Rebirth of a Star General Chapter 103

Chapter 103: The Woman the Commander Loved Deeply

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The twenty-three unclaimed female corpses were eventually buried at Chengfeng Peak outside Liangzhou City, as Xiao Jue had said. Standing at Chengfeng Peak and looking down, the valley was shrouded in clouds and mist, resembling a fairyland.

The coffins used were all of high quality and were funded by the silver stored in the Sun family’s treasury. Over the years, the Sun family had accumulated immense wealth, and they even had a dedicated warehouse for storing gold, silver, and treasures.

Since the twenty-three individuals had no known names or backgrounds, not even a single word was inscribed on their gravestones. Twenty-three nameless gravestones marked the final resting place of these young girls. If they were aware of it in the afterlife, they could gaze upon the ever-changing clouds and wind. If they had been reborn, as Xiao Jue had said, they would be free to ride the wind and sing in the mountains.

He Yan and Song Taotao stood not far away, while Chiwu stood by their side, observing as people burned paper money. During the burial, Xiao Jue didn’t join them. Those burning paper money were mostly people who had come to look for their missing female relatives but hadn’t been able to find them. After all, among the girls victimized by Sun Ling, many had left no trace behind, their bodies having been devoured by wolves in the wild.

An elderly woman with white hair was trembling as she burned paper money into an iron basin. She could hardly walk anymore due to her old age, and she had been carried up this mountain path by her grandson. Her granddaughter had been abducted by Sun Ling four years ago and hadn’t been seen since. Among the bodies in Sun Ling’s courtyard, there was also no sign of her granddaughter’s remains.

The old woman quivered and said, “I’m burning paper money for these girls. If someone kind-hearted sees my eldest granddaughter, they will burn paper money for her too. Girls, rest in peace…”

Song Taotao wiped away tears from the corners of her eyes with a handkerchief. She said, “Being a woman is too difficult. If there’s a next life, I don’t want to be a woman.”

“This has nothing to do with being a woman,” He Yan looked at the flying paper money, “Being a woman, we should not suffer unnecessarily. It is the same for men. If one is unhappy with their fate, they can choose a different path. It’s just…” She looked at the blank memorials, “For these women, they had no choice at all, and that’s too cruel.” 

Song Taotao looked at her. “You are very different from ordinary men.” 

“What do you mean?”

“If it were an ordinary man, they would probably say, What’s wrong with you women? Just dress beautifully, sit in the room, and have someone attend to your every need. You don’t need to fight outside. How can you not appreciate being in comfort?'” She imitated a man’s coarse voice and continued with disdain, “Being a pet is good? Locking a bird in a cage and having the bird praise the cage, I think they are the ones with a problem.” 

He Yan chuckled. “You are very different from ordinary women too.” 

“I’ve always been different. By the way,” Song Taotao looked at her, “I still don’t know your name. You are not Cheng Lisu, are you? Are you under Second Young Master Xiao?” 

“I’m called He Yan,” He Yan said, “He from Chaihe and Yan from Haiyan.” 

“So you’re Big Brother He,” Song Taotao said. “You can call me Taotao.”

“This…” He Yan scratched her head; it felt a bit too intimate. Although they were both women, outsiders didn’t know that, and using such an intimate form of address might lead to misunderstandings.

“Just consider it settled,” Song Taotao said with a smile. “I’ve already talked to Second Young Master Xiao, and for the time being, I’ll stay with you guys in the Liangzhou Garrison. When Second Young Master Xiao’s people arrive, they’ll send me back to Shuo Jing. So, in the days to come, I’ll probably be with you all the time.” Song Taotao laughed, her eyes and eyebrows curved. “I haven’t been to the garrison yet,” she continued happily, chattering away.

“Miss Song,” Chiwu said as he glanced toward the distance, “it’s getting late. Let me escort you down the mountain.”

“Let’s go,” He Yan added.

The group descended the mountain, and as they walked away from Chengfeng Peak, they couldn’t help but feel the tranquility of the place. The grassy slopes were adorned with clusters of white chrysanthemums, gently swaying in the breeze, as if young maidens were nodding in gratitude.

Before long, they disappeared from sight.

After descending the mountain, they returned to the inn where they were staying. Song Taotao immediately went into the room to take a bath. She had been busy all day, and now she needed to wash off the ashes from burning the paper money. 

