When their eyes meet, it was as if they were looking at each other across the span of a thousand years and ten thousand qing of territory.
TLC(s): moon, miri
Editor(s): namio, Jelly
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With that, Zhou Yu fixed his attire and went over to the seat adjacent to Qiao Mao to accompany him for a drink and conversation. Qiao Mao asked Zhou Yu only about his family matters, and Zhou Yu answered those questions one after another without concealing anything. Among these questions, Qiao Mao tested him a few times on the current political state. Zhou Yu answered based on his own thoughts, his replies comprehensive yet concise. The elder and the youth chatted late into the night, and it was only then that Zhou Yu realized Qiao Mao was actually facing a matter of life and death.
Three months ago, Qiao Mao had forged an imperial edict to gather all of the feudal marquises and kings and charged Dong Zhuo with eleven counts of offenses. The message was delivered overnight by a messenger to Yuan Shao, and the group of feudal marquises and kings then formed the Coalition Against Dong. Whether the imperial edict was actually issued by Emperor Xian was not important. The only thing that was needed in the beginning was simply a mere justification for this action.
Once the intelligence from the allied army reached Luoyang, every person gritted their teeth in rage at Dong Zhuo. Their hatred for him had already existed for a long time, the reason being that after Dong Zhuo entered the capital, he allowed the Liangzhou army to ransack the city while he seized complete control, hiding the truth from the masses with the power in his hand. Yuan Shao thus faced no resistance with his actions, and people were overjoyed by the news of the approaching army. From then on, every one of Luoyang's elites and general populace, without exception, eagerly waited for Yuan Shao to quickly enter the city, rescue the Son of Heaven, and expel the Liangzhou forces.
However, Yuan Shao’s allied forces stopped a hundred li outside the capital instead and remained there for more than a month. They sent a secret envoy to Qiao Mao, explaining that not everyone had arrived yet, and that they must wait for the various marquises and kings to gather before sending their forces to storm Luoyang.
With this constant back and forth, and because Dong Zhuo had long since grown suspicious, he began to conduct rigorous investigations of the city, fearing that the officials of the court were secretly communicating with Yuan Shao. Qiao Mao was an unyielding person, so naturally he became the first subject of investigation. With that, Qiao Mao arrived home. He knew that he wouldn’t be able to wait for Yuan Shao to arrive, as he himself might be the first person to be killed by Dong Zhuo as a sacrificial offering, so he dismissed his servants and stayed at home awaiting his death.
The entirety of Luoyang was sealed off, so Yuan Shao could no longer send secret envoys into the city. But because of that, the minute clues that Dong Zhuo wanted to follow were cut off, so he had no choice but to let Qiao Mao dangle between life and death. There were also many complicated matters that he had to deal with, so this issue with Qiao Mao was temporarily pushed aside; he wouldn't go looking for trouble with him at this time.
Qiao Mao talked for more than half the night, and although his words were self-deprecating, they made Zhou Yu’s heart ache. This old man had placed all of his hopes on Yuan Shao, so why was he taking so long to arrive? Naturally, it was because the allied coalition was not in agreement with each other, leading to many disputes amongst themselves.
“Scared yet?” Qiao Mao asked tipsily. “If you’re scared, then it’s not too late to go hide in the Minister of the Masses’s household tonight.”
Zhou Yu turned down the offer with a smile and took a sip of wine, his mind preoccupied with thoughts on how to get in contact with Sun Ce. Qiao Mao kept drinking and drinking, even drinking more than he could handle, to the point where his head thunked onto the table, completely drunk. That night, Zhou Yu headed straight to the guest room to rest, a detailed plan gradually forming in his mind.
Zhou Yu pulled out the white falcon from the bundle he carried on him. That falcon was small in size. It had been trapped for many days on the road, a strip of cloth wrapped around its beak, tied with a bow. Zhou Yu stroked its feathers and softly spoke a few words to it. The white falcon turned its head, looked at Zhou Yu, and then looked around at its surroundings. It then leaped out through the window sill, spread its wings in flight, and disappeared into the darkness of the night.
That day, after Feiyu left, it vanished entirely. Zhou Yu suspected that it might not have been able to find Sun Ce, who was stationed with his troops outside Hulao Pass, and perhaps had flown back to Changsha instead. In any case, being able to leave was a good thing; with the current dangerous situation Luoyang was in, only birds could fly in and out of the city.
