Sandy's Read Receipts
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Alarmed, I urged Ah Yuan, "Bring me out to check!"
As she pushed the wheelchair to the tent opening, I brushed aside the flap to see the soldiers in a scramble. A faint din sounded in the direction they were heading.
In the distance, an earthen hill built by the Tan army loomed, hazy and menacing. Built according to the terrain, a barrier of spiked sawhorses encircled and fortified the Wei camp. While the sturdy base could withstand ground troops, it was defenseless against an attack from the skies. Tan Xi had built dozens of earthen hills with arrow towers according to the Wei camp. His soldiers battered the front camp with a barrage of arrows, stifling every Wei army attack and freezing them in place.
"Furen," Ah Yuan's voice tightened, "the Eldest Young Master isn't here. Do you want to leave now? I just saw the Sergeant who traveled with us, I can ask him to ready a carriage."
I hesitated, "No hurry, things aren't clear yet; let's wait."
At that moment, a general galloped past, and I recognized the figure as Wei Ci.
With a loud yell, I rushed to call for him, "Zi Xian!"
When he saw me, he reined in his horse at once and rode towards me.
"Eldest Sister-in-law!" He smiled and dismounted his horse with a salute.
"Zi Xian, what happened up ahead?"
"Nothing serious," Wei Ci looked dirty, as if he had just dug through mud. "Old idiot Tan Xi dispatched his men to attack from the mountain forest side, and a fight broke out. Don't worry, Eldest Sister-in-law; they are only foot soldiers with no leading Generals. The Prime Minister has dispatched troops to sort them out."
After seeing his casual demeanor, I couldn't help but relax as well.
"Brother-in-law, do you know where the Eldest Young Master is?"
"Elder Brother?" He froze and shook his head, "I don't know."
Just then, a soldier called for Wei Ci. He called back before excusing himself, "I will leave first."
I nodded, "Take care, Brother-in-law."
Wei Ci was right; sure enough, the front soon fell silent and the Sergeant arrived with the genuine news. When the Tan army had raided the camps, a spy had mixed in and spread rumors it was impossible to defend the frontline. Choas had barely erupted in the middle and rear camps, before Wei Jue caught and executed the spy.
As the noise outside faded, Ah Yuan and I shared a look; it was a false alarm.
Wei Tan was still missing, so I went to bed without changing.
In my dreams, I returned to daytime with all that racket. But it wasn't long before someone pushed me awake.
"Furen!" A terrified Ah Yuan shook me, "Get up, Tan's army is really here!"
My heart jolted, and I scrambled to rise, wearing my coat to leave. My injured foot had healed a lot, but it still hurt to walk.
"Furen, let's use the wheelchair."
As I peered around, the light from the flames filtered in, coloring the tent golden. I grumbled in my heart: who has ever met someone escaping in a wheelchair?
Just then, the tent flap tore open, and Wei Ci entered.
He bowed to me: "Eldest Sister-in-law!"
"Zi Xian, what's happening out there?"
"Don't worry, Eldest Sister-in-law." He grinned, "The Tan soldiers ambushed us by digging a tunnel, and are battling the front army now. Our soldiers have set up a camp to protect you. You can stay there, safe in their guard."
I stared at him, half-skeptical.
"Furen......" Ah Yuan looked at me with the half-packed bag, helpless.
"Okay," I nodded, and Ah Yuan pushed me out of the tent. As the tent flap lifted open, I saw countless blazing torches, and soldiers running around, but methodically.
I asked, "Where is the Prime Minister?"
"The Prime Minister is overseeing everything from the main tent. When the front army discovered the Tan army digging a tunnel to sneak in, he wanted to beat them at their own game by searching for the tunnel's exit, and setting up an ambush." Wei Ci smiled, "They raided the flanks in the day to create a diversion; to prepare for the night."
As I listened to him, I didn't dare relax, and instead stared at the distance. When an earth slope beside my tent blocked my view, I asked Ah Yuan to push me up the slope. My field of view widened to show countless torches glowing across the camp. A dozen feet away, the sturdy barricade of spiked sawhorses surrounded the camp, and soldiers stood guard. But where the torchlights blazed brighter, silhouettes moved, shouting over their clanging blades.
The night wind blew past my face, carrying a faint hint of fire, smoke, and blood.
"Furen," Ah Yuan spoke into my ear, shivering, "Where is the Eldest Young Master?"
I didn't reply, looking into the distance.
When I had seen Wei Ci in the tent, I had almost blurted the same question. Wei Tan was missing since last night, disappearing without a word or anybody to inform me. In that instant, I realized I had come to rely on him, while until then, I had only relied on myself.
"Prepare a carriage," I whispered, "If things change, we'll leave at once."
