Translated by Shiny
46. A Worthy Life
A’Feng walked down the city wall, biting onto the bun in his hand. The skin made out of wheat flour was wrapped around a ground meat stuffing. Although it was cold, it was still very delicious.
This might be the last thing I eat.
A’Feng thought to himself.
He had experienced Wei Mingshan’s skill. He had formidable power and he was fierce, even General Yu had almost died in his hands. A’Feng was very clear that his current self was not his opponent.
Once, he had lived an immensely miserable life, but was still unable to bear to part with this narrow slip of a life. Regardless of what kind of humiliation he was confronted with, he could endure it for the sake of his survival.
Now, everything seemed to have changed. Whether it was eating his fill or dressing warmly, he was able to live a somewhat humane life. Yet, he had decided to face death.
Why was this?
A’Feng himself couldn’t figure it out.
He walked towards the city gate without stopping even for a moment.
Inside the city, there were innumerable ordinary commoners with planks on top of their heads to guard them from any of the stray arrows flying into the city as they bustled about helping with the transport of supplies and treating the wounded.
Most of them consisted of the elderly, women, and even children.
A corner of the barbican1 at the city gate had collapsed and the men crowded there, rushing to make repairs and trying to close up the gap before the enemy’s second wave of attacks.
What were they all doing this for? For the sake of a field? And that new policy?
Or for that one person?
For that first ray of light that person had brought with him, for the sake of that bit of expectation that he had produced.
A’Feng closed his eyes and a figure appeared within his mind. He tightly clenched onto his spear.
Someone called out to him.
A’Feng turned his head and saw Xiao Qiu leaning over the city wall, trying to show her dark face.
“You…. Make sure to come back.”
A’Feng gazed at her for a moment before turning back around.
Xiao Jin was organizing a suicide squadron inside the barbican. When he saw that he had come down, he held his shoulder and said, “Feng, come back alive.”
“A’Feng is here.”
“We must drive away those Rong dogs!”
“Drive away the Rong dogs!”
The members of the suicide squadron saw A’Feng turning over as he mounted his horse and their morale rose greatly.
After spending these days fighting shoulder to shoulder, the value of A’Feng’s combat force was obvious to all and his existence in their hearts had become second only to Yu Dunsu.
At this time, Yu Dunsu was suffering from a serious injury and they were all in a state of anxiety. A’Feng, who had taken the initiative to attack, gave them confidence and strength.
A’Feng grabbed the reins and led the troops out of the city gate.
The smoke from the smoke signals indicating the presence of the hostile forces billowed from the distance and a group of Quanrong’s light cavalry soldiers in a triangular formation pounced towards them. Their leader who had a tanned complexion and a towering body was the famous Quanrong general, Wei Mingshan.
A’Feng urged his horse forward, dauntlessly confronting the enemy head-on.
Wei Mingshan held a wolf teeth spear,2 the sharp tip of the weapon glinting with cold light as it rushed forward along with the momentum of the horse, heading straight towards A’Feng.
A’Feng knew that this person was extraordinarily strong as he could move the heavy weapon so dexterously. He made a small opening for the spear, avoiding the sharp points. The two people’s bodies rubbed against each other as they passed by. A’Feng’s arms felt numb and his body quivered faintly, knowing in his heart that his arm strength was far below that of his opponent’s.
The two of them turned their horses around and exchanged three or four blows. A’Feng made a feint and turned his horse around, racing back towards the city wall as Wei Mingshan followed behind him in hot pursuit, refusing to let him go.
A’Feng twisted his torso and picked up his bow and arrows. With the sound of arrows whizzing past in rapid succession, seven sharp arrows flew one after the other, towards the vital points of Wei Mingshan’s body.
A’Feng’s archery skills were outstanding. After fighting for so many days, Wei Mingshan had been guarded, yet he had never expected that he could have turned around and shot seven arrows instantaneously while sitting astride a speeding horse. At this time, it was impossible to defend against this. He brandished his wolf teeth spear and managed to fend off five arrows, but one of them still sunk into his arm and another one of them sunk into his thigh.
Wei Mingshan was an extremely ferocious person, even with two arrows embedded into his body, he was undeterred, rather it only served to fan the flames of his bloodlust even further. He let out a great roar and snapped off the shaft of the arrow. The wolf teeth spear whistled through the air as he thrust it towards A’Feng.
