Rebirth of a Star General Chapter 101

Chapter 101: The Withered Beauty 

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The atmosphere in the room froze in an instant.

What should have been a scene that made one’s face turn red and heart race had now lost all its ambiguity, replaced only by the embarrassment and danger of being exposed.

He Yan quickly composed herself, looking at him. The look of “nervousness and tension” typical of young people like her faded away, revealing her usual smile as she said, “You can call me whatever you like, Commander. As long as you’re happy.”

“The daughter of the City Gate military official He Sui, actually came to join the army.” He looked at her eyes, smiling with a hint of mockery. “Miss He, you’ve got quite the courage.”

This man… He Yan’s mind raced, realizing that he must have been investigating her secretly, not because she had been exposed in the Sun Mansion. From Shuo Jing to here, even if you rode at breakneck speed, it would take more than a month. So why did Xiao Jue start suspecting her so early?

The youth smiled, “I didn’t expect the Commander to be so concerned about me; I’m flattered.”

There was no panic on He Yan’s face, even though this was an unexpected turn of events. Normally, when a person’s clothes were opened up and their identity exposed, most women would feel embarrassed and outraged. But this man seemed so nonchalant, more daring than a man, and maybe that was the reason why, from Shuo Jing to Liangzhou, no one had discovered her true gender.

When Xiao Jue received the secret letter from Shuo Jing, he could hardly believe it. The City Gate military official did have a child named He Yan, but she was a daughter, not a son. He also had a son named He Yunsheng, and six months ago, He Yan’s daughter had been killed by robbers on a boat on the Chunlai River and had not been found to this day. By the time He Yan joined the army, it had been six months.

But a woman joining the army, and being able to hide her true gender for more than half a year, was quite impressive. Either everyone around her was blind, or she was very good at disguising herself. Xiao Jue was not blind, and as he thought back to the moments he had spent with He Yan, he realized that she was indeed very good at concealing herself.

She had delicate and slender features, with a petite figure. However, people wouldn’t easily associate her with a typical woman because she had a carefree demeanor, and her combat skills were among the best in the Liangzhou Garrison. 

“Why did you come to the Liangzhou Garrison?” 

Hesitant, she quickly thought and replied, “I came to the Liangzhou Garrison because I committed a crime in Shuo Jing, and if caught, I would face certain death. I had no other options but to seek refuge in the military.” 

“What crime?”

This person still didn’t seem to fully believe her, even though everything had already been checked. Exasperated, she sighed, “A young master from a wealthy family lusted after my beauty and kidnapped me onto his boat, intending to force me into marriage. Unfortunately, at that moment, an assassin arrived and took his life. If I were left alone on the boat, I would have a hard time explaining myself, and others might even think I was in cahoots with the assassin. So, I had no choice but to join the military.” 

Her words were a mixture of truth and falsehood, and she delivered them with apparent sincerity. 

Xioa Jue played with the idea, looking at her with an amused expression, “Lusted after your beauty?” 

He Yan: “….” 

What does this mean, was he looking down on her? She had looked at herself in the mirror, Miss He’s face is definitely beautiful.

She said with an insincere smile. “After all, not everyone has the discerning eye of a general like you.”

Xiao Jue nodded his head: “So that’s the case.”

He Yan’s words were a mix of truth and falsehood, and she knew it would be difficult to deceive Xioa Jue. She hadn’t expected him to stop pursuing this line of conversation so easily.

“Why did you venture out in the dead of night?” His gaze swept over He Yan, the smell of blood barely concealed. Even the sheets on the bed had a faint red stain. 

This man clearly knew she was injured, yet he showed no pity. The questions he asked were unrelenting, and he still hadn’t released his grip on her neck. In Xiao Jue’s eyes, there seemed to be no distinction between men and women. 

“I killed one of Yuan Baozhen’s guards,” she replied. 

After a pause, Xiao Jue raised an eyebrow and asked, “Why?”

“He kept coming to see me while the Commander was away, and I always felt that he suspected me. Later, I overheard their conversation,” she paused before continuing, “It seems they were taking orders from someone named Xu Xiang to take your life. The incident at the banquet was also their plan.”

