Chapter 17: Classmates
Empty-handed on their way to the drill ground, returning with a horse in tow.
Feeling like they caught a white wolf bare-handed*, He Yunsheng quickly scolded himself internally, realizing that it couldn’t be called catching a white wolf bare-handed. It was a gift from a hero!
*It means to accomplish something that seems impossible or to achieve a difficult task using unconventional or unexpected means
But that General Fengyun was even more handsome and elegant than the rumors suggested. When would He Yunsheng ever become someone like Second Young Master Xiao?
He Sui glanced at He Yunsheng, who seemed lost in thought, and couldn’t help but wonder where his mind had flown off to. It was rare to see him so full of spirit. Then, he looked at He Yan, who had her face covered but appeared to be troubled.
What’s going on with these two? On the way back, they don’t even talk and each seems lost in their own thoughts. It’s understandable for He Yunsheng since Xiao Huaijin gave him a horse, but why is He Yan also silent? Xiao Huaijin is talented and one of the most outstanding figures in Da Wei. Could it be that his daughter has taken a liking to him? What should he do? They just got rid of one Young Master Fan, and now here comes Commander Xiao? There are countless Young Master Fans in the capital, but there’s only one Commander Xiao in Da Wei!
Thinking of this, He Sui also became troubled.
When they arrived home, the tofu seller next door, Auntie Li, looked curiously at them and pulled He Sui aside, asking with concern, “Big Brother He, is there something wrong at home? It seems like Yan Yan and Yunsheng have something on their minds.”
He Sui was at a loss for words.
Once inside the house, Qing Mei had already prepared dinner, and everyone sat down to eat their porridge. Amidst the meal, He Sui finally remembered to ask, “Yan Yan, was there something going on at the drill ground today that brought you there?”
He Yunsheng often came to the drill ground, but He Yan rarely did.
He Yan snapped back to reality and said to He Sui, “Well, you see, I had intended to talk to father about something today. Yunsheng is at the age where he should enter the academy. His casual martial arts training won’t compare to learning from a master. It’s still not too late, as spring is the time for students to enter the academy. What do you think, father?”
He Sui was taken aback for a moment, not sure whether to be happy that his daughter was starting to care about her younger brother’s future or to worry about how to respond to her question.
“Yan Yan, I’ve thought about this before, but currently… we’re a bit short on money,” he awkwardly scratched the back of his head, “we might have to wait a bit until I receive my monthly pay and gather some more funds.”
If not for that, he wouldn’t have tolerated the insults from Young Master Zhao today.
He Yunsheng kept his head down while eating, but his ears perked up. He knew that his father didn’t earn money easily, and he felt that mentioning this matter was being unfilial. However, before he could muster up the courage to talk about it, He Yan spoke up, taking the words out of his mouth.
“Don’t worry about the money,” He Yan got up and went to the inner room. After a moment, she came out holding a makeup box. She opened it, and the jewelry and silver inside dazzled the eyes of He Sui and Qingmei.
The chopsticks in He Sui’s hand dropped with a loud clatter. “Yan Yan… where did this money come from?”
“It’s the money Yunsheng won at the Le Tong Manor,” He Yan replied calmly.
He Yunsheng sprayed the porridge he was drinking all over the place.
He Yan blinked at him, maintaining her lying expression, “Yunsheng really had good luck. He won a large sum of silver on his first visit to Le Tong Manor. I counted, and besides using some for a dowry, this silver is enough for us to use for several years.”
He Yunsheng moved his lips but remained silent.
What could he say? Should he claim that He Yan was the one who gambled? Even he himself wouldn’t believe that. Besides, He Yan was wearing his clothes that day, and others only remembered a young man. It was impossible to clear things up. Moreover… he thought of He Yan stepping forward to race against Young Master Zhao on his behalf, and he couldn’t help but feel a sense of empathy.
Let it be for the sake of loyalty, he decided to shoulder this blame!
He Yunsheng said, “Yes, it was me who won the money gambling. Father, let’s use this silver to enter the academy!”
He Sui looked at him sternly, “This is money you won at a gambling house?”
“You won a big victory on your first visit to the gambling house?”
“That’s right… that’s right!” He Sui suddenly erupted in anger, slammed the table, and grabbed a wooden board from the table, smashing it toward He Yunsheng. “You ungrateful child! How dare you go to Le Tong Manor!”
“I’ve worked hard to provide you with food and clothing, yet you dare to go to Le Tong Manor! Do you have any shame? Do you even care about your deceased mother?”
He Yunsheng cowered, trying to avoid the blows, “Father, it’s because our family is so poor! If you kept it from my mother, how would she have known!”
“Still trying to defend yourself! Where did you learn these wayward habits, going to a gambling house! He Yunsheng, you’re pushing it too far!”
He Yan quietly retreated to a corner of the room. It was a close call, fortunately, He Yunsheng took the blame for her. If her father knew it was her doing, he would scold her. And if she accidentally retaliated and injured her father, what would she do then? She would truly be a “disobedient daughter.”
After a tumultuous argument, the matter finally came to an end.
He Yunsheng ended up being beaten, and the matter was passed over. Next, they needed to decide which school in the capital they would choose for him. Ideally, it should be a school that balanced martial arts training and academics, not too poor but not too prestigious either. Birds of a feather flock together, and too prestigious schools tend to have wealthy students, which might lead He Yunsheng to pick up some undesirable habits.
He Yunsheng sat in He Yan’s room, tapping the lampstand with a small comb on the table, saying, “After considering so much, I still can’t decide. It’s really giving me a headache.”
“It’s not something that can be decided overnight,” He Yan glanced at him, “there’s plenty of time ahead.”
He Yunsheng pouted, “Since you’ve seen and experienced so much, don’t you know which school in the capital is the best?”
“I’m not going to school, how would I know,” He Yan said, “but I do know about gambling houses.”
He Yunsheng exclaimed, “I really underestimated you!”
He Yan smiled at him, “Thank you for the compliment.”
Thinking about the beating he had endured tonight, He Yunsheng felt aggrieved and left with a grumble, saying, “I’m going to feed the horse.”
After He Yunsheng left, Qing Mei took away the washbasin, and He Yan blew out the candle before taking off her shoes and lying on the bed.
The window was left open, and on such a spring night, she didn’t feel cold. Moonlight poured in from outside the window, filling the table with a silvery glow. As she looked at it, she thought of meeting Xiao Jue earlier that day.
At that time, she was in a panic and lowered her head, afraid that Xiao Jue would recognize her. But later, she realized that she was no longer the “He Yan” from before, and even face-to-face, Xiao Jue wouldn’t recognize her. Moreover, back then, she always wore a mask.
It seemed like a long time ago since she last saw Xiao Jue. At that time, he wasn’t as aloof and distant as he is now, but rather a proud but carefree young man with a tragic air.
The best academy in the capital was called Xianchang Academy. Both of Da Wei’s top generals, General Fengyun and Flying Phoenix General, were graduates of this academy.
When she thought about it, she and Xiao Jue had only known each other for one year as classmates.