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The wind caressed my ears, carrying the summer insects' soft chirps.
As I waited for Pei Qian's explanation, a helpless smile emerged on his face: "I was wondering how to mention it, but you brought it up yourself."
Feeling something stir within my heart, I stared at him.
"It's a long story. Do you prefer to sit or stand as you listen?" Pei Qian patted the stone steps beside him. He took off his coat and spread it on the steps.
I frowned: "You don't need to use your clothes as a mat ......"
Pei Qian squinted sideways, and the words at the tip of my tongue choked to a halt.
My heart sullen, I sat on his coat. I realized that despite many years passing; I didn't lose the habit of surrendering at a simple look from him.
Pei Qian didn't beat around the bush: "I rushed there today to find you. Last month, Meng Jing dispatched a letter notifying me of your trip to Huainan. I wasn't certain when you would arrive, so I've been waiting. I had just traveled to Yang Province when I received news that you were already on your way, so I rushed back here." He breathed a sigh of relief, and a warm glow surfaced in his eyes, "Thank God, there was no delay."
He didn't deny that he and Wei Tan knew each other. When he told me the entire story, I no longer felt surprised.
Pei Qian loved to practice sword-fighting from a young age. Although he gained fame for his literary talent, he has always had great interest in martial arts.
I was aware of his interest; but I was unaware that he enrolled in a contest held by the Late Emperor. The contest was to select the best youths among the court officials' sons and promote them to the Imperial Guard.
He concealed this matter from both me and his family. On the day of the competition, he disguised himself by drawing thick eyebrows on his face and wearing a fake beard.
He breezed through the first few rounds, but in the finals, he lost.
The person who defeated him was Wei Tan.
Although Pei Qian lost the fierce battle, he got to know Wei Tan. Though the two hadn't met before, they admired each other and began sparring together often.
Later, when chaos had struck the world, Wei Tan had followed his Father on war campaigns. To avoid the turmoil, Pei Qian had returned to his ancestral land in Yang Province with his family.
Before the two men met again, Wei Jue had already settled the capital in Yong Province. After the Wei-Wu alliance, Wu Zhang had ordered Pei Qian to travel to Yong Province, and the two friends met again finally. Informing Wei Tan of my plight, he begged him to bring me out of Laiyang.
Wei Tan agreed to help him, and later, the method he used to keep his promise was marrying me.
"He has been trying to find an interval to send you here. But, with him busy on campaign, and some delay here, he had to keep you in Yong Capital briefly. In the first weeks of summer, after Meng Jing sent a letter, we discussed and planned this idea." Pei Qian looked at my expression and said, "Ah Jin, this was an important matter and Meng Jing had his own reasons for not telling you."
I sat motionless on the steps and didn't speak.
Many events flashed through my mind.
"...... If Furen wishes to stay, you will continue to be the wife of the Wei Clan. If staying here is dull, you can leave. All will be as you wish. ......" His words from that night still rang in my ears.
Wei Tan's lukewarm treatment, and those nights we spent together ......
In vanity, I thought I had an outstanding upbringing. In vain, I struggled with married couple's affairs every day. But everything had been their plan. Feminine charms didn't repulse my "Fujun", nor had he been chaste because of his old love. Instead, in his eyes, I had no connection to the word "wife".
If I didn't return, Wei Tan could let his soldiers produce a disfigured corpse, claiming I died at the hands of bandits. I wouldn't have any remaining link to the Wei Clan then, right?
Silent for a long time, I whispered, "Got it." I paused, "Now that I'm here, what do you want?"
He inhaled deeply and stared at me, profound and earnest, "Ah Jin, let's start over, okay?"
His soft words bore the same tone he used when murmuring in my ears, holding me in his arms long ago.
Yet, like a stone falling on an icy lake's surface, his words didn't cause a single ripple.
"Begin?" I sneered: "Where do we begin? The day you married your wife or the day I married to Laiyang?"
Pei Qian's expression became tense: "Ah Jin ......"
"You were the one who promised to grow old together, you were the one who promised to wait for me. Where were you when your Father came to retreat from the marriage?" My voice trembled, "Where were you when I cried and came to see you? You refused to meet me, without explaining a word. I missed you so much that I went crazy. I disregarded my pride and sneaked out to the streets to find you. Only to see you marry another woman. ......" My throat choked with pain, tears long blurring my eyes. "Now that others have slandered and slaughtered my family, you say you want to start over...... Pei Qian, I should be grateful to you, right?"
