Chapter 545 - Spin-Off - A Journey to the South Ocean (3)
545. Spin-Off – A Journey to the South Ocean (3)
As Yuwen Tong had him lie prone on his front, Ling Zhang chuckled and let out a sigh of contentment, his cheek pressed against Yuwen Tong’s chest.
Yuwen Tong detected the amusement in Ling Zhang’s voice and his hand fondling Ling Zhang’s waist finally started moving slowly downwards in spite of himself. Ling Zhang did not try to stop him. Though he was slightly seasick, the familiar perfume filling his nostrils and wreathing him, coupled with the familiar embrace, seemed to have been gradually rendering him impervious to seasickness.
Yuwen Tong did not go too far. He did it very gently. Compared with their usual, vigorous sex, this kind of cautious intimacy struck them as fairly novel, and in the last few moments both of them were entranced and felt unable to stop. When it was over, Ling Zhang drifted into deep sleep, oblivious of what was happening outside.
Yuwen Tong had some hot water delivered to the cabin, washed Ling Zhang clean and helped him change into soft, dry clothes. Then he cleaned himself, changed and went to sleep with Ling Zhang in his arms.
It was the next morning when it was fully light that Ling Zhang opened his eyes again. No sooner had he opened them when he heard the squawk of seagulls and smelled salty, faintly fishy air specific to the ocean. Having been on the vessel for a whole day, he had gradually adapted to the heave of the sea.
Yuwen Tong had also woken, and he seemed to have been awake for quite some time. He did not have to preside over a court meeting as he did every morning when in the palace, and there weren’t any urgent matters to attend to on the vessel, so he was still lying in bed with Ling Zhang.
After Ling Zhang woke up, he drew Ling Zhang closer to him and kneaded Ling Zhang’s forehead and cheek. “You’re awake. Are you hungry?”
Ling Zhang found the massage very enjoyable and a groan of comfort escaped his lips. Though more awake now, he was still not inclined to open his eyes. “No. I want to lie here for a little while longer.”
Nobody would be so insensible as to come here to disturb them at this early hour anyway. Of all the cabins on this floor, theirs was the roomiest and had the best view. None of the others’ cabins were in the vicinity, so they did not have to worry about any passers-by overhearing their conversation.
“Okay, then, let’s stay in bed for a little while longer.” Yuwen Tong was not in a hurry to get up either. Having noticed that Ling Zhang was enjoying the head massage, he continued.
During these years, though seldom separated, they had been getting up very early every day. Yuwen Tong had to preside over court meetings, and Ling Zhang had other matters to deal with. Even during the period of their tenth wedding anniversary celebration, they had still had a lot of things to do and had to get up early. Hardly had they ever stayed in bed in each other’s arms when it was fully light as they were doing now.
The two of them enjoyed the quiet of the morning. A few moments ago Yuwen Tong had got out of bed and opened the window a fraction. Right now pale golden sunlight was streaming in through the gap onto the quilt over the two of them. Lying propped against Yuwen Tong’s chest with his arms wrapped around Yuwen Tong’s waist, he looked out of the window and asked, “How far do you think we’ve gone?”
Yuwen Tong said, “There’s still a long way to go. We probably have just left Haizhou.”
There were two prefectures to the south of Haizhou. To get out of the territorial waters of the Great Wen, they would have to sail a certain distance further south after passing the southmost prefecture.
Ling Zhang gave a little yawn. “It seems we’ll have to spend more time on the sea than expected.”
Yuwen Tong, however, felt that this was exactly what he wanted – the two of them enjoying the quiet of a private room without having to worry about anybody insensible coming to disturb them.
At this time, another distinct squawk of a sea bird came from outside the window. The two of them both had extraordinary hearing and naturally heard the sea bird fly by, fluttering its wings. It perched on the windowsill for a few moments, gave another couple of squawks and then flew away.
The fleet was progressing with quite some noises, and there were a lot of sea birds hovering over it.
The night before the sea had been very quiet and Ling Zhang had been fast asleep without hearing any noises. At this time, hearing the boisterous twitter of sea birds, he said, “These birds won’t be following us throughout the journey, right?”
Yuwen Tong said, “That’s hard to say. They’re everywhere. Even if these ones leave, others will soon come. Are they bothering you?”
Ling Zhang rubbed his head against Yuwen Tong’s chest and replied, “Not really. I’m just curious.”
In fact, it struck him that their squawk imparted a note of tranquility to this morning. ‘If only the smell of the sea were not so strong,’ Ling Zhang thought, but he did not show any sign of it on his face. It would be a long time before this voyage came to an end, and he had to adapt to it.
“How about you draw a picture of sea birds flying above the sea?” Ling Zhang suddenly said.
Yuwen Tong asked, “Why? You feel like watching me draw pictures?”
Though Yuwen Tong had started as a military officer, his strategies of ruling a country were just as exceptional as his kung fu. He was good at drawing too, and his drawings were highly individualistic. However, he seldom drew, and when he did, the subject, most of the time, was Ling Zhang. In recent years, he had added their adopted children to his list of subjects. He tended not to draw landscape, unless Ling Zhang was the main subject. At this time, he was somewhat surprised to hear Ling Zhang ask him to draw sea birds.
Ling Zhang said, “Before we left the capital city, I promised Crescent I’d draw what I saw on the sea. You’re better at drawing than me.”
