Chapter 13: Insult
Until they left, He Yunsheng couldn’t stop thinking about the words He Yan had said earlier.
“Do you want to go to school, Yunsheng?”
Yes, of course, he wanted to. The school had scholars for literature and masters for martial arts. He could study with other youths, and once the time was right, he could take the imperial examination or participate in the military selection. Either way, he could chart his own future, unlike the current situation where he was aimlessly practicing, which was quite unsatisfactory.
In the past, their family didn’t have much money, but now they did. The suppressed desire in He Yunsheng’s heart gradually emerged. He stole a glance at the girl walking beside him, He Yan… Since He Yan recovered from her illness, everything seemed to have improved. The house was no longer as stagnant as a dead pond. At some point, the stagnant water had been brushed by the wind, rippling with life, and all the stale atmosphere had been swept away, replaced by a lively and vibrant atmosphere.
It was spring.
He Yan noticed his gaze and immediately covered her face with her veil. She warned him once again, “Remember, don’t reveal anything when we meet Father later, got it?”
“……Okay.” He Yunsheng replied with difficulty.
The drill ground was located in a large open space to the east of the city gate. He Yan had never been there before. After her march back to the capital, He Rufei took her place, and she couldn’t participate in any activities as “Flying Phoenix General.” She had only passed by the drill ground once during a family outing, and she had looked forward to it.
The drill ground in the capital was quite large. The flags fluttered on the flagpoles, and sometimes generals would hold military parades there, creating a grand scene. However, during these peaceful years, the drill ground had become a place for rich young men to enjoy archery and horse riding. There were archery targets and running tracks set up everywhere, and the weapon racks were full of various weapons.
He Yan couldn’t take her eyes off the scene as they arrived.
She once had a sword called Qing Lang, invincible and capable of cutting iron like mud. It had accompanied her through countless battles, but she hadn’t taken it with her when she married into the Xu family, even though she wanted to.
He Yuansheng told her, “The Xu family is a literary family. If you bring a sword, your husband and mother-in-law might not like it.”
Her biological father, He Yuanliang, also advised her, “It’s not auspicious.”
So she left Qing Lang at home and instructed her family to take good care of it. But as soon as she returned home after getting married, Qing Lang ended up hanging from He Rufei’s waist.
She questioned He Rufei, but before he could respond, He Yuansheng said, “Rufei is now the Flying Phoenix General. If he doesn’t carry a sword, others will be suspicious.”
“Right, right. Besides, you won’t need it anymore.” He Yuanliang chimed in.
Her joy at returning home was doused with cold water, turning from warm to cold. It was at that moment she realized what marriage meant and what it meant to give up the title of the Flying Phoenix General. From now on, she was the eldest lady of the Xu family, the second legitimate daughter of the He family, responsible for the household, raising and teaching children, living in harmony with her husband, and leaving behind the title of Flying Phoenix General, along with all the swords, fast horses, comrades, and freedom earned through bloodshed and achievements, to someone else.
She had nothing left.
He Yunsheng asked, “Hey, what’s wrong with you? You look so pale.”
He Yan was taken aback but quickly regained her composure and smiled, “Nothing.” She glanced around, “Why haven’t I seen father?”
“They seem to be over there,” He Yunsheng pointed to the other side of the racecourse, “probably training the horses.”
The drill ground often bought new horses, some of which were unruly and needed to be tamed for a period. The current city commander had a low rank and rarely patrolled the city, so in a way, the drill ground had become a place for privileged sons to practice riding and archery.
“Let’s go over there,” He Yunsheng said.
He Yan nodded and suddenly stopped, picking up an iron-headed staff from the top of the weapon rack and holding it in her hand.
He Yunsheng asked, “What are you holding that for?”
“Just wanted to experience it,” He Yan replied. “Let’s go.”
He Yunsheng was speechless. They walked towards the racetrack beside the stables, where they heard a commotion. Looking up, they saw two horses racing by. One had a young man in fine clothes riding on it, and the other had a strong and dark man, none other than He Sui.
Who was He Sui racing against?
“Amazing, Young Master!” A servant onlooker exclaimed excitedly. “This is the third time, and he’s won every time!”
Hm, it’s already the third race? He Yan looked over, and with just one glance, her brow furrowed.
