Chapter 62

Edited and Proofread by KitKat

Xie Ling left Suzhou’s General’s Manor and traveled for half a day before arriving at Kangyong County.

Kangyong County was now occupied by the Common Man’s Army. Because it was surrounded by mountains and rivers, there were only three traversable paths, all of which were heavily guarded by the people who had joined the rebellion. Members of the rebellion identified themselves using a piece of blue cloth tied around their waist. Most of them either carried a hoe or ax as weapons. Although they all seemed amped up, to Xie Ling who had been fighting the Beidi Army for many years, they looked rather foolhardy.

The might of this Common Man’s Army solely depended on numbers. But the larger the army, the more weapons and armor they’d need. It was impossible to fight all of Da Ye’s troops with the sole mentality of not fearing death. That was simply a mantis trying to stop a chariot.

No wonder Xiao Zhige had sent him here.

Not to mention the Third Prince, if Shen Tu Xu hadn’t been merciful towards them, the Suzhou army could easily disassemble this gathering. 

Xie Ling stopped his horse at a junction towards the main road. He scanned the area and not long after, was approached by a watchman holding two axes.

“Who are you? You can’t stay here! Hurry up and leave!”

Xie Ling was relieved to see that although the watchman bore a menacing attitude, he had no intention of attacking innocent people. He dismounted and introduced himself, “I am Xie Ling, I’ve come to take refuge. Please take me to meet the leader.”

The man was suspicious at first but seeing that he was alone, decided to let him in after some deliberation. He notified his colleague and motioned to Xie Ling, “Wait here. I’ll go to consult our leader.”


The two brothers who led the rebellion had been motherless from a young age. When they got older, their father fell ill and needed medication to stay alive. To earn money, the elder brother had learned butchery to support the family while the more intelligent younger brother had studied from the village professor. 

Initially, the family was looking forward to sending the younger brother off for the Imperial Exams when the snow storm hit. It took a lot from them to pull through the disaster but unfortunately, shortly after, the county magistrate came and demanded payment. On top of that, each family was forced to send one person to work on the construction of the pagoda.

Within their family, only the elder brother was fit for such strenuous labor but he was also the breadwinner of the family and, without him, their livelihood would be lost. 

With no other choice, their sickly father had begged the officials to let his eldest son stay in exchange for money. But the officials had been merciless. They had kicked him aside and caused him to hit his head against the wall. The father had then died on the spot. 

The elder brother heard the news of his father’s death and immediately ran home. After he had buried his father, he gathered the villagers and went to find the officials who had killed his father. He took his revenge by hanging their corpses at the village gate. Seeing this, the quick-witted younger brother proposed that they might as well band together and revolt since that seemed to be the only way to survive. 

And so, as the hatred for the local officials increased, more and more people had come to join their cause.

Because the elder brother was powerful and the younger brother was persuasive, the villagers had unanimously established them as their leaders. 

When they heard that someone named Xie Ling was requesting an audience, the brothers looked at each other in befuddlement. Even among the flow of people wanting to join their cause, only a handful had wanted to meet them. Furthermore, with the news that the Third Prince had been sent to subjugate the rebellion, they couldn’t help but raise their guard.


The younger brother considered briefly and said, “Let him in. There’s only one of him, we don’t have to fear.”

Xie Ling led his horse along as he followed the guide into Kangyong county’s courthouse which the two brothers had taken over.

He entered the hall and saw two young men in their twenties sitting next to each other. One with a strong and frightening appearance and the other rather delicate and mellow. They must be the pair of siblings leading the rebellion.

Xie Ling stepped forward and introduced himself, “I am Yanzhou’s Lieutenant, Xie Ling. Greetings to the two leaders.”

Once the younger brother heard his words, he looked at him with surprise and panic, “Yanzhou? You’re under the Northern Warlord’s command?”

Xie Ling nodded, “That is correct. The General has sent me to discuss matters of great importance with you both if you would hear me out.”

The elder brother was uneducated but the Northern Warlord’s reputation was not alien to him: the God of War who could not be defeated by any means. 

He tried to put on an expression of indifference but couldn’t help turning to look at his younger brother. The younger brother coughed lightly and sent the guard away. He then led Xie Ling to the study.

After knowing Xie Ling’s identity, the brothers were much more respectful. Although Xiao Zhige had a bad reputation, many people in the northern parts looked up to him for his years of effort in driving away the Beidi people and keeping them safe. 

During their talk, Xie Ling checked them out and believed that they were not power-hungry individuals who had used the people’s suffering for their own gain. And thus, he told them about the Third Prince’s plot and Xiao Zhige’s plan for them.

After listening to his words, the elder brother swore loudly but was stopped by his younger brother. As a learned person, the second brother showed a better temperament, “How do we know that what Lieutenant Xie speaks of is the truth? You do serve the court after all.”

Xie Ling responded, “If you refuse to believe me, I can only have my people spread this news. By right, this should have nothing to do with Yanzhou. However, the General could not bear to see the people of Da Ye die in vain so he had sent me to warn you. Furthermore, do you two really think that the troops of this county are incapable of stomping out this poorly equipped army?”

Xie Ling’s words were hard to hear. The elder brother was disgruntled but the younger brother was not perturbed. This was an issue he had been worrying about since the beginning.

“General Shen Tu Xu is benevolent and cares for his troops. He did not want his soldiers to have to fight their relatives which is why he had been staying on the defensive. It was not that he dared not fight but because he did not want to.”  Xie Ling continued, “But when push comes to shove, if the Third Prince arrives and gives the order to attack, he will have no choice but to fight. When that time comes, Kangyong County will fall and countless lives will be lost. Is this what the two of you want?”

The younger brother contemplated and sadly, had to agree with Xie Ling, “Lieutenant Xie is right. But if we agree to withdraw peacefully, how can we ensure the safety of these villagers? They are really at their wits end, that’s why they have joined us.”

Xie Ling replied, “If you two are willing to cooperate with us, the General will fight to ensure the safety of these people.”

The elder brother was swayed by Xie Ling’s words. Seeing that his brother was still hesitant, he said, “We brothers have no families or relatives. If we die, then so be it! However, we cannot implicate the young and old who have come under us.”

The younger brother agreed, “We are willing to cooperate with you. Please do not break your promise.”

Seeing that they actually cared for their countrymen, Xie Ling was beginning to feel some respect towards them. He handed them a token and some identification prepared by Xiao Zhige and explained, “If everything goes according to plan, once you hear the rumors being spread that the Third Prince is planning to poison the river, seek refuge with General Shen Tu Xu under the guise of surrendering. After that, we will have made arrangements for you and your people to be transported along the borders of Xi Wei heading to Liangzhou where you will enter as immigrants.”

By the time Xie Ling had finished relaying the plan, the sky had turned dark. The Third Prince could arrive any time; It was best that he did not stay in Suzhou any longer. He quickly sent a letter to Xiao Zhige and left in the cover of night.


When the Third Prince arrogantly brought his troops to Suzhou, Shen Tu Xu personally brought his men to welcome him.

The Third Prince greeted him with a kind expression and friendly attitude. Having seen his courtesy, Shen Tu Xu did not want to believe that he was capable of coming up with the idea to poison the river.

He led the Third Prince’s group into the manor and held a brief meeting. The Third Prince sat in the head seat sipping his tea while the people in the room took turns to voice their opinions. After everyone had spoken, the Third Prince calmly interjected, “Your ideas are not bad but I have a better way to solve this.”

Shen Tu Xu heard this and felt a sense of dread. He listened in consternation as the Third Prince spoke with a straight face on killing thousands with poison. 

The other generals looked unsure but none were ready to refute. Shen Tu Xu clenched his fists. After a short hesitation, he stood up and said, “Your Highness’s strategy is indeed clever … however…”

The Third Prince raised his brows and beckoned for him to continue.

“The day before, there was a Taoist Priest in the rebellion’s army who foretold that Your Highness will be using this strategy. By now, not only the rebels but almost everyone in Suzhou is aware of this. If we insist on carrying out this plan, I’m afraid they’d already found ways to counter…”

“That’s impossible!” The Third Prince glared at him. He then narrowed his eyes and put on a misgiving expression. Other than Father and Master Liao, he did not disclose this to anyone else. How could it possibly leak?

Shen Tu Xu continued to persuade, “This has spread to all corners of the city. You can even ask  the children and they will tell you.

The Third Prince had now lost his composure. He sat back and declared, “If you can’t poison them then simply take them by force! It’s only a bunch of villagers, nothing to be afraid of!”

“This…” Shen Tu Xu hesitated and said, “But the two leaders of the Common Man’s Army heard of Your Highness’s deployment and have already fled. Last night, someone from their camp came to announce their surrender.”

The Third Prince was speechless.

The Third Prince gritted his teeth and snapped at Shen Tu Xu, “Anything else? Why don’t you just say it all at once!” 

This time, Shen Tu Xu answered with speed, “I have nothing else to report.”

The Third Prince gnashed his teeth in anger. His plan to poison them couldn’t be carried out and now, he couldn’t even attack them if he wanted to. He lashed out, “I’ll write back to seek father’s advice. Since they dared to revolt, even if they surrender, we can’t let them off this easily!”



After Xie Ling rushed back to Yanzhou, he immediately went to the General’s Manor to report to Xiao Zhige. 

Xiao Zhige heaved a sigh of relief upon hearing the news and smiled, “Next is all up to Minister Li’s abilities.”

Xie Ling thought of the last step in the plan and couldn’t help but feel happy, “The General is truly brilliant. If those people can arrive in Yanzhou safely, it’ll be perfect.”

Yanzhou had always had a sparse population with all the death tolls due to the years of war. If Xiao Zhige’s plan was carried out smoothly, the rebels who had no place to go could help to repopulate the city.

“Let’s wait for the response from Yejing. It shouldn’t be long.” Xiao Zhige looked at Xie Ling’s sooty appearance and said, “Go back and rest up. I have to tell Wangfei the news, he’s been worried about this for several days now.”

Xie Ling understood that that was his cue to leave. He saluted and left promptly.

Xiao Zhige went off to find An Chang Qing.

In the past few days, An Chang Qing had not been sleeping well. An Fu had tried to help him sleep by cooking some somniferous soup but An Chang Qing had vomited it out after taking a small sip. Hu Shifei was asked to take his pulse but found that nothing was wrong. For him to get some shut eye, Xiao Zhige had to soothe him until late into the night.

When Xiao Zhige found him, An Chang Qing was reading under a pavilion in the courtyard.

Since he was neither able to sleep at night nor day, An Chang Qing went through the books he had read before to find if there was anything that could be useful to Xiao Zhige.

“Reading again?”

Xiao Zhige sat down beside him and filled up the teacup on the table.

An Chang Qing let out an “en”. Although he was looking slightly pale, he pointed in high spirit to Xiao Zhige a paragraph in the book he was reading, “I was about to go find you. Wangye, have a look at this.”

Xiao Zhige took over the book from An Chang Qing and found that it was an exploration journal. The part An Chang Qing was pointing out was an interesting story that the author had happened to witness: 

One day, I met a street performer who placed serpentine and stones into a bamboo tube and was able to shoot it five steps away. He repeated the act but accidentally added too much serpentine. It ended up injuring many passersby and he was arrested.

When An Chang Qing read this before, he only felt amusement. Now that he read it again, he found that it held great prospects.

If a little serpentine in a small bamboo tube could easily hurt people, then what about a larger quantity of serpentine and the stones changed to something else? Couldn’t they create a weapon which could help them defend the city?

It’s just that An Chang Qing was not familiar with weaponry so he sought Xiao Zhige to have a look.

Xiao Zhige mulled over this passage for a long time. He laughed suddenly and grabbed An Chang Qing’s hand. “Nuo Nuo is really my lucky star.”

An Chang Qing was a little embarrassed. He pulled away his hand, took back the book and pretended to flip through it, “What nonsense are you talking about again?”

Xiao Zhige shook his head and spoke in earnest, “Nuo Nuo doesn’t know this but according to some of the First Emperor’s records, there were several mentions of weapons made of serpentine.” 

Unfortunately, the First Emperor had not managed to develop it during his reign and the subsequent emperors had failed to inherit his insight. Now that An Chang Qing was able to discover this, Xiao Zhige believed it would warrant great results. If successful, Yanzhou would gain a formidable weapon.

Not expecting that he was of some help, An Chang Qing’s face lit up with excitement, “Really?”

Xiao Zhige nodded, “Tomorrow I will gather the military’s craftsmen and have them prepare the experiments.”

After speaking, Xiao Zhige was pleased to report to An Chang Qing, “There’s another good news. The poisoning incident has been resolved. If everything goes according to plan, the ten thousand rebels from Suzhou will be sent to Yanzhou.”

Xiao Zhige rubbed An Chang Qing’s head and comforted him in a warm voice, “Nuo Nuo can sleep in peace now.”

An Chang Qing muttered in refute, “It wasn’t entirely because I was worried about this. I simply can’t fall asleep.”

Xiao Zhige did not want to disagree with him and sensibly dropped the topic. He whispered softly to An Chang Qing, “It’s ok. Hu Shifei has concocted a special lubricant. I’m sure I’ll be able to help Nuo Nuo sleep well tonight.”

