Editor(s): namio, opal, jelly
cw: reference to attempted suicide from previous chapter
A mosquito went heng heng heng...
A group of flies went weng weng weng...
When the room was cleared of the zhugong and vassals who had filled it with sounds of sorrow, jeering, scolding, and hatred of one’s failed offspring, A-Dou shot Zhao Yun a look, hesitantly saying, “Shifu.”
A-Dou saw that Zhao Yun’s eyes were rimmed faintly with red, and he knew in his heart that he couldn’t rile up this fellow too much, so he said anxiously, “I… This disciple didn’t actually plan to hang himself, this room was too stuffy is all, and I wanted to swing on a swing set. I didn’t expect the bedsheets to be so slippery, and my left foot caught, so it turned into a scenario like this… I slipped with a guzhi …”
Zhao Yun let out a sigh and waved his hand. Without saying anything, he got up to leave and closed the door behind him as he did.
A-Dou watched the silhouette of Zhao Yun’s back as he walked away, and he suddenly felt that he was pretty pitiful. In the past, Zhao Yun had fought with his life on the line to rescue Lady Gan and A-Dou from the chaos of battle. Not long after, Lady Gan grew ill and returned to the earth, leaving behind A-Dou who turned out to be pretty stupid; a pile of stinking mud that couldn’t even stick to a wall, someone who hadn’t taken any sort of ambitious action.
Liu Shan’s literary master was Zhuge and his martial master was Zhao Yun, so how had he been tempered into such a piece of trash? A-Can shook his head; even after thinking it through so many times, he couldn’t understand, so he reached out and blindly pulled over the bedsheet that A-Dou had used as a makeshift noose, pulled it over his head, and fell asleep.
The next day, the sun had already risen to the height of three bamboo poles when A-Dou lazily got up. After shouting multiple times, an unwilling servant, who was still yawning, came over to wait upon him. He was very curious about some of the things of this time period, such as the purple stone used to brush the teeth and rinse the mouth, the gilded spittoon, and the jade hook used to hold up the mosquito netting, so he wanted to reach out to touch and handle everything. He opened his mouth and asked about a few of them, before accidentally breaking a vase. Finding that the servant was staring dumbly at him like he was a fool, he stopped asking.
After brushing and washing, the servant brought over breakfast: congee with cassia blossoms sprinkled on top, fried meatballs, and, because the people of Jing province liked spicy food, two to three plates of pickled vegetables on the table were a necessity. The “little zhugong” ate it all very happily. While he was drinking the congee, he suddenly heard the guard outside the door report, “General Huwei invites the little zhugong to practice his martial arts in the courtyard after he is finished with his midday meal.”
At that, he spewed out his mouthful of congee. Naturally, a servant hurried over, hands and feet all akimbo, to wipe it up. A-Dou asked, “Who is General Huwei? It was only yesterday that laozi tried to hang himself, can’t he let me rest for a few days?”
After learning that General Huwei was Zhao Yun, A-Dou went wandering about in search of that courtyard in the middle of the estate. The cloisters were winding and twisted, and after circling about for half the day, asking and trespassing as he went, he finally found the courtyard on the eastern side of the Jingzhou governor’s estate. Though autumn had already come, the sun was still as powerful as ever, so the plaza was completely empty, save for a single youth who held a wooden ji
Today, he saw that Zhao Yun wasn’t wearing his armor while teaching; instead, he was garbed in a set of warrior’s robes. Looking at his height, even rounding down, he would be eight chi tall. His physique was handsome and heroic, and he had the bearing of a beautiful man.
At that moment, Zhao Yun was standing to the side of the plaza as he conversed quietly with a woman. A-Dou listened from afar, but he felt that the tone of that conversation was not a good one, and phrases such as “homework, left to waste” floated into his ear. He felt a sense of unease in his heart, and just as he was about to leave, the woman spotted Liu Shan and shouted, “Little zhugong --!”
Zhao Yun said angrily, "You go chat on your own time, little zhugong hasn't finished his homework yet. He's not allowed to laze about!"
