Edited and Proofread by KitKat
Li Hai Yun’s right hand was wrapped in a bandage that hung around his neck, making him look haggard. An Chang Qing entered the guest hall and was quite surprised when he saw him. He had heard that the two had had a squabble but hadn’t expected it to be this serious.
Seeing An Chang Qing, Li Hai Yun immediately stood up. He bowed deeply and apologized, “I’ve implicated Wangfei. Were you admonished by Wangye due to last night’s misunderstanding?”
He carefully studied An Chang Qing and was relieved that he did not seem to be hurt in any way.
An Chang Qing saw that Li Hai Yun’s attitude was quite genuine and the skepticism from before subsided. This cousin seemed to have different virtues compared to Madame Li’s. An Chang Qing decided to treat him with a little more sincerity.
“What happened? I heard that cousin had a dispute with my big brother.”
“Sure enough, fortunate news does not leave the door but bad news travels thousands of miles.” Li Hai Yun smiled bitterly and said, “To tell Wangfei the truth, this matter also had something to do with the misunderstanding last night. I had a little too much to drink and it was my cousin An Chang Yu who had urged me to seek out Wangfei, claiming that he would keep an eye out for me. After Wangfei had cleared up the misunderstanding, I had wanted to find An Chang Yu to have another drink but he was nowhere to be found. Having woken up, I believed he might’ve manipulated me into finding you and let Wangye witness the scene that would’ve consequently doomed the both of us.”
“I went back and questioned him about this and he actually admitted it.” Li Hai Yun showed a woeful expression, “I lost my cool and hit him on an impulse.”
An Chang Qing was surprised, “It’s natural that my eldest brother hates me and wants my demise, but targeting you…”
Li Hai Yun said depressingly, “Because of my achievements, Uncle had frequently admonished him for coming up short. He seemed to have found me an eyesore for a long time. Sadly, he was presented with an opportunity last night…”
He had regarded this cousin as a close friend. Whether it was the time he had achieved his top scholar title or when he had failed to take the imperial exams, Li Hai Yun had poured his heart out to him. And An Chang Yu had always been a reliable elder brother who would comfort him. But to think he had borne malice towards him for such a long time….
“Then what’s the matter with the Old Matriarch?”
An Chang Qing remembered that the Old Matriarch had always been in good health and had managed to live till the age of seventy before passing away.
“It was my fight with An Chang Yu that drew the attention of my aunt, uncle and the Grand Matriarch. I told them about what happened; not only did they not reprimand An Chang Yu, they even blamed you for destroying our kinship. Of course I couldn’t accept it and said that I’ll report this matter to my father. This infuriated my aunt and the Grand Matriarch and they scolded me for being disrespectful. I couldn’t help but argue back, making the Grand Matriarch collapse due to anger.”
Li Hai Yun was looking rather upset, “I had always thought that my aunt was a person of principles. I couldn’t believe that she would side with my cousin instead of reason. He had clearly wanted to frame Wangfei and me but my aunt pushed all the blame on you… this is very disconcerting. No matter what, I’ll have to tell my father everything.”
An Chang Qing did not expect there was more to this. However, he was not surprised with the An family’s perception of him. After all, from a young age, he had rarely done anything right in their eyes. As such, he was not angered by this. Instead, he turned to Li Hai Yun and asked, “You’ve fallen out with the An family, where would you live in the future?”
Li Hai Yun replied, “My father’s magistrateship in Chang Yang was due. Since he was going to return to Yejing, we might as well make the move now. I can settle in the new house in a few days.”
“I came to seek an audience today as I was worried that yesterday’s incident would cause Wangfei to be implicated. I wanted to clarify in person but it seems that Wangfei is all right. I won’t disturb you further, I’ll take my leave now.”
After bowing, he added, “Consider this a debt I owed Wangfei. If you ever need anything in the future, just say the words.”
His words were sincere and An Chang Qing did not refuse. They talked a little longer before An Chang Qing had Steward Wang send him out.
When Xiao Zhige returned, he happened to run into Li Hai Yun leaving.
Li Hai Yun came forward to salute. He wanted to say a few words about yesterday’s misunderstandings to Xiao Zhige but on second thought, since An Chang Qing seemed to have completely cast the matter aside, he words might be unnecessary. He decided to stand aside and waited for Xiao Zhige to pass before leaving.
Xiao Zhige’s face was turning black as he glared at Li Hai Yun. When he saw An Chang Qing in the hall, his sight fell on the second teacup on the table and knew that An Chang Qing had been hosting Li Hai Yun. He said, “I saw Li Hai Yun at the gate. Why did he come?”
“He came to apologize for yesterday’s misunderstanding.”
An Chang Qing then told Xiao Zhige about the An family’s farce and An Chang Yu’s ill-natured plot. Xiao Zhige’s eyebrows tightened as he listened, “Your father is highly skilled at scheming in matters of the court but he failed to govern his family well. His two sons take after him but lack talent, only swarming about like flies.”
This was the first time An Chang Qing heard Xiao Zhige condemn someone. After his initial surprise was the urge to tease him, “What about the remaining son? Minister An has a total of three sons.”
Xiao Zhige looked at him and said earnestly, “The Third Young Master takes after his mother. There’s no doubt that he is excellent.”
An Chang Qing sniggered, thinking how this quiet person rarely knew how to flatter others but once he did, it was incredibly effective, even his mother was included in the flattery.