Since Sun’s residence was sealed off, they couldn’t go back to stay there. They returned to the same inn they had been staying at before. The innkeeper knew about Xiao Jue’s true identity and now that Sun Xiangfu and his son were detained, he dared not be negligent. The innkeeper, like a servant from a respected family, attended to He Yan and the others with great care, circling around them. 

He Yan said, “It’s alright, you don’t need to trouble yourself. I can do it myself.” She took a handkerchief and entered the room. 

Inside the room, Fei Nu was packing his things. He was startled when he saw her, and He Yan asked, “Brother Fei Nu, what are you doing?” 

Fei Nu had a wooden expression as he replied, “I’m moving in with Chi Wu.”

Previously, when they were in the Sun residence, the three of them had shared a room. Xiao Jue was in the inner room, while Fei Nu and He Yan were in the outer room, and there hadn’t been any issues. He Yan casually remarked, “Moving back and forth is quite troublesome.”

Fei Nu stopped and looked at her incredulously, “You’re a woman, how can you share a room with me?”

He Yan replied, “…You don’t have to act as if you’re being humiliated.”

Fei Nu didn’t say anything, he quickly finished packing his belongings, as if he were avoiding some kind of ferocious beast, and immediately left.

The room was now empty, with only He Yan inside.

She paused for a moment, shook her head, and smiled. Most likely, her behavior seemed quite unexpected to Xiao Jue and his servants. However, having spent a long time in the military camp in her previous life, living with men was nothing to be embarrassed about. She was just sharing a place with men, so she couldn’t understand why Fei Nu was acting so awkwardly.

He Yan walked over to the low couch and noticed that there was clean water and a clean white cloth strip on it. There was also hot water prepared for bathing, most likely set up by Fei Nu. She still had wounds on her body, and just like Xiao Jue, his master, Fei Nu could sometimes seem unfeeling, but at other times, he was considerate.

With no one else in the room, she began to undress and took a quick bath. She hadn’t had the chance to closely examine the wounds from yesterday, and as she changed the old cloth strips, she noticed that the wounds were deeper than she thought.

Naturally, it was painful, but she could endure it. He Yan looked at herself in the mirror, and her once fair skin now bore the marks of the wounds, making it less attractive.

Miss He cherished her beauty, and she would have loved to pamper herself with the finest creams and cosmetics. However, since she had recently arrived and her appearance had been drastically altered, the real Miss He, if she were to return, would surely be furious at this sight and might even faint. 

She had been very careful to protect herself, but once she decided to venture out on her own and lost the protection of her family, she was bound to get hurt. People grew and developed through the pain they experienced, and scars eventually turned into armor. 

The body of a female warrior could never be as flawless as that of an ordinary girl. Old wounds on her body were like irregular marks on a piece of paper, created by strange knives, far from beautiful, and even bordering on horrifying. 

Which girl didn’t love beauty? Even though He Yan had spent over a decade living as a man in her past life, when she returned to dressing as a girl, she still felt ashamed of the scars on her back and body when facing someone like Xu Zhiheng. She never wore delicate gauzy dresses. Once, Xu Zhiheng had given her a pomegranate-colored gauze skirt with pomegranate flower embroidery at the neckline. It was as thin as cicada wings, and she had liked it very much. However, she had never worn it. She had been injured on the battlefield by an enemy’s arrow that had pierced her shoulder. When she pulled the arrow out, it left a scar that could never be removed. 

She remembered Xu Zhiheng’s eyes when he looked at those scars. He hadn’t said anything, but he had deliberately avoided making eye contact. That gesture hurt more than any direct expression of disgust. 

He Yan stared blankly at the bronze mirror. Why was it that scars were considered badges of honor on men but became sources of shame on women? It was an unfair belief held by society that women were here to serve others and should always maintain their appearance. 

It was nothing but nonsense.

She lowered her head, applied ointment carefully to her wounds, and wrapped them with a cloth strip. She did these things skillfully, and even when it hurt, she didn’t furrow her brows. It will heal quickly. After taking care of everything, she rested for a while in the room before getting up and going to Xiao Jue’s room.

There was light in the room, so Xiao Jue should be inside. He Yan knocked on the door and said, “Commander?”

