Madame Zhao was somewhat unclear of what was happening. Her eyes darted about as she curiously observed everything with confusion. She had heard that the eldest son of this family was a scholar, whose chance of passing the examinations was promising, and had a good temper. Besides, all the family’s wealth and properties were controlled by her husband, and they did not have to pay anything for his studies. She was so happy, thinking that she would not lose anything if she were wed into this family. Once her brother-in-law passed the exams, he would bring pride to her family; if he did not pass, it would not affect her family in any way!
However, it seemed like things were not as simple as that…
After Madame Zhao’s homecoming, Lu Xiao Shu kept complaining that she missed her parents and wanted to go home. Thus, they skipped dinner and returned to Feng Ye Village with Lu Xiao Shu.
What? Did Madame Xia have something to say about that? Even if she did, there was nothing she could do about it! That was because Tong Yu Er’s ‘work’ was not only to help with errands; she had to babysit the kids. If the girl wanted to see her parents, Tong Yu Er would have no choice but to bring her home. Since she was leaving, Miao Chu He would go with her. After all, they had done all the customary steps needed.
Not only so, Madame Xia would not dare to do anything to them anyway. Now that their third greatuncle had a grudge against her, she was smart enough to know that she should not try to offend Miao Chu He, unless she had a death wish.
With Madame Xia out of the picture, it had saved Miao Chu He and Miao Cui Lan a lot of trouble. Besides, Miao Chu He could finally study in peace, making sure he put all his effort into his academics.
In the blink of an eye, it was May after a year. After the Double Fifth Festival, it was time for Miao Chu He to go on his journey to Yuzhang to sit for the Autumn Examinations. The Autumn Examinations would occur in August, but it was better to settle down early to rest and get used to the area. There would be no need for him to hurry on the road, and he would be able to look for a comfortable inn to rest.
Miao Cui Lan and Tong Yu Er were worried for him, so they gave him many words of advice and reminders. Miao Chu He promised that he would remember each and every one of them.
After saying goodbye to his sister and sister-in-law, Miao Chu He and Tong Yu Er returned to the Miao Family’s village to say his farewell to the elders. They also went to burn some incense for their ancestors and prepare sacrificial food. It took them a total of three days before he finally began his journey.
Tong Yu Er sent him off with tears in her eyes before silently walking back to the Lu Family’s house. Meanwhile, Madame Xia and Miao Tian Bao were very jealous and mad to see Miao Chu He being so impressive whereas Madame Zhao was in awe.
As Madame Zhao had accidentally revealed how impressed she was, Madame Xia noticed it and could not help but direct her hate and anger onto Madame Zhao as she scolded her severely.
After staying with them for more than a year, Madame Zhao had come to understand how things work in this house as well as her mother-in-law’s attitude. She knew that Madame Xia was harmless, so she did not mind being scolded. She laughed instead, “Mother, don’t be mad. He’s your son too! If he succeeds, won’t you be living a good life too? It will benefit us a lot. As a scholar, his reputation is most important, and he wouldn’t be able to afford being called a disrespectful son. Now that he has finally gone for his examinations, you should be happy and hopeful that he could pass!”
Even though she would not get angry if Miao Chu He passed his examinations, Madame Xia felt better after hearing what Madame Zhao said. She agreed as she thought about it, even if he achieved a Zhuang Yuan instead of Juren, he could not deny that she was his mother. Ha! If he wanted to be free from her like Miao Cui Lan, he must be dreaming!
Ever since Miao Chu He left, Miao Cui Lan and Tong Yu Er began to have a common topic to discuss. Every day, they would talk about him several times in a day. They would guess how many more days before he would reach his destination, where he was now, whether he had anything to eat, or whether the weather was fine there, etc.
The siblings almost callused their ears from listening to them, especially for Lu Qi. Since he did not like studying, he felt guilty whenever he heard them talking about his uncle. He felt like his mother’s eyes kept glimpsing at him, giving him the creeps every time she did that…
On the contrary, the sisters were a lot happier than him. Lu Xiao Shu was already five years old. At that age, she could technically do everything she wanted. Since her mother and auntie’s attention were focused on her uncle, the sisters were free to run around without worry. They played with their village friends of all ages in the forest or by the river happily.
A few months passed and Miao Chu He was finally home.
He did not disappoint his sister and wife as he had come home with a Juren.
It was supposed to be a wonderful occasion as he had passed. However, Miao Chu He was distraught.
He had only wanted to thank his sister and sister-in-law, not wanting to share his success with the useless Madame Xia and Miao Tian Bao.
Thus, Miao Chu He came up with a cunning plan and left his friends who went for the examinations with him as he rushed home earlier. He discreetly went back to Feng Ye Village to meet his sister and sister-in-law to think of an idea with them.
Since Miao Chu He did not dare to show up publicly, he waited beyond the gate of the village until darkness swept across the sky and the farmers had gone home for dinner. Then, he quietly entered the village and knocked on his sister’s door.
Seeing him home, Miao Cui Lan and Tong Yu Er were over the moon as tears brimmed their eyes.
