Chapter 9: Family
For three consecutive days, the villa was once again bustling in excitement because Young Master Shen had made another detour from the gates of hell.
Amidst the clamorous, Shen Qingxuan was regarding with equanimity. Dressed in a white gown, he sat on the chair and had a minute smile plastered on his face as he accepted the various words of concern coming from each party with alacrity. He listened attentively and nodded with courtesy; he was really a person of thorough culture.
But so was a heap of sympathy evoked. They said he was such a good man, but fate just had to play such tricks on him.
For Shen Qingxuan who had already trained himself against such words, they were naturally perfunctory remarks in his ears, but it stirred Mother Shen who was aside. Several times, drops of tears fell out of her eyes and she promptly turned her head to wipe them, fearing that it would only make Shen Qingxuan more sorrowful upon seeing it.
But how could her series of actions evade Shen Qingxuan’s sharp eyes? A mother’s heart was connected to her child, Shen Qingxuan knew her thoughts so he pretended that he hadn’t seen it and shifted his sight to someone else.
When the banquet began, Shen Qingxuan had his servant girl push him away. Everyone knew that Shen Qingxuan was frail and a bad drinker, moreover, he had just recovered from a serious illness, so he shouldn’t strain his body by accompanying the guests. Thus, everyone told him to rest, and when Shen Qingxuan left, they toasted and drank to their heart’s content.
Shen Qingxuan returned to his room and sneered at himself when he heard clamorous noises coming through the window frame. A banquet of this sort had been held numerous times and who knew how many more times it would still be held in the future. Who would know?
Even if Yi Mo helped him and allowed him to be no different from any ordinary person a year later, he wouldn’t know what other trials would befall on him in the future.
The wind and water rotate, the affairs of the world were impermanent.
Shen Qingxuan only understood the meaning of this sentence that his father often mentioned after being rescued in the ice cave.
Who would have expected that the gentle and tactful daughter of a humble family, bashfully married into the Shen Family for three years—— his second mother who cherished and took care of him in the past would have nearly killed him?
Never had this thought occurred in him before.
Even when he thought back against this long passage of time, there was still a sort of sorrowfulness from being ruthlessly betrayed by a close relative.
While entranced in his thoughts, a series of rushed footsteps unexpectedly echoed from the courtyard. The footsteps were light yet had a sense of urgency in them, there was also the distinctive accent of a pair of official’s boots. Shen Qingxuan’s darkened eyes brightened slightly, and the smile on his face bloomed with some sincerity.
“Elder Brother!” The door was yanked open, spurring some dust to fly around. Sunlight shone into the room, and a face with finely chiselled features appeared among the dancing dust. As this was a meeting of family, that highly spirited face bore a recklessness only a child would have.
Seeing his elder brother sitting on the chair and looking at himself with a full smile, the young man was embarrassed momentarily. He quickly took back his hand and recovered his manner before greeting, “Elder Brother.”
Shen Qingxuan waved his hand to call the man to his side. He then grabbed his hand and pulled the lofty body down before flicking his forehead habitually. He mouthed: I thought you have made some progress, why are you still barging around?
Shen Zhen understood his elder brother’s lips movement since he was a child. He quickly rubbed his unharmed forehead with his hand and said, “I’d like to be more reserved, but I’m afraid that you would be so intimidated that you wouldn’t recognize this younger brother of yours.”
Shen Qingxuan smiled when he heard his words and stroked his orderly headdress: Why do you have time to visit me today?
“My elder brother is recovering from a serious illness. How could I not come to see him?” Shen Zhen crouched down and put his hand on his elder brother’s leg, acting childishly just like his childhood days. In his eyes were filled with reliance and affection that only family could posses. Looking at this face that bore a remarkable resemblance to his second mother, Shen Qingxuan only felt tranquillity. He truly couldn’t resent this face that had accompanied him since his childhood days.
Even if he knew that this person was the reason he had fallen to this point.
That year when the second son of the Shen Family had just turned one year old.
Master Shen once hugged his eldest son in one hand and carried his second son, who was sleeping peacefully while sucking his thumb in swaddling clothes, in the other. In front of the two madams, he proudly declared, “In the future, my eldest son will bring glory to our family and receive prestige titles. When I’m old, I’ll depend on this little guy to support my aged days. In this way, my Shen Family is considered to be successful.”
The hopes behind those words all fell onto Shen Qingxuan who was only seven years old at that time.
Master Shen only saw his eldest son’s intelligence and but not the smiles of the two madams in front of him as he conceived the future of Shen Family’s social status. Within one of the smiles harboured many unwillingness and grievances.
