CH 16

That night, Jinbao lingered after lighting a lamp for Xue Yan and tidying his clothing.

Xue Yan was reading a military book under the lamp. When he saw a shadow passing back and forth in front of the light, Xue Yan flipped a page and said, “Get lost.”

Jinbao laughed.

Xue Yan looked up at him, baffled, only to see Jinbao kneel in front of him. Jinbao smiled bashfully and said, “This servant thanks Master for saving his life today.”

Jinbao had always thought this master was a man-eating demon, he didn’t expect that behind the cold front was a warm heart. Xue Yan even risked his life to save a servant, whose life was as insignificant as grass.

But under the lamp, Xue Yan’s amber eyes only glanced at him lightly, then returned to the book. 

“At that time there were people from the Eastern Depot watching. Our old friend Xiao Weizi was there.” He spoke lightly, but his tone was extremely cold. “The Eastern Depot probably could not infiltrate Consort Shu’s palace. They knew I went to Wenhua Hall yesterday so he watched me there.”

Having said this, Xue Yan’s lip curled coldly and he looked at Jinbao. “So I put on a performance. Bullied by several princes, I still risked my life to save an eunuch. When the Eastern Depot learn of this, they will trust me more.” After all, the Eastern Depot were all eunuchs. These people looked arrogant but actually had inferiority complexes. Putting on a play for them was only appropriate.

Jinbao was stunned. He met Xue Yan’s cool gaze and suddenly felt himself a bit silly to have shed tears of gratitude.

Xue Yan laughed softly. “Otherwise, did you think I really wanted to save you? There were so many people in Wenhua Hall, and Xue Yunsu only had that bit of strength. Even if I didn’t care, someone would take care of you before you drowned.”

He returned to his book and concluded casually, “Idiot.”

……. Sure enough, this was his master’s real appearance.

Perhaps because he had gone to the gates of hell today, Jinbao became more courageous. Hearing what Xue Yan said, Jinbao lost his mind and actually retorted softly, “Today, the Lord Heir also thought you[1] were saving this servant. I was not the only one who thought so.”

The hand turning the page paused.

Jinbao became afraid after speaking. He raised his head anxiously and saw Xue Yan staring at the book silently, as if recalling something. The lamp light danced in his eyes and there was a complicated expression that Jinbao could not make sense of. The corner of Xue Yan’s lips curved up imperceptibly.

It was different from his usual mocking sneers and insincere smiles. This smile was warm, and it made Jinbao feel terrified.

It’s not a hallucination, is it?

But after a while, Xue Yan’s expression disappeared, and he was even a bit colder than before. Xue Yan turned his head and gave Jinbao a cool look with those amber eyes.

“So you must not blab in his presence.”

The voice was soft but Jinbao’s back went numb with fright.

That’s right, this was the man-eating demon he knew.

After that day, it was as if the incident had never happened. Xue Yan was still coming and going alone. When studying and practicing martial arts, he and Jun Huailang were still like strangers.

This made Jun Huailang feel more at ease. After all, he had helped Xue Yan that day and violated his original intentions. He didn’t want to bring up old affairs and make things awkward for himself.

But Jun Huailang’s nightmares did not improve. On the contrary, they became worse and worse.

One afternoon, Jun Huailang practiced martial arts with several princes at the drill grounds behind Wenhua Hall.

Since the day he ate dirt in front of Xue Yunhuan, Xue Yunsu never found fault with Xue Yan again. He pretended Xue Yan didn’t exist, and at the same time never spoke to Xue Yunhuan, only interacting with the few people remaining in his social circle.

Xue Yunhuan had peace and quiet, and he was eager to never have to speak to Xue Yunsu again in his whole life.

When Xue Yunhuan was in a good mood, he would drag Jun Huailang to talk all day long. He had a quick temper and thoughtless personality, so he didn’t realize that Jun Huailang was in poor spirits. He thought that Jun Huailang was just not very talkative, like usual.

On this afternoon, the martial arts instructors brought a squad of guards and had the princes practice the fighting skills they had learned recently against them.

The nation of Dayong valued civil matters over military. Very few princes would personally lead troops in battle, thus the fighting methods that princes practiced were usually self defense in case of unexpected events. Jun Huailang had grown up in Chang’an and rarely practiced martial arts. Until death, in the previous life he had only known a little bit of boxing for self-defense.

These few days, Jun Huailang was in low spirits. He was absent-minded and his body had no energy. The guard who practiced with him just used a couple ordinary moves, and easily knocked him to the ground.

The throw didn’t hurt, but Jun Huailang felt dizzy. He saw stars and after holding his forehead for a moment, still did not get up.

Xue Yunhuan was nearby and saw the situation. He had not noticed anything abnormal during Jun Huailang’s fall, but he signaled a pause to his partnering guard, and said to Jun Huailang with a smile, “Huailang, how can you be so weak, you need to train more!”

Belatedly, he realized that something was wrong with Jun Huailang.

“What’s the matter?” Xue Yunhuan hurried forward.

Next to him, the guard that was Jun Huailang’s training partner also panicked. He noticed that the lord didn’t seem to practice martial arts, so he hadn’t even used a fifth of his strength and his moves had all been correct and normal. Who knew that this lord was so weak that he would be brought to the ground in one move?

Jun Huailang smiled with difficulty at Xue Yunhuan and allowed him to help him up. “No matter,” he said. “I was reading an interesting book last night and went to bed late, so I feel a little dizzy this morning.”

Xue Yunhuan did not doubt him. Instead he said, “Really? Then you can lend me that book later, I will also take a look.”

Jun Huailang agreed with a smile.

At that moment, Xue Yunhuan looked in a direction and exclaimed suspiciously. “There’s something wrong with that guard,” he said.