An Chang Qing glared at him with red ears and silently scolded the hooligan in his heart!


Chapter 61

Edited and Proofread by KitKat

It is said that whatever’s in your thoughts during the day will come back to you in your dreams.

That night, An Chang Qing dreamt about his last life. There were many things that he had forgotten and the dream this time was like a reminder. He could clearly tell that he was dreaming.

In the dream, Xiao Zhige was still in Yanzhou and he was left alone in the Wang Manor. He was reading in the study when he heard the servants chatting idly outside. Back then, the servants were careless and inattentive towards him but An Chang Qing did not care. He continued to read until soft sobs were heard some distance away.

He followed the sound and found that it was a young maid crying, covering her face when she spoke, “So many… so many have died. My hometown is near Sishui River. No one dares to deliver my letter. I don’t know if my family is still alive…”

Two other maids said nervously, “Do you want to die! Steward Wang specifically told us not to talk about this!”

The crying maid became furious, “There are thousands of people living in the Sishui area. Not everybody has joined the rebellion but the Third Prince has poisoned them indiscriminately! And now we can’t even talk about it!”

“Stop talking!” Another maid covered her mouth and looked around with vigilance, “His Majesty has declared that everyone in the Sishui area belong to the Common Man’s Army and… they all deserve their deaths.”

“… If your family is really in the Sishui area… we can only mourn for them in secret.”

The young maid could only cry in despair…

An Chang Qing knew he was in a dream and tried to wake up but instead, he was warped to somewhere else.

He was standing inconspicuously in a bookstore picking out some reading materials. Nearby were some scholars speaking in whispers.

“They say the Third Prince was assassinated by the rebels. Do you think it’s true? Some people said it was actually The Northern Warlord who did it.”

Another scholar looked around and said in a low voice, “It’s got nothing to do with the Northern Warlord. The way I see it, it’s retribution.”

“How so?” 


The scholar gave a disgusted look and elaborated, “Do you remember the uprising two years ago? My family lived not too far from the Sishui area. To wipe out the rebellions, the Third Prince poured poison into the upstream of the Sishui River. The rebellion army drank from the river water and fell seriously ill. The Third Prince took advantage of this and massacred everyone in the Sishui area.”

One scholar said, “This method was absolutely cold hearted.”

Someone else said, “All is fair in war. It’s excusable given the circumstance.”

“Excusable?” The scholar from before sneered, “You only say that because you don’t know the other half of the story. The Sishui River doesn’t end in Suzhou, it branches out and extends across the southern provinces. The Third Prince pouring poison into the river not only killed the rebels but also polluted it along with the soil. The crops harvested were infected with poison, causing many people living along the lower reaches of the Sishui River to fall fatally ill!”

He continued with indignation in his voice, “Later when the court found out about this, instead of providing aid, the higher ups decreed that these people had supported the rebellion. Troops were sent to round them up for beatings guised as interrogations. The villagers were either killed by the poison or beaten to death by the soldiers. In half a month, the Sishui River banks were lined with corpses. If my family hadn’t managed to escape, we would’ve been killed as well!”

A scholar listening to him said with doubts, “Did you make this up? How come we’ve never heard about this?”

“These were orders from above. Anyone who dared to speak of it was beheaded. Nevermind if you don’t believe me but the Third Prince dying at the hands of the rebels is his retribution!”

Sishui… the rebellion army…

An Chang Qing woke violently from his dream. He sat up with a forehead drenched with sweat.

He finally remembered. No wonder the word Sishui sounded so familiar. It was referring to the Sishui rebellion!

“What’s wrong? A nightmare?” Xiao Zhige was woken up by the sounds. He saw An Chang Qing dripping with sweat and hurriedly took a handkerchief to wipe his forehead. 

An Chang Qing was still partially trapped in the dream. His eyes were unfocused and seemed as though he was in a trance.

Xiao Zhige got up and opened the window for ventilation when he heard An Chang Qing speak, “I had another dream. Something big will happen in the Sishui area.”

Xiao Zhige saw the look in his eyes and knew it was not something trivial. He poured him a cup of water and stroked his back, “Calm down, speak slowly.”

An Chang Qing took a sip of water. He tried to calm the surging emotions and said, “I dreamt that to wipe out the rebellions, the Third Prince poisoned the upper reaches of the Sishui River. Those affected were not just the rebels but also the commoners living further downstream…”

An Chang Qing had now fully recalled this event. After hearing the murmurs in the Wang Manor, he had done more digging and could more or less figure out the cause and effect.

After the Third Prince poisoned the river, the rebels who drank from the river water immediately fell sick. He then took this opportunity to decimate the rebellion of nearly ten thousand men, an effortless battle. When he returned to Yejing, Emperor An Qing lavished him with gifts and praises. But the Third Prince was only able to bask in the limelight for a short time because not long after, local officials reported that due to his actions, the people living south of the Sishui River were falling ill one after another; the crops were dying and the river was filled with dead fish.

If this news had come out right after the Emperor had just showered the Third Prince with gifts and praises, it would’ve enraged the public and ruined Emperor An Qing’s reputation. And so, he had ordered for the news to be blocked and turned those afflicted into rebels, beating them into silence. Anyone who dared to mention this was to be killed without hesitation. 

Because of this, the rebellions that came after were all the more difficult to deal with. Even after Xiao Zhige had ascended the throne and sent out troops to request for peace, the insurgents who had lost all faith in the court refused to back down. Xiao Zhige had no choice but to engage in battle with them to stabilize the country.

In the past, An Chang Qing did not understand but now he was fully aware that no sins would go unpunished and no secrets could stay hidden forever; especially when so many had died. The Third Prince’s death was most likely the work of someone seeking revenge. 

An Chang Qing was shaking with fists clenched, “So many lives… it shouldn’t be like this…”

Xiao Zhige grabbed his hand and comforted, “Don’t worry, I’ll think of something.”

He knew that his father treated the people as insects and his younger brother was never an innocent child but to think that they would do such a thing! That said, logically speaking, it was nothing strange that they could resort to such methods.

His younger brother wanted to compete for the throne but to do that, he needed to make a big contribution. At the same time, his father had always been self-centered and the deaths of commoners were just a number to him.

It would’ve been fine had he not known but now that he does, he could not turn a blind eye.

Regardless, even if they were rebels, they were still the people of Da Ye.

Xiao Zhige’s eyes darkened as he pulled the disturbed An Chang Qing into his arms and coaxed him back to sleep. After making sure that he was sleeping soundly, Xiao Zhige got out of bed quietly and rode straight to the barracks.

It’d been several days since the news had reached Yejing. If his calculation was right, the Third Prince would arrive at Sishui soon. He had to hurry if he wanted to save these people.

He personally wrote two letters, one to Shen Tu Xu and the other to the leader of the Common Men’s Army.

The Common Men’s Army which had become a formidable force was led by a skillful butcher who could slay a tiger with his butcher knife. The second in command was his brother, an upstanding scholar. The two brothers, one contributed strength and the other knowledge, were the binding force of the rebellion.

After sealing the letter, Xiao Zhige was about to send it to the messenger but felt unsure. He called for Xie Ling to discuss and finally decided to have him deliver the letter to enforce its credibility.

Shen Tu Xu tended to be wishy-washy in his judgment and his ability was inferior to his father’s. The upside was that he had followed all his father’s teachings and treated the soldiers and people with kindness. It’d be a great advantage if they could get him on their side.

Xiao Zhige placed his hands behind his back and faced skywards. To this point, he had done what he could. All that was left solely rested on heaven’s will.


Xie Ling traveled non-stop to Suzhou and requested a meeting with Shen Tu Xu.

Shen Tu Xu was quite surprised to see him. Suzhou lies right next to Yanzhou and had been fighting side by side against the Beidi people. Since they shared a common enemy, the two states had a fairly good relationship with each other. 

Shen Tu Xu went out to personally receive Xie Ling.

Due to the urgency of the matter, Xie Ling went straight to the point. After carefully picking his words, he relayed to Shen Tu Xu all that Xiao Zhige had instructed him to.

Shen Tu Xu’s expression became worse as he listened, “This… Do you have any evidence? Poisoning the water has been despised since ancient times. Why would the Third Prince resort to such a method?”

Poisoning the water supply could destroy the enemy soldiers but at the same time, it was also harmful for the common people living nearby. Any general with a conscience would not succumb to such means. 

“There is no evidence. But even if it isn’t true, this will bring no harm to your army or the people.”

Xie Ling spoke with sincerity, “Wangye wanted to bring this to your attention because he couldn’t bear to see the innocent people of Suzhou suffer. If the Third Prince had indeed decided to use this method, all General Xu had to do was to dissuade him based on the rumor that the Third Prince was planning to poison the Sishui River. This will allow your people to avoid a big disaster. On the contrary, if the Third Prince succeeded in poisoning the river, many innocent lives would be lost. I hear that a large number of your soldiers have families living along the Sishui River. I’m afraid at that time, your troops will lose their morale…”

Xie Ling did not have to say more, Shen Tu Xu had already understood the situation. He paced back and forth while contemplating. After a long while, he said, “I’ll believe you for the time being. But where does this rumor come from? And what about the rebels? How should we deal with them?”

“Wangye will make arrangements for this rumor to spread. As for the rebels, they are after all Da Ye’s citizens. If it weren’t for the court squeezing their blood dry, they would not have protested. If the General can have a sincere talk with them, there is always a chance of turnover.”

Shen Tu Xu sighed heavily and nodded, “How did it come to this?”

Seeing that he had succeeded in enlisting Shen Tu Xu, Xie Ling quickly set off to the Sishui area where a more challenging task awaited.


Chapter 60

Edited and Proofread by KitKat

In times of hardship, a well-led rebellion was infectious. Whether it was to survive or simply to vent their anger, many people were easily convinced to join the uprising.

The rebels first suppressed the local officers and took over the county governor’s office. They then went on to rob the rich and distributed food and gold among the poor. As they only robbed from people with a bad reputation and did not kill indiscriminately, many more supported their cause wholeheartedly. At the peak of their influence, the people had called them the “Common Men’s Army”.

When Suzhou’s General, Shen Tu Xu, received the news, he immediately deployed troops to contain the rebellion. However, many of his soldiers had relatives and family members who had joined the uprising. Furthermore, the rebel army had outnumbered his troops. Shen Tu Xu had no choice but to turn to Yejing for help.

Emperor An Qing was naturally enraged upon hearing the news.

Prior to this event, the Emperor was in high spirits. The newly inducted Taoist Master prophesied that he would face adversity this year. To resolve this, firstly, he would need someone close to him to ward off this misfortune and secondly, to build a 99 story pagoda to please the heavens. After that, he would be able to lead a long and prosperous life like that of the immortals.

Now that Emperor An Qing had fully trusted this Taoist Master, he certainly would not risk disobeying him. He enforced the construction of the pagoda under the excuse of praying for Da Ye but in fact, it was all for his own well being.

Now that a rebellion had arisen, an event which Emperor An Qing believed to be the foretold misfortune, only solidified his faith in the Taoist Master.

Although he had already followed his instructions to build the pagoda, Emperor An Qing was still not pacified. He hurriedly called for the Taoist Master to divine for him on who would help him ward off this disaster.

The Taoist Master who went by the name of Master Liao, had lived past the age of seventy; a longevity that earned him the respect of many. Although his hair and beard were all white, there was no weakness in his steps. He exuded divinity when walking into the room.

When Master Liao saw Emperor An Qing, he cupped his hands and bowed. Before the Emperor could speak, Master Liao started, “Your Majesty has nothing to worry about. I have counted the Eight Characters of the three princes: The Third Prince is protected by a powerful providence and whose eight characters best compliment Your Majesty. He is the most suitable to help you avert this disaster.”

Emperor An Qing was finally appeased but after a while, he hesitated and asked, “Will my son face any harm?”

Master Liao shook his head and said, “Your Majesty can rest assured. The Third Prince has the spirit of a dragon. Although his life force will be slightly damaged, it’s nothing irreparable. I’ve heard that he has always been close to Your Majesty. I believe he’s willing to sacrifice even more for your sake.”

Emperor An Qing readily agreed but some of Master Liao’s words caught his attention. “What do you mean by having the spirit of a dragon?”

Seeing that he had taken the bait, Master Liao smiled and only answered, “Such is heaven’s construct, I cannot divulge further.”


The words effectively stuck with Emperor An Qing. He impatiently summoned the Third Prince.

Moments later, the Third Prince arrived. He looked at the Emperor with admiration and greeted, “Father, I’ve come to see you.”

Emperor An Qing took a closer look at the Third Prince. Of his three sons, the Third Prince resembled him the most. And since Shu Guifei had been his favorite concubine all these years, he had also come to dote on the Third Prince the most. When the boy was young, he would often cause mischief and laugh childishly but in recent years, he seemed to have matured into a fine prince.

Master Liao stepped forward and explained to the Third Prince the current ordeal faced by the Emperor. He also emphasized that the Third Prince would be losing some of his life force in the process.

