Qiang Jin Jiu – Chapter 200 : Banquet

Translated with: Jia<3

No one could have expected it to take Yin Chang nearly four hours to take a bath. All the gentlemen in the study waited until they were famished. Yu Xiaozai glanced at the snacks on the table, his stomach growling incessantly.  

“Youjing.” Shen Zechuan extracted himself from Cizhou’s affairs and said, “Dunzhou will serve as the supply camp when we mobilize troops to Duanzhou in the second month. Tantai Hu doesn’t have a clue about the workings of the yamen, so you will still have to go over and keep an eye on things. I’ll give you the authority to undertake inspection tours. If anything crops up, you can report directly to my desk without the need to go through the relay stations.” 

Yu Xiaozai was a Chief Surveillance Bureau Censor who could be considered a student of Cen Yu. In his early years, he had served as a Touring Censor1 and often carried out fieldwork in local areas. As such, he was very familiar with the ins and outs of the yamen. They were now establishing Dunzhou anew, and the key functionaries assigned over were newcomers selected by Cizhou; using them did not feel all that reassuring. Shen Zechuan did not retain Yu Xiaozai in Dunzhou as the Investigating Circuit; instead, he gave him the authority to conduct inspection tours and report directly back to him. Although Yu Xiaozai still did not have a definite official post, he carried a lot of weight. This was equivalent to the current Surveillance Commissioner in Zhongbo, who held sway over the various prefectures and circuits’ local administration assessments. 

Yu Xiaozai hurriedly retracted his gaze from the snacks and rose to bow to Shen Zechuan. 

“It hasn’t been long since Dunzhou was newly established,” Xiao Chiye said to Yu Xiaozai as he sat beside Shen Zechuan. “As someone in a military post, Tantai Hu should not be interfering with the affairs of the yamen, but manpower is lacking in the various prefectures, so we are doing away with the taboos for now. He’s a tad obtuse in this area, so he will need you to advise him as much as you can when it comes to the major issues.” 

Tantai Hu was a trusted subordinate of Xiao Chiye. Delegating him to a lower position in Dunzhou was because they needed him to fill in the vacant post of general in Zhongbo. Getting him to guard Dunzhou could actually be considered as doing him an injustice, but with this layer of connection, no one in the Dunzhou yamen dared to defy Tantai Hu. By saying what he had, Xiao Chiye was actually backing Yu Xiaozai. Now that Yu Xiaozai had an appointment from Shen Zechuan to conduct inspections tours and make direct reports in addition to Xiao Chiye’s words, he no longer had anyone to fear when he made his rounds in Dunzhou. It would also help his cause when he headed down to the other prefectures in the future. 

Yu Xiaozai was practically radiating with delight, but it would not do for him to be standing here and wear his heart too much on his sleeve, so he held his joy in check and bowed again to both of them. “This humble subject will definitely do my best to live up to the Prefectural Lord and the Second Master’s kindness.” 

Yu Xiaozai’s answer was loud and clear, but so was the response from his tummy too. Their duet was so resounding that the study was stunned into silence. 

“It’s the celebratory banquet for the garrison troops tonight.” Shen Zechuan saw it was already getting dark. “So I shall not hold you gentlemen back. Let’s start the feast.” 

The feast was set up in the side hall. Initially, Shen Zechuan was supposed to be in the host seat, but Xiao Chiye was back now, and Yin Chang had still yet to show up, so he simply sat for a while as a gesture of appreciation before he took his leave. Most of those present were the advisors, and they did not dare to drink and let themselves go in Shen Zechuan’s presence. With the Prefectural Lord gone for the night, they were a little more at ease. 

Qiao Tianya was not around, and with no one keeping an eye on him, Yao Wenyu, unable to turn down the warm invitations of the various advisors to drink up, took a few cups too. 

Seeing him in a rare moment of relaxation, Qiao Tianya did not stride across the door but let down the hanging screen at the door and accompanied him under the eaves instead. 

Having found Qiao Tianya, Fei Sheng beckoned to him from afar and said across the fine snow, “Let’s go. What are you standing here like a pole for? There’s a table set up in the duty room too. Everyone’s waiting for you.” 

Qiao Tianya did not move. He looked a little unrestrained as he leaned against the doorpost, “Has everything been arranged on Master’s end?”

