Yan Ping asked me, “Xiao Yi, does the Regent have anything he is particularly fond of?”
My eyes twinkled. I was overjoyed as I secretly clenched my fist: Don’t tell me that he has learned to love the house to the point of loving it’s crows?
(TN: 爱屋及乌 (ai wu ji wu) loving something/someone to the point of loving the things that has to do with it.)
No, Father was not a perching crow.
“…… You also knows that my Father has not been getting along with him ever since your Father became the regent. But the Great Qi is aggressively swallowing the land and our Great Chen is in great disarray; my Father thought he should go hand in hand with the regent like the old times. He pondered for a long time and still couldn’t think of anything as peace-offering gift.”
My face collapsed, I got excited for nothing just now.
“Everybody knows that Father likes wine and spicy things.” Honestly, wasn’t making peace while drinking wine the best possible outcome for us?
Yan Ping frowned for a moment before bitterly smiling, “I couldn’t possibly ask my Father to send red pepper flakes and two jars of wine to the regent’s manor. That will be too shabby. My Father wants a serious gift, like gold and gems and jades.”
I really wanted to smoothen that frown on his face with my hands. But even though we had a kiss just now, I didn’t dare to overstep my boundary again. I could only sit there obediently.
He enthusiastically tried to help me think, “Did the regent have any golden or jade object that he particularly likes? Does he have any objects that he likes to toy with in his study? What shape is it in? Is there anything that looks expensive and is stored together with the general’s seal?”
The situation suddenly turned hard for me; I couldn’t wait to rush back to the manor and grabbed Father by the collar before threatening him to like gold and jades.
Father was really honest and uncorrupted; he only had like four or five servants serving him everyday. As for me, I had to do my own clothes and hair. There was an old mama that was in charge of cleaning, though. I heard she was the widow of Father’s deceased subordinate. I was not allowed to simply order her around, Father would hit me.
Actually, my Father had this one little problem: whenever he received his salary every year, he would bulk buy food and store them in the cellar. On the next year, he would use them to brew wine. Uncle Tong said that my Father was often hungry in his childhood years. Because of that, he developed this fear for hunger. I was a little embarrassed to tell Yan Ping about that ‘problem’. How embarrassing would it be if Prime Minister Yan had to send rice to our manor as gift?
Coming up with a proper gift was really hard. Even though it was easy to say that buying what one like was enough, actually doing it was pretty hard.
As for the general’s seal, because Father could not exchange it with rice, he simple casted it away on the second drawer from the left on his study table; completely uninterested.
I could see disappointment in Yan Ping’s eyes. “I—- I will return to the manor and check Father’s study properly!”
Under the night sky, the frown on his face was gradually smoothen out. I sighed in relief, deciding to turn Father’s study upside down once I got home.
Just, on the next day after that night, before I even got to check Father’s study, an imperial guard carried my Father home from the palace.
Imperial physicians visited out manor in many trips; the empress dowager’s grace towards us was never ending. Father reclined on his bed with a pale face while Uncle Tong stood at the door in worry, accepting all the guests who were there to visit the sick.
Uncle Yan also brought Yan Ping to visit him. An Qing told me that when I was in the kitchen, brewing porridge for Father.
I could not contain my excitement: Was Uncle Yan trying to mend things with Father?
As long as Father and Uncle Yan’s relationship was good, the matter regarding our marriage would be smooth.
Because of that, when I carried a tray into the room, my steps were unusually light. Because I was about to talk about intimate things with him, things regarding my marriage, I locked the door lest Uncle Tong overheard us and made fun of me. After helping Father drink the medicine, I leaned on the bedside, waiting for him to speak to me.
Father laughed as he pointed at my forehead, “You little monkey. You went around all day blindly loitering around the capital, it is really rare for you to quietly help your Father like this. Do I need to be ill more for you to take care of me?”
I placed my head on his tummy, it was soft as hell. He pushed my head away, “How old are you to be acting like that?” When I was little, I would always put my head on my Father’s tummy and he would laugh happily. Because I was busy today, I didn’t get the chance to put on my head gear, making it easy to do that again.
