Edited and Proofread by KitKat
An Changqi had once been An Chang Qing’s nightmare for a long time.
An Chang Qing had been gifted with beauty since birth. When he was still an adolescent and his features had not fully developed, he had an androgynous appearance. The girls were jealous for he looked prettier than themselves while the boys hated him for being too feminine. For a long time, he had spent his childhood in darkness. The only one who ever reached out to him was An Changqi.
As the only child of the second branch, An Changqi had been showered with affection the moment he was born. He was five years older than An Chang Qing. When An Chang Qing was twelve, he was already a young man of sixteen to seventeen. In addition to the eldest grandson, An Chang Yu, he was one of the Grand Matriarch’s favorite grandchildren.
After he had reprimanded the other younger children and rescued An Chang Qing from the woodshed, An Chang Qing really did admire and respect this brother. An Changqi had also been good to him since then, always saving him from the bullies and buying him delicious snacks and beautiful clothes.
If it wasn’t on his twelve birthday that An Changqi had tried to rape him, everything would’ve been fine.
An Chang Qing could vividly recall that day in the spring. His birthday was on the 15th of February, the exact day of the spring equinox. The entire An family was preparing for the spring banquet but no one remembered that the Third Young Master had also been born on this day.
After eating the longevity noodles that his mother had cooked for him, An Chang Qing was about to go gather some herbs when An Changqi had gone to see him.
An Changqi had seemed particularly happy that day and An Chang Qing could still remember his every word:
“Third brother, today is your birthday. I have prepared a present for you, do you want to see it?”
The naive An Chang Qing had happily followed him, never doubting that he was being led into an empty room to fulfill An Changqi’s desires. At that moment, An Changqi had completely shown his true face. Speaking words of affection while his eyes were filled with lust, he had tried to talk An Chang Qing into submission.
Although An Chang Qing had been naive, he wasn’t a fool. He had grabbed a brass candlestick and whacked him on the head. While An Changqi had been distracted by the pain, he had climbed out the window and jumped into the rockscape pond. Because An Changqi did not know how to swim and a servant happened to be passing by, An Chang Qing had managed to escape that traumatizing ordeal.
But after that event, An Changqi completely tore off his mask. He no longer stood up for him and had even instigated the others to bully him. When they happened to meet, his eyes had been those of a hungry wolf wanting to eat him alive. An Chang Qing’s life since then had gotten a lot harder, apart from having to deal with the malice in his own family, he even had to avoid the young master of the second branch.
Until after An Changqi turned eighteen and had married, only then did An Chang Qing have better days and eventually, managed to put this matter behind.
It’s just that he had always assumed that apart from An Changqi and himself, no one else had known about this disgusting past.
To think that An Zhi Ke had always known. If he knew that An Changqi had once treated him well, then how could he not know the misdeeds An Changqi did to him later? The reason for this change, as the head of the family, how could he not know?
Moreover, after getting out of the pond, he had been pale and shivering due to the cold and fear. He hadn’t returned to Rainbow Garden in order to not worry his mother. He could only carry a fickle hope and ran to his father but An Zhi Ke did not even want to hear him. He had given him a scolding and driven him back to Rainbow Garden.
At that time, An Chang Qing had only thought that An Zhi Ke did not like him. But now he clearly understood, An Zhi Ke had been well aware of what had happened, he just did not want to sow discord with An Zhi Zhou over an unimportant son, and hence, he had feigned ignorance.
When hatred had reached a certain depth, only a burst of emptiness remained. Looking at An Zhi Ke in panic, An Chang Qing suddenly laughed, “You want me to let him go? I don’t think so! If An Changqi dies, what kind of reaction do you think the second uncle and his wife will have?”
His voice was drifting like a ghost’s, making Xiao Zhige incredibly worried. He called out to him softly.
“What are going to do?” An Zhi Ke saw the malevolence in his eyes and frowned. He softened his tone, “You’ll gain nothing from killing him. Why don’t you let him see a doctor first? After that, everything else is up to you.”
