Chapter 21: The Conscription Notice
On their way back, He Yunsheng kept observing He Yan’s expression.
“You won’t have any further dealings with that person with the surname Fan, right?” he asked repeatedly, seeking reassurance.
“I promise you, I will never have anything to do with him again,” He Yan replied firmly. “Is that enough?”
Seeing her resolute attitude, He Yunsheng felt somewhat relieved.
He Yunsheng himself didn’t know why, but he kept chattering all the way, even more so than a wet nurse.
“It’s not that I don’t trust you, but that surname Fan is too cunning and always tells lies,” He Yunsheng continued non-stop. “What’s so good about such a man? You must have been blind to be interested in him. Let me tell you, General Fengyun is the one truly admirable person…”
As He Yan listened to He Yunsheng’s talk, it went in one ear and out the other. However, when she heard him mention Xiao Jue, she stopped and interrupted his endless rambling. “What does this have to do with Xiao Jue?”
“Isn’t Second Young Master Xiao Jue handsome?” He Yunsheng asked.
With a refined and elegant demeanor, one could hardly find any flaws in him.
“Um… he’s good-looking.”
“And what about his family background?”
The Xiao family was a prominent military family. Commander Xiao Zhongwu had accompanied the late emperor in conquering thousands of miles of territory. He was a beloved general of the late emperor. The general’s wife was the niece of the empress dowager’s family. The eldest son, Xiao Jing, was already a respected Fengyi Daifu* at a young age, and the second son, Xiao Jue, was now a prestigious Right Army Commander and renowned as General Fengyun.
* These officials played a crucial role in providing counsel and guidance to the ruling emperor.
“They are very well-off.”
“What about his talents in both civil and martial arts?”
“Well then,” He Yunsheng concluded, “he’s a good-looking man from a prominent family, extremely talented in both civil and martial arts, and stands out from the crowd. Isn’t he worth admiring? If I were a woman, I would admire him all my life!”
He Yan, “….Please, just be quiet.”
Even if Xiao Jue possessed a thousand good qualities, his infuriatingly cold and indifferent attitude made him hard to praise. Moreover, countless women already admired him. It was doubtful if there was any woman in Da Wei who didn’t admire him. Has he ever taken notice of anyone? No. He was extremely proud, and his standards were as high as his looks. Perhaps there was no one who could catch his eye. Could he ever like someone like her? That was unlikely.
He Yan found herself longing for the day when she could see the girl whom Xiao Jue would choose in the future, a peerless beauty that would put all others to shame.
As they were discussing this, He Yunsheng suddenly stopped in his tracks and said, “What’s going on ahead?”
Not far away, on the roadside wall, there was something pasted that attracted many people’s attention. As He Yan and He Yunsheng approached and saw what was written on it, they understood, “It’s a conscription notice.”
“Hasn’t it been a long time since the last conscription? Why would they suddenly conscript now?” He Yunsheng questioned in puzzlement.
But He Yan understood. During the years she spent with Xiao Jue, pacifying the disturbances in Western Qiang and the Southern Barbarians, she had overlooked the neighboring country of Wuto. The Wuto people took advantage of these few years to grow and develop, and they had hidden ambitious plans. After marrying into the Xu family, she had been keeping an eye on the northwestern fortress. This sudden conscription was likely to strengthen the garrison in Liangzhou and train new soldiers.
He Yunsheng looked at the conscription notice on the wall and suddenly tore off one of the sheets, stuffing it into his pocket.
He Yan asked curiously, “What are you doing?”
“…It’s nothing. I just want to keep it as a memento,” He Yunsheng replied hesitantly. “Unfortunately, I can’t go to battle and kill enemies now. If I were older and had higher martial skills, I would also want to join the army.”
He Yan smiled at his words, “Joining the army is not a simple matter. It involves enduring the hardships of the desert and witnessing sacrifices around you. On the battlefield, you must be prepared to fall at any moment. You can’t even bring yourself to kill a fish… how can you kill a person?”
He Yunsheng was rendered speechless and replied after a while, “You talk like you’ve experienced it yourself.”
He Yan walked with him towards home, just smiling softly.
Of course, she had experienced it. Truth be told, she was around He Yunsheng’s age when it happened.
At that time, the Fuyue Army was recruiting soldiers to go to Moxian. She had quarreled with He Yuansheng, so she secretly took some silver and clothes at night, put on a mask, and joined the army.
Using the name of He Rufei.
No one had expected He Rufei to join the army, not even the He family. It wasn’t until He Yan won her first battle, earned promotions, and received rewards that the news reached her family.
However, her days in the army were not as smooth as others might think. She was just a teenager, and a girl at that. She had to be cautious not to reveal her identity, and she had to compete with men stronger than her. On the battlefield, she couldn’t cry or make a sound. She was often scolded by her superiors, and sometimes her military merits were stolen, and she couldn’t say anything but had to smile and serve tea to her superiors.
He Yan felt that before joining the army, she was a reserved, introverted girl who kept all her thoughts to herself. It was only after joining the army that she truly learned to grow up.
Life and death were the only things that mattered; everything else was trivial. Flying Phoenix General replaced the young lady of the He family, and from then on, she persisted step by step, silently enduring all hardships.
Sometimes, she thought that the name Flying Phoenix General was so closely related to her life. Even when she saw the conscription notice torn by He Yunsheng and hidden in his pocket, she couldn’t appear as calm as she seemed.
He Yunsheng noticed He Yan’s sudden silence and thought she might be thinking about Fan Cheng again. When they returned home, he carefully reminded He Yan once again before going back to his own room.
Qingmei had already left, and the torn conscription notice was still lying on the table, a thin paper, heavily weighing on He Yan’s heart.
After being busy with the He family’s affairs for so long, she had money now, and He Yunsheng had found a school. It was time for her to think about herself. The problem was how to approach He Rufei. With her current status and lack of power, her words wouldn’t be heard.
In her previous life, when she was He Rufei, when she was Madam Xu, she knew nothing about scheming and intrigue. Now, even if she had been given another chance, she couldn’t do those dirty and cunning things.
What did she have now? She only had this life, so what could she do? She only knew how to fight on the battlefield.
But what could she do now?
He Yan’s gaze fell on the conscription notice, just a few lines of words, and her heart surged as if she had returned to the year she was fifteen. She carried the silver and the bag, sneaked into the recruitment camp in the dark of night, and wrote down her name. From that moment, her military career began.
She had to start all over again.
This was the worst path, but also the best solution.
She had to start over as He Yan, from the beginning.
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