The Joy Before War
Half a month later, I entered the military camp in Sui City with a decree in my hand. I was made an eighth-ranked military officer.
The stubborn Uncle Tong only agreed when the physicians in charge of treating Father disappeared. When he accompanied me to visit the family members of those physicians, one of the sons stared at me with grieving red eyes, “It was you who harmed my Father to death!” His eldest brother gave him a good slap.
The brother who slapped and the brother who got slapped both shared the sad look on their eyes.
Uncle Tong led me out of Physician Zhang’s house in distraught. Once we got back to our manor, Uncle Tong prepared everything for me, from my luggage to my war horse before personally sending me to the military barrack.
He kept mumbling as he patted my head, “Perhaps, the military barrack will be safer.” It felt like when he sent me to the palace as tutor when I was young. “Xiao Lang, you must be careful! You have to be cautious!”
The moment I assumed my position, General Huang Jie of the Sui City’s western military barrack slapped my back twice with his large palm, happily exclaiming, “The late regent was a hero, the saying that a tiger’s son is not a dog is indeed true! It is the right thing for young men to step in, now what the country is in a crisis.”
…… My shoulder felt numb.
Once he walked far away, I staggered backwards. Two young men behind me assisted me on each hands, laughing loudly.
I leaned on one of them before baring my teeth on the other, “What are you laughing at?”
That brat laughed happily as he clutched his stomach before patting me in the back twice, “Little General An, General Huang likes to use his iron-like hands to test the new kids. A 9th-ranked military officer was patted by him until the poor bloke urinated on his pants. The kid ran back to the capital. I think he was the nephew of the empress dowager’s maiden family.”
“Pu—-“ Hearing about that unfortunate brat healed me.
I could not contain my joy, “Call me An Xiao Lang!” Little General An was Father’s glory, I could not shoulder it.
The man who was assisting me was called Zhao Yong and the tall lanky one who was laughing like a monkey was Su Ren.
I heard General Huang Jie was upright and straightforward, he treats everyone equally. Between dealing with him, Zhao Yong and Su Ren, every single day ended with me being tired like a dog. I had to wake early every day to practice while hearing General Huang’s coarse voice in the practice field. Hearing his prep talk, everyone’s faces flushed and we all looked ready to tackle the Great Qi any day.
The meals inside the barrack wasn’t good, it was coarse rice every day. There were sometimes pieces of meat in the dishes; when that happened, even raising your chopstick was a competition. The day it first showed up, I was still a little reserved as Zhao Yong dragged me into a corner to eat. When our comrade brought in the food, before I even managed to comprehend the situation, six pair of chopsticks raced towards the piece of meat, pushing and pulling. By the time I raised my own chopstick, there were only greens left.
That sight was stimulating.
When it came to looting food, even Official Uncle and Father were no competitors of mine, how could I lost to this bunch of brats.
The next time it happened, two pieces of meat already entered my mouth before they even got to raise their chopsticks.
Su Ren glared at me hatefully, “An Xiao Lang, you are a noble young master yet you fought for meat with us, the poor people! Are you trying to look for a fight?”
In front of meat, perhaps even one’s mother became ceased of importance. The other people in our table echoed him, I laughed in delight before slamming my hand on the table, “Let fight, then! Who is afraid of whom?”
The rest of the people stopped eating, they didn’t even bother to fight for meat as they flocked to the field like bees.
Su Ren assumed his position as he hesitated a little, “An Xiao Lang, why don’t we call it a day? Don’t go back to the capital crying while begging the little emperor for justice if you lose, it will be the end of me! I heard you were the emperor’s companion.”
I laughed happily, “Brother Su, stop spouting nonsense.” I rushed to give his stomach a punch.
Su Ren got serious and gave my approaching foot a strike. Even though I was taught martial arts, I had never tested it on an enemy before. As for Su Ren, although he wasn’t well-versed in martial art, he knew how to hit the fatal point. I could hear Zhao Yong yelling from the crowd, “An Xiao Lang, trip him!”
A number of the spectators were rooting for Su Ren, “Brother Su, beat that fair-faced kid from the capital!”
Overall, it was very lively.
It went on for two hours before both me and Su Ren fell into a mud pit in the field.
“Thanking Brother Su for his teaching!” I smiled at him with bright eyes.
He glared at me, “Who is leisurely enough to teach you? If you dare to steal my meat again, you will have to prepare yourself to fight me!”
I gave him a bowed-fist, “I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I cannot do that.” Both of us maintained eye contact before bursting into laughter.
