Chapter 4: A New Appearance

“…father?” An Fei asked, scrutinizing the man’s appearance.

High-ridged cheekbones, those naturally narrowed and smiling eyes, and that tiny stubble that adamantly refused to disappear, who could it be other than her Second Uncle of back then, An Rong Wen?

Why was he calling himself her father, and as Wei Xuan?

Could someone please explain to her what was going on?

It was a pity that Wei Xuan didn’t pay much attention to her thoughts, treating the silent girl as a silly child knowing nothing. Motioning for the nearby servants to carefully wrap An Fei with a light cloth, the man easily placed her onto an oak wheelchair, slowly wheeling her out.

Her body slumped against one of the chair’s sides, An Fei’s head lolled as she captured her surroundings with her gaze.

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The room that she had just woken up in appeared to be a study of sorts, with bookshelves containing dozens of scrolls decorating the walls. In the center of the room was a mahogany table, an ink grinder and set of brushes atop.

The furthest corner to her right housed a bed, the bed that she had just laid on mere moments ago.

Alas, with a soft click, two servants closed the doors, preventing her from viewing the study any further. Noticing her wandering gaze, Wei Xuan chuckled as he stroked her hair, explaining as he continued to push the wheelchair.

“That’s a study room granted to all third-rank officials by the Emperor, modeling the structure of the Windy Peak Courtyard in the Imperial Palace. Once you learn how to read characters, father will let you play in the study as you wish, alright?”

An Fei swiveled her gaze to stare at Wei Xuan.

Second Uncle, you’re really treating An Fei as a brainless child at this point! She was fully capable in reading and writing, what was he even talking about!?

The poor girl stifled her aggrieved expression, maintaining the blank and dazed appearance. Though she felt anger towards this Second Uncle who was currently treating her as a pitiful little child, she had to admit, he had great visual taste. The courtyard was indeed a beautiful place.

A series of pathways of riverbed stones and pebbles led to various buildings, servants both male and female scurrying about as they carried around wooden boxes of various shapes and sizes.

Decorating its sides were various flowerbeds, azaleas and Chinese peonies being the only ones she could recognize. Small willow trees dotted the fringes of the expansive courtyard, and a small pool resided near the western corner.

Only, why was everything of an ancient style? The servants’ garb, the pavilions, residential buildings, and the love for willow trees, why did it resemble so much of the historical China that she had read about?

As Wei Xuan wheeled her towards the miniature lake, the girl silently mused which backer had invested the atrocious sum that would have been required to build such an authentic, Ancient Chinese courtyard.

The land grants themselves must have exceeded several hundred million yuan!

“…and here’s a miniature lake I discovered when I bought the manor. We transferred several species of fish after a few months, and each morning, watching the fish feed can be quite a relaxing sight. Later, you can recite poetry with your sisters.”

Wei Xuan gestured towards the pool, proceeding to point at an object and explaining its usage. Only after he had repeated this process several times, did An Fei realize what he was doing. He was treating her as a complete idiot, a newborn!

…Second Uncle, you’re too mean!

Completely overturned by anger, An Fei opened her mouth to furiously retort and vent her frustration. This farce was going too far!

Preparing to disembowel Wei Xuan under a sludge of verbal attacks, she took a deep breath, then suddenly closed her mouth with a muffled pop.

Her new voice was far too embarrassing. She would much rather ram her head into a wall and perish than reveal such a thing before Second Uncle!

Teetering under the struggle of voicing her thoughts and remaining silent to preserve her dignity, the girl’s face morphed between expressions of distaste and frustration. Observing from the side with much interest, it took a great amount of courage and willpower not to reach over and pinch those soft cheeks.

…He ended up doing it anyways.

“…!”

“Haha, sorry about that. You appeared far too adorable, father just lost control for a moment.”

Revealing a warm smile when the girl finally snapped out of her daze to glare at him with a full belly of scorching fire, Wei Xuan gave her cheeks a final soft pinch. Quickly dodging to grasp the supporting rods of the wheelchair, he successfully evaded her anger as he pushed her alongside the pond’s edge.

Fuming with anger, An Fei deeply wished to rip the smiling uncle of hers apart, until her gaze swept across the water’s surface. Completely taken aback by shock at the reflection, her eyelashes fluttering as her pupils constricted in disbelief.

Reflected on the pondwater’s surface was a thin girl pushed on a wheelchair. A small, palm-sized face with lustrous, black hair flowing to her waist, a region on her forehead a beautiful silver. Phoenix eyes gazed back at her, the irises a dull scarlet.

Her skin was milky and a cream white, appearing soft and delicate even from the distorted reflection of the water. As she stared in surprise, the thin, pink lips parted in a soft ‘oh’ of astonishment.

Slight malnourishment was evident from the scrawny limbs and thin frame, and the girl seemed to be no more than fourteen years of age.

Beautiful, fragile, and doll-like.

That was the only description An Fei could give to the image rippling on the lake’s surface.

Perhaps a celestial beauty or charming spirit fox from the legends would be more appropriate; the appearance didn’t seem possible for a human.

Much less her.

At this moment, An Fei could feel her heartbeat accelerate rapidly. Although Wei Xuan appeared to have been saying something to her, his right hand drifting about in the air as it pointed towards different directions, none of it entered her consciousness.

The soft breeze, the chattering of the servants nearby, none of it registered. All An Fei could hear or feel was her heart beating, each pulse cutting a harsh sting of pain.

That wasn’t her.

That wasn’t her appearance.

That which was reflected, could not be her.

Even if the world’s most treasured and effective cosmetic operations and programs were implemented, they couldn’t engender a change to such degree.

That couldn’t be An Fei.

Even if the heavens were to smite her the next moment, An Fei would still insist such a claim.

Then…who was that girl?

She was the only one seated on the wheelchair that Wei Xuan was pushing with his left hand. None of the servants had that appearance, only her.

But she couldn’t accept it.

Suddenly, a massive spike of pain assaulted her, far greater than the rest. Her body trembling as her senses screamed in agony, An Fei’s lips parted as a scream of pain escaped.

“Ah…ah!”

Unfortunately, what was emitted was a muted whisper similar to a soft exhale of breath, a complete opposite of the girl’s turmoil and suffering. Hearing it, Wei Xuan stiffened in surprise, forgetting to push the wheelchair or even grasp its handle as his hand drifted to his side in his absentmindedness.

However, he quickly returned to clarity, motioning for the nearby servants to come closer.

“Servants, quickly come!” his voice boomed, his body emitting an imposing and joyful aura.

“Go get the Second Madam and have her come here! Tell her that our fourth miss finally spoke!”

“Understood!”

With a hasty bow, the nearby servants quickly raced off in all directions, shouting with all their might as they searched for the Second Madam. Neither the kitchen nor the ladies’ boudoir were spared as they restlessly barged in.

“Second Madam! Second Madam! The fourth miss is awake! The fourth miss is awake!”

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Within mere moments, the entire manor had received news that the fourth miss, who was presumed dead upon childbirth, was actually alive. Not to mention, that she had finally made her first sound fourteen years later!

However, not everyone was ecstatic at the news. An Fei, for example, was being cradled in Wei Xuan’s arms as the latter stared at her with an expectant gaze, much to her chagrin and agony.

Combined with that expression seeking something and the constant spikes of pain, the girl bothered with the world no longer as her eyes rolled, her body collapsing in a dead faint.

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