A-Dou looked at Zhao Yu and gulped, then looked at that chatty beautiful lady in waiting who slowly shuffled off. Her dialect was very strange, and she didn’t seem like a Jingchu person.
After the lady in waiting was shooed away, Zhao Yun’s expression softened slightly as he said warmly, “You were tired last night, so you may rest next to the plaza today.” And saying this, he untied his outer robe, laying it on a stone chair in the shade, and let Liu Shan sit on it, before moving to instruct that youth on martial arts.
A-Dou could only sit properly, but seeing that the youth was about the same age as him, he glanced at him every now and then. Clearly, that youth’s attention was as unruly as a wild horse’s; though Zhao Yun instructed him for a while longer, seeing that his student had no wish to practice right now, he could only stop.
The youth swiftly walked to the side of the plaza and asked, “What happened to you last night?” A-Dou stared right at him for a moment, only feeling that his shifu was handsome, and additionally had taken in such a handsome youth. He appeared to be ten and some years of age, but already his brows were delicately wrought, and his lips were thin but well-formed; clearly it was at roughly the same level as his own features. Obviously, he wasn’t so dumb as to ask what is your name, so he could only randomly find words to stuff in, and asked in return, “What did that woman come here for?”
The youth was slightly startled, sensing that today, this “little zhugong's” manner of speaking was not quite the same as usual. He asked curiously, “That was zhumu’s lady in waiting, you don’t recognize her?”
A-Dou pretended to come to a sudden realization, and he said, “She’s looking for me? Zhumu…” He suddenly remembered, and continued, “Zhumu is Sun Shangxiang? My stepmother?”
The youth nodded and said, "Zhumu sent someone to go find you, but they didn't…"
Before he could finish, Zhao Yun shouted from afar, "Boyue, what are you talking about!"
Boyue was so startled he jolted, and he didn’t dare to talk any longer, shooting A-Dou a glare.
A-Dou was greatly shocked!
This brat was Jiang Wei, Jiang Boyue! Jiang Wei didn’t know what went on in his heart, and he only sat down next to A-Dou, placing one hand on his shoulder; clearly the two of them were pretty close, and their daily interactions were not shallow. He said quietly, “Why is there a red mark on your neck? Yesterday afternoon, after I left, the commander didn’t make you suffer, right?”
A-Dou was immensely lost, and he continued to shake his head vigorously, even as he began to guess at a little bit of what had happened. There was an eighty percent chance that A-Dou had just been chewed out by this “commander” the day before.
After Liu Bei conquered the state of Jing, he set Zhuge Liang as the general commander of his forces, so “commander” must then indicate Kongming. This unlucky Liu Shan received nothing but scolding from all sides. Being chewed out by Kongming’s bitter words and soft heart until Liu Shan wanted to hang himself from a beam was nothing strange, and it came just in time for A-Can to bear the burden of that black pot.
Zhao Yun then said, “Boyue, go with him to see zhumu, then take a trip over to the commander’s as well. When you’re done, Boyue, keep practicing your forms, Gongsi can go back and rest.”
As soon as A-Dou heard those words it was as if he had been granted a pardon, and he hurried to tug Jiang Wei up and go. Before he left, he glanced at Zhao Yun once more. Seeing him standing barebacked under the poisonous sun overhead, the area around his feet splattered with his sweat, he suddenly felt a strange surge of heartache.
“What were shifu and that woman arguing about?”
“Zhumu wanted to see you urgently, but shifu said that the daily homework can’t be delayed, so they started arguing.”
A-Dou nodded his head; he had gotten another useful piece of information. It seemed like Sun Shangxiang couldn’t give birth to any children, so she liked him pretty well.
Though Jiang Wei had the demeanor of a handsome youth, he had the mouth of a seasoned gossip and continued, “Shifu didn’t sleep a wink for the entire night.”
A-Dou “en”-ed in response, and the two of them stopped in the garden. When he turned, his eyes met Jiang Wei’s, which were as clear as water and held within them a trace of honest laughter as he said, “Aren’t you a little different from before?”