“Of course, they have to be.” Fei Sheng walked over to Qiao Tianya and looked through the gap in the hanging screen. “The various gentlemen tend to break up late, so you can still make it on time when you come around later. Besides, there are guards both on the inside and outside. Nothing bad will happen.” 

Qiao Tianya thought for a moment and lifted the screen. Yao Wenyu looked over from the other side, as if he knew someone was here waiting. After a short pause, Qiao Tianya lowered the screen and said, “I still have a few jars of fine wine in my room. You can send someone to get them. Consider it a token of my apology to everyone.” 

Fei Sheng stood still at the side for a moment before he merely said, “Who cares about those few jars of yours? How boring. Master has already released us from duty today, and yet you still keep yourself here.” Having drunk a little, he was much more talkative than he usually was. “Master gave me the assignment to recruit newcomers a few days back. Do you know about it?” 

 Qiao Tianya folded his arms and sized Fei Sheng up with his eyes. “Yeah.” 

Fei Sheng raised a finger to point at himself before pointing at Qiao Tianya. Holding in a burp, he said, “Let me say a word in all honesty. We’ll be building a cavalry in Duanzhou in the future. Master favors you the most, since you’re pretty good at fighting after all. But look at you now; how did you come to this? You follow Yao Wenyu around as though you have forgotten where your roots are. If you go on like this, you will ruin your own future, sooner or later.”

Snow fell onto the hilt of Qiao Tianya’s blade. He looked at the courtyard and said absent-mindedly, “This is where my future lies. You’re worrying too much.” 

“The Grand Mentor gave you to Master.” Fei Sheng lowered his voice, disappointed with  him for not living up to expectations. “The day Master took you in, he also received Yang Shan Xue.” 

Qiao Tianya once swore to be Shen Zechuan’s blade. Courage, insight, temperament, skills—he did not lack them all. Had he been willing, he could have been the kind of guard in Zhongbo like Zhao Hui and Chen Yang were. His future would be bright, with boundless prospects, and restoring his clan to its former glory would not be just a dream. But ever since he was assigned to Yao Wenyu’s side, he had lost that desire. The tasks Shen Zechuan had handed over to Fei Sheng to recruit new soldiers and accompany Yin Chang’s troops to Fanzhou as the Attendant Officer were all assignments Qiao Tianya did not want. 

Qiao Tianya blew away the snowflakes drifting towards him and watched as the wind instantaneously swept them away into the pitch-black night, where they disappeared. He did not brush away the snow on his blade, nor did he answer Fei Sheng. 

◈     ◈     ◈

Xiao Chiye removed his armor and wore just a single piece of unlined garment as he read Fei Sheng’s report, which included the details of the deployment of troops to Fanzhou. “To think King Yi could even get his hands on firearms. His capability is astounding.” 

“One hundred and thirty-five pieces.” Shen Zechuan shed off his wide-sleeved robe. “They all come from the Chunquan Battalion, and there are even numbers from the Ministry of War engraved on them.” 

“He’s just a mere mountain bandit without a proper army.” Xiao Chiye set his arms on the chair handles and watched as Shen Zechuan undressed. “Who supplied him with such valuable stuff?” 

Shen Zechuan’s robe slid across the crooks of his arms and fell to the woolen rug. His regular wear had pearl clasps, which made subtle “pop” sounds as he flicked them open. That fair, smooth nape of his promptly materialized. Shen Zechuan covered it partially with his fingers, looking as though he was considering something. He was so unguarded in this slack moment it was as if he would not resist even if he were to be pinned down onto the rug, and with his mind preoccupied with other matters, he appeared all the more seductive. 

“It does not benefit Qudu in any way for the firearms to be on the loose out there. It must have been stolen.” 

Shen Zechuan’s Adam’s apple would bob when he was speaking. Xiao Chiye gazed at it without so much a change in expression; he was exceedingly familiar with it. Each time Shen Zechuan dripped with perspiration, he had the habit of tilting his head up and exposing his neck. This was because Xiao Chiye was too tall. Even if Shen Zechuan was lying on the bedding, he still had to meet Xiao Chiye’s kisses in such a way.

Xiao Chiye conjured up many scenes in his mind, but his expression was so composed and collected that he betrayed nothing of what he was thinking. His thumb was subconsciously caressing his thumb ring, rotating it gently. “Did Yin Chang bring back a captive?” he asked. 

“King Yi’s male lover with the surname Huo. Chengfeng said that he’s the son of Huo Qing, the former commander-in-chief of Dengzhou.” Having spoken to this point, Shen Zechuan looked at Xiao Chiye. “We can take a look at him tomorrow morning.” 

