He Yun Sheng wondered why he was having such a prolonged dream.
His sister followed him up the hill this morning, chopped wood, and, lastly, took out the light refreshments she hadn’t eaten at breakfast to share with him. He Yun Sheng wanted to reject at first, but the sweet fragrance had already crept into his nose. Seeing He Yan lowering her head to bite her own, he also reached out his hand to grab the one she had offered him.
He took a bite; his taste buds had never experienced such a sweet flavor. He Yan was never the generous type and had kept all good things to herself.
Seeing that he was delighted to have it, He Yan put the rest of the dish in his hands and said: “I’m full. You can eat the rest.”
He Yun Sheng was awestruck.
There were only two children in the He Family. When he was a youth, He Sui used to be a guard who delivered stuff to Jing Cheng Capital. He had rescued the daughter of a scholar from the cruel hands of bandits. She was the scholar’s only daughter and He Sui was an orphan. To show his gratitude, the scholar offered his daughter’s hand to He Sui.
The scholar and his wife passed away due to an epidemic. He Furen was depressed and did not last long. She died of grief when He Yun Sheng was only three, leaving He Sui and his children behind.
He Sui and his wife had been deeply in love. He Yan was the miniature form of He Furen. Maybe it was because of this, He Sui favored He Yan. Even though the He Family wasn’t wealthy, He Sui tried his best to fulfill all of He Yan’s wishes. Over time, He Yan became more spoiled and snobbish; at least that was what He Yun Sheng believed.
However, after she recovered from her sickness, her actions became incomprehensible; He Yun Sheng didn’t know how to face her anymore.
“You come up here to chop wood every day?” He Yan asked him, “What do you do in the afternoon? Don’t you go to school?”
He Yun Sheng was just a year younger than He Yan. He was fifteen this year, and the children at this age ought to be attending school.
“After I return home, I make Da Nai1 cakes and sell it under the shed after noon. Forget about school,” He Yun Sheng said with a wave of his hand, “You already know that our family isn’t wealthy. I have some knowledge in a few subjects and I am not bent on learning the martial arts.”
Even though he spoke carelessly, He Yan could clearly see the regret and desire he tried so desperately to hide from her in his eyes.
She paused and then asked: “What do you plan to do in the future?”
“What are you asking this for?” He Yun Sheng asked doubtfully, but he answered He Yan’s question after a moment, “I go to the drill fields every day. I can become a part of the backup armies of the town after I pass the tests in the future. In time, I’ll get promoted to an officer rank. At that time, I can earn money.”
“That’s it? An officer without any duties?” He Yan smiled, “I thought you wanted to do something worthwhile.”
“What can I do?” He Yun Sheng quipped: “You want me to become someone like General Fei Hong? Although we have the same surnames, he’s in a much higher level compared to us.”
Hearing this name come out from He Yun Sheng’s mouth all of the sudden, He Yan was stunned. She was silent for a while before asking: “You know General Fei Hong?”
“Of course I do! Who in Da Wei doesn’t? General Fei Hong brought peace to Xi Qiang and General Feng Yun stopped the barbarians. Since then, no one dared to attack our country, Da Wei! The chivalry, fame, and bravery of the two young men! If I could be like one of them, it’s even worth dying for.”
He Yun Sheng was exasperated: “What are you laughing for?”
“But someone who only chops wood and sells desserts can’t be like them. General Fei Hong and General Feng Yun did not succeed by simply going to the drill fields.”
“I know that.” He Yun Sheng’s face was red, “But I…”
Which young man does not desire to succeed? He Yun Sheng was a hot-blooded youth. Living a pitiful life such as this was truly holding him back.
He Yan said: “Starting tomorrow, I’ll follow you uphill to chop wood and sell desserts.”
“What?” He Yun Sheng jumped up from the stone, “He Yan, are you out of your mind?”
He could understand that what happened today was due to a sudden whim of hers, but doing this every day… Did He Yan spoil her brain after getting sick?
Not waiting for He Yun Sheng to talk again, He Yan stood up and brushed away the dust on her: “Since we’re done eating, we should start working. Time is money, brother.”
He Yun Sheng: “…”
After the spring rain, it was bright and sunny for the next ten days.
Qing Mei had something bothering her lately. Back then, Miss He had always commanded her to do this and that, making Qing Mei unable to leave her side, but now… she couldn’t even find a trace of He Yan now.
He Yan went out with He Yun Sheng in the day; when Qing Mei wanted to serve her and help her bathe at night, she would dismiss her straight away. The only help the miss needed from her was to comb her hair every morning.
Qing Mei was worried, since Miss doesn’t need her anymore, would she be like the other manservant sent away by He Sui, if this continues?
Another person who had something in mind is He Yun Sheng.
For more than a month, He Yan had followed him to chop wood at Mount Long Huan, and she even got up earlier than him. Not to say, she also tied sandbags on both her hands and legs while climbing the mountain. He Yun Sheng weighed the sandbag secretly, it was definitely very heavy. He wondered why He Yan brought such things up the hill to chop wood every day.
She never once complained, as if she never got tired. However, He Yun Sheng had seen her palm, exposing her delicate skin that was torn several times. She never paid attention to her wounds and just wrapped white cloth around them.
The benefits of doing this were obvious. Because, after half a month, He Yan could walk and chop wood faster than him. He Yun Sheng wondered if those sandbags were magical. If yes, should he secretly tie two up?
With two people chopping wood, the work was completed quickly. With the extra time, both of them could make more cakes. Well, He Yan was a girl, it wasn’t advantageous for her to show her face at work. He Yun Sheng alerted her about this, but He Yan didn’t seem to mind. He Yun Sheng’s head ached with frustration; if He Sui became aware of the fact that He Yan went up the hill to chop wood and sell cakes outside with him, he would definitely be subject to whiplashes.
Fortunately, He Sui didn’t know.
He Sui not only did not know about it, but also seemed to be happy every day, because his son and daughter, who usually were apprehensive about each other, had become closer these days. Because of this, he got the chance to sit together, eat, and chat with them a little. He Sui was so satisfied with it that he became more affable towards the new troupes on the drill field, because, well, he had a harmonious family.
Right now, He Yan was sitting in front of her dressing table.
Qing Mei gave her veiled looks.
Ever since He Yan recovered, she didn’t like looking at the mirror or fiddling with her cosmetics. Now she was suddenly interested in them, which made Qing Mei nervous. The household experienced financially tough times now, if He Yan wanted to buy a new lipstick at this time, there was not enough money.
He Yan played with the fragrance powder and hair balm on the table, her head aching a bit. These things had been used before, so they couldn’t be sold to earn money. She searched through her belongings again and found some hair pins and jewelry.
They were all made of silver, the color more ordinary compared to the ones she owned in the Xu Family, but there was no other way now.
She took out all the jewelry she found and handed them to Qing Mei.
“Pawn these in a pawn shop; these are tough times, not even a single penny should go to waste.”
Qing Mei’s eyes widened: “But… but…”
“We are poor now.” He Yan explained to her with sincerity, “We can’t eat jewelry.”
She had to pawn her jewelry and get some money. It would be better to obtain enough money for He Yun Sheng to study in a school.
Since she occupied the body of the young miss of the He family, she at least needed to do something for her family. He Yan could only satisfy her own wishes after helping the He family out of their misery.
For example, settling an old score.
1 Da Nai – A kind of dessert from the Song Dynasty.