“You mentioned Xu Xiang?” Xiao Jue looked at her with eyes that resembled autumn water, showing a strange emotion.

He Yan shrugged, “Yes, you can think about whether you’ve offended anyone named Xu Xiang. I woke up tonight and found that you were not there, and the window was open. When I closed the window, I found that someone had passed by. That person deliberately led me to the abandoned courtyard in the Sun Mansion, which turned out to be Yuan Baozhen’s guard.”

“He wanted to use me to entangle you, probably as a hostage,” He Yan shook her head. “But I’m not really Cheng Lisu. I don’t think the Commander would just let himself be captured for my sake. What if the Commander decided to shoot me with an arrow to eliminate the threat? So, I fought a fierce battle with him and finally killed him.” He Yan gestured towards herself. “That’s how I ended up like this.”

Even though she said it with ease, she was injured, her complexion wasn’t looking good, and her strength was starting to wane.

“To be able to kill one of Yuan Baozhen’s guards and still be alive, you’re quite skilled.” 

“I think so too,” He Yan forced a smile.“So, Commander, does this mean I qualify to join the Nine Banner Battalion now?”

She didn’t hide her eagerness to join the Nine Banner Battalion.

“Do you think you can join the Nine Banner Battalion?” Xiao Jue asked in return.

“Of course, and I’ve also helped you eliminate a major threat,” He Yan replied. “So, Commander, you should reward me.”

Xiao Jue didn’t get angry; instead, he smiled and released his grip on He Yan’s hand. He looked at her and said mockingly, “Tomorrow, I’ll send you back to Shuo Jing. That’s my reward to you.”

“No!” He Yan sat up straight, and this sudden movement caused pain to shoot through her wound, making her hiss. “I can’t go back to Shuo Jing! If I go back to Shuo Jing, the Fan family won’t let me off. Commander, can you bear to let an innocent person be wrongly imprisoned?”

“I can.”

He Yan: “…You can’t do this!”

“You have no right to negotiate terms with me.”

He Yan had already said so much, and she was starting to feel dizzy and weak. Her wounds had not been treated, and she said, “You will regret it.”

“Why would I regret it?”

“Since I’m going to be sent back to Shuo Jing by you, I won’t need to conceal my identity anymore. Everyone will know that a woman has come to Liangzhou Garrison, and they’ll wonder what’s going on,” He Yan said with a faint smile. “I can only tell them that my relationship with you, Commander, is not ordinary.”

Xiao Jue, in a seemingly indifferent tone, said, “What’s so special about it?” 

“It’s special because… I know the Commander has a small red birthmark about an inch above your waist.” 

As these words left her lips, the room fell silent, with only the faint rumble of distant thunder and the gentle autumn raindrops on the stone ground outside. 

Xiao Jue slowly turned to look at her, his eyes showing increasing displeasure.

However, the youth acted as if she were a rascal, with a smile on her lips and a pale face. She said, “When you were taking a bath… my eyesight is quite good, and I spotted it at a glance. If you want to blame someone, blame Commander for being so charming that even the mole on his waist is perfectly placed, making it unforgettable.”

Could there really be such a woman in the world? Xiao Jue was incredulous, but after He Yan finished speaking, it seemed like she couldn’t hold on any longer and fainted.

Xiao Jue: “…”

Outside the door, Fei Nu’s voice could be heard, “Young Master.”

Xiao Jue said, “Come in,” and casually threw a mattress over He Yan and covered her with it.

Fei Nu came in but didn’t look at He Yan. He said, “I found the body of Yuan Baozhen’s guard in the Sun Mansion’s courtyard. He died from his own plum blossom dart.”

Xiao Jue said, “I know.” In this matter, He Yan had not lied.

The room was filled with a strong smell of blood, and Fei Nu hesitated for a moment before asking, “Young Master, is He Yan injured?”

When Fei Nu found out that He Yan was actually a woman, he was also very surprised. Apart from her physique and appearance, there was nothing about He Yan that resembled a woman. However, this woman had killed Yuan Baozhen’s personal guard, who was extremely skilled, and the most formidable thing about him was his use of poison.

“Her injury isn’t light.”