Sui City was located between the south and north. The sky was wide and blue here while there were sound of people chattering everywhere . I touched my chest, where my beating heart lies.
So, it was still alive.
Someone said, “Brother Zhao, this white-faced brat is indeed not bad. He is a lot stronger than those people who practice fancy but impractical martial arts.”
Zhao Yong sounded haughty, “Why else would I let him eat on the same table as us?”
Someone else was not satisfied, “That brat is fast with his chopstick. We must be careful next time, don’t let him finish all the meat.”
Su Ren got up and dragged me, “An Xiao Lang, hurry and get up! Stop lying on the ground. It was just a fight, why are you so tired?”
I refused to get up no matter what; in the end, Su Ren and Zhao Yong dragged me up. I rested half of my body against Zhao Yong. Su Ren glared at me, “You are looking like that and still wants to fight with me everyday?”
I leaned against Zhao Yong as we returned to the barrack while giving Su Ren an eye roll, “Do you know how precious and tender my body is?”
The gang all laughed. “You are not even a girl, what precious and tender body?”
“Brother Su, we will leave the matter of hitting this brat to you.”
…………They didn’t even ask for my opinion! I secretly made up my mind to teach these brats a lesson the next time we eat!
Just as the sound of our laughter got even more boisterous, some of the people in front stepped forward while doing their greeting, “General Huang.” One of my shoulders suddenly felt numb in recollection.
Zhao Yong whispered to my ears as he laughed, “So you are afraid of our General’s mighty pat in the back!”
I raised my head as I replied him, “Aren’t you afraid as well?” At the corner of my eyes, I could see a familiar, jade-like silhouette standing next to General Huang.
I thought, since Sui City was in the north, the sunlight hits us strong all the time. It was painful to the eyes.
A couple of people in front already greeted the other person, “Greeting General Yan.”
Zhao Yong and I bent our body as greeting as well. “Greeting General Yan!”
Seeing my appearance, General Huang laughed, “Officer An, did you lost again?”
Knowing that I was still a couple of steps away from him and his mighty palm, I laughed leisurely, “We were comparing notes only! It was a lesson.”
His palm finally fell on Su Ren who was standing at the front-most side. Su Ren staggered backwards in a large step while the rest of us laughed, taking joy in another person’s misfortune. General Huang was also happy. He and General Yan walked back to the barrack together.
After they walked 5 or 6 steps away, Su Ren looked back to ridicule me, “An Xiao Lang, you must have recognized that General Yan Ping! He is young and capable, unlike the rest of us. He is a lot stronger than you!”
I laughed as I taunt him back, “Correct! Correct! Although I have heard of his famous name, I have never had the fortune to meet him! I heard he is younger than you by a couple of years and yet is already a lot stronger than you!”
“You rascal!” Su Ren hit me on the head.
Someone else hesitated before he spoke, “An Xiao Lang, don’t get upset at me. I heard you were crazily in love with General Yan, everyone in the capital knows that.”
“There are a lot of rumors in the capital. Don’t tell me you believe them all?” I spoke without a change in expression. “Brother Wang, are you saying that I have a broken sleeve? If so, why don’t we both break ours?”
(TN: Broken sleeve = homosexual.)
“Go away!” that man laughed out loud as he avoided me before screaming for help, “Zhao Yong, come and take care of this monkey of yours!”
I laughed haughtily before being dragged in the collar by Zhao Yong. I obediently followed him, walking as I leaned onto his body.
I liked being taken care of these days.
Amidst the noise, I could hear General Huang’s hesitant voice from afar, “General Yan, why are you stopping?”
“Oh… Oh….. Nothing.”
Light breeze greeted my ears and I no longer cared about anything.
As I lived in the barrack and fought with Su Ren for two months, stealing five to six big chunks of meat along the process, the Great Qi finally began attacking. They attacked Sui City’s northern and western gates.
I was in the western gate. The autumn weather was comfortable that day, General Huang brought a couple of us officers to view the sight of war from above the city. We saw the Great Qi’s army carrying flags. General Huang’s face immediately turned solemn.
“That General Wu is a general under the Crown Prince of Great Qi. He was the one attacking those little states. We cannot look down on him, I heard he is invincible in war.”
Back then, the war had not come to an end, so we had a pretty optimistic view about it. Who would have known that General Huang would be killed in a battle in Huang He Valley, half a month later. All of the soldiers under him, the cute little officers including me and my brothers, were all taken into captive by Feng Zhao Wen.
serene: Chapter 22 is sponsored by Sonia!