Translated by Shiny
15. A Kindhearted Master
The sun set and the colour of the sky slowly became darker.
The training ground where the soldiers ran their drills gradually emptied of people.
Only one dark figure remained, moving up and down in the corner as he tirelessly practiced with a steel spear, seeming to have no intention to rest.
Yu Dunsu and several other soldiers passed by the training grounds with their dinner, and he called out to that figure, “Qiao Sheng, aren’t you going to take a rest?”
Mo Qiao Sheng stopped the momentum of the steel spear and knelt down to salute before responding, “This humble man has seen the General. Responding to General, this humble man still wishes to practice a little longer.”
His forehead was covered with sweat, dripping like rain. However, his eyes were sparkling and he was full of vitality and exuberance, not exhibiting any form of weariness.
Yu Dunsu took two steamed buns made out of wheat flour from his bowl and put them into Mo Qiao Sheng’s hands. “Diligence is a good thing, but you also mustn’t wear yourself out. First, eat something and pad your stomach.”
Mo Qiao Sheng held the food in both hands and bowed his head to express his gratitude.
Once they were at a distance, a petty officer at Yu Dunsu’s side said, “That Mo Qiao Sheng is really insane. He comes to the training field before dawn every day and trains himself until the moon is high in the sky.”
Another man responded, “He’s merely a slave. So what if he works so hard, does he think he can become a general?”
“This slave does not know the profoundness of the world. When he saw General Yu just now, he had the cheek to not bow properly and knelt down to get done with it.”
“Don’t you know? He’s received special permission from the Lord. My Lord dotes on him so much, he’s even been exempted from prostrating himself before the Lord.”
Yu Dunsu cut in, “Although his status is humble, he really is extraordinarily talented. He’s wise and brave on the battlefield, and has made great achievements in battle. You can’t be so scornful towards him.”
They all curled their lips in contempt, no longer speaking.
Yu Dunsu turned back and looked at that silhouette who was practicing diligently under the setting sun and thought inwardly, Such a tenacious man is the paragon within our army. It’s a pity he’s only a slave. Even if I say anything, I’m afraid you won’t listen to me.
The sky gradually darkened.
Mo Qiao Sheng took his dinner and returned to his room.
He now had his own room in the outer courtyard of the City Lord’s Mansion.
Although small, the room was clean and tidy. There was a cozy bed with warm bedding inside.
There was a wardrobe in the corner of the room with comfy and durable clothing hung inside. There was even a box with a lock on it where he could store some private things.
A simple set up of chairs and a table were arranged by the window. There was a set of military strategy books which had been bestowed to him by the Lord placed on the table which he had already pored over.
Everything filled Mo Qiao Sheng with happiness and satisfaction. His sole regret was that this place was too far away from the inner courtyard where his Master lived and he couldn’t see his Master’s kindly face all the time.
The previous day’s dinner and the present day’s breakfast had been left untouched by him, just sitting on the table.
He put them along with his newly acquired dinner and the steamed buns given to him by Yu Dunsu into a cloth bag before putting all his wound medicine and bandages into the bag.
Mo Qiao Sheng stroked his stomach which was rumbling with hunger and hesitated before breaking off a small piece of the steamed bread and putting it into his mouth.
Really useless. I used to be able to survive without food or drink for three or four days. Now it’s only been one night and day and I’m already panicking from hunger.
It doesn’t matter. I can just take these to A’Feng and eat tomorrow morning.
Taking advantage of the dim night, he headed towards Weibei Marquis’ temporary posthouse.
When Weibei Marquis had entered the city the previous day, Mo Qiao Sheng had caught sight of A’Feng’s figure in his entourage.
A’Feng had been injured very seriously on the battlefield and he didn’t appear to be in good condition.
Cheng Qianye had settled Hua Yuzhi and his entourage in a magnificent mansion in the city.
Mo Qiao Sheng tapped on the door with a small ingot of silver which had been bestowed to him by the lord.