After hearing Master Liao’s explanation, the Third Prince bowed and said confidently, “I’m willing to shoulder any burden for you, father!”

“My good son.” Emperor An Qing personally went over to him and said with a smile, “Although you’re doing it out of filial piety, you should still be rewarded. Is there anything that you wanted?” 

“It’s an honor to be able to share some of father’s worries. I dare not ask for anything in return.”

The more he refused, the more Emperor An Qing insisted on rewarding him.

After the Third Prince pretended to refuse a few more times, he eventually hesitated and said, “I do have a small wish…”

Emperor An Qing smiled and said, “Speak.”

“I’ve always admired second brother’s leadership in his army. Now that there is civil unrest in Suzhou, I would like an army of my own to help father squash this rebellion.”

Emperor An Qing was hesitant, “These rebels are large in number, it’s not going to be a trifling fight.”

The Third Prince raised his chin and boasted, “I’ve already come up with a way to deal with it.”

“Oh?” Emperor An Qing was quite pleased, “Tell me what you plan to do.”

The Third Prince began to elaborate.

“These rebels are afterall, just a large group of uneducated peasants. There’s simply no way they can overcome the soldiers of our Da Ye Empire.”

Seeing that Emperor An Qing was happy with his flattery, the Third Prince continued, “But if a war breaks out, we will bleed money. Therefore, I’ve come up with a plan that will not shed a single drop of our soldiers’ blood.”

“Aren’t those rebels camped along the Sishui River? I have checked the area map and they are nicely situated downstream while the upper reaches of the river lie in Yuzhou. We could send someone to talk amnesty with them to lower their vigilance while we add poison to the upriver water. Since these people have camped along the river, this must be their main water source. After they have taken the poison, we’ll take this opportunity to eradicate them, as easy as a knife through butter.”

The Third Prince was only fifteen this year. A lack of empathy when he spoke about killing tens of thousands of people even caused Master Liao to shudder.

On the other hand, Emperor An Qing patted his shoulder in agreement. He laughed and said, “All is fair in war. This is indeed a very good idea. I will let you handle this.”

The Third Prince bowed and assured his father, “I will not let you down!”

This secret discussion was only known to the three people present. 

The next day, Emperor An Qing demanded that the construction of the pagoda to speed up and must be completed before the winter; the Third Prince was sent to Suzhou to conciliate with the rebels. Generals Shu Lin Ting of Yuzhou and Shen Tu Xu of Suzhou were placed under his command.

The officials of the Crown Prince’s party were taken aback while those from the Third Prince’s party praised the Emperor for his wisdom. Only a few people like Li An Min and Shen Tu Bei felt ominous about Emperor An Qing’s decision. 

It was a few days later that this news reached Yanzhou.

After his last conversation with Qi Wei, Qi Wei had gone back and gathered all the experienced farmers to brainstorm a way to increase Yanzhou’s agricultural output.

These old farmers had been working the fields for many years and had better knowledge than anyone else. After some substantial discussion, they really did come up with something.

One of these farmers had a son who once bought a cartful of something called sweet potatoes from the Yuze Empire. This crop grew in abundance in the Yuze Empire and was incredibly cheap. It was big in size and could easily fill the stomach. However, his son was not able to make any money from it and hence, brought it back to Yanzhou with him. Previously, during the war when they had donated all their food to the army, it was these sweet potatoes that had kept them fed.

Qi Wei was very intrigued and asked the old farmer to bring his son so they could discuss the sweet potatoes.

When Xiao Zhige got wind of the news, he brought An Chang Qing along to have a look.

Because the old farmer’s family was poor, his son had been trading goods from all over the place to earn as much as possible. When he heard from a traveling companion that the Yuze Empire could provide them with profitable products to sell, he was immediately tempted to make the trip. He and some friends had then sneaked across the border of Suzhou to the Yuze territories.

But once he got there, he found that it was not easy at all to trade there. The group had stayed for several days but hadn’t  managed to earn much. The trip back and forth had not been cheap. He did not want to go home empty handed and, since the price of these sweet potatoes had been so low, he had decided to bring a cart back.

The farmer’s son said that the sweet potatoes were everywhere in Yuze. He also heard that it was very easy to cultivate and the vegetable could be eaten raw or cooked. He even brought out 2 sweet potatoes to let them try.

Qi Wei and the others took a bite of the sweet potato and found that it had the texture of arrowroot and tasted like chestnut.

An Chang Qing also tasted a small piece. He took the sweet potato and studied it.

“I once read about this vegetable in a traveling journal on the Luzon Strait. The skin is clay red and the flesh is starchy. It is easy to cultivate and has high yield even if grown on barren soil.”

In his previous life, most of the time, An Chang Qing was cooped up in the Wang Manor. His biggest hobby was jade smelting and reading. Back then, he had read countless literature on traveling and miscellaneous subjects. He never thought that one day he would be able to hold in his hand an item which he had only used his imagination to grasp.

Xiao Zhige did not doubt his words, “Easy to cultivate even on barren soil, do you think it can be cultivated in Yanzhou?”

The lieutenants looked at one another with their eyes lit up.

Afterwards, Xiao Zhige exchanged provisions for the remainder of the sweet potatoes that the old farmer still had. An Chang Qing recalled all that he learned from the book and, together with the information from the old farmer’s son, drafted a method for cultivating the sweet potatoes.

By now, the potato eyes had begun to germinate. An Chang Qing was eager to see them sprout and went to the fields daily with Xiao Zhige to inspect.

Due to the warm weather and uncluttered land, the little buds had been growing rapidly in just a few days.

According to the journal, the sweet potatoes were best grown in April. Since they were a month late, they could only apply more fertilizer and hope for the best.

“If we can successfully cultivate this plant, our people will not have to worry about food shortage in the future. It can even cover the military rations,” An Chang Qing said excitedly.

Xiao Zhige too couldn’t hide his glee looking at the previously empty fields. The land in Yanzhou had never been able to yield much crops. If they could really cultivate this sweet potato then he can be confident about Yanzhou’s future.

“That’s right. This is a blessing. If possible, not only the people of Yanzhou but the rest of Da Ye will never have to face hunger again.”

An Chang Qing turned to look at Xiao Zhige’s face filled with aspirations. In spite of the many awful names that the people had been giving him, Xiao Zhige had always cared for their well being.

“En. I’ll go through the texts again when we get back. There may still be more useful information,” An Chang Qing said enthusiastically. 

He used to read those books to pass time but after this experience, he realized these were essential knowledge that could benefit the livelihood of many.

Xiao Zhige agreed, “I’ll have to trouble Nuo Nuo then.”

An Chang Qing smiled and pulled Xiao Zhige to check on the rest of the plantation.

By the time they had finished with the inspection, there was a report that a letter had arrived from Yejing.

The pair went straight to the barracks where Xiao Zhige went to receive the letter. Since Xiao Zhige did not keep any information from him, naturally An Chang Qing was allowed to see the contents. When he read the report about the Third Prince leading troops to Sishui River to squash the rebellion, something tugged at the back of his mind but he failed to put a finger on it. 

Xiao Zhige was also quite upset with the news. Although he had expected that his father would deploy troops to suppress this rebellion, he did not think that he would do so without hesitation. Be that as it may, those rebels were also of Da Ye birth who were pushed to the edge. This was their only path to survive. If the court was willing to negotiate a truce, there was no need for the army to be involved.

Emperor An Qing’s move will dye the Sishui river with blood.

Xiao Zhige sighed as he burned the letter. Seeing that An Chang Qing seemed absent minded, Xiao Zhige thought that he was concerned that war would break out and tried to comfort him, “There’s no use worrying now. We should instead focus on Yanzhou’s issues.”

An Chang Qing’s train of thought was disrupted and could only nod in agreement. 

When evening came, the two returned to the manor. After having dinner, An Chang Qing went to the bathroom to wash up. 

Xiao Zhige stood outside the room and beseeched, “Do I have to sleep in the study again tonight?”

Because Xiao Zhige had gone overboard with his second time with An Chang Qing, he was driven off to sleep in the study since the previous night. 

The Northern Warlord shamelessly took off his overcoat and sat boldly on the bed.

An Chang Qing finished bathing and climbed past Xiao Zhige, straight to bed with his back facing Xiao Zhige. Although he did not say anything, it was clear that An Chang Qing showed no intention to chase him out. 

Xiao Zhige was relieved. He pulled the blanket over them both and reached out to hug An Chang Qing. Having reconciled, the pair drifted into a good night’s sleep.


Chapter 59

Edited and Proofread by KitKat

Shu Guifei was the birth mother of the Third Prince and having entered the palace for many years, she was immensely favored by Emperor An Qing.

She hailed from the Shu family of Ding An, her brother being the General of Yuzou, Shu Lin Ting. Her maternal family was the Xue family of Yejing. The Xue clan was one of the six founding families of the Da Ye Empire. As such, her influence should not be underestimated. This had also given her an edge to stand against the Empress.

Before, when the third prince was still young, and Emperor An Qing was still a somewhat responsible monarch, Shu Guifei had to give way to the Empress. However, ten years later when her son was coming of age and Emperor An Qing was becoming muddle-headed, Shu Guifei’s ambitions had resurfaced. 

As the Crown Prince’s position was becoming more stabilized, Shu Guifei had gotten impatient. Seeing Emperor An Qing’s obsession with the crazy Taoist, she hatched a plan and arranged for the appearance of this ‘Alchemist’. If it weren’t for Xiao Zhige’s scrutiny, her plot would’ve been seamless.

Nonetheless, Xiao Zhige had no intention to expose her. He had his scouts collect a sample of the pills that Emperor An Qing was taking and had it examined. The pill indeed contained valuable tonic ingredients that even the Imperial Physicians could find no fault with.

However, after sending Hu Shifei the list of ingredients, he simply wrote back: Highly potent concoction, not suitable for regular intake.

This tonic pill was indeed effective in energizing the body but if taken incessantly, the body would get used to this state and become dependent on the pills. Discontinuance in usage would reduce the body to a withered state, even worse than before taking this pill. 

Furthermore, the pills lose their effectiveness with each dose. It would still be effective if taken for one to two months but, after that, the dosage had to be strengthened to achieve the same result. As such, the potency of this pill would only increase to the point that the body could no longer absorb, causing the meridians to burst out like a broken dam.

In any way, there was no upside to taking this pill.

As of now, Emperor An Qing was very fond of this Taoist master and had kept him by his side. It seemed it wouldn’t be long till he felt the destructive aftermath of this pill.

An Chang Qing bit his lip. He did not expect that the Emperor would die this soon in this life.

In his previous life, Emperor An Qing was bedridden for two years before he reached his end and called Xiao Zhige back to Yejing. This time, it happened too soon… 


An Chang Qing looked at Xiao Zhige and wondered if there would be any repercussions to this acceleration.

In his previous life, the Crown Prince lost his virtue in the eyes of the court and was stripped of his title. The Third Prince was sent to subdue an uprising and was assassinated by the refugees. As a result, Emperor An Qing only had Xiao Zhige left to pass his throne to. This had caused countless rumors to spread, that the Crown Prince’s immoral acts were a setup by Xiao Zhige and the Third Prince had died by his hands… Even Emperor An Qing’s death was his doing.

With the suspicion of killing his brother and father, Xiao Zhige’s throne reeked of malfeasance.

An Chang Qing looked at Xiao Zhige with some heartache. He did not know how Xiao Zhige had managed it in his last life but in this life, he refused to let him bear this unwarranted reputation. 

An Chang Qing asked softly, “When we return to Yejing… What does Wangye intend to do? Are you going to compete with the other princes for the throne?”

Xiao Zhige saw the concern in his eyes and said, “The Crown Prince and The Third Prince will fight this deathmatch by themselves. There is no need for me to interfere. Isn’t it better to sit by and reap the benefit as the two of them finish each other off?”

“But they might not allow us to stay on the sideline.”

Xiao Zhige nodded and smiled at him, “That’s why when father falls ill, we have to find a reason to delay our return to Yejing as long as possible.”

An Chang Qing understood his plan. He smiled and said, “So has Wangye come up with an excuse yet?”

“Not yet,” Xiao Zhige replied calmly and went on to tease An Chang Qing, “If Nuo Nuo can have my baby then we’ll have a solid reason for not returning.”

An Chang Qing froze momentarily before he reacted and kicked Xiao Zhige on the calf, “Wangye is becoming more and more unruly!” Especially since last night!

Xiao Zhige let An Chang Qing vent his anger and then held him in his arms. He wrapped his hands around his waist and repeated his question from before, “Nuo Nuo hasn’t let me know if last night was satis…” Before he could finish, An Chang Qing angrily blocked his mouth with his hand.

“It was very satisfying!” An Chang Qing answered with haste.

However, Xiao Zhige believed that An Chang Qing was only trying to make him happy. Although he liked it that his Wangfei was being considerate towards him, Xiao Zhige insisted that it was his duty to satisfy his spouse and secretly planned for tonight.

An Chang Qing was completely oblivious to Xiao Zhige’s dilemma. He pushed the man away and left to manage the manor.

Time flies when one is busy. In a flash it was evening.