An Chang Qing sneered, “Do you think I’m as gullible as a three-year-old?”
He then pulled out a dagger and slowly walked towards An Changqi who had passed out due to the pain.
“Chang Qing!” Xiao Zhige saw what he was about to do and held him back.
An Chang Qing turned to look at him with emptiness in his eyes. Xiao Zhige was deeply concerned. He gently caressed his face and whispered in his ears, “I’m here, do not dirty your hands.”
An Chang Qing lowered his hand and Xiao Zhige seized the chance and forcefully retrieved the dagger from his grip. He then threw it in the grass and approached An Changqi with his spear in hand.
“Wangye!” An Zhi Ke exclaimed. He wanted to come forward but was paralyzed by the ferocity in his eyes. For a moment, he could only stay rooted in place.
“The Prime Minister does not have to worry, I will not kill him,” Xiao Zhige cast him a sinister smile. Like a debt-collecting demon, he chopped off An Changqi’s ‘leg’ with his spear.
Being struck with another pang of severe pain, the unconscious An Changqi woke up and covered his crotch area. He uttered a shrill cry before passing out again. In the withered grass where he laid, a pool of blood was forming under his body.
Xiao Zhige retrieved his spear and looked at the flabbergasted An Zhi Ke. Implying a threat, he said, “I’ve spared his life, the rest is up to Prime Minister An to deal with. I don’t suppose you’ll be willing to address this matter to the Emperor with me, right?”
An Zhi Ke knew that An Changqi was the one at fault. Moreover, him harboring an indecent lust for his cousin was an unacceptable scandal that would tarnish the An family’s hundred-year reputation. An Zhi Ke could only grit his teeth and concede to Xiao Zhige’s threat.
Seeing the blood-soaked An Changqi, he hastily bowed and called for someone to carry him away.
When no outsiders were around, Xiao Zhige tenderly touched An Chang Qing’s cheek. He sighed, “Why are you so foolish? Killing him is too merciful. And you’ll be taking the blame for An Zhi Ke.”
“Let me teach you how to get your revenge,” Xiao Zhige rubbed the corner of his red eyes, “An Changqi will definitely die in three days and An Zhi Ke will no longer know peace. How about that?”
An Chang Qing looked up at him. The brim of his eyes were thoroughly red but he stubbornly refused to cry. Although there was anger in his eyes, the sight of him gritting his teeth with wide-opened eyes was still endearing.
Xiao Zhige sighed. He placed An Chang Qing’s head on his shoulder and the powerful hand gently patted his back, “If you want to cry, go ahead.”
An Chang Qing opened his mouth and wailed as his tears flowed down uncontrollably, wetting Xiao Zhige’s shoulder. Xiao Zhige continued to stroke his back slowly. His movements, although unnatural, were extremely gentle.
An Chang Qing cried in his arms for a long time before simmering down. He sniffed and said in a dull voice, “Thank you.”
Xiao Zhige rubbed his red eyes, “You don’t have to use this word with me.”
There was a faint sound of footsteps in the distance. Xiao Zhige assumed he would not want to be seen in such a state and suggested, “Should we go back first?”
An Chang Qing shook his head, “Let’s visit mother first or she’ll worry.”
Because An Chang Qing’s eyes were still swollen, he did not want to go to the Rainbow Garden yet. Instead, he took Xiao Zhige to an isolated part of the manor.
He was silent for a while before pointing to a room right across the pond, “An Changqi lured me in there.”
Xiao Zhige reached out to hold his hand.
An Chang Qing’s hand was cold and his voice was shaking but he went on, “But I did not let him touch me and even opened a hole in his head. He had to stay in bed for almost a month.”
As though he only needed someone to listen, he continued, “I’ve never understood. I’m also his son, why does he hate me so much? I used to think that it was because of my mother’s background but now I think I know…”
His expression hardened as he came to a conclusion, “He had never seen me as his son.”
No father would feign ignorance when his child was attacked by his nephew.