On what basis, just because he was born the second son that he would end up being kept at home and lead an obscure future?
The woman was narrow-minded. At that time, she hadn’t contemplated that everyone had their own fate. If his second son was really capable, how could Master Shen ignore his future? Those were just words that Master Shen had blurted out amid his high spirit, yet, she took them seriously. An evil intention had then birthed and it harmed the entirety of Shen Qingxuan’s life.
When she eventually understood, the mistake was already made.
After patting the back of the kneeling young man, Shen Qingxuan looked at him and said: Now that you became an official, have you stopped practising martial arts?
Shen Zhen hurriedly shook his head. “How could it be? If Elder Brother doesn’t believe it, let’s go to the courtyard. I’ll show you.”
Shen Qingxuan smiled and nodded, so Shen Zhen quickly got up and pushed him. The two brothers left the room and stopped at the courtyard’s open space.
Shen Zhen took a long stick and wielded a move. He said as he held it, “Look carefully, Elder Brother. Your younger brother is going to demonstrate a spear technique for you.”
Shen Qingxuan was still smiling brightly.
When Shen Zhen saw this, he also grinned, and the wooden stick in his hands moved like an agile snake. The wind whistled as he swung around, causing dust to fly all over. It became hard to make out his shadow, and when he smashed the stick on the ground, a dull sound rang. Obvious dents appeared on the loess as if the strength was as impactful as thousands of catties.
Shen Qingxuan was enthralled in the display. He clapped his hands at once and praised generously after Shen Zhen had finished displaying his techniques.
Having received his elder brother’s praises, Shen Zhen became increasingly proud. He threw his stick away, took a spear, and displayed a set of spear techniques to Shen Qingxuan. It was slightly inferior to the stick technique, but it was still formidable.
In the courtyard, one displayed his martial arts while the other watched. This went on until the sun had set before Shen Qingxuan motioned him to stop. He called for someone to send wet towels and hot tea over.
Shen Zhen gulped the cup of tea and wiped the perspirations on his face. He then approached Shen Qingxuan and asked, “Elder Brother, can you give me some advice?”
Shen Qingxuan glanced at him: What can I teach you?
Shen Zhen chuckled. “Save it, Elder Brother. Father said that you liked practicing martial arts when you were young. You even stabbed a bird’s nest with the halberd you had secretly taken from our martial art master, causing him to blow up. Do you dare not admit it?”
When Shen Qingxuan heard those words, he could only vaguely remember some memories and not any more specific experiences.
If Shen Zhen didn’t mention those old affairs, Shen Qingxuan wouldn’t have remembered them. Even if Shen Zhen mentioned it right now, he still couldn’t remember them.
Occasionally, a fragment of memories would flash in his mind, but he didn’t think it had happened to him.
Those past events seemed to be from his previous life or perhaps, even longer ago. They had been transformed into a fragile piece of paper that would break with a single touch by the yellowed passage of time.
Broken and incomplete.
Shen Qingxuan’s face darkened slightly.
Shen Zhen knew that he had said something wrong and quickly changed the topic. He took Shen Qingxuan’s hand that was resting on his knee and said, “Elder Brother, I rarely go up the mountain and it makes me really exhausted. Why don’t you play chess with me?”
Shen Qingxuan cheered up and asked: What will happen to the loser?
Shen Zhen rubbed his temple and whispered in his elder brother’s ear, “The usual?”
Shen Qingxuan grew elated. He agreed with a nod and they went back to the room.
The tea and snacks had been delivered to the room by the servants. After they were all prepared, Shen Zhen closed the doors and windows tightly and then did another check again as if he was afraid of being discovered by someone. The guilty expression plastered on his face made Shen Qingxuan laugh.
When the soft mat was spread out on the couch, they sat opposite each other. Shen Qingxuan wiped the chessboard, took out the black and white chess pieces, and asked, “The usual?”
Fearing that he might go back on his words, Shen Zhen quickly nodded. He scrambled for the black chess piece and placed it on the chessboard. He placed another one, then another one again.
Just after the chess game had started, he had already grabbed three black chess pieces and placed them on the chessboard.
Shen Qingxuan raised his eyebrows and looked at him for a long time. He silently scolded: You really did not make any progress.
Shen Zhen quickly refuted, “You are my elder brother who is seven years older than me. You should let me place seven of them. Now there’s only three instead, this is a good progression.”
Shen Qingxuan ignored him. He took a white chess piece and placed it down.