I noticed the good mood on Father’s face so I pretended to casually asked, “Uncle Yan and Yan Ping came just now?”
The smile on Father’s face froze. This time, he did not scold me or anything, he only patted my head while sighing, “You silly child, how could I have such an idiotic child? You are stupid and stubborn, just like me. From now on, don’t even think about that Yan brat. Don’t even see him, pretend like he doesn’t exist!”
I anxiously replied him, “How can I do that? Yan Ping told me last night that Uncle Yan wants to mend his relationship with you. He even wants me to think of a gift they can send to you. As long as two you are okay again, Yan Ping and I….. we can…..”
Father froze before he huffed in fury, “Last night…… you weren’t in your room? You were out with him?”
Since I already said that, denying it would do me no good. I nodded.
“He— Did he do anything to you?” Father’s voice was low, carrying murderous air.
I trembled from the fear and accidentally told him the truth, “H-He kissed me…… He…… I can marry him now.”
Father’s eyes were big as the vein on his head bulged out. He wheezed as he pointed at me. I trembled, completely clueless as to what to do. His voice was furious as he spoke, “You stupid child! Will you only wake up if I hit you with a cane?” I had no idea where he got that cane from; he lifted it high and motion it towards me. I could only shake as I hug my head. It would be better if he hit me, but instead I heard a loud puff from him before the scent of blood hit my nostrils. My head and face was sprayed with blood, I looked up in horror. The cane on his hand hits the floor with a loud sound before it broke upon contact with the floor. Father’s chin was filled with blood.
His face was grey. I was truly scared, I felt a though my soul had flown away. I rushed towards him, “Father! Father! Don’t be angry! I will not marry Yan Ping, I will never marry him in this lifetime! From now on, him and me are strangers!”
He struggled to keep his eyes open. He lifted his hand and patted me on the head with a rare affection, “Good child, why didn’t you understand? Yan Yu have ulterior motives and covets the land of Great Chen. Even if you assumes the identity of a girl, you will have to spend the rest of your life in the harem. How could I allow that? My own daughter spending the rest of her life in the palace, anticipating occasional visits from his son…. Father made you study literature and martial arts, was it all to please men?”
I shook my head, tearfully replying him, “Father wants me to survive in the chaotic world without having to bow or be bullied by other people.”
He laughed before nodding, using his hand to wipe the blood on my face, “Good child, you finally understand Father’s intention…..” Without getting the chance to finish his words, he collapsed.
I reached out to pull him and thought his body felt exceptionally heavy, “Father! Father!”
…………. His eyes were closed and he was no longer breathing.
I wiped the blood on his beard with my hand, the more I try to clean it, the messier the stain got. The tears in my eyes made everything blurry as big droplets of my tears fell on his face. The blood would not go away.
There was someone pounding on the door.
I hugged Father tight; I could felt his body temperature gradually falling. There was this indescribable loneliness and helplessness within me. Even though he always hit me, I never felt this kind of emptiness before, as though my entire universe had just collapsed. Even breathing was painful for me.
Suddenly, the door was burst open. The latch that was locking it flew to the ground. I sat there indifferently as I listen to Uncle Tong’s alarmed voice, “Xiao Lang…… Master….”
Someone tried to take Father away from my embrace; I wouldn’t let them, continuing to hug Father tightly. I would rather die than to let go. He was the only person in this world that I could count on, how could I? How could I angered him to this degree?
Uncle Tong shook me forcefully, “Xiao Lang, the old Master has passed. Let Uncle Tong handle this. We cannot bury him with all these blood.”
I lowered my head to look at Father. His eyes were closed. He always glared at me and scold me, but outside, he was an exceptionally refined gentleman. Why was he so violent once he came home?
I wiped his face before laughing lowly, “Father, aren’t you going to scold me? If you still don’t wake up, I will go to Yan Ping and tell him I am a woman. And then, I will marry him…. You still refuse to wake up? You still refuse to wake up?”
Perhaps, he didn’t believe I would be so outrageous, he didn’t move at all. I suddenly handed him over to Uncle Tong, “Father, I will really look for Yan Ping……” I turned around and ran straight to the heavy rain outside.