A’Feng lifted up his spear to receive the attack. He felt a stabbing pain in the thenar webspace3 of his hands and both of them split open with streams of crimson blood flowing down his arms.
He gnashed his teeth and barely held on. The heavy weapon pressed lower and lower, plunging straight into his left shoulder.
He howled violently and shook off the wolf teeth spear. The studded edge of the spear hooked around a large chunk of his bloody shoulder and left it badly mangled.
The body dressed in a red robe and silver armour slumped on top of the horse with his right hand holding on to the spear and his left hand trembling faintly as it dangled down beside him. Beads of blood dripped down, landing into the dust.
Wei Mingshan laughed loudly, “Looking at how you’re dressed, I’m guessing that you don’t even hold a rank in the Jin Army, so why are you struggling so desperately? I cherish a man like you so I can’t bear to take your life. As long as you dismount and surrender, I guarantee that my Quanrong Army will give you the honour you deserve.”
A’Feng looked at Wei Mingshan with his red eyes and lifted up his spear with his bloody hand, declaring his answer silently.
At the top of the city wall, a pale-looking Yu Dunsu climbed to the top and looked down at his fellow comrade who was soaked in blood from head to toe outside of the city. He gnashed his teeth together and said, “Get me my armour!”
“Absolutely not.” Xiao Jin frowned, “You can’t fight anymore, who let you come up?”
“Then what should I do? Watch him die? Do you still only think of him as a slave even now?!” Yu Dunsu shouted, “Someone come! Get me my armour! Let me out of the city!”
At this moment, A’Feng was already unable to get a clear glimpse of the scenery before his eyes. He wiped off the seemingly endless stream of blood which was flowing down from the top of his head and blocking his line of vision. He couldn’t even lift up his hand to ward off the next blow.
“Must you insist on being so stubborn? Since you have decided to follow the path to your own doom, then don’t blame your grandpa4 for sending you off on your journey!”
A’Feng forced one eye open with great difficulty and looked at the enemy in front of him through a bloody haze. The enemy flashed to the side with a gleam of his spear as he drew closer and closer, and his voice seemed to become remote.
“I will not sell you, I give you my word.”
“The steamed buns made by my Big Sis are delicious, do you want to eat them?”
“Feng, come back alive.”
At the very least, I’m not a plaything that nobody will care about after I die. Master, your promise and your kindness to me, today, I will pay it all back.
Just as that ferocious, heavy wolf teeth spear fell down towards him, it was firmly lifted up by a strong spear that swooped in from the side.
Wei Mingshan had been just about to take the life of the man in front of him when a spear abruptly cut in from the side and intercepted his wolf teeth spear, shaking his spear away with a powerful force.
A young soldier dressed in black clothes and armour slipped past his side and gave him a chilly look. He stretched out his hand and lifted A’Feng up onto his horse and turned his horse to gallop away without any further dispute.
Wei Mingshan turned back and saw that a troop of Jin Army soldiers had suddenly appeared out of the blue. Their vanguard was like a sharp blade, cutting into the right flank of the Quanrong Army’s battle formation and throwing their attack formation into confusion.
Those Jin Army soldiers all had red eyes as they desperately rushed forward just like evil spirits that had crawled out of hell.
When they saw gory heads dripping with blood hanging beside the waists of those soldiers as they dashed towards them in a suicidal manner, even the Quanrong cavalry soldiers who were known for their bravery and battle skills inevitably couldn’t help giving birth to a feeling of nervousness.
A foot-soldier from the Jin Army who had a savage horizontal scar running down one side of his face slicing through his ear to his mouth rolled over to Wei Mingshan all of a sudden and cut his horse’s leg with a blade.
Wei Mingshan gave a loud shout and thrust his spear towards him. The man was extremely nimble and rolled around all over the place, evading Wei Mingshan’s assault from above, heroically unafraid of death as he continued to cut the horse’s leg whenever he received a gap.
The warhorse gave a loud neigh and bucked up, throwing Wei Mingshan off of the horse. Wei Mingshan was furious. He took out his broadsword and slashed a path towards the foot-soldier.
The man lifted up his sword and received his blows, taking several steps backward to lessen the impact from his strikes.
Kneeling down on one knee, he laughed daringly and wiped the bloodstains on his face as he showed an excited expression and said, “Hehe, you’re so powerful and you’re a general, your head must be really valuable.”
