Edited and Proofread by KitKat
The night had An Chang Qing turning and tossing and by the time he woke up the next day, sunlight had slipped into the room through the windows. It had snowed the night before and outside was a vast expanse of white, causing the sun rays to be particularly glaring to the eyes.
An Chang Qing opened his eyes in a daze and yawned. Anfu who was waiting outside heard the noise and entered to inquire if he wanted to wake up.
“What time is it?” An Chang Qing saw the daylight and asked.
“It’s a little past noon.”
“It’s that late?” An Chang Qing was surprised as he raised his neck and looked out, “Why didn’t you wake me?”
“Wangye had ordered when he left.” Anfu blinked and replied, “He said that Master is tired from last night and to let you sleep a little longer.”
An Chang Qing: “…”
He looked at Anfu and said, “Fetch some water, I want to take a bath.”
Anfu let out a giggle and left to make the preparations.
An Chang Qing opened the blanket to get out of bed and found that the pain in his legs had disappeared. He lifted his pants to take a look and found that the bruises had turned into a more terrifying shade. Last night, Xiao Zhige had rubbed the bruises with medicinal wine for a long time, causing it to spread and dispel the swelling. Only by pressing hard against the bruise would the pain emerge.
As he was looking, Anfu came back with the water. Seeing his injury, Anfu was like a nosy goose being grabbed by the neck, he gasped and said, “M, m, m, Master… How did you get injured this badly…”
After asking, a sudden realization dawned and he knocked his head, feeling silly for blurting out the question.
How else did the Master get those bruises, of course it’s from last night…
Looking at An Chang Qing with heartache and anxiety, he asked cautiously, “Would you like to call for a doctor?”
Wangye must’ve been too rough last night. He had thought that those were just baseless rumors but it seemed there was some truth to it. His master had very delicate skin, how could he bear to toss him around this much?
Lady Yu would have a heartache should she find out about this.
“…” An Chang Qing saw his face and immediately knew what he was thinking. “Stop thinking nonsense! This is nothing and you’re not allowed to tell mother.”
Anfu reluctantly responded with an ‘oh’ and began assisting him with washing up.
After his bath, Steward Wang came to give a report regarding the two things that An Chang Qing requested.
One was to gather the accounts of all the shops and properties under Xiao Zhige, the other was the completion of the renovation for the house under Mt. Qin Yun and several maids had also been sent there.
“Move the account books to Wangye’s study. Just place them in the empty side room. Have the maids trained then send them to Qingwu Courtyard.”
Qingwu Courtyard was where Lady Yu and An Xianyu currently resided.
Steward Wang quickly said yes.
An Chang Qing asked, “How are Zhou He Lan and his mother?”
Steward Wang replied, “Dr. Hu had prescribed some medication for Lady Zhou. She’s taking it now and her complexion has improved considerably. Mr. Zhou came to look for you twice but you weren’t in. He made a request to this servant but thinking that he is your guest, I dare not arrange it rashly.”
After he brought them back from Mt. Qin Yun, An Chang Qing let the mother and son live in the guest courtyard and also requested Hu Shifei’s help with their treatment. But after that, he was busy with the trip to the Palace and managed to visit them only once and had left Steward Wang to take care of their hospitality.
An Chang Qing contemplated and said, “I’ll go take a look.”
An Chang Qing went to the courtyard and saw an unexpected scene.
“Mother? Yu’er? Why are you here?”
When An Chang Qing entered the yard, he saw Lady Yu and An Xianyu sitting together with Lady Zhou embroidering. Lady Zhou’s movements were a little clumsy.
The three stood up to welcome him. Lady Yu said, “We were bored so we came to have a sit. What are you doing here?”
“I came to look for He Lan.” An Chang Qing looked at Lady Zhou, “Aunty, how are you feeling?”
Lady Zhou frantically waved her hand and spoke in unfluent Chinese, “I’m called Mu La. Young Master can just call me by my name.”
The Xi Wei aborigines were nomadic. They had no surnames, only first names.
An Chang Qing smiled and shook his head. Although he had helped them and also wanted to reel in Zhou He Lan, he never intended for them to work as servants for the Wang Manor. Zhou He Lan was by no means a man of mediocre talents, it’d be best if he could be his right-hand man. And if this position was too shabby for Zhou He Lan in the future, he could still be of assistance to Xiao Zhige, this way, he could keep the rich water from flowing into an outsider’s field1.
This was why he wanted to treat the mother and son well from the start.
Lady Zhou saw that he was unwilling and did not force him, “He Lan is reading in the back. I’ll go get him.”
“Let me go to him.” An Chang Qing did not want to disturb them and went to find Zhou He Lan by himself.
Zhou He Lan was indeed reading and only noticed An Chang Qing’s arrival when he had reached the door. He quickly put down the book and went to greet him.
“You don’t have to greet me as such in the future.” An Chang Qing said, “Steward Wang said that you came to look for me?”
Zhou He Lan straightened up and said, “Yes. Young Master had invited a doctor for my mother and even gave us a place to stay. He Lan feels guilty for staying idle all day.”
An Chang Qing smiled and said, “I now have something for you to do.”