Xiao Zhige knew not why An Chang Qing was laughing but seeing his smile, his brows slightly eased. “Li Hai Yun’s father will be transferred back to Yejing, most likely with the promotion to Deputy Chief of Taifu Temple. The Taifu temple is in charge of the country’s grains, taxes and expenditures, and most importantly, the treasury. A highly influential position. The Crown Prince and third prince will do everything to try to win him over. To avoid suspicions, it is better to keep a distance.”
An Chang Qing responded with an ‘oh’ and grinned at him, “Wangye is trying to avoid suspicion or does not want me to come in contact with Li Hai Yun?”
Xiao Zhige stiffened and only answered moments later, “…. I don’t like him.”
An Chang Qing’s smile widened. He said with a big grin, “Since Wangye doesn’t like him, then I will have as little contact with him as possible.”
Xiao Zhige responded lightly with an ‘en’.
An Chang Qing stopped talking about Li Hai Yun and changed the topic, “Mother and Yu’er will move out two days later. The workers employed for them are all from the village. I wanted to talk to Wangye about transferring a few bodyguards from the mansion to look after them.”
“You are fully in charge of such matters. You don’t have to report it to me.” Xiao Zhige then gave An Chang Qing a deep look, “I have something to tell you.”
“Hm? What is it?” An Chang Qing’s eyes turned inquisitive.
“It’s not convenient to speak here.” Xiao Zhige then led him back to their courtyard. After entering their room and closing the door and windows, Xiao Zhige took out the guide written by Hu Shifei and the readily bought ointment with a few small jade rods and placed them on the table.
“This is a fitness guide that I was given by the doctor. I’ve also prepared the necessary items. You should do these exercises everyday to keep your body strong.”
“???” An Chang Qing was a little confused. He picked up the prescription and after glancing through the contents, his face turned red and he instantly threw the paper back on the table like a hot potato. “What’s the purpose of doing this?”
“You’re a man and it is not aligned with the principles of yin and yang. You need to look after your body to prevent injuries.” Xiao Zhige spoke with utmost seriousness, almost like he was talking about an important military maneuver.
Looking at the items on the table, An Chang Qing secretly cursed in his head. He quickly read the prescription one more time before tossing it and everything else on the table into the second drawer of the cabinet by the bed.
Xiao Zhige was still anxious and reminded him, “Do it according to the guide everyday. Only after you’re well can we consummate our marriage.”
An Chang Qing heard his words and his brain swelled. He blushed with embarrassment and stared at Xiao Zhige and spat, “Who wants to do that with you?!” He then pushed open the door and ran out.
Being left behind, Xiao Zhige was at a loss. Clearly yesterday he had said that he wanted it, why did it change today…
By the time the New Year festivities ended, it was already halfway through the first lunar month. The remaining half came and went in the blink of an eye. Very soon, it was already the eighth of the second lunar month, ushering in the end of hibernation as flowers bloomed to welcome the spring.
This time last year, the ice and snow had melted and light spring showers took their place. Foliage had begun to thrive, filling the land with greenery. The quiet streets and cold alleys had been bustling in preparation for the Flower Festival.
But this year, the winter had stayed and there were no signs of spring. Even the layer of snow on the buildings refused to melt away.
An Chang Qing sat by the brazier and looked at the snow covered roofs in the distance and knew that this was playing out just like it had in his previous life.
Xiao Zhige had previously gone to the Palace to beseech Emperor An Qing into issuing warnings to the people to prepare for the cold and refrain from leaving their houses. However, Emperor An Qing had the Imperial Priest make a divination on the spot and proclaimed that the snow would lift in a few days and spring would follow, discrediting the eccentric Taoist priest for spouting nonsense.
Emperor An Qing had reprimanded Xiao Zhige and turned down his suggestion.
An Chang Qing heard the news and was quite disheartened. He felt that since everything had been predestined, the disaster from his previous life could not be warded off after all.
Xiao Zhige tried to comfort him, saying that the items they had hoarded to stave off the winter would be able to save a lot of people. If the situation was as serious as he had said, he would find another way to make the court listen.
An Chang Qing had listened to his words, feeling relieved as he thought of the clothes, grains and coal piled up in the warehouses.
Now, it was clearly springtime but the temperature continued to drop day after day. An Chang Qing was worried for his mother and sister living outside and sent more food and coal to their new residence. In the afternoon when the servants who had gone to deliver the items came back, hailstones suddenly began to fall from the sky.
One by one, the pebble size hail fell repeatedly, tearing down weaker tiles on the roofs.
An Chang Qing was relieved when he saw the servants taking shelter under the roof that he had previously prepared for them.
The memories of this event were too far off. He could remember that the snow disaster began with a hail but could not remember the day on which it would happen. He had been anxiously preparing for this day since the start of the second lunar month.
The pounding hail lasted for nearly two hours and what followed was a heavy blizzard accompanied by powerful roaring winds. An Chang Qing had long since instructed for roofs of the Wang Manor to be repaired and reinforced to withstand the hail but this was not the case for the rest of the houses in Yejing.
At this time, the streets outside were in chaos.
Several weak houses had their entire roofs collapse. Many homeowners were trying desperately to repair them. Many were also injured in the sudden hailstorm and were currently holing up at Yejing’s clinics to seek treatment.
Meanwhile at the back Palace, Emperor An Qing was furious. He demanded for the Imperial Priest to be punished and summoned Xiao Zhige into the Palace.