At the moment, the Staff Division was at a lack of things to staff . The Army had long stopped issuing them pays, and w…

Li Shih-Yao

江苏夜网

There was a staff officer from the Anguo Staff Division by the name of Ma Hao-Tian . A man of womanly appearance .

This was by no means an implication that he was in any way dainty looking . His womanly looks were roughly the ones of a middle-aged farm-wife, and in his uniforms, he looked more like an old maid in drag . For this reason, Ma was given a nickname: Aunt Ma .

At the moment, the Staff Division was at a lack of things to staff . The Army had long stopped issuing them pays, and while the troops found their own sources of income elsewhere, the staff officers could hardly go plunder around with their pistols . Faced with a very real possibility of going hungry, Chief Ma forced himself to come imploring Commander Ho for advice .

Commander Ho listened and drank his tea . He was silent for a long moment .

Ma stole a glance at him from the right-hand seat . He knew well enough that Commander Ho was nothing but a young former student with neither any military power nor experience to speak of, maneuvered into place only as a puppet of sorts . Yet for some incomprehensible reason, he felt a bit uneasy . Ho Bao-Ting had an air of dankness about him, looking contemplative all year round and mulling perpetually over some undisclosed matter . In his dealings with mysterious characters, Ma always kept his distance .

For a while, they sat facing each other in silence, then Commander Ho finally spoke, his tone gentle . “Li Shih-Yao has captured the County of Wantong recently . He’s got money . “

“Even if he does, he won’t be sharing any of it with the staff division,” Ma laughed wryly .

Commander Ho smiled as well . “Then why don’t you go talk to him?”

Ma stuck out his tongue . “Commander, I wouldn’t dare!”

Commander Ho put his tea down and withdrew his pleasantness . “More scared of Li Shih-Yao than of me?”

Ma was somewhat thrown off . “No, no no, of course not! What I was trying to say, Commander, is that because you’re so generous and show such solicitude to those beneath you, every one of our men bears witnessed to your nobility . So the Division have elected me to come for your advice . “

“It’s a difficult time,” Commander Ho began icily . “People are dying in famines . The Staff Division may be on a tight budget at the moment, but you ought to find ways to make do . “

“Commander,” Ma begged . “You’ve no idea . Our men of every rank are practically living on millet . “

Commander Ho nodded slightly . “Millet is extremely nutritious . Daily consumption can improve mental sharpness, making them the perfect staple for your division . “

At this point there was nothing more Ma could say . Sulking, he turned to leave .

– : –

Ma didn’t get very far from the Ho Residence before he ran straight into Colonel Li Shih-Yao . Li had just turned thirty this year and stood tall and imposing with a distinct ruffianly air . He laughed loudly when he spotted Chief Ma . “I say, Auntie Ma, did you go begging for alms at the Commander’s?”

Ma had always looked to Li Shih-Yao with some measure of fear and dared not to say much at the jest . “Colonel Li is very astute,” he chuckled obsequiously . “Our division is indeed… We won’t be able to hold out for much longer . “

Li Shih-Yao laughed out a “Ha” . “So what did the Commander say?”

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“He wouldn’t help,” Chief Ma grimaced .

Li tried to give him advice . “Let Old Lan do the talking, the Commander would listen to him . “

“Chief Lan’s already gone to Hsian . He’s the one with the plans . Did you expect him to stay behind with us and live on millet?”

Li Shih-Yao let out another “Ha” . Without another word, he walked past Ma and swaggered on .

Once he entered the courtyard, he feigned a kick at an orderly with a little hammer . “Little imperishable brat . What are ya doing?”

The young orderly dodged the kick nimbly . “Don’t you push me around, Colonel Li,” he said indignantly . “I have a name . Why do you keep calling me little brat?”

Li Shih-Yao laughed in spite of the offence . “All right,” he gave a wave with his hand . “So Chao Hsiao-Hu, I see you’ve been dawdling around with that hammer all day . Enjoying life, eh?”

Chao Hsiao-Hu shook a heavy looking cloth sack at him . “I was going to prepare walnuts for Commander Ho . I wasn’t slacking off!”

