Edited and Proofread by KitKat
The youth hung his head low. He was filled with regrets for not remembering the past.
He kept his eyes down and explained dejectedly, “I fell into the water when I was ten and had a high fever. After that, I lost part of my memories. I didn’t mean to forget…”
An Chang Qing was deeply aggrieved. Such a precious past and yet, he could not remember, leaving only Xiao Zhige to carry out that promise from many years ago. An Chang Qing was stricken with guilt, feeling like he had left the nine-year old Xiao Zhige behind.
In this life, they had managed to clear this up but what about the previous life?
He had never given a serious thought as to why even though they had never met, Xiao Zhige had always been particular towards him. From marrying him into the Wang Manor to making him his Empress despite the vigorous injunctions from the court, Xiao Zhige had been determined to give him a position that no one could trample upon.
In the many years they were apart, Xiao Zhige had fulfilled their promise but to An Chang Qing, it could be considered a non-existent past and he had heartlessly swatted away his husband’s outstretched hand.
And so, they had lived with one person keeping quiet and the other keeping away, missing out on each other and eventually, met a miserable ending.
An Chang Qing felt a throbbing pain in his heart. Like a spider’s web, it gradually spread and he had to clench his hands to relieve the pain.
As An Chang Qing was drowning in guilt from his ignorance of his previous life, a large and warm hand gently fell on his head and began stroking.
“It’s ok, I remember everything. Whatever you want to know, I’ll tell you,” Xiao Zhige said softly.
In truth, there was not much to tell. The hunting expedition lasted no more than 15 days and the two had only spent 10 days together. As two unfavored children, there were no fancy toys to play with or activities to attend to so they had stayed in Xiao Zhige’s room to share desserts and tell each other stories they had heard from their mothers.
Happy times did not last long but it had been enough to soothe the soul.
For Xiao Zhige, that had been the last 15 peaceful days of his life. After his mother’s death, he struggled alone in a soul-crushing environment and after countless taxing endeavors, he had come to miss the simple and peaceful days.
Chang Zai Cang used to express disdain over his passiveness. “You’re the Northern Warlord, when have you ever been such a coward? If you really like him, then go and bring him back. An Zhi Ke wouldn’t dare to refuse. After all, he doesn’t even like this son.”
Chang Zai Cang’s words sounded simple but it weighed heavily in Xiao Zhige’s mind.
After many years apart, he had become the rumored blood-thirsty and tyrannical Northern Warlord while, although unfavored, An Chang Qing had remained pure and innocent.
He had dearly missed their time together but had also been fully aware that growing up, each would have their own share of experiences and even the closest of friends would have to go their separate ways. Furthermore, they had only been together for half a month and An Chang Qing had already clearly forgotten about this period of time.
Xiao Zhige did not want to destroy the peaceful memories he had had with An Chang Qing so he could only watch him from afar, giving him a helping hand whenever he could. If it weren’t for the Empress trying to interfere with his marriage as he came of age, Xiao Zhige would not have impulsively given in to his obsession and asked the Empress Dowager for permission to marry An Chang Qing.
Before the wedding, Xiao Zhige had always regretted getting An Chang Qing involved due to his moment of weakness. Looking at the person in front of him, Xiao Zhige felt blessed that things had turned out this way.
Luckily… luckily, An Chang Qing had never changed.
“It’s been so long, do you still remember everything?” An Chang Qing finally looked up at him and asked.
How could Xiao Zhige not remember?
The happy memories that Xiao Zhige had were too scarce but they were the salvation that had gotten him through those dark years of struggles and bloodshed.
“I have a good memory,” Xiao Zhige said to An Chang Qing fondly.
And so, on that day, under the warm sunlight, An Chang Qing sat and listened to Xiao Zhige’s retelling of their childhood memories.
Although An Chang Qing had forgotten, Xiao Zhige’s every word gave him a sense of familiarity.
Xiao Zhige told him of the time when he had been injured fighting off the bullies for him, the little An Chang Qing had squatted in front of him with misty red eyes and puffed cheeks, blowing softly over his wound and had said, “Nuo Nuo will blow and the pain will fly away.”
At this point, Xiao Zhige turned to look at An Chang Qing and saw the brilliant sparks in his eyes, “That’s how my mother used to coax me.”
This simple sentence, the small An Chang Qing had learned by heart to comfort the young Xiao Zhige.
Xiao Zhige’s eyes softened. He weaved his fingers in between An Chang Qing’s and held them together, “See, you actually remembered.”
An Chang Qing looked at him and smiled, “Wangye, tell me more, maybe I’ll be able to remember everything.”
Xiao Zhige complied while he lifted An Chang Qing and carried him back to their room.
The next day, An Chang Qing and Xiao Zhige set out together for Liangzhou.
