"The fifth goblet of wine!"
Tie Zheng’s fierce eyes roamed over the gathered men. "To all the Yutang brothers who were wounded and handicapped on the battlefield!"
"Their bodies may be handicapped, but their spirits are not! If there were to be a war, they would still drape their armor! These brothers, each one of them, are amazing! Each and every one of them is a hero!"
"Brothers! I, Tie Zheng, toast all of you! Cheers!"
"Marshal…" All the veterans, sitting in their homes, were overcome with tears; regardless of the handicap they bore, whether they could consume alcohol or not, if they should even drink – all of them held a bowl of the Blood of the Hero, emptying its contents in tearfully.
They immediately felt the valiant passion throbbing in their hearts with intense emotions.
"The sixth goblet of wine!" Tie Zheng continued loudly, "To the Nine Supremes Lords!"
Tie Zheng emptied his goblet, as did all the other militants.
At this, the foreign generals had a brief moment of surprise; Yun Yang, who was standing backstage, felt his heart flip in his chest as well.
"The seventh goblet of wine!" Tie Zheng said aloud, "To the world’s heroes! To the enemy troops from all sides! To all the militants who are still fighting in this world!"
Han Sanhe and the others stepped up, the notable generals standing side by side as they accepted the toast with somber expressions.
"With the toast of this wine, we shall fall into war without grudges, we shall win the war with pride. We are brothers as militants, we bear spines of steel! We smile even as we perish on the battlefield, not caring if we return wrapped in horsehide! We drink, toasting each other today and greeting each other with swords and sabers tomorrow; this is the life of militants of the world, shouldered by you and me!"
Han Sanhe’s voice was full of emotions that were reflected in his intonations, his voice spread afar.
The northern wind blew at the flags, the fluttering sounds rose loudly into the sky.
The crowd was silently solemn for a long time.
Generals of all the nations, soldiers of all the countries, everyone raised their goblets at the same time.
Emptying the wine with a gulp, unshed tears glimmered in the eyes of the gathered crowd.
Someone had begun to chant in a low voice earlier. Those following the chant increased in number until it ultimately became all four hundred thousand men chanting aloud simultaneously.
Everyone was spirited but their expressions were serious.
"We fall in the war without grudges, we win the war with pride. We are brothers as militants, we bear spines of steel! We smile even as we perish on the battlefield, not caring if we return wrapped in horsehide! We drink, toasting each other today and greeting each other with swords and sabers tomorrow; this is the life of militants of the world, shouldered by you and me!"
Their voices chorused like thunder that rolled forward in the air onto the earth.
"The eighth goblet of wine!" Tie Zheng hollered, "To all the military brothers that have fallen on the battlefield! This wine shares the pride and honor, banishes the grudges and resentments! We will gather as brothers or fight again as enemies in the next lifetime with this goblet of wine!"
The site burned with emotions.
Countless people were shouting, "We will gather as brothers again in the next lifetime! We will fight again as enemies in the next lifetime!"
Each one of them shouted with all their might, their eyes were rimmed red.
Han Sanhe and the other notable generals gulped down the wine with tilted heads and red-rimmed eyes as well, feeling the burn of alcohol gushing through their blood; they were equally burning with passion.
This was the wine of militants!
This was but the wine of militants!
They had drunk enough wine in the better half of their lives yet this was the only time they felt that this wine had reached the depths of their hearts!
Whether alive of dead, wounded or handicapped… as long as they were in the military, as long as they had gone to the battlefield… it did not matter if they were still here or not – all the brothers of the military shared this wine!
"Blood of the Hero1" Han Sanhe took a pot of wine over and stared at it for a long time before exclaiming, "A good wine!"
Pouring himself a bowl, he shut his eyes as two drops of tears glided from the corners of his eyes; he gulped the liquid down. "It is a good wine indeed…"
"In the future, Blood of the Hero shall be the exclusive supply of Dongxuan’s troops!" Han Sanhe decided. "No matter what these bunch of bastards think, the wine used in my troops in the future shall only be Blood of the Hero!"
"This is the only wine that the militants of the world should be drinking!"
"Militants, whether living and dead, victorious or defeated, share this bowl of wine."
"We share the blood of the hero, the blood of the hero courses through us all; it is only right that we drink the Blood of the Hero together!"
The other old generals were also reveling in the aftertaste of the wine.
These people held high positions in society; they were people of influence and power. They had had already consumed more exquisite wine than they could even remember throughout their lives. Although Blood of the Hero today was not exactly common grade, it was not terribly rare or exquisite either.
Still, everyone sang high praises for this wine, reveling in the aftertaste.
It was because those who had drunk this wine shared the same sentiment – that it would be meaningless to drink any other wine that was not Blood of the Hero with their military brothers in the future.
"The ninth goblet of wine!"
Tie Zheng closed his eyes. "To – to the wives and mothers of the world’s militants. At the same time, to my wife. I want to last a lifetime with my wife; I wish to grow old with her and watch my children give birth to my grandchildren; I want world peace and everyone to be in good health and for every family to be happy."
The militants went quiet then.