When An Chang Qing had taken his bath and returned to the bedroom, he was pulled into bed by the fully-prepared Wangye. The initial grumble in reluctance gradually turned into sporadic moans…

This night, silhouettes could be seen merging in the dim moonlight as the bed continued to shake, all the way till the fifth hour of the night.


The next day, An Chang Qing could not get out of bed.

Xiao Zhige finally regained his confidence but watching An Chang Qing resting wearily against the bedrest, he felt some regret and heartache. He ordered Anfu to deliver An Chang Qing’s breakfast and went on to feed him attentively.

But An Chang Qing just stared at him and refused to open his mouth. He didn’t know what had gotten into Xiao Zhige last night. No matter how much he cried, the man would not let him off. Even now he could still feel his back aching.

Being stared at by An Chang Qing, Xiao Zhige’s smugness was replaced with a sense of guilt. He could only try his best to coax his Wangfei, “Nuo Nuo doesn’t like the porridge? I’ll have the kitchen make some chicken soup then.” 

“There’s no need,” An Chang Qing took the bowl of porridge and took a sip, “My body is a little unwell. It’s uncomfortable to sleep with two people in bed. Sorry but can Wangye sleep in the study tonight?”

Xiao Zhige, “…”

At this point, even someone as dense as Xiao Zhige could tell that An Chang Qing was mad at him. Xiao Zhige was confused regarding the reason but seeing An Chang Qing’s sullen expression, he could only comply and dare not ask. 

After he finished the porridge, An Chang Qing was feeling drowsy and went back to bed.

Xiao Zhige sat by his side till he was fully asleep. He covered him with a quilt and ordered Anfu to guard outside before leaving– there were still pressing matters waiting for him to resolve.

And so, on this day, the lieutenants who were eagerly expecting their General saw him come in with a dark and murderous look.

Xie Ling, who had always been sharp, quickly found an excuse and slipped away. Tie Hu saw him fleeing at the speed of light and immediately followed. Qi Wei was one step too late. He was caught by Xiao Zhige and dragged all the way to the fields in the suburbs.

It was now the month of May, the wheat that was planted some time ago had grown considerably. Under the hot sun, many farmers could be seen carrying buckets of water on their shoulders to irrigate the fields.

Qi Wei was trying to stay small and quiet like a baby quail. He did not know the reason why Xiao Zhige brought him here but intuitively, he knew that it was nothing good.

“The prolonged winter has delayed the harvesting to August. It’s likely that the crop yield will be poor this year.”

This matter had been discussed once after the war had ended. Qi Wei wasn’t sure why Xiao Zhige brought it up again but he dared not speak up and could only wait for Xiao Zhige to elaborate.

Sure enough, Xiao Zhige added, “The second half of this year will not be peaceful. We have to find ways to grow more crops for the people or else, things will get very difficult later on.”

According to An Chang Qing, the uprising which started in Suzhou would advance to the rest of the country. Based on Emperor An Qing’s nature, Xiao Zhige could practically guess his course of action. To suppress the uprising, he would need to mobilize the army. But sustaining the army required food and money. Now that the treasury was empty, where else could he get these resources other than the people?

It’d be great if the uprising could be pacified but, if not, the next two years would continue to be tough on the common people. 

Yanzhou was Xiao Zhige’s main base; he had to be prepared and keep it strong.

Qi Wei was also concerned regarding this matter, “We’ve already planted whatever we could.”

Sadly, Yanzhou was a barren land with harsh climate and little water. It was difficult to grow anything here. The yield from one acre of plantation was much lower than that of the south. Any farming activity was only enough to feed their own family. In times of war or natural disaster, the people would starve if they depended solely on this harvest.

Although there were plans to change this over the years, the many battles against the Bedi people had halted any progress.

“Keep thinking,” Xiao Zhige said to him sternly. He gave him a serious look before turning away, “When you return, work with Xie Ling and gather the experienced farmers to discuss. We have to come up with a solution.”

Qi Wei nodded with a bitter face.


The Empress Dowager’s birthday fell on the 17th of May. On this day, Emperor An Qing proclaimed a general amnesty to celebrate.

Xiao Zhige sent back to Yejing the gift he had prepared and a letter begging for forgiveness for his absence due the current state of Yanzhou. 

Although they did not see it with their own eyes, the report from the scout stated that the Empress Dowager’s birthday banquet was strikingly extravagant. And to please the Empress Dowager, nobles and dignitaries from all over the country had sent invaluable items as gifts.

The celebration was supposed to last nine days but on the fifth day, an emergency report was sent from Suzhou: the peasants of Kangyong county that shared a border with Bingzhou had revolted.

In half a month, their numbers had risen to nearly 10,000. They had overpowered the officials and soldiers of the areas along Sishui River.

This did not happen without a trigger.

The people of Suzhou had suffered much after the snow disaster due to the lack of aid from the imperial court. Houses were destroyed and lives were lost. It was hard enough for the survivors to get by with the little food they had managed to save but the court still demanded heavy taxes from them. Naturally, most commoners could not afford to pay this amount.

The tax collecting officials couldn’t care less for their circumstances. They resorted to violence when a farmer could not pay his tax and caused his death. This act angered the people and they hung the officials on a tree right outside the village entrance.

Knowing that they had committed a crime, the villagers decided that since they had nothing to lose anyway, they banded together and rebelled.

Similar events had been happening in other villages as well. However, the local magistrate did not take it seriously, sending out only a few men to suppress the insurgents. After several failed attempts, he realized the severity of this matter but by the time the report reached Yejing, half of the villages in Kanyong county had amalgamated with the rebellion.


Chapter 58

Edited and Proofread by KitKat

Qi Wei and the others had matters to discuss with Xiao Zhige. Hearing that he had returned, they hurried over to the General’s Manor.

When Qi Wei saw the rarely seen smiling face of his General, he couldn’t help but wave his hand in front of him, “General?”

Xiao Zhige snapped out of his daze and withdrew his smile. He looked back at Qi Wei coldly and said, “Why are you guys here? Something’s up?”

Qi Wei was still curious regarding his previous appearance and pestered, “You looked happy. Do you have any good news for us?”

If there was good news, shouldn’t it be shared with everybody? Furthermore, they have never seen Xiao Zhige putting on such an expression. It must be some really big news.

Xiao Zhige already knew what Qi Wei was thinking without having to ask but since he was in a good mood today, he did not want to chide him. He glanced at him with some pity and said, “It’s indeed a happy event. But for someone who’s still single, you won’t be able to understand.”

Qi Wei, “???” What’s wrong with being single? What kind of happiness can only be obtained after marriage? 

Qi Wei refused to agree. He was about to rebut Xiao Zhige when Xie Ling elbowed him, “Keep your mouth shut and talk less.”

Vice General Qi Wei stared at him begrudgingly. It suddenly dawned on him that in the whole of Yanzhou, it seemed like anyone could bully him!

As Xie Ling always seemed to have better insight, Qi Wei decided not to pursue this matter. He changed the topic, “Why don’t I see Wangfei today?”

This question poked right at Xiao Zhige’s heart. He partially wanted to flaunt his happiness to his subordinates but realizing that this was a private matter between himself and Nuo Nuo, it would not be appropriate to discuss with outsiders.

So Xiao Zhige answered Qi Wei with some ambiguity, “He slept late last night and is still tired. He’s resting in the room right now.”

The single dog Qi Wei of course wouldn’t relate this to anything else other than An Chang Qing being worn out due to the trip back from Liangzhou. He nodded in agreement, “It’s indeed tiring to ride on horseback all the way to Yanzhou.”

Xiao Zhige was speechless. He wanted to say something else but caught sight of An Chang Qing walking towards them.

When An Chang Qing woke up, he could still feel the lingering voluptuousness from last night. His temperature rose and his face turned rosy red. He left the yard to get some fresh air and happened to see Xiao Zhige chatting with his subordinates. From the look of it, it seemed that they weren’t talking about anything serious so An Chang Qing decided to come over and greet them.

At home, An Chang Qing only wore a simple light gown with his hair tied back, looking graceful and pleasant like an emerald sapling in spring.

Qi Wei saw Xiao Zhige go over to meet him and whispered to Xie Ling, “Why do I feel like Wangfei has become more charming after his return from Liangzhou?”

He looked at the couple talking and became envious of the General. 

Maybe it was time he found himself a partner as well.

On the other end, Xiao Zhige went to An Chang Qing and asked with some concern, “Why don’t you rest a little longer? Is there anywhere that’s uncomfortable?”

“I was bored so I came here for a walk. There’s nowhere that’s uncomfortable.” An Chang Qing replied with some shyness.

Xiao Zhige was extremely gentle last night. Although there was some discomfort in the beginning, it gradually became enticing. Moreover, he had prepared his body specially for this so he was not injured in any way. They were perfectly in sync and other than feeling a little tired, An Chang Qing was immensely satisfied.

Xiao Zhige, on the other hand, was feeling slightly troubled. Previously, because he was worried for An Chang Qing’s body, he had done some research by himself and according to some texts, men with good skills could make their partner stay in bed for three days…

An Chang Qing saw his strange expression and asked, “What’s wrong?”

Any man would be concerned with his performance in bed. Seeing that they were far away from earshot, Xiao Zhige lowered and asked, “Last night… Was it not enjoyable for you?”


An Chang Qing never would’ve thought that Xiao Zhige would ask such a question right in public! If they were not in the presence of outsiders, he would’ve given the man a kick!

He snapped at Xiao Zhige, “What is Wangye asking in broad daylight!”

He then gave him a stern stare and stomped off angrily.


Xiao Zhige could not figure out if An Chang Qing was comfortable last night but he knew he had upset him and dared not follow. He coughed lightly and went back to the yard. 

Qi Wei and the others looked at each other and agreed that only Wangfei dared to throw a tantrum in front of the General and on the other hand, the General was only this gentle in front of Wangfei.

Xiao Zhige went back to the pavilion and sat down. His smile had disappeared looking at the group. 

“Speak. Why are you people here?”

Even though Qi Wei was usually dense, hearing the sternness of Xiao Zhige’s voice, he knew that he should not play with fire. He went on to report the matter at hand, “The Taifu temple had officially issued a new ‘welfare tax’ to fund the building of the 99 stories pagoda to bless Da Ye. Furthermore, each province has to send over 5000 soldiers.”

When they received the official documents, Qi Wei and the others were furious but since Xiao Zhige was not around, they could only wait for his return to discuss this matter.

As Qi Wei had always been straightforward, he complained without reservations, “After the severe winter came the war. The people haven’t had the time to get back on their feet yet. Now they need to pay more taxes and be sent off to do labor… His Majesty is simply…”

With his reasoning still intact, Qi Wei did not finish his sentence.

“At the moment, we can’t afford to pay that much tax,” Xie Ling interjected.

“Because of the severe winter last year, the commoners were not able to stock up enough grains. On top of that, the prolonged winter also delayed the wheat planting window. The harvest for this year is bound to be scarce. If we impose heavier taxes on the people at this time, I’m afraid many will be facing a hard time.”

Taxes were collected by the governors of each province before being sent off to the State Treasury. To fill up the depleting treasury, Emperor An Qing’s one simple decree would cause suffering for majority of his citizens.

If the local officials were not able to meet the tax quota, they could only oppress and exploit their citizens. This was simply scraping the flesh and blood of the commoners!

Thanks to Xiao Zhige and An Chang Qing’s timely rations delivery, Yanzhou was able to live through the snow disaster. However, this was not the case for the other northern provinces. Suzhou, Bingzhou, Qizhou, and several other States had suffered heavy casualties. The survivors were still struggling to live by and now, they had to face increased taxes and corvee.

It was fine that Emperor An Qing did not send out support to alleviate the people’s pain but to put out such a decree at this juncture just showed that he treated the people as nothing but dirt.

Although Xiao Zhige had been informed of this event, he still felt unbelievable hearing it.

In his younger years, although Emperor An Qing had loved to indulge himself, he still knew his limits. Ever since he pursued the methods of longevity and invited several ‘immortality masters’ into the palace to brew pills for him, he had become increasingly unscrupulous.

Maybe because he believed he would soon ascend to immortality that he cared so little for mortal lives.

Xiao Zhige thought for a moment and said, “Delay the payment for now. If the Taifu temple comes to collect the taxes, you can act pitifully and cry out that you’re too poor to pay. If they refuse and demand immediate payment, you can turn the tide and ask about the missing grains that they owed us.”

“The grains that were mixed with sand that were sent by the Taifu temple before have yet to be compensated. And as it stands, the Taifu temple was unlikely to be able to cough up even half of that amount.”

Qi Wei was immediately elated. He patted his chest and assured, “If it’s just begging for sympathy, let me handle it!”

Xie Ling asked with concern, “But we can’t stall forever…” 

Xiao Zhige did not disclose much and simply said, “It’ll be fine. Just stall for now.”

After they all agreed on the plan, the two left while Xiao Zhige returned to the main courtyard.

An Chang Qing had already washed and changed his attire. He saw Xiao Zhige come in with a serious look and guessed it had something to do with Qi Wei and Xie Ling’s visit.