The family was having dinner as Miao Cui Lan hastily ordered Tong Yu Er to get some water for him to wash his face and hands. She also ordered Lu Qi to prepare a bowl and chopsticks while she led him by the hand with a smile, “It’s great that you’re home! You had no idea how worried we were about you! It was such a long journey. Look at you! You look like a mess. Why didn’t you stay a night in town before coming home? It isn’t safe to travel at night. Go on and wash yourself up before eating. You must be famished! Lu Qi, go get a cup of tea for your uncle!”
Miao Chu He’s heart fluttered warmly as he smiled at his sister’s nagging. He obediently followed Tong Yu Er to wash himself before enjoying dinner with the family.
They pitied him as he had to spend the night outside to save time while rushing home. Miao Cui Lan and Lu Zhong kept telling him to eat more, especially since she was heartbroken to see him suffer so much. She had never gone on a journey so long. How could she not worry when she could not even imagine how dangerous it might be? Seeing her little brother safely home, she was naturally happier than ever.
Indeed, Miao Chu He was starving. Since he was not a stranger to them, he dug in with a laugh.
“Uncle! Uncle!” Lu Xiao Shu could not help but asked, “Was Yuzhang fun? Was it crowded? It must be more crowded than Gu Xi Town, right?”
“Stop talking and finish your food!” Miao Cui Lan scolded Lu Xiao Shu as she warned her silently.
“Listen to your mother, Xiao Shu. Once you have your dinner, go play with your sister.” Lu Zhong added as he gave her some shredded pork with green pepper.
Lu Xiao Shu pouted unhappily as she thought: What’s wrong with them? I was just asking if Yuzhang was crowded. Why does it feel like I’ve committed a crime? Just what is this…
Miao Chu He was startled as well, so he gently patted Lu Xiao Shu and smiled, “It’s a lot more crowded in Yuzhang than Gu Xi Town. Oh dear, it’s a pity that I was in a hurry. I forgot to get everyone a souvenir! Don’t worry, Xiao Shu, I’ll bring you to Yuzhang for a trip next time, alright?”
“Father and mother will scold me! I don’t want to go!” Lu Xiao Shu was distraught that her parents scolded her just now. She pouted and finished her food before leaving.
Miao Cui Lan and Lu Zhong exchanged glances. Then, Miao Cui Lan burst out laughing and finally sighed, “Look at that girl, what’s with that temper? She got upset, just like that.”
“Xiao Shu didn’t do anything wrong. Why must you be so strict with her? She’s still a child!” Miao Chu He could not hold it in as he called out for Xiao Shu and got up to comfort her.
“Let me do it,” Tong Yu Er grabbed her husband and stopped him before getting up and going after the girl.
Miao Cui Lan let out a slight cough and smiled, “Dig in, let’s finish the food. It’s just a little girl’s temper, don’t mind her.”
At that moment, Miao Chu He could sense that there was something amiss. He gave his sister a strange look before turning to his brother-in-law as he demanded, “Cui Lan, Lu Zhong, are you hiding something from me?”
The two of them exchanged a bewildered glance and hastily denied, “No! Why would we hide anything from you?”
“Then why—” Miao Chu He had a sudden realization. He felt guilty but thankful, and he sighed, “You must think that I didn’t pass the exams and feel bad for me. That’s why you didn’t want Xiao Shu to bring up Yuzhang, right?”
He thought that he must be right. He suddenly came knocking at the Lu Family’s door in a rush, looking like a thief. His dirty attire did him no justice as it made him look like a mess. He did not look like a proud scholar returning home with distinction. No wonder his sister and brother-in-law thought that way.
When he came into the house, his sister, brother-in-law, and his wife only had warm welcomes for him without asking him if he had passed his exams. It was evident that they were his family who cared about him. They would always put him as priority.
“It doesn’t matter if you didn’t pass,” Miao Cui Lan smiled, “You’re still young! You can retake the examination next time. Just take it as an eye opener this time, alright?”
“Your sister is right. There are so many people taking the examination. Most of them are a lot older than you, so they’ve had more time studying than you. If you didn’t make the cut, you could just take the exams another time.” Lu Zhong added.
“Cui Lan, Lu Zhong!” Miao Chu He suddenly felt like crying, not from sadness or disappointment, but because their thoughtfulness touched him. He got up and gave a deep bow towards Miao Cui Lan and Lu Zhong before he exclaimed, “I have not disappointed you! For that, I have achieved Juren!”
Everyone, including Tong Yu Er, who was leading Lu Xiao Shu back to them, was shocked speechless.
“Then, why did you rush back home in a mess? Did you run into robbers on the way?” Tong Yu Er worriedly asked.
Miao Cui Lan grew anxious at her question as well.
“No! It’s not like that. I’m fine. I’m completely okay!” Miao Chu He denied and laughed bitterly, “I had purposely left my friends and excused myself, saying that I have matters to attend to. I was afraid that my mother—”
With that, everyone finally understood, and their faces fell.
Synopsis: Somewhere in the universe, there was an altar. On it, laid a bloody eye as big as the sun itself. It burst with light and bathed the entire star system in red.
"The aura of an ancestral artifact!" Someone's voice rose in surprise.
The Great Galactic Era had begun.