Translated by Shiny
47. Tangible Hope
A’Feng opened his eyes and discovered that he was lying down in his own familiar bed in his own room. The injuries he had sustained on both of his hands, head and left shoulder had all been wrapped up tightly.
He managed to sit up with great difficulty, feeling a heavy weight pressing down on his leg.
A small body was leaning against the edge of his bed and had fallen asleep on top of his leg. The small face which had originally been fair and clear was now covered with snivel and tears which had been mixed with the black soot on her face, presenting a tragic sight.
She had also opened her mouth unknowingly causing her saliva to trickle down onto the quilt as she slept soundly.
A’Feng gazed down at Xiao Qiu’s round, cat-like face for a while and his heart was suddenly flooded with relief.
Fortunately, he hadn’t died. Who knew how much she would have cried otherwise?
He gently pulled his leg out and got up from the bed and felt a burst of dizziness caused by the excessive blood loss.
Bracing himself against the wall, he steadied himself before slowly walking towards the door.
Bi Yun who was carrying a basin and about to walk in through the door caught sight of him and hastily put the basin down before walking over to help him.
“Where are you going? You are seriously injured, you can’t walk around, My Lord told me to take good care of you.”
“Thank you for your trouble, there’s no need for you to bother.” A’Feng broke away from Bi Yun’s supporting hands, his face pallid as he stubbornly walked out.
Bi Yun was unable to call him back, so she sighed and went back into the room.
Such a cold person, why does Xiao Qiu like to stick to him so much?
Bi Yun wrung a towel and wiped the dirty face of her younger sister whose upper half was draped across the side of the bed.
This child had been busy running around at the frontlines everyday during this war that had lasted for longer than a month. Her little body was utterly exhausted, which was why she slept so soundly.
Now that the Lord was back, they would be able to repel the enemy quickly and everything would finally get better.
Bi Yun pulled her younger sister into her embrace, both sisters sitting together with their heads resting side by side at the edge of the bed as they sunk into the world of dreams with their minds at peace.
At the east of the city, a dozen slaves walked together full of high spirits.
They were headed by a man who had a malevolent scar stretching across his face, but what people found particularly striking was the bloodied heads he carried with him.
He threw over the string of heads that had been tied together with their hair in front of the clerk and said, “Count the heads!”
“Brother Sheng is so powerful.”
“Brother Sheng is amazing.”
“It’s pretty good if you can have just one, only my Brother Sheng has more than ten, haha.”
Brother Sheng used a dagger to lift up a head on the ground and flung it at Liu Hou’er who had been injured but wound up empty-handed.
“Take it! Within our group of brothers, you are the only one who doesn’t have one. Elder Brother will help you this time, but don’t think that there will be such a good thing next time.”
Liu Hou’er caught the filthy bloodstained head, not feeling as though it was dirty at all as he wiped his tears and said, “Thank you Brother Sheng, thank you.”
The clerk counted the heads carefully and took out a pen and paper before asking, “Full name, place of birth, age?”
Brother Sheng replied, “Name, Sheng, I don’t have a surname, I don’t know where I was born, I don’t know my age.”
The clerk was quite accustomed to this situation and lifted up his head to explain seriously, “Now that you are free from slavery, you must have a full name so that you can enter the official census register.”
“It seems like my mother was surnamed ‘Yang’, so I will also go with ‘Yang’. Yang Sheng.” Brother Sheng gave himself a full name.
The clerk flipped over a thick book and made a record carefully before taking out a slip of wood and writing down Yang Sheng’s full name, age, physical characteristics and his assigned place of birth on it.
He passed it over to him and explained in detail, “This is a ‘Verification’. It is a symbol of your identity as a citizen of the State of Jin and you must put it away carefully. If you lose it, you will have to ask three neighbors to testify for you and go to the Manager of Households1 and go with him to get official documents from the Village Chief before going to the county’s Yamen, it’d be extremely troublesome.”
Yang Sheng took it from him and saw that the block of wood was polished smooth and covered with small letters which he was unfamiliar with.
And with this, I am no longer a slave.
He cautiously stroked the small piece of wood for a moment.
The brothers surrounding him were all filled with boundless excitement as they took it and passed it back and forth amongst each other.