Xiao Zhige sat beside him and sighed, “Nuo Nuo’s dream, it finally happened.”

When he first arrived at Yanzhou, An Chang Qing had told him everything he knew from his previous life under the guise of dreaming. Although the reason for building the 99 stories pagoda had changed, the consequences remained the same.

An Chang Qing was worried, “That means Suzhou is about to get chaotic.”

In his last life, the riot had stemmed from Suzhou. The General of Suzhou was Shen Tu Xu, the son of the Great General Shen Tu Bei. Shen Tu Bei had always been loyal to Emperor An Qing, they couldn’t hope to get him to listen if they tried.

Xiao Zhige shook his head and said, “There’s no need to warn them. At this point, the more chaotic it gets, the better.”

He looked at An Chang Qing and said solemnly, “It might not be long before we have to return to Yejing.”

An Chang Qing’s eyes widened, “Is His Majesty…”

Xiao Zhige placed his finger on his lips and lightly shook his head.

An Chang Qing recalled what he had told him on the city walls – Emperor An Qing did not have long to live.

Obsessed with the crazy Taoist Priest that Xiao Zhige had made up, Emperor An Qing sent out a lot of people to find him. However, what he found was another Taoist who claimed to be a master alchemist. After entering the palace, he presented the Emperor with a bottle of ‘Youth Restoring Pill’, said to be able to return someone to their healthier, younger self. Emperor An Qing ordered for someone to try the pills and saw a sickly old man turning strong and energetic. Although he did not turn young overnight, it was good enough to impress Emperor An Qing.

As of now, Emperor An Qing had been taking the pills for almost three months now.

According to the report Xiao Zhige received, Emperor An Qing indeed seemed to have improved spirits and his visits to the harem were also more frequent.

Emperor An Qing thought that he had truly found a transcended Taoist Master who could prolong his life but Xiao Zhige’s spy was able to dig up a vital piece of information – this Taoist Master was inextricably linked to Shu Guifei.


Chapter 57

Edited and Proofread by KitKat

It was true that Xue Wuyi did not need to intercept the envoys from Zaiguo to Yejing because there was someone else who cared more for An Chang Qing’s safety.

The secret treasure of the Xi Wei Empire lies in the person in the painting who happens to resemble An Chang Qing. Regardless of whether Emperor An Qing was interested or not, anyone who heard of this would want to get a hold of An Chang Qing.

And it mattered not if Xiao Zhige believed Xue Wuyi’s letter entirely, he would still do everything in his power to prevent Xi Wei’s envoy from reaching Yejing alive. 

So by offering Xiao Zhige this piece of information, it not only helped him solve a serious problem but also allowed him to get on the Northern Warlord’s good side.

And Xue Wuyi’s decision was absolutely right. Xiao Zhige will never tolerate anything or anyone putting An Chang Qing’s safety on the line.


The message was delivered by Xue Wuyi’s personal maid accompanied by the portrait.

The maid told him that the person in the painting looked exactly like An Chang Qing but with a quick glance, Xiao Zhige could tell that the person in the painting was definitely not An Chang Qing.

The person in the painting had longer and narrower eyes and thinner lips, making him look cold and distant. Even the mole under his left eye could not neutralize this sense of aloofness.

The painting alone was enough to give him an unapproachable feeling, very much unlike his Nuo Nuo whose looks embodied warmth and kindness.

Xiao Zhige observed the painting without making any comments. 


Ji Xue couldn’t help but follow up, “My master told me to pass this message to Wangye: As long as he still breathes, the Xi Wei Empire will never be Da Ye’s enemy.”

Xiao Zhige held his hands to his back and thought for a long time before giving her an answer, “Go back and relay this to your master, regarding his previous proposition, this lord agrees.”

He then pointed to the portrait and said, “I suppose this is a replica. I’ll be keeping it.”

The portrait was indeed an imitation drawn by Xue Wuyi while the original scroll was hidden away. Ji Xue bowed and retreated soundlessly, leaving the painting behind.

Xiao Zhige stayed in place, sinking into deep thoughts while looking at the portrait. He was doubtful that Xue Wuyi would create such a ridiculous tale just to win a favor from him. If so, then this portrait and the secret treasure of Xi Wei were highly credible.

As for the resemblance between An Chang Qing and the person in the picture, the most likely clue would be from An Chang Qing’s maternal family. The An family had its roots in Yejing from the beginning of their ancestry, it was impossible that they would have any relationship with Xue Chang or the Xi Wei Empire. As such, An Chang Qing’s maternal family would provide a plausible connection.

However, Lady Yu came from a brothel, her parentage was unknown…

With a plan in mind, Xiao Zhige carefully put the portrait away. He quickly wrote a letter and had it delivered with haste. 

Once everything was arranged, Chang Zai Cang arrived to ask about the jade mines.

When Chang Zai Cang heard that Xi Wei was willing to give up the jade mines without a fight, he was in disbelief, “Why do I feel as though there’s something going on that I’m unaware of?”

Xiao Zhige raised his eyes and said to him, “There’s much that you’re unaware of. You only need to man the mines. And as agreed, I’ll be taking 70% of the profit.”

Chang Zai Cang no longer pursued the topic. After fighting along Xiao Zhige for these many years, he knew Xiao Zhige would not do him harm. Instead, he began to discuss the next step. 

“What happens after we have mined the jade?” As they did not report this to Yejing, it was unwise to let this matter spread.

Xiao Zhige had already thought this through. He instructed, “After mining the jade, have merchants deliver the raw stones southwards. There are businessmen there who will be willing to invest in these.”

Although the Da Ye Empire was currently in a decline, it was still a wealthy nation. Especially in the south where the first Emperor had once established trading with the Yu Ze Empire. Businesses flourished during that time and those merchants remained rich to this day. Later, the subsequent reigning emperors abolished trading but the region remained prosperous.

The rich there did not concern themselves with money but what to spend it on. Putting up the jade at an auction was bound to reel in a few buyers.

Chang Zai Cang was a little doubtful, “Auction off the jade? Are you sure someone will buy it?”

Xiao Zhige gave him an impatient look and said, “Send someone who’s good with commerce to build momentum first. The South is filled with businessmen, I’m sure it’ll be sold in no time.”

Chang Zai Cang heeded his advice and left to make the arrangements while Xiao Zhige went to find An Chang Qing with the portrait.

An Chang Qing had already had his breakfast and was reading in the study. Yu Xiao was now familiar with his duties and followed behind An Chang Qing like a little tail. Seeing Xiao Zhige approaching, he straightened up and greeted him.

Xiao Zhige nodded at him and entered the room.

When An Chang Qing heard him coming in, he put the book down and looked up. Xiao Zhige met his eyes and remembered the painting. But the more he compared the two faces, the more different they felt to him.

Xiao Zhige had no intention of hiding this matter from An Chang Qing so he carefully closed the door behind him and told An Chang Qing everything.

The portrait was spread out on the table and An Chang Qing stared at it with great intensity. 

After a while, he shook his head and affirmed, “I’ve never seen this person nor heard mother speak of this before.”

Whether it was this life or the previous life, he did not know that he had any connection with the Xi Wei Empire. He had heard some old stories from his mother but it had nothing to do with Xi Wei. 

As an infant, An Chang Qing’s mother was abandoned and left on the roadside. The only item she had on was a piece of twin fish jade pendant. She was picked up and raised by her adoptive parents until the year they were afflicted with famine. Thanks to her beauty, she was bought by the brothel in exchange for silver to save her parents’ lives.

This was simply baffling, even Xiao Zhige seemed to know more than he did. But even so, Xiao Zhige seemed to have hit a deadend.

Since An Chang Qing did not have any information either, Xiao Zhige took a candle and burned the painting. “Leaving this painting around is tempting fate. Keep this matter to yourself and tell no one.”

An Chang Qing was perturbed by this unexpected development. In his last life, he had never stepped out of Yejing and therefore, was ignorant about the Xi Wei Empire and that they even had such a secret. It seemed that with his rebirth, he was able to change a lot of things but at the same time, also disrupted many events that had not taken place in his last life.

There was no telling if these changes were for the better or worse.

Xiao Zhige saw him grimacing and thought that he was anxious about the situation at hand and tried to comfort him, “I have given the order to assassinate the envoy from Xi Wei. This information will not reach my father or anyone else.”

An Chang Qing shook his head and rested it on Xiao Zhige’s shoulder. He sighed and said, “I just feel like lately, things have been happening one after another. There’s simply no time to rest.”

It was inevitable that An Chang Qing would feel anxious that everything was starting to get out of control. He couldn’t help but blame himself for being too oblivious and uninformed in his previous life.

Xiao Zhige stroked his back and thought of another way to comfort him, “The jade mine is ready. Let me take you there to pick out some good pieces.”

An Chang Qing was still listless but Xiao Zhige’s invitation cheered him up a little. He nodded and went along with Xiao Zhige.


After the negotiation over the mines ended, Xi Wei troops were called back and the camps were cleared. Liangzhou soldiers then went on to cordon off the mining area, making it inaccessible to the public.

The pair went in to have a look. Inside were craftsmen filtering out the raw jade stones and loading them onto carts. These stones were mixed in with earth that were shaken up during the landslide. 

An Chang Qing spent some time learning from the craftsmen on how to grade the jade. Having managed to pick out a good amount of high-quality jade stones, the uneasiness that he was feeling for the last two days eventually faded.

From the running of the jade mine to finding buyers was left to Chang Zai Cang to handle. As there was nothing urgent left to deal with, the pair prepared for their return trip to Yanzhou.


One early morning, a herd of horses lined up along the main road.

An Chang Qing had now learned how to ride and picked for himself a tamed mare. Little Yu Xiao was to be brought back with them but since An Chang Qing was still a beginner at riding, he asked Xiao Zhige to ride with Yu Xiao.

Although Xiao Zhige did not object, his face turned dark and for the whole road, his eyes kept looking at the figure ahead.

Yu Xiao sitting in front of Xiao Zhige was squirming with fear and dared not move a muscle. After knowing that the person who saved him was actually the Wangfei of the Northern Warlord, Yu Xiao’s admiration of An Chang Qing was raised to another level. He felt that not only was An Chang Qing kind-hearted, he was also truly amazing, even the scary Warlord had to listen to him.

As May approached, the temperature got a lot warmer. The folks in Yanzhou had changed to thinner clothes. And since the war had ended, the city had become much more lively.

When they returned, the people of Yanzhou gathered and gave them a hearty welcome, making the city seem bustling and joyous.

By the time they reached the manor, it was already evening. Yu Xiao was handed over to Anfu while Xiao Zhige and An Chang Qing went to have dinner and planned to turn in early.

Having traveled for one day and night on horseback, An Chang Qing’s body was aching all over. After washing up, he sat on the bed and beat his legs while pouting coquettishly.

When Xiao Zhige came in and saw this scene, he went over and sat next to him. He placed An Chang Qing’s legs on his lap and began massaging. “Riding will take a toll on your body. I’ve told you to ride with me.”

The Northern Warlord was still unhappy that An Chang Qing did not ride with him and instead, arranged for a child to take his place.

“It wasn’t that tiring at the beginning.” An Chang Qing pursed his lips and jolted Xiao Zhige’s shoulder with his foot.

Xiao Zhige chuckled and continued to press An Chang Qing’s acupoints. As the hands with calloused fingers ran across An Chang Qing’s tender skin, he felt a tingling itch.

“Stop rubbing there.” An Chang Qing tried to pull his foot back due to the tickle.

Xiao Zhige’s eyes turned dark. He leaned forward and whispered, “Nuo Nuo, can we make love tonight?”

An Chang Qing’s entire body froze on the spot. His cheeks and ears reddened as he stared at Xiao Zhige with wide eyes.

Xiao Zhige was emotionally roused by his shy looks. He placed his hand over An Chang Qing’s back and beseeched, “Can we?”

An Chang Qing heard his words and felt like he could emit smoke from his body any minute. This would be the first time he had done this whether it was his past or current life. Nonetheless, they had been married for so long, making love was nothing abnormal. He also did agree that they would do it when they returned to Yanzhou.

What stumped him was why does his husband feel the need to seek permission in such a formal way?!

An Chang Qing glanced at him and thought with annoyance, such matter… shouldn’t they just get to it spontaneously. Did he even have to ask!

Xiao Zhige could not tell what An Chang Qing was thinking so he waited patiently for An Chang Qing’s answer. For them to do it, An Chang Qing would be the one to suffer. This was greatly unfair to him and Xiao Zhige was unwilling to force him. If An Chang Qing did not want to, he would continue to wait.

Seeing Xiao Zhige’s expectant eyes, An Chang Qing swallowed nervously and mentally encouraged himself that it was no big deal. Still too embarrassed to say yes, An Chang Qing plucked his courage and gave Xiao Zhige a kiss to show his acquiescence.

A pair of moist and soft lips pressed against his own, clearly representing An Chang Qing’s answer. Xiao Zhige felt his desires surging but he dared not indulge himself in fear of hurting An Chang Qing.

He untied An Chang Qing’s hair and slowly supported his head while lowering it onto the bed. His fingers combed through his as he gently planted a kiss on his forehead. 