For many days, Zhou Yu had been doing his best to try and ask around for more information, but there was no news at all. Soon, rumors of unrest slowly seeped out from inside the palace. Some said that Dong Zhuo was preparing to thoroughly pillage the households of Luoyang's government officials and rob the rich families, which was why only entry was allowed into the capital at this time.
The entirety of the city of Luoyang became tense overnight, as all sorts of rumors spread like wildfire. That day, when Zhou Yu went to the market, he was finally able to obtain a minute clue about the silk caravans from Jiangnan. Someone said that they had indeed seen the silk merchants from Jiangnan in the Western Market of Luoyang, and when Zhou Yu asked again along these lines, he found that that was indeed the case.
Some months ago, upon hearing that the trade routes to the west were experiencing unrest, the leader of the silk merchants wanted to finish selling all their silks in Luoyang so they could head south and return to Shu County as soon as possible. However, none of them had expected that Luoyang was also in turmoil. No one was willing to buy their goods, so they had no choice but to leave Sili and continue westward. In order to catch up to them however, Zhou Yu would have to cross many checkpoints. Without any connections, it was difficult for him to take even a single step, so Zhou Yu had no alternative but to request documents for travel.
“When did they leave?” Wang Yun asked pensively, leaning his body toward Zhou Yu.
“According to what they said, it was on the third day of last month,” Zhou Yu replied. “They took the route through the the Eight Passes of the Taihang Mountains.”
“Then they should have already left the Hangu Pass,” Wang Yun replied.
Zhou Yu then asked, “Lord Minister of the Masses... is it possible to get in contact with the garrison stationed there? I came here today only to request a personal letter from the Minister of the Masses himself, and I will always remember the Lord Minister’s benevolence. As for the remaining matters, this junior wouldn’t dare to inconvenience you any further.”
“This is as easy as lifting one’s hand, why should there be a need for thanks?” Wang Yun smiled, continuing happily, “Who knows how long these old bones of mine will live; to be able to write you a personal letter and save a few people only requires a little bit of effort. Bring the ink over.”
A servant came forward, bringing over a brush and ink. Zhou Yu’s heart filled with gratitude, so much so that he didn’t notice a servant girl glance at him a couple of times too often. Zhou Yu continued to calculate in his mind. Now that he had obtained Wang Jun’s personal letter, the next step was how he was going to leave, and how he was going to find his way out. As Zhou Yu was doing so, he accidentally caught a glimpse of a woman’s dazzling appearance, but though he looked at her a few more times, he felt nothing in his heart. It was as if he was simply admiring a flower or a fine painting for a short moment.
“This is this old man’s adopted daughter, Diaochan,” Wang Yu introduced.
“Please forgive me for my lack of manners.” Zhou Yu realized he was being a little rude, and he hurried to apologize to the woman.
Diaochan smiled lightly and knelt down by the seat, rolling up her sleeves and pinning them at the sides as she began to grind ink for Wang Yun. She said in a quiet voice, “Though Zhou-gongzi has obtained his letter, how do you plan on leaving the city? Grand Preceptor Dong will not let you leave.”
At that moment, an object came flapping in, crashing into the hall.
“Feiyu!” Zhou Yu immediately caught the white falcon that had come flying in; he hadn’t expected that it would even manage to find this place. There was a small cloth strip tied to Feiyu’s leg that appeared to have words on it. Zhou Yu couldn’t take a closer look as he put away the white falcon. Wang Yun was also tactful and didn’t ask any questions, instead merely sealing the letter after he finished writing it. Diaochan proceeded to take it, and the father and daughter pair exchanged a meaningful glance with each other, coming to a tacit understanding.
Zhou Yu’s heart was heavy as he walked out into the courtyard. He unfolded the cloth strip that Feiyu had brought back, only to see that on it was a message written in blood.
Xiandi, you must not enter Luoyang. If you are already in Luoyang, then be sure to seek refuge with Lü Bu, Lü Fengxian. In three days, with the battle drums as the signal, wait for me to enter the city to search for you. Be careful.
