Edited and Proofread by KitKat
Xiao Zhige led An Chang Qing forward at a moderate pace. The man was tall and upright, much like the sharp spear behind him. Standing by his side, even without any words or action from him, could give An Chang Qing an unparalleled sense of security.
After taking another two steps, An Chang Qing had to ask again, “Will you protect me no matter what I do?”
Xiao Zhige gave him a puzzled look and answered with certainty, “Of course. You are my Wangfei.”
The man’s expression was serious as he replied, as though it was an implied logic.
An Chang Qing secretly smiled and pulled him onto a different route, “Let’s not go back yet. Accompany me to the west courtyard.”
Xiao Zhige did not know his intentions but he kept up with him.
The An family lived in a five-entrance manor. The old matriarch lived in the main yard while the two eldest brothers, An Zhi Ke and An Zhi Zhou, lived in the east and west yards respectively. An Chang Qing led Xiao Zhige past a veranda and then through a flower gate before arriving at the West courtyard.
The west courtyard was currently bustling with people and occasional cries could be heard.
As An Chang Qing and Xiao Zhige came in, the servants running about were taken aback but they quickly recovered and continued their work, except for a well-dressed maid who stared at An Chang Qing grudgingly. She bit her lips and pushed the other servants in front to enter the room.
“That’s An Changqi’s handmaid and mistress, Fei Cui,” An Chang Qing complained to Xiao Zhige, “An Changqi’s tricks against me were all thought up by her.”
Fei Cui was probably aware of An Changqi’s intention towards him which was why she had never liked him. On the surface, she would give him advice on how to force An Chang Qing into submission while behind his back, she would find every opportunity to humiliate him. Back then, he was young and timid, he could only swallow the anger and endure the grievances in silence.
But now, he knew someone was there to support him.
The young man used a partly lamenting tone filled with coquettishness to voice his grievances to Xiao Zhige. The large eyes that looked at him were like those of a kid telling his family how he had been wronged. Xiao Zhige’s heart softened. He lightly squeezed the hand within his palm and whispered in his ears, “She reports to An Zhi Ke.”
“!!!” An Chang Qing’s eyes widened in surprise.
This was not a good place to talk after all. Xiao Zhige only pointed out, “She’s a very useful pawn. Use her well and not only can you kill An Changqi but also drive a wedge between the An brothers.”
An Chang Qing had not fully digested the information and could not figure out a plan. He asked impatiently, “How?”
“Think.” Xiao Zhige did not give him an immediate answer. Instead, he walked with him towards the room. Before An Chang Qing could ask further, he was interrupted by a roar.
“How dare you even come here!” Madame Sun, An Zhi Zhou’s wife, screamed and charged at An Chang Qing. “Whore! It was not enough that you seduced him, now you even did this to him. I want you to pay with your life!”
An Chang Qing could not react in time. He was about to have his eyes clawed out by the woman’s sharp nails when he saw Xiao Zhige shielding him and the next moment, a kick had sent Madame Sun backwards into a rosewood chair.
Xiao Zhige had on a murderous expression. He warned, “On the day Wangfei came back to visit, An Changqi was not only impolite but he even dared to offend Wangfei. I was lenient to merely cut off his hand and leg. If it wasn’t for Wangfei’s plea, do you think he could still be alive?” He cast an oppressive glare at Madame Sun whose hair had now scattered messily over her forehead and questioned her in a cold voice, “Or does Madame Sun think that this punishment was too light?”
An Zhi Zhou helped his wife up but her legs had turned soft. She wobbled and knelt on the ground. An Zhi Zhou also knelt and spoke in fear, “My wife is ignorant and she loves our son too much, she meant Wangfei no disrespect. Wangye please forgive her.”
Xiao Zhige ignored the couple kneeling on the ground and turned to An Zhi Ke, “Minister An shouldn’t only immerse yourself in work all day. It’s about time you straighten out this family, otherwise, sooner or later, the An legacy is bound to fall.”
An Zhi Ke pulled a black face and bowed, “Wangye’s teaching is right.” He then looked at An Chang Qing with intense dissatisfaction. However, with Xiao Zhige present, he dared not step out of line and could only force a smile, “Is there anything else that Wangfei needs?”
An Chang Qing’s purpose here was to find him so he got straight to the point, “Lady Yu has been ill for a long time, even the current herbs are not helping. It just so happens that the Wang Manor has a skillful physician and with Wangye’s approval, I’ll be bringing him here in two days to have a check on her.”
An Zhi Ke’s eye twitched. Before he could respond, Madame Li interjected, “The doctor who gave Lady Yu the prescriptions hailed from De Ren Hall and has years of experience under his belt, even if you change to someone else, I’m afraid…”
“We’ll keep changing till we find someone who can treat her,” An Chang Qing cut her off, “Father, do you think this is a logical approach?”
An Zhi Ke’s face was turning worse by the minute. The one standing in front of him was no longer the outcast son of a concubine but the Wangfei of the Northern Warlord. An Zhi Ke could only bow and agree, “It is indeed so.”
An Chang Qing slowly continued, “On a side note, Rainbow Garden is quite secluded and there’s no one around. Wangye was concerned so he had left Zhao Shi behind.”
An Zhi Ke’s face was distorted. He grit his teeth for a while before responding, “That’s how it should be, it’s my negligence.”
After having achieved all his goals, An Chang Qing beamed with satisfaction. He said to An Zhi Zhou and his wife who were still kneeling, “There’s much to be done in the Wang Manor, I’ll come back to visit my cousin some other day.”
Madame Sun’s fingers dug deep into her skin but she managed to remain silent. An Zhi Zhou hurriedly said, “We dare not trouble Wangfei.”
