Edited and Proofread by KitKat
Qi Wei brought along a few soldiers to welcome An Chang Qing’s group into the city.
The travel-worn An Chang Qing was then invited to rest at the General’s Manor together with the Imperial Supervisor.
The General’s Manor was void of habitants. There were no servants and hence, the soldier who had led them in had to take over and served tea to the guests.
An Chang Qing thought that he could meet Xiao Zhige once he reached Yanzhou but the person was nowhere to be found. He asked the attending soldier, “Is Wangye not in the city?”
The soldier replied, “The General has left the city!”
An Chang Qing grimaced and asked, “When will he return?”
“I do not know.”
Seeing that he could not get any other information from the soldier, An Chang Qing decided to wait till he met the vice lieutenant for further enquiries.
An Chang Qing and the Imperial Supervisor finished their tea, only then did Qi Wei come in.
Due to what happened to the previous batch of grains, Qi Wei had personally gone to check on the newly delivered batch. When he found that there were only 20,000 buckets, he was slightly riled.
They had requested 100,000 buckets but only 20,000 were delivered. Just how long could 20,000 buckets sustain an army?
The previous excitement turned into indignation. Qi Wei saw the disappointment in his subordinates and flung his hand, “Let me ask what’s going on!”
Facing the two head figures, Qi Wei knew to show his respect. He bowed and lowered his voice to ask, “Two sirs, if the grain count is correct, 20,000 buckets is far from enough to support the entire army through the war.”
The Imperial Supervisor looked briefly at An Chang Qing before answering sternly, “This is a donation from Wangfei. Your request had reached His Majesty. His Majesty had decreed that an investigation be carried out on the arson case and if confirmed to be legitimate, the court will make up for the lacking quantity.”
Qi Wei had not registered which Wangfei he was referring to when he heard that the arson was to be investigated. In a moment, his anger flared up, “The evidence is clear as day, what is there to investigate?! By the time you’re done with the investigation and the grains are delivered, the soldiers of Yangzhou will have long starved to death!”
“Qi Wei!” A majestic male voice came from behind.
Xiao Zhige heard about the arrival of the provisions the moment he returned. Without even taking off his armor, he immediately went to the General’s Manor. When he arrived and heard Qi Wei’s exchange with the Imperial Supervisor, Li An Ming, Xiao Zhige hurriedly blocked his words.
He handed his spear to the soldier at the door and strode in.
“Minister Li, investigate if you must, but this…”
Xiao Zhige’s words were stuck in his throat the moment he saw the person sitting next to Li An Ming.
It took him a while to find his voice to ask, “Why are you here?”
An Chang Qing had been staring at the door ever since he heard his voice. Because there were people around, he had to suppress his excitement and keep himself from standing up.
The other person had lost a lot of weight and looked much rougher than before. Maybe because he had just returned from the battlefield, his armor was still stained with dried blood. Coming closer, one could even smell the scent of blood.
This was the first time that An Chang Qing had seen Xiao Zhige with this rugged appearance. However, his eyes were still sharp and dignified. This is the General guarding over the Da Ye Empire – his General.
An Chang Qing slowly blinked. Speaking with a dry throat, his voice was cracking, “I heard that Yanzhou is in need of food so I came to send it to you. There are 40,000 buckets but 20,000 will come a little slower. Tie Hu is currently escorting them here.”
Xiao Zhige immediately understood what he meant. Regarding Emperor An Qing’s response, Xiao Zhige had long predicted the backlash, otherwise, he would not have sent his men to Liangzhou and Chenzhou to borrow grains. What he did not expect was that his Wangfei, who was supposed to wait for his return in the safety of the Wang Manor, had amassed the grains and personally delivered it to him all the way to Yanzhou.
He carefully studied An Chang Qing and found that the bones on his face were a lot more visible. The dark round eyes also had dark circles under them. This must be due to the tedious trip delivering the grains to him.
After his throat rolled several times, Xiao Zhige finally found his voice, “M, Minister Li, please have a rest first. Regarding the arson and the food supply, we will discuss it tomorrow.”
