Translated by Shiny
Cheng Feng came out of the meeting hall and passed through the winding corridor before walking out to the flagstone pathway.
A small figure stood at the side of the road, hugging a beautiful cloth tiger as she looked at him with round eyes filled with worry.
The corners of Cheng Feng’s mouth raised slightly, and when he passed by her, he suddenly stretched out his hand and rubbed her little head.
“Oh my.” Xiao Qiu exclaimed as she held onto her head and watched the figure clad in scarlet walk away.
“Qiu, what are you looking at? Come help me.” Bi Yun shouted as she skillfully held a tea set in one hand whilst carrying a kettle with the other.
“I’m coming, I’m coming.” Xiao Qiu ran over quickly and took the heavy kettle from her elder sister before following behind her with some difficulty.
“Big Sis, our Lord is so amazing, and he’s such a gentle person.”
“You silly little girl, did you hear something?” Bi Yun smiled and glanced at her younger sister who was walking behind her.
“Feng gege had a really sad face when he went inside, but after a few words with My Lord, he was smiling when he came out.”
“You have such sharp eyes, General Feng is such a cold person, you can still tell whether he is sad or smiling.”
“Big Sis, what are you talking about? A’Feng gege is really gentle. Look, he bought this for me, a cloth tiger.”
“Oh my, what a lovely cloth tiger.”
Chu Yezhi, the envoy from the State of Song, got up early in the morning and took a bath and changed his clothes in the posthouse.
Today, he was going to receive an audience with the Lord of Jin, Marquis Jin Yue.
The nation of Jin was originally just a newly rising small country whose lord had just passed, with several princes fighting for the position of monarch. It had always been ignored by all of the other dukes and princes of the various states.
But who would have thought that the newly succeeded young lord of Jin, Marquis Jin Yue, would have managed to defend Bianzhou all by himself with an army composed of slaves, managing to repel the Quanrong Army who were known for their valour and ferocity.
Duke Song—the Lord of the State of Song, which neighboured Bianzhou—was unable to sit still.
Furthermore, he had also heard that Duke Wei Heng from his neighboring country had already taken the lead and married off his widowed younger sister to Marquis Jin Yue as his wife, quietly uniting both countries through marriage.
The State of Song had a small territory and weak strength. Being sandwiched between two such states who were connected through marriage, Duke Song became more and more uneasy.
Hence, he sent an envoy to Bianzhou. Firstly, to congratulate Marquis Jin Yue and draw closer to him; secondly, to explain the difficulties behind why the State of Song had been unable to lend a helping hand while watching Bianzhou as it was besieged; and third, he wanted to explore the real situation of the Nation of Jin.
There were many monarchs who had the same idea as him. As a result, there were many envoys from other states in Bianzhou recently.
It was said that Marquis Jin Yue was a refined scholar who upheld elegance.
Chu Yezhi really dressed up before going out.
He was dressed in bright clothing with a rich robe, and he wore a tall crown with tassels in his hair. The tassels on his crown swayed with each of his steps and he felt extremely satisfied with his elegance.
His only criticism was that the Jin Nation didn’t send a carriage to receive him, leaving him with no choice but to ride a horse.
Unexpectedly, after taking just a few steps away from the posthouse, two groups of ruffians rushed out of nowhere, tearing each other apart and creating a ruckus, causing him to become separated from his entourage.
Chu Yezhi was confused and disoriented. He held onto his tall crown with one hand whilst holding onto the reins with the other as he shouted loudly, “Don’t crowd around, don’t crowd around, make way, I am an envoy from the State of Song.”
Suddenly, someone pulled him off of his horse and a sack dropped down from the sky, covering his head as he was dragged away into a dark alley. Countless fists and feet punched him and kicked him ruthlessly, causing him to cry for his mommy and daddy in pain.
His attendants searched high and low before finally finding him in a dirty alley. Chu Yezhi had been stripped of his robe and robbed clean of his belongings. His hair was dishevelled and he was badly battered as he curled up in a corner and cried grievously.
The group of people returned to the posthouse in a sorry plight.
What infuriated them the most was that after hearing their complaint, the posthouse official was too perfunctory, saying that it was wartime now and there were numerous refugees in the city, the law and order was chaotic, and that they should pay attention to their safety on their own and so on…
Chu Yezhi had no choice but to swallow his anger and shrink back in the posthouse to recuperate.