“Soldier Yang, seized fifteen enemy heads in this battle and has been promoted to the rank of an Officer of the first degree, receiving a field and a residence.” The clerk took out a small, narrow slip of wicker and wrote a line of words on it before handing it to Yang Sheng.
“Your registered residence is located in Xiangfu county, Shijia township, which is ten li southeast of Bianzhou. Take your ‘Verification’ along with the ‘Document of Passage’ in your hand with you and go to the county and report to the deputy of the county magistrate. He will verify you according to the documents we send from here and ask the village chief to arrange a plot of uncultivated land and a homestead of 30 square feet for you. Furthermore, you can also receive two thousand copper coins as a subsidy for building a house. During the first year of opening up the land, the state will not levy taxes on you.”
Yang Sheng and his companions became more and more excited the longer they listened. Finally, they could not help erupting into a roar of cheers.
As for the words said by the clerk; “However, these matters can only be dealt with after the end of this battle.” They were all submerged by the cheers of the men and went almost unheard.
The sounds of cheers rose up one after another from the city square in the east of the city.
Even though there were numerous people who did not even manage to capture any enemy heads at all.
But the hearts of the people were inspired by this kind of visible and tangible hope, their morale rising like a tide.
A’Yuan sat in the corner holding his head in his hands which he could feel were still trembling. He carried the food which was handed out today with him, yet he could not eat a single bite of the soft and fragrant steamed buns made with wheat flour.
His stomach churned with a wave of acidic water, making him feel nauseous.
He had thought that he was strong. In the village, regardless of whether it was hunting or fighting, he was a skilled individual, and he would surely be able to adapt to the battlefield quickly.
Today, however, at the battlefield filled with tens of millions of people, he had discovered that what he had considered to be brave and resolute was as ridiculous as child’s play on a real battlefield.
The enemies from other races didn’t look at all like the evil spirits from the villagers’ tales.
On the contrary, they were also made of flesh and they would also spurt out crimson blood just like himself once they were cut with a blade.
He had seen a Quanrong man whose stomach had been split open right before his own eyes as he laid on the ground, rolling and wailing.
Nevertheless, he had to follow his own companions to charge forward and slash the body that was weeping and begging with shaky hands. Until the blood soaked his shoes, until the struggling body finally ceased to move.
Still, if he had not raised his own blade, it was very likely that the one to fall would have been himself or the companion beside him.
He had been left in an entirely muddled state, unable to distinguish north from south. Standing amidst the chaotic jumble of men and the clattering of horses coupled with the gleaming blades which seemed to blot the sky, he could only recall the words which their instructor had drilled into his mind during the past few days of training 一 “Follow closely behind your captain.”
The captain of their team of 10 was charged with keeping up with the flag of the Centurion leading a group of hundred whereas his responsibility was to follow the figure of his captain. Wherever their captain swung his sword, they followed in swinging theirs and wherever he ran over to, they followed closely at his heels.
The battle which had seemed as if it would never cease finally came to an end and he was unable to hold back and threw up three times.
A’Yuan still had no idea how he had managed to make his way out alive, let alone even mention getting an enemy’s head.
He pulled out a small amulet from beneath his collar, which his wife A’Juan had specially hung around his neck the day before his departure.
He really wished he could put down his weapon and armor and return home. Return home and find A’Juan before pulling her into his arms and burying his head in her soft bosom, ignoring anything and everything around them.
A group of men cheered not far away from him. The man with a scar on his face who was standing in their midst had cut off ten enemy heads during this first campaign.
A’Yuan remembered this man named Sheng who had fought against the enemy in an insane manner which had left a deep impression on him.
Yesterday, he had still been the lowliest of slaves, but today, he had not only broken away from slavery, he had even surpassed himself and become an Officer with 100 mu2 of farmland and a homestead of 30 square feet.
A’Yuan clenched his teeth and squeezed the amulet in his hand. “Wait for me A’Juan. Next time, next time I must cut off at least one head.”
Liu Hou’er nervously put down the head that Brother Sheng had given to him on top of the clerk’s desk.
“Name?” The clerk asked as per routine.
“I…. I don’t have a surname, I don’t even know who my mother is.” Liu Hou’er touched his head sheepishly. “Then, I will also follow after Brother Sheng’s surname, I’ll be called Yang Liu Hou.”