“This person used firearms to scare Yin Chang into retreating,” Xiao Chiye said. “Looks like he knows how to use it.” 

“Someone must have taught him. Shen Zechuan undid the last of the pearl clasp, and when he released his hand, his regular wear slid to the ground.

The beauty, finally comfortable now, kicked off the wooden clogs on his feet in passing. With his back to the dim light and narrow waist revealed, he was like the personification of gorgeousness who could not be contained by his clothes. Xiao Chiye tasted secret pleasure. This was just like foreplay between the two of them not privy to others. His desire for Lanzhou gradually crept into his chest, filling it up. 

“Send a few pieces of firearms to Libei tomorrow morning. The military craftsmen can draw up a blueprint. Hairigu learned Yin Chang’s formation on the sly back at the Beiyuan military drill grounds, and I couldn’t counter his moves. When we mobilize troops to Duanzhou this time, I want Yin Chang to follow along.” Xiao Chiye tossed Fei Sheng’s report on the desk. 

Shen Zechuan, who was holding up the tea to take a sip, glanced at Xiao Chiye on hearing him and asked meaningfully, “are you not taking me along?” 

“Sure,” Xiao Chiye said frivolously as he faced Shen Zechuan. “There’s a ferocious tiger2 back at home who usually keeps a tight watch on me, so I can only get up to some hanky-panky with you while the troops are on the march.” 

Wickedness twinkled at the corners of Shen Zechuan’s upturned eyes. “Your wife is so fierce. I’m scared.”  

Xiao Chiye imitated Shen Zechuan’s tone the last time, “I’m fierce too.” 

“I’m not afraid of you being fierce.” Shen Zechuan held up and pressed the folding fan between their lips. Like a fox from outside, he said, “But you only come over once in a blue moon.” 

Xiao Chiye tilted his head slightly. “What can I do? I’m but a henpecked husband who fears my wife.”

“If it were me…” Shen Zechuan shifted away his folding fan and leaned close to Xiao Chiye’s lips, where he softly said, “I’ll stay at home all day longing for you, making love to you under the sheets, stirring up a storm with you…” 

Xiao Chiye kissed Shen Zechuan, breaking up those shameless words of his. He felt his way down, but did not find Shen Zechuan’s tail. The light in the room dimmed a little, and the hanging drapes of the bed had long been let down. There was clearly no one else around, yet they both seemed to be having a clandestine affair. Both men rubbed up against the other, suppressing their gasps for breath. 

“I want all of you,” Xiao Chiye whispered. 

Shen Zechuan was bitten to the point of tears. The side of his face chafed against the bedding. Under Xiao Chiye’s gaze, he strained himself to look at Xiao Chiye with wet, glistening eyes and said in a fit of pique, “You… greedy… cad!”

Xiao Chiye had spent nearly two months on the battlefields, and when he returned to Cizhou, he stayed over at the Beiyuan military drill grounds As he pinched Shen Zechuan’s chin now, he stared at him and whispered with a smile, “You’re absolutely right.” 

Shen Zechuan was taken—possessed by Xiao Chiye. 

After so long a time, it felt completely different this time. The change in Xiao Chiye was exhibited on full display right here. He no longer let Shen Zechuan off. The feeling of being invaded and possessed from bottom to top gave Shen Zechuan the sensation that he had completely fallen; he was now Xiao Chiye’s captive. 

His heartbeats. His voice. His breaths.  

Xiao Chiye wanted all of Shen Zechuan, even as he dominated him. 

Shen Zechuan could not endure it anymore. Sweat and tears interweaved. He could barely catch his breath now. Xiao Chiye even had to seize away tears he had yet to shed.  

Xiao Chiye once wanted the sky, the grasslands, and also the Hongyan Mountains. He domesticated eagles and tamed horses, and he galloped among the vast lands in the dreams. But in the end, he no longer wanted them all. 

He wanted Shen Zechuan. 

Shen Zechuan began to cry. He raised his head, his expressive eyes glistening with waves of emotions. At the peak of his euphoria, he slurred, “A… Ye…” 

Xiao Chiye thought he was afraid. 

But Shen Zechuan lifted his chin slightly, his face flushed as he licked his lips wet. “Oh, how I love you so.” 