Li stepped toward him and wrapped an affectionate arm around his shoulders . “You little tigerling[1] . Where’s the Commander?”

“Commander Ho’s in bed, taking a nap,” Hsiao-Hu answered . “You can’t disturb him right now!”

“You little fucker,” Li whacked him across the head, “I was the one who dug you out of a corpse pile, but look at you now! A watchdog for the Commander!”

Awkwardness filled Hsiao-Hu’s face; he was only a sixteen-year-old boy after all . “If you go wake up the Commander now, I would be the one on the receiving end of the punishments . Actually, Colonel Li, Commander Ho will only be asleep for half an hour at most, so why don’t you sit down and relax for a bit, and I’ll get you some walnut . By the time you’re done, the Commander should be awake . How’s that?”

Li knew all about Commander Ho’s temper, and since he hadn’t come with urgent business, he had no intention of provoking the Commander—not that he couldn’t afford to . It just wasn’t worth the trouble . But the October weather wasn’t exactly suitable for a picnic in the courtyard either .

Hsiao-Hu had already carried out a wooden chair and wiped its seat carelessly with his sleeves . “Do have a seat, Colonel Li . I heard you seized Wantong and made a grand fortune! Tell me all about it!”

“Well…” Li Shih-Yao rubbed his chin and hesitated elatedly . “There isn’t really much to tell . Haven’t you seen a capture before?”

“I heard Wantong was a real large county . And you burned the governor alive like a lantern!”

“That’s what you call a show of authority,” Li laughed . “And it lets any by-looking commoners know the consequence of disobedience . “

Hsiao-Hu was curious . “I heard the governor was real fat, all dripping with grease . Is it true that he almost burned for an entire day?”

“Not just an entire day!” Li bragged animatedly . “Goodness, I don’t know what that old brat fed himself with . He was meatier than three grown pigs combined!”

Hsiao-Hu crouched down and took out a single walnut from his cloth bag, setting it on the brick floor and hammered it open with a couple of casual strikes . He handed its content, perfectly intact, to Li .

Li ate his walnut . “What’s the Commander up to these days?”

Hsiao-Hu was thoughtful for a moment . “Nothing much,” he replied . “Mutters something about Chief Lan once in a while . “

That got Li interested . “What’s he muttering about Lan for?”

“Dunno,” Hsiao-Hu continued to hammer his walnuts with his head down .

“How can you not? You follow him around all day . “

Hsiao-Hu was deeply absorbed in his hammering . “If you ask me how much walnut Commander eats a day, I would know then . “

– : –

Li Shih-Yao wasn’t too fond of walnuts . Fortunately, after his third one, Commander Ho woke up .

After his awakening, the Commander had yet to go through his yawning, absently gazing, dressing, and face-washing . Though the process wasn’t overly complex, it lasted a good twenty minutes due to the pace of his movements . Li waited with the uttermost patience until Commander Ho stole silently into the drawing room and sat down on the wooden chair regally .

Li Shih-Yao didn’t stand up and merely flashed a wide grin at the commander . “I’m here, Commander! How was your nap?”

Commander Ho lowered his eyelids, his short hair sticking out in every direction . “Fine . “

“See, I just got back from Wantong,” Li continued . “The place was impoverished . Weren’t anything of value there, but I did get you some Tar . Prime quality stuff . “

“The consumption of opium,” Commander Ho said quietly, “is unhealthy . “

As if the Commander’s presence was influencing him, Li couldn’t help but adopt a more civilized manner as well . “Just a puff or two once in a while, that can’t hurt!”

Commander Ho wore army trousers with riding boots, a brown tweed army-coat hanging open to reveal a white shirt tucked loosely into his belts . As he listened to Li Shih-Yao, he looked down abruptly and started buttoning his coat .

After the third button, he steered his eyes back to Li . “You get addicted easily . “

Li burst out laughing . “So? It’s not like we can’t afford it!”

Commander Ho gave a faint smile and said nothing more .

They sat facing each other in silence . Feeling a bit awkward, Li dug a wrinkled pack of cigarettes out of his pocket and stuck a cigarette between his lips . When he searched again for matches, he found none .