A few days later, the bruises on Chu Yezhi’s face still hadn’t completely disappeared when he heard that Marquis Jin Yue had sent a troop of ten thousand soldiers to Qi County.
Chu Yezhi hastily led his attendants and mixed in with the crowd at the marketplace to watch the Jin Army as they marched to battle.
He saw the banners and flags that blotted out the sky and sun,1 and the men and horses whose beginning and end couldn’t be seen at a glance as they marched through the city mightily.
The soldiers of the Jin nation marched in unison and formed an orderly formation. Although there were numerous people, there was no sign of the slightest bit of disorder.
The systematic movements and imposing momentum of their strides made the spectators feel involuntarily fearful.
“The Jin Army is well-trained and agile in control. Indeed, these are sharp soldiers that cannot be underestimated, no wonder they were able to beat back the Quanrong Army by themselves.” Jiang Yun, an official from the State of Lu who lived in the posthouse with Chu Yezhi, said with a sigh.
Chu Yezhi asked in a low voice, “Marquis Jin Yue wants to open up a passage between Bianzhou and the capital of Jin, to this end, is he unhesitant to start a war with Han Quanlin of Hanzhong?”
“Chu Gong2 must be unaware, the monarch of the Nation of Jin is certainly young, but he has a very unpredictable temperament. He always acts according to his preferences and has no care for etiquette and the old customs.” Jiang Yun turned and murmured, “The soldiers going to battle this time, most of them are slaves. The general leading the troops, he was also born as a slave. There, that’s him.”
Chu Yezhi raised his head and looked into the distance. In the midst of the long row of soldiers, he saw a banner with the character “Mo” written on it flying high, and beneath it, there was a young general with a majestic and spirited appearance; he held a silver spear and wore shining armour as he urged his horse forward.
With one look, Chu Yezhi recognized him. Isn’t this that General who was dressed in black who stood behind A’Feng the other day?
The man rode past them and his eyes as cold as frost flicked a glance across Chu Yezhi’s body, making his hair stand on end.
Bah! It’s just a slave, what do I have to be afraid of? Chu Yezhi was annoyed by his groundless timidity.
Marquis Jin Yue was nothing more than a confused guy who had actually taken a lowly slave as his general. It was clear to see that there was nothing fearsome about this Nation of Jin.
At that moment, on the city wall of Bianzhou, Cheng Qianye was watching the file of troops winding forward like a coiled serpent.
The strong banners fluttered in the wind,
Among them, there was an especially bright and striking banner with a huge “Mo” character written on it.
This was the flag of the commander-in-chief of the army.
Under the banner, there was a man in black clothes and black armor, riding forward on his horse.
Cheng Qianye called out silently in her heart.
That dark figure suddenly turned his head and looked towards the city wall.
The eyes of the two people met each other from a long distance away.
Mo Qiao Sheng lingered reluctantly for a long time before finally gritting his teeth and turning around, gradually proceeding forward, without looking back.
“Since you’re so reluctant, why did you let him go?” Yao Tianxiang accompanied Cheng Qianye.
Cheng Qianye turned around and looked at Yao Tianxiang. With a sigh, she wrapped her arms around her waist and leaned her head against her shoulder.
“All right, all right, I’m really not used to seeing you like this.” Yao Tianxiang lifted up her hand and hesitated for a moment before finally patting Cheng Qianye on her shoulder.
“Tianxiang.” She heard the head buried on her shoulder whisper softly.
“I can’t bear to part with him, I want to tie him up and keep him by my side, press him down on the couch, reveal my identity to him, and be together with him everyday.”
Yao Tianxiang sighed inwardly. Turns out that Qianyu also has such a weak side. But it is because she has such a side that she isn’t a stern and aloof monarch who is far removed from the masses.This is why I like her so much, and this is why she can make so many people sincerely loyal towards her.
“It will be fine, it will be fine. When he comes back, we’ll do just that.” Yao Tianxiang patted Cheng Qianye’s shoulder. “I’ll feed him some medicine and make him powerless to resist. When the time comes, you can squeeze him and rub him, enjoy yourself to your heart’s content and relieve yourself from the pain of parting today.”