I could hear the sound of Uncle Tong calling for me from amidst the rain pouring down, “Xiao Lang….” In the blink of an eye, everything was lost within the thick curtain of the rain.
When I arrived in front of Yan’s manor, the two colored-glass lanterns were radiating dim light, as though here and the place I live in were two different worlds. I had always been persistent, I had been holding onto him for dear life ever since I was young and he would always push me away.
Perhaps the heavens had already decided this from the start; as I was waiting there under the rain, I could see the silhouettes of a man and a woman sharing an umbrella from afar. Even though there was quite a distance between us, I could already see the man under the umbrella. One of his arms was wrapped around the female’s slender waist. Even though the rain was heavy, the two people’s pace was light. Even though they were also drenched, it didn’t kill the romantic air surrounding them.
When they reached me, Qin Yu Zheng spoke up first with an annoyed, delicate voice, “Yan Lang……” At that moment, I truly wished I had died. I wished I had never went there, I wish I had never met this person.
The man’s handsome face was like the usual, but there was that distant look in his eyes when he looked at me, as though he was looking at a stranger. Father once joked to me saying, “In political war, if he is required to, even a man can play up a honeytrap plot. You must be careful, little brat.”
I felt something breaking inside me; I forced myself to smile, “What a coincidence….. I ….”
What was I doing? I looked around, there was nowhere I could go to.
Qin Yu Zheng harrumphed icily, “An Xiao Lang, you are too rogue-ish. Everyone in the Great Chen knows that Yan Lang isn’t gay. You chasing him crazily like this brings him no good! Will you only be happy once you ruined his reputation? Do you think everyone is as shameless as you………”
I looked at her cherry red lips in a daze. Her lips were so tempting but the words that came out of it were vicious.
The young man next to her lightly looked up; after just one night, that eyes turned strange when looking at me. His one arm was still wrapped tight around Qin Yu Zheng’s waist, he clearly decided to just stand idly by.
“….. You really inherited your father’s shameless nature!”
My pupils shrank upon hearing that. Anger rose within me before I lifted my hand without even thinking. I only heard a sharp cry and before time, Qin Yu Zheng’s cheek was marred with a palm print. She cried as she turned to find back up, “Yan Lang, this low person actually dared to hit me! You must give me justice!”
The man silently hand over the umbrella to the woman before stepping forward. Rain pelted his face, making his exquisite mountain-shaped eyebrows appear even more prominent. He pursed his lips as he faced me before spitting out words that made my heart ache in a low tone. “An Yi, your Father now cannot even leave the bed. Even if he has the tiger seal, he cannot step out of the manor to do his job. From now on, don’t come looking for me. We ought to leave each other a little face, we are both government’s officials after all.”
I wanted to say something but no words came out of me. That sweet memory in Tong River seemed like a dream. Heavy rain fell from the sky and there was no place that I could hide into.
Seeing me motionless, he turned his head for a moment, pondering. A trace of smile could suddenly be seen on his gentle, warm face, “Do you need a strike from me to encourage you to leave?” After saying that, he waved his hand before landing a heavy blow on my chest.
I could sense the fishy scent of blood in my throat. I could not stop myself from throwing them out, spraying them on his robe.
His face was stunned, perhaps surprised at my slowness or surprised at the fact that I didn’t dodge his attack. Time passed by quick; the tall and haughty man in front of me was once a frail little kid who was often chased around by me while calling him, “Wife…..”
Perhaps I was possessed or crazy when I was younger, I was willing to cut open my chest and present him my heart. But now, that wretched affection finally reached an end. I smiled as the rain drenched my entire body. Even though tears were falling out of my eyes like waterfall, I couldn’t find it in me to be embarrassed.
“Wife…..” Saying that made me felt as though I had traveled back in time, back to my childhood years. Back when he could not protest as I dragged him here and there….. Even when he wanted to cry from the grievance, he did not dare to step away from me. As long as I waved my fist in front of him, he would obediently listen to me.
Qin Yu Zheng stepped forward while carrying the umbrella, angrily asking, “What on earth are you saying?”
I smiled lightly. Right now, I truly no longer had any entanglement. In front of his pensive eyes, I turned around and walked away.