Li An was momentarily dumbfounded, then suddenly he laughed and clapped, “Interesting, absolutely interesting! Eldest Miss is so witty, it really makes it hard for anyone not to be moved . ”
Jiang Su Su’s body stiffened, a sliver of resentment flashing from the depth of her eyes, only to hear Jiang Ruan’s insipid reply, “Previously, Eldest Young Master Li was very moved by Second Younger Sister too . ”
Li An switched the topic, “I heard that Eldest Miss’ birth mother was the young lady of General Zhao’s fu, so how is it that this relationship has been cut off?”
Without batting an eyelid, Jiang Ruan replied, “The personal matters of the deceased, as well as all of their issues, have turned to dust . Including that of enemies . ”
“That’s not possible,” Li An seemed to be intentionally teasing her, “in a few days, I’ll be going with Eighth Prince to manage the flooding situation in the north; His Majesty has been closely watching the flooding in the capital . Moreover, I heard that Eldest Miss’ biaoge, Zhao Yi daren, is with the capital’s garrison so if he manages to grab hold of this good opportunity, then I’m sure he will gain great meritorious commendations .
Upon hearing this, Jiang Ruan’s fingers clenched slightly, however, her face did not reveal an iota of chagrin as she replied, “Even so, that has nothing to do with Ruan niang . ”
“General Zhao has spent more than half his life fighting on the battlefield, he must have been bestowed many rewards . At present, the plight of the people within the capital who are lacking in provision and are poverty stricken causes one to worry . Zhao daren’s heart cherishes the people of the land, and should he be able to distribute some food provisions to the victims of the flooding, the commoners will definitely be immensely grateful . ”
“Young Master, do consider one’s words . ” Jiang Ruan replied indifferently . She was aware that Li An was deliberately provoking her . Even if General Zhao’s fu had mountains of gold and silver, the victims in the capital were just too many . Before long, there would also be an influx of refugees pouring in, therefore there wouldn’t be enough provisions to buy even at a higher price . Furthermore, even if one had mountains of gold and silver to use it would be quickly depleted .
Li An laughed boisterously, “This chat with Eldest Miss has been very beneficial . It is getting rather late and I have to make my way home . I hope that the next time we meet, Eldest Miss will be like today, chatting merrily and with such wit . ” Although on his elegant face there was a smile, his deep eyes seemed fathomless with darkness, almost like they were steeped in venomous poison .
Jiang Ruan nodded, “Definitely . ”
Without another word, Li An turned and went off . With the turn of his head, the smile on his face came off like a cloak and his expression turned ominously sinister and terrifying . Once he stepped out of the Jiang fu, the young manservant by his side asked, “Young Master, was it the work of Eldest Jiang Miss?”
“Definitely her . ” Li An leaped onto the horse . That immature and inexperienced girl had a pair of ambiguous eyes . When confronting his probing and interrogation, she had taken it in stride and had even countered with provocation!
He flicked his whip and the horse neighed and in a blink of an eye sprinted off .
On the street in the capital, naturally it wasn’t just this horse galloping, and as Li An was riding by, another horse happened to brush past his . The other horse was a rare colt with a magnificent and gleaming jet-black coat, and on its back its rider wore a cape and a bamboo hat . He stopped in front of a restaurant in the city centre, handing his horse to a waiter, and entered the establishment .
Arriving at the second level, a maidservant led him towards a private room . He parted the pearl curtains and walked in, and when those seated within the room saw him enter, one of them who sat to the side, eyes lit and he exclaimed, “Second Brother!”
Guan Liang Han was the Great Jin Dynasty’s General-in-chief, heroic and accomplished in battle, and his t.i.tle of ‘War G.o.d’ resounded across the four corners of the land . At this time, he had returned triumphant with his contingent and was returning to court . However, he did not accompany the troops but had instead slipped away and returned on his own . He had always possessed a carefree and unfettered character, and even though the Emperor was aware of it, he often turned a blind eye to his antics . He looked towards the youth who had called out “Second Brother”, and indeed it was Mo Cong .
Mo Cong added, “Second Brother, where is the jackal cub from the northwest you said you’d bring back for me?” He had always wanted to secretly rear that particular breed of jackal in his manor .