Cheng Qianye burst out laughing. She straightened up and tidied up her sleeves before releasing a sigh.
Placing her hand on top of Yao Tianxiang’s shoulder, she invited her to go down the city wall with her.
“Thank you Tianxiang. Thanks to you, I feel much better. Come on, let’s go have a feast and drink some wine and relax.”
In the evening, Marquis Jin Yue invited the special envoys of the various states to a banquet in the newly renovated temporary imperial residence.3
Chu Yezhi was also among those who were invited.
At the banquet, he looked around and saw that although the temporary imperial residence was dignified and imposing, there were no luxurious or delicate things there.
Most of the people attending the banquet were generals from the army. At the banquet, there were no enchanting girls dancing or displaying their talents, but a few brave warriors were invited to compete against each other.
Compared with the State of Song, this scene was too inferior.
Although the State of Song was weak in concerns to military power, due to the intersection of inland waters within their territory, their land was fertile and the livelihood of their people was abundant.
From the common folk to the monarch, they were accustomed to extravagance.
The temporary imperial residence of the Duke of Song had peerlessly gorgeous halls and even all of the utensils and instruments were exquisite. As for the banquets, the singers and maidservants were like fluttering immortals, with bells and drums and delicacies as precious as jade;4 a dazzling array of glittering jewels to delight the eye,5 culminating in an extraordinarily elegant banquet. How could you see such a rough and crude banquet like now?
Chu Yezhi couldn’t help feeling somewhat contemptuous.
He poured some wine and glanced at the seat of honour where Marquis Jin Yue—who was exceptionally young and attractive—was sitting up straight and speaking in a gentle and refined manner.
Then, he became bolder and stood up and cupped his fists in obeisance: “Marquis Ye6 is young and promising with excellent enlightenment in governing troops and actually managed to repel the Quanrong by one’s own strength, it really
He lifted up his cup of wine and laughed twice, “With Marquis Ye’s name and prestige spreading throughout the world, Biren7 wishes to offer some personal advice to Marquis Ye. You must adhere strictly to the rules of etiquette and morality; you mustn’t confuse between the noble and the lowly and mix up the superior from the inferior.”
Cheng Qianye sneered at him and snorted softly, “Chu Gong8 is an envoy from the State of Song, I do not know what brilliant ideas you have, please do be so kind as to enlighten me.”
Chu Yezhi had drunk too much wine and did not notice the coldness in Cheng Qianye’s eyes.
He pointed at Cheng Feng who was sitting at the table and said, “For instance, there are dignitaries and senior officials from various countries in the main hall today. Since Marquis Ye invited us to share our joy with one another, how can you allow such a lowly person to sit at the same table and share the same utensils as us? Aren’t you embarrassing us noble gentlemen?”9
When he had hardly finished speaking, there was a loud bang and Yu Dunsu—who was sitting right below Cheng Qianye to her right—threw down his cup forcefully and glowered at Chu Yezhi.
Chu Yezhi spoke hastily, “Great General must be unaware, when this person was young, he used to be a slave in my household, and he has also served others with his body.10 Now he has deceived everyone somehow and has mixed in within the banquet while hiding his identity, trying to drink on the same footing as us. It is really more than one can bear.”
He had originally thought that everyone would join together and spurn A’Feng and that Marquis Jin Yue might even lose his temper and arrest him, or maybe even return A’Feng to him and let him deal with him for the sake of his being an envoy from the Song state.
But who would have thought that when they reacted, he found that he was wrong, and what faced him was the furious glares of several generals from the Jin nation.
During the battle defending the city this month, everyone had gone through life and death together countless times. When they were tired, they squeezed together under the tower to sleep, and when they were hungry, they ate a bite of cold food together with arrows above their heads. They were fellow comrades who had bathed in blood together, and had a friendship transcending life and death.
They had long regarded Cheng Feng, who had dauntlessly charged into the battlefield and fought together on the frontlines as comrades-in-arms, as their younger brother.
Now, this envoy from some unknown country had insulted their brother in public, arousing their anger.
“Chu Yezhi?” Cheng Qianye put down the wine cup in her hand and said, “Did the Duke of Song send you here to our Jin country to deliver a proclamation of war to our nation?”