He smiled and whispered softly, “Don’t be afraid…”

[Lights out]1

That night, Xiao Zhige was extremely gentle.

Thanks to the exercises and instructions prescribed by Hu Shifei, An Chang Qing was not in too much pain. But because of the day-long horse riding, he was completely exhausted and fell asleep right after it ended.

On the other hand, Xiao Zhige could not sleep a wink. After he had meticulously washed An Chang Qing’s body, he held him in his arms and looked at him tenderly.

From now on, this person is his entirely.


Xiao Zhige did not sleep as he was in high spirits. At daybreak, he went to train in the yard to vent the excess energy. He had also carefully instructed the kitchen to prepare only light meals for An Chang Qing.

Coming back from the kitchen, Xiao Zhige happened to see Anfu who was about to enter the room to call An Chang Qing. He immediately stopped him and ordered, “You don’t have to wake Wangfei up for today.”

Anfu assumed that An Chang Qing was simply tired from his trip and therefore, left without thinking too much about it. After Anfu left, Xiao Zhige did not enter the room either, lest he disturbed An Chang Qing’s sleep. He sat in the yard and watched over the door, seemingly lost in thoughts.

When Qi Wei and the gang came to visit, they were dumbfounded by the sight of Xiao Zhige smiling in a daze. 

1 TN: There’s a short chapter that author had written for this scene 😉. You can read it here (password: show me the smut). It’s R18 so please enter with discretion.


Chapter 56

Edited and Proofread by KitKat

After Ji Xue left, Xue Wuyi stood by the window and pondered.

Xue Wuyi made this undercover trip to Liangzhou based on the premise that with Chang Zai Cang’s relationship with the Northern Warlord, he would definitely ask for Xiao Zhige’s help. He had personally come to Liangzhou in hope of making a deal with Xiao Zhige.

The Xi Wei Empire has been backing up in the corner in recent years. From the day the previous Emperor died, an undercurrent of unease has been surging in this seemingly peaceful kingdom.

The late emperor had been weak in health and had had only one son. When he passed on, the prince’s mother, who hailed from a powerful family, had been dissatisfied with him monopolizing control over the court. She had secretly urged the Empress Dowager time and again to meddle with the court’s affairs.

Furthermore, the several brothers of the late emperor had been amassing power, vying for the throne. Should something happen to the young prince, any of them could justly crown himself as king. 

As such, the court was divided into distinctive parties, each with their own masters and ambitions. Although Xue Wuyi had managed to enlist half the officers over the years, he had not been able to make any progress with the remaining half.


For ten years, he had watched his lord grow into a teenager. However, under the propagandistic words of his mother and those with malicious intents, the child had gradually grown estranged from him.

With the current direction the Xi Wei Empire was heading in, the Xi Wei natives who had been oppressed for so long were bound to cause unrest. With this concern, Xue Wuyi had wanted to implement a set of reformed laws after deliberate consideration. But alas, after discussing it with his confidants, they were still lacking in resources and support to counter the strong opposition that they had anticipated.

A cool breeze blew past, causing Xue Wuyi to cough twice. 

He then recalled the young man he had met today on the street.

Hands behind his back, Xue Wuyi closed his eyes and compared the youth’s face with the portrait in his possession – it was indeed almost identical.

The only difference was An Nuo’s face was more rounded and his eyes were soft. The person in the portrait had the same features but his eyes were more solemn.

One was like the luminous moon while the other was like the burning sun.

Xue Wuyi sighed as another one of the late king’s requests came to mind – a secret only inherited by Xi Wei’s Emperors, a legacy left behind by Xi Wei’s first Emperor, Xue Chang.

It was said that before he died, Xue Chang had hidden troves of treasures in an unknown location, this was all that anyone knew. At his deathbed, he had passed to his heir a portrait and instructed it to be passed on to succeeding generations. Should they one day find the person in the painting, they were to give him that scroll and tell him that Xue Chang had repaid his debt.

Xue Wuyi had no knowledge of the story behind this scroll but the late Emperor had entrusted him with this task. 

This was a debt owed by Xue Chang, their ancestor and as his descendants, they had to repay it.

That said, the Xi Wei Empire was established hundreds of years ago. Even if he had  wanted to repay this debt, the beneficiary would’ve been dead a long time ago.

At present, what Xue Wuyi lacked was gold and since he was not of the Xue bloodline, he placed little importance in returning the debt. What he wanted to uncover was the treasures hidden within the scroll.

He had studied the scroll many times but the painting itself held no secrets. He had put this matter aside but surprisingly, his trip to Liangzhou had yielded more than he expected. The young man’s features were so similar to the person in the painting that it could not have been a coincidence. He might hold a clue to finding those treasures.

Xue Wuyi grabbed the window railings and thought to himself: once he receives the results of the investigation, maybe he can take him back to Xi Wei to solve the mystery of the painting.


An Chang Qing arrived at Chang Zai Cang’s manor with the boy.

The child was wearing his outer robe unfittingly and his messy hair was covering half of his face, hiding his eyes which were looking around nervously.

Considering that he had been soaked in water for too long, An Chang Qing ordered a servant to warm him up with a hot bath and had the kitchen prepare ginger soup for him to ward off the flu.

The little boy listened to An Chang Qing’s arrangements obediently. After washing up and changing into a more fitted robe, he followed the servants to pay respects to An Chang Qing.

After dressing up, the child’s delicate features had become perceivable. Even the birthmark under his eye was not as glaring.

An Chang Qing pulled him closer and passed him the ginger soup. He then asked for his name and whether he had any other relatives. Although the child was still young, he was quite mature for his age. In fact, An Chang Qing believed that this child was actually very clever.

The child answered An Chang Qing’s questions with honesty, telling him his name and past experiences.

The child’s name was Yu Xiao. He used to live with his father in the mountains but later, his father had died due to a serious illness. Before he died, his father had told him to seek refuge with an acquaintance of his. At that time, he was too young and ignorant. After leaving the mountains and entering unfamiliar lands, he had been abducted and sold off.

Because he had pretended to be dumb, he had been passed from owner to owner until eventually, he was bought by the big man from before. The man initially wanted him to assist him with his street performances with the monkeys but after finding out that he was a good swimmer and could hold his breath for a long time underwater, he had come up with the idea of making him perform water acrobats in a water tank.

As he retold to this point, Yu Xiao was furious. 

“He is not a decent person. He always frequented the gambling dens and when he returned after losing all his money, he beat up his wife and l.”

An Chang Qing shook his head and said, “It’s alright. I’ve reported him to the local magistrate. Whatever bad things he has done, he will be tried for it by tomorrow.”

Yu Xiao smiled brightly after hearing An Chang Qing’s words.

An Chang Qing then asked him, “Do you have anyone who can take you in? If you have nowhere to go, you can stay by my side and serve me.”

Since he had decided to help the child, he should see it through till the end. Yu Xiao was still too young to live on his own. If he sent him away, he would be abducted again and the same misfortune could be repeated. Thinking that it was not a big deal to feed another mouth in the manor, An Chang Qing thought that it was ideal to keep him by his side.

Hearing his words, Yu Xiao’s eyes widened. He nodded repeatedly and said without hesitation, “I’ll do it!”

He then copied the gestures the servants of the Chang Manor made and kneeled down to salute An Chang Qing.

“Yu Xiao is at your service!”

An Chang Qing smiled and pulled him up. He patted his head and said, “You don’t have to follow these formalities. There’s nothing to do these few days so you can rest for now.”

When Xiao Zhige came back after his discussion with Chang Zai Cang, he saw An Chang Qing speaking kindly to a child. His eyebrows were raised as he looked at little Yu Xiao. 

“Where did he come from?”

An Chang Qing told him about how they had met on the streets.

“He’s too young and has nowhere else to go. I decided to let him stay with me.”

He then introduced Xiao Zhige to Yu Xiao, “This is the Northern Warlord. You can address him as Wangye.”

Seeing Xiao Zhige, Yu Xiao was instinctively scared. But thinking that he shouldn’t embarrass An Chang Qing, he picked up the courage, bowed and greeted him.

Xiao Zhige’s expression eased up a little. He told him to rise and come with them to have dinner.

Chang Zai Cang stared at the couple and felt his eyes hurt. He found an excuse and snuck out.


The next day, Xiao Zhige and Chang Zai Chang left to meet with the Xi Wei Empire at the border.

The junction separating Xi Wei and Liangzhou was divided by a range of continuous mountains which rarely had many travelers. Only once in a while would a merchant bring goods to exchange between the two cities.

However, at this moment, two factions had set up camps and surrounded it with their own troops.

Xiao Zhige stepped into the frontline and spoke imposingly, “Is the person in charge willing to negotiate?”

After his words were heard, a man carrying a large blade on his back strode out slowly. He donned a plain black garment and had his hair randomly tied back. With a high forehead and eyes like an eagle, he gave off a commandeering aura despite his shabby appearance.

He went forward, cupped his hands and said, “Shang Que. I’ve long heard of the Northern Warlord’s reputation.”

“Likewise.” Xiao Zhige responded politely.

Since neither of them were men of many words, Xiao Zhige went straight to the point, “Where can we talk in private?”

“My master would like to meet with Wangye. Please come with me.”

With his weapon in hand, Xiao Zhige fearlessly followed Shang Que into the Xi Wei camp.

Inside, Xue Wuyi was waiting for him.

Xiao Zhige’s eyebrows were slightly raised at the sight of Xue Wuyi.

Xue Wuyi studied him before stepping forward and said with a smile, “I’ve been looking forward to meeting Wangye, the Da Ye Empire’s mighty God of War.”

Xiao Zhige was not a person of courtly manners. He said bluntly, “It’s quite a drastic measure to disturb the Great Regent of Xi Wei over two jade mines, isn’t it?”

Xue Wuyi’s smile widened, “Wangye is indeed wise. I came here in hope of doing business with Wangye.”

Xiao Zhige thought through and immediately understood. Xue Wuyi competing for the mines was only a ruse for him to meet with Xiao Zhige. As for the reason, Xiao Zhige couldn’t figure it out.

Xue Wuyi was well known for being a smiling fox. He was highly resourceful and business oriented, he would never let anyone take advantage of him. Now that he had personally come to Xiao Zhige, he must have something to ask of him.

Xiao Zhige narrowed his eyes and said, “We’ll discuss other matters after dealing with issues involving the mines.”

The situation with the two jade mines was a little controversial. A larger area of it stood on Xi Wei soil compared to Liangzhou. However, they were the ones to discover the mines and therefore, Xiao Zhige was unwilling to back down.

“Xi Wei is a small nation. We are not wealthy like Da Ye and frankly speaking, without trading treaties, a commodity like jade is not marketable to us.”

Xue Wuyi observed Xiao Zhige’s expression and continued, “If Wangye wants the mines, I’ll be happy to let you have them.”

Xiao Zhige looked back at him with piercing eyes, “And the condition?”

Xue Wuyi smiled, “This is the business that I wanted to discuss with Wangye.”

He glanced at Shang Que who immediately understood. He went out of the tent and guarded the entrance. 

Xue Wuyi lowered his voice and said, “I will exchange these two mines for an oath from Wangye.”

“Within two years, if Xi Wei does not provoke Da Ye, Wangye cannot deploy troops to Xi Wei.”

Xiao Zhige interjected, “Not to mention that Da Ye and Xi Wei do not have trifles, even if I promised you, it is not entirely up to me to make that decision for Da Ye.”

Xue Wuyi shook his head, “This might be true for today but not necessarily so in the future. One day when Wangye can make decisions for Da Ye, you just have to remember this oath.”

Xiao Zhige looked at him and said, “Only two jade mines in exchange for such an oath, you seemed to have overestimated them.”

Xue Wuyi smiled bitterly, “I have indeed but I’m at the end of my rope. That said, Xi Wei is not strong enough to pose a threat to Wangye.”

“This might be true for today but not necessarily so in the future.” Xiao Zhige used the same words Xue Wuyi had said to him. “Besides, Xi Wei still has you as the Regent. How could you expect me to undermine its threat?”

And so, they had reached an impasse.

Xue Wuyi watched Xiao Zhige walk away with an unclear expression on his face.

“Why beg him? I’m more than capable of fighting him,” Shang Que spoke disgruntledly through the door.

“It’s not that you can’t fight him, it’s Xi Wei that cannot afford to fight him.” Xue Wuyi closed his eyes and waved his hand, “You can leave now. Call for Ji Xue.”

Shang Que stared at him briefly before taking off.

When no one else was left in the tent, Xue Wuyi curled his back and began coughing violently. His backbone protruded through his clothes with each cough. 

When Ji Xue arrived, Xue Wuyi had wiped off the blood on his lips. He sat on the head chair and took a sip of tea. 

“Did you manage to find anything?”

“Yes,” Ji Xue handed him a letter.

After reading the letter, Xue Wuyi finally showed a smile, “Any news from Zaiguo?”

“Everything is as Your Highness expected. The portrait in the manor has been stolen. The Empress Dowager had secretly sent envoys to bring the portrait out of Zaiguo. They seem to be heading for Yejing.”