Zhou Yu’s eyebrows furrowed, unsure of the meaning behind Sun Ce’s message. If it wasn’t for the familiar handwriting, Zhou Yu would have immediately thought that this letter had been intercepted and set up as a trap, only waiting for him to fall into it.
A voice rang out from behind him. “Zhou-gongzi.”
Zhou Yu immediately stowed the cloth away. He turned around, bowed, and said, “Wang-guniang.”
Diaochan’s expression was calm and composed as she said quietly, “My father asked me to send gongzi off.”
Zhou Yu immediately understood the meaning behind her words. He knew that Wang Yun’s house was definitely under surveillance, and with eyes and ears everywhere, having Diaochan see him off and exchange a few words was less likely to rouse suspicion.
“I heard that Zhou-gongzi is from Jiangzuo?” Diaochan asked, smiling. “It is not obvious at all.”
Although Zhou Yu was born in Shu County, his build was tall and sturdy, and he was 8 chiin height. His features were completely devoid of the appearance of the Southern people, but his handsome yet gentle facial features and the lines of his body gave away his true origins as a Southerner.
“Ever since my grandfather’s generation,” Zhou Yu replied, “my family has resided in Shu County. However, according to the records of our family lineage, during the Warring States period, our ancestors actually lived in the north.”
Diaochan nodded her head, asking, “I heard my adoptive father say that Zhou-gongzi was originally from a family of medical practitioners?”
“You overestimate me,” he replied. “My late father had some skill in acupuncture, but after he entered the court, he no longer saw or treated patients. When he taught me his skills, most of the techniques were already lost to time .”
Letting out an en, Diaochan said, “My adoptive father often speaks of the years when he and Uncle Zhou served as imperial officials together… he always praises his exquisite skills to high heaven. When he suffered from rheumatism, headaches, or the like, it was always Uncle Zhou who nursed him back to good health.”
Zhou Yu hurried to say modestly, “Guniang’s praise istoo much. Even if it had been the legendary doctor Hua Tuo, he still wouldn’t be able to cure these kinds of diseases caused by the damp and cold. Acupuncture could only temporarily dispel the bad qi caused by the wind. Treating an illness requires prescribing the right medicine to treat the symptoms, and as long as the diagnosis of the disease is correct, the medicine will naturally take effect...However, full recovery varies by the individual… Is there something wrong? Has the Lord Minister recently…”
Diaochan’s eyebrows were furrowed slightly, and evidently she had something on her mind. When Zhou Yu saw how burdened with cares she looked, naturally the only thing that came to his mind was the possibility that Wang Yun was not well. However, Diaochan shook her head lightly, and said smiling, “My adoptive father is in good health, but I’m grateful for Zhou-gongzi’s concern.”
Zhou Yu did not understand what else it could have been. Diaochao seemed to still have something to say, but she changed the topic, saying quietly, “Right now, everyone in Luoyang is in danger, and all the doctors have fled. If Zhou-gongzi is well-versed in medicine, I would like to request one thing of gongzi…”
“There’s no harm in speaking freely,” Zhou Yu said, finally understanding the meaning behind her words. Diaochan must have some friend who needed a diagnosis by a doctor, so he cut straight to the point. “However, I don’t have a medicine chest, nor am I carrying any medicinal herbs with me, so I can only do my best.”
In that moment, Diaochan revealed an expression of relief, as if a heavy burden had been shed. She said, “Gongzi does not need to worry, please follow me.”
With that, Zhou Yu followed Diaochan, making a turn through the back flower garden, heading toward a secluded side yard. In an extremely low voice, she said, “Three days ago, this man entered the palace under the guise of proffering a sword, but was unsuccessful in his attempt to assassinate that Dong traitor, and he escaped from the palace. Now the entirety of Luoyang has been sealed off, and this righteous gentleman is heavily injured. All I ask is that Zhou-gongzi do his best. Whether he lives or dies is up to the will of the heavens.”
Zhou Yu originally thought that it would be an ordinary doctor visit; but he hadn’t expected that the patient would be the traitor in Dong Zhuo’s book. Diaochan and he were two complete strangers who had never met before in their lives, and she relied solely on Zhou Yu’s family background in entrusting him with this matter of life and death. If he were to come forth with this secret, Diaochan and Wang Yun’s entire family would definitely die. From this fact alone, he could see how much bravery and courage Diaochan possessed.