A-Dou said amusedly, “How could it be, this old one’s always been like this.”
Jiang Wei wanted to say something more, but A-Dou had already lifted aside the curtain over the entryway and gone into Sun Shangxiang’s rooms.
The embroidery of the Jiangdong region was world-famous. When Sun Quan married off his younger sister, the sumptuous dowry he prepared contained, amongst other things, a thousand bolts of superior fabric. Liu Bei’s casual robes, along with the clothing that A-Dou wore, all of them were cut and sewn by hand by Sun Xiangshang’s ladies in waiting who had followed her when she married. When he entered the inner room, A-Dou only felt that his eyes were in a state of confusion from the colors in front of them, because of the sheets on the bed, the spread across the table, the thin silk dividing curtain, and the blue bed curtain. Everything was covered with Wu embroidery. The only place that wasn’t covered were the long bows and sheathed swords that hung on the wall, alongside axes and knives and whatnot that glinted with a chilling light.
Sun Shangxiang had practiced martial arts for many years, and her sword brows and brown eyes held a measure of a heroic spirit in them. When she walked up front, her posture seemed to be like that of a normal woman’s, soft and bending like a willow in the wind, but it held a certain charm to it.
Liu Shan stood there dumbly for a moment and Sun Shangxiang laughed coldly, “What brilliance, General Huwei!”
That sentence was a rebuke directed at Jiang Wei.
A-Dou woke from his absentminded state; Zhao Yun had sent Jiang Wei with him here to get scolded. He hurried to say, “Mother… step…” For a moment he didn’t know what to call her, so he said naively, “Mother, don’t scold him, if you keep scolding him, then I’m leaving.”
Sun Shangxiang froze at first, and only after a long while did she come back to herself. She furrowed her brows and said, “What’s going on with you today?” She gently placed an icy cold palm on A-Dou’s forehead as she said, her face expressionless, “Last night, what exactly were you playing at, making the entire estate of people run about like headless chickens? Even if you don’t meet Liu Yuzhou’s great expectations for you, you should still think about your dead…”
“Mother,” A-Dou said. “Last night, I thought many things through, and I won’t do it in the future.”
This was an exemplar for not making good decisions when distinguishing between good and bad, but if it were the fake A-Dou’s earlier lives… whatever. At least for Sun Shangxiang, when she heard another sentence with “mother”, a bit more warmth entered her gaze. She pulled A-Dou down to sit by the table as she gently sighed and said, “You can’t call me like that when there are other people around, foolish child, call me stepmother. Lady Gan was kind and gentle, how could she be compared with me who waves swords and sticks around… Ah well, here are some pastries that were sent from Jiangdong. Stepmother knows you like them, so I had people go to call you over a few times, but they were all stopped by your shifu.”
As they spoke, A-Dou happily took a seat, stealing a glance at Jiang Wei, who could only stand there in a stiff pose, not even daring to let out a loud breath. Sun Shangxiang clearly only had A-Dou in her eyes, and she didn’t speak even half a sentence to Jiang Wei, only making him stand in the hall as punishment. She herself chatted and talked merrily with A-Dou, treating Jiang Wei as nothing more than another piece of furniture undeserving of her attention.
Mung bean pastries, osmanthus pastries, golden pastries, and peanut crisps were arranged across the entire table. Jiang Wei only swallowed down a mouthful of saliva before turning his head. No longer looking at the table, his eyes fixed on a ray of daylight shining in through the window.
After Sun Shangxiang married and moved to Jingzhou, she constantly thought of her home. The people in the estate did not hold her in high esteem for that, so it had brought up the barriers in this Sun Wu spy’s heart.
Only A-Dou was willing to be close with her, and therefore she was extremely doting of A-Dou, taking care of him and spoiling him like a child. Just as she lifted the handkerchief to wipe A-Dou’s mouth, the fake goods’ thick face finally reddened. He could pretend no longer, so he hurried to make his excuses. “I’ll do it myself, thanks stepmother.” He wrapped up the unfinished pastries and said, “I’ll take them back with me, the commander sent for me to do something.”