“What a bunch of fools.” Xue Wuyi’s eyes had turned cold. In order to overthrow him, they were even willing to trade the secrets of the treasure passed down from the first Emperor with Da Ye. How hopelessly foolish.

“Should we chase and kill the envoy?” Ji Xue asked.

“No need.”

Xue Wuyi smiled as he touched the letter in his hand. In it was the information his confidants had found out about An Nuo. He would never have imagined that the An Nuo he had met by chance on the streets turned out to be the Wangfei of the Northern Warlord.

It was like being handed a pillow when needing to sleep. 

“Deliver this news to the Northern Warlord along with the portrait.”

From the letter, he knew that the Northern Warlord treasured his Wangfei above all else. Hopefully this deed was enough to shift Xiao Zhige’s decision.

Ji Xue should be heading out on Xue Wuyi’s order but she stayed and looked at him anxiously, “Is Your Highness coughing up blood again? It’s been some time since you last took your medicine.”

Xue Wuyi sipped his tea as though Ji Xue’s words were not referring to him, “That medicine is too bitter. And taking it will make my body reek of herbs. I should die soon so those people in Zaiguo can rest their hearts.”

Ju Xie’s expression turned sullen, “Your Highness!”

Xue Wuyi waved his hand nonchalantly, “Go on. I won’t die so easily.”


Chapter 55

Edited and Proofread by KitKat

The gushing wind howled by his ears and the scenery flashed by quickly as Ta Xue carried them across the desert. The only thing An Chang Qing could discern with his eyes were the shining stars above.

They traveled for quite a distance before Ta Xue brought them to a small lake.

If he had not seen it with his own eyes, An Chang Qing would’ve never believed that there existed such a pristine lake deep in the desert. Maybe because there was a water source, the vegetation around the lake was lush and thriving as seen through the lights lit by the fireflies hiding between the leaves.

The moon and stars were reflected distinctively over the tranquil water as though there was another sky within the lake. 

An Chang Qing got down from Ta Xue and walked along the lake in awe. Xiao Zhige let Ta Xue wander off to play while he followed behind An Chang Qing.

An Chang Qing dusted off the sand of a large boulder and sat down. Looking up at Xiao Zhige, he asked, “This place is beautiful. How did Wangye find it?” 

“I used to camp around here during the marches to Liangzhou.” Xiao Zhige sat beside An Chang Qing and began telling him about his past.

Back then, he had just joined the army as a low-ranking soldier with nothing to his name. He was traversing this part of the desert because his platoon was being transferred to Liangzhou. At the time, he was still a kid and far less mellow than he was now. Being woken up in the middle of the night by his teammates, he readily agreed to join them in sneaking off to find food.

They were all still growing up so the food taken during the day had been digested by night. Remembering the lake nearby, they decided to go there to catch fish. After filling up their growling stomach, the group slept by the lake and sneaked back before dawn.

“This is where I got to know Chang Zai Cang.” Chang Zai Cang was the ringleader for this mischief.

After that, the war in Liangzhou had turned for the worse. They had marched with haste to provide support but Liangzhou had still incurred heavy losses. Among the group that had sneaked off to catch fish, only he and Chang Zai Cang had survived.

“It must’ve been hard,” An Chang Qing said when he saw Xiao Zhige’s brows crease up as he recounted those events.


An Chang Qing was holding Xiao Zhige’s strong and rough hand. His ten fingers were slender and long; this should’ve been a beautiful pair of hands but over the years, it had to wield weapons and weather hardships, causing the palms to be coarse and filled with calluses. An Chang Qing had seen the hands of the other princes, they were all white and delicate without any trace of imperfections.

Princes should be well-fed and groomed like the Crown Prince and Third Prince. Only Xiao Zhige had been mistreated from a young age.

But Xiao Zhige shook his head and smiled, “It was hard but it’s all worth it.”

“If you want something precious, you’ll have to put something else up in exchange.” There was only An Chang Qing in his eyes when he said this.

In the last twenty years, he had indeed tasted hardships and oppression but he had always remembered his mother’s words: ‘Everyone in this world has their own destiny. Some will experience sweetness before they will have to face bitterness, some will have to brave tribulations before they can obtain happiness. Since my son has suffered much since childhood, he will have a happy life later. Just be patient, do not despair.’

These words had always followed him.

Xiao Zhige had believed An Chang Qing to be his ‘happiness after the sufferings’. If the twenty years of torment that he had to go through was the price to be paid to secure a happy life with An Chang Qing, it had not been a loss.

An Chang Qing did not know his thoughts but his face looked serene. It seemed Xiao Zhige had made peace with it. 

He felt his pocket and pulled out a small paper bag. He picked a piece of pine nut candy from it and fed it to Xiao Zhige.

“You’ll have me in the future, there won’t be any more bitterness.”

“Is it sweet?”

Xiao Zhige’s eyes darkened as he lowered his head to kiss An Chang Qing and at the same time, passed the sweet to his mouth. He then asked provocatively, “It’s very sweet. You try.”

An Chang Qing was forced to receive the candy. He looked at Xiao Zhige’s face up close and his heart began to beat violently.

The sweet gradually melted but the kiss still lingered. Until An Chang Qing was dizzy from breathlessness, they held onto each other’s’ lips.

Xiao Zhige supported his back with his hands and whispered, “It’s still very sweet”

An Chang Qing glared at him and covered his mouth, “Nonsense. No more kissing. My lips are all swollen.”

The look in Xiao Zhige’s eyes darkened. He stroked An Chang Qing’s back a little heavier this time and asked softly, “The guidelines… Have you been following it? I haven’t seen you using it since you came to Yanzhou.”

Hearing this, An Chang Qing’s eyes widened and his face turned beet red. He stuttered and shyly replied, “….it’s done. I’ve reached the final stage.”

Back in Yejing, he had followed the instructions and practiced daily with the jade rods. There was no way he would tell Xiao Zhige about this so he was not updated on his progress clearly.

Seeing his neck turn deep red, Xiao Zhige chuckled and said, “When we return to Yanzhou, let’s make love.”

Xiao Zhige had had too many concerns before and was unwilling to force An Chang Qing. But now that they had openly declared their love, Xiao Zhige could no longer hold back.

An Chang Qing squinted at him and teased, “Who was it that refused to sleep with me before?”

Xiao Zhige laughed and kissed his hair, “I was wrong. Can Nuo Nuo give me another chance?”

“I’ll go look for Ta Xue,” An Chang Qing wriggled out from his embrace and ran to Ta Xue, “Didn’t you say that you’ll teach me how to ride a horse?”

Xiao Zhige laughed helplessly and walked up to him.


By the time they returned, the hunting team had already come back. A captured rabbit was now being roasted over the fire.

An Chang Qing was sitting on Ta Xue while Xiao Zhige was holding the reins. As they approached, the soldiers were all stupefied. They had never seen the Northern Warlord this gentle before! It seems marriage can indeed change a man.

As the soldiers tried to act normal and kept their eyes to themselves, only Chang Zai Cang dared to move a muscle and spoke disapprovingly, “We are here to discuss issues of national importance with the Xi Wei Empire, not for you to go on dates!” 

The words seemed to hit An Chang Qing hard and he looked down with blushing cheeks. 

Xiao Zhige, on the other hand, stared at Chang Zai Cang menacingly and said with disdain, “Say one more word and you’ll be attending this meeting by yourself.”

This was Chang Zai Cang’s Achilles’ heels. He had no choice but to shut up and stay put.


After resting for the night, the group departed early the next morning. By noon, they had finally arrived at Liangzhou.

Although Liangzhou and Yanzhou were geographically close, they had many dissimilarities. There were many foreigners with high noses and deep eyes living in the city and even the commoners were dressed very differently compared to the people of Da Ye.

Xiao Zhige explained, “Since Liangzhou is right next to the Xi Wei Empire, many of the Xi Wei natives who were mistreated would escape to Liangzhou for refuge.”

Running to Liangzhou would render them homeless but it was a better life than being oppressed and treated as less than livestock. With time, a large community of Xi Wei natives had settled in Liangzhou and many had interracial marriages with the people of Da Ye. This integration introduced the traditions and cultures of the Xi Wei natives to Liangzhou and eventually, created this unique diversity.

Everything in Liangzhou seemed exotic and eye-catching to An Chang Qing. He was in awe with the items on sale by the street vendors.

After they entered the city and arrived at Chang Zai Cang’s Manor, Xiao Zhige went on to discuss their upcoming dealings with the Xi Wei Empire. An Chang Qing had nothing to do so he went to explore the city accompanied by a guard.

Both cities were located at the border but Liangzhou was clearly more lively than Yanzhou. Of the three cities bordering the desert, Yanzhou was the most prone to be attacked due to the Beidi people’s hatred for Xiao Zhige. Therefore, its streets were not as bustling as that of Chenzhou and Liangzhou.

An Chang Qing browsed the streets and saw many interesting items. After going through two streets, he came across a teahouse which had dancers performing with monkeys to entertain guests. An Chang Qing was intrigued and decided to stop by.

Liangzhou’s tea was also quite different. What was added to the tea was not tea leaves but spices and herbs. It tasted strange at first but would grow on you as you got used to the fragrance.

After having two cups of tea and watching a dance performed by monkeys, it was time to head back. An Chang Qing was about to leave when he saw a crowd gathering outside the teahouse and heard the voice of a man shouting.

Peeking in between the onlookers, he saw a large man pointing a bamboo stick at a young girl of about ten. She was wearing a sleeveless top and a large leather bag in the shape of a fish tail was wrapped tightly over her from her waist down. She was sitting next to a large water tank, hugging herself and shivering.

An Chang Qing grimaced. He squeezed through the crowd and tried to find out what was happening.

It turns out that they were a pair of father and daughter street performers. The little girl was to wear a fishtail to imitate a mermaid while performing acrobatics in the large water tank. It seemed she hadn’t been able to hold her breath just then and was being punished for her failure.

Many onlookers disagreed with the man but seeing that he was her father, it was not reasonable for them to meddle so they could only try to persuade the man politely. However, the man claimed that they were trying to earn money for the child’s mother who was seriously ill and yet, she could not even do a simple act properly.

The little girl huddled silently in a corner, her hair and clothes dripping wet.

Until the man said that he had sacrificed a lot to raise her, the little girl looked up and shouted in frustration, “You’re not my father! You didn’t raise me!”

The man was stumped. He flogged her harshly and said, “Shut up! If I’m not your father, who is?!”

The little girl was scared but she still insisted, “You are not!”

The man was furious. He was about to pick up a small stool to hit her when An Chang Qing stepped in. He signaled for the guard to hold the man back while he blocked the girl behind him. “No father will act this way!”

Seeing that An Chang Qing’s clothes were not ordinary and that he even had a bodyguard, the man was taken aback but he still stuck out his head and said, “Mind your own business! This is my family’s affairs!”

An Chang Qing ignored the man. He went over to help the little girl up but found that the fish tail shaped bag had hindered her ability to stand. He let her sit down first and took off his outer coat to cover her.

“You said that he is not your father?”

The little girl eyed him cautiously, trying to determine if he held any ill will. An Chang Qing looked at her with gentle eyes and waited patiently for her answer.

Feeling that An Chang Qing bore no malice, she nodded, “He’s not my father. My father had died and I was bought by him.”

The bystanders heard her words and began pointing fingers at the man. If he were the girl’s father, they couldn’t intervene but since that was not the case and coupled with the fact that the man had been lying to them, everyone began to chastise him.

An Chang Qing looked at the little girl with some sympathy. He contemplated, then turned and faced the man, “I’m taking this child with me. How much did you pay for her? I will reimburse you.”

The man was unwilling to let the girl go. After all, she was his money tree and had helped him earn a lot of money. “You can’t force me to sell her!”

An Chang Qing had no patience to argue with the man. He glanced at the guard who then cast the man a threatening look as he drew his sword from its sheath.

The man panicked. He realized it was not wise to provoke An Chang Qing and hurriedly said, “Alright! Alright! 500 taels! I bought the girl for 500 taels”

“He’s lying! He clearly only paid 5 taels!” The little girl shouted for everyone to hear.

The man choked up and viciously stared at the girl.

An Chang Qing took out 5 taels and threw them at the man. He told the guard to carry the girl and take her back with them. 


As he was leaving, he heard someone call out to him, “Sir, please stop.”

An Chang Qing turned and saw a young man dressed in blue smiling at him. He had a handsome appearance but his complexion seemed a little pale. On his side was a beautiful maid.

“Is something the matter?”

“The fish tail covering that this child is wearing, if you don’t remove it soon, I’m afraid it will hurt her legs.”

An Chang Qing followed his finger and looked at the leather sheath tightly wrapped over her lower body. He bit his lips and was at a loss. Although the little girl was still small, she was still a girl. It was inappropriate for him and the guard to strip her clothes in public.

“My maid can be of service if you would allow. We should find a place to let her remove the fishtail covering for the child.”

An Chang Qing thought it over and seeing that he only brought a maid, calculated that there was no immediate danger. He agreed and the group went back to the teahouse from before and booked an isolated room.