The gatekeeper recognized him and received the small benefit from him so he casually called a slave to lead Mo Qiao Sheng to the rooms in the outer courtyard.
It was a small compartment with only a decaying plank bed with a tattered felt blanket on top of it. The floor had a large brown bloodstain on it and the room was devoid of any people.
Mo Qiao Sheng looked at the room and recalled those days when he had struggled through the mire. It had obviously only been a month but it already felt like a long time ago.
There are countless slaves in this world. I am so fortunate that the Heavens showed mercy on me and allowed me to meet My Lord.
He sighed quietly and placed the food and medicine on the bed, planning to leave.
“What are you doing?”
There was an icy voice from outside the door.
A’Feng’s clothes were split open and he was leaning against the door with his hand resting against the frame.
The cold moonlight illuminated his bloodless face, making him appear especially pale.
He entered the room and pushed Mo Qiao Sheng away to look at the things on top of the bed before saying frostily, “Since you have found yourself such a good master, what are you doing coming back to this sort of place?”
A’Feng’s character had always been like this and Mo Qiao Sheng wasn’t bothered by his biting sarcasm. He pressed his shoulder to make him sit on the bed before opening the bottle of medicine to help him with it.
Over the past several years, every time they escaped mortal danger after fighting on the battlefield with a comrade who was struggling for their life, they would support each other in these ways.
Although living was painful, everyone still hoped to live for a little longer.
Mo Qiao Sheng remembered that the first time that he had fought on the battlefield, he had been carried back on the shoulders of A’Feng who was already an old hand by that time. In those days, they had no medicine and A’Feng had torn off a strip of his clothing and managed to bind the huge bleeding wound on his abdomen.
The first time that A’Yun had been seriously injured, he had been carried back by himself.
Now, A’Yun was already dead.
Many other familiar faces had also disappeared.
The life of a slave was as worthless as an ant’s. But each of them was obviously a living creature, and they all had a tenacious thirst for life.
A’Feng took off his outer robe and sat with his back to Mo Qiao Sheng.
“Qiao Sheng, although you met a good master, you must never forget that we are slaves. His voice sounded cold.
“A slave is just a plaything and property of their master. If he treats you a little better, you are merely a toy that’s a bit more valuable, nothing more.” His face wasn’t visible and A’Feng’s voice seemed to become a lot more gentle. “As long as someone can afford the price, the master can abandon you and sell you at any time. I once……”
A’Feng closed his mouth and didn’t continue speaking.
He used to have more than his given name. He had also had a surname which had been bestowed to him by his Master.
He closed his eyes and his ears seemed to hear that Master calling out to him. “Chu Feng, Chu Feng, come to me.”
A long, long time ago, his master had been a young master from a noble family, gentle and refined. He had been very kind to the little Feng who had been bought from the marketplace recently. He had given him popular snacks and sweets, and clean clothes, and he would take him along wherever he went and no matter what he did.
“You are just like a little brother to me. You will take on my name and be called Chu Feng from now on.”
I wish to dedicate my entire life to you. Little Feng had once pledged, believing this firmly without a doubt.
Until that gathering of nobles.
“You’ve got a pretty good slave here. Will you sell him to me for one gold ingot? Not enough? How about one more?” Several noble men dresses in gorgeous clothes and jade crowns were in front of his Master.
The dazzling gold ingots increased one by one. In the end, Master repeatedly nodded his head.
No matter how he wailed and prayed, it was to no avail.
Master carried the gold in his arms as he walked away.
And from that moment, both his body and his heart, from the inside to the outside, had been shattered into pieces.
A’Feng woke up from the dark memories and closed his eyes in pain. “Anyway, you must never believe in your master. Don’t easily give away your heart. Otherwise, things will become much more intolerable for you later on.”
Mo Qiao Sheng felt dejected for a moment.
He thought back to his first master, Wu Xueli. That master had taught him to read and write and had been very good to him. But because of one small blunder, he had quickly sold him off without even listening to his explanation.
