totems of the Hus in the Ancient Chi Le Covenant. His hair was tied in niumang braids, three gemstone rings shone on his left hand, a dark gold belt with a soaring dragon on it was tied around his waist, and black deerskin boots covered his feet. Both his eyes were bright and pitch black, looking just like stars, while he wore a grave and stern expression on his face. With an indolent look, he was just like a wild animal that had entrenched itself on the couch in the middle of the hall with one foot on a short wooden table as he faced the Hu people who had packed the hall to the brim.
Nevertheless, his appearance really couldn’t be considered boorish, especially after his handsome face was all tidied up. He had a fair complexion and vermillion, rosy lips, seeming just like a brocade had wrapped around a white jade statue without the slightest hint of a martial man’s barbarism at all.
Chen Xing walked out from behind the screen dressed in a snow white unlined garment. The clamour in the hall died down at once, and everyone’s gazes whooshed over and landed on the body of this thin, Han young man.
The two of them looked at each other for a brief moment, then Chen Xing immediately went back behind the screen to change and wash up. He heard the voices that travelled over from beyond the screen and could roughly guess that this group of people had come forward to lament to Xiang Shu. Each of them belonged to different tribes beyond the Great Wall. Aside from the Five Barbarians who had already entered the pass, there were still other tribes who were rather powerful, such as Tiele, Rouran, Shiwei, as well as many other remote families of the Xiongnu people who weren’t under the jurisdiction of the government. These barbarians who were even more boorish than the Five Barbarians within the pass were called “Hybridized Hus” by all the Hans.
Amongst them, someone was speaking in a Xianbei dialect, and Chen Xing had learned the Xianbei dialect before. He could understand that these dozens of Hu People were complaining about the policy of respecting the Hans and rejecting the Hus, and they all hoped that Xiang Shu would stand forward with his status as the Great Chanyu and support the Hus who had emigrated to within the pass. Even words like “overthrow Fu Jian”, “revere Xing Shu as the Emperor of the North” and “re-establish the country” had come out.
Xiang Shu listened quietly and didn’t reply. Chen Xing thought, this bunch of Hus really aren’t afraid of death, they dared to openly offer proposals on how to get rid of the emperor right under Fu Jian’s nose. When he went around the screen again, he saw that his breakfast was already set out on a small table in the hall and was placed in a copper plate as if it were dog food. Chen Xing just minded his own business as he ate.
Chen Xing noticed that Xiang Shu had already finished drinking his cup of milk tea, yet he was still turning it over and over in his hands and fiddled with the silver cup studded with gemstones.
“I want to go to Gongcao.” Chen Xing suddenly said, yet his voice was drowned out in this noisy environment. Xiang Shu ignored him as well, but Chen Xing knew that he must have heard him. He stared at Xiang Shu, but all he saw was Xiang Shu’s dazed look as he gently flicked the cup with his finger.
“Xiang Shu!” Chen Xing had called out a few times and finally couldn’t tolerate it anymore. He roared angrily, “Shulü Kong!”
Xiang Shu finally spoke and shouted impatiently, “Who do you think you’re talking to?!”
Xiang Shu’s voice was like a clap of thunder, and the group of people in the hall were all stunned at once. A bunch of old and young Hu people saw that Chen Xing actually dared to be this rude, so how could they let this be? They all instantly drew their knives and daggers and excoriated him. As they closed in, they brandished their weapons, which flashed as they placed them against Chen Xing’s neck.
Chen Xing, “……”
Xiang Shu looked at Chen Xing like he was challenging him and raised an eyebrow slightly. He thought that Chen Xing would immediately cower in fear and beg for mercy, but he didn’t expect for Chen Xing to not be the least bit afraid.
“Where did this Han come from?!”
“Kill him, kill him!” Someone immediately placed a dagger against Chen Xing’s neck, gesturing as he turned his head around to look at Xiang Shu, “Is it okay to kill him?”
“It’s not okay!” Chen Xing was like a chicken waiting to be slaughtered as he said angrily to that man, “I’m busy!”
He had never been afraid of death. After all, most things didn’t matter much to someone who knew he only had a few more years left to live.
“I want to go to Gongcao to look up the list of old residences when Chang’an was being repaired.” Chen Xing said patiently.
“Do you know who you’re talking to?” Xiang Shu said coldly.
Chen Xing, “You’re their Great Chanyu, not mine. We agreed on this last night. If you want my help, you’ll have to provide me assistance.”
Xiang Shu studied Chen Xing with a dangerous glint in his eyes for a moment, then finally made a gesture and dismissed the group of Hus who were surrounding Chen Xing with their weapons drawn. He said calmly, “Guards.”
An imperial guard immediately entered. Chen Xing then smoothed his robes with a grumpy expression, got up, and left with the guard.
Zryuu: Update frequency will pick up now that I’m done with the translations for SD Didn’t split this chapter because of the cute CX thinking that XS was asking for a hugggggg