Edited and Proofread by KitKat
Seeing Xiao Zhige carry his spear back to the main room, Zhou He Lan hesitated before lifting his heels to follow him.
Although he could not figure out what he had done to annoy Wangye, from the days he had stayed in the Wang Manor, he had witnessed that the Northern Warlord was not cruel and unreasonable like what he had heard outside. Moreover, he was Wangfei’s person. With Wangye’s affection towards Wangfei, he was quite certain that Wangye would not dare to cross Wangfei and get rid of him.
After reassuring himself, Zhou He Lan was more confident with his footsteps and briskly walked behind Xiao Zhige.
An Chang Qing had just changed into a dark brocade robe with moon embroidery which was also sent from Tian Yi Fang. The price was not high but the quality and workmanship were excellent. For the winter, the garment was even lined with a layer of wool. Putting it on An Chang Qing, the garment’s elegance was amplified, giving it a stylish look.
Xiao Zhige admired him in silence. He swept a quick look past Zhou He Lan at the door and asked, “Are you going to hand out porridge again today?”
“No,” An Chang Qing straightened the jade pendant at his waist and smiled at him, “Yesterday, we posted a list to recruit new staff. There were many signups and we’re going to the shop to pick a few.”
Xiao Zhige thought and said, “I’ll go with you.”
Hm? An Chang Qing looked at him in surprise then frowned awkwardly. With Xiao Zhige’s intimidating face, An Chang Qing was quite reluctant to take him to the store. Having him there while he was hiring would probably scare the applicants away.
But certain words shouldn’t be too straightforward, so An Chang Qing said, “Wangye is not busy today? I’m afraid there’s too much to be done at the store and it’ll take a while.”
An Chang Qing was hoping that Xiao Zhige would understand that he was trying to tell him to be occupied with something else but Xiao Zhige nodded and said expressionlessly, “It’s no problem. Let’s go.”
An Chang Qing, “…”
Seeing him standing at the door like a warden, An Chang Qing could only relent and take him to Tian Yi Fang with Zhou He Lan.
At Tian Yi Fang, there was a long line of people waiting, more than they had expected. An Chang Qing told Anfu to open the door and let them in.
The group of people were eagerly whispering, awaiting An Chang Qing’s arrival. Seeing him walk in, they swarmed towards him, hoping to get a chance to talk to Wangfei. But the moment they saw Xiao Zhige standing only a step behind, they froze on the spot and the place turned silent.
An Chang Qing tucked the corner of his mouth. This was why he did not want to bring Xiao Zhige along. But since it had come to this and the person was already sitting down, it was useless to mull over it. An Chang Qing pretended that everything was as usual and had Anfu collect the resumé of the applicants.
A total of fifteen people came to apply for the store manager position but due to what had happened before, his hiring criteria were a lot higher and, in the end, An Chang Qing only picked out five. After which, it was Zhou He Lan’s turn to wiggle down the number.
The five who were chosen were elated. It was just that after the screening, they felt the cold stare from Wangye from time to time and shuddered. Even the hand holding the brush was shivering uncontrollably. They looked at each other and sighed inwardly.
Clearly, Wangye did not come several days ago, why did he have to come today, and cause them to feel so terrified that they dared not say much to Wangfei? What bad luck!
The Wangye sitting high above did not know that he was being complained about. He did not take part in the management of the store and could only sit idly by and listen to An Chang Qing and Zhou He Lan discussing the most suitable candidate to hire.
They each had a personal preference and when it came to business, Zhou He Lan was never shy to speak his mind even if it was not in tune with An Chang Qing’s. He tried to support his case while An Chang Qing adhered to his own opinion. They both entered a heated discussion as The Northern Warlord sat to one side like a redundant piece of furniture.
Xiao Zhige gave Zhou He Lan several unfriendly glances but he remained silent.
Their debate ended in a compromise with two candidates being hired. They would both work in Tian Yi Fang and the one who made better sales would be promoted.
On the way back, An Chang Qing was particularly happy. Today’s argument with Zhou He Lan had given him new insights. Having two managers at the same time meant that there would always be someone to supervise the other. The one they did not promote would still be trained and could be assigned to manage the other. He would change their assignment every two years and this would prevent a single person from monopolizing all the power, festering ambitions.
Xiao Zhige grimaced seeing that he was still deep in thought with matters regarding the store. His brows creased together and hinted, “There is a candy store ahead that sells pine nut candy.”
“En?” An Chang Qing was pulled back from his thoughts and looked at him questioningly.
Xiao Zhige, “I heard it tastes good. Let me buy it for you.”
“Who did you hear it from?” An Chang Qing asked curiously. Xiao Zhige was not a picky eater but he was always able to buy him all sorts of delicious food.