The horse He Sui was riding seemed to have not been tamed properly yet; it appeared wild and unruly, taking rapid and erratic steps. Riding this horse was already a struggle for He Sui, but the young man in fine clothes purposely used his own horse to collide with He Sui’s. He Yan even noticed the man whip He Sui’s horse’s rear.
The wild horse bucked and nearly threw He Sui off. He Yunsheng called out, “Father!” His heart clenched tightly.
The young man in fine clothes laughed heartily.
Finally, the race came to an end, and He Sui’s horse stopped, but it was still restless and struggled for a while before settling down.
The young man in fine clothes had already been helped down from his horse and smugly commented, “Military Official He’s skills are lacking, you can’t even tame a horse properly. But this round was an improvement from the previous one. At least you didn’t fall off and get kicked by the horse.”
Fall off? Get kicked by the horse?
He Yan glanced at He Sui and saw his face was bruised and swollen, with a horse hoof mark on his clothes. It was evident that he fell quite hard. This guy… she couldn’t help but feel angry.
The young man in fine clothes playfully tossed a silver ingot, “Not bad, not bad. I’m quite pleased. Here’s your reward.”
The silver ingot fell to the ground, and despite the crowd’s gazes, He Sui bent down to pick it up and then thanked him with a smile, “Thank you, Young Master Zhao.”
Never had He Yunsheng seen his father so humbled, he was furious and shouted, “What are you thanking him for? Can’t you see he’s making a fool of you?”
“Yunsheng?” He Sui finally noticed He Yan and He Yunsheng. He asked, “Yan Yan, why are you two here?”
“This kid is?” Young Master Zhao asked.
“This is my son, Yunsheng,” He Sui smiled apologetically.
“Oh,” Young Master Zhao said, “it seems like your son is quite dissatisfied with me.”
“Where did you get that idea? He’s just a child who doesn’t know better,” He Sui held onto He Yunsheng’s head. “Quickly apologize to Young Master Zhao.”
“I won’t…” He Yunsheng struggled. This Young Master Zhao was clearly humiliating his father, treating him like a servant to play with. But why? He Sui may have a low rank, but he was still an official. He wasn’t a servant of the Zhao family, so why should he be subjected to such humiliation?
He Yunsheng stubbornly shook his head, refusing to apologize.
Young Master Zhao looked at him with interest, “Alright, here’s the deal. I was originally planning to have your father race with me again, but I changed my mind. You can race with me, and I’ll reward you with a silver ingot as well.” He reached out, and a servant handed him another silver ingot.
“No!” He Sui was startled at first, then quickly bent down with a smile, “Yunsheng has never ridden a horse. Let me accompany Young Master Zhao for horse practice.”
Although He Sui had a biased preference for He Yan, it didn’t mean he didn’t love his son. This Young Master Zhao was not a good person, but He Sui had experienced many such humiliations from rich young men and was used to it. He didn’t mind for a while. At Yunsheng’s current age, he should be looking for a school to attend. As for He Yan, he needed to gather some dowry for her. She couldn’t go to her future husband’s family and be looked down upon. However, he had no other skills except for using his physical strength, so he could only please these young masters to earn money.
Unexpectedly, his two children saw him in such a humiliating and embarrassing state today, leaving He Sui feeling ashamed and upset.
He Yunsheng was full of youthful vigor and couldn’t bear these humiliations, but he was unaware of the dangers in people’s hearts. With his physique, if he were to race against Young Master Zhao today, it would be nothing short of risking his life. The horse he would ride was a newly arrived untamed spirited horse. It had never been tamed, let alone raced. It would be a challenge just to mount this horse.
He couldn’t let his son get into trouble.
“I’ll do it,” He Sui said with a smile.
“That won’t do,” Young Master Zhao shook his head, “I want him.”
He Sui’s smile froze.
In the deadlock, suddenly someone spoke, and the crisp voice interrupted the silence.
“How about this? I’ll race with you instead.”
Everyone turned their heads to see a girl who had been silent all this time. They hadn’t noticed her standing there. She was dressed in a light coral-colored short-sleeved jacket with lotus-patterned hem, with a long robe underneath and a crimson underskirt. Her appearance was graceful and charming. Her face was veiled, revealing only a pair of beautiful eyes that curved into a smiling expression.
“And who might you be?” Young Master Zhao asked.
“Oh, me?” The girl nodded lightly, “I’m just a horse tamer.”