As she spoke, Diaochan pushed the door open. She then whispered, “This righteous gentleman has never been a person who likes to talk much, so I hope that Zhou-gongzi will forgive him… Lord Mengde, I have invited a doctor over for you.”
Zhou Yu’s mind was uneasy as he pushed open the door. The stench of blood hit him as he came face to face with the person inside.
Diaochao brought over the medicine box, and the three people stood in the room, not saying a single word.
“Forget it.” That person was still drinking wine, but now he set aside his glass and replied, “Life and death are dictated by fate, there’s no need to go through the extra effort.”
When Zhou Yu faced that assassin, he saw that his height was less than 7 chi. His beard fully covered his cheeks, so it was hard to guess his age, but it was obvious that he was past middle age. He had a pair of penetrating, lively eyes, as if they had the wisdom and vigilance to see through the hearts of men. Half of his face was hidden in the shadow, but his powerful, thick arms were bare, and purplish-black blood permeated the bandages that wound around the left side of his chest.
That person sat nonchalantly in his seat, his legs spread. One of his hands was draped over his knee while the other was holding a pitcher as he poured out drinks for himself to enjoy.
Although Zhou Yu had not achieved the state of having read countless people, he was still able to distinguish one’s personality from their appearance. This person definitely possessed a rugged temperament, and his heroism reached even the heavens above. He dared to enter the palace on his own to assassinate Dong Zhuo, imitating Jing Ke’s magnificent example of attempting to kill the Qin emperor. Zhou Yu couldn’t help but respect him.
“This junior’s name is Zhou Yu, courtesy name Gongjin.”
“Cao Cao. This old Cao is only older than you by several years, so you can just call me Mengde-xiong,” that strong man said easily. “Are you Zhou Yi’s descendant?”
As he spoke, he appraised Zhou Yu with his eyes. Zhou Yu replied, “That is correct.”
When their eyes meet, it was as if they were looking at each other across the span of a thousand years and ten thousand qing of territory. In this moment, Zhou Yu couldn’t help but feel admiration for this person in his heart. However, he could never have imagined that one day in the future, when the fresh blood from the Battle of Chi Bi dyed the great river red and raging fires set aflame even heaven and earth, that he and this person would stand across from each other, once again exchanging a gaze filled with a multitude of emotions in this grand battlefield flooded with so much blood that a shield would float on it... It was as if all those endless months and years and those lofty aspirations to conquer the world were condensed into that one single exchange.
“Quick,” Dianchao said in a low voice. “Zhou-gongzi, I will have to trouble you.”
Zhou Yu came back to his senses, and he approached Cao Cao to examine his injuries. Most of his injuries were superficial wounds, except for the arrowhead that had burrowed into his body. It had been embedded deeply under the ribs, narrowly missing the lungs by just a few centimeters.
Zhou Yu undid Cao Cao’s bandages and poured the wine over his wounds. Cao Cao was indeed resilient, and he laid down on the bed, unmoving. Zhou Yu then handed him the wine, and Cao Cao drank it as he waited for Zhou Yu to pull out the arrow.
“Your father has already passed?” Cao Cao asked.
“Yes,” Zhou Yu said mildly. “Three years ago.”
Cao Cao drank, only caring about giving himself more wine, as he asked, “Are you planning to enter the capital to become an official? With the way the world is right now, it won’t be an easy path to walk.”
Zhou Yu’s fingers reached into Cao Cao’s wound, and his hands were covered with blood as he replied, “I came to the capital to examine the situation, but I have no wish to repeat the path my late father walked…”
“The morals of this world are degrading with each passing day, and the hearts of the people are slipping out of its grasp,” Cao Cao pensively said. “Let me give you a word of advice, do not stay in the capital for long...”
Cao Cao then proceeded to grit his teeth and let out a muffled grunt as Zhou Yu pulled out the arrowhead. Fresh blood spurted out wildly, and Zhou Yu immediately staunch the bleeding with a cloth, his hands covered in blood. Diaochan placed a bottle of Jinchuang medicine into his hand.
“When people live in such troubled times, they do not have the right to live solely for themselves,” Zhou Yu replied indifferently. “If I could leave, I would have left long ago. Hasn’t Lord Cao also stayed behind?”