“Come in.”

She pushed the door open, and Second Young Master Xiao was in the process of packing away the Evening Fragrance zither on the table. If she hadn’t been reminded, He Yan would have forgotten that he had been repairing the zither during this trip to Liangzhou City. Speaking of repairing the zither, He Yan remembered that she had broken his zither when she was drunk.

“Commander,” He Yan started, forcing herself to speak up, “Have you eaten yet?”

“Get straight to the point,” Xiao Jue said as he stopped his movements.

“Are we going back to the garrison tomorrow?” He Yan asked, “How do you plan to handle me?”

Now that Xiao Jue knew she was a woman, what if he really wanted to send her back to Shuo Jing? After all, she had just gained a bit of insight into the situation, and she would rather die than go back.

“What do you want me to do with you?” Xiao Jue sat down at the table, calmly looking at her.

He Yan quickly brought a chair and sat down beside him, analyzing seriously, “Now that you have seen my abilities, this time in Liangzhou, I reminded you about the assassins, and I helped distract Yuan Baozhen’s attention. Finally, I killed Ding Yi. I calculated that I contributed more than Fei Nu.

Next door, Feinu sneezed.

“I am the kind of person who, as a subordinate, is second to none and, as a confidant, understands people’s hearts well,” He Yan boasted without any burden. “With me in Liangzhou Garrison, it will be like adding wings to a tiger. Commander, I think you can place me in the Nine Banner Battalion, and I promise you won’t regret it.”

Xiao Jue smiled and asked, “Nine Banner Battalion?”

“I know you’re a straightforward person, and you must be suspicious of my reasons for wanting to join the Nine Banner Battalion, so I’ll be direct. It’s because achieving success and fame in the usual way is too slow. I’ve heard that in the Commander’s Nine Banner Battalion, even if one becomes disabled in the future, they can still hold an official position. My He family is counting on me to bring glory to our ancestors, and I think the Nine Banner Battalion is a good place for that.”

She spoke openly and honestly, and Xiao Jue lifted the teacup from the table, taking a sip, and asked calmly, “Not in the future, I think you’re already disabled now.”

He Yan replied, “….What?” Did Xiao Jue figure out that she was Madam Xu, and she was blind in her previous life?

She was nervous, but then she saw him pointing at her own head.

He Yan: “…” He is the one with a problem in his head, why was he cursing her?

But when you’re under someone else’s roof, you have to bow your head. He Yan forced a smile and said, “Commander, don’t you think so?”

Xiao Jue stared at her and sneered, “Liar, we don’t accept incompetent people in our Nine Banner Battalion.”

“Incompetent?” Xiao Jue could question her character, but not her abilities. He Yan slapped the table and retorted, “Who are you talking about?”

“Someone like Ding Yi. If you were injured in a fight with someone like him, what else would you be if not incompetent?” Xiao Jue said, a hint of mockery in his beautiful eyes.

“That’s… that’s…” It was because Miss He had a weak body. Besides, she had learned her lesson from her previous life and naturally had to be cautious!

“If Fei Nu were here instead, he would have been injured too!”

“You can use the energy you put into deceiving others to practice martial arts, and you’ll improve a lot.”

As she spent more time with him, she saw more of his bad side from his youth. He Yan took a deep breath and suddenly smiled.

“Fine, Commander, if you insist on thinking that way, I don’t mind. If you have a prejudice against me, it doesn’t matter either. I suddenly miss the red birthmark on the Commander’s waist.”

Xiao Jue’s calm expression suddenly cracked.

“This rumor, it was already circulating and became true. I was originally the daughter of the City Gate military official, and my family wasn’t prominent, nor did I have any reputation. To have my name mentioned alongside Commander’s is my good fortune.” He Yan stood up slowly and said casually, “In the future, when others talk about me, they can say that I once had a glorious moment, that I was the woman the Commander deeply loved. Just thinking about it doesn’t feel like a loss. But it’s hard for the Commander to be tied to someone like me. However, I believe you don’t care about what others say, so it shouldn’t matter.”

Xiao Jue stared at her, his gaze sharp as a knife, and said in a deep voice, “What woman I deeply love.”

