Translated by Shiny
45. Setting off to Bianzhou
Cheng Qianye convened a small meeting centered on military affairs amongst Zhang Fu, Helan Zhen and herself.
The atmosphere in this meeting was solemn.
Cheng Qianye asked Helan Zhen, “How is it going? Is the new army ready for battle?”
Helan Zhen pounded the table with this fist. “It’s still no good. Could it be that we have to watch Lao1 Yu and the rest of them as they die?”
“Mo Zhang Peizhen’s speed is a lot faster than we expected. With his fifty thousand troops joining forces with Wei Mingshan’s army, I am afraid that Minister Xiao, General Yu and the rest won’t be able to hold on for long.” Zhang Fu did not have the composure of the past as he frowned sternly.
“Now, the new army has been established in a haste. Whether experience or morale, it is severely lacking. I am worried….”
Zhang Fu didn’t finish his sentence, but everyone knew what he meant.
The army which had been assembled at the last minute with slaves and new recruits had only been trained hastily for a short period of time and had to go and confront the skilled and well-known army of Quanrong. It was really hard to predict the outcome.
“That being the case.” Cheng Qianye finally came to a decision. “I will go with General Helan. Zhang Fu, you will stay behind in Jiangcheng and be responsible for the matter of the logistics of military supplies and provisions.”
Several of the generals who were attending the meeting as observers stood up and dissuaded her.
“My Lord, you can’t.”
“My Lord is an invaluable person and cannot sit under the eaves,2 how can you walk into such a dangerous situation!”
From this, it could be seen that they had no assurances regarding the outcome of this military campaign.
Helan Zhen cupped his fist and said, “My Lord, you are the hope of our Great Jin, you cannot put your life at such risk. You can rest assured My Lord. I, Helan Zhen, vow to spare no effort in this military campaign. If I cannot win, I will bring my head to see you.”
“It is precisely to reassure you that I must go with you.” Cheng Qianye got up and pressed down on his shoulder. “I have already made up my mind. If you have confidence in yourself, don’t stop me.”
Zhang Fu murmured irresolutely to himself for a moment before supporting Cheng Qianye’s strategic decision. “If My Lord personally joins the campaign, it will truly boost the morale of these new recruits who have never been on the battlefield. At least, if My Lord is with them, those slaves will know that they haven’t been sent off to their deaths. With the encouragement of the new policy, it may really be able to stimulate unexpected combat effectiveness. It’s just the country…”
“Zhang Gong,3 you’re the only person we can depend on regarding the country.” Cheng Qianye cupped her fist towards Zhang Fu. She was aware that the affairs from the rear were sometimes even more complicated than charging forwards and attacking the enemy from the front lines. If Zhang Fu were not there, she really had no one she could entrust with this matter.
“With the level of my prestige as a lord, it is useless even if I remain here. But on the contrary, if I were to go to the frontlines, my mother and the Yang clan would have no choice but to support us to the best of their ability.” Cheng Qianye looked at Zhang Fu. “My mother, Yang Ji, is an indecisive person with very soft ears.4 Brother Zhang, you must pay constant attention to her and make sure she firmly stands on our side.”
Zhang Fu did not say anything in response. He bowed in salute and shouldered this difficult and complicated burden.
Before the troops departed, Old Madame Yang grabbed Cheng Qianye’s hand tightly as she wept with bloodshot eyes.
“Mother, don’t be sad. Your Child will make great achievements this time. I am my Father’s blood and I have inherited my Father’s will. I will promote my Lord Father’s might and open up a golden age for our Great Jin.”
“B….but.” Old Madame Yang choked on her sobs.
Cheng Qianye patted her hand and whispered softly in her ear, “I haven’t asked Mother, where is Elder Brother’s coffin buried at? And how did you explain my sudden disappearance?”
Old Madame Yang wiped her tears and said, “Don’t worry. In order to maintain secrecy at that time, we had to hurriedly set up a tomb without any words or markers. Now, there is nobody besides myself who knows where it is. As for you, I couldn’t bear to say that you died and merely said that Qianye…. Qianye went missing within the chaos of war.”
“It is thanks to Mother’s carefulness and hard work that your Child can have the present situation. After I go to the frontlines of the battle this time, I can only depend on Mother to support the rear.” Cheng Qianye squatted down and took both of Old Madame Yang’s hands, squeezing tightly as she looked up at her. “I am unable to stop worrying about you. Zhang Fu, who is in charge of managing the grain is a person whom Father left to me. He has always supported me and been undividedly loyal to me. If Mother encounters any troublesome issues, you can go to him for advice.”
“All right, all right, I will bear this in mind. My Child, you can rest assured.”
Cheng Qianye relaxed a little and recalled another matter. “All children have an attachment towards their parents. A child so young cannot bear to be parted from his mother. Since Concubine Xu has already given birth to Lin’er, Mother must keep her alive. The child has already lost his biological father, you can’t let him lose his biological mother as well.”
Old Madame Yang nodded. “All right, I will listen to My Child.”
After comforting Old Madame Yang, Cheng Qianye went to Yao Tianxiang’s quarters. Yao Tianxiang was dressed in martial attire from head to toe as she directed her servants to pack her things.
“Tianxiang.” Cheng Qianye called out to her. “Do you really want to go with me?”
Yao Tianxiang turned around, her mien flowery as she smiled, “Of course, how can I not accompany my Husband to go into battle?”
“Do you want to leave me behind and be alone with your little lover?” She walked over and poked Cheng Qianye’s forehead. Leaning towards her ear, she whispered softly, “If you run into an issue and don’t have me beside you, how inconvenient would it be without even having someone to provide cover for you?”