Mo Qiao Sheng thought to himself:
But now, I am deeply favoured by My Lord. Regardless of what My Lord wants, as long as I am able, I would be more than delighted to offer it up with both of my hands. As for the possible aftermath, I don’t care.
A’Feng’s left shoulder had been struck by an arrow. The shaft of the arrow had been broken, but the arrowhead was still embedded into his flesh and hadn’t been taken out.
Mo Qiao Sheng took the strong liquor and poured it over his wound before taking out a dagger and saying, “Endure!”
The tip of the dagger dug into the wound and blood streamed out as the arrowhead fell to the floor with a ‘crash’.
A’Feng’s body went slackened as he fainted.
Mo Qiao Sheng caught his limp body and bandaged the wound before supporting him to lie down.
Looking at his unconscious form, he sighed quietly. However, he was no longer a slave here so it was inappropriate for him to say for too long.
He left the food and medicine and hurried back, taking the same path he had taken to arrive.
He had almost reached the side gates when he heard a voice that made his hair stand on its end.
“Let me see, who is this? Isn’t it Mo Qiao Sheng? What happened? Did Marquis Jin Yue treat you badly, so you wanted to see your old Lord?”
Hua Yuzhi thrust out his potbelly as he walked over with his group of attendants to talk to Mo Qiao Sheng.
Mo Qiao Sheng kowtowed in salute. “This slave ought to die. This slave is here to see an old friend and actually went so far as to alarm Old Marquis. Old Marquis, please forgive this one’s sin.”
“Hey! You and I can also be regarded as master and servant. There’s no need to be so formal.” Hua Yuzhi helped Mo Qiao Sheng to his feet and looked him up and down. “Really, after several days, one must look at you with new eyes. When you were still with me, you were not eye-catching at all. I wonder how Marquis Jin Yue has watered you to make you shine so brilliantly like this.”
Mo Qiao Sheng subtly took two steps back.
Hua Yuzhi stroked his beard and smiled as he said, “Do you want to come back to this old man’s side? This old man can consider returning that horse for your sake.”
Mo Qiao Sheng cupped his fists together and bowed in salute. “Old Marquis, forgive this one’s sin. There is still a matter that this slave’s master has entrusted this slave with and this slave does not dare to delay any longer. Please forgive this slave for leaving first.”
He left the gate as soon as he finished speaking, and he rushed out, his body swiftly disappearing into the darkness.
Hua Yuzhi looked at that figure that had disappeared beyond reach and pulled on a long face. “Hmph! Marquis Jin Yue is an arrogant despot, but granted that we am under his eaves right now, there have no choice but to yield. But now, even a lowly old slave has the audacity to be so rude to this old man!”
Cheng Qianye was walking on the bypath of the inner courtyard at the City Lord’s Mansion. Xiao Jin was walking at her side as they discussed the issue of where to settle the refugees to help them get through the winter.
There was a slight sound from the trees on the edge of fence.
The imperial guards immediately raised up their halberd and exclaimed, “Who is it?!”
A figure jumped down from the top of the wall and prostrated to beg for forgiveness.
It was Mo Qiao Sheng.
Cheng Qianye walked forward and stroked his head. “Qiao Sheng, what’s wrong? Coming to look for me so late at night in such a hurry.”
Mo Qiao Sheng raised his head and saw that smiling face which was the thing relieved him the most in that entire world.
He unwittingly spoke out his fears. “Master, don’t give me back to Weibei Marquis. I will work hard, I will be much more useful than that brown horse.”
Cheng Qianye didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. She helped Mo Qiao Sheng to his feet and waved her hand at Xiao Jin in farewell.
In full view of everyone, she took the hand of that “male pet” of hers and took advantage of the moonlight to take a leisurely stroll.
The voice of the Lord sounded faintly in the wind.
“So foolish and adorable. Let alone a horse, even if it’s a city, I won’t exchange it for you.”
“Ah, are you hungry? Don’t they have enough to feed you at the army barracks? Let’s go. I’ll take you to eat something delicious.”