Chapter Ch188.1 - The Domineering General & Charming Military Advisor (7.1): Stand above the crowd, die together, benevolent and righteous
Chapter Ch188.1 - The Domineering General & Charming Military Advisor (7.1): Stand above the crowd, die together, benevolent and righteous
When Shi Tingyun first came to the imperial academy, he had been six years old, more than three months older than Yan Yuanheng, the Thirteenth Prince he served.
After school, the court academician was clearing up Yan Yuanheng’s confusion, and Shi Tingyun stood by the window to clean up Yan Yuanheng’s pen and ink.
The eight-year-old Sixth Prince, Yan Yuanzhao, leaned on the window to see what was new, followed by the docile little Qu Ying.
Yan Yuanzhao: “Hey, are you the eldest gongzi of the Shi family?”
Shi Tingyun was generous and unreserved. “Yes.”
Yan Yuanzhao struck up the conversation further. “Shi Tingyun, which three words are they?”
Shi Tingyun replied with a smile, “To answer the Sixth Prince, lingering clouds are very misty, the time of year for rain and heavy drizzle.”
“Yun-didi.” Yan Yuanzhao had known his name for a long time and said affectionately, “I have delicious cakes here from the Western Regions. Except for my imperial father, I’m the only one in the palace who has them. Do you want to come and eat?”
“Thank you for the Sixth Prince’s generosity…”
Shi Tingyun looked up at Yan Yuanheng, who was still asking questions, and whispered a few words to the other companion from Huanbi, disregarding his whispered advice, and said, “I’m coming.”
He swiftly and soundlessly flipped out the window without even attracting Yan Yuanheng’s attention.
After Yan Yuanheng finished asking his questions, he realized that one of his two new companions had run away, and the remaining one was holding his book bag, looking at him with fear and trepidation.
Hearing that Shi Tingyun was called away by his sixth imperial brother, Yan Yuanheng wasn’t too angry.
Yan Yuanheng had long heard of Shi Tingyun’s name.
He was the only son of General Shi Jinghong, exceptionally talented, and his father had high expectations for him. Even his imperial father favored him very much. During the New Year’s festival, he would be awarded dishes and bestowed gifts, which shows how much he was valued.
Besides, his sixth imperial brother called him away, so it was useless for him to be angry.
Yan Yuanheng sighed slightly, and as soon as he went out, he saw Shi Tingyun running towards him with a handkerchief holding a few pieces of cake, and when he saw the Thirteenth Prince, he grabbed his hand. “Thirteenth Prince, sorry for the wait. Please come this way.”
Yan Yuanheng, who had always been dignified and strict in his conduct, was pulled into a stumble and walked around the corridors of the imperial academy with him for a long time in a daze, leaving the other study companion far behind.
When he arrived at a small pavilion with pleasant scenery, Shi Tingyun stopped, knelt on one knee, and presented Yan Yuanheng with the pastries he held securely in his hands. “Thirteenth Prince, please take the pastries.”
Yan Yuanheng stood firmly on his feet, slightly out of breath. “This is sixth imperial brother’s?”
Shi Tingyun said frankly, “Yes, I was invited. I brought some. The Thirteenth Prince had too little for lunch. This is just to pad your stomach.
Yan Yuanheng stared at the snacks and pursed his lips. “I’m not hungry.”
But the aroma of the pastries stimulated his long-empty stomach, and Yan Yuanheng’s stomach let out a muffled rumbling sound.
His face instantly turned red.
Shi Tingyun stood up and recommended with a smile, “During lunch, I saw that Thirteenth Prince likes to eat sweets. Tingyun tried them one by one, and these three kinds of cakes are the sweetest. The Thirteenth Prince is really not going to try one?”
Yan Yuanheng turned his face away, not wanting to appear too greedy: “What did sixth imperial brother seek you for?”
