Chapter 8: Le Tong Manor
Wang Jiugui felt like he must be dreaming. He pinched his thigh hard, and the pain made him exclaim, “Ouch!”
It didn’t seem like a dream.
But if it wasn’t a dream, how could he explain everything happening before his eyes?
In just a moment, his followers were all sprawled on the ground, while the initiator of the trouble stepped on the stone steps, dusting off her clothes. Feeling Wang Jiugui’s gaze, she looked over, her eyes bright and clear, sending shivers down his spine.
He had never seen He Yan like this before.
He Yan wasn’t like this. She was beautiful, but also sharp-tongued, vain, and fond of taking advantage of others. Such women were abundant in the capital, most of them acting high and mighty while having no substance. The good ones would marry into wealthy families as concubines, while the less fortunate would marry commoners and lead miserable lives. He Sui treated He Yan as though she were a young lady, and she had never touched a sharp weapon in her life. Those hands were either for playing the zither or painting, certainly not for hurting others.
But just a moment ago, Wang Jiugui witnessed those hands clenched into fists and knock down the burly men around him with a single punch. He still remembered how He Yan had held his arm, and before he could even feel it tingle, she struck him, making him howl in pain. Those were not fingers; they were sharper than an axe.
This woman was terrifying. What on earth had she consumed that gave her such immense strength overnight? How could she single-handedly defeat more than a dozen of his men?
Wang Jiugui felt like crying.
Before he could figure out how to beg for forgiveness, the young woman walked toward him.
“Please spare me, great aunt!” All reason left him, and he blurted out, “I was blind and didn’t recognize Mount Tai. You are a person of great importance, please forgive me!”
“In the future, don’t give me such cheap cosmetics as gifts,” He Yan said in a warm voice, “I don’t like them.”
“Alright, alright, alright, alright,” Wang Jiugui repeated several “alright”s, fearing that He Yan wouldn’t believe him. He added, “Tell me what you like, and I’ll buy it for you… Can I?”
“That won’t be necessary. I don’t accept rewards if it’s not deserved,” He Yan smiled, “We are neighbors, so let’s not play such jokes in the future.”
“Sure, sure, sure,” Wang Jiugui thanked her profusely.
“However, there’s something else I want to ask you about,” she said.
A little later, He Yan left casually, leaving behind a mess on the ground. She walked away light-footed, unaware that on a certain floor of the Drunken Jade Pavilion, someone released their grip on the fan, and the curtains covered the mess below.
“When did the women in the capital become so fierce and fearless?” The voice was light and filled with laughter and mockery. “Could this be the reason why my uncle is still unwilling to marry?”
His words received no answer.
He continued teasing, “Uncle, why don’t we inquire about the girl from just now? If she’s not bad, why not take her as a female guard under your command? She could add fragrance to your red sleeves at night*…”
* refers to ancient scholars being accompanied by caring and beautiful women when they were studying
A “bang” sounded as someone lightly tapped the table, and the tea lid on the half-cup “whooshed” accurately into his mouth, shutting him up.
“Ooh, ooh,” the person protested unwillingly.
“If you say one more word, I’ll throw you down from here,” a lazy and indifferent voice interrupted his complaints.
The room fell silent.
The sound of the qin playing “Flowing Light” flowed gently in the elegant room, obscuring the spring sunlight outside. Tea was sipped, and someone muttered “stingy” softly but was soon drowned out by the music.
He Yunsheng heaved a sigh of relief when he saw He Yan come back unharmed.
“Are you okay? What about Wang Jiugui and his men?” He Yunsheng didn’t see Wang Jiugui anywhere and asked.
“I reasoned with them and explained the situation. They left and said they would come to apologize another day, and they won’t cause trouble like this again,” He Yan replied. “Don’t worry about them, let’s continue selling the cakes.”
He Yunsheng looked at her suspiciously.
If Wang Jiugui had really listened to reason, he wouldn’t be Wang Jiugui. However, seeing that she seemed unharmed, He Yunsheng, after all, was just a young boy and quickly brushed aside this matter from his mind.
Later that night, after they had dinner together, He Yunsheng was about to go to bed when He Yan pulled him back.
“What’s the matter?”
“Do you have any clean clothes?” He Yan asked.
He Yunsheng looked completely puzzled.
“I want to see if there are any places on your clothes that need mending,” He Yan said. “I can help with the repairs tonight.”
He Yunsheng’s expression was about to crack.
From birth until now, it was the first time He Yan had offered to mend his clothes. In an instant, a strange feeling of gratitude welled up in the young man’s heart, but… he hesitated and asked, “Have you ever handled a needle and thread before?”
He seemed to remember that He Yan didn’t know needlework, and that was something Qingmei usually did.
“You underestimate me. Of course, I can handle it,” of course, she could not.
He Yan pushed him, “Quick, get your clothes. Bring everything you have.”
Sure enough, He Yunsheng obediently brought a pile of clothes, and He Yan picked up the clothes and walked into the room. He Yunsheng hesitated a bit, “Shouldn’t we ask Qingmei to do it?”
“Qingmei’s work doesn’t compare to mine. Go to sleep, you need to get up early tomorrow,” He Yan said.
After sending off the young man, He Yan returned to the room, sorted through the clothes, and finally picked a maroon round-collared narrow-sleeved long shirt. Apparently, He Sui had indeed given all the money to her daughter, as He Yunsheng didn’t even have a decent piece of clothing. All he had were simple clothes and trousers, and this long shirt was probably something left behind by someone else, with its color faded from washing.
Fortunately, her height was similar to He Yunsheng’s, so it barely fit when she put it on. She tied her hair into a young man’s bun, casually picked up a tree branch outside the door, and inserted it. Darkening her skin a bit and drawing thicker eyebrows, He Yan looked at herself in the mirror, a lively young lad.
In her past life, she had already perfected the art of disguising as a man, and during those years, no one had discovered anything amiss. In this life, it was just as effortless to dress as a man, and she didn’t feel any awkwardness. It was a pity; she had intended to become a dashing young master, but with this outfit, she looked more like a fallen young master from a declining family, barely passable in appearance.
She paced around the room, feeling confident in her disguise, before secretly opening the door, stepping into the courtyard, and then agilely leaping over the wall to arrive on the street.
The capital did not have a curfew at this time, and it was a lively and prosperous moment. He Yan followed the brightly lit streets, with boats on the river and charming songs and dances, while vendors on both sides loudly called out their wares. It was a scene of prosperity, a picturesque night in an age of prosperity.
It had been many years since she was able to leave the house like this, since the return of He Rufei to the He family, ,since marrying into the Xu family, and since losing her sight in both eyes.
All these lively, prosperous, and beautiful things seemed to have become distant from her, but tonight, accompanied by the night breeze blowing from the lake, she regained them all, and she felt free.
Leaving the He family, starting over from scratch, she felt grateful to the heavens in her heart.
The Drunken Jade Pavilion was not far from the capital, and outside the bright building, charming young ladies with beautiful smiles were entertaining guests.
This was not a Qinlou Chuguan, but the largest and most famous gambling house in the capital, the Le Tong Manor.
He Yan stopped in front of Le Tong Manor.
— Note —
The uncle is the male lead, aged twenty~
* T/N: These notes were left by the author, not myself