“What do you plan to do with her, Young Master?” Fei Nu asked.

Xiao Jue paused for a moment before saying, “Go out and find a female doctor to come over.”

Fei Nu was slightly surprised. It seemed that Xiao Jue intended to save He Yan.

“Has the Young Master confirmed that she is not working for Xu Xiang?”

“It doesn’t seem like it,” Xiao Jue replied. “Xu Jingfu looks down on women, and he wouldn’t let a woman participate in anything important. The secret letter from Shuo Jing said that there was no connection between the He family and Xu Jingfu. However,” he paused, “we should still be cautious.”

Fei Nu nodded, “I’ll go find a female doctor.”

After Fei Nu left, Xiao Jue turned to look at He Yan, who was lying on the bed.

Not looking too much like Xu Jingfu’s person didn’t mean this person had no suspicion. A sixteen-year-old girl born into the family of the City Gate military official, even though she had trained in martial arts since childhood, it shouldn’t have been enough for her to be this exceptional, unmatched by anyone in Liangzhou Garrison. Ordinary people couldn’t possess such determination to mingle in the military camp. Even young men couldn’t bear the hardships she had, and she didn’t complain. If she joined the army just because of the incident with Fan Cheng, it seemed a bit far-fetched.

Moreover, she was so eager to join the Nine Banner Battalion.

The rain continued to pour relentlessly, and the young girl’s complexion was pale. When she returned, he noticed that her injuries were severe, especially the knife wound on her back, which was deep and long. However, she hadn’t cried out in pain, not even once, and even now, with her strength depleted and fainting, she had a defiant look, like a wayward young man.

Could there really be such a woman in the world? So skilled, so detestable, so cunning, so shameless.

Xiao Jue closed the window and left the room.

When He Yan woke up, it was already daylight.

She was sleeping on a simple bed, but her clothes had been changed. He Yan sat up, subconsciously lifted her inner robe, and saw a white bandage wrapped around her waist. The wound from her encounter with Ding Yi last night had been dressed.

She remembered what had happened last night as she thought about it. At the time, she and Xiao Jue were at odds, and she had used the birthmark on Xiao Jue’s waist to threaten him. Xiao Jue was very angry, and then she didn’t know what had happened, but she must have fainted. But now… she touched her head, her hair bun was still in place, and she was wearing men’s clothing. Her identity as a woman had not been discovered by anyone.

Did Xiao Jue temporarily protect her secret?

He Yan breathed a sigh of relief, then looked around, but there was no sign of Fei Nu or Xiao Jue.

Could these two have learned her true identity as a woman and simply abandoned her in the Sun Mansion?

He Yan wanted to get out of bed, and as she moved, a small bottle with a long neck rolled out of her pocket. She opened the bottle, and inside were some black pills. There was also a note by the bedside that read: “Take the medicine when you wake up.”

The handwriting was sharp and powerful, very beautiful, and He Yan immediately recognized it as Xiao Jue’s handwriting. When she was at Xianchang Academy, Xiao Jue excelled at everything, and even the essays he wrote were hung at the school gate for people to admire. He Yan had a deep impression of his handwriting. At that time, she had secretly copied a few pieces and wanted to imitate it, but she gave up because she couldn’t capture Xiao Jue’s sentiment.

Second Young Master Xiao left a note for her to take medicine, which should be considered being placod. It seemed that nothing would happen to her for the time being.

He Yan thought to herself and suddenly remembered something. She looked herself up and down again. If they wanted to keep her female identity a secret, the servants in the Sun Mansion couldn’t be used, so who had changed her clothes? And who had dressed her wound? Xiao Jue couldn’t have done it, so it must have been Fei Nu?

Although she had been in the military for many years and didn’t care about her skin as much as ordinary girls, thinking about it still made her feel somewhat uncomfortable.

As if someone had taken advantage of her.

But now, thinking about these things was useless. She got out of bed, put on her shoes, and opened the door to go outside for a look.

As soon as she stepped out, He Yan felt that something was amiss.

Because of the assassination attempt during the Sun family’s night banquet, the servants of the Sun Mansion were not allowed to approach the room where He Yan and the others stayed. However, there were usually maids and servants cleaning from a distance. But today, there was not a single one in sight. From a distance, it looked like the entire Sun Mansion was empty.