“No, no, no, Marquis Jin Yue has misunderstood. Jin and Song have always been good friends, how could My Lord send me here to proclaim war?” Chu Yezhi sobered up from his drunken stupor and spoke hastily.
Cheng Qianye slapped the table and said, “After coming to our country, you have been looking to incite discord and insulted my Minister of the Left in public. If this is not a provocation, then what is your meaning?”
“I must send a letter to the Duke of your Song country, although I have sent an army of ten thousand from our country to Qi County, I still have tens of thousands of troops here with nothing to do. If the Duke of Song wishes, how about we go and encircle Lankao county?”
“No, no, no, I did not have such intentions, I had no such intentions.”
Cheng Qianye gestured and said, “Send a letter written personally by me along with this person back to the State of Song. Let us take a look and see, what exactly is the lord of the Song state thinking?”
The imperial guards inside the palace hall responded in unison. Paying no heed to Chu Yezhi’s explanations, they pushed him out of the palace hall.
For a moment, the palace hall was filled with absolute silence.
Raising her cup in a toast, Cheng Qianye smiled and said, “Because of an ignorant villain, my fellow gentlemen’s interest has been spoiled. Come, I will apologize to everyone with three cups.”
All harbouring different thoughts, everyone raised their cups to drink.
Cheng Qianye beckoned to Cheng Feng. Cheng Feng got up and knelt in front of the imperial seat.
“Regardless of their social status, every single person who has rendered great service to my Great Jin are equals inside this palace hall.” Cheng Qianye turned a golden cup in front of the table. “I grant you this cup of wine.”
Cheng Feng took the cup and drained the wine in one gulp.
“Thank you My Lord. Cheng Feng wishes to lay down this life for the sake of My Lord.”
Cheng Qianye raised her cup again towards the generals inside the palace hall and said, “This cup is to respect the Generals of my Great Jin!”
All the generals knelt down and cried out as they raised their cups and drank together.
“I wish to lay down this life for the sake of My Lord!”
The official from the State of Lu, Jiang Yun, twisted his beard as he thought silently to himself, This Marquis Jin Yue is not simple. With such a trick, he has no need to worry that these soldiers of lowly origin wouldn’t give their all to fight for him.
What’s more, with this seemingly tyrannical and domineering move, he suppressed all the envoys present in one go, when in fact, he was merely pinching a soft persimmon.11 The Duke of Song has a cowardly nature and expelling his envoy will only frighten him, and maybe he will even scramble up the pole12 to ingratiate himself to him. On the other hand, when it comes to Duke Wei Heng—Yao Hong—who is powerful and ambitious, Marquis Jin Yue lowered his stature and did not hesitate to take his widowed sister as his wife, and even created a marriage alliance with the State of Wei.
This man is capable of bending and stretching, he is a truly ambitious and ruthless character. When I return, I must tell My Lord that we must be wary of this person.
1. (遮天蔽日 – zhē tiān bì rì) Idiom used to describe something large in size or number, or grand in momentum.↩
2. (公 – Gong) – A respectful designation for an elder/A respectful salutation.↩
3. Temporary imperial residence/small palace. This is basically just referring to any imperial residence of the monarch which is not the main palace, (aka the one in the capital)↩
4. (钟鼓馔玉 – zhōng gǔ zhuàn yù) bells and drums and food like jade, Idiom used to describe a rich and luxurious life.↩
5. (琳琅满目 – lín láng mǎn mù) Idiom used to describe a lot of beautiful and dazzling things, emphasizing that there are too many to see.↩
6. (爷 – Yé) A respectful form of addressing a man of higher position [Sir; Master; Lord]/respectful form of addressing an elder man. Literal translation father/grandpa/old gentleman. Basically an honorific such as “sama” in jp.↩
7. (鄙人 – bǐ rén) I, your humble servant.↩
8. (公 – Gong) – A respectful designation for an elder / A respectful salutation.↩
9. (雅士 – yǎ shì) refined scholar, noble and talented person.↩
10. As in, sexually.↩
11. Picking/pinching a soft persimmon is a metaphor meaning to target someone who is weak or has little influence.↩
12. Climb up the pole is a metaphor meaning to actively approach someone in order to please them.↩