An Chang Qing nodded politely and left with Xiao Zhige.
On the way back, An Chang Qing sat in the carriage as before and Xiao Zhige rode his horse alongside him.
It was already late noon and the sun was hanging lazily in the winter sky, giving off a warm light. An Chang Qing lifted the carriage’s curtain to look at Xiao Zhige. The man was still wearing his clothes from this morning and sat tall and straight on a black horse. Against the light, An Chang Qing’s sight was partially obscured but he still thought that his husband looked particularly dashing.
On one side of the street came the bustling noises from a certain store. An Chang Qing looked with curiosity and saw that ‘San Wei Zhai’ was written on the store’s plaque. His eyes showed a hint of mischief.
He reached out and tugged at Xiao Zhige’s sleeve, “I want to eat plum blossom cakes.”
Xiao Zhige stopped and looked at the young man who was giving him an expectant look. The orange sunlight fell on his face, giving it an angelic glow.
“I’ll buy it for you,” Xiao Zhige ordered for the carriage to stop. He got off his horse and walked towards San Wei Zhai.
San Wei Zhai had good business and there was always a crowd in front of the store. But once Xiao Zhige entered the scene, the crowd parted like a sword had split the land to make way for him. Xiao Zhige was used to this reaction. He proceeded as usual to buy a freshly baked box of pastries.
“You can only have two,” Xiao Zhige handed him the box and said, “It’s almost dinner time.”
The plum blossom cakes that were freshly baked were even more fragrant. An Chang Qing took a bite and sulked after hearing his words, “It won’t be as delicious when it’s cooled. It’ll be a waste.”
Xiao Zhige said, “I’ll buy it for you again.”
An Chang Qing shook his head. His eyes sparkled as he stretched out his hand and placed a piece in front of Xiao Zhige, “Share with me.”
Xiao Zhige looked at the plum blossom cake in his hand and reduced his speed. Soft gasps could be heard from behind them which triggered An Chang Qing and Xiao Zhige to look back but the people around them had then turned away instantly, pretending to mind their business.
An Chang Qing turned to Xiao Zhige and urged, “Eat or it’ll turn cold.”
Xiao Zhige could only lower his head and bite into the piece of cake in his hand. The pastry was little in size with stuffing made of plum blossom. There shouldn’t be any sugar and yet a sense of sweetness flowed into his heart.
“Let’s go back,” Xiao Zhige cleared his throat, “I’ll eat those that you can’t finish.”
An Chang Qing responded with an ‘oh’ and put another piece into his mouth.
Arriving at the Wang Manor, Steward Wang went to greet them with a few servants. An Chang Qing stepped out of the carriage and noticed that he was limping, “What’s wrong with your leg? If you’re not feeling well, you should take a rest.”
Steward Wang was at a loss for words. He did not know how to explain and could only look at Xiao Zhige.
“He was punished for his misdeed,” Xiao Zhige said.
An Chang Qing’s eyes moved but he did not ask further. He left for the main courtyard with Xiao Zhige. The two cleaned up while the servants prepared their dinner. When the food was served, An Chang Qing let the servants retreat as he was not used to having them around, leaving only Xiao Zhige and himself in the room.
Xiao Zhige scooped a piece of fish and began picking the bones with a certain degree of seriousness.
An Chang Qing looked at him and asked, “Is it because of me?”
“Hm?” Xiao Zhige looked up.
“Steward Wang’s injury.”
Xiao Zhige nodded and continued with the task at hand, “Your homecoming gifts should’ve long been prepared. He neglected his duties, his punishment was just.”
“What if I was also bullied by someone else in the manor?” An Chang Qing leaned in and looked at him with bright, shiny eyes.
“Someone bullied you?” Xiao Zhige frowned.
“No. I’m only asking,” An Chang Qing shook his head and smiled.
Xiao Zhige‘s frown eased up, “I will get rid of that person.”
“But what if I want to personally teach them a lesson?” Having felt the man’s indulgence, An Chang Qing came out of his shell and wanted to test the man’s bottom line.
“Personally teach them a lesson?” Xiao Zhige was a little puzzled, “There’s a torture chamber in the Manor, just get someone to deal with them for you.” Xiao Zhige was hesitant to let An Chang Qing have access to those places as he was too delicate. He feared that An Chang Qing would hurt himself before he could do any ‘teaching’.
An Chang Qing knew that Xiao Zhige had misunderstood and couldn’t help laughing. He clarified his intentions, “What I meant was, now that I’m your Wangfei, I should learn how to take care of the Wang Manor. Before you had to let Steward Wang handle everything because there was no one else to do it, now, I would like to give it a try.”
He then looked at Xiao Zhige expectantly.
Just as An Chang Qing thought he couldn’t get his approval, Xiao Zhige said matter-of-factly, “Of course, the Wang Manor is under your charge. You can do whatever you want.”
An Chang Qing was speechless. It took him some time to understand that this person’s mentality was actually quite simple: Because he was his Wangfei, it was needless to say that he would protect him; because he was his Wangfei, it was needless to say that the Wang Manor was his to overlook.
Because of all these presumptions, Xiao Zhige was always confused with An Chang Qing’s requests. To him, whatever it was that An Chang Qing wanted, he would naturally comply because as his Wangfei, he deserved everything that he could offer. Unfortunately, An Chang Qing did not realize this in his last life. His cowardice had made him pass over these opportunities.
“I got it,” An Chang Qing smiled at him with eyes filled with radiance.
Xiao Zhige was infected by his smile and his lips slightly curved up. He placed the plate of boneless fish in front of him and said, “Let’s eat.”