Even if Xiao Jue had left her behind, what had happened to make the entire Sun Mansion appear empty? Could something have happened? He Yan was puzzled. After some thought, she decided to go outside. As she walked past the room where she had stayed, turned the corner of the garden, and arrived at the main courtyard, she saw many soldiers in red armor surrounding the main hall. Maids and servants were huddled together in rows, and Sun Xiangfu and his son were surrounded in the center. Yuan Baozhen stood on the side, facing off against Xiao Jue.

She had only slept for a while and now they are fighting? He Yan thought, meeting Xiao Jue’s gaze. His eyes were cold, and inexplicably, she was reminded of what had happened last night, making her feel awkward and embarrassed. After thinking for a moment, she mustered up the courage and called out with the cheerful tone that belonged to Cheng Lisu, “Uncle!”

The tense atmosphere was temporarily disrupted by her calling out “Uncle.” Everyone’s eyes turned towards her.

Yuan Baozhen’s gaze flickered. “Young Master Cheng, can you see it?”

He Yan suddenly remembered that she hadn’t tied the white cloth strip around her waist. But at this point, it didn’t matter anymore. Ding Yi was already dead, and her female identity had been exposed by Xiao Jue. It seemed that Xiao Jue had finally found the person behind the assassination attempt. Now was the time to settle scores. Whether she was a blind person or an ordinary one, she couldn’t influence the overall situation.

He Yan scratched her head and replied nonchalantly, “Really? It seems so. I can indeed see . I must be a blessed and fortunate person.”

This lie was rather perfunctory, but at this moment, no one dared to question her.

Yuan Baozhen vaguely sensed something and asked, “Young Master Cheng, have you seen my bodyguard?”

“No.” He Yan said, “Have your guards disappeared, Imperial Censor Yuan?”

She smiled, making it difficult for others to read her thoughts. Yuan Baozhen felt uneasy. Ding Yi had not returned since he went out last night, and it must have meant trouble. They had a dispute earlier, and Ding Yi wanted to abduct Cheng Lisu to use as leverage against Xiao Jue, but Yuan Baozhen felt it was not the right time. They parted ways, but Ding Yi’s true allegiance was to He Rufei, and he couldn’t control him. If Ding Yi had gone out secretly last night, it must have been for Cheng Lisu.

Now, Cheng Lisu stood here in perfect condition, even her eyes were normal, while Ding Yi had disappeared. Yuan Baozhen’s heart sank, and he felt that something was wrong. Xiao Jue had ordered the Sun Mansion to be surrounded early in the morning, making him even more uneasy.

This person’s actions were really hard to predict.

Without hearing Yuan Baozhen’s response, He Yan was not in a hurry. She moved to stand next to Xiao Jue and first smiled in a flattering manner at him. Then she whispered to the man beside her, “Big Brother Fei Nu, what kind of play are we acting in now?”

Fei Nu looked at He Yan’s calm and composed face after last night’s major event, and he couldn’t help but admire her cool and collected demeanor. Her true identity had been exposed, and yet she was able to continue this act as if nothing had happened. Impressive.

Before Fei Nu could answer, Sun Xiangfu spoke. His face was extremely ugly, but he still managed to force a smile. “Commander, what is the meaning of this? Have we done something wrong in the Sun Mansion to anger you, Commander?”

Sun Ling stood by Sun Xiangfu’s side, glaring at Xiao Jue with undisguised resentment. He didn’t say anything, but his expression showed his dissatisfaction.

“Indeed,” Yuan Baozhen stroked his beard, pondering, “Commander, where did you acquire these troops? His Majesty strictly forbids private armies. If you have any grievances against Magistrate Sun, this isn’t an appropriate way to address them.”

Hearing this, He Yan raised an eyebrow, realizing that these words could potentially put two charges on Xiao Jue – one for maintaining a private army and the other for seeking personal revenge, quite a skillful use of words.

Xiao Jue smiled in response, “Imperial Censor Yuan, you worry too much. These troops are borrowed from Xiaoling County. I cannot bear the charge of privately maintaining troops. Can Imperial Censor Yuan bear the charge of falsely accusing an official appointed by the court?”