A-Dou and Jiang Wei came out of Sun Shangxiang’s place and found an empty pavilion. He pulled out the pastries that he hadn’t finished, placing them in Jiang Wei’s hand as he patted his shoulder, saying, “Sorry, I caused you to get scolded. She’s pretty good to me, so in exchange for these, let’s call it even.”
Jiang Wei nodded and took those pastries. A-Dou then smiled and said, “Is it good? Ever since I was small, I haven’t had a mother, not like you guys.”
Jiang Wei choked on a mung bean pastry so hard his eyes were rolling back in his head. After he recovered, he finally said, “I also… don’t have a father or mother, how could you say this?”
A-Dou froze. Too late, he remembered that Jiang Wei had been an orphan from a young age, so the reason they had been so close when they were children was probably because both of them had lost their mothers. Because their pasts were similar, they grew even closer.
A-Dou apologized, “I forgot, Boyue.”
Jiang Wei waved his hand; in the end children’s forgiveness came easily. After eating half, he stashed the rest of the pastry away in the inner pocket of his robe. He then met A-Dou’s eyes and smiled, as if he knew what the other was thinking. He opened his mouth and said, “I’m saving it for shifu,” before he got up.
A-Dou thought about it over and over, and in his heart he felt a sense of pity. Jiang Wei was the crown prince’s companion, and wherever A-Dou wasn’t around, he must have been on the receiving end of many eye-rolls; when this crown prince caused any trouble, he shouldered half the blame, and without any parents to help, he didn’t have the favor of the Jingzhou people. That cheap dad who was addicted to dropping his children, as soon as any problems with his education arose, he would never go to Zhao Yun to even the score. Rather, 80% of the punishment would fall on this poor accompaniment’s shoulders. Thankfully there were two shifu, Zhao Yun and Zhuge Liang, who were taking care of him, so Jiang Wei could finally find a place to settle himself in this turbulent world.
When A-Dou got to this point, he subconsciously grasped Jiang Wei’s hand in his own, threaded their fingers together, and gently squeezed.
Jiang Wei also didn’t think any further of it and held A-Dou’s hand. A moment later, he asked, “What?”
A-Dou smiled a little and answered, “Boyue, when this old one becomes the emperor, I definitely won’t treat you badly.”
Jiang Wei let out a puff of a laugh and answered, “That’s a given, otherwise why else would I be getting scolded on your behalf every day.”
As the two of them spoke, they held hands and walked towards the encampment behind the estate.
Chen Shou was spot on with his descriptions. Zhuge Liang was indeed an eight-chi tall handsome strategist.
As soon as A-Dou saw Zhuge Liang, he knew that that man was different from Zhao Yun, Sun Shangxiang, and the others; he was definitely a sharp character. A-Dou naturally put on a facade of a people-pleasing worthless wretch, and he didn’t dare to meet his eyes as he bowed his head. His brain was occupied by the sharp sight of this unmatched war strategist with his wise eyes. Before A-Dou could even make a noise, Zhuge Liang seemed to notice something and fixed his stare on this fake A-Dou without relenting.
“This… this disciple is here to see shifu,” A-Dou said belatedly. For a long while, he didn’t dare to lift his head.
Zhuge Liang didn’t respond. He merely put down the feather fan in his hand and said, “Boyue, go into the courtyard and wipe down the stone table, stone chairs, and railings once.”
Jiang Wei went to fulfill his command, and only A-Dou was left in the front of the hall. In this moment, his heart grew even more frantic, and Zhuge Liang swiftly stabbed a single knife in with the sentence, “Lift up your head.
“Who are you?”
When A-Dou heard this question, his only thought was to turn and run away. In that instant his mind spun with possibilities and he thought of multiple questions - Zhuge Liang knew that this body was under the control of a new owner!
moon: im just here to say that i love sun shangxiang so much. always. in all adaptations.
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), moon.