Chapter 31: The Young Master of the Xiao Family
Spring was nearing its end, and even the rain was beginning to carry the heat of summer.
The last day of conscription had ended, and the long tent where they filled out documents at the horse training groumd had been packed away, replaced by countless small tents. The newly conscripted men had bid farewell to their families and gathered together, waiting for the night to pass so they could set off early the next morning for Liangzhou.
The tents were quite narrow, with several people squeezed inside, just enough to accommodate everyone. He Yan and Hong Shan sat close together, Hong Shan had managed to secure a slightly larger tent, and since they didn’t have much luggage, it made it somewhat spacious for both of them. He Yan had been here for an entire day, from last night until now.
They were provided with steamed buns to eat, two for each meal. Once they settled in Liangzhou, they would receive more rations. Apart from that, they didn’t get much else, except for the inconvenience of using the restroom. He Yan had to wait until it was late and no one was around before she could sneak away.
She had just come out of the restroom and was walking back to her tent when she lifted the flap and found two additional people inside. Hong Shan was chatting with them, and upon hearing the noise, the two turned to look at her.
They were probably brothers, with similar appearances – thin and dark. They had a rugged handsomeness and didn’t seem very old. The older one looked around sixteen or seventeen years old, and the younger one was roughly the same age as He Yunsheng. The older one was likely the elder brother, who remained silent, while the younger one had a simple and innocent smile on his face as he asked familiarly, “This brother is…?”
“This is your brother Ah He,” Hongshan introduced on his own and then said to He Yan, “These are two new brothers who arrived today. There are no tents available outside, so they’ll be squeezing in here with us.” He pointed to the quiet young man and said, “This is Shitou (Stone),” and then pointed to the young man who had a somewhat naive and simple smile, “This is Xiao Mai (Little Wheat).”
Shitou and Xiao Mai, they were probably brothers from a poor family. Otherwise, if they were from a better-off family, they would have been given better names.
He Yan found a place to sit down, and with two more people, the tent suddenly felt a bit crowded.
“Are you both from the capital?” He Yan asked, feeling a little thirsty. She unscrewed the water bottle around her waist and took a sip.
Shitou didn’t like to talk, but his younger brother, Xiao Mai, was lively. He replied, “We lived on Xianghuai Mountain and hunted for a living. We saw the conscription on our way down the mountain and discussed it. Then we decided to join the army.”
So they were a family of hunters on the mountain.
“Your parents let you come to enlist?” Hong Shan asked. Generally, if a family was poor and sent someone to enlist, they wouldn’t send both of their sons. They would want to keep a way out for the family.
“Our parents passed away long ago, and my brother and I grew up together.”
Hong Shan sighed, “Then you both should cherish your lives. Why did you come to enlist? Enlisting is not a game. Are you guys…?” He gestured towards He Yan, “Also wanting to achieve something and establish a career like him?”
“As men, we should achieve something and establish a career,” Xiao Mai said innocently. “Besides, this time, we’re going to Liangzhou under the command of the Right Army’s General, Commander Xiao. My brother and I have admired him for a long time. Being able to follow him is our honor!”
As He Yan was drinking water and listening to their conversation, she almost choked on her water.
The others in the tent looked at her.
“You said the Commander going to Liangzhou is who?” she asked.
Xiao Mai assumed she didn’t recognize “Commander Xiao” and explained, “It’s General Fengyun, the second young master of the Xiao family, Xiao Huaijin.”
He Yan’s heart trembled.
How could Xiao Jue be going to Liangzhou as a commander? His official position didn’t require such an assignment, and he had his own troops. Why would he take new recruits to Liangzhou? Unless he had been demoted.
Was Xiao Jue demoted?
Xiao Family in the capital.
The Xiao family’s residence was specially renovated according to the preferences of Old General Xiao’s late wife. After several generations, the courtyard layout had remained unchanged, giving it an elegant and chic appearance similar to a Suzhou courtyard.
Passing through the floral wall, one would arrive at the main house. Next to the main house was a pomegranate tree that had yet to bear fruit. Looking in through the window, one could see a wooden shelf filled with books. Someone was sitting at the table, reading.
The young man had fair and beautiful features, with a somewhat indifferent expression, carrying a hint of laziness. Being at his own family’s residence, he was dressed casually, wearing a cloud-patterned brocade robe with a blue jade belt, which made him appear even more elegant and refined. On the wall hung a sword, its color resembling snow, crystal clear and translucent. Although it was still in its sheath, one could sense its imposing aura.
The door was pushed open, and people walked in.
The newcomers were a man and a woman. The man bore a striking resemblance to Xiao Jue, but he lacked Xiao Jue’s coldness, instead exuding a softer and clear air of elegance. He was quite handsome, making him a charming young man. This person was Xiao Jue’s older brother, Xiao Jing. Following behind Xiao Jing was his wife, Bai Rongwei. Though she may not be peerlessly beautiful, she was an exquisite and graceful beauty with white teeth.
The husband and wife stood together, like a pair of perfectly matched jade ornaments, pleasing to the eye.
“Huaijin,” Bai Rongwei spoke up as she placed the package that Xiao Jing was holding on the table. “These are the shoes and clothes prepared for your trip to Liangzhou. Try them on later.”
Since the passing of Old General Xiao and his wife, the Xiao family had only Xiao Jing and Xiao Jue as siblings. With his sister-in-law acting like a mother, Bai Rongwei now took on the role of repairing clothes for Xiao Jue, just as the Old General’s wife used to do.
“Thank you, Sister-in-law,” Xiao Jue nodded.
Bai Rongwei smiled and said, “While you brothers talk, I’ll go and check on the soup.” With that, she left the room.
Once Bai Rongwei left, Xiao Jing looked at Xiao Jue fixedly for a moment before sighing, “Huaijin, there’s really no need for you to go to Liangzhou.”
“Xu Jiefu has been frequently targeting you in the court, looking to cause trouble for the Xiao family,” Xiao Jue said with an expressionless face. “The Emperor believes Xu Jiefu’s words, and while I’m in the capital, it stirs up troubles. Going to Liangzhou to avoid the limelight is a good idea. Besides, there are many doubts surrounding Father’s death. This time, with a lead, we may make new discoveries.”
When it came to General Xiao’s death, the atmosphere in the room instantly turned heavy.
After a brief silence, Xiao Jing reached out and patted Xiao Jue’s shoulder. “You always think more than I do, but there’s little I can do for you.”
“In the complex situation you face in the court, I am absent, and the Xiao family relies on you, Big Brother,” Xiao Jue smiled and looked at Xiao Jing. “Take care, Big Brother.”
“You take care too,” Xiao Jing sighed with emotion. To ease the bitterness in the air, he deliberately teased, “I’m not really stopping you from going to Liangzhou. It’s just that you have come of age, and it’s time for you to consider marriage. Are there any of those girls that your sister-in-law arranged for you that you like?”
Upon hearing this, Xiao Jue’s smile faded, and his expression became even more indifferent, almost to the point of indifference.
“No need. I don’t plan to marry.”
Uncle warns with a face slap!