After entering the room, the maid picked up the child and proceeded to help her remove the fish tail covering from behind a screen. Meanwhile, An Chang Qing ordered tea and waited outside with the gentleman who offered up his name amicably, “My surname is Xue, given name is Yi. How should I address you, young sir?”

“My surname is An, given name is Nuo.” They were not familiar and the man was being too friendly so An Chang Qing couldn’t help but be wary.

Xue Yi said, “Judging by your looks, you are not someone from Liangzhou, are you?”

An Chang Qing responded, “Yes, I’m here on business.”

The two exchanged a few more words before the maid returned with the child in her arms. The child was wrapped in An Chang Qing’s robe and her face was slightly blushing.

The maid remained expressionless as she reported to Xue Yi, “The fish tail has been removed. There is no damage to the legs but this child is not a girl, he’s a boy.”

This prompted An Chang Qing to take a closer look at the kid. In fact, the boy had outstanding facial features if it weren’t for the scale shape birthmark under his left eye. 

The little boy said nervously, “He told me to dress up as a girl. That way, it’ll attract a larger audience.”

‘He’ clearly referred to the man who had bought him.

An Chang Qing suddenly realized that he was rubbing the boy’s head. He took his hand back and turned to speak to Xue Yi, “Now that this has been settled, I have to take my leave. Thank you Brother Xue for today.”

Xue Yi smiled and said, “You’re welcome. Let us meet again should fate permit.”

An Chang Qing nodded and took the boy away.

Xue Yi waited till An Chang Qing was out of sight before turning to leave. His maid, Ji Xue, followed closely behind, “Minister, are we going back now? Chang Zai Cang has already arrived.”

Xue Yi, also known as Xue Wuyi nodded, “It’s time to return indeed. Chang Zai Cang should’ve brought along the Northern Warlord with him.”

Ji Xue said, “Should I prepare the carriage?”

“There’s no hurry,” Xue Wuyi waved his hand, “Ji Xue, do you think that it’s possible for two persons of unrelated origins to look exactly the same?”

Ji Xue shook her head and replied, “This servant has never heard of such a thing.”

Xue Wuyi meditated briefly before giving out an order, “Have someone do a background check on An Nuo.”



Chapter 54

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!”


Chapter 53

Edited and Proofread by KitKat

The Xi Wei Empire stood to the west of Da Ye. It was established by Xue Chang, one of the founding Great Generals of Da Ye at that time, in collaboration with the Xi Wei tribes. Xue Chang had then later turned his back against the Xi Wei natives by suppressing them and deeming them as less than livestock. This was the current state of the Xi Wei Empire.

At present, although the country was still called Xi Wei, the one that truly held power was the Xue Clan. As the previous Emperor died early, his successor was the only son he had had, Xue Zhi. And because Xue Zhi was still a child, the previous Emperor had decreed for the Prime Minister, Xue Wu Yi, to be the regent in order to assist the boy.

Mighty as his title, Prime Minister Xue Wu Yi had actually come from a lowly background. He was a beggar whom the Emperor had met by chance and decided to take him in. Later, when the Emperor had discovered that he was a highly gifted individual, he had adopted him as his son. He had also let him take the surname Xue and had ordered for him to be taught.

It was said that before the age of 10, Xue Wu Yi was already capable of debating with the officials in court with his unique political views. By the age of 16, he was inaugurated by the Emperor as the Prime Minister without any objections from the court.

Ten years from the time the late Emperor entrusted his son to him, Xue Wu Yi had taken charge of every aspect of the court with ruthlessness and ingenuity, making Xi Wei the strong and stable country that it currently was.

And, Shang Que, the Commander of the Northern Garrison was his most capable right-hand man.

Having Shang Que mobilize his troops this promptly only showed how much weight Xi Wei had placed in obtaining these two jade mines.


The group gathered in Xiao Zhige’s study while a guard was ordered to watch the door. 

Xiao Zhige began, “How did this get out? You have a spy on your side?”

The smiling Chang Zai Cang’s face was now filled with dread, “I was too lax with the people around me. The spy has been found and I will personally deal with him once this matter is solved!” Only then did Chang Zai Cang look less of a scholar and more like a general.

Xiao Zhige was not surprised, “I will discuss this with the Xi Wei Empire. After that, since you are responsible for the leak, we’ll split it by 8-2, I’ll take 8 and you 2.”

Chang Zai Cang was wide-eyed, “You’re too evil! No way! I have to get at least 4 shares or there’s no deal!”

Xiao Zhige smirked, “I have yet to settle scores with you regarding the fake news you sent me when you were in Yejing.”

“When did I ever send you…” Chang Zai Cang stopped and wondered about his statement. Once he had figured it out, he quickly glanced at An Chang Qing and argued, “It was all for your own good. If I didn’t motivate you, you would never have taken any actions. Come to think of it, shouldn’t you be thanking me instead?”

An Chang Qing listened to their bickering and knew that their conversation had something to do with him. He tried to figure out the details but the two were speaking in codes.

Xiao Zhige said in an assertive tone, “Don’t try to be clever with me. 8-2 or else, you’ll get nothing.”

Chang Zai Cang clicked his tongue and frowned, “Wait wait wait, let me reconsider!”

If anyone else from the Xi Wei Empire had come to fight for the mines, Chang Zai Cang would not have had this headache. But it just had to be Shang Que, the powerhouse of the Xi Wei Garrison. He was a Xi Wei aborigin who was born with incredible strength. No one knew how Xue Wu Yi was able to make this mighty man do all his bidding.

Naturally, Chang Zai Cang was not his opponent. In the whole of Da Ye, other than the young version of the Great General Xia Hou Shang, the person capable of defeating Shang Que was only Xiao Zhige.

Clenching his teeth, Chang Zai Cang made his decision, “8-2 is really not enough to share with my team. 7-3, at least make it 7-3!”

Xiao Zhige’s eyes lit up, “Deal. Tomorrow, I’ll depart with you to Liangzhou.”

Chang Zai Cang, “…” Such a quick reply, was I being duped again?


When the discussion had ended, Chang Zai Cang winked at An Chang Qing several times in want of starting a conversation with him but was caught by Xiao Zhige. He gave him a threatening look and Chang Zai Cang could only give up and leave. Since he was a frequent visitor, he knew his way to the guest room without needing help with directions.

After Chang Zai Cang left, An Chang Qing asked with some concern, “You’re leaving for Liangzhou? Didn’t Dr. Hu say that you have to rest your wounds?”

Xiao Zhige smiled and whispered in his ears, “Don’t worry, there won’t be a fight. I was only trying to scare Chang Zai Cang.”

Chang Zai Cang and Xiao Zhige were under the command of Xia Hou Shang and the two had known each other for a long time. Chang Zai Cang was quite talented at leading his men and this had allowed Liangzhou to stay safe and secure. However, Xiao Zhige knew that he had a fatal weakness – Chang Zai Cang did not have a lot of guts, he preferred stability and seldom took risks.

He knew that he couldn’t win Shang Que in a fight and rushed to Xiao Zhige for help but he never considered that Shang Que might not even want to engage in battle.

Da Ye and Xi Wei had been on friendly terms all these years, they would not risk war over a jade mine. As far as he could tell, the Xi Wei government may seem steady but in fact, it was about to get turbulent. Xue Wu Yi had taken control over the court for so long but the young Xi Wei Emperor was also coming of age, it was high time that he would get involved in the matters of the court. Over the years, the royal family who had been waiting patiently to regain power were also aiming for Xue Wu Yi’s downfall. And during his reign, Xue Wu Yi had also made many enemies by ruining their ill-gotten gains with his iron-fisted regulations. 

As such, Xue Wu Yi would definitely not risk stirring up a hornet’s nest at this juncture. Sending Shang Que was probably just a scare tactic.

Listening to his explanation, An Chang Qing was in awe. Xiao Zhige was truly insightful. 

He then remembered something and asked, “Wangye has spoken about me with General Chang?”

Xiao Zhige did not expect the topic to change so suddenly and almost blurted out a ‘yes’. He looked back at An Chang Qing and asked, “Why do you ask?”

An Chang Qing had been with Xiao Zhige for this long so he naturally knew that since he did not deny it, then it must’ve been true.

“Wangye just have to tell me if you’ve spoken about me or not.”

Xiao Zhige glanced at him and thought about how he had promised not to keep anything from him. His Adam’s apple rolled twice and he nodded awkwardly, “Yes.”

Without waiting for An Chang Qing to ask, Xiao Zhige sighed and went on to explain, “When Chang Zai Cang was stationed in Yejing, I told him to watch over the An Manor and send me news of you.”

“Didn’t you ask me where the misunderstanding I had of you and Li Hai Yun comes from? It was Chang Zai Cang who told me.”

“…” There was some information to digest and An Chang Qing did not know which to be surprised at first.

After deliberating, he stammered, “Then… you’ve known me long before? How…”

Xiao Zhige saw An Chang Qing’s ears turning a shade redder and his lips arced with glee. He reached out to touch his earlobe and thought about where to begin, “It should be when I was around nine. You were about seven at the time, probably still too small to remember.”

An Chang Qing looked at him speaking in earnest and frowned, he had no memories of Xiao Zhige before this.

Xiao Zhige continued, “That autumn during the Emperor’s birthday, he organized a hunting expedition in the Spring Mountain outer palace. The Crown Prince had stayed behind and on a rare chance, I was allowed to go. It was there that I met you.”

At that time, Xiao Zhige’s mother was still around. Although he was not favored, he was still a child pampered by his mother. He happened to see the young An Chang Qing’s round little jaded face and liked it very much.

The ministers’ children that attended were mostly around his younger brother’s age but they had obviously learned the art of flattery. Only An Chang Qing was indifferent and stayed in one place, not trying to draw attention or give out pretentious praises. Xiao Zhige found him extremely cute.

Xiao Zhige saw him sitting by himself and went to talk to him. Only then did he find out that An Chang Qing was Minister An’s third son. Everyone knew of the Minister’s capable eldest son and mischievous second son but very few knew the existence of his third son.

Xiao Zhige could tell that he was a little timid so he gave him a piece of pastry.

Two weeks into the expedition, An Chang Qing had often come to find him. At a certain point, An Chang Qing was late and Xiao Zhige went to find him. It was then that he saw him being bullied by the second young master An and several other young masters. The Third Prince was also watching with excitement.

The young An Chang Qing had cowered into a ball, seemingly adept in dealing with this type of situation. Even in the face of insults and abuse, he still kept his head low and stayed small, looking pitiful and helpless.

Xiao Zhige was furious. He rushed over and fought with them. In the end, even the Third Prince joined the fight. Although Xiao Zhige had been practicing martial arts, his body was still that of a boy’s. When the brawl was over, Xiao Zhige had countless bruises and scratches on his body.

Later, Xiao Zhige brought An Chang Qing back to his room and asked him angrily why he did not fight back or hide.

The small An Chang Qing then gave him a serious answer, “If you hide or retaliate this time, the next time will be more severe.”

Xiao Zhige did not understand his words back then but he made him a promise: When he returned to the palace, he would ask his father to let An Chang Qing become his reading companion so he could prevent him from getting bullied.

At that time, he only thought that since An Chang Qing was also not favored, it shouldn’t be too hard to get approval. However, fate is always inconsistent and many things never go according to one’s wishes.

Upon his return, before he had the chance to speak to his father, the Empress had told him that his mother had committed suicide.

After that came years of struggles and extraordinary hardships. Without his mother’s protection, Xiao Zhige realized that his life would only turn arduous. And he finally understood what An Chang Qing had said to him: ‘If you hide or retaliate this time, the next time will be more severe.’

Xiao Zhige had to grow up fast. In order to break away from the Empress and Crown Prince’s control, by the age of twelve, Xiao Zhige requested for his enrolment into the military.

When he returned many years later and remembered his oath, he found that An Chang Qing had already forgotten this childish promise. But Xiao Zhige still felt guilty for not being able to keep his promise.

Afterwards, he could only try to pay attention to his news every now and then. Once he knew that An Chang Qing was having a hard time at the An Manor, it was then that he requested Chang Zai Cang’s help.

Later, in order to hamper suspicions in the palace, he announced that he did not like women and asked the Empress Dowager to decree for their marriage.

“… That’s all there is. I saw that you have forgotten so I did not bring it up.”

An Chang Qing widened his eyes. He recalled that in the winters, when their allowance was skimmed, every few days, someone would leave a basket of charcoal in their yard; whenever he went to refill his mother’s prescriptions without enough money, the store clerk would always charge him less…

After he grew up and found out that the pharmacy was under Madame Li’s name, he had thought that it was Madame Li being kind to them.

As it turned out, it was all thanks to Xiao Zhige’s attentiveness towards him.

An Chang Qing scoured his brains to remember Xiao Zhige in his childhood but it was no use. In the winter when he had turned ten, he had jumped into an ice cold pond to save his sister who had been pushed in. The incident had caused him to subsequently suffer from a severe fever. After he had recovered, he seemed to have forgotten many things.

“I’m sorry…” An Chang Qing said forlorn yet longingly, “I can’t remember…”