“He didn’t say.” Shi Tingyun fiddled with the lace of the handkerchief in his hand. “It was just to give me some benefits, and he asked me to be his study companion to assist him.”
The children in the palace were the most precocious, not to mention Yan Yuanheng, who was influenced by the lessons of his concubine mother and was cautious since childhood.
He was startled and hurriedly covered his mouth, “Keep your voice down! Don’t talk nonsense!”
Shi Tingyun stopped talking and held up the handkerchief in his hand, motioning him to eat quickly.
Yan Yuanheng put away the cakes and said solemnly, “Don’t abuse sweets before meals. It will spoil your appetite.”
Shi Tingyun smiled. “Then leave it for after dinner.”
At that time, no matter how cautious Yan Yuanheng was, he was only a child.
He hesitated for a long time, and before parting that day, he asked Shi Tingyun, “…will you go?”
This was a sentence without a beginning or end, but Shi Tingyun understood.
He smiled and said, “Shi Tingyun will come to study with the Thirteenth Prince tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. He will come for a year and for ten years.”
Perhaps it was prophetic. Shi Tingyun really did become Yan Yuanheng’s companion for ten years.
A whole decade.
In ten years, many things changed.
Yan Yuanheng, who was prudent and cautious when he was young, gradually overtook Yan Yuanzhao with his natural talents and learning and was very favored by the emperor. Yan Yuanzhao changed his early years of diligence and intelligence, no longer demanded improvement, and became more and more like a playboy, causing the emperor endless headaches.
Compared with these two, Shi Tingyun’s temperament hadn’t changed much.
From the very first acquaintance, he was a carefree and happy person, as if nothing could involve him.
As he drunkenly said when he was fifteen years old: Wangcheng’s new generation, only I stand above the crowd.
Shi Tingyun was familiar with every corner of Wangcheng. The first time he took Yan Yuanheng out of the palace, they went to a gambling house and won ten taels of silver. Then, he used the ten taels of silver to take him to play all around Wangcheng, going to the tea stalls to listen to stories, buying a plate of melon seeds for three wen, and watching shadow puppets in the crowd. They watched people from the Western Regions play with snakes and even got close to the people of the Western Regions, borrowing his snake in the Western Regions dialect, playing with it for a while, and then using it to scare Yan Yuanheng.
Yan Yuanheng wasn’t afraid of snakes and faintly said, “Nonsense, be careful not to be bitten.”
Shi Tingyun joked that he had become an old pedantic scholar at twelve or thirteen years old, but he wasn’t angry.
Yan Yuanheng was never angry with Shi Tingyun.
He liked to watch him do things. Whether practicing the spear, calligraphy, copying, washing inkstones, or drinking, he did it differently from others.
Yan Yuanheng didn’t quite understand what kind of feeling this was.
He thought that if you’ve been with anyone for so long, you would probably have such unusual feelings.
However, since Chu Ziling entered the Shi mansion, the situation has been different from the past.
Shi Tingyun, who initially wholeheartedly thought of Yan Yuanheng’s joys and sorrows, began to be accompanied by a servant all the time, calling Shi Tingyun to cherish him incessantly.
Chu Ziling was born with a pair of smiling eyes, was used to working, and was extremely handsome. Shi Tingyun also said he was chosen among the many servants because he was pleasing to the eye when he smiled.
Facts proved that Shi Tingyun’s vision wasn’t bad. Chu Ziling learned everything very quickly. Yan Yuanheng once saw Shi Tingyun teach him the huimaqiang style of the Shi family spear. Chu Ziling only watched it twice before performing the whole style with ease.
Shi Tingyun loved talent, and when sitting and drinking tea with Yan Yuanheng, he still didn’t forget to boast about Chu Ziling and himself. “I really found a treasure.”
Yan Yuanzhao snorted coldly. “Is a slightly smarter servant worth you bringing to the stage over and over again?”
Shi Tingyun spoke for Chu Ziling. “He is not a servant, but a piece of jade in the rough. You wait and see.”