“This battle is very dangerous and I cannot be certain of the outcome. I really do not wish for you to accompany me in going through dangers.”
“Qianyu. Like you said before, we are friends.” Yao Tianxiang placed her chin on Cheng Qianye’s shoulder. “Not only do you regard me as a friend, but I also regard you as my closest sister.”
If it hadn’t been for the sour tint surrounding Sima Tu, Cheng Qianye would have wanted to stretch out her arms and embrace Yao Tianxiang’s shoulders.
Sometimes, she showed kindness to others simply out of a natural liking towards their beautiful colours and did not think about what she could receive in return.
But more often than not, these people with pure hearts and distinctive personalities would inadvertently return her with a greater warmth, pleasantly surprising her.
The battle flags blotted out the clear sun and skies5 as the army set out.
Mo Qiao Sheng sat atop a horse as he rode behind Helan Zhen.
“Xiao Mo, you work so hard.” Helan Zhen spoke, “This new policy is your opportunity. You’re bound to be able to reveal your talent and soar to the sky. I have great expectations towards you.”
Mo Qiao Sheng answered, “I am grateful for General’s favour and care.”
“It’s not just me, My Lord also has high expectations of you.” Helan Zhen looked at Mo Qiao Sheng and said with a smile, “My Lord is truly perceptive and able to recognize talent. At that time, how did he discover that you were an unpolished jade with his first glance?”
Mo Qiao Sheng bowed his head.
“I know that there is a lot of idle gossip saying that My Lord spoils you.” Helan Zhen chatted with interest as he decreased the speed of his horse so that he was level with Mo Qiao Sheng. “But I know that it’s not true. My Lord is just fond of you as a talented person and he likes your combat abilities. After the battle this time, you will definitely be able to shut the mouths of those idle gossipmongers. Fight back for My Lord.”
Mo Qiao Sheng’s face was slightly red.
“Haha, those people are all idiots. Think about it, you come to training grounds before dawn everyday and you don’t return until late at night, with the spirit of a dragon and strength of a tiger,6 who can compare with you? It would obviously be impossible for you to serve My Lord in the evening.”
Army men were bold and forthright. Once they started chatting, they wouldn’t be able to leave out a dirty joke after every three sentences. Helan Zhen realized that Mo Qiao Sheng’s horse had run ahead of his and that he had been joking a bit too much, so he caught up hastily to make up for it.
“Xiao Mo, do you like women?”
Mo Qiao Sheng’s face turned even more red.
“Could it be…. You’re still inexperienced?” Helan Zhen laughed and punched him on the shoulder. “Never mind, after this war is over, I’ll take you out to end your vegetarian diet.7 The women in Tianxiang Pavilion in our Bianzhou are very beautiful.”
“Women….” Mo Qiao Sheng was silent.
He had always liked women and held some dim expectations of having a woman of his own. He liked the softness and tenderness of women and he’d had fantasies about their beautiful, silky bodies which were completely from that of men.
Mo Qiao Sheng remembered that kiss.
At that moment, he had forgotten everything, regardless of gender, identity, or status…. All of his misgivings had become scattered ashes and dispersed smoke8 within an instant.
That extreme feeling had subverted his entire universe.
He pursed his lips gently. In order to attain this, I can surrender everything.
He curled his fingers.
General Yu Dunsu who was guarding the city received a serious injury and was in a coma as he was carried into the city.
A’Feng was stationed at the top of the city wall and held a bow as he looked at the dense mass of enemy troops in the distance.
The enemy forces who had retreated just a moment ago were likely to reorganize and launch a new assault in the near future.
A brittle voice called out to him.
A’Feng turned his head to see that Xiao Qiu’s small face which was white and tender on ordinary days was streaked with the ash from the smoke signals, looking like a little cat.
She struggled with the basket of food in her little hands and took some out of it before holding it in front of her. “Hurry up, have something to eat.”
“What are you doing here?” A’Feng frowned, “It’s dangerous here, where’s your sister?”
“Big Sis is busy too, everyone has come to help out.” Xiao Qiu stuffed the food into his arms, adding more and more. “Big Sis said that My Lord is a good lord and that Bianzhou is a good place and cannot be lost. If we lose it, everyone’s fields will be gone.”
A’Feng gazed at the city wall which was missing a chunk. Countless civilians who had spontaneously stepped forward to help were rushing to do repairs.
In the distance, the enemy general; Wei Mingshan, who had caused a serious injury to General Yu had organized a team of cavalry and they were aggressively galloping towards the city gate.
“Yes, Bianzhou cannot be lost.”
A’Feng took a bite from the food in his hands and picked up his spear, heading down the city walls.
1. (老 – Lǎo) – Prefix used before the surname of a person or a numeral indicating the order of birth of the children in a family or to indicate affection or familiarity [He’s referring to Yu Dunsu here]↩
2. (坐不垂堂 – zuò bù chuí táng) – Idiom – can’t sit under the eaves [where tiles may fall from the roof. ie; keep out of danger]↩
3. (公 – Gong) – A respectful designation for an elder / A respectful salutation.↩
4. Someone who is easily persuaded.↩
5. (遮天蔽日 – zhē tiān bì rì) Idiom – Describes things that are huge, large in number, or grandiose.↩
6. (龙精虎猛 – lóng jīng hǔ měng) – Idiom meaning having vigorous energy and high fighting spirit.↩
7. Take him out to eat meat! As in… lose his v-card…↩
8. (灰飞烟灭 – huī fēi yān miè) Idiom – become nothing.↩