He spotted a box of them on the small table beside Commander Ho . The commander didn’t offer him any, and he didn’t really have the nerve to reach for it himself . After a moment of hesitation, he suddenly gritted his teeth and asked himself: why the fuck should I be scared of him?

With that, he drew up his courage, got to his feet and made his way to the Commander, picking up the box of matches in the process . Meanwhile Commander Ho kept his eyes downcast, his gaze hollow .

Li lit his cigarette and took a deep drag, feeling markedly more relaxed . With his face hidden behind the pale blue smoke, his expression became more animated .

“Commander, I heard Lan Bai-Shan went to Hsian? When did he leave? And how come I haven’t heard anything all this time?”

Commander Ho was still thinking: “the wealthiest county of Wantong…fooling me with some Tar…these bastards…” when he noticed Li Shih-Yao staring straight at him . Startled, he asked: “What?”

Li flashed his white teeth with a smile . “Commander, you really awake? I was just asking, when did Lan Bai-Shan go to Hsian? And why didn’t I get the word of that?”

“About half a month ago . He went to see Chairman Fu . “

“Fu Yang-Shan?”

“Yes . “

“What’s he seeing him for? We have the men and the guns, we can occupy this place permanently, shoot whoever we want . Live like emperors for a few days, isn’t that all good and well? If that Fu were to take us in, wouldn’t it just impose more restrictions on our men?”

“The newspapers outside are calling us bandits,” Commander Ho explained .

Li laughed out loud . “Who cares! Soldiers and bandits are essentially family! Again, we have the men and we have the guns, why put ourselves under Fu’s service?”

“It’s just a title . We need him to assign a designation . “

Li suddenly sat up straight . “Will we get paid?”

Commander Ho shook his head .

“Dammit!” Li sat back . “Then what’s the fucking point? We’ll still have to fend for ourselves!”

Commander Ho thought again, “you’ve gathered tens of thousands of tax money . . . and you’re only giving me a bit of dope…”

Commander Ho had an extremely petty mind . Otherwise he wouldn’t be able to find enough things to brood over all day and night .

Li raised a hand to rub at his short bristles of hair and steered the conversation toward his true intention . “Commander,” he said . “Jin Hwan-Ran said he was on your orders when he led his troops into Wantong, what’s that all about? I was the one that took down the city, just who the hell did he think he was? He did nothing during the fight yet came running for the loot—there’s no such thing as a free lunch in this world!”

Commander Ho looked up, his impassive face showing very faint traces of surprise . “Colonel Jin said he was going to aid you . Why, did the two of you get into another quarrel?”

“Jin’s full of it!” Li rolled up his sleeves . “How can you believe anything he says?”

“Colonel Li,” Commander Ho’s face fell . “I beg your pardon . “

Li saw anger fill the porcelain face and knew his last comment had gone over the line, so he grinned and tried to turn his words around . “Commander, Jin Hwan-Ran is a sly one, likes nothing better than bullying around under your name . You’re too honest and kind to know about this sort of underhanded businesses . “

Commander Ho had always disliked Li Shih-Yao, and now his face visibly paled in rage at Li’s disrespect . He paid no attention to Li’s explanations, and merely reached for the teacup on the table and smashed it back down with force .

“If Colonel Li has a problem with me, he’s more than welcome to take his troops with him and leave! To come to me and throw wild accusations around—what is your meaning? “

He was angry . Li Shih-Yao, on the other hand, was not . He just found the situation very tricky .

“Commander,” he began, “why do you have to be so short-tempered? How can I possibly have any intention of leaving? I was just ranting, nothing more to that . All right, it was just my filthy mouth emitting barks . Don’t be angry . “

Commander Ho had only dared to suggest Li’s dismissal because he was confident that it would never happen . He knew that at the moment, if Li’s Regiment were to declare independence, they would probably get mass-annihilated by the next day—there were a unit of some ten thousand soldiers who had moved out from the Northeast garrisoned fifty miles away in Tuolo Bay . A few days ago, Li Shih-Yao had strafed one of their squads for no apparent reason, and the Northeasterners were not known to just bend over . If it wasn’t for the fact that he served under the Anguo Army, he would have been swarmed and eaten alive by now .