He Yan replied with a smile, “I’m so outstanding, and everyone in Liangzhou Garrison knows me. Suddenly discovering that I’m a woman, they’ll find it hard to believe. They might wonder why a woman is in the military camp, so I can only say that it’s because Commander deeply loves me and can’t bear to be separated from me. He’s hidden me in the military camp, even bringing me along to Liangzhou garrison. When others hear this, they’ll envy my good luck and, of course, admire the Commander’s deep affection.”

Xiao Jue, hearing this, couldn’t help but smile, “Shameless!”

He Yan propped her hand on the table and said quickly, “I’m not an unreasonable person. I’m not asking the Commander to pull any strings to get me into the Nine Banner Battalion. I just hope that you can give me a chance to prove myself. Let’s return to the Garrison together, forget about this incident, and please leave behind any preconceptions you have about me. Treat me like an ordinary soldier. Oh, by the way,” she seemed to remember something, “I have an injury now, and I need to change my dressing at night. It would be inconvenient to stay with the men, so could you please find a separate room for me, preferably one where I can bathe?”

Xiao Jue coldly replied, “No chance.”

“Then I’ll just have to be the woman deeply loved by the Commander,” He Yan said, turning around as if it didn’t matter. “Even if you send me back to Shuo Jing in a carriage, I can make it widely known. Hmm, I think this inn is quite nice. As long as I scream…”

Xiao Jue rubbed his forehead, exasperated. “He Yan!”

He Yan smiled with hidden intentions, “Who called me a liar.” 

Xiao Jue replied, “I promise you.” 

The expression on He Yan’s face suddenly changed, making her look even younger than the innkeeper’s three-year-old child. She sighed while touching her heart, “Not becoming the woman deeply loved by the Commander leaves me somewhat disappointed.” 

Xiao Jue’s face turned ashen, and he ordered, “Get out!” 

He Yan cheerfully hummed a tune as she left.

Early the next morning, when Fei Nu and Chiwu woke up and went out, they found that He Yan was up even earlier than the two of them.

Perhaps because they were returning to Liangzhou Garrison, she had taken the trouble to tidy up and had chosen to wear a set of clothes she rarely wore. She looked fresh and invigorated. She was naturally good-looking, and if Fei Nu didn’t know she was a woman, he might have inadvertently praised her as an elegant young man.

Chiwu didn’t know He Yan’s true identity and watched her from a distance, whispering to Fei Nu, “Do you think this person is really unmatched in Liangzhou Garrison? Look at her figure; she doesn’t seem like it.”

Fei Nu sighed, thinking that it wasn’t just about her appearance.

Just as they were talking, Song Taotao came upstairs from downstairs, holding a handful of red dates in her hand. When she saw He Yan, she naturally extended her hand and said with a smile, “Big Brother He, these dates were sent by the innkeeper. They’re very sweet. Would you like to try them?”

Liangzhou was known for its excellent red dates, each one large and sweet, and the bright red color made them very appealing. He Yan accepted them and said, “Thank you.”

The two young people standing there together were a sight to behold, sparking people’s imagination. Chiwu nudged Fei Nu’s arm and asked in a low voice, “Could it be that Miss Song has taken a liking to He Yan? What about Young Master Cheng?”

Fei Nu stared at him, at a loss for words. “…What’s going on in your head?”

“What ‘what’s going on in my head’? Young Master Cheng is Young Master’s nephew, so of course we have to help him. I’ll give that guy a little lesson in private to keep him away from Second Miss Song, alright? Our Young Master Cheng is pure-hearted and kind; he’s no match for He Yan. Just look at the way he smiles at Miss Song, tsk tsk tsk, I can’t stand it.”

“Can you please keep quiet for a moment? Young Master hates troublemakers the most,” Fei Nu said. “You and I should just do what’s required of us.”

Chiwu wanted to say more, but the door over there opened, and Xiao Jue walked out from inside.

“Commander,” He Yan greeted him warmly.

Xiao Jue seemed not to see her, passed by her without a word or even a glance, and asked Fei Nu, “Is the carriage ready?”

“It’s waiting downstairs,” Fei Nu replied.

“Let’s go then.” He went downstairs.

Chiwu and Fei Nu exchanged glances, and Chiwu quietly asked, “Did the person surnamed He anger our Young Master?”

“Do your job,” Fei Nu said without answering and followed Xiao Jue downstairs.