Qi Wei was not appeased, “But the rations…”
“The rations are here. Let everyone have a good meal first,” Xiao Zhige commanded with impatience and annoyance, “Qi Wei, have someone lead Minister Li to his room.”
Qi Wei eyed his Commander who seemed quite off ever since he entered the room. However, he did not dare to misbehave and obediently invited Minister Li out. Li An Ming knew that the couple had much to say to each other and did not fancy himself to be an eyesore. He saluted and left with Qi Wei.
Seeing that no one was around, Xiao Zhige stepped forward and reached out to touch him. But when he saw the bloody marks on his hand, he realized that he had just come from the battlefield. He took back his hand with forbearance and could only look at An Chang Qing with tender eyes, “It’s been hard on you.”
“En.” An Chang Qing initially did not feel the hardship before but when he heard his words, he shriveled his lips in grievance.
On the water, when he couldn’t eat and sleep due to seasickness, he did not feel aggrieved; on land when the carriage traversed on the arduous road causing his bones to almost break whenever there was a bump on the road, he did not feel aggrieved…
But once he saw the person who had constantly occupied his thoughts for the past few days, his feelings simply took over. He pouted and threw himself into Xiao Zhige’ arms. His voice cracked as he complained, “It’s all your fault for not letting me come with you. I couldn’t sleep not knowing whether the news you sent back was true or not…”
Xiao Zhige hugged him tightly and rubbed his chin against his hair. He spoke in a hoarse voice, “En, it’s my fault. From now on, I won’t let you leave my side.”
An Chang Qing sniffed and was about to wipe his tears on his Xiao Zhige’s sleeves when he was overwhelmed by the pungent smell of blood. He grumbled with satisfaction, “Your body reeks.”
Even though he said so, he still held tightly onto Xiao Zhige and refused to let go.
Xiao Zhige said with some helplessness, “I haven’t taken a bath for nearly six days. I’m covered in dirt.”
An Chang Qing hummed and hugged him even tighter, “I don’t mind.”
Xiao Zhige’s hand landed on his back and gently comforted him.
The pair hugged for a long time, trying to patch the gap during their time of separation, before they parted reluctantly. An Chang Qing’s eyes were pinkish as his face brimmed with shyness, “Where is your room? I’ll settle in and tell you about Yejing later.”
Thinking about Yejing, An Chang Qing’s mood dampened a little. He creased his brows and said, “I really couldn’t get any more food. With this much, I’m not sure how long you can last.”
Xiao Zhige had long predicted this outcome and hence, was not worried. He grabbed his shoulders and led him out. “Let’s not talk about this for now. Let’s go back to our room and let you have a change of clothes first. Have you eaten? I’ll have someone make porridge for you.” Xiao Zhige said with some guilt, “There’s a food shortage and not much is left in the General’s Manor…”
“I’m not hungry. Porridge is fine.”
The pair chatted as they walked side by side. As they reached the door, Qi Wei was waiting for them with a look of excitement and curiosity. Seeing them both, Qi Wei smiled and greeted in a flattering voice, “General, Wangfei.”
Before, he was too occupied to consider which Wangfei Minister Li was talking about. After he had exited and conversed a few more words with Li An Ming, he came to realize that the fair-skinned and good-looking gongzi was actually their General’s Wangfei!
Although everyone knew that their General had married a little brother-in-law back in Yejing, no one had managed to have a good look at that person. Only now did he know that their Wangfei was not only beautiful but had also brought rations for them.
He’s their savior!
So after the big-mouth lieutenant Qi had spread this to the entire platoon, he was voted to be the representative to invite the General and his Wangfei for dinner. Now that the food had arrived, they could at least have a better meal worthy of these esteemed guests.
But of course, the most important thing was to get a glimpse of Wangfei!
Looking at his subordinate, Xiao Zhige’s face immediately darkened, “Didn’t I tell you to help Minister Li settle down? There’s something else?”