Commander Ho was a very practical man . For him Li’s apologies were nothing more than the bumping of his upper and lower lips and had no significance . Lifting a hand to feel his disheveled hair, he forced down his anger and spoke . “The Staff Division is almost going into starvation . You should at least help them out . “

“All right, all right,” Li nodded . “Tomorrow I shall…” his eyes shifted, “send them some grains to replenish their supply . Well . . . Since Chief Lan isn’t around, there’s no one in charge over at their division . How about I simply send the stuff to you, and when Lan comes back, he can take care of the rest?”

“So he refuses the toast and would rather drink a penalty . Despicable!” Commander Ho thought . “He wouldn’t know his place until I beat him to it! The crude and ignorant thing! Warmonger! Took over an entire county and only gives me some dope! Damn it all…”

After a taking a chaotic tour inside his head, Commander Ho returned to reality . His expression calmed and he turned to face Li Shih-Yao . “You were the main force in the capture of Wantong, there’s no question about that,” he pacified . “If Jin Hwan-Ran ever tries anything out of line, I will be the one to scold him, so don’t worry about it . Furthermore, I have very limited space . Where do you expect me to store all those grains? Convert them into silver dollars and send those here instead!”

– : –

Li Shih-Yao had come to see Commander Ho full of enthusiasm, only to have it crushed as he retreated from the Residence ashen-looking . Yet he still wasn’t angry . Just a bit depressed, as if he had done something horribly wrong and hadn’t been able to make amends .

Stepping out of the front gates, he strode down a couple of steps and felt increasingly upset as he dwelt on it . Suddenly he smacked himself on the head . “Hey,” he blurted out . “Why the fuck should I be scared of him?”

– : –

Having said that, he still sent someone to deliver five-hundred silver dollars to the Ho Residence the following morning . As Commander Ho sat alone in his Guanxu palace chair and counted his silver dollars, a sudden sadness washed over him . He felt like a beggar .

[1]Hsiao-Hu literally means “little tiger” .

Li Shih-Yao

.

There was a staff officer from the Anguo Staff Division by the name of Ma Hao-Tian . A man of womanly appearance

This was by no means an implication that he was in any way dainty looking . His womanly looks were roughly the ones of a middle-aged farm-wife, and in his uniforms, he looked more like an old maid in drag . For this reason, Ma was given a nickname: Aunt Ma

At the moment, the Staff Division was at a lack of things to staff . The Army had long stopped issuing them pays, and while the troops found their own sources of income elsewhere, the staff officers could hardly go plunder around with their pistols . Faced with a very real possibility of going hungry, Chief Ma forced himself to come imploring Commander Ho for advice

Commander Ho listened and drank his tea . He was silent for a long moment

Ma stole a glance at him from the right-hand seat . He knew well enough that Commander Ho was nothing but a young former student with neither any military power nor experience to speak of, maneuvered into place only as a puppet of sorts . Yet for some incomprehensible reason, he felt a bit uneasy . Ho Bao-Ting had an air of dankness about him, looking contemplative all year round and mulling perpetually over some undisclosed matter . In his dealings with mysterious characters, Ma always kept his distance

For a while, they sat facing each other in silence, then Commander Ho finally spoke, his tone gentle . “Li Shih-Yao has captured the County of Wantong recently . He’s got money . “.

“Even if he does, he won’t be sharing any of it with the staff division,” Ma laughed wryly

Commander Ho smiled as well . “Then why don’t you go talk to him?”.

Ma stuck out his tongue . “Commander, I wouldn’t dare!”.

Commander Ho put his tea down and withdrew his pleasantness . “More scared of Li Shih-Yao than of me?”.

Ma was somewhat thrown off . “No, no no, of course not! What I was trying to say, Commander, is that because you’re so generous and show such solicitude to those beneath you, every one of our men bears witnessed to your nobility . So the Division have elected me to come for your advice . “.

“It’s a difficult time,” Commander Ho began icily . “People are dying in famines . The Staff Division may be on a tight budget at the moment, but you ought to find ways to make do . “.