These words were both his madness and his solace, either of which could easily vanquish Xiao Chiye. The temptation that glistened in this pair of eyes was so much like that day in Dunzhou, when he had leaped from Fuxian Peak into Xiao Chiye’s arms. The expressions in those eyes were just as equally crazed. Even without the blistering wind and raging fire, he was bad to the bone. 

For this, Xiao Chiye had feigned anger. At the same time, he was extraordinarily delighted. He had in his bosom, the one and only Shen Lanzhou in the world. 

Xiao Chiye bent down to kiss Shen Zechuan, as though he was shackling him. He did not want Shen Zechuan to leave him by even half an inch amidst the jolts, nor did he want Shen Zechuan to break free of his hold amidst the gasps for breath. Every thrust went in deeper and harder, never lighter, making the bedding damp, and making Shen Zechuan tremble.

They went wild with abandon in the dimness, their sweats merging together into an expanse of dampness. There was nothing left but each other.

The damp night stirred among the dappled shadows of the trees, and the bamboo blinds came to a silent rest. There was no one waiting in attendance on the veranda, so the whispered confidence in the room remained concealed within the hanging drapes. Bamboo tubes in the courtyard tilted, discharging cool water among the snowflakes and scouring over the frozen moss. Meng folded its wings and rested on the beam in the hallway. It tilted its head to listen for a moment, then tilted its head back into place and closed its eyes to sleep. Occasionally, the caws of a jackdaw rang out, but even that could not disturb the pair of lovers deep in the throes of their passion. 

◈     ◈     ◈

Yao Wenyu pillowed his head on Qiao Tianya’s back. With some difficulty, he opened his eyes and looked at the overcast sky. “The stars are right within reach…”3

“Rest up,” Qiao Tianya said. “There are no stars tonight.” 

Light snow of the night caressed his face. Yao Wenyu reached out and grabbed at the empty air. The blend of the smell of wine on him and the aroma of medicine puffed onto the side of Qiao Tianya’s ear as he suddenly spoke. “What are you all red for?” 

Qiao Tianya did not answer.

“What are you all hot for?” 

Qiao Tianya still did not answer.

Yao Wenyu bowed his head down and buried his face into the back of Qiao Tianya’s shoulder. He mumbled, “what good is of talent to me? Getting nowhere with these legs of mine, as unclear as the path ahead lies…4 With no lofty aspirations to speak of… a blessed man I am not…”

Qiao Tianya stepped across the thin snow with the soles of his boots making soft squeaking sounds. 

Yao Wenyu clapped his palm together in tandem with the sound of snow and murmured, “Since time immemorial, dead are the sages and men of virtues; only the reputation of the drinkers endures…”5

Qiao Tianya felt his own nape getting wet. He knew that was not the snow melting, but even so, he said, “The snow’s getting in. Block it out for me, will you?”

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Credits: Thank you to Yesu for reaching out to us about the missing portion! This version is a combination of both uncensored versions we found. As usual, the final version will be based on the uncensored traditional copy when it is released. In the meantime, please bear with us! 

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  1. 巡察御史 Touring Censor, a duty assignment for Investigating Censors twice a year to tour and inspect governmental operations in the various regions and to provide data for consideration in the promotion and demotion of local officials.
  2. A 母老虎 (Xiao Chiye used 悍虎 here) back at home usually refer to a man’s wife who is a tigress or a shrew.
  3. 手可摘星辰 a line from a poem “Lodging for a Night at a Mountain Temple” (夜宿山寺) by Li Bai.
  4. Since this whole line seemed to us like it has multiple layers of meaning, we just going to footnote them here :V

    天生我究竟何用: a modification of 天生我才必有用, or “everyone has his own heaven-endowed talent”, so in this vein, the line can be read as “what good is of talent to me?” Although another way of reading this line (albeit more literally) is “why am I born?”, “what is the meaning of my existence?”.

    行不通,道不明: first part 行不通 can be translated as “can’t walk” or “getting nowhere”, while the typical translation for 道不明 (as in 说不清,道不明) refer to “can’t explain oneself clear”, personally tho, 道 could also refer to the philosophical “Way” Yao Wenyu was talking about in an earlier chapter, especially in relation to the earlier “getting nowhere” phrase. (i.e. feeling lost about his “Way” in life).
  5. A modification from the line 古来圣贤皆寂寞,唯有饮者留其名 from the poem, Qiang Jin Jiu (将进酒) by Li Bai.