The man standing in front of their house had a domineering countenance to him. He was a tall man, his golden coronet only further adding to his height, with broad shoulders. His black hanfu robes had rich, heavy golden embroidery, and a sword rested right by his waist. If it weren for his stoic, unperturbed face, Jiang Yingyue was tempted to run up to him and ask him where he bought his clothing.
Xu Suyins fingers curled around Jiang Yingyues little fingers as she swallowed down her absolute shock.
Xu Zihao… its been a while since Ive seen you last.
Her eldest brother… the last time she had seen him was when he arrived at the Jiang family home with an imperial decree to search the house for evidence of Jiang Donghais sins. No matter how hard she cried, begging her brother to help let her husband go, he simply ignored her and continued the search.
The last words he had said to her right before he left the house were, ”You really did marry a traitor. ”
She closed her eyes, trying to collect her thoughts as Jiang Yingyue cocked her head to the side, doing her best to read the imperial characters written on the mans hanfu.
”Justice will prevail, ” she murmured softly under her breath. As she glanced up, she noticed a dark, green jade pendant hanging at his waist with the character, ”Xu ” on it.
As she glanced up at the man, she offered the best smile she could, making sure to show off her dimples. Unfortunately, for some odd reason, the mans nose curled upwards as his lips formed a sneer. Her eyes slightly widened.
The last time she faced such ridicule was when the village folk laughed and mocked her for being a traitors daughter. Now that she and her family have shown their worth, most of the village only showed their support for her.
Not wanting to let the man get the last word, Jiang Yingyue puffed her cheeks and stuck out her tongue to express her deepest disgust for the man. And luckily for her, it seemed to have worked since the man seemed absolutely taken aback with her actions.
Xu Suyin opened her eyes and immediately glanced down at Jiang Yingyue who had an innocent expression painted on her face. With a soft smile, she kneeled down on the ground, running her fingers through her daughters soft, silky hair, ”Yue-er, ” she murmured, ”why don you go out to play while I speak to this mister. ”
Jiang Yingyue turned her head to glance at the man. He was from the capital, no doubt. Her Granny Fang told her that her mother used to live in the capital before. Since the man had a jade pendant with the character Xu on it, and his handsome features seemed to resemble that of her mothers, she had an inkling this man was related to her.
Knowing that much, she knew her mother would be relatively safe. So, she turned and nodded her head with her dimpled grin before gently skipping away. Worst comes to worst, she would just munch on her steamed sesame buns right outside of the window.
Once Xu Suyin saw her daughter disappear, she turned around to face her eldest brother, Xu Zihao, head of the criminal investigations committee. Before she married Jiang Donghai, Xu Zihao was the one who coddled and loved her the most. He was the one to do his best to convince their father before their father refused to listen anymore.
Yet, despite all the memories they shared together… their final memory of each other was left on a bitter note. The same brother who loved her the most was the one to carry out the final execution orders.
”How have you been, Zihao-ge, ” Xu Suyin asked. Though her voice was soft and melodious, there was a trace of distance that was held between them. Almost as if the former relationship between them could never be returned to what it once was.
Her brother simply grunted.
”W-what about mother, father, and Zemin-ge? ” there was a slight quiver in her voice.
In all her inquiries about her family and Lanying, she never once had straight answers. Xu Zihao rose the ranks of the criminal investigations committee over the years, quickly becoming one of the kings most trusted men due to his deep sense of justice. Xu Zemin, meanwhile, was a well-respected imperial physician. But, she knew nothing about her father, mother, or Lanying.
Her brother snorted as he turned away from her, ”You still dare to ask after everything youve done? ”
A wave of shame washed through her. As angry as she was at her brother for carrying out the execution orders, she couldn help but reflect on her own mistakes. Despite knowing she should never fall in love with a man who was underneath her station, Xu Suyin was the one to purposefully lead Jiang Donghai on, hoping he would love her back. Despite knowing most men don return from war victorious, Xu Suyin was the one to actively encourage his enrollment into the military. And despite knowing running away from her wedding with Chang Shunyuan would cause her family disgrace, she still chose to follow her own selfish path.
While she was far away, relatively safe from the ridicule under Granny Fangs protection, her family was left center stage at the capital where the mockery and ridicule knew no bounds.
”I-Im sorry, Zihao-ge, ” Xu Suyin glanced down at the ground. ”B-but I was just trying to–, ”
”You were selfish, ” he bit out. ”A selfish little good for nothing swine who thought nothing of the consequences. ” He turned to her, his dark eyes drilling into hers, filled with pure madness and rage. Taking large steps forward, he seethed, ”You died the moment you chose that… t-third rate trash over us, ” his eyes glistened with tears as his voice cracked.
