Chapter 3: Let Me Show You How to Split It
He Yunsheng frowned and asked, “What did you say?”
He Yan remained motionless and repeated seriously, “I said, the way you’re splitting firewood won’t do.”
The young boy became impatient, “He Yan, if you’re sick, go back to your room and stop causing trouble here.”
“The way you’re splitting it, you won’t finish even by nightfall,” He Yan said calmly.
He Yunsheng seemed to suddenly get angry. He let go of the axe, and it fell heavily on the flagstone, making a loud noise. He took a step forward and said angrily, “If it weren’t for spending money on your illness, Dad wouldn’t have sent away the servant. You even know it will take until nightfall to split it. If you haven’t split firewood before, then don’t act like you know it all! If you’re so good at it, why don’t you do it yourself?!”
He Yan’s heart stirred; she realized that there was a servant in the house, but due to their poverty, they had to send the servant away to pay for her medical expenses. This young boy had taken on the servant’s work. Judging from his appearance, he had accumulated a deep resentment towards his sister. He mocked and ridiculed her without any courtesy.
Being poor also had its advantages. For instance, there was no one in the courtyard, and the awkward situation between the siblings wouldn’t be witnessed by others. If it were in the previous He or Xu families, it’s likely that the maids would have formed an audience like an army unit.
He Yunsheng expected He Yan to get angry and curse him, but to his surprise, this time, she didn’t curse him. Instead, she bent down, picked up the axe he had thrown on the ground.
As she held the heavy axe, her delicate white wrist seemed as if it couldn’t bear the weight, making people feel worried.
He Yan looked at her hand and furrowed her brows slightly. She couldn’t even lift the axe properly. Compared to her previous self, she was indeed far worse off.
He Yunsheng was puzzled and asked, “What are you doing?”
“I’ll show you how to split it,” He Yan replied.
He Yunsheng became even angrier, “Stop trying to confuse things, you…”
Before he could finish his sentence, a loud “bang” interrupted him.
He Yan had already swung the axe and split the firewood in front of her neatly in two.
“See?” She said, “It’s simple. You shouldn’t grip the front of the axe, but the end of the handle, and split along the grain of the wood. It’ll save you a lot of effort.”
He Yunsheng stared at her dumbfounded. After a moment, his face turned red, and his tone was almost furious as he pointed at He Yan, “You, you, you, you really have ulterior motives! Your hand… Dad will definitely scold me when he sees it! He Yan, you’re so scheming and cunning!”
“Huh?” He Yan was puzzled. But in the next moment, a panicked female voice rang out, “Miss, you’re bleeding!”
He Yan instinctively looked down and saw that the palm of her hand had been scraped open at some point, and there were bloodstains on her hand, surprisingly still somewhat attractive.
She had only split a piece of firewood with the axe, and her hand was already injured? How delicate was this body exactly? Did Miss He never carry anything slightly heavy from childhood to adulthood? Was she made of cotton and tofu?
He Yan fell into contemplation, but Qingmei, the maidservant, had already rushed over, pulling her towards the room in a hurry and anxiously saying, “We have to apply ointment first, I don’t know if it will leave a scar…”
He Yunsheng glared at her resentfully and threw out a remark, “He Yan, just go on pretending. You’ll end up killing yourself sooner or later.” Then he turned and ran away.
He Yan couldn’t laugh or cry. In her previous life, she had lived until she got married and died, and even now, it was the first time someone had called her a “pretender.”
This feeling was quite novel. In the hearts of soldiers, the term “pretender” was probably a distant concept.
Qingmei held He Yan’s hand on her knee and gently applied the ointment to her palm with her fingertips, tears falling from her eyes. “If it leaves a scar, what should we do? We need to find some scar-removing ointment.”
“It’s alright,” He Yan comforted her. She couldn’t bear to see the girl cry, especially a beautiful girl who was only fifteen or sixteen years old, even younger than her in her previous life. “If it leaves a scar, it’s fine as long as I’m okay.”
Qingmei widened her eyes and forgot to wipe her tears. She stared at He Yan in disbelief, unable to say a word.
“What’s wrong?” He Yan asked.
“N-nothing,” Qingmei wiped her tears and stood up. “As long as you’re not angry, Miss.”
The tone in her words… Upon looking at the cosmetics and jewelry on the dressing table, He Yan finally understood a bit. The original Miss He was extremely fond of beauty and took great care of her delicate skin. Even a small scratch would be treated as a major issue.
Perhaps in her previous life, she had experienced a rough existence, not knowing what it felt like to be a daughter, and that’s why in this life, she was given such a delicate and fragile body, unable to withstand even a little wind and rain.
Qing Mei asked, “Miss, shall I pour you a cup of hot tea? It was raining outside just now, and you might have caught a chill.”
“Wait,” He Yan stopped her, “I just remembered something. When I woke up earlier, there were some things I didn’t remember clearly…” She looked at Qingmei, “How did I get sick?”
Since there was a servant boy in this household before, he must have been sent away to take care of He Yan’s illness. That means she didn’t have this illness from birth. However, if it was a sudden illness, she didn’t feel any discomfort in the past few days. Everyone in the house was taking care of her as if they were afraid of any accidents happening to her. It felt strange to He Yan.
Qingmei turned pale in shock and grabbed He Yan’s hand, almost bursting into tears again. “Miss, you’ve already been heartbroken once because of Master Fan. You can’t put yourself through this again. Even if you don’t care about yourself, you have to think of Old Master and Young Master!”
Master Fan? A man?
He Yan asked, “Which Master Fan?”
“What do you mean, Miss… Yes, Master Fan was heartless, and it wasn’t a suitable match. It’s right for you to forget about him. I won’t mention Master Fan again as long as you’re well.” After speaking, Qingmei wiped her eyes again.
This maid was really too emotional. Even the new recruits who first went to the battlefield under her command didn’t cry as much as she did. Before she could ask a few more questions, her clothes were already soaked. At this rate, the whole room would be flooded in no time.
“Alright,” He Yan said helplessly, “I won’t mention it. Go and change your clothes, your clothes are wet.”
Qingmei looked at He Yan with wide eyes, seeing that she appeared calm and not on the verge of breaking down. She hesitated for a moment and said, “Then I’ll go and change… Miss, wait for me, I’ll be right back.” She left the room, glancing back several times.
The room fell silent again.
He Yan stretched out her hand and opened her palm.
The ointment that Qingmei had applied was still there, and she stared at her delicate and tender hand in a daze. Women naturally had less strength than men. From a young age, He Yan would sneak out from the back door of the mansion every morning before dawn to climb up the East Emperor Mountain in the capital, helping the monks in the temple carry water and split firewood. At first, she also scraped her hands like this, but gradually calluses formed, and it got better. Afterward, she could easily carry two buckets of water and even spar with a rock hanging from her wrist.
She wasn’t clever and could only rely on brute force. With perseverance over time, she gained the qualifications to compete with men.
However, now, everything has returned to the beginning. Not to mention taking away the things that originally belonged to her, just this weak body couldn’t bear the rough path she would have to take in the future, filled with thorns.
“Then I’ll practice,” He Yan told herself, “just like before.” Perhaps this was the test given to her by the heavens, the price of her rebirth. But what was so frightening about that?
It was just starting over from scratch.