Cao Cao couldn’t stop panting, his face as white as a sheet as Zhou Yu speedily applied the Jinchuang medicine. At that very moment, from the outside came the commotion of soldiers.
“Lord Wang, if I could trouble you to stand aside…”
Zhou Yu instantly grew alert, and he turned an inquiring gaze on Diaochan. Diaochan motioned for him to remain calm as she said, “I will go deal with this matter.”
Diaochan pushed the door open, leisurely walking out before closing it behind her. She walked out into the corridor, only to see Wang Yun standing in the middle of the courtyard, angrily saying, “You all... the audacity of you all!”
“We apologize for the offense, Lord Wang.” A military general walked in lazily, wearing a brocade robe embroidered with a black qilin, a martial headpiece crowning his head. Like a jade tree in the wind, he possessed a graceful demeanor. He had deep-set eyes and dark eyebrows that spread out like an eagle spreading its wings, with pitch-black pupils that had a few flecks of amber-like gold. When he stood there, he stuck out from the rest like a crane in a flock of chickens, a whole head taller than the rest of his subordinates.
“This humble official had no other choice as well,” that martial general explained. “Grand Preceptor Dong ordered that we must find the assassin today.”
“General Lü,” Wang Yun said coldly, both of his hands resting on the cane planted in the ground in front of him. “Could it be that the Marquis of Mei still suspects that I’m harboring assassins?”
“It seems like the Lord Minister of the Masses is not aware,” Lü Bu replied. “Three days ago, there was an assassin who, under the guise of proffering a sword, managed to wound Grand Preceptor Dong. We received news that as of now, this assassin is still in this city, so pardon our intrusion. Search!”
Wang Yun’s expression changed slightly. Lü Bu’s subordinates had scattered across the residence and began to conduct a search. Lü Bu nodded at Wang Yun; he had no intention of talking to him any more and walked on his own into the corridor.
At this time, Diaochan walked out of the corridor, and the two of them almost crashed into each other. Lü Bu subconsciously reached out his hand and steadied her. Diaochan’s flower-like face lost its color as she bowed, “Greetings, General.”
When Diaochan lifted her head, she made eye contact with Lü Bu, and the both of them fell silent.
Wang Yun was following behind Lü Bu, and upon seeing this scene before him, he said, “This is my daughter Diaochan. Diaochan, why haven't you apologized to the General yet?”
“Pardon me,” Diaochan said softly.
“It’s… it’s alright.” A self-conscious expression flashed across Lü Bu’s cold, composed face for a split second, but within the span of a few breaths, he managed to conceal his own awkwardness.
“Why don’t I let my daughter accompany the General to take a look inside?” that crafty old fox Wang Yun immediately piped up, even as he sent a meaningful glance at Diaochan.
“That’s also fine,” Lü Bu said coldly. “Then you lead the way, let’s go.”
Diaochan bowed again, before she proceeded to lead Lü Bu through the corridor to the side chambers. As Lü Bu walked behind Diaochan, he openly scanned her from head to toe. For a moment he wanted to say something, but he wasn’t sure how to strike up a conversation. Unexpectedly, Diaochan abruptly stopped in front of him, and Lü Bu was unable to stop in time, almost bumping into her again.
Diaochan turned around and said, “General, this is my room… I don’t know if…”
Lü Bu waved his hand and responded, “Forget it. Let’s go to the side courtyard.”
Diaochan led Lü Bu through the arched doorway and towards the back courtyard. The two of them stood by the pool as the autumn breeze blew past, the pond’s surface covered with fallen leaves. There was an old servant sweeping the floor outside the doors.
“It’s only this big,” Diaochan said. “This is the study. Would the General like to go inside and take a look?”
The soldiers wanted to enter, but after catching a glimpse of Lü Bu in the back courtyard, they no longer came in to conduct their search. Lü Bu ordered one of his subordinates, “Give the order not to search the lady’s personal room.”
That person outside the door responded in the affirmative. Diaochan’s heart pounded wildly, and when she turned her head, she noticed that Lü Bu was watching her attentively.
“What are you nervous about?” Lü Bu asked indifferently, looking at Diaochan’s face.
Diaochan did not reply as she walked to the edge of the pond. Lü Bu stood behind her as she gazed at autumn waters filling the pool.