Xu Zihaos cold fingers gently wrapped around her neck. As he gently applied pressure, his arm trembled… as if he wanted to do anything but this, ”Y-you are a curse to the Xu family. ”
He quickly let go of his hand on her neck as he pulled out a handkerchief with the letter ”Hao ” printed on it. Wiping his fingers, he cleared his throat, ”Those were fathers final words about you. ”
Tears fell from Xu Suyins eyes as the worst possible reality she envisioned came to light, ”F-father? ” her voice was croaky.
”He died, ” Xu Zihao flatly said as his eyes seemed to have gone off at a distant place. ”After you ran away, Xiao Min was beaten for purposely hiding the truth from us. ”
Xu Suyins eyebrow raised, confused. As far as she knew, only Lanying and her knew of the plan–,
”Did you really expect to run away without any of our help? ” Xu Zihao raised his brow with disbelief. ”Lanying came to Xiao Min the night before the wedding, asking if it would be alright for her to take your place. ” Xu Suyins eyes widened with horror as she realized the gravity of her brothers actions.
”Xiao Min changed the guards while you and Lanying were switching places, ” Xu Zihao whispered. ”And then when you ran away, Xiao Min distracted everyone with incorrect leads. ” Xu Zihao turned to her with his blank eyes, ”Chang Shunyuan made sure to publicly humiliate our family in front of the imperial court. Father lost his position as Prime Minister, ” Xu Suyins face was filled with tears, ”And Xiao Mins engagement with his childhood sweetheart was broken. ”
”B-brother–, ” before Xu Suyin could interrupt, Xu Zihao continued.
”After punishing Xiao Min, father locked himself into his study, ” Xu Zihaos voice began to crack as a single tear rolled down his right cheek. ”Mother found that he had hung himself the following morning, ” his voice was empty… as if he still hadn come to terms with the truth of what happened. ”Mother had to live through the taunts of giving birth to a traitor for a daughter. She became a shell of the person who she used to be. ”
Xu Suyin fell to the ground as an uncontrolled sense of sorrow filled her. Whenever Granny Fang came back, she would have a hint of melancholy in her eyes, but she would say the same thing, ”Everyone in fine. ”
She had always hoped the fine was just that. That her family was living comfortably, and she had taken all the hardships away from them when she left the house. She had hoped that her parents and brothers were living a better life than her. B-but if she had known….
Xu Suyin cried out as a heavy emotion filled her heart.
”Theres no reason for you to cry now, ” her brothers dry voice filled the air as Xu Suyin glanced up. His eyes carried a sense of emptiness, and suddenly, Xu Suyin was able to see how aged her brother was.
The last time shed seen him, his eyes were so hopeful for the future. His wife had just given birth to a pair of phoenix twins. He had just received his first promotion at his work place.
Now, what remained of her brother…
”Y-you can change the past no matter how hard you try, ” Xu Zihao gritted his teeth. ”You made your own decisions while father made his. But, ” his eyes landed on her, ”If you really want to atone for your sins… come back to the capital with me. ”
It had been almost nine years since shes left the place she formerly thought was her home. The friends she made left her the second they found out her husband was jailed. The servants who worked for her scorned her for marrying a traitor. The only friend she had, Lanying, sacrificed herself for Xu Suyins happiness.
”Mother is ill… and Xiao Min thinks these may be her last few days. ”
”Granny Fang…, ” Jiang Yingyue murmured as she stared out of the window, looking at the pale moon shining in the nighttime sky. A gentle breeze flew into the room, tussling her hair. ”Is it possible to hate family? ”
The man who had come to their house earlier today… Xu Zihao was her maternal uncle. As much as she despised him for almost choking her mother and making her cry uncontrollably… she also… pitied him.
Her mother vaguely mentioned that her paternal family passed away before her birth and that her maternal family lived in a far, far land away from them. Despite living far away from her birth family, her Granny Fang was all she needed in life.
Granny Fang had strictly disciplined her as a matriarch, she coddled her during her birthdays, and she took care of her like a baby every night, brushing her hair and telling her a story right before bed.
”Why is my little Yue-er so curious? ” Granny Fang muttered as she drove the comb through Jiang Yingyues silky hair. She had pulled out all the small flowers embedded within Jiang Yingyues braids. ”Is it about your uncle? ” she whispered softly.