Yan Yuanheng was silent on the side.
He thought, did my jade in the rough also raise his own piece of rough jade?
He lowered his long eyelashes slightly and looked at the floating tea leaves in his cup, trying to ignore the vague discomfort in his heart.
And after a particular polo match, he couldn’t ignore it anymore.
A drunk young man stabbed his horse with a spur during the competition. The horse was frightened and went mad, suddenly exerting force, throwing the young man off. Shi Tingyun was close by and flew off his horse, catching the young man and saving his little life. Chu Ziling jumped straight on the back of the mad horse, and amidst the panicked neighs of the horse, he took the reins, made the wild horse slowly calm down, and rode around the field in a circle. Then, he immediately came to Shi Tingyun, who was protecting the drunk young man.
Chu Ziling slightly tightened the reins. The horse raised its front hooves high, neighed, and stopped a step away from Shi Tingyun.
The hot breath from the horse’s nose lifted Shi Tingyun’s hair.
He looked up at Chu Ziling on horseback.
Chu Ziling leaned down and handed him the reins.
And Yan Yuanheng, who had hurriedly spurred his horse from the other end of the racecourse to protect Shi Tingyun, clearly heard Chu Ziling say to Shi Tingyun with a smile as he handed back the reins, “Gongzi is on the bottom, and Ziling is on top. Is this okay?”
Yan Yuanheng was stunned when he saw Shi Tingyun, who had always been confident, then pursed his lips in joy as if he was embarrassed.
Yan Yuanheng had never seen Shi Tingyun like this.
He was so sour in his heart that he drank a few cups of hot tea, but he still couldn’t calm down.
Yan Yuanheng stroked his teacup and asked himself in a low voice what happened.
Later, when the Nanjiang rebelled, and the war was tense, Shi Tingyun rushed to the battlefield at sixteen years old with Chu Ziling by his side.
The war lasted for two years, and finally, a decisive battle was fought on the Great Green Mountain not far from the Jinji Mausoleum.
The emperor was worried about Shi Jinghong’s safety and security, so Yan Yuanheng, who was also worried about Shi Tingyun’s safety, requested to go to the border.
When he arrived with his troops, the decisive battle was over, Nanjiang surrendered, and the war ended.
Yan Yuanheng met General Shi, proclaimed the imperial decree, and after discussing serious business, he suppressed his nervousness and asked where Shi Tingyun was.
He found Shi Tingyun at the edge of the battlefield of Great Green Mountain.
Amid the wild wind, Shi Tingyun was sitting on the slope. His silver helmet fell off, his long hair was disheveled, and he was sitting there quietly thinking.
And his gaze rested on Chu Ziling’s back, who was cleaning the battlefield not far away and standing tall.
Yan Yuanheng called out to him.
Shi Tingyun turned his head, dragging his injured leg to kneel to pay his respects. Yan Yuanheng hurried to help him and heard his long-lost joking tone. “Then thank the emperor for gifting the Thirteenth Prince to this general.”
Yan Yuanheng had a strange and inappropriate dream in his tent that night.
As soon as the dream passed, he was really uneasy and surprised by his own wicked thoughts, so he had no choice but to quietly bury his trousers beside the military tent while it was still dark.
The war was over, and General Shi asked Shi Tingyun to return to Wangcheng to recover from his injuries. However, anyone could guess what General Shi was thinking.
—It was time for Shi Tingyun to get married.
But after returning to the city for more than a year, Shi Tingyun mostly hung out with Yan Yuanzhao. There were rumors that Shi Tingyun liked longyan, either with the Sixth Prince, Yan Yuanzhao, or with the Thirteenth Prince, Yan Yuanheng.
He didn’t know why, but Yan Yuanzhao always liked to joke with Yan Yuanheng about these absurd things.
