Cheers, My Brothers
Tie Zheng’s trembling form gradually recovered, as he returned to his usual calm. Feeling the soft and tiny hand in his, he laughed suddenly and announced loudly, “My brothers who have perished, have all of you up there seen this? This is your sister-in-law!”
“It was on that day that I, Tie Zheng, swore that all my brothers, whether dead or alive – as long as I, Tie Zheng, am still alive, then this wedding shall go on, then all my brothers, whether up in heaven or on earth, shall each have a goblet of my wedding wine!”
“This goblet of wine belongs to militants of Yutang!”
Tie Zheng’s voice was deafening, like the thunder that crackled through a cloudless sky.
“This goblet of wine belongs to the militants of Yutang! But this goblet of wine also belongs to all the militants of this world!” The four old marshals of the four empires sprung up in unison and echoed his words.
“Joyous occasions in life grants everyone a goblet of wine each, whether the brothers of the battlefield have fallen or not! This is a grand affair of Yutang’s militants! The few of us old men had a discussion and we wish to turn this grand affair into a merry event of the continent’s militants!”
“We want to have a goblet of wine too! Our fallen brothers want a drink of this wine as well! This goblet of wine should include them.”
“Yutang’s fallen militants have perished in our hands while our brothers who rested under the earth now have also fallen in the hands of Yutang’s militants. We have been enemies of life and death, we walk different paths but the wine all of you are drinking, we want to let our brothers have a goblet of this militant’s wine too!”
Han Sanhe’s gaze scanned his surroundings like two lightning bolts that struck through the sky. “As militants, we have drunk countless flagons of deployment wine, we have also drunk countless goblets of victory wine but we have never drunk this wine that belongs to all the militants.”
“The wine of militants belongs to our brothers, whether they are dead or alive, enemy or comrade, since the beginning of time!” Han Sanhe continued, “This goblet of wine has never existed before, and will not exist ever again!”
“General Tie’s wedding today has provided a rare and wonderful opportunity, one that would be hard to come across in a thousand years.” The old marshals all stood straight as a ramrod.
“We are enemies on the battlefield, but no matter how we have fought, militants will always be each other’s best partners!”
“Thank you, General Tie. Thank you, Yutang’s militant brothers, for making this grand event of the world’s militants a success!” The four old marshals, with their grayed beards, cupped their fists in salutation.
Tie Zheng laughed. “Brothers, have you seen this? Today, those standing on this stage are all our biggest nemeses! They are our greatest enemies! But they are thanking us sincerely! We shall accept this gratitude without any burden; remember their faces now. After this feast of wine today, any head among these people that you chop off would be a supreme merit, one that can grant you the status of nobles and generals!”
It sounded like a joke as he said it, but everyone knew better.
Each of them understood the meaning of his words.
The four hundred thousand soldiers became more alert, their eyes looking at the generals on the stage, marking them in their minds as best as they could.
Those who stood further and could not see as clearly were pleading, “Brother, big brother, please let me go in front of you… Let me see…”
“Big brother in front, draw them down… Your father can’t see clearly; it’d be the greatest regret if I had a chance to behead them but missed the opportunity because I was uncertain!”
“These are all the most valuable heads… I ask for the big brothers in front to give me their portraits…”
“I would ask for their portraits if I had to be nude in the world of ice and running for thirty feet!”
“I don’t ask for much… I’d be thrilled if I could hack seventeen or eighteen heads…”
“Seventeen or eighteen? If your father can behead even a single one of them, my entire family can live without worries for generations…”
“They’re so f*cking valuable, are they still heads? These are paths of gold!”
“F*cking hell, the more I see, the more I feel that these heads are really handsome. Let us sacrifice all of you for your father’s generations of nobles…”
How did it feel to have four hundred thousand people staring at your head with bloodlust and knowing clearly that these four hundred thousand soldiers were itching to hack your own head off?
Han Sanhe and the rest were not exactly afraid, but it was inevitable for them to feel amused and disturbed at the same time.
“Serve the wine!”
Tie Zheng’s voice tore through the air.
Countless soldiers began to move, hauling pots of wine onto the stage, one after another.
This wine was no longer a secret to many of the warriors in Yutang’s army but to the generals of other countries, their eyes shone with anticipation; their breaths hastened when they saw the labeled name of the wine pot.
Blood of the Hero!
This was the wine’s name?
When they saw the smaller rows of words, their blood boiled like crackling flames.
“Fealty hearts of vibrant blood that guard the nation and family, patriotic lion-hearted souls that built the fortress!”
These two lines of words described Yutang’s militants and similarly described the world’s militants too!
Fealty hearts of vibrant blood was not only applicable to Yutang – for so many years, the blood that spilled over every inch of land and river in Tianxuan Continent was the blood of heroes, regardless of whether they were friend or foe.
All of them had guarded their nation and family, all of them were building their fortresses!
Instantly, everyone’s blood boiled in excitement.
Pang, pang, pang.
The aroma of wine permeated the site the moment the clay seals were broken.