Yuwen Tong, catching on, kissed him. “All right.”
The drawing was for their daughter and Ling Zhang had personally requested it, so of course he wouldn’t refuse.
The two of them did not continue lying in bed, mainly because they had taken to getting up early and were unaccustomed to staying in bed for such a long time during daytime, though they had the opportunity to do that on this day. Therefore, after another few moments’ quiet mutual caress, they both got out of bed.
Yuwen Tong started drawing immediately after getting up, Ling Zhang watching on the side. The window of the room was open and sunlight was pouring in through it, making the room quite bright.
Yuwen Tong was drawing what they had seen a while ago after observing on the deck for a while. A flock of sea birds had happened to be catching fish; they had gathered above a certain spot and had not dispersed until after the feast. The sea was rocking the vessel gently, rippling and sparkling. The weather was also very good this day, the sky cloudless. Standing on the deck, people could still vaguely see the shore behind them in the distance, but ahead of them was nothing but the vast sea.
Yuwen Tong was drawing a simple Chinese ink and wash, which was all about the artistic conception. Still, with only a couple of strokes, he vividly depicted that lively scene on the majestic sea. After finishing the picture, Yuwen Tong did not stop but started drawing another one. This time he was more careful, because he himself and Ling Zhang were the subjects.
Ling Zhang standing on the side glanced at it and came to know that Yuwen Tong was drawing the two of them enjoying the beauty of the afterglow, which was what they had done on the deck yesterday.
It took Yuwen Tong quite some time to finish the second picture. When he put the writing brush down, it was almost lunchtime.
Ling Zhang gave it some thought and then walked out of the cabin. They had not shown their faces the whole morning and the others might be worried, so he told a guard to tell the others that the two of them would meet them at noon.
In the first few days of the voyage, traveling by sea felt fairly interesting, and Ling Zhang had to spare some time to accustom himself to life on the sea, but as time passed by, the novelty wore off and Ling Zhang got used to life on a ship, and then he began to feel a little bored.
“There’ll still be some time before we reach those waters.”
An experienced naval officer told the others a rough anticipated arrival time.
People on this vessel, except for the marines, had hardly been on any voyages before. Even Ji Yanlai, who had moved to an island, had never traveled by sea for such a long time. After being informed that the destination was still such a long way off, he was at a loss as to what to do to while away the time.
They had got almost all the information they could get from the chart, and there did not seem to be anything else they needed to consult each other about. What else could they do? Surely they couldn’t just sit there looking at each other throughout the remainder of the voyage?
Yuwen Tong was feeling okay, because Ling Zhang from time to time asked him to draw pictures, but the others were really bored stiff.
Yuwen Jin was a bit down, clearly beginning to regret having insisted on joining them on this journey.
Eventually it was Yuwen Jin who suggested a way of killing time – playing cards.
Ling Zhang’s interest was piqued immediately. He had heard that this recreation was very popular among womenfolk of rich families, that it was an addictive pastime.
Yuwen Jin, who previously had played cards with his wife for some time and was more familiar with the rules than anybody else on the vessel, began to teach the others how to play.
At first the four players were Yuwen Jin, Ling Zhang, Ling Zhaowu and Mr. Mu. Yuwen Jin was the most acquainted with the rules, so the other three were at a disadvantage, but they were all very smart and had good memories, so they soon familiarized themselves with the rules and then turned the tables on Yuwen Jin.
“This can’t be happening. You guys really have never played this before?” Yuwen Jin felt that he was hoodwinked, because he had won in only the first few rounds and lost in all the subsequent ones! This did not make any sense. He was positive that these people had secretly learned how to play without telling him.
“Help me, cousin.” Yuwen Jin stood up and sat Yuwen Tong in his chair.
No sooner had Yuwen Tong been seated than Ling Zhang unnoticeably slid him a faintly warning glance.
Before Yuwen Tong could say anything, Yuwen Jin jumped. “Don’t you threaten my cousin, Brother Zhang! It’s supposed to be a fair game. You know what ‘fair’ means? You’re not allowed to tell my cousin to let you win by casting him furtive glances!”
The corners of Ling Zhang’s mouth twitched.
“Sire is not necessarily going to win,” said someone else.
The corners of Ling Zhang’s mouth twitched once again. He did not find these words reassuring, knowing that Yuwen Tong, gifted with an extraordinarily retentive memory, was sure to win after acquainting himself with the rules, unless he was dealt a really bad hand.
Yuwen Jin also chuckled, with the air of someone who could use a beating. “You won’t think that after you play a hand.”
All the others were somewhat confused, but after some time ...
Yuwen Tong was undefeated.
The others began to find this unbelievable. How come Yuwen Tong who had also just learned how to play this game was so good at it? Mr. Mu and Ling Zhaowu both believed that they were pretty smart, and it struck them as incredible that Yuwen Tong had been winning in every round since he had sat down.
“He has a photographic memory,” said Ji Yanlai suddenly, who had been watching them play on the side. Then he said to Mr. Mu, “Let me go a few rounds.”
Light suddenly dawned on the others at these words. They finally came to understand why Yuwen Tong had been winning with such great ease. Mr. Mu rose to his feet, giving up his seat for Ji Yanlai, expecting to see how Ji Yanlai was going to defeat Yuwen Tong.
Ling Zhang was the only one feeling a little apprehensive, for Ji Yanlai was no common person either.
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