“Commander,” Ma begged . “You’ve no idea . Our men of every rank are practically living on millet . “.

Commander Ho nodded slightly . “Millet is extremely nutritious . Daily consumption can improve mental sharpness, making them the perfect staple for your division . “.

At this point there was nothing more Ma could say . Sulking, he turned to leave

– : -.

Ma didn’t get very far from the Ho Residence before he ran straight into Colonel Li Shih-Yao . Li had just turned thirty this year and stood tall and imposing with a distinct ruffianly air . He laughed loudly when he spotted Chief Ma . “I say, Auntie Ma, did you go begging for alms at the Commander’s?”.

Ma had always looked to Li Shih-Yao with some measure of fear and dared not to say much at the jest . “Colonel Li is very astute,” he chuckled obsequiously . “Our division is indeed… We won’t be able to hold out for much longer . “.

Li Shih-Yao laughed out a “Ha” . “So what did the Commander say?”.

“He wouldn’t help,” Chief Ma grimaced

Li tried to give him advice . “Let Old Lan do the talking, the Commander would listen to him . “.

“Chief Lan’s already gone to Hsian . He’s the one with the plans . Did you expect him to stay behind with us and live on millet?”.

Li Shih-Yao let out another “Ha” . Without another word, he walked past Ma and swaggered on

Once he entered the courtyard, he feigned a kick at an orderly with a little hammer . “Little imperishable brat . What are ya doing?”.

The young orderly dodged the kick nimbly . “Don’t you push me around, Colonel Li,” he said indignantly . “I have a name . Why do you keep calling me little brat?”.

Li Shih-Yao laughed in spite of the offence . “All right,” he gave a wave with his hand . “So Chao Hsiao-Hu, I see you’ve been dawdling around with that hammer all day . Enjoying life, eh?”.

Chao Hsiao-Hu shook a heavy looking cloth sack at him . “I was going to prepare walnuts for Commander Ho . I wasn’t slacking off!”.

Li stepped toward him and wrapped an affectionate arm around his shoulders . “You little tigerling[1] . Where’s the Commander?”.

“Commander Ho’s in bed, taking a nap,” Hsiao-Hu answered . “You can’t disturb him right now!”.

“You little fucker,” Li whacked him across the head, “I was the one who dug you out of a corpse pile, but look at you now! A watchdog for the Commander!”.

Awkwardness filled Hsiao-Hu’s face; he was only a sixteen-year-old boy after all . “If you go wake up the Commander now, I would be the one on the receiving end of the punishments . Actually, Colonel Li, Commander Ho will only be asleep for half an hour at most, so why don’t you sit down and relax for a bit, and I’ll get you some walnut . By the time you’re done, the Commander should be awake . How’s that?”.

Li knew all about Commander Ho’s temper, and since he hadn’t come with urgent business, he had no intention of provoking the Commander—not that he couldn’t afford to . It just wasn’t worth the trouble . But the October weather wasn’t exactly suitable for a picnic in the courtyard either

Hsiao-Hu had already carried out a wooden chair and wiped its seat carelessly with his sleeves . “Do have a seat, Colonel Li . I heard you seized Wantong and made a grand fortune! Tell me all about it!”.

“Well…” Li Shih-Yao rubbed his chin and hesitated elatedly . “There isn’t really much to tell . Haven’t you seen a capture before?”.

“I heard Wantong was a real large county . And you burned the governor alive like a lantern!”.

“That’s what you call a show of authority,” Li laughed . “And it lets any by-looking commoners know the consequence of disobedience . “.

Hsiao-Hu was curious . “I heard the governor was real fat, all dripping with grease . Is it true that he almost burned for an entire day?”.

“Not just an entire day!” Li bragged animatedly . “Goodness, I don’t know what that old brat fed himself with . He was meatier than three grown pigs combined!”.

Hsiao-Hu crouched down and took out a single walnut from his cloth bag, setting it on the brick floor and hammered it open with a couple of casual strikes . He handed its content, perfectly intact, to Li

Li ate his walnut . “What’s the Commander up to these days?”.