Qi Wei was baffled by the quick change in his attitude. He shrunk back and braced himself, “Now that food has arrived and we had just won another battle, we brothers had asked the kitchen to cook up a scrumptious meal specially for General and Wangfei…”
“Not going.” Xiao Zhige turned him down with no hesitation, “Go ahead and enjoy yourselves but drinking is forbidden.”
Qi Wei was reluctant but Xiao Zhige no longer bothered with him. He turned and led An Chang Qing to the back court.
The General’s Manor was a run down place left over from previous generations. It covered a large area but due to the lack of maintenance and inhabitants, only the house Xiao Zhige lived in was in good condition.
There also weren’t any servants, only a few soldiers to guard the place.
When Xiao Zhige was living alone, a place to rest his head had seemed adequate. He tended to spend most of his time at the barracks anyway. Now that An Chang Qing was here, he felt that the place seemed to lack many things.
But a war was currently in motion, it was improbable to have anything done in a short period of time.
Knowing that An Chang Qing loved cleanliness, Xiao Zhige personally brought in the bathtub, drew the hot water, and tested the temperature. “There’s no heater in the room. You should wash quickly in case you catch a cold. When this battle is over, we’ll buy whatever you need. Please bear with it for now.”
An Chang Qing did not think anything of it. After all, he did not come here to live a comfortable life. Seeing Xiao Zhige’s guilty look, he frowned and said, “Is Wangye not going to wash?”
Xiao Zhige immediately froze. He spoke as naturally as he could, “I’ll bathe outside.”
An Chang Qing remembered that he had used up the hot water and the new batch was still being heated. Washing outside would mean that it was mostly cold water. He said with some embarrassment, “Why don’t Wangye bathe with me?”
Xiao Zhige almost stumbled when he was turning to leave. He said with his back facing An Chang Qing, “My body is full of blood stains, this much water is not enough for me to wash them off.”
He then quickly fled out the door, not even stopping when An Chang Qing called for him.
An Chang Qing washed up quickly and put on clean clothes before going out to look for Xiao Zhige.
After asking the guard stationed in the yard, he learned that Xiao Zhige had gone to the bedroom. The bedroom was only two rooms away from the bathroom and An Chang Qing had managed to find it with ease. When he entered, he saw that Xiao Zhige had taken off his armor and was buttoning up his inner shirt with rigid movements.
Hearing An Chang Qing’s voice, Xiao Zhige hurriedly put on his coat and turned around, “Done bathing so soon? The kitchen has not finished preparing the porridge yet.”
“What happened to your shoulder?”
An Chang Qing noticed the blood seeping through his clothes and his forehead creased up. He worriedly strode over and tried to undo his coat.
Xiao Zhige held back his hand, “Don’t look. It’s just a small wound.”
“Let me see,” An Chang Qing stared at him stubbornly.
Xiao Zhige could never go against An Chang Qing. He sighed and released his hand, “It’s not a serious injury, don’t worry.”
An Chang Qing carefully undid his shirt and saw a large gaping wound stretching from his left shoulder all the way to his chest. The wound was so deep that his bone was visible and just a little longer, it would’ve reached the heart!
“Why didn’t you see the doctor?” An Chang Qing bit his lips hard in order to hold back the sour, scorching sensation in his eyes.
“I did,” Xiao Zhige responded, “It’s only a flesh wound. It looks scary on the outside but I have no internal injuries. Applying medicine daily will help with the bleeding.”
An Chang Qing glared at him, “Where’s the medicine? You were about to put it on just now, weren’t you?”
Xiao Zhige had no choice but to respond with an ‘en’ and took out the medicine bottle from the bed head, “I was about to apply it when you came.”
An Chang Qing took the medicine bottle and drew a deep breath, “Don’t move. Let me apply it for you.”
He then gently administered the medicine onto the open wound. Although Xiao Zhige did not make a sound, the blue veins on his neck were starting to show. An Chang Qing tried to work as quickly as he could. After the application, he blew gently over the wound before dressing it up.
TN: Just to clarify, the Imperial Supervisor Li An Ming is the same person from the episode regarding Marquis Wu. He was actually called something else in the previous chapters. I will change it to Li An Ming to avoid confusion.