Yan Yuanheng was upset when he heard it and politely said, “Sixth imperial brother, don’t spread such nonsensical rumors. If Suchang knew about it, it would be too shameful.”
Yan Yuanzhao covered his mouth with his golden silk fan. “Thirteenth brother, it’s just a joke. But tell me, if Tingyun were to choose between you and me, who would Tingyun choose?”
Yan Yuanheng forced himself to hold back his impulses. “Sixth imperial brother, please be careful with your words.”
That night, Yan Yuanheng went to bed early according to habit, but he couldn’t help but think in his heart that if Suchang had to choose, he would definitely choose sixth imperial brother. In childhood, the two of them were the definition of if; they had a lot to talk about, and sixth imperial brother was lively…
For this reason, he fell asleep an entire shichen late.
On the second day, Yan Yuanheng, who was dizzy, thought that he was getting upset over nothing.
The Shi family had a family legacy to inherit, and Shi Tingyun would definitely be with a woman.
However, Shi Tingyun stayed in Wangcheng for a year and a half. The emperor asked many times, and the second uncle of the Shi family often invited matchmakers to the house to talk about marriage, almost breaking the threshold of the general’s residence. Still, Shi Tingyun refused all of them, seeming to have no intention.
Not long after Yan Yuanheng heard that his imperial father was planning to bestow a marriage to Shi Tingyun, bad news suddenly came from Zhennan Pass.
General Shi Jinghong died suddenly, and the cause of death was poison.
The lieutenant general found poison in the steamed buns that the general had that day. The cook cried out grievances, but the angry soldiers thought he was a traitor from Nanjiang and beheaded him in the chaos.
The general has always been careful, and every time he ate, he used a silver needle for poison, so no one knows how the general accidentally consumed the hemlock.
When the bad news came, the emperor thought of his fondness for Shi Jinghong as a study companion when he was young and was so angry and anxious that he vomited blood.
Yan Yuanheng was worried in his heart. After serving the emperor’s illness, he hesitated again and again before he left the palace and went to the general’s mansion.
It was Li Yeshu who received him. He was red-eyed and said, “Gongzi is drunk. Ah Ling is with him.”
Shi Tingyun gave himself one night to get drunk.
Yan Yuanheng asked Ah Shu not to pass on the message and walked slowly outside Shi Tingyun’s house alone.
When he heard Shi Tingyun talking, he was actually talking about Yan Yuanzhao.
Shi Tingyun said, “…I, I know what is on Yuanzhao’s mind. When he was a child, he thought he had the power to fight for the throne, so he wanted to befriend me. Later, Yuanheng came from behind, and he knew he wasn’t as good, so he simply stopped fighting and made friends with me again. He only hopes when the new emperor ascends to the throne in the future that he’ll have a stable life. I know that he is always shouting at you, but he’s really not a bad person…”
Yan Yuanheng was surprised.
He was saying a little too much to this little servant.
He wanted to go in and stop it, but he stood still unconsciously, waiting for him to talk about himself.
However, after waiting a long time, he only got a simple comment. “Yuanheng, he…has a bright future…”
“For the emperor, for father, for the two of them, I want…” The person inside struggled to get up, but softly fell back on the bed. “The Yan family’s country, Shi Tingyun will guard…”
Chu Ziling’s voice came from the inside. “Gongzi, don’t make trouble. Go to bed early.”
“…Ah Ling.” After a long pause, Yan Yuanheng heard Shi Tingyun crying hoarsely. “Ah Ling, I—I don’t have a father anymore.”
Yan Yuanheng felt a sharp pain in his heart, and just as he was about to push the door in to enter, he heard a sucking sound similar to a kiss from inside.
Immediately afterward, he heard Chu Ziling whisper, “Gongzi, don’t be sad. Ah Ling will go to Nanjiang with gongzi. To go hand and hand in life and death, and a promise not to fail you in this life.”