Jiang Yingyue nodded her head, ”En, ” she whispered. ”U-uncle Zihao mentioned that grandfather hated mother… ” her brown doe-like eyes widened as she turned around with a slight pout. ”D-does that mean one day mother will hate me? ”
Her mother was the only blood relative she had in this world. The only person in the entire world who refused to yell or discipline her. As such, Jiang Yingyue couldn fathom her mother ever hating her like grandfather had hated her mother.
”Why do grown-ups hate so easily? ” she murmured. In her life, it was mostly the adults who were wary of her. The children were always fine… until the adults pushed their viewpoints onto them. ”Why are they so confusing? Telling kids to love… but then also to hate others? ”
Her grandmother sighed as she loosely tied on a green ribbon, ”Yue-er, you remember the time we played house together? ”
Jiang Yingyue nodded as a small, smug smile formed on her lips. Her grandmother was pulled into the game after her mother became busy. Instead of acting as an actual grandmother, she had forced her grandmother to play the role of a baby, making sure to hand her grandmother baby accessories to make the experience more realistic. As payback, Granny Fang tried to humiliate Jiang Yingyue by dressing her up as a baby boy. But, Jiang Yingyue embraced her Grannys efforts.
”Well, you remember how both of us set our own rules? ”
Jiang Yingyue nodded her head.
”Well adults are the same. Everyone has their own rules when playing the game of life. But sometimes it can be difficult for everyone to come together. ”
”But why? ” she never had a problem when it came to listening and following other players rules. ”I always listen to other people, why can adults do the same. ”
”Because sometimes they don want their turn to be over, ” Granny Fang muttered. ”Or they don accept other peoples rules. ” When Jiang Yingyue tried to turn her head around, Granny Fang gently held her shoulder and began to tie loose braids. ”Just like we argue sometimes, adults argue too. ”
Jiang Yingyue stood and turned around, facing her grandmother, ”Yeah, but isn it just easy to just apologize and start all over again? ”
Granny Fangs lips curled upwards in a knowing smirk, as if she was purposely hiding a secret from Jiang Yingyue, ”Thats the secret to being an adult, ” she whispered while tapping on Jiang Yingyues nose. ”Adults meet someone called Ego who prevents them from apologizing and getting along with each other. ”
Jiang Yingyues nose wrinkled as a frown formed on her face, ”Ego sounds dumb. Why do adults listen to that person? ”
”Its an adult thing, ” Granny Fang laughed as she pulled Jiang Yingyue into her arms. No matter how annoying the young girl was, Granny Fangs favorite pastime was being able to hug her granddaughter every night before bed. Considering this may be the last time shes able to hug her cute granddaughter, she wants to hold the young girl a little bit longer.
”Well, when Im an adult, I won listen to that Ego person, ” Jiang Yingyue pouted. ”Especially because that person was responsible for making my mother cry today, ” her lower lip quivered in uneasiness. For some reason, she had a strange feeling in her chest telling her this won be the last time this Ego person would win.
”Isn my little Yue-er the cutest, ” Granny Fang coddled as she pinched Jiang Yingyues cheek.
In response, Jiang Yingyue rolled her eyes and swatted Granny Fangs hand, ”Im not a baby! Im eight years old!!! ” she quickly went under the bed covers to ensure that her grandmother couldn tickle her. But, it seemed that this trick didn work, because her grandmother was able to bring the smile back on her face as her grandmothers fingers tickled her arms.
Once Jiang Yingyues eyes were fully closed and her breathing eased, Granny Fang leaned forward, whispering, ”Ill miss you my little Yue-er. Promise me you will never forget this old grandmother once you go to the capital. ”
Jiang Yingyue groaned as she moved in her sleep. Sleepily reaching for Granny Fangs hand, she grumbled,
”I… I won forget you. You
e my one and only grandmother. ” She brought Granny Fangs hand up to her lips and gently kissed her grandmothers fingers. A sleepy smile adorned her face as she brought the hand over to her cheek, ”Besides, I promised you that I would always annoy you! ” she nuzzled into the hand as Granny Fang looked after her small, cute granddaughter.
”Don forget to write to me, ” Jiang Yingyue pouted as she hugged her grandmothers waist. ”I didn spend all those hours being yelled at by you and mother just for you to ignore me now! ”
Granny Fang rolled her eyes at her granddaughters dramatics. She picked up a white wildflower and carefully added it into her granddaughters messy braid. Instead of sitting down properly, Jiang Yingyue decided she would be clingy today, especially since the mother-daughter pair were leaving for the capital.
