The soldiers of the Vanguard Army were all valiant and unafraid of death. In every battle, they were the first to engage the enemy as the vanguard, but likewise, they also suffered the most casualties. However, as soldiers, killing the enemy on the battlefield and building a career was in their nature.
Being a soldier in the Vanguard Army was dangerous, but likewise the easiest place to build a career, so many people hoped to enter the Vanguard Army. Today, the Vanguard Army once again made the generals of other military camps jealous and hateful. Why could the Vanguard Army eat lamb, drink lamb soup, and enjoy delicious food, while they could only watch?
Under the leadership of Dai Mingcai, the Winged Tiger Army had strict military discipline, especially the sixty thousand troops stationed at Tiger Crossing Pass. There was no tolerance for actions like drinking the blood of soldiers or oppressing them. So, the other soldiers’ emotions were particularly strong regarding Dai Zhanxiao’s actions.
The Vanguard Army consisted of seven thousand soldiers, led by Dai Zhanxiao. Because he was Dai Mingrong’s son, everyone called him ‘Young General.’ Only outsiders referred to him as ‘Junior General’ or ‘General of Wuwei.’ At this moment, the seven thousand soldiers of the Vanguard Army were not engaged in military drills on the training ground; instead, they were wielding their own swords as butchers. Outside the training ground, soldiers from other camps watched the Vanguard Army slaughter sheep and prepare delicious food, making their mouths water. Dai Zhanxiao was not idle either. After Shi Qiang brought the ingredients for roasting the meat, he set up a fire and personally started roasting.
“Why did the General allow the Vanguard Army to eat separately?”
“What’s wrong with the Young Warlord today? How can he let the Vanguard Army eat separately? Although they are the vanguard, we are all part of the Winged Tiger Army.”
“I heard that the General received a substantial sum of money from His Majesty and the person who came yesterday was from the Imperial Palace.”
“Huh? I heard it was the General’s subordinates who gave him the silver.”
“Who cares who gave it. The point is that someone did.”
“Why didn’t anyone give our generals any money? I’ve already forgotten what lamb tastes like.”
The entire Winged Tiger Army had lost interest in training. The scent of roasted lamb wafting through the camp had made their limbs weak and their mouths water. When Dai Mingrong’s personal guards informed him that the lamb was ready and the lamb soup was cooked, General Dai, who had skipped lunch, took two barrels of goat’s milk wine and accompanied by a dozen other generals who had also skipped lunch, headed to the Vanguard Army’s training ground.
The training ground was ablaze with activity. When the soldiers saw the arrival of the General and other officers, they immediately stood at attention. Dai Mingrong motioned for them to continue and led his group to the inspection platform.
“Father General.” Seeing his father, Dai Zhanxiao, who had removed his clothes and was wearing only a short robe on his upper body, leaped onto the inspection platform. Dai Mingrong looked down at the lamb roasting over the fire and dozens of steaming pots and asked, “Did you bring all the pots from the mess hall?”
Dai Zhanxiao replied, “Of course not. There are sixty thousand troops stationed at the Tiger Crossing Pass. These few pots won’t be enough. I brought the pots from the Vanguard Camp, but I didn’t touch the ones in the main camp.”
“General, the Vanguard Army is eating lamb, while we don’t even have soup to drink. It’s not fair.” One of the officers expressed the collective sentiment.
Dai Zhanxiao said, “General Song, it’s not that I don’t want all of us in the Winged Tiger Army to have lamb. The truth is, I don’t have that much money. Yesterday, the capital sent over some barbecue sauce and it tastes really good. Later, I hope all of you uncles and elder brothers will eat more and fill up.”
“What about the other brothers?” General Song, however, remained concerned about his soldiers. Dai Zhanxiao smiled helplessly, “They’ll have to smell the lamb.”
“Hahaha…” The soldiers of the Vanguard Army burst into laughter, while the officers from other camps were irritated by their hunger.
Dai Zhanxiao first served grilled lamb to his father and the other elders. At this moment, Cao Dong arrived with Jiang Kangchen. Everyone stood up and saluted. Jiang Kangchen was an official from the Imperial Palace, while the Empress held a high position in the army, so everyone treated Jiang Kangchen with great respect.
Moreover, Jiang Kangchen had brought a considerable amount of provisions and supplies from far away. Although half of it was to be allocated to the Vanguard Army, the remainder, albeit relatively meager for the eighty thousand troops stationed here, was still appreciated. Even a drop of water could quench a man’s thirst and in this case, every bit counted.
Out of courtesy, after Jiang Kangchen and the generals had exchanged pleasantries, Dai Mingrong asked him to sit in the seat next to him. General Song, who had been persistently complaining, couldn’t help but express mock disappointment to Jiang Kangchen, but was actually dissatisfied. “Master Jiang, take a look. Young General has money to buy meat for the Vanguard Army to eat, but he won’t even give us soup to drink.”
Dai Mao spoke up. “Song Shiying, if you’re so concerned about having soup, why don’t you go get some silver and buy lamb yourself? I’m also craving it, but who made my soldiers even poorer than me?”
Dai Mingrong remained silent, focusing on eating his meat. Jiang Kangchen glanced at him and said with a smile, “General Song seems to have misunderstood. I came here this time to deliver grain and supplies as a side task. My real purpose was to bring gold for General Dai.”
“Gold?!” The entire audience was astonished.
Jiang Kangchen continued, “Young General Dai has a centurion who was injured and returned to his hometown. His wife is quite adept at making money. When that centurion went home, he missed General Dai and his former comrades dearly. So, his wife donated 3,500 taels of gold to the soldiers of the Vanguard Army.”
“His wife felt that this amount of money, when divided, wouldn’t benefit each soldier much, so he decided to use it to buy meat, winter clothing, and other supplies for the soldiers. It’s a way of expressing his gratitude for the care the Young General and his comrades showed his partner during his service. Since I’m acquainted with that person, he entrusted me to bring the gold to the Tiger Crossing Pass.”
“After hearing about this, His Majesty was deeply moved. He happened to be planning a ‘Relief Fund,’ so he contributed some silver to purchase provisions and supplies, which I’ve brought here as well. Therefore, it’s not that the Young General is being stingy and unwilling to buy meat for everyone; it’s that this gold was specifically meant for the Vanguard Army.”
After Jiang Kangchen finished speaking, Dai Zhanxiao, who hadn’t left yet, dragged over a heavy chest, opened it in front of everyone, and revealed its contents. Instantly, everyone’s eyes were almost blinded by the shimmering gold.
“So much gold!”
“Someone really donated this much gold?!”
“How rich they must be!”
Dai Zhanxiao exclaimed loudly, “3,500 taels of gold, not a single tael more or less. It’s all right here. Shi Zhuang!”
“Here!” Shi Zhuang immediately came up from below.
“You’ll record this gold in the Vanguard Army’s accounts. After this lamb feast, each soldier in the Vanguard Army will receive a sheepskin coat. With the remaining gold, you’ll buy meat, provisions, and shoes for everyone. Anything that’s needed, you’ll buy it!”
What extravagance! What extravagance! Except for Dai Mingrong and Jiang Kangchen, everyone’s eyes were gleaming with excitement. Dai Zhanxiao shouted loudly again, facing the entire audience. “This gold was donated to the Vanguard Army by a former centurion’s wife. Does anyone here recognize the name Wang Shijing?”
“Is it Wang Shijing?”
“Wang Shijing, our brother?”
“That’s that kid, Wang Shijing?!” In an instant, the Vanguard Army erupted into a frenzy and many of the surrounding soldiers, who were watching hungrily, were equally stirred.
Edited by: Jaisland