Chapter 6: Teasing
When they were about to leave, He Yunsheng asked, “Why are you so late today? You might not get a good spot later.”
“Just had something to do,” He Yan replied. “It’s alright even if we don’t get a good spot; our cakes are delicious.”
He Yunsheng had no response.
Talking to the present He Yan felt like punching cotton – it made him frustrated and unable to vent his anger. He Yan didn’t lose her temper; she seemed relaxed. He Yunsheng couldn’t decide if she was optimistic or simply clueless. At least, he hadn’t seen her troubled about anything for a long time.
Their stall was set up on a bustling street in the western part of the city, just across from the largest restaurant in the capital, the Drunken Jade Pavilion. With a constant stream of customers passing by, the small businesses on this side of the street thrived. However, their stall was small, so they had to arrive early to secure a good spot.
He Yunsheng arranged the da nai cakes on the bamboo trays.
The da nai cake was a type of pastry made by peeling and pitting fresh big plums, blanching them in white plum and licorice soup, and then filling the plum cavities with honey, pine nuts, olives, walnuts, and melon seeds. Once steamed in small pots, they turned out sweet and sour, very delicious, and not too expensive. He Yunsheng earned money to support the family by selling these da nai cakes.
The warm sun made the day quite pleasant, and people kept coming to buy one or two cakes. By the time the sun shifted to the east side of the Drunken Jade Pavilion, they would probably have sold everything.
He Yan watched He Yunsheng working and couldn’t help but acknowledge that he was quite capable. It reminded her of those kids back in the military camp. Most of the kids sent to the camp were from poor families, not the privileged sons of wealthy families. Those poor kids were there just to have a meal. So before coming here, they were used to doing all sorts of work and were capable of anything.
Though she hadn’t experienced poverty, she had gone through tough times as well.
“Oh, isn’t this Miss He?” A voice interrupted He Yan’s thoughts.
She looked up to see a man with a long face, neatly combed hair, a pair of weasel-like eyes, and dressed in an odd white outfit. He reached out to put his hand on He Yan’s shoulder, but she quickly avoided it.
The man missed and withdrew his hand with some regret, saying, “Long time no see, Miss He. You haven’t been out much these days. So it turns out you are selling cakes with Young Master He… How can you do such laborious work?”
He spoke as if they were close.
He Yan was puzzled and looked at He Yunsheng, who was visibly angry, and he scolded, “Wang Jiugui, stay away from my sister!”
“Brat, your sister doesn’t mind. Why are you making a fuss?” said the man named Wang Jiugui. Then, he approached with a smile on his face and took something out of his pocket, handing it to He Yan. “Miss He, I’ve been thinking of you all this time. Here, I bought some rouge a few days ago, intending to give it to you. Fortunately, I bumped into you today. Please accept it. I wonder if you’d grace me with your company for a stroll along the Sishui shore?”
A person with a lame appearance, trying to portray a gallant gentleman’s image – He Yan couldn’t help but laugh. In her two lifetimes, she had encountered all kinds of people, both good and bad, but someone who teased her like this was a first.
“I have to sell cakes, so I might not be able to go for a stroll with you, sir,” He Yan politely declined. “As for this rouge, you should give it to someone else.”
Wang Jiugui was stunned.
He and the He family lived on the same street. Originally, He Yan’s father was a military official, so others didn’t dare to provoke them. However, He Yan was not a quiet and obedient girl, and she especially liked taking advantage of others. Usually, just giving her some rouge or makeup would make her call the giver “Brother Jiugui.” But today, in front of so many people, she slapped his face.
Wang Jiugui felt a bit embarrassed, and his smile became less sincere. He said, “Miss He, could it be that you still have feelings for Young Master Fan? Young Master Fan is about to get married, so why bother…”
“Shut up!” Before he could finish speaking, he heard a loud “thud.” Wang Jiugui felt like he had been punched in the face and fell to the ground.
He Yunsheng stood before him, pointing angrily into the distance. “Get out of here!”
The fourteen or fifteen-year-old young man was already as strong as a half-grown calf, full of strength. Wang Jiugui, who had already been depleted by indulgence in pleasures, couldn’t possibly be a match for He Yunsheng. He felt a headache and pain all over his body, feeling ashamed and embarrassed. He scrambled to get up and looked at He Yan, not showing any intention of apologizing. In fact, there was even a hint of amusement in her eyes. At that moment, an indescribable anger surged in him.
