Sandy's Read Receipts
Translations, Reviews and Other Written Worlds
Huaiyang (Part 1)
Pei Qian defeated the gang of thieves with his soldiers. After the fierce battle, they rested and regrouped by the side of the road.
A few of Wei Residence's soldiers suffered injuries, but fortunately none fatal. As someone bandaged them, the capsized carriage lay broken in the backdrop. The thieves had tripped the two horses, causing them to fall and hurt their legs.
Unscathed thanks to the soldiers, Wei An sat on the oxcart and resumed fiddling with his wooden pieces. Occasionally, he looked up and shot glances in my direction.
I perched on a roadside boulder and Pei Qian stood facing me, his lanky body clad in green robes.
His physique had become sturdier in the years we hadn't met; no longer the frail juvenile fond of reciting poetry. A double-edged sword hung at his waist, and his forehead was broader. Although his face still looked refined, a new murderous aura enveloped him.
I used to imagine what it would be like to meet Pei Qian again.
When he had married his bride, I wanted to scratch and scold him for being heartless, and then shamelessly beg him to marry me. When I had married into Laiyang, I wanted to pounce on him, cry, and then shamelessly beg him to marry me. Yet, times and reality had erased every fantasy. Five years passed, I no longer wasted time imagining such scenarios.
Although I faced him now, I couldn't say a word.
A soldier walked to Pei Qian and reported the number of casualties in the thieves. As he listened, his good-looking eyebrows knitted in a small frown. He stood in place and asked a few questions occasionally. His limpid voice as familiar as the one that long haunted her dreams.
After the soldier walked away, Pei Qian resumed staring at me.
"Do you want to drink water?"
I shook my head.
"Do you want to eat?"
I shook my head.
I didn't reply.
Pei Qian stooped, looked at me for a moment, and whispered, "Ah Jin, speak."
I returned his gaze but still didn't open my mouth.
Pei Qian sighed beneath his breath and straightened. He turned to a soldier and said, "Repair the carriage and change the horses, we return to Huaiyang."
The soldier replied in affirmative and left to execute the command.
Startled, I realized that he intended to take us along with them.
"I ...... I'm not going to Huaiyang!" My voice tart, I blurted out anxiously.
Pei Qian looked at me and forced a bitter smile, "I thought you would never speak again."
I bit my lip, annoyed that he broke my silence.
"I'm not going to Huaiyang," I repeated.
"Not going?" Pei Qian's face remained placid. "Most of your soldiers are wounded. It will take at least ** days to reach Yong Capital. Can they walk? What will you do if you meet bandits again?"
Stumped by his questions, I floundered for an answer. Eventually, I had to admit that Pei Qian's words were right. As my heart became uncertain, my expression exposed my thoughts.
"Is there more you want to ask?" Pei Qian asked, recognizing my concession.
I hesitated and looked at him: "How come you're here?"
During war, the many warlords constantly eyed each other, coveting pieces of the fragmented world. Wei Jue had marched against Tan Xi with only half of the opponent's strength. Besides fearing being outnumbered in the battle, Wei Jue had worried about the lack of a rearguard. Thus, he had allied with Wu Zhang in the southeast. They negotiated a truce where Wu Zhang would send 50,000 troops to join the battle against Tan Xi. After victory, Wu Zhang would control the entire Huai River basin.
Besides his 200,000 troops in Huaiyang, Wu Zhang relied on the region's natural mountains and valleys to defend against attacks. The 50,000 troops were only a small fraction for Wei Jue. But the truce allowed him to shift the burden of controlling Jing Chu's Liang Chong to Wu Zhang.
Thus, the Wei-Wu armies shared a common garrison in Huainan, at the junction of their dominions.
Pei Qian was Wu Zhang's main General stationed at Huainan.
He explained everything one by one, just like he used to in our childhood. After finishing, he raised his eyebrows, tacitly asking if I understood.
In the past, I might have annoyed him with 7 or 8 follow-up questions and far-reaching conjectures. But now, I simply listened in silence and nodded in the right places.
After replacing the horses, the carriage, though half-broken, was ready for travel.
Seated in such a carriage, I traveled to Huaiyang, full of worries, bumps, and bruises.
As the county seat, Huaiyang was the one decent city in Huainan. War had changed the cityscape. Citizens gave way to the armed soldiers that dominated the roads.
Through the streets and alleys, Pei Qian led me to a quiet mansion in the city.
"My office is just ahead, you can rest here, I will return soon."
I nodded but didn't look at his face.
Pei Qian walked away, saying nothing. Although the sound of his footsteps receded, they continued to echo in my ears for a long time.
"Furen ......" Ah Yuan looked at me, full of worry. She was just as upset as I was to see Pei Qian. I knew she had many questions, but she refrained from asking them.
How did Pei Qian appear right in time to rescue us? Now that we've followed him to Huaiyang, what should we do? But muddled-headed, I was uncertain where to search for answers.