"No!" Pei Qian shouted, his red eyes full of grief, "Ah Jin, I never forgot you, I ......"
"What? Do you want to say that there were secret difficulties?!" Gritting my teeth, I blocked his outstretched hand. I stood up, wiped my tears, and stared at his pale face. "You and I ended a long time ago."
"Ah Jin ......" Pei Qian's anxious voice sounded behind me, followed by violent coughs. No longer wanting to see him, I ran into my room. With a bang, I slammed the door shut, as if to block out everything that made me lose self-control.
As I leaned against the door, my body trembled. I struggled to breathe as sobs choked me, unable to suppress the deluge of tears.
"...... Young Master!" A voice screamed outside, panic-stricken. "Someone help! Call a doctor, quick!"
A doctor? I froze. As chaotic footsteps sounded, I scrambled to open the door.
Pei Qian was being lifted from the steps of the corridor. With eyes closed and limbs hanging loose, he was unconscious.
A medicinal air pervaded the room.
After the doctor examined Pei Qian's pulse, he turned his head away from the couch.
"Doctor, how is the Young Master's health?" Uncle Qi walked closer and asked him.
"It's not serious. I've stitched the wound closed and applied the medicine." The doctor packed his tools away in a cloth bag. He frowned at Uncle Qi and complained, "I told you he shouldn't ride too often before the old wounds heal. Did you listen to me? Next time, I won't dare to treat it!"
Uncle Qi agreed with him in a loud voice. He sent the unhappy doctor out the door with more words of thanks.
I watched them from the sidelines, tears dry and face tense.
Uncle Qi tip-toed to the couch and stared at the still-sleeping Pei Qian briefly. Then looking at me, he sighed long and shook his head: "What an injustice."
I bowed my head.
As a trusted servant of the Pei Clan, Uncle Qi has served the Clan's three generations. He assisted Pei Qian in his daily life and movements, and was one of his closest people.
Uncle Qi raised both Pei Qian and I. For us, he was both a strict and kind elder. Sometimes, when we fought, we would ask Uncle Qi to judge our cases. In the Pei Residence, if the person I was most familiar with was Pei Qian, then the second most familiar wasn't his parents, but Uncle Qi.
"He ......" My voice was low: "How was he injured?"
"Six months ago, the Young Master took an arrow to his ribs." Uncle Qi poured a cup of tea and placed it in front of me. "The injury was grave, but with prompt rescue and treatment, we saved his life."
I stared at Pei Qian on the couch in a daze.
He had rushed back-and-forth Huaiyang on a horse this morning. Who would have realized he appeared tired because he had barely recovered from a serious injury? I recalled his earlier words; he mentioned "some delay" that forced him to leave me in Yong Province. Was that delay because of his injuries?
"NuiJun ......" Uncle Qi called out, his eyes red.
"Don't blame the Young Master." He raised his sleeve to wipe his eyes and said, "I know that your heart is in pain. But NuiJun, he is also in pain. With the entire Pei Clan's opposition then, even the Master couldn't argue. When the Master wished to withdraw from the marriage, the Young Master refused vehemently. But the ruthless Master ordered men to tie him up and headed to your house himself. Afterwards, the Young Master wanted to see you, but the Master placed him under house arrest. The Young Master didn't eat or drink. A few days passed, he became so thin, losing his vitality. Finally, only when the Madam threatened to ram into a pillar and seek death, he opened his mouth."
"Miserable all these years, he never laughed and his forehead wrinkled at a young age. At his wedding, after he and the bride paid their respects in the main hall, he walked away and slept in the study. It almost provoked a dispute with the in-laws. When chaos struck Chang An, as the Young Master and family fled South, the new Furen died ......"
"Died?" When I heard this word, I raised my head to look at him.
Uncle Qi nodded: "Alas! The new Furen's body was weak. On the long road from Chang An to Yang Province, she succumbed to an acute illness."
Eyes widening, I gawked at him.
Uncle Qi's voice was low: "NuiJun, the Master often advised the Young Master to remarry. But he refused; he has been alone all these years, waiting for your return."
SRR: Fu Jin so badass: "You and I ended a long time ago." Ancient slang for "We're over." (* ﾟ∀ﾟ)ﾉｼ
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Beginning as an avid reader, I am translating novels with the help of machine translation and online dictionaries.
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