Hsiao-Hu was thoughtful for a moment . “Nothing much,” he replied . “Mutters something about Chief Lan once in a while . “.

That got Li interested . “What’s he muttering about Lan for?”.

“Dunno,” Hsiao-Hu continued to hammer his walnuts with his head down

“How can you not? You follow him around all day . “.

Hsiao-Hu was deeply absorbed in his hammering . “If you ask me how much walnut Commander eats a day, I would know then . “.

– : -.

Li Shih-Yao wasn’t too fond of walnuts . Fortunately, after his third one, Commander Ho woke up

After his awakening, the Commander had yet to go through his yawning, absently gazing, dressing, and face-washing . Though the process wasn’t overly complex, it lasted a good twenty minutes due to the pace of his movements . Li waited with the uttermost patience until Commander Ho stole silently into the drawing room and sat down on the wooden chair regally

Li Shih-Yao didn’t stand up and merely flashed a wide grin at the commander . “I’m here, Commander! How was your nap?”.

Commander Ho lowered his eyelids, his short hair sticking out in every direction . “Fine . “.

“See, I just got back from Wantong,” Li continued . “The place was impoverished . Weren’t anything of value there, but I did get you some Tar . Prime quality stuff . “.

“The consumption of opium,” Commander Ho said quietly, “is unhealthy . “.

As if the Commander’s presence was influencing him, Li couldn’t help but adopt a more civilized manner as well . “Just a puff or two once in a while, that can’t hurt!”.

Commander Ho wore army trousers with riding boots, a brown tweed army-coat hanging open to reveal a white shirt tucked loosely into his belts . As he listened to Li Shih-Yao, he looked down abruptly and started buttoning his coat

After the third button, he steered his eyes back to Li . “You get addicted easily . “.

Li burst out laughing . “So? It’s not like we can’t afford it!”.

Commander Ho gave a faint smile and said nothing more

They sat facing each other in silence . Feeling a bit awkward, Li dug a wrinkled pack of cigarettes out of his pocket and stuck a cigarette between his lips . When he searched again for matches, he found none

He spotted a box of them on the small table beside Commander Ho . The commander didn’t offer him any, and he didn’t really have the nerve to reach for it himself . After a moment of hesitation, he suddenly gritted his teeth and asked himself: why the fuck should I be scared of him?.

With that, he drew up his courage, got to his feet and made his way to the Commander, picking up the box of matches in the process . Meanwhile Commander Ho kept his eyes downcast, his gaze hollow

Li lit his cigarette and took a deep drag, feeling markedly more relaxed . With his face hidden behind the pale blue smoke, his expression became more animated

“Commander, I heard Lan Bai-Shan went to Hsian? When did he leave? And how come I haven’t heard anything all this time?”.

Commander Ho was still thinking: “the wealthiest county of Wantong…fooling me with some Tar…these bastards…” when he noticed Li Shih-Yao staring straight at him . Startled, he asked: “What?”.

Li flashed his white teeth with a smile . “Commander, you really awake? I was just asking, when did Lan Bai-Shan go to Hsian? And why didn’t I get the word of that?”.

“About half a month ago . He went to see Chairman Fu . “.

“Fu Yang-Shan?”.

“Yes . “.

“What’s he seeing him for? We have the men and the guns, we can occupy this place permanently, shoot whoever we want . Live like emperors for a few days, isn’t that all good and well? If that Fu were to take us in, wouldn’t it just impose more restrictions on our men?”.

“The newspapers outside are calling us bandits,” Commander Ho explained

Li laughed out loud . “Who cares! Soldiers and bandits are essentially family! Again, we have the men and we have the guns, why put ourselves under Fu’s service?”.

“It’s just a title . We need him to assign a designation . “.

Li suddenly sat up straight . “Will we get paid?”.

Commander Ho shook his head

“Dammit!” Li sat back . “Then what’s the fucking point? We’ll still have to fend for ourselves!”.

Commander Ho thought again, “you’ve gathered tens of thousands of tax money . and you’re only giving me a bit of dope…”.