"But I might not be able to do this – I am a militant of Yutang. The country is stricken with wind and storm, I do not know when I will be summoned to the battlefield; I don’t know when I will lay forever in the battlefield."
Tie Zheng raised his head. "But I have no regrets! This goblet of wine is to my newly wedded wife, and to the families of all militants in the world! All of you have suffered a great deal. When we are alive, you all worry for us anxiously and expect our return wistfully; when we die, you all suffer bitterly to support the family. Whether we die or stay alive, all of you are the ones who are the most worn out – physically and even more so, emotionally!"
"To all of you!"
With a tip of his head, Tie Zheng emptied his goblet.
This time, there was no command nor was there a previous rehearsal but all the generals and old marshals on the stage and the soldiers stood up in unison once more to salute and raise their goblets to gulp its contents down!
"To the families of the all the militants in the world!"
The autumn wind billowed through the sky; other than it's gusty hum, the surroundings were quiet.
Old Mistress Shangguan heaved a long sigh looking at the bride Qian’er who was pressed next to Tie Zheng shyly on stage in her bright red dress; her face spoke of happiness, contentment, and willingness.
The old mistress could not help shutting her eyes softly.
My stupid girl, I’m afraid you’ve been immensely touched by his words and felt that you’ve found yourself a good husband who is responsible and cares a lot about you. But you didn’t hear the reality of Tie Zheng’s words!
Guilt is laced through each and every word he has said!
The wedding was considered done.
The emperor, Old Mistress Shangguan and their company had all left slightly earlier; the soldiers and cavalry from all four sides had retreated accordingly too.
The groom, Marshal Tie Zheng, held a thick stack of banknotes in his hand and felt the joy of suddenly becoming a wealthy man.
The generals who had come to congratulate him and hoist a drink knew well of Tie Zheng’s difficulty in organizing this grand event of militants. How could they come empty-handed?
Even if they were enemies, no one would exclude themselves from this wedding gift and they would not deign to give any less.
The Empire of Dongxuan, which had given the least, had still presented him with two million silver taels.
"These are collected from the military comrades, it has nothing to do with the standpoint of our country! This is the wedding wine money that the military men have pooled voluntarily to celebrate Marshal Tie’s wedding. You cannot refuse this."
"It is our honor to have drunk this goblet of wine today but it has also been an interruption. We’ve shared the glory, of course, we need to reciprocate. If Marshal Tie refuses to accept this, you are intentionally putting us in a difficult position. Could it be that Marshal Tie wants us to owe him this favor and use this as an opportunity on the battlefield in future?"
With these words, the foreign generals were already adopting both subtle and obvious tactics. Tie Zheng had no way to reject them; thinking about it for a moment, he ultimately accepted the monetary gift but said, "We have shared a goblet of wine, our kinship ends today. When we meet on the battlefield in future, either side still has to fall for another to live, there are no exceptions. This is but how a militant should be."
In the end, Tie Zheng received more than twenty million silver taels as a monetary gift. After Marshal Qiu and Marshal Leng discussed among themselves, they had ordered Tie Zheng to keep two million taels for himself while the remaining nine-tenths would be absorbed by the treasury and another two-tenths of it would be divided to the veterans and families of perished warriors.
"Why am I still given the silver taels? What do I want so much money for? Give them all away, we will help more veterans and their families!" Tie Zheng was very unhappy about their decision and complained aloud.
Qiu Jianhan looked at the block of wood sympathetically and sighed aloud.
On the other side, Tie Zheng’s father-in-law, the President of the Board of Civil Appointments, was burning in rage and staring murderously at his new son-in-law. Even his newly wedded bride was watching Tie Zheng nervously.
Paying for the wine and purchasing all that was needed for the wedding, including various matters at the border, had rendered Tie Zheng unable to make ends meet; in uglier words, he was as poor as a pauper!
The description was no exaggeration. If Tie Zheng had his way, this fellow would have to seek dinner at other generals’ homes later when he returned. That, or he would have to depend on his wife’s dowry to fill his stomach…
To think he was complaining about having too much money!
"Take it when you’re asked to, what f*cking nonsense are you going on about?" Qiu Jianhan glared at him.
Tie Zheng’s face twitched as he accepted the bank notes. Feeling troubled holding them in his hands, he pushed them to his bride right away. "Mistress, you handle the finances at home."
Qian’er blushed then, exclaiming inwardly, "What a bastard, giving away the grand family control in front of so many people…"
"But why am I so happy?"
Qian’er held the banknotes in her hands and lowered her head, blushing prettily.
Disregarding the animosity among their countries, all the generals guffawed as they witnessed the scene.
"Passing control of the finances on the first day of marriage… Hah! We have the addition of another terrific marshal into the henpecked group! It’s worthy to be celebrated, it’s truly a joyous and congratulatory occasion!" The old men laughed, their eyes disappearing into lines as they roared hilariously.
They dug into their pockets again to congratulate the newlyweds under their own name. Each of their wishes was honest and sincerely heartfelt.
Qian’er and Tie Zheng thanked them politely and accepted their gifts.
Everyone was beaming happily but all of them knew the harsh truth. Despite the harmonious atmosphere right now, akin to long forged friendships, none of them would have mercy when they next faced each other on the battlefield.