”What if I am busy with my errands? ” Granny Fang took a comb and attempted to section off another portion of her hair. She wanted Jiang Yingyue to look at least moderately presentable. Though the Xu family weren as prominent as before back when the patriarch was still the Prime Minister, they were still a known family to society.
Jiang Yingyue looked up at her grandmother. Even though her braids were falling apart, there was a sense of adorableness in the girl.
”Ill haunt you in your dreams! ” her cheeks puffed out with absolute indignance and shock. As if she couldn believe her grandmother would abandon her in such a manner.
Granny Fang smirked as she leaned down, ”Really? ” she placed a soft kiss on her granddaughters forehead. ”Well, I think it would be wonderful to be haunted by such a cute ghost, ” she began to laugh as Jiang Yingyues eyes became glossy.
”No! ” she puffed out. ”Granny Fang has to write!! ” she grabbed onto grandmothers legs.
”Okay, okay, ” she gently leaned down, wiping Jiang Yingyues tears. ”Granny Fang promises to write to you while you are in the capital, ” Jiang Yingyues eyes became bright as a dimpled smile reappeared on her face. ”But, I want you to also send me some gifts, ” when Jiang Yingyue raised her brow, her grandmother shrugged her shoulders, ”What can I say? This old shrew her loves expensive gifts. ”
”But I don have the money, ” she softly mentioned. She had re-invested all her money into the shipping routes yet again, so other than being able to buy a few small trinkets, she couldn get her grandmother anything expensive. ”And besides, when do you have time to use all those expensive things? All you ever do is sit in your lab and create potions! ” she answered back a little indignantly.
The last time she had gifted her grandmother a porcelain tea set hoping she would have good use with it while brewing a few of her potions. But, instead of using her gift, or even setting her gift as a paperweight, her grandmother tossed it into a cabinet where dust is probably collecting on it. Since then, she had been gifting her grandmother supplies for her many potions as they at least had some utility.
”Not those things, ” her grandmother grinned evilly as she smacked the back of Jiang Yingyues head with a comb. ”Theres a special writer in the capital, one that writes palace romances, ” her eyes went off to a faraway distance. ”I just finished reading a particularly good face slapping novel where empress is able to overcome all of the concubines plots, but I still have yet to read the final book in the series! ” her grandmother frowned. ”So, if you really want to be a good granddaughter, buy me the limited, exclusive end to this! ”
Jiang Yingyue pressed her lips together. Her grandmother… her ”precious ” grandmother was willing to push her to the sidelines for a book?
”Fine, ” she seethed. ”But you better promise me at least three letters a day! ”
”Great, heres the first book. If you are bored in your travels, make sure to read it! ”
Her grandmother offered a crude book that almost seemed as though it was on the verge of falling apart. On the front cover of the book was an ever cruder portrait of a man embracing a woman as they are engaged in a kiss.
”Im a child! ” she retracted her fingers the second she saw the cover for the book. If her mother were to catch her reading such nonsense, she would be punished severely!
Her grandmother raised her brow, ”Thats not what you claimed yesterday. ” She glanced down and ripped the cover. ”Regardless find this person, ” she pointed to the elegant imperial characters that spelled out, ”Ba Wang. ” ”And get me the final installment! Otherwise, this grandmother of yours will adopt a new child and give her all the love and presents. ”
Jiang Yingyue scoffed as she put the book into her small bag, ”Your presents are all terrible. Only I would cherish them, ” she muttered under her breath.
Her grandmother pulled her into a hug, ”Go, my Yue-er, ” Jiang Yingyue sighed dramatically as she hugged her grandmother back. ”I promise to write you at least one letter every day. Three is pushing it though. ”
Jiang Yingyue smiled as she hugged her grandmother back heartily. She glanced up slowly, ”Ne, Granny Fang, I have a question. ” When her grandmothers attention was on her, she frowned, ”What happens when I kiss a boy? ”
Her grandmothers eyes sparkled with delight, ”Oh does my little Yue-er like someone? ” she began to chortle with laughter as she attempted to reach for Jiang Yingyues soft cheeks.
The young girl stepped away with horror as she placed her palms over her cheeks for protection, ”N-no! I would never! Some of the other girls said if we kiss a boy, they would turn into a frog… is this story about frogs?!? ” Jiang Yingyues eyes brightened at the thought of reading a fantasy novel. Her grandmothers stories always contained magic, but no matter how hard she begged, the old woman would only tell her a story a day and no more.