“I would like to ask you one thing,” Lü Bu said. “Has Cao Cao come here, just tell me the truth.”
Diaochan replied, “What does the General mean by this? No such thing has happened.”
The corners of Lü Bu’s mouth curled up slightly as he looked toward the door of the side courtyard.
A hand reached out from the windowsill of the room, and it cleanly and swiftly flashed to the edge of the window.
“No?” Lü Bu asked in response, before he turned and, taking big steps, leaped up onto the railings of the corridor. He jumped down and landed in front of the door, pushing it open.
Inside, the room was completely empty, and the window overlooked the stables in front of the back door. The autumn breeze gusted through the hall, and there was still the faint scent of blood lingering in the air. Lü Bu stood in front of the window, while underneath the windowsill hid Zhou Yu, his hands still covered in blood, and Cao Cao, who was leaning against the foot of the wall, drinking wine. The corners of Cao Cao’s lips curled up slightly as he gave Zhou Yu a big thumbs up, signaling that he had done a good job.
Lü Bu lowered his head to look at the windowsill. He swiped his finger across it, only to find that there was not a single trace of dust on it.
Diaochan entered behind him. Lü Bu turned his head and gazed at her attentively. After a moment, without saying anything, he walked past her. Diaochan hurried to say, “General, my father would like to invite the general to stay and drink a cup of wine.”
Lü Bu gave her a side glance, seemingly wanting to leave. However, a short moment later, he accepted Diaochan’s invitation, and said indifferently, “Then lay out the wine ba.”
At the same time, Zhou Yu and Cao Cao staggered out, bedraggled. Both of them let out a long breath.
“I must leave the capital as quickly as possible,” Cao Cao said in a quiet voice.
“You still have to rest for a few days,” Zhou Yu replied. “If you leave in your current condition, it won’t be long before you fall into the enemy’s hands.”
“Then you leave with me,” Cao Cao said.
“To go see Yuan Shao?” As Zhou Yu observed his surroundings, his heart leapt at that. If he could successfully get to Yuan Shao’s allied troops, then he would be able to see Sun Ce. “Come, follow me.” After making sure that there were no hidden sentry posts nearby, Zhou Yu led Cao Cao to Qiao Mao’s residence.
“Yuan Shao is incompetent at strategizing,” Cao Cao said. “I must first return to Xuzhou and meet with Tao Qian.”
Zhou Yu did not answer. Cao Cao continued, “You look like you have guts, and are in possession of a meticulous mind. Nor are you a person prone to passivity, because you carry a sword at your waist, which shows that you have enough martial arts skills to protect yourself. With you accompanying me on the journey, our security can be guaranteed.”
After pondering for a moment, Zhou Yu shook his head and said, “I have not yet finished dealing with my matters, so I have no way to protect Lord Cao on this journey. Please forgive me.”
Cao Cao smiled faintly and didn’t force the issue. He merely said, “This is Governor Qiao Mao’s residence? I was just about to go and find him.”
Zhou Yu nodded and led Cao Cao to the outside of Qiao Mao’s hall. He pushed the door open, letting Cao Cao walk in, causing Qiao Mao to immediately turn pale with shock. From the outside, Zhou Yu then closed the door, leaving the two of them inside the hall to speak. He pressed his hand to the hilt of his sword, standing guard outside in case there was any trouble.
A few moments later, he heard loud laughter from Cao Cao and Qiao Mao, and he knew that there were no more problems. With that, he finally felt reassured, and he left.
That night, Cao Cao took up temporary residence in Qiao Mao’s estate, and he drank with Qiao Mao until late into the night. Meanwhile, Zhou Yu tossed and turned on his bed, constantly thinking about that letter of Sun Ce’s. What did it mean to go seek out Lü Bu? Could Lü Bu be on their side?!
He didn't dare to rashly side himself with Lü Bu, so he called over the white falcon Feiyu and penned another letter, asking Sun Ce for more details. He then let the falcon fly away. Judging from the direction the bird flew, he estimated that it was heading towards the general region around the Hulao Pass.
Jin/cytaoplasm: Next chapter Zhou Yu will get to meet his Brofu again, super excited for their reunion. ＼(≧▽≦)／
Miri: Meows meows hurt a lot in anticipation
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), cytaoplasm.