“My subordinates.” Seeing that An Chang Qing’s eyes were finally focused on him, his frown eased into a much gentler expression, “Do you want it?”
“Yes,” An Chang Qing smiled sweetly at him, “Will Wangye eat with me?”
Xiao Zhige sat up straight with his hands on his knees, looking majestic. He did not hesitate to answer his Wangfei, “en.”
As they were going to buy the candy, the coachman changed their route. When they crossed an alley, they could vaguely hear the sound of someone arguing.
“The baby in Jiao Ying’s stomach, is it yours?”
“So what if it’s mine?”
“How dare you?! That’s my woman!”
The two men quarreling did not notice the carriage coming from another road and continued to argue softly. An Chang Qing happened to catch the name ‘Jiao Ying’ and opened up the curtain to look. He also ordered the carriage to dock into a corner and signaled for Anfu to go and observe at the other end.
During their argument, the middle-aged man stubbornly said, “If you hadn’t hidden her in the nunnery, I would’ve brought her back a long time ago.”
“Now that my child is in her belly, I’m going to pick a good date and bring her into the house. She might even give me a fat baby boy.”
The younger man breathed heavily with anger and said, “Sixth uncle, you’re being unreasonable!”
The man who was called “sixth uncle” sneered, “Daring to touch my woman, you still have ways to go. You probably don’t know this but even before her husband was dead, I’ve already had a great time with her. You’re the only one who thinks that she’s an untouched treasure…”
The two bickered for a while before parting ways disgruntledly. The younger man was especially riled. He kicked the wall brutally before leaving.
After watching the event, Anfu headed back with a look of amusement on his face, “It’s the fourth young master and the sixth master of the Wu Manor…”
Marquis Wu had five siblings but only one shared the same mother as him named Wu Liu, and who people usually called Liu Ye.
And the Fourth Young Master was referring to the son born from the Marquis’s concubine, Wu Juan Shu.
Since they had mentioned Jiao Ying, Wu Juan Shu must’ve known that she was pregnant and that the child was not his but his uncle’s.
A pair of uncle and nephew hiding in a corner to argue over a widow.
Thinking of Wu Juan Shu’s gentlemanly facade, a fire burned in An Chang Qing’s eyes. For a woman who had committed adultery with his uncle, this man had forsaken his sister and after her unfortunate passing, had even made her his legitimate wife.
This would be the scandal of the century! Uncle and nephew bedding the same girl! This was the righteous and harmonious Wu family? Hah!
An Chang Qing was filled with fury. He clenched his teeth and said, “Find a chance to spread this matter.”
Let’s see, after he had blown this up, would Wu Juan Shu still have the nerve to come for his sister?
Maybe because even the heavens were angered by the Wu family’s malfeasance, before An Chang Qing had the chance to spread the word, Tie Hu rushed back to inform him that the nunnery was on fire.
This fire was set by the crazy woman.
“What about Jiao Ying?”
“Jiao Ying happened to be outside when it happened.”
This was what one would consider ‘being handed a pillow when you’re sleepy’.
An Chang Qing tinkered his brain then said, “Tell someone to report this to the Wu Manor. Notify the court and make sure to have an officer sent to the scene.”
Tie Hu left to execute his orders. An Chang Qing told Anfu to prepare the carriage and personally went to the nunnery.
When An Chang Qing arrived, the fire had just been extinguished. The originally simple-looking nunnery was reduced to ruins. The crazy woman was running and waving her hands through the debris, shouting, “The vixen is dead! Son, your mother has avenged you…”
The villagers looked at her inquisitively but none dared to come near.
The coachman picked a shaded place to park the carriage where An Chang Qing lifted the curtain to observe the scene. He saw Jiao Ying holding her stomach and cowering at a corner, probably worrying that the woman would find her.
An Chang Qing looked at her with scorn and silently estimated when the two men would arrive.
Just in time, a carriage dashed past and before it could come to a complete stop, a middle-aged man jumped out of the carriage and shouted anxiously, “Jiao Ying!”
He was in such a hurry that he did not see the crowd nearby.
The moment Jiao Ying saw him, her tears fell as she stood up and called feebly, “Liu Ye.”
Wu Liu rushed towards her and helped her up with care, “Is the child ok? Was he hurt?”
Jiao Ying covered her stomach and said timidly, “No, I made sure to protect our child.”
Right after she finished her sentence, a voice said hesitantly, “… Jiao Ying?”
Jiao Ying’s body turned stiff. She subconsciously pushed Wu Liu away and turned to look at the person calling her. Her facial expression went through several changes before turning into a distorted and strangely off-putting look, “Fourth, fourth young master, why are you here…”