Borrowed troops from Xialing County? Yuan Baozhen’s body stiffened. How could this be possible? The leader of the red-armored soldiers stepped forward and clasped his fists. “I am here on orders from Shi Junshou of Xialing County to assist the Commander in investigating the case of the murder of an official’s family by the county magistrate of Liangzhou.” 

“Murdering an official’s family?!” Sun Xiangfu exclaimed, instinctively protesting, “Commander, this is a grave injustice! Those assassins in my residence have nothing to do with me! I don’t know what’s going on, but you must not falsely accuse people! Moreover, the young master’s eyesight has returned, and you can’t just arrest people out of anger! I’m innocent, I’m innocent!”

His cries were miserable and heart-wrenching, but Xiao Jue only sneered, “Who said that the official’s family refers to Cheng Lisu?”

Not Cheng Lisu? Everyone, including He Yan, was momentarily stunned.

Just then, a clear female voice came from outside the courtyard, “I’m the one who was targeted!”

Two more figures appeared from outside the courtyard. One was Xiao Jue’s bodyguard, Chiwu, and the other was a young girl in a warm-colored dress with double buns in her hair, bright eyes, and white teeth. She was none other than Song Taotao.

Under Chiwu’s protection, Song Taotao walked to Xiao Jue’s side and scolded Sun Xiangfu and Sun Ling, “I am the di daughter of the deputy minister of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and you dare to abduct me in broad daylight. If not for running into Second Young Master Xiao and Young Master Cheng, who rescued me, I don’t know what fate would have befallen me. All of the assassins from Myriad Blossom Pavilion have already been captured by Second Young Master Xiao’s people. With witnesses and evidence, I want to see how you can deny this. When I return to Shuo Jing, I will report this matter to my father, and you will all be waiting to lose your heads!”

The young girl looked sweet but spoke with great authority. It was clear that she held a deep grudge against Sun Ling. If not for Sun Ling, she wouldn’t have ended up at Myriad Blossom Pavilion, where she had suffered greatly, nearly having her fingers broken. In other words, if He Yan hadn’t accidentally rescued her that night, this young girl would likely have been violated by Sun Ling.

Sun Xiangfu and his son’s faces turned pale.

Regarding the conspiracy to harm an official’s family, if it was about Xiao Jue and Cheng Lisu, they could still argue their way out of it. After all, all the assassins were dead, and there was no evidence to prove their involvement. However, Xiao Jue had taken an unexpected turn by bringing in this young girl. Who would have thought that the girl abducted by Sun Ling was the daughter of an imperial official?

But over the years, Sun Ling had committed far worse crimes than this. Among the girls abducted to the Sun Mansion, some came from all corners of the country, from wealthy families or the noble families of officials. However, as soon as they arrived in Liangzhou, it was as if they had disappeared without a trace. The Sun family had ruled over this place for so many years, and it had long been shrouded in darkness. Whether they were from poor families or came from privileged backgrounds, once they arrived here, there was no difference.

He Yan stared at Xiao Jue’s back and couldn’t help but applaud him in her heart.

In these past few days, Second Young Master Xiao had been elusive, and He Yan had thought that he had taken Song Taotao away to protect her. Now it seemed that this wasn’t entirely the case. After all, if Xiao Jue had kept Song Taotao by his side and left her at the Sun Mansion, even if Sun Ling recognized her, he wouldn’t dare to do anything to her. By sending Song Taotao away, Xiao Jue was trying to avoid raising suspicion from the Sun family. And now, Song Taotao’s appearance has become the most crucial piece of evidence to incriminate Sun Xiangfu.

“This… it’s all a misunderstanding, Commander. Please, listen to our explanation…” Sun Xiangfu kicked Sun Ling forcefully and made him kneel. He scolded, “Unfilial son, you’ve caused such a huge mess. What are we going to do now? Apologize to the Commander yourself!”

“Magistrate Sun accused the wrong person,” Xiao Jue casually remarked, “I am not an imperial inspector.” He looked at Yuan Baozhen and continued leisurely, “Imperial Censor Yuan, you’ve been in Liangzhou for quite some time, yet you seem oblivious to the local affairs. If people find out about this, you might be charged with dereliction of duty, and even your mentor won’t be able to save you.” 