That morning, An Chang Qing was a little muddled when he was woken up. He thought that Xiao Zhige would also be going alone this time since it involved talks between two nations and bringing along a family member was unconventional. He was reluctant but not wanting to make things difficult for Xiao Zhige, An Chang Qing had not brought it up.
It was only after Xiao Zhige had asked him why he was not changing attire that he knew that Xiao Zhige had always planned for him to come along.
Xiao Zhige saw him in a daze and seemed to realize something, “I forgot to tell you but there won’t be any dangers on this trip. Aren’t you interested in jade? I’ll take you to the mine for you to pick out some good pieces.”
When An Chang Qing heard this, he smiled and went to change his clothes delightedly.
The two then left the manor together.
Because the situation with the Xi Wei Empire was quite pressing, the trip to Liangzhou had to be made in haste which required some horsemanship. However, An Chang Qing had yet to learn any equestrian skills and taking the carriage would cause drastic delays to the trip.
An Chang Qing was about to suggest staying behind when he saw Xiao Zhige leading a majestic black horse towards him. The divine looking steed was covered with shiny pitch-black fur except for its eyebrows and four sturdy hooves.
Xiao Zhige adjusted the reins while stroking the horse’s mane, calming it down. He then introduced the horse to An Chang Qing, “This is Ta Xue.”
Ta Xue wagged its tail and trotted towards An Chang Qing. It lowered its head and rubbed against An Chang Qing who was a little astonished.
“He likes you,” Xiao Zhige reassured.
An Chang Qing reached out to touch Ta Xue’s nose and the horse fondly let him do so. As a General, Xiao Zhige owned several war horses which he kept in the manor but An Chang Qing had never seen any of them.
Seeing that An Chang Qing had gotten familiar with Ta Xue, Xiao Zhige mounted the horse and held out his hand towards An Chang Qing, “The road to Liangzhou can be quite harsh.”
“I can handle it.” An Chang Qing took his hand and was pulled onto Ta Xue where he sat securely in front of Xiao Zhige.
Xiao Zhige smiled, “Then let us go. Sit tight.”
Xiao Zhige tapped Ta Xue’s belly with his feet and the horse carried them out of the manor swift as the wind.
Ta Xue was originally the leader of a herd of wild horses that Xiao Zhige captured from the Northern Desert. It took a lot of effort for him to finally tame this kingly beast. Since then, Ta Xue had been with him through thick and thin. Other than Xiao Zhige, Ta Xue had always been aggressive towards everyone else.
Chang Zai Cang had always been envious of this but sadly, Ta Xue would not even let him get close.
Watching the steed obediently carrying the pair away, Chang Zai Cang felt that he really should not have made this trip to see Xiao Zhige.
He pulled the reins of his horse and shouted at the soldiers who were still in daze, “What are you still looking at? Hurry up and follow!”
The trip to Liangzhou would take a whole day on horseback. Along the way were deserts and sand dunes with very few villages in between for rest stops. Fortunately, it was already springtime and the sparse greenery added a little life to their trip.
At nighttime, the group found a sheltered location to rest.
This was An Chang Qing’s first experience in the wilderness. Although his body was sore from the horse ride, he was still in high spirits, helping to gather dead wood and grass for the campfire.
And since Ta Xue had been born in the wild, it had gone off to find its own food.
The others went to hunt for food, leaving Xiao Zhige to stay with Chang Zai Cang.
Xiao Zhige looked at his sweetheart not far away and unconsciously smiled. Chang Zai Cang sitting opposite of him saw this and complained, “Can you stop smiling? It’s quite scary.”
Xiao Zhige turned and gave him a standoffish stare before shifting his gaze back to An Chang Qing.
Chang Zai Cang was unfazed and began to mock Xiao Zhige, “Look at you, being all smitten by a kid.”
Although he had always known that Xiao Zhige had a crush on a man, he did not think that it had been to the point of marrying him back to become his Wangfei. And looking at him now, this affection had reached the point of no return. The guy even had to bring his spouse along when discussing state affairs.
Xiao Zhige said to him with indifference, “You’re not young anymore, it’s time to get married so you don’t have to be jealous of other people’s relationships.”
Chang Zai Cang, “…”
An Chang Qing had just finished gathering a bundle of twigs when he saw Xiao Zhige coming over. Xiao Zhige took over the load and put it aside. “Would you like to take a walk?”
“Now?” An Chang Qing looked up at the dark sky with some concern. The moon and stars were already out.
“En.” Xiao Zhige made a sharp whistle and moments later, Ta Xue’s hooves could be heard. Seconds later, the horse had reached their side like the wind.
The pair got on and galloped off into the distance.
Chang Zai Cang, who was cruelly left behind, scolded Xiao Zhige, “Love has turned you into a fool!”