Yan Yuanheng’s complexion changed drastically, and he almost fled from the general’s mansion. On the day when Shi Tingyun led the army to leave Wangcheng, he stayed by his ill imperial father’s side and watched Shi Tingyun go from a distance.
From then on, Yan Yuanheng could only hear news of Shi Tingyun from battle reports.
Until his death, Yan Yuanheng regretted that he hadn’t been able to have a good word with him when he left the city.
This time, the process of injecting the world line was extraordinarily long and slow. Chi Xiaochi could clearly feel every drop of pain and love from the original owner, Shi Tingyun.
He regarded Yan Yuanzhao and Yan Yuanheng as close friends, but he only loved Chu Ziling in his heart.
Chu Ziling was the jade in the rough polished by his own hand.
At first, he wanted to help him out of slavery, but later, this piece of uncut jade was so eye-catching that it took away all his sight before he knew it.
However, in the eyes of the world, male homosexuality was just a not-too-elegant hobby, and the Shi family’s precepts never allowed concubines.
Shi Tingyun didn’t want to weigh down other girls, and he was unwilling to tell Chu Ziling what he was thinking about, disturbing his heart for no reason. He simply gave up on his thoughts and only wished to make a promise to the country for the rest of his life and never marry.
His father’s death instantly pushed him to a high position he had never imagined before.
He arrived at Zhennan Pass and hurriedly took over the military affairs of Nanjiang.
After his father’s death, the people of Nanjiang started making moves immediately, so it was completely possible to guess which force was behind the poisoning.
The Beifu army had strict military discipline. Although abruptly changing generals wouldn’t cause chaos, it was inevitable that he would secretly worry.
The young general had been on the battlefield as a battle vanguard general. He had some prestige in the army but had never held the post of commander.
Was Shi Tingyun really capable of leading the entire Beifu army?
Shi Tingyun never showed a trace of vulnerability in front of others. Occasionally, when he was drinking with the soldiers, he even had the heart to tell some interesting things from the past about Wangcheng, laughing with them.
Until one time, after a desperate battle in Zuobi Mountain, his deputy general, Chu Ziling, disappeared during the battle.
Shi Tingyun, who has always been as stable as Mount Tai, lost his composure for the first time. He rushed out of the marshal tent in the heavy pouring rain of night and rode his horse to the mountain, turning over corpses one by one, trying to find Chu Ziling.
His playmate since he was twelve years old, his jade in the rough, the only person in the army he could confide in, his…
As he was pulling up a blood-stained corpse, he suddenly heard an astonished voice come from behind him. “…Gongzi?”
Chu Ziling was slashed in the back by a saber during the chaotic warfare and passed out. After lying among the pile of the dead for a long time, he was awakened by the heavy rain.
The ecstasy of losing something and then regaining it was like a sea wave submerging Shi Tingyun.
He heard his voice, and without saying a word, he stumbled forward, grabbed Chu Ziling’s muddy hair, and directly kissed him.
That night, the rain continued, and Shi Tingyun, who fell into the mud, choked on the water when he kissed him, coughing violently.
He wanted to indulge himself for once.
Tonight, and only tonight.
He called him. “Ah Ling.”
Chu Ziling patted his back. “Gongzi, I have a name and a surname, call me Chu Ziling.”
Shi Tingyun gritted his teeth and said in a muffled voice, “Chu Ziling, you have injuries on your back, gongzi allows you to…come up.”
The person in front of him froze a moment, then lowered his head and kissed the small scar at the corner of his eye, his eyes curving. “Gongzi…General, I have much offended you, please forgive me.”
That night, Shi Tingyun and Chu Ziling returned to the camp with a few missing, wounded soldiers.
The two rode together so that no one could see any clues.
Only when dismounting did Chu Ziling calmly support Shi Tingyun.
Shi Tingyun glared at him, both angry and amused, gritted his teeth, endured the discomfort in his body, and walked into the tent, but a big stone fell in his heart.