“Hahaha….” A burst of laughter filled the area.
The rigorous also laughed and said, “You shall be called Yang Lu Hou.”3
He casually gave Liu Hou’er a name. During this one day, he had lost count of how many of these slaves he had helped to name.
Liu Hou’er received his “Verification” with great gratitude and gazed at his given name elatedly.
“It’s all thanks to Brother Sheng, otherwise I don’t know when I would be able to receive this name. Liu Hou’er; Yang Lu Hou returned excitedly to Brother Sheng’s side and fawningly said, “After taking a look around here, there is no one who can match up to our Brother Sheng. In fact, it can already be considered good enough if one manages to be like me and defend their small life without getting soft at the knees.”
“There is someone over there.” Yang Sheng snorted and raised his chin. “Look over there.”
Everyone looked up and saw a young man dressed entirely in black as he slowly walked forward.
His eyes were cold and detached and he was covered in bloodstains. Even with his pitch-black clothing, the overpowering stench of blood could not be concealed, as if he was an Asura4 who had returned from hell.
He was riding a horse with another one following behind him. There was a small mountain of severed heads piled up on the backs of the horses. The hair of those heads with ghastly features were knotted together and thick streams of blood dripped down from the horses’ legs.
That man walked over to a clerk’s desk. The clerk who had spent the whole day counting was astonished and rose up, calling out for one of his companions to come and help him.
“My god, how many ranks is he going to advance?” Yang Lu Hou’s jaw dropped open and he spoke softly.
“The ranks within the first three grades are awarded according to the number of heads. If you want to rise to the fourth grade or higher, it’s useless to rely on enemy heads alone.” Yang Sheng whispered in reply.
Yang Lu Hou asked doubtfully, “Is that so? A title above the fourth rank, I don’t dare to even think about it.”
“You have to think about it. To reach the fourth rank, it relies on the results achieved by the captain of third rank.” Yang Sheng narrowed his eyes. He was unwilling to admit defeat. “You all follow me and work hard. Although we may be slaves, we’re no worse than other people. We will also have the opportunity to gain the title of Marquis or Prime Minister.”
“Look at that man dressed in red, he led a squadron of men and defended the city gates. His achievements this time are enough for him to be promoted directly to the fourth rank.”
A’Feng’s body was covered in bandages and wrapped up in a red robe as he slowly ambled over, one step at a time. As he walked forward, a number of admiring soldiers stepped forward, wanting to help support him. He lifted his hand lightly, refusing them politely.
He walked up to the clerk and rested his hand on top of Mo Qiao Sheng’s shoulder before gasping softly.
“Why did you come out when you’ve been injured so heavily? There’s no need to be so anxious.” Mo Qiao Sheng said rebukingly even though he could understand A’Feng’s state of mind perfectly.
“I… My name is Feng.” A’Feng spoke to the clerk.
“His name is Feng and his surname is Cheng, Cheng Feng.” A voice rang out.
A man declared as he walked down the stairs. He wore a gold crown on his head and his face was like jade with a smile in his eyes. He stood on the steps as he opened his mouth and said, “Give him our State’s national surname. From now on, his surname is Cheng.”
1. (里正 – lǐ zhèng) – Grass-roots official position, mainly in charge of managing household registrations and paying taxes.↩
2. Mu (unit of measurement) – 6.0702846336 mu = 1 acre.↩
3. (六猴 – Liu Hou) His original name, Liu = six and Hou = monkey. His new name is (陆厚 – Lu Hou) Lu = shore and Hou = thick/deep and profound/kind and magnanimous. As you can see it’s a different “Hou” character.↩
4. (修罗 – xiūluó) Asura – Malevolent spirit from Indian mythology known for their bloodlust and brutality.↩
TL Note: Hello… I’m still alive. So if you guys are on the discord channel, you may or may not know that my laptop broke and I had it sent for repairs. But then, before I could get it back, my sister got covid and my house was quarantined and early last month I got very ill with covid as well and I’m still not completely all better. So I’m really sorry for the long wait and thank you guys for still being around. ♥
PS: Don’t worry, the only issues I have now are just with coughing and my sense of smell which is also slowly recovering.