Commander Ho had an extremely petty mind . Otherwise he wouldn’t be able to find enough things to brood over all day and night

Li raised a hand to rub at his short bristles of hair and steered the conversation toward his true intention . “Commander,” he said . “Jin Hwan-Ran said he was on your orders when he led his troops into Wantong, what’s that all about? I was the one that took down the city, just who the hell did he think he was? He did nothing during the fight yet came running for the loot—there’s no such thing as a free lunch in this world!”.

Commander Ho looked up, his impassive face showing very faint traces of surprise . “Colonel Jin said he was going to aid you . Why, did the two of you get into another quarrel?”.

“Jin’s full of it!” Li rolled up his sleeves . “How can you believe anything he says?”.

“Colonel Li,” Commander Ho’s face fell . “I beg your pardon . “.

Li saw anger fill the porcelain face and knew his last comment had gone over the line, so he grinned and tried to turn his words around . “Commander, Jin Hwan-Ran is a sly one, likes nothing better than bullying around under your name . You’re too honest and kind to know about this sort of underhanded businesses . “.

Commander Ho had always disliked Li Shih-Yao, and now his face visibly paled in rage at Li’s disrespect . He paid no attention to Li’s explanations, and merely reached for the teacup on the table and smashed it back down with force

“If Colonel Li has a problem with me, he’s more than welcome to take his troops with him and leave! To come to me and throw wild accusations around—what is your meaning? “.

He was angry . Li Shih-Yao, on the other hand, was not . He just found the situation very tricky

“Commander,” he began, “why do you have to be so short-tempered? How can I possibly have any intention of leaving? I was just ranting, nothing more to that . All right, it was just my filthy mouth emitting barks . Don’t be angry . “.

Commander Ho had only dared to suggest Li’s dismissal because he was confident that it would never happen . He knew that at the moment, if Li’s Regiment were to declare independence, they would probably get mass-annihilated by the next day—there were a unit of some ten thousand soldiers who had moved out from the Northeast garrisoned fifty miles away in Tuolo Bay . A few days ago, Li Shih-Yao had strafed one of their squads for no apparent reason, and the Northeasterners were not known to just bend over . If it wasn’t for the fact that he served under the Anguo Army, he would have been swarmed and eaten alive by now

Commander Ho was a very practical man . For him Li’s apologies were nothing more than the bumping of his upper and lower lips and had no significance . Lifting a hand to feel his disheveled hair, he forced down his anger and spoke . “The Staff Division is almost going into starvation . You should at least help them out . “.

“All right, all right,” Li nodded . “Tomorrow I shall…” his eyes shifted, “send them some grains to replenish their supply . Well . Since Chief Lan isn’t around, there’s no one in charge over at their division . How about I simply send the stuff to you, and when Lan comes back, he can take care of the rest?”.

“So he refuses the toast and would rather drink a penalty . Despicable!” Commander Ho thought . “He wouldn’t know his place until I beat him to it! The crude and ignorant thing! Warmonger! Took over an entire county and only gives me some dope! Damn it all…”.

After a taking a chaotic tour inside his head, Commander Ho returned to reality . His expression calmed and he turned to face Li Shih-Yao . “You were the main force in the capture of Wantong, there’s no question about that,” he pacified . “If Jin Hwan-Ran ever tries anything out of line, I will be the one to scold him, so don’t worry about it . Furthermore, I have very limited space . Where do you expect me to store all those grains? Convert them into silver dollars and send those here instead!”.

– : -.

Li Shih-Yao had come to see Commander Ho full of enthusiasm, only to have it crushed as he retreated from the Residence ashen-looking . Yet he still wasn’t angry . Just a bit depressed, as if he had done something horribly wrong and hadn’t been able to make amends

Stepping out of the front gates, he strode down a couple of steps and felt increasingly upset as he dwelt on it . Suddenly he smacked himself on the head . “Hey,” he blurted out . “Why the fuck should I be scared of him?”.

– : -.

Having said that, he still sent someone to deliver five-hundred silver dollars to the Ho Residence the following morning . As Commander Ho sat alone in his Guanxu palace chair and counted his silver dollars, a sudden sadness washed over him . He felt like a beggar

. .

[1]Hsiao-Hu literally means “little tiger”