Chapter 4: Going Up the Mountain
The rain stopped on the second day, and it turned out to be a beautiful sunny day. The green moss-covered courtyard stones basked in the warm sunlight.
When the rooster crowed for the third time, He Yan woke up. Qingmei woke up and panicked when she didn’t find He Yan on the bed. She searched around and finally found He Yan sitting on a stone stool in the courtyard, lost in thought. Only then did Qingmei heave a sigh of relief.
“Why did Miss wake up so early? Is it because the blankets are thin and you feel cold?” Qingmei asked.
“It’s nothing. I couldn’t sleep,” He Yan replied.
She didn’t have the habit of laziness. In the military camp, there was no moment to relax. Even at night, she had to be on guard against enemy attacks. She used to practice martial arts from a young age and she really did wake up early with the crowing of the rooster and practiced martial arts. Later, when she married into the Xu family, she couldn’t change her old habits and was mocked behind her back. However, after losing her sight, she stopped waking up so early. Day and night were no different to her. She still woke up at the crowing of the rooster, but she would wait until everyone in the courtyard had risen before getting up herself.
This made her not fit in quite well.
“Where is Father?” she asked.
“Master has already gone to the training ground, and Young Master just woke up. Miss, please change your clothes and come have your meal,” Qingmei said before rushing off to the kitchen.
With only one maid in the house, there was still plenty of work to be done, and there were times when there weren’t enough hands.
When He Yan arrived at the main hall, He Yunsheng was already sitting at the dining table, eating his meal.
The young man was still dressed the same as yesterday, like a common laborer, showing no attention to his appearance. When he saw He Yan, he just glanced at her and looked away, picking up his bowl to drink his porridge.
The food was simple, just plain porridge and some small dishes. With the He family’s financial situation, they couldn’t afford exquisite dishes. Even so, there was a plate of pastries on the table, which didn’t look very delicate and had a rough fragrance. It was clearly specially prepared by He Sui for his daughter.
He Yan also picked up her bowl to drink the porridge. She drank it quickly, and Qingmei and He Yunsheng looked a little surprised. The old He Yan used to be picky, refusing to eat properly, taking a long time to finish a bowl of porridge. It was not like today, where she finished it quickly and didn’t immediately take the pastries from the plate. These pastries were prepared by He Sui for her, and Qingmei didn’t eat them, and neither did He Yunsheng.
He Yunsheng placed his bowl on the table, stood up, and He Yan asked, “Where are you going?”
“What?” He Yunsheng frowned. Just as he was about to speak impatiently, he caught a glimpse of the marks on He Yan’s palm, and his tone stopped.
He thought He Yan might have told He Sui about yesterday’s incident when she returned home. Who knew that everything was calm this morning? It seemed that He Yan didn’t sow discord, and He Sui didn’t know that she was injured.
The young man’s tone softened a bit, “I’m going to chop firewood on the mountain.”
In He Yunsheng’s mind, after hearing his words, she should have shown little interest and left to play with her makeup and dress up before going out for a stroll. However, to his surprise, He Yan’s eyes lit up, and she eagerly said, “Really? I’ll join you.”
Before He Yunsheng could say anything, Qingmei spoke up, “Miss, what are you doing? The mountain is slippery after the rain, and the path is muddy. What if you slip and get hurt?”
“That’s right,” he chimed in. “Don’t go looking for trouble.”
Both of them thought He Yan was just acting on a whim, but she turned to Qingmei and said, “Father is at the training ground during the day and only comes home at night. Qingmei, you have so much work to do, and you can’t follow me all the time. He Yunsheng, if you don’t take me, I’ll go by myself.”
“Hey!” He Yunsheng was furious.
“There’s no one else in this house to manage me, is there?” she asked nonchalantly.
He Yunsheng had nothing to say. Not only was there no one else, but no one in this house could control He Yan’s temper. It was precisely because of He Sui’s doting that she wouldn’t listen to anyone, except for that young man, Young Master Fan.
“If you want to go, go ahead,” the young man said angrily. “But if you fall halfway and cry to go home, I won’t bring you back.”
He Yan shrugged.
He Yunsheng left in anger. He couldn’t understand why He Yan became even more unlikable after getting sick. If the old He Yan had a pretentious lady’s temper, the current He Yan had an added touch of rascality, making her even harder to deal with.
She was truly his nemesis!
The path to Longhuan Peak was rugged and treacherous, attracting mostly poor people who came here to gather firewood and herbs.
Although wildflowers grew by the roadside and adorned the grass, it wasn’t a place for leisurely strolls and flower appreciation. The rocks beneath their feet clung to the cliffs, making it terrifying to look down.
He Yunsheng had walked this path countless times and knew that going up the mountain was not easy. He waited to hear He Yan’s complaints and cries, but from the beginning to the end, he didn’t hear her utter a word.
Unable to help himself, he turned his head and was surprised to find that He Yan was almost right behind him and almost walking shoulder to shoulder with him.
How is this possible?
This path was challenging for a man to walk, let alone a delicate young lady like He Yan, who used to complain about sore knees after walking a short distance. When did her stamina improve so much?
“What are you looking at?” He Yan stared at him strangely. “Aren’t we continuing?”
Without saying a word, He Yunsheng turned back and continued walking.
She must be faking it; she will definitely be unable to keep up soon!
He Yan looked at her own legs and sighed.
Her legs were really weak. Even though she was almost shoulder to shoulder with He Yunsheng while walking this segment of the road, she felt a sense of being tired after a long time. It seemed that she still needed some time to adapt.
“This is good enough,” He Yunsheng stopped and took the axe from his waist.
There were many tangled trees here, so He Yunsheng chose smaller ones that were easier to cut. He pointed to a nearby rock and said to He Yan, “You can sit there for a while. I need to chop for an hour.”
“Here?” He Yan nodded and took the bundle on her back.
He Yunsheng watched in disbelief as she took out an axe from the bundle.
“What are you… what are you doing?” He Yunsheng’s mind went blank, and he couldn’t speak properly.
He thought He Yan had a water flask in her bundle, but she actually had an axe? She carried an axe all the way here, and he didn’t even outpace her? He Yunsheng began to doubt whether he was dreaming.
What happened next made him even more convinced that he was dreaming.
He saw his delicate and pampered sister, who used to find even holding a teacup too heavy, effortlessly lift the axe in front of her. With one swift motion, she chopped off a bunch of branches as if she had done it a thousand times before.
She said, “Let me help you. It’ll be fast.”