Zhou He Lan was filled with enthusiasm, “I’m at your service!”
An Chang Qing asked, “Do you know anything about bookkeeping?”
Zhou He Lan nodded, “Yes!”
“That’s great.” An Chang Qing had assumed that he wouldn’t know and planned to have an accountant show him the ropes. Now that he said he knew, it would be a lot faster. “Come to the main courtyard tomorrow and work out the account books with me.”
After they finished the discussion, An Chang Qing and Zhou He Lan went out together. In the courtyard, they saw Lady Yu showing Lady Zhou some embroidery tactics. Although Lady Zhou still had a pale complexion, she was in good spirits, smiling as she followed Lady Yu’s instructions. An Xianyu sat next to them and occasionally chimed in. The scene was of great harmony.
Zhou He Lan stopped and looked at them for quite a while. He said softly to An Chang Qing, “I have not seen my mother this happy in a long time.”
After he turned ten, his father suddenly disappeared, forcing his mother to take him to Da Ye in search of him. Since then, he had not seen his mother’s smiling face. Having searched for him these many years to no avail, she probably knew that there was little hope and began to turn seriously ill. Not wanting to burden him, she was prepared to die.
Although An Chang Qing did not know what he had been through, he could somewhat empathize with his feelings. He patted him on the shoulders and said, “Things’ll get better in the future.”
Zhou He Lan smiled and stepped forward, calling out his mother.
An Chang Qing stayed for a while before accompanying Lady Yu back to Qing Wu Courtyard.
There, An Xianyu left to unbind the embroidery frame. Lady Yu then told the maids to leave and dragged An Chang Qing to one side. She asked in a whisper, “Are you and Wangye… alright?”
An Chang Qing did not grasp the underlying meaning and replied naturally, “Yes, what’s there to worry about?”
Lady Yu patted him and said with concern, “Mother is asking you about that aspect…”
It’s her son’s privacy, she shouldn’t be nosy but there was a worry in her heart and she would not be relieved not knowing.
An Chang Qing’s skin was thin and he blushed immediately. He was too embarrassed to tell her that they had not done it yet and grumbled, “Mother, why are you asking this all of sudden?”
Lady Yu was anxious, “When you’re… together, is there anything unusual?”
“Unusual?” An Chang Qing was stumped, “How can there be anything unusual?”
Judging by his reaction, he was indeed confused. Only then was she reassured, “Nothing… I heard the rumors from outside and was worried that you’re hiding your grievances from me.”
“The rumors are all made up.” An Chang Qing was unhappy every time he heard those rumors, “Please don’t believe whatever they spread outside. Wangye is a good person and he treats me very well.”
Lady Yu smiled and said, “Right, I won’t pay attention to them anymore.”
The two spoke until An Xianyu came in. As the topic was not suitable for girls, they talked about something else.
An Chang Qing, “There’s something that I forgot to mention. I’ve sent several maids for mother and Yu’er. Pick a few to serve by your side and the rest to do housework. After the New Year, I will send you both to live in the house under Mt. Qing Yun.”
“After the New Year?” Lady Yu hesitated, “We’ve stayed here long enough that people are beginning to talk, why not move there earlier?”
An Chang Qing had considered this but he couldn’t bear to leave his mother and sister alone in the house for the New Year. After talking over with Xiao Zhige, they decided to send them there only after the New Year.
“Wangye does not object, who would dare say otherwise?” An Chang Qing said lovingly, “Please don’t worry, everything’ll be fine.”
“And Yu’er should be bored being idle all day. I’ll find a female teacher for you to learn and she’ll continue to teach when you leave.”
The quiet An Xianyu’s face lit up and she enthusiastically agreed.
Lady Yu saw her daughter’s expression and teased, “Your sister is happy as long as she can study. What happens when she gets married in the future?”
An Xianyu blushed and kept her head down.
An Chang Qing remembered the news from Anfu and said, “Now that you mentioned marriage… There is news regarding the Wu Manor.”
The cheerful atmosphere immediately turned stagnant. Lady Yu frowned and said, “What did you find out?”
An Xianyu also looked at him solemnly.
“I’ll know by tomorrow.” An Chang Qing shook his head, “Don’t worry, this marriage will not happen. But Yu’er would have to suffer being slandered for a few days.”
Lady Yu sighed and patted An Xianyu’s head with heartache. But as it turned out, An Xianyu deviated from her timid nature and said firmly, “I’m not afraid of being talked about…I, I don’t want to marry him.”
Ever since An Chang Qing revealed that Wu Juan Shu might be keeping a mistress outside, An Xianyu’s girlish fantasy about marriage had shattered. Although she had always been submissive and quiet, the support from her brother and mother had given her courage. This was the first time she had dared to speak her mind.
She refused to get married.
An Chang Qing looked at her and thought for a long time. He then rubbed her head and said, “Alright, if you don’t wish to marry, then you don’t have to. Anyhow, I will not let you be wronged again.”
1↪肥水不流外人田(Féishuǐ bù liú wàirén tián) means the good water shouldn’t flow into another’s field to fertilize it, something like keeping the goodies for oneself.