Duty, hiding... or leisure
/1st part of a drabble I attempted to write - just to notice I totally got lost and sidetracked, not even getting close to the core subject I wanted to address... so, with RL nagging, I´ll leave that 1st part here for now, but surely at least one more, maybe even two will follow in due time /
„Hou Jiàng (General Hou), Ning Cheng is here”, Wu Ying the foot-boy assigned to the quarters of the Imperial Guard, or Jade Guard as the elite troop of highly trained Demon and Monster Hunters also were referred to among common folks, announced, stopping right at the doorstep leading to the General´s office.
The person in question looked up, or rather directed a set of dark-brown, unfocused eyes towards where he sensed the their youngest member, a warm smile lightning up the even features while nodding his acknowledgment.
“Finally! - let him in” Hou Xin gestured invitingly almost impatiently while rising from the seat pad behind the narrow writing table. - “Duìle, Wú Yíng (By the way, Wu Ying), please make sure that no other than my men enter may unannounced.” he added before the Guard´s young handyman was able to bustle away.
“Méi cuò, Jiàng (Sure, General)” – swift footsteps faded across the yard just to be replaced by heavier once, which, if footsteps were able to convey such sentiment, resounded with a distinct cheerfulness only one person Hou Xin knew radiated, no matter what.
“Ning Cheng!” the smile even widened, deepened - “Dà gē (Brother)” came the merry greeting in return accompanied by a playful yet soundly enough slap to the older´ s shoulder. – Not really official Court etiquette between one superior and his subordinate, yet now that they were meeting in private both of them reverted back to their normal, casual way of behaving around and addressing each other.
Both warriors shared a friendship dating back until their childhood days – They met shortly after Hou Xin was left an orphan and officially made the Court´s ward. Ning Cheng, only one year younger and son of one of the Emperor´s stablemen, already all the upbeat, positive and cheeky nature he managed to keep till this day, had been the one to easily get through and befriend the traumatized boy.
Quickly they became inseparable, brother-like friends – a relationship which only deepened over the years and which helped them to pull through all kind of worries and hardships young recruits and soldiers on the battlefield were facing.
The latest challenge to overcome for Hou Xin had been the blow of losing his eyesight. And once again it had been Ning Cheng ahead of all the others offering support who kept the struck warrior going – and it had also been the convincing words of the man Hou Xin affectionately called “Xiǎo dì (Little brother)” who made him accept the rank of a General, yet only provided that Ning Cheng would be his 2nd in command and right hand man all along.
“Suǒ yǐ (So), did you bring the reports, Xiǎo dì?” Hou Xin inquired after their initial greeting to receive an almost indignant “Dāng rán (of course), as always”, in return.
Hǎo ba hǎo ba (alright, alright), sit down then and let´s get started”, Hou Xin nudged his friend towards the seat he just left.
Ning Cheng eventually taking the place behind he writing table stated to spread out the reports, yet suddenly paused, curiously eyeing an envelope sitting a the side as if discarded carelessly.
“May I ask you something, Dà gē?”, that this was just a rhetorical prelude became clear when the younger of the two warriors went on without waiting for an answer, “Why do you still do that yourself?”
“What do you mean?!” Hou Xin, by now slouching on the steps leading up to the area with the table flashed a curious glance upwards, pretending to be all unassuming though he was rather certain where this was about to go.
“You know what I mean… why do you do still all that planning stuff yourself. Setting up patrols, reading all those reports… none of the other Generals do that. They all assign it to some assistant… someone like me…” Ning Cheng went on and was interrupted by a voice lined with slight annoyance.
“Do I look like the other Generals to you? – Or do you think I don´t trust you?!”
“Méiyǒu (no) surely not… I didn´t mean it that way and you know that very well, too - … just, why waste your time with such stuff when you could simply it leave it to me… and maybe join this fancy evening of Official´s Zhu daughter,… as it is set tonight?!”
The scowl on Hou Xin´s face vanished being replaced by something resembling amusement biting a bitter lemon.
“Qí yī (firstly), who told you to snoop around my desk? – You found that invitation, right?.... Qí èr (secondly), why did you think I insisted that we go through these tasks specifically tonight, Xiǎo dì?! – Have you ever met Official Zhu´s daughter?... Zhu Jinghua….”.
Ning Cheng could have sworn that his brother-like friend seemed to slightly shudder while uttering her name. “Méiyǒu… I haven´t but I know that the Zhu family is one of the richest families around… so, she surely must be well set…and I HAVE heard that some praise her beauty…”
“Of course, THAT´s what I am looking for in a woman… rich and beautiful – especially latter… “ Hou Xin mocked back, “…a high maintenance, difficult and self-absorbed woman.. .that´s what I experienced while having been guest at the Zhu´s residence… - and not too bright at that…. – No, I´d rather not encourage her even further – indeed I hope that if I stay away long enough she might find another poor soul to chase into any kind of relationship…”
The utterly amused laughter of Ning Cheng filled room, “Oh, so are you using me as an excuse… I am not sure if I should be flattered or offended - and here I thought you indeed genuinely enjoyed our time together.”
“Shut up, don´t be a jerk… I do… to be honest, I´d prefer any kind of evening spent with you or the Guard for that matter over any of those fancy events. They are bothersome and all this demanded pretending is tiring… - So, stop nagging and let´s get going, the schedules won´t write themselves - here, maybe that helps to get us started decently….”
During their little banter Hou Xin had gotten up and made his way over to a cupboard on the far end of the room and let his fingers run across some bottles stored on the shelves.
Once he felt out a certain wax sigil sealing the top of one of the jugs his search stopped and he turned back to his friend, placing said bottle and two wine-cups next to his 2nd in command on the writing table.
“Ugh…Quèshí (indeed) that helps a lot, Zouh Wei makes some great wine” Ning Cheng happily clapped his hands while watching Hou Xing pouring a cup for each of them.
“Gān bēi (Cheers!)… and now with your throat all properly greased, start reading, I am all ears.”
“Dāngrán! (Sure!)… here we go” after emptying the simple yet delicate stoneware-cup the Ning Cheng eventually averted his attention back to the reports on possible non-human or even demonic activity causing problems for the people which had been stated to the officials during he past weeks and started to read them out loud.
… to be continued