He originally thought Chu Ziling had no intention toward him, so he was reluctant to reveal it. Who would have thought that he had the same intentions as him?
This little consolation was enough for Shi Tingyun, who was always in the haze of danger but had to hold on.
The Nanjiang war was getting more and more tense. The people of Nanjiang seemed to be able to predict every move of the Beifu army, and their tactics were vicious and ruthless. Fortunately, Shi Tingyun was resourceful and adaptable and moved in response to the time. He won several hard-fought battles between the cracks. He even took advantage of the terrain and horse pit traps in the Sandfly Valley to conquer nine thousand cavalry troops from Nanjiang with five thousand soldiers. He gradually established his reputation in the army.
The soldiers all said that a tiger father has no dog son and the young general Shi had his father’s style.
The pain of losing his father was gradually overshadowed by the situation tilting toward victory.
The opportunities that the people of Nanjiang had taken great pains to gain were lost little by little.
One day, Shi Tingyun was reading a letter in his tent.
Coincidentally, two of his good brothers sent letters on the same day.
Yan Yuanzhao asked him how he was doing and if he was dead, and he didn’t need to answer if he was dead.
Shi Tingyun wrote the word “no” on the top of a piece of paper, and one reply was completed.
Yan Yuanheng wrote to ask him if he was well and turned a letter into an elegantly worded and archaic parallel prose.
Shi Tingyun wrote in the top-left again, writing the word “good” and handing it over to his lieutenant general to send it. Suddenly he heard a report from outside that the battle was over. As expected, the Beifu army won. Deputy General Chu took advantage of the victory and led his troops to chase after a small group of remnants.
Shi Tingyun threw his brush and scolded him for acting against the rules. “Don’t force a cornered enemy, how many times have I told him!”
He stood up. “Lieutenant General Sun, order a team of personal soldiers to go with me to meet them, just in case.”
Lieutenant General Sun had followed the former general, Shi Jinghong, since he was young. He had a more generous personality and was quite helpless against the young general’s impulsiveness.
…After all, the young general was born as a general. He had long been accustomed to conquering in person and was always unwilling to sit in the tent.
Shi Tingyun rode his horse away, but he didn’t expect to encounter a horse trap he had relied on to win great victories on a small road he was chasing after.
The horse pit trap was a chain formation. The camouflage above the trap was relatively strong when you first entered it. The further you go, the weaker the camouflage laid on the trap is. When the vanguard notices it, it is often too late, and the trap under your feet has collapsed. And the traps that have been passed by were also loosened by the continuous trampling horse hooves, and a large area would be trapped.
Although Shi Tingyun immediately stopped the rear team after realizing that something was wrong, the shouts of killing and the rain of arrows falling all over the field still took the lives of most of the soldiers in an instant.
Shi Tingyun wasn’t in the coverage of the rain of arrows. Only two iron feather arrowheads carved with the heads of the Nanjiang eagle accurately shot through both his shoulders and shot him off his horse. The intention to capture him alive couldn’t be more obvious.
Is it a conspiracy?
But how did the Nanjiang people know that Chu Ziling would lead his troops to chase after them?
Was Chu Ziling okay?
Shi Tingyun didn’t have time to think about it. He struggled to get up, gritted his teeth, pulled out the arrowhead, and went to grab the silver spear on the horse’s side when he suddenly saw darkness in front of his eyes.
…The arrow was poisoned!
In a daze, Shi Tingyun propped his spear to the ground to stabilize himself, but he couldn’t withstand the onset of the poison, and he slowly slid to the ground on his knees.
As the world spun, a figure swayed in front of his eyes.
He forced himself to raise his head but saw a person who made him think he was in a nightmare.
Chu Ziling stood in a small group of troops dressed in Nanjiang uniforms, still wearing the armor of a deputy general of the Beifu army. He bowed and saluted with a smile on his face. “Gongzi, Chu Ziling has much offended you, please forgive me.”