Ah Yuan's eyes flashed as she agreed. She walked away after calling a soldier to take over the wheelchair.
Before long, Wei Ci left, and his words came true when the Tan army walked into the siege as they exited the tunnel. A chaotic battle ensued, with victory in sight for the Wei army.
Just then, a bright light flared in the distance.
As I widened my eyes and stared, I saw sparks of fire floating in the night sky. But unlike the glow of fireflies, the sparks inched forward with an eerie aura.
"It's the arrow towers on the earth hill!" A soldier shouted, "the Tan army is firing arrows!"
Too late, the front line erupted in screams, and in the firelight, I saw faint black dots falling from the sky, a flock of crows swooping down to feed. Believing those arrows would shoot over here, I instinctively tried to dodge.
"Furen, don't worry." The soldier behind me reassured, "The arrows can't reach this place."
"Shield! Shield!" I heard a General urging the soldiers to reinforce.
"Furen!" Ah Yuan rushed over, took the wheelchair from the soldier, and whispered in my ear, "The carriage is ready, shall we leave now?"
I was about to reply when a sudden "boom" shook the air, followed by an uproar.
Something flew up from the front camps, colliding into the sparks in the air.
From this distance, I only heard a crashing noise's dull "bang", like a falling boulder.
The soldiers burst into cheers.
"We've hit it!" Someone exclaimed, "It's the Fourth Young Master's trebuchet!"
A trebuchet? As I looked more closely, several more boulders soared into the air. Like a giant monster playing with a slingshot, tossing up and down, snuffing out several fires in the arrow towers.
Someone whooped: "The Eldest Young Master has returned!"
Startled, I stared in the voice's direction.
Preceded by hoofbeats, a dust-covered cavalry galloped forward, and leading them, clad in shiny armor, was Wei Tan.
The campfires burned all night, not dying even as dawn's first rays glimmered.
After daybreak, the entire picture of the battlegrounds became visible. Soldiers dug pits to bury the mountain piles of bodies, and those wounded lay on straw mats. As their cries and screams filled the air, the military doctors tending them ran around in circles.
Wei An's trebuchet had broken Tan Xi's arrow towers, and I learned Wei Tan had traveled to Heyin, Tan Xi's grain mill a hundred miles away, and set fire to his army provisions.
Wei Jue's two sons, both Wei An and Wei Tan achieved success, relieving him greatly. Since Zhao Jun had proposed the strategy of attacking Heyin, Wei Jue appreciated me as well.
I sighed in relief; at least fleeing for my life was unnecessary.
"Tan Xi's army provisions?" When Wei Tan returned to the tent, I sat in the wheelchair and received his armor as he undressed. I asked, "I wonder how much he had?"
"I'm not sure, over 10,000 dan roughly."
Over 10,000 dan,...... I recalled the market price of grain when I had left Yong Capital; one dan costs 150 yuan, 10,000 dan was...... at least 1.5 million yuan.
My heart secretly dripped blood, and I loathed Wei Tan, this coarse man, for not knowing the preciousness of cooking wood and rice. It would have been better to keep those grains and share half with me......
"Heartbroken?" Wei Tan suddenly spoke.
I froze and raised my eyes to look at him.
"You're counting again." He glanced at my eyes, before shifting his gaze to my mouth, "And biting your lip."
Demon. Although my heart was indignant, I wasn't surprised, having long experienced this skill of his.
Averting my gaze, I hung up his iron armor: "I only pity the many without enough to eat, even in Yong Capital. Why should Fujun burn all the provisions? Isn't it better to bring them back?"
"Hmm? Furen is compassionate."
"Fujun flatters me."
"So, why didn't Furen ask your husband if he sustained injuries on his two night's raid?"
Startled, I turned my head: "Fujun......" As the words left my mouth, my gaze halted on Wei Tan's naked upper body, with firm muscles and rugged lines.
He suspended his untied inner-wear on the frame and glanced at me: "Hmm?"
I stared at those dirty clothes, before embarrassedly shifting my gaze to him: "Fujun wants to bathe?"
"I still have to go to my Father's tent later; it's too late to bathe." He bowed his head and said, "Why don't you help wipe your husband's body?"
He was playing with me again.
I smiled heartlessly, "I'm afraid I must disappoint Fujun; with my foot not yet healed, I can't serve you."
If the Battle of Wuzhi had cracked Tan Xi's spirit, then burning the army provisions was a further heavy blow.
Wei Jue dispatched spies to infiltrate Tan Xi's camps and spread the story. Regardless of how much he tried, Tan Xi couldn't hide the matter, and his army panicked. Meanwhile, the Wei soldiers' morale soared, and after several raids, dealt the Tan army a big defeat.