Mo Qiao Sheng charged all the way back to their own side and carried A’Feng off from his horse before bending down to place him on ground and shooting a glance at Cheng Qianye who was beneath the flag of the commander-in-chief. He turned back silently and rushed into the enemy ranks once more.
Cheng Qianye dismounted from her horse and helped A’Feng get up as she turned towards her adjutant and yelled, “Military Doctor!”
“Master, you…. Came in person.” A’Feng lifted up his bloody hand and was caught by Cheng Qianye.
“Feng, hold on, the doctor will be here soon.”
A’Feng had gone all out to obstruct the enemy general and block him from entering the city, moving the hearts of everyone who had witnessed this scene from the distance.
Initially, Cheng Qianye hadn’t really liked this slave. In the beginning, he had been riddled with wounds and scars, presenting an appalling scene of devastation. Cheng Qianye had felt a little pity for him and after taking Mo Qiao Sheng’s feeling into account, she had reluctantly taken him in.
Besides having a doctor diagnose and treat him out of a sense of humanity, she hadn’t done anything for him and had paid practically no attention to his existence.
Unknowingly, the colour of this man which had originally been murky had changed day by day, turning into a bright and charming deep red, like a fine wine which had undergone fermentation. The enchanting lustre which had experienced wind and frost5 before becoming the vivid colour of today had a brilling golden edge surrounding it.
Am I worthy of your loyalty and devotion? What exactly have I done for you?
The military doctor rushed over and wrapped up A’Feng’s wound which was dripping with blood on the spot.
A’Feng opened his eyes slightly, his gaze lingering on Cheng Qianye.
“I…. being able to meet a Master like you, allowed me to see the hope in this world. This filthy life of mine, I can finally regard it as being worth it.”
“You hold on.” Cheng Qianye squeezed his hand. “As long as you can hold on this time, you will no longer be a slave. Just like everyone else, you can be your own person, a person equal to everyone else.”
“Master…. I, I only have one name, no surname.” He said weakly, just like the last words of a dying person speaking out his final wish, “I am going to be my own person, can you grant me a surname?”
Cheng Qianye tilted her face, holding back the tears threatening to escape from her eyes. “You hold on and survive first, I will grant you a surname.”
“Feng.” She tightened her grip on his icy hand, hoping she could give him a little strength. “Not only will you see this bit, you will see even more. I swear, one day, I will make this perverted system disappear from this land.”
“There will be no more slaves in this world. There will be no more children who will suffer the pain that you have suffered.”
“I want you to see all this with your own eyes. You come with me and we will strive together to achieve all of this, all right? Can you promise me?”
A’Feng closed his eyes, tears escaping from the corner of his eyes as he nodded faintly.
The Quanrong Army’s formation was disrupted by the vanguard of the Jin Army’s reinforcements.
With no other choice but to call a retreat, they withdrew ten kilometers. Quanrong’s General Wei Mingshan had been injured by two arrows and had to flee back to his camp.
The gates of Bianzhou opened wide and the Lord personally led his troops to help, greatly boosting the morale of the city with cheers of joy as the gloomy feeling from being besieged by a strong enemy for more than a month was swept away.
The people in the city were filled with excitement and the army and the civilians were united as they all cleaned the battlefield and strengthened the city’s defense.
At the marketplace at the east of the city, several army clerks set up tables to collect the numerous heads turned in by the soldiers.
The group of men on the east side were responsible for recording the military merits while the group of men on the west side were responsible for writing down names on pieces of poplar which had been cut into planks and distributing them to the slaves who had been freed from slavery.
This object was known as “verification”, and it was used to carry out the new policy in Bianzhou. All the Jin nationals in Bianzhou were given “verification” planks of different materials in order to prove their identity.
Every single slave who had acquired an enemy head in this battle excitedly carried the bloody heads as they all stood in line to receive the “verification” symbolizing their identity as common people.
1. Fortified outpost or fortified gateway, such as at an outer defense perimeter of a city or castle.↩
2. (枣阳槊 – zaoyang shuo) – long and heavy weapon which is basically a combination of a spear and a mace. Smth like picture below.↩
3. The area between the thumb and forefinger↩
4. Grandparents and the elderly rank high due to their seniority and are therefore higher in status and receive more respect. In this case, WMS is basically lauding his superiority over A’Feng. Not anything to do with their status here, but he is currently in a superior position due to his strength basically.↩
5. Hardships of life↩
TL Note: Ya’ll can cry now.
Zaoyang Shuo/Wolf Tooth Spear