Xiao Zhige’s brows creased together. He was not good at comforting others. After racking his brains for a long time, he said, “The day I was born, the sky had turned ominous. My father once tried to drown me but I narrowly survived and did not die. Later, my mother had to threaten him with her death to save my life.”
Although both of them did not deserve to be fathers, Emperor An Qing was probably the more unscrupulous of the two.
An Chang Qing turned to look at Xiao Zhige. Seeing that there was no sadness in his expression and only indifference, An Chang Qing’s gloomy mood was lifted. That’s right, Xiao Zhige was born in the royal family. With his mother’s early departure and his father’s loathing, he had to enlist into the army and fight at the border. The harsh conditions, the danger, and the sufferings, he had to endure it all by himself.
And the unyielding Northern Warlord never had anyone to talk to.
Compared to Xiao Zhige, what he had gone through seemed minuscule. He grabbed Xiao Zhige’s sleeve to wipe his face and then smiled at him, “If he doesn’t take me as his son, then I’ll just take it as I don’t have this father. It’s not worth grieving over him.”
“En.” Xiao Zhige touched his tear mole and said, “You still have me.”
The mighty Northern Warlord knew not how to sweet talk but every word he said sunk deep into An Chang Qing’s heart. He looked at him in a trance, reflecting on his last life. Back then, if he did not fear Xiao Zhige and went to him whenever he was wronged, An Chang Qing believed that this person would’ve stood by him no matter what.
An Chang Qing leaned in and wrapped his arms around him. He felt the man’s beating heart and said in an inaudible voice, “I’m sorry.”
Xiao Zhige thought that he was still upset and started patting his back gently.
“Let me take you to meet my mom?” An Chang Qing fidgeted in his arms and raised his head.
Xiao Zhige lowered his eyes to look at the person in his embrace. The corners of his eyes were still red but his lips had started to smile again. His voice was a little hoarse but filled with vigor.
“Alright.” Xiao Zhige’s heart was tugged at and his eyes softened unconsciously.
An Chang Qing used the pond’s reflection to tidy up his appearance. After which, he led Xiao Zhige to the Rainbow Garden.
Rainbow Garden was not large. It used to look magnificent but due to neglect, the place had fallen apart.
Before Xiao Zhige even entered the premises, he was already frowning. An Chang Qing on the other hand had long been used to the dilapidated landscape. He stood outside the building and called cheerfully for his mother.
An Xian Yu was embroidering in the yard with the nanny when she heard his voice. She eagerly ran to him but froze up when she saw Xiao Zhige beside him. She looked at An Chang Qing timidly, not knowing how to address him.
An Chang Qing saw her fear but he knew her cowardice was not something he could fix in a short time. Without forcing her, he said kindly, “Where’s mother? I’ve brought Wangye to see her.”
“Nuo Nuo?” A cough came from inside the house and a skinny woman appeared at the door, holding onto the door frame for support. She had on a thick cotton cloak and wore no jewelry, looking plain and ordinary. But when she lifted her head, her beautiful face could light up the shabby-looking environment. Even the old and faded cloak she was wearing became pleasing to the eyes.
Xiao Zhige looked at her then back to his Wangfei who had run into her arms. It was just as the rumors had said, An Chang Qing mainly took after his mother. The only part he got from An Zhi Ke was the pair of phoenix eyes which added a touch of nobility to his looks.
When An Chang Qing finally saw his biological mother who had been dead for many years, he rushed into her arms and his tears fell uncontrollably.
After a while, he remembered that Xiao Zhige was still watching and said embarrassedly to his mother, “I’m already eighteen. Mom, stop calling me Nuo Nuo.”
Lady Yu touched his head lovingly, “No matter how old you are, you’ll always be my Nuo Nuo.”
An Chang Qing blushed and could only hope to change the subject. He went to grab Xiao Zhige standing at the door and introduce him to his mother, “Mom, this is the Northern Warlord, I’ve brought him here to see you.”