Jun Huailang looked over. He didn’t expect that the person Xue Yunhuan was looking at was Xue Yan.

He was inconspicuous in a corner of the training grounds. No one nearby had noticed that Xue Yan was embroiled in a battle with his training partner. Jun Huailang couldn’t see what kind of martial arts they were using, only Xue Yan blocking. Step by step, he was forced back.

“The moves the guard is using were obviously not taught by our Shifu,”[2] Xue Yunhuan said. “How ruthless, they’re all lethal moves! It’s amazing that Xue Yan can avoid them!”

Hearing this, Jun Huailang frowned unconsciously.

It was exactly as Xue Yunhuan said. Every attack by the guard was thunderous, and his moves were so fast it dazzled the eye from far away. But fortunately, Xue Yan parried well. Even though he did not attack, he did not suffer injury from his opponent.

Jun Huailang smiled and said, “After all, he was in Yan Province for so many years and even fought on the battlefield.”

“Tsk, what he learned at the border is obviously not elite martial arts,” Xue Yunhuan retorted. Even though he said that, he still stared at Xue Yan, eyes clearly gleaming with admiration and yearning.

Jun Huailaing couldn’t help but laugh.

Suddenly he realized that Xue Yan was retreating in the direction of the racks displaying weapons. Space was limited. Xue Yan was focused on dealing with the attacks in front of him, and according to the requirements of today’s practice, did not retaliate at all. So he did not notice that he was getting closer and closer to the weapon racks.

Jun Huailang frowned and grabbed Xue Yunhuan. “I fear something may happen.”

Xue Yunhuan was watching Xue Yan’s movement. “Ah?” He said blankly, not reacting at all.

Xue Yan was already very close to the weapon rack. Jun Huailang didn’t have time to talk, so he simply went to Xue Yan, dragging Xue Yunhuan along with him. While walking, he raised his voice and ordered, “Stand down! Don’t you know what’s protocol? You’ve reached the edge of the training grounds, stop now!”

The guards, companions, and princes on the training ground all stopped when they heard this and looked over curiously. Only the guard in front of Xue Yan did not stop. Instead the guard’s moves became more severe and he directly attacked Xue Yan.

Xue Yan could not retreat any further. He dodged sideways and blocked his opponent’s attack with the back of his hand, but his shoulder slammed into the weapon rack with a clatter.

Xue Yan groaned and his lips turned pale.

Jun Huailang knew that Xue Yan had not recovered from the beating and hurried forward. He raised his hand to steady Xue Yan, but Xue Yan dodged it nimbly. “No need,” he said. “It’s nothing serious.”

Xue Yan’s voice was cold and his expression was very calm. He didn’t even look at Jun Huailang. Jun Huailang was taken aback. He stood aside and watched as Xue Yan shook out his shoulder.

From start to finish, Jun Huailang did not exist to those amber eyes.

Jun Huailang was taken aback and unexpectedly felt a bit choked up in his heart for no reason. But then he realized he was being ridiculous. Xue Yan was cold-hearted, and there was no way he could understand him. What’s more, there was a sea of blood and hatred running through their previous life. All he needed to do was to protect his family from enmity with Xue Yan. There was no need to extend a helping hand and await his response.

Xue Yan obviously didn’t need it either.

Seeing this scene, Xue Yunhuan stepped forward. He gave Xue Yan a hard push on the shoulder and said, “Kid, what’s with the attitude?”

Before he could continue speaking, Jun Huailang raised his hand and pressed on Xue Yunhuan’s shoulder. “I was meddling. Let’s go,” Jun Huailang said, and pulled him away.

He had always been a wolf. I was just afraid he would bear grudges, so after helping him a few times I forgot. Wild animals by nature do not remember kindness.

Jun Huailang thought this in his heart, but he couldn’t help feeling a little sour.

The instructor was afraid of an incident because of what happened with Xue Yan, so he had the princes and companions rest for a while. The guards were led out and admonished. Xue Yunhuan took Jun Huailang to sit near the imperial tutor’s chair by the training grounds. Just as they were about to drink tea, they saw a group of palace maids bustling in the distance.

Jun Huailang took a closer look and saw that the one walking in front was his little sister, Jun Linghuan.

The majestic procession of maids behind her was holding lychees. Consort Shu had kept these lychees in an ice basin and they were still fresh. Most of the ice in the palace was used up in the summer, so by autumn and winter, the only one who could use ice to store fruit extravagantly was the favored Consort Shu.

Jun Linghuan bounced up to the two of them, saluted Xue Yunhuan, and plunged into Jun Huailang’s arms. The maids following her neatly placed hot tea and lychee on the table for the two of them.

“Gumu[3] said that you were hard at work practicing martial arts, so she specially asked Linghuan to bring fruit to Gege and Sixth Prince-gege!”[4]

Xue Yunhuan stared at the fresh lychees ardently. He reached past Jun Huailang’s arm to rub Jun Linghuan’s head a few times, and said with a smile, “Many thanks, Linghuan-meimei![5] I’ve been craving lychee for many days, you’ve saved me in my hour of need!”[6]

Jun Linghuan burrowed deeper into Jun Huailang’s embrace to avoid the hand.

When Xue Yunhuan stopped being a nuisance, Jun Linghuan said to Jun Huailang again, “Gumu said this lychee is precious and can only be given to Linghuan’s geges.”

This statement that Jun Linghuan relayed brought Consort Shu’s spoiled and stingy appearance to mind, and Jun Huailang couldn’t help but laugh. Then Jun Linghuan wandered off topic and asked, “Then is the gege who moved into our palace recently also considered Linghuan’s gege?”


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