“You guys…” He pointed at He Yan with trembling hands.
He Yunsheng stood in front of He Yan and sneered, “What about us?”
Wang Jiugui didn’t dare to approach and also felt somewhat suspicious. The relationship between these two siblings had never been good. He had heard He Yan complain about He Yunsheng often, and He Yunsheng had never cared about He Yan’s affairs. So why were they together today, and why was He Yunsheng standing up for He Yan?
“Just you wait!” He stomped his foot and ran away.
The onlookers dispersed, and the stall returned to tranquility. He Yunsheng packed up the da nai cakes without saying a word.
He Yan observed him.
“What are you looking at?” He Yunsheng asked impatiently.
“You did quite well just now,” He Yan pondered for a moment, “but your footing was a bit unstable, and your foundational skills need more practice with horse stances.”
“Go away, go away,” He Yunsheng didn’t want to discuss it further. “You’re not a martial arts instructor!”
He Yan sized up He Yunsheng. He was undoubtedly a talented individual. Perhaps it was because he had been doing physical labor since he was young, and his foundation was good. Compared to those young masters who later entered the “He family,” he was a promising talent.
He should not be selling da nai cakes here. Instead, he should go to a better school or martial arts academy to learn some real skills.
“Well, let me rephrase. Who is Young Master Fan?” He Yan asked.
With a “snap,” He Yunsheng slammed the cloth on the table and glared at her, saying, “You dare mention him again!”
“What’s wrong with Young Master Fan?” He Yan glanced at him.
Mentioning “Young Master Fan” seemed to ignite a boundless anger in He Yunsheng. “What’s wrong? If he hadn’t started pursuing you first, how could he have deceived you? That kind of playboy is always fooling around, and only you would believe him. He’s getting married, yet you even went on a hunger strike for him. He’s happily marrying someone else, while you have became the laughingstock of the capital. You’re still mentioning him. Are you trying to make me angry to death!”
With just a few words, He Yan had a rough idea of what had happened.
Miss He Yan, being pampered and spoiled, had lofty ambitions and dreams of marrying into a noble family as a high-ranking lady. By chance, she encountered the young master of an influential family during an outing, and they developed a hidden affection for each other. However, while Miss He Yan had fully entrusted her heart to him, he was merely playing around. A young master of an influential family, he would definitely not marry a daughter of an official of low rank.
Young Master Fan’s family had already arranged a marriage for him with a suitable match, and the wedding was about to take place. How could Miss He bear to accept it? She went to his home in person to demand an explanation, but was heartlessly driven away, leaving her unable to accept the situation. She even contemplated starving herself to death. Just when she was on the verge of giving up all hope, He Yan woke up and took over in place of Miss He.
No wonder, since He Yan woke up, everyone in the He family treated her with extreme caution, fearing that she might inadvertently seek a tragic end again.
He Yunsheng continued to ramble, criticizing He Yan for being unclear in her mind, but he didn’t know that his real sister was no longer in this world. He Yan felt regretful in her heart. Miss He should never have ruined her life for a deceitful man. Life is precious, and wasting it on someone undeserving is a pity. Moreover, by going down that path, the betrayers would still live carefree while those who truly loved her would be left in unbearable pain.
Why allow the pain of friends and pleasure of foes?
He Yan’s experiences were somewhat similar to those of Miss He. Both had encountered unsuitable people, but there were differences between them. He Yunsheng, He Yuanliang, He Rufei, and Xu Zhiheng—she would personally visit them one by one and reclaim what they owed her.
For this purpose, she made a lot of effort.
Every morning, she trained by carrying sandbags to regain her strength, and every afternoon, she sold goods in the market to gather information about the He family and the Xu family from various people.
For example, the blind Madam Xu accidentally fell into the water and drowned a while ago. Master Xu was devastated and bedridden due to grief. The entire He family mourned, and the head of the He family had turned completely white overnight. Flying Phoenix General, He Yan’s brother, took care of their cousin’s funeral personally, which lasted for three days and nights, and the entire city knew about it.
These true and false pieces of information, like snowflakes, reached He Yan’s ears, and all she could do was smile at them.
The truth was concealed, and she had to uncover it. But before that, she had to live her life well.