When I looked around, I saw Wei An standing in the courtyard, holding his wooden pieces.
I regretted bringing him out. If he had met with an accident in the earlier ambush, I could forget returning to the Residence.
"Eldest Sister-in-law, are we going to stay here?" He asked, seeing me approach.
I nodded: "As many of our soldiers suffered injuries, and the carriage was damaged, we can't travel for now." I gazed at him and comforted him, "Don't be afraid, Fourth Brother-in-law. With the help of the Imperial troops stationed in Huaiyang, we can mobilize more soldiers for the return journey. Another ambush is unlikely."
He shook his head: "I'm not afraid."
I smiled, assuming he was a youth trying to brag.
He looked at me: "It's true, those petty thieves are no match for Elder Brother's soldiers. Although we suffered a few injuries, we still killed over ten people."
I hadn't paid enough attention, Pei Qian's sudden arrival shocking me stupid.
"Oh?" Intrigued, I looked at Wei An's serious expression, "How did you realize they were petty thieves? They carried arrows and swords."
"The arrows were crude with stone arrowheads. Most of their swords were simple villagers' hatchets, no match against a soldier." He frowned, "Eldest sister-in-law, Elder Brother's soldiers are powerful. We would have survived even without help."
I was wondering how to explain Pei Qian to this little brother-in-law, and thankfully, he brought it up himself.
"Fourth Brother-in-law, the General who came to our rescue earlier ......"
"It's Young Master Ji Yuan."
I didn't expect him to say it so openly and froze: "You recognize him?"
"I do," Wei An's expression was light. "He had come to our house in Chang An to invite Elder Brother to ride horses."
I was stunned: Pei Qian and Wei Tan were acquainted with each other?
"They ......" I paused, and clarified, "I'm talking about Fujun and General Pei. Are they good friends?"
"I don't know, I've only seen them two or three times in the Residence."
As his eyes flickered evasively, I asked, "What else do you know?"
"Young Master Ji Yuan is the former fiancé of Eldest Sister-in-law."
My temples pounded once again.
Great! My little brother-in-law knew every one of my secrets.
After Pei Qian walked away, he didn't reappear for a long time.
The mansion he arranged was decent; not big, but clean and cozy. He arranged a different house for our guards and sent his soldiers to secure the mansion's exteriors.
A table and couch sat at my room's entrance.
A pot bubbled with boiling water on the table, a cup next to it. When I opened the pot's lid, I noticed Chinese Scholar blossoms steeping in the water, and smelled a faint hint of honey.
I flipped through a few books that lay on the couch, all minor classics about strange events and weird affairs.
Despite many years passing, Pei Qian still remembered what I liked.
Feeling tired, I went to the inner bedroom and reclined on a narrow bed.
As I lay on the soft mattress, one thought loomed obvious in my mind's otherwise messy tangles.
Wei Tan and Pei Qian had known each other in Chang An.
Because of the Wei-Wu alliance, it was impossible for Wei Tan to be unaware of Pei Qian's presence in Huainan.
"...... As Furen knows, we got married for convenience ......" His words echoed in her heart.
Although those words once shocked me, they spiked my intrigue now.
Had he sent me here deliberately, knowing that Pei Qian was stationed in Huainan?
What about Pei Qian? When he had showed up earlier, he had lifted the curtains and shouted "Ah Jin" ......
Perhaps I wasted too much energy, I slept deeply and when I woke up, it was already dark in the room.
Unbeknownst to me, an extra layer of thin blankets covered my body. I pulled back the covers and rose from the bed. I pushed the door open, except for a few lights, the courtyard was empty; Ah Yuan and the others were missing.
"Awake?" A voice reached my ears from the corridor. I found Pei Qian sitting on the steps. His posture said that he had waited long.
"Hmm." For a moment, I wondered if I was still dreaming, but the cool evening breeze and Pei Qian's tired expression under the lanterns felt real.
When I said nothing, Pei Qian spoke again: "Are you hungry? I'll take you to dinner."
I didn't answer, but walked closer and looked at him through the corridor pillar.
When my voice emerged, he startled visibly for a moment.
I had never called him by his full name. Although I hesitated now, I still called out his name. In our current circumstances, I wanted to distance myself from him.
"Hmm? What is it?" His expression returning to normal, he tilted his head to look at me.
I bit my lip and said, "During the day, I asked you why you were there."
Pei Qian smiled: "Didn't I answer, the Wei-Wu alliance ......"
"Not only that," I interrupted. "You weren't simply passing through when you came to my rescue. You already knew I would come, didn't you?"
SANDY'S READ RECEIPTS
Beginning as an avid reader, I am translating novels with the help of machine translation and online dictionaries.
SUPPORT ME ON KO-FI
If you are enjoying my work and translations, consider donating to help run the website! Thank you for your support!
SUBSCRIBE FOR NEW CHAPTERS