Edited and Proofread by KitKat
Curious passersby began to gather around but they did not plead for Wu Juan Shu as he had expected. Instead, they all started pointing at him.
“How dare you stop Wangfei’s carriage, don’t you want to live?”
“That’s right. Wangfei is so kind, he wouldn’t force lovers to part.”
“That’s a decent-looking man. He seems familiar though. Which family’s young master is that?”
“If he’s a young master with those clothes then I can also be called a young master! Hahaha…”
As things did not go as he had planned, Wu Juan Shu puffed his face. He looked at the carriage with enmity and bowed, “Wangfei, please have mercy. Xian Yu and I, we… we have long been…”
Before he could finish, An Chang Qing raised the curtain and said sternly, “Tie Hu! Slap his mouth!”
Tie Hu had been bothered by his words from the start. At An Chang Qing’s order, he jumped off the carriage, grabbed Wu Juan Shu’s collar, and gave him two powerful slaps over his mouth.
Wu Juan Shu could not believe that they would publicly lay hands on him. He covered his mouth and mumbled in pain.
“Wangfei, how could you be this unruly!” A woman suddenly rushed over to help Wu Juan Shu, “Juan Shu and your sister have long been engaged; it was a mutual agreement. Even if you refused to let them be together, you shouldn’t be using violence!”
An Chang Qing sneered, “Other than the fact that my sister’s marriage to you was decided by my father, from the beginning, my sister has never even met you. Besides, haven’t you been fighting with your uncle over a widow since some time ago? Now that she’s dead, did Young Master Wu have a change of heart?”
Wu Juan Shu looked embarrassed but he could only cover his mouth and mumble incoherently.
An Chang Qing raised his voice and spoke, “Everyone here, please be my witness. This person is the third son of the Wu family to whom my sister was indeed engaged to. However, not long ago, he was involved in a shameful scandal. I wanted to annul the engagement but my father did not want to quash the relationship between the two families and refused. I can’t disobey my father and had to agree to this marriage. But who knew that Wu Juan Shu is not only unfaithful and lacks virtues, he is also corrupted and has committed many crimes. When the Wu family’s crimes were being investigated, Wu Juan Shu was exposed to have abused his Magistrate’s position and subjugated people, causing him to be stripped of his status and title. Such a crooked man, how can I allow my sister to be married to him? A few days ago, my father had personally gone to dissolve this marriage. He had returned the engagement keepsake which the Wu family had accepted, cutting off any ties my sister had with Wu Juan Shu. Who would’ve thought that the Wu family only pretended to agree and now they’re trying to publicly ruin my sister’s reputation! How vile!”
The woman kneeling next to Wu Juan Shu said, “It’s not like that… we…”
“You’re Wu Juan Shu’s birth mother, aren’t you?” An Chang Qing cut her off, “You are a concubine and before that, a servant. Moreover, now that the Wu family has fallen, you are not qualified to discuss this marriage.”
The woman had a sour look and turned speechless.
After listening to An Chang Qing’s words, everyone at the scene finally understood. The man who had previously mentioned that Wu Juan Shu looked familiar quickly said, “Told you I’ve seen him before. Turns out it’s someone from the Wu family! When they were evicted by the Da Li officers, I was watching right outside the Marquis’s house!”
“Pei! That whole family is nothing good! If it were my daughter, I also would not allow her to marry such a person! How dare he even make a scene on the street!”
“How dare you sully a lady’s innocence! A wolf in sheep’s clothing!”
The angry civilians picked up rotten vegetables and stones to throw at them. Wu Juan Shu was enraged but rendered speechless. His birth mother was never tolerant to begin with but she could only swallow her pride as she stared at the ground under the public’s wrathful scoldings.
An Chang Qing cast them a disdainful look before going back into the carriage, “Let’s go.”
The Wang Manor’s carriage slowly drove past them. The onlookers gave the duo one last pei before going back to their daily routines.
Only after the crowd dispersed could the mother and son finally look up. They quickly scurried away and hid in a nearby alley. But to their dismay, An Chang Qing had been waiting to catch them.
He had his hands behind his back while he looked at them with indifference.
Wu Juan Shu instinctively wanted to run but his escape had been blocked by Tie Hu. Tie Hu gave his leg a kick and dragged them both towards An Chang Qing, “Wangfei, how would you like to deal with these two?”
An Chang Qing cast his eyes downwards at the frightened duo.
He had wanted to do this just now but he was in public after all and had to do things by the books. Why else would he have let these two leave unscathed?
Wu Juan Shu was shocked by the hatred in his eyes. He retreated backward but could not avoid An Chang Qing’s kick to his chest. He wailed in pain. To prevent them from attracting any attention, Tie Hu tore off a piece of cloth and tied it across their mouths.
“Who are you to call Xian Yu by her name? How dare you try to ruin her reputation?!”