Crimson red wine was poured into bowls, its color vibrant like fresh blood.
“The first goblet of wine!” Tie Zheng announced, “To Yutang, to Your Majesty!”
The emperor, who was on the stage further away, had not expected to be involved. He stood up, smiling, and said, “Today is the grand affair of militants. I have come only to witness this event, there is no need to propose a toast to me.”
Tie Zheng replied, “Your Majesty has treated this insignificant official and the soldiers well. This is Your Majesty’s great grace. How can this official not make this toast? This official shall empty his goblet first as respect.”
Behind him, six marshals and hundreds of generals from the five empires raised their goblets at the same time and toasted the emperor far away, emptying their goblets as well.
What they could not have said with words, they said it all with the wine.
His Majesty was magnanimous about the entire affair, hollering to the cheering crowd, “Great!”
He then raised his bowl of wine and gulped down its contents.
He knew why the militants had toasted the first goblet of wine to him.
That was because he had done something during his reign that no other emperors could or dared to!
Gathering the generals of all enemy nations within his reigning territory, sitting with them at the same feast and drinking with them… such magnanimity surpassed those before him and would be difficult to be challenged by those after him!
This goblet of wine had been toasted to him by all the generals of this continent; although they had not spoken explicitly of the meaning, it was obvious.
Based on this point alone, he deserved the praise of the greatest emperor!
It was because the emperor understood this that he drank this goblet of wine with gratification; he was happy as much as he was proud!
He even felt that with this goblet of wine today, he could face the previous generations of emperors with his chin up when he died; he would be proud to do so.
“The second goblet of wine!” Tie Zheng was still facing the same side. “To the family of generals!”
All the notable generals raised their goblets in unison. “To the family of generals!”
Old Mistress Shangguan stood up with a slight waver and raised her goblet to empty it without saying anything.
Behind her, all six children flushed and trembled like they were drunk despite not having a single drop of wine.
“The third goblet of wine!” Tie Zheng shouted, “To all the living brothers in Yutang’s army!”
With a howl, the entire army stood and raised their goblets in accordance to Tie Zheng’s words.
A loud explosion rumbled in the sky; fireworks, doubling as military signals, had been launched towards the heavens. With a shrill noise that tore through the air, similar sounds of fireworks being launched came from far away. From all directions, military signals were incessantly launched further and further.
Within the blink of an eye, it had already gone thousands of miles away.
After a quarter of an hour, Tie Zheng raised his goblet. “Brothers! Cheers!”
All four hundred thousand soldiers raised their goblets and gulped the wine in large mouthfuls.
Yutang’s militants who had been scattered all over the empire stood straight at the same time, emptying their raised wine bowls!
Tears hung in their eyes but the blood in their chest burned with passion.
A long while had passed before fireworks erupted in the sky again from all the military sites at the four borders of Yutang. All the soldiers stood up as they raised their goblet of wine.
“Congratulations for Marshal’s wedding; let us drink, brothers!”
Warriors of Yutang, wherever they were, emptied their goblets together.
“The fourth goblet of wine!” Tie Zheng’s voice had reached its fever pitch as he howled into the sky, “Yutang’s brothers who have perished! Tie Zheng toasts all of you! Here’s wishing that all your heroic souls shall never leave, never forget Yutang where you’ve all laid beneath this land. If there is another lifetime, let us fight again together!”
In the face of Tie Zheng’s words, Yutang’s militants stood up again with respect, their faces solemn.
The aroma of wine spread through the crowd, soaring right into the clouds.
In a military cemetery, the soldiers who had been waiting there poured the wine in their hands onto the earth.
“This is our marshal’s wedding wine. It is also our marshal’s promise that day. It is the wine you all deserve to drink!”
In the homes of each fallen soldier’s family, there was a bowl of crimson red liquid; the Blood of the Hero.
Like it’s namesake, it still coursed through vigorously.
For each family, there was a bowl of wine and a silver tael; it was not much money but it was Tie Zheng’s greatest effort.
It was his gift of respect to his brothers.
At the border, there were countless bowls of the Blood of the Hero being poured at the cemeteries where their departed comrades rested.
“Brothers, wine is served!”
Crimson red wine, not unlike blood, seeped into the earth slowly, like the tears of the standing soldiers that dropped into the soil.
“This is marshal’s wedding wine, the wine we said before that we were going to drink until we get drunk at the marshal’s wedding.”
“The underworld is near, the heroic souls stay close. To the brothers beside me, let’s have a drink together.”
“Up in heaven and down under the earth, here in the world and there in another realm; our heart stays together, our blood courses the same.”
The autumn wind blew by, the weeds at the fallen soldiers’ tombstones danced along while trees across the forests and mountains overlooked the grass in the prairies and the land bowed, forming uniform waves of emerald.
It was as if the hundreds and thousands of heroic souls who had died were still in uniform formations, about to mount their horses as they raised their sabers after drinking this goblet of wine, waiting for the command to charge forward….
Cheers, my brothers!