“Second Young Master Xiao still treats people as coldly as ever,” Song Taotao commented, standing on He Yan’s side, which made He Yan feel quite touched. The young girl sympathized and said to her, “Working under him must be difficult for you. When I return to Shuo Jing, I’ll talk to my father and see if I can find you an official position in the capital. With your skills and character, it shouldn’t be difficult.”

“Huh?” He Yan hadn’t expected Song Taotao to have this plan. She waved her hand and said, “There’s no need for that. Thank you for your kindness, Miss Song. I’m doing well in Liangzhou Garrison, and Commander Xiao isn’t an unfeeling person. He’s quite good, and it’s my honor to work under him.”

Song Taotao thought she was speaking up for Xiao Jue and disregarded her. “Why is he worth following? People in Shuo Jing say he’s heartless…”

Although Xiao Jue had a bad temper, He Yan couldn’t bring herself to badmouth him. She just smiled and said, “He might not be good, but he did find a way to trouble Sun Xiaofu and his son, who bullied you, right? He’s not good, but didn’t he have those unidentified female corpses from Sun Xiangfu’s mansion buried and invited monks to pray for them?”

“But…” Song Taotao wanted to argue further.

He Yan smiled and patted her head gently. “Miss Song, you’re still young, and you don’t know many things aren’t as they appear on the surface. Many people can only be known for their character through long-term interactions. Sometimes, the kind and considerate ones might not be good people, and those who seem cold and heartless might have an unknown side to them.”

Song Taotao was stunned, and before she could figure things out, He Yan had already walked downstairs. Her face seemed to still carry the warmth of the young palm, and she blushed, quickly catching up with her. She muttered softly, “What young, you’re not much older than myself.”

They didn’t argue further.

He Yan lowered her head and smiled, with Xiao Jue’s words from yesterday echoing in her ears.

“Outside Liangzhou City, there’s a peak called Chengfeng. These women had no choice in life, like caged birds and fish in a pond. Burying them here, I hope they will be free to ride the wind and be proud and call the mountains and lakes in their next lives.”

He understood the despair of those women, which was why he could say such words.

So, she forgave Xiao Jue’s rudeness towards her and didn’t let his despicable actions bother her. After all, truly gentle people were hard to come by in this world.

She went downstairs and saw Xiao Jue standing in front of the carriage. She walked over and asked, “Commander, will you ride with me?”

After all, Song Taotao was still a young girl. They had come here on horseback, but they couldn’t expect Song Taotao to ride back with them. So, Fei Nu had arranged for two carriages.

Xiao Jue looked at her sideways.

He Yan explained, “I can’t possibly share a carriage with Miss Song. We’re traveling together, and if others see us sharing a carriage, it would harm Miss Song’s reputation, wouldn’t it?”

Xiao Jue asked, “So?”

“So, I should ride in the same carriage as you, Commander,” He Yan said with a mischievous smile. She was about to climb into the carriage but was stopped when Xiao Jue grabbed the back of her collar.

If He Yan hadn’t grabbed a handful of his sleeve, she might have lost her balance.

“Do you not consider yourself a woman, or do you not consider me a man?” He raised an eyebrow. “Liar, you seem to have gotten too deep into your act, so I’m reminding you. The mission is over, and you don’t need to pretend to be Cheng Lisu anymore.” With that, he brushed off the sleeve that He Yan had just grabbed, showing his disdain.

Chiwu happened to pass by and overheard Xiao Jue’s last words. He immediately grabbed He Yan’s clothes and pulled her to the side. “Exactly! You still think you’re Young Master Cheng? Why are you so clueless? Come over here and ride the horses with us!”

He Yan had only been joking and didn’t actually want to ride with Xiao Jue. She readily swung onto the horse.

Fei Nu instructed the carriage drivers, “There’s a young lady in the carriage, so don’t drive too fast.”

He Yan was taken aback and couldn’t help but laugh. It wasn’t that she was delusional; it was just that she had been injured in her fight with Ding Yi, so she couldn’t handle a rough horse ride.

Who knows if this was intentional or not? After all, she was also a young lady.

Chiwu said, “What are you waiting for? Let’s go!”

—Side Note—

Yan Yan: I truly live up to my reputation.

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