The anguish of being powerless from his last life was being channeled at this moment. An Chang Qing kicked him again, “You seem to like that widow a lot, should I send you to be united with her?”
“Wu … ah ahh….” Wu Juan Shu shivered as he kowtowed frantically, begging for mercy.
He deeply regretted it. He shouldn’t have messed with An Xian Yu. That person had told him that as long as he destroyed An Xian Yu’s reputation and married her, with An Chang Qing’s status, he would have been able to receive a large number of dowries. Even if he could not become an official, he would still be able to live in luxury for life.
Who knew that the submissive An Chang Qing from before would change to become this ruthless? It was indeed true that being close to ink will turn you black.
Wu Juan Shu gnashed his teeth as he continued to kowtow and begged in-between tearful sobs.
An Chang Qing withdrew his foot in disgust and said to Tie Hu, “Is there a place where they can have a life worse than death?”
Tie Hu scratched his head, “The torture chamber? There are all sorts of methods there.”
An Chang Qing shook his head. He did not want to keep them near, “Anywhere else?”
“Then what about the mine in Yanzhou? There is an iron mine there where many convicted criminals are sent to do labor.”
“Send them there. Don’t let them escape.”
“Yes.” Tie Hu replied, “Wangfei does not have to worry. The mine is heavily guarded and no one can leave before they have served their sentence.”
Wu Juan Shu and his mother turned pale. However, there was nothing they could do against Tie Hu’s immense strength. Tie Hu dragged them away and ordered his subordinates to send them to the Yanzhou iron mine.
After resolving the grudge from his previous life, An Chang Qing exhaled a deep breath. He then resumed his trip to Tian Yi Fang.
Tian Yi Fang’s shipment of winter clothes had all arrived on time and accounted for. The store clerks have neatly packed and sealed them in the warehouse before handing over the keys as their last assignment of the year.
Looking at the seals and knowing that the warehouse was filled with winter clothes, An Chang Qing could finally feel relieved at the coming winter. He was powerless in his last life but in this life, at least, he could be a little more helpful.
Three days passed by in the blink of an eye and New Year’s Eve had arrived.
A banquet would be held at the Palace that evening and anyone of royal blood and relations and senior officials was obligated to attend; this included Xiao Zhige and An Chang Qing.
Because they could not spend New Year’s Eve at home, An Chang Qing arranged for the reunion celebration to be carried out at noon. There were An Chang Qing and Xiao Zhige, Lady Yu and An Xian Yu, along with Zhou He Lan and his mother, that made six people in total.
The kitchen had prepared many dishes but since there were only a few of them, they sat together at one table to have the reunion meal together.
The servants who had been busy all year round were also given their rewards and a small banquet, giving the usually solemn manor a breath of liveliness.
In the evening, An Chang Qing put on a ceremonial robe and left for the Palace with Xiao Zhige.
The number of people entering the Palace on this day wasn’t small. Many were royal relatives and imperial court officials who An Chang Qing was not familiar with. When the carriage arrived at the Inner Palace gates, the people waiting in line to enter moved aside and bowed as they saw Xiao Zhige and An Chang Qing alighting.
Even on this festive day, there was not a hint of joy on Xiao Zhige’s face. It was An Chang Qing who smiled and greeted the officials and their families, “Are you all waiting for the sedan to the Inner Palace?”
The people present had only heard the big name of the Northern Warlord’s Wangfei but had yet to meet him in person. Laying eyes on An Chang Qing for the first time, they did not know how to react.
A moment of silence entailed before someone finally spoke, “That’s right. But one has just left, I’m afraid we’ll have to wait a little.”
After answering, no one spoke again. They stood silently to the side while An Chang Qing and Xiao Zhige stood in the center. Seeing this, An Chang Qing did not want to bother them. He stood next to Xiao Zhige and enquired in whispers the identities of those people.
He had seen the list of officials who would be present but as he had never met them before, he couldn’t match their faces to the names.
The silent crowd watched as the never-smiling Northern Warlord lowered his head and whispered to his Wangfei. They looked at each other with skepticism in their eyes.
After waiting for half an hour, the sedan finally came. The crowd respectfully let them go first and Xiao Zhige thankfully nodded. They saw An Chang Qing boarding the sedan while Xiao Zhige looked around before turning back to his carriage and retrieving a hand warmer.
Next, they saw him lift the curtain of the sedan and hand the warmer to An Chang Qing while speaking gently, “Take this to warm your hands.”
An Chang Qing took the hand warmer and smiled at him. He then urged him to get on the sedan. It was hard not to see the intimacy in their words.
The wife of Nobleman Xiao cast her husband a look, “I find Wangye very considerate. Indeed a pair of newlyweds, unlike an old couple like us. I’ve been standing in the cold for so long but nobody even bothered to ask me how I’m doing.”
Nobleman Xiao Wen’s face turned red, “You…”
Madame Xiao rolled her eyes. She pulled her skirt and walked towards the sedan, “Let’s go.”