Yuan Baozhen was so infuriated that he felt like he might spit blood. He looked at Xiao Jue, the young commander, whose lips curled into a smile, and his gaze was full of malicious intent.

He wasn’t here for him; he came for Sun Xiangfu. However, this was even more sinister because his teacher, Xu Jingfu, didn’t want the current situation. It was beyond mere loss; it was as if his entire granary had been emptied. 

With Ding Yi missing, how could he, alone, handle the intimidating Xiao Jue? 

Song Taotao glared at the Sun family, while He Yan seemed lost in thought. Just one word from Song Taotao might be enough to incriminate Sun Ling, but not Sun Xiangfu. If there were influential figures protecting him, he may have a way out. 

Would Xiao Jue give any leeway when he took action? He Yan didn’t think so.

“Commander, could you please listen to our explanations as well? I was truly wronged!” Sun Xiangfu and his son were crying out desperately.

As it concerned him, Yuan Baozhen reluctantly spoke, “Commander, there may indeed be a misunderstanding.”

Xiao Jue stared at him with a smile that didn’t reach his eyes. After a moment, he nodded and said, “Go to the side courtyard.”

The side courtyard? Why go to the side courtyard?

Sun Xiangfu and his son’s faces turned ashen upon hearing this.

The soldiers in red armor escorted Sun Xiangfu and his son, along with the others, to the side courtyard. Last night’s rain had washed away the dust from the courtyard, leaving it pristine and quiet. What should have been a serene and peaceful scene now appeared desolate and bleak. 

He Yan glanced sideways at the closed door of the adjacent room, thinking about the numerous Buddha statues that filled the room from top to bottom last night, sending shivers down her spine. 

But why did Xiao Jue bring them here? 

Yuan Baozhen was also puzzled. “Commander, do you mean to…” 

“Dig three feet deep and let our esteemed Imperial Censor Yuan see what’s underground.” He smiled, but his expression remained indifferent, and his tone was calm as he ordered the soldiers, “Start digging.”

The soldiers, following the orders, found various tools like hoes and sickles from the Sun family’s residence and began digging into the ground. 

Seeing this scene, Sun Xiangfu and his son seemed unable to hold on any longer. Their legs gave way, and they collapsed to the ground, their faces ashen. 

Song Taotao asked He Yan in a hushed voice, “What’s underground here?” 

With Buddha statues filling the room, talismans pasted at the door, and overgrown wild plants in the deserted courtyard, He Yan’s expression turned serious, as she probably guessed what might be found. She remained silent, not knowing how to put it into words. 

Soon, someone said, “Commander, we’ve found something here!”

It was the corpse of a tiny woman, wrapped in a straw mat. She was so small that she appeared even smaller than Song Taotao. Her clothes had rotted away, revealing her white, skeletal remains. It was impossible to tell how beautiful she might have been in life.

“Continue,” Xiao Jue ordered.

Before long, someone else said, “There’s another body here!”

It was another female corpse, with long hair and appearing to have died recently. Her delicate features in death hinted at her beauty in life.

The third, fourth, fifth bodies…

As time passed, no one spoke anymore, only the sound of digging in silence. The air was filled with a deathly quiet. It was unimaginable that the underground of this side courtyard could hold so many bodies. The courtyard was filled with covered corpses, with no place to put them except to pile them up.

Beneath the desolate side courtyard, countless women’s bones were buried. Perhaps there were timid flower sellers and alluring others, but here, regardless of their wealth or social status, they all turned into mud, piled up in such a horrifying mountain of corpses.

These were all the girls abducted and abused by Sun Ling. They had suffered great misfortune in life and found no peace in death. Out of guilt, the evildoer had piled numerous Buddhist statues and daoist charms to suppress and curse them.

The eternal lanterns flickered, but for these girls, their lives were forever shrouded in darkness, with no hope of light.

He Yan took a deep breath.

The sins committed by Sun Xiangfu and his son were unforgivable. The heavens were angry, and justice was served.

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