Shen Zhen also quietened down, he observed the game and played seriously.
Shen Zhen had taken the advantage first. Within the time taken to burn an incense stick, he attacked in a treacherous and unpredictable way. He swiftly surrounded Shen Qingxuan’s white chess pieces and annihilated them, making him rather pleased with himself.
Shen Qingxuan wasn’t bothered but only continued to place his white chess pieces. Using the time taken to burn two incense sticks, Shen Zhen’s sharp peaks were completely eliminated. The white pieces were like an almighty dragon occupying the mountain ranges, ready to launch upon gaining power. It was just waiting for a command to seize the whole game in a moment.
“Elder Brother,” Shen Zhen wiped the cold sweat on his forehead and hurriedly said, “Elder Brother opened and closed appropriately. He is ruthless in his strategy and maintained an impressive atmosphere. If Elder Brother becomes an official, it wouldn’t be just his younger brother’s position…”
Shen Qingxuan, with a smile on his face, took the brush aside and dipped it in ink before he slowly mouthed: Do not try to flatter me. Lift up your face.
Shen Zhen quickly shut his mouth and bitterly moved his face toward him.
In a moment, there was an additional tortoise on that handsome face.
Shen Zhen jumped down from the couch and looked at the mirror. He heaved a deep sigh, “The more I flatter you, the more vivid the tortoise is. But the flattery still needs to be done, especially my elder brother’s flattery.”
Shen Qingxuan impatiently patted the chessboard and said: Again.
Shen Zhen could only sit back and examined the window carefully to see if there were any cracks to prevent any outsider from seeing this sight. That would be so embarrassing.
When it approached evening, the two were still behind closed doors and had refused to come out. The servants were waiting outside and dinner couldn’t be served. Eventually, Master Shen was alarmed.
When Master Shen heard that his sons wouldn’t eat, he hurried to the door and asked, “What’s the matter with both of you?”
A moment later, Shen Zhen’s voice came from the room. “Father, I’m playing games with Elder Brother.”
Initially, Master Shen was stunned before a strange look appeared on his face. After standing for a moment, he waved away all the servants. “Go down first, keep the food warm, and bring it after an hour.”
After driving the servants away, Master Shen leaned against the door and said softly, “Xuan’er, let Father come in and take a look. “
Inside the room, there was a momentarily fuss while Master Shen waited unperturbedly. Sure enough, the younger son couldn’t stop the older son. Shen Qingxuan pushed his wheelchair and opened the door.
When he came in, he looked around before he went to the screen and said warmly, “Come out and let father have a look.”
There was no sound behind the screen.
Master Shen continued to coax, “Don’t act like a girl. Come out and let father have a look.”
Shen Zhen wouldn’t go out even if his life was on the line.
Shen Qingxuan closed the door, went over and pushed the screen onto the floor. Shen Zhen didn’t expect his elder brother to come up with this, so he couldn’t hide in time. Instinctively, he held the falling screen and came out.
Within this instance, Master Shen had already seen what he wanted to see. A “pfft” escaped his lips, but he hurriedly suppressed it that even his beard was shaking from enduring.
Shen Qingxuan was still looking downwards and his shoulders were shaking constantly. It was apparent that he had been trying his utter best to hold back his laughter.
Shen Zhen stood there, and on his face was filled with various tortoises that were either crawling, rolling or standing up. Even his ears weren’t let off; there was a tiny tortoise stretching its neck and kicking on each side of his earlobe.
Master Shen pointed to Shen Qingxuan with trembling fingers as he covered his stomach with the other hand. He was speechless. “You, you… as an elder brother is really, really… inappropriate.”
Shen Qingxuan immediately raised his head and looked at his father with unblinking black eyes.
The father and son looked at each other for a moment and suddenly turned their faces away. One opened his mouth and laughed soundlessly while the other laughed out loud, even almost losing their breath over it.
Initially, Shen Zhen was indignant and yelled at them to stop laughing. However, when he saw that none of them could stop their laughing fits and was losing their breath, he became so frightened that he could care less about his humiliation. He quickly patted them on their back to soothe their breathing fearing it might cause harm to their body.
Little did he realize that they couldn’t stop even if they wanted to because whenever they turned their head, they would see an anxious filled face with drawing on it.
Shen Qingxuan nearly laughed out loud several times, so he could only bite the tip of his tongue to bury the sound that was sweeping up his throat.
Even being joyous was arduous.
For almost two decades, there just hadn’t been a time where it wasn’t hard.
three percent left, I’m running out out of time, next update somewhere between 10-15 July