Granny Fangs eyes lit up with mischief, ”Well… a kiss doesn turn a man into a boy… but, a kiss does turn a kind man into an evil one. ”
”What if you kiss him again? Does it turn him good again? ”
”What do you think? ”
Jiang Yingyue frowned, thinking about her grandmothers questions. When they made potions together, her grandmother often encouraged her to critically think and experiment… and based on the rules she had learned through potions… ”I think it would make him good again. ” The few times she had seen men be kissed, they would look extremely happy. ”Is that the right answer? ”
”Ill let you figure it out yourself, Yue-er, ” her grandmother winked before she went to speak with Xu Suyin who was busy packing last minute items for the trip.
Jiang Yingyue frowned as she held her bag close to her. With a slow sigh, she headed towards the carriage where her tall uncle was. He leaned against the carriage with his eyes closed. Though he appeared to be the same age as many of her friends fathers, her uncle appeared unusually young… like her mother.
As she stood outside of the carriage, she glanced up at the man, suddenly unsure of what she should be calling him. As soon as the conversation with her mother finished, he left just as quickly as he came. And now, he returned with his small entourage.
”Mm… Mister Xu? ” she said unsure of herself. She didn know if this man would appreciate her calling him uncle… especially when it seemed as though he was in pain whenever her mother called him brother. ”C-could you move to the side so I could get into the carriage? ”
Xu Zihao opened one of his eyes… pure black just like her mothers eyes. He appraised her for a moment before he stared off into the distance, ”Kid, I think its best if you don come. ” He left it at that without clarifying, leaving Jiang Yingyue to feel slightly angered.
”Why not? ”
Xu Zihao sighed as he adjusted his hanfu. Today, he wore a purple colored hanfu with exquisite silver embroidery. Yesterdays hanfu brought about an aura of intrigue and mystery, while todays hanfu made him seem slightly more approachable.
Bending down on one knee, he was eye level to Jiang Yingyue, ”Listen kid-, ”
”Jiang Yingyue, ” she repeated, hiding the annoyance that was trapped away inside her. If there was anything she did not like, it was being referred to as anything but her name. She was not a cursed child, she was not a traitors child, and she certainly wasn just a kid. She is Jiang Yingyue…
Her uncle stopped his words as he stared at her. A faraway look approached his face for a split second before he frowned, ”Like father like daughter, ” he muttered under his breath. Clearing his throat, his jaw clenched, ”If you think Im a villain, ” he paused as he entered into a heated staring contest with Jiang Yingyue, ”then you are right, ” he snarled. ”Stay here if you know whats best for you. ”
”I can handle anything, ” she smiled. She was able to change many of the villagers opinions of her, so she was confident she would be able to do the same with the Xu family.
”The capital is nothing like the village, ” his words were solemn. ”The bullying, the plots, the vengeance. Even I have a hard time facing those conspiracies. If you know-, ”
”Well, if you have such a hard time, don worry. Im here to help you out! ” Jiang Yingyue announced happily. Before her uncle could get in another word, she decided to put her grandmothers words to the test. Leaning forward, she whispered, ”You said you were evil, weren you? Well, let me fix that for you! ” she kissed his cheek softly as she pulled him into a hug.
Xu Zihaos eyes widened as he felt the little girl in his embrace.
A long, long time ago… Jiang Donghai was the same. Surprising him at all times. Though that man didn kiss anyone, he did hug people. When Xu Zihao was facing one of his lowest moments… Jiang Donghai was the one to cheer him up. It was the first time he questioned his fathers words about Jiang Donghai not being the right fit for their family.
His face fell as he patted Jiang Yingyues head.
When Jiang Donghai was introduced to the family, the Xu family was still enjoying their power and privileges. But now everything changed… even if Jiang Yingyue was the sweetest little girl… she wouldn be able to handle the Xu family now.
You'll Also Like
What Lies Beyond the EyesChapter 10 December 24, 2022
I was foundChapter 10 December 24, 2022
C.H.A.O.S.Chapter 7 December 24, 2022
The mysterious tower that i will conquerChapter 10 December 24, 2022
The Last MoonChapter 5 December 24, 2022
The Bloodied Rose changes her FateChapter 9 December 24, 2022
Destined To Be His Wife…Chapter 10 December 24, 2022
LOVE AND CROWNChapter 8 December 24, 2022
Food Broadcast in another worldChapter 10 December 24, 2022
Summoners WingsChapter 10 December 24, 2022
The Banished Mage of Stocaea 1Chapter 10 December 24, 2022
VINCEChapter 5 December 24, 2022