According to Wang Ju's plan, Wei Jue divided his troops for a two-fold attack. One to siege Tan Xi's camp in Wei County, and the other to block his retreat route in Hua Province.
Disturbed and distracted, Tan Xi fell into the trap and split his troops to save both places.
Wei Jue seized the moment, gathered a large army and charged straight at Tan's camp, defeating the spiritless army. After his army scattered, Tan Xi fled North in the middle of the night with only a thousand troops.
Despite settling the affairs in Wuzhi, Wei Jue didn't stop to rest and wanted to lead his army North in pursuit.
As a married woman, I was useless after Zhao Jun's surrender; of course, I couldn't follow the army anymore.
"Furen and Fourth Brother return to Luoyang; when the campaign ends, I will take you back to Yong Capital," said Wei Tan.
I nodded; I couldn't wait to get away from the fighting and killing.
Yet, I still needed to save face; I asked gently, "How much longer will this battle last?"
"Father is bent on destroying the Tan Clan, so it might take three or four months."
My heart tensed. With no news of Li Shang's trip to Jiangnan, I had been planning to return to Yong Capital as soon as possible because I didn't want to miss his messages.
"That long?" My smile stiffened.
"It won't be long. Someone must still watch the rear; Father will let me return to Yong Capital next month."
His words relieved my heart: "Is it so."
He stared at me, his gaze intense: "Is Furen so thrilled?"
I raised my eyebrows and fixed a calm expression: "To meet Fujun again as soon as possible; of course, I'm happy."
He narrowed his eyes, and after a pause, suddenly reached out to scratch my nose.
"Pack up and start your journey after noon," he said and walked out of the tent.
Left frozen in the wheelchair, I rubbed my nose and glared at his back.
"Furen, why is your nose red? Did you get stung?" In the carriage, Ah Yuan stared at my nose and asked curiously.
"Not really." I touched my nose and felt it already warming, "Someone scratched it a little."
Ah Yuan broke into laughter: "Furen, you still believe that if someone scratches your nose, you'll turn into a pig? That was the Second Young Master's bluff!"
Indeed, that was my Second Brother's prank when I was little. He liked to scratch my nose and gloat that if he scratched it many times, he could turn me into a pig. I was so scared when he once pushed me down and scratched my nose twenty times. I bawled and ran to my Mother, yelling that I didn't want to become a pig. Of course, my Mother gave my Second Brother a lecture, but I still became traumatized. If others scratch my nose, it would itch, and then I would keep touching it......
Wei Tan that bastard. I secretly gritted my teeth.
Ah Yuan gave me a handkerchief soaked in cool water to spread on my nose, and the discomfort finally faded.
After a while, she abruptly pointed out the window: "Furen, isn't that Lord Zhao?"
Indeed, dressed in plain clothes, Zhao Jun was sitting on a horse, followed by his servant and an oxcart.
I asked the coachman to stop.
"Lord Zhao," I raised the carriage curtains and called to him.
"Furen," when he saw me, he dismounted and bowed.
I returned his bow from the carriage, and looked at his entourage, "Is Lord Zhao leaving?"
He surprised me; he had done a great service, and I expected him to stay and work as a strategist for Wei Jue.
"Which way are you headed, Lord Zhao?"
"Yong Capital." He forced a wry smile, "Since Lord Wei has taken my entire family there, I have bid farewell to him. I am headed there to reunite with my family."
I nodded: "I thought Lord Zhao would stay longer."
He shook his head: "Lord Wei has already won, so no harm if I leave." He sighed, "Without Furen's reminder, I almost forgot that I haven't seen my mother, wife and children for two years, so I'm ashamed."
I stared at him, feeling something indefinable in my heart.
"I'll take my leave. Take care, Furen," he gave me a deep bow.
"Take care, Lord Zhao." I returned his bow and watched him mount his horse and lead the oxcart to another road.
I felt regretful at the bottom of my heart.
Zhao Jun's leaving might cut his career short, but he still had his mother, wife and children. But I, the one who used his mother and family to persuade him to surrender, was hollow.
So, I could only keep dashing straight ahead as well.
"Furen, are we leaving?" Ah Yuan asked me.
I stared for a moment, and nodded, "Let's go."
With a clear shout, the coachman raised his whip and spurred the horses, leaving behind a cloud of dust on the main road, and carried me away.
T/N: Whew! Sorry it to took me so long to get this chapter out. No excuses except that it takes longer to translate the battle parts. But it was still fun to read Fu Jin mourning the burnt grain and cursing Wei Tan a few times. Coarse man...bastard...is anyone else keeping tabs? (≧▽≦)
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Beginning as an avid reader, I am translating novels with the help of machine translation and online dictionaries.
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