“In a few days’ time when the troops return, I’ll have it sent to you,” Guan Liang Han was just slightly past 30 years of age, had a tall stature and was good-looking . However, his face was covered with a beard making him appear like a devil at first glance . “I think you have been immersed in the feminine air within the capital that you’re almost like a woman . Next time, you can come with me to the desert for some training . You’re so skinny that you look like a monkey . ”
Mo Cong was disgruntled, “Second Brother, how can that be a good idea? All of your knowledge is about fighting battles, a real waste of your outstanding stature . Moreover, what’s wrong with being skinny? Third Brother is also skinny and he too is doing just as well . ”
“Can you even be compared to Third Brother?” Guan Liang Han struck a posture as if he was going to give him a thrashing, “Your Third Brother would crush you with just one finger . ”
All this time, Xiao Shao who had been sitting contemplatively to the side, finally lifted his head, “Second Brother . ”
“I say Third Brother, do you alway indulge this young lad? It’s been a year, and there has not been an iota of improvement . ” Guan Liang Han stated .
When they were younger, they had all come from the same sect . There were a total of eight sect brothers . Guan Liang Han was ranked as second, Xiao Shao was third, Mo Cong was seventh and in eighth position was Xuan Li . At that time, Xuan Li went up the mountain to learn skills, but after learning halfway, something happened . Henceforth, the Sect consequently treated him as if he didn’t exist, and by tacit agreement, everyone had never brought the matter up again . No one outside of their sect knew about their relationship and it was only privately in conversation that they would address each other so .
“How long will you be in the capital this time? Xiao Shao asked .
Being accustomed to Xiao Shao’s glacial character, Guan Liang Han scratched his head, “The northwest has sent some people for a peace negotiation- if there isn’t any trouble or provocation, I should be stationed in the capital for the time being . ”
“Ah, Second Brother, then we will have more opportunities to hang out together and have some fun . ” Mo Cong exclaimed joyfully .
“Who fricking wants to hang out with you, sissy . ” Guan Liang Han had always looked down on Mo Cong’s weak dandy demeanor . Moreover, Mo Cong’s martial arts was the weakest amongst them as he essentially only learned a hair width of skills .
Xiao Shao asked, “Second Brother, I would like to make some enquiries about a person . ”
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“Who?” Guan Liang Han queried .
 Jun gong ( 军功 ) – military merit . The system of military merit (军功爵制) was implemented most thoroughly by the Qin dynasty, although previous dynasties had implemented various forms of this system . With this system, all soldiers regardless of cla.s.s or background who achieved military merit were able to enter the n.o.bility and enjoy the attendant privileges e . g . land ownership . Military merit was not easy to achieve, as it was awarded according to the number of enemy soldiers felled as weighed against the number of one’s own soldiers killed in battle i . e . if no . of enemy soldiers killed > no . of own soldiers (in one’s unit) dead, then merit was awarded . We are not sure if the military merit system in Rebirth is based on the Qin dynasty system, or has its own variation . More here .
Xiao Shao looked at him and Guan Liang Han continued, “According to what you’ve said with regards to this Eldest Jiang Miss, and should Zhao Xin Zhi be Jiang Xin Zhi, then she ought to be his younger sister . I’ve heard about Zhao Xin Zhi’s younger sister . In the past when I asked him why he was so fearless when he was in battle, his reply was that he needed to obtain many great military achievements in order to advance in his military career so that he could one day protect his sister . ” He paused and looked towards Mo Cong saying, “however, when Zhao Xin Zhi spoke to me of his younger sister, she was described as innocent, charming and amiable, gentle and sweet tempered, always being bullied by others . So how did she turn out as you described, a malicious lady?”
Mo Cong spurted out a mouthful of water, and wore a strange expression, “Innocent, charming and amicable? Gentle and sweet tempered? Always being bullied?” He reached out and grabbed Xiao Shao’s arm, “Third Brother, I’m most definitely a.s.sured that you’ve got the wrong person . This Zhao Xin Zhi and Jiang Xin Zhi are definitely not the same person . No matter how I look at it, Eldest Jiang Miss in no way would be the one to suffer being bullied . More accurately, it would be best if one wasn’t being bullied by her . ”
Xiao Shao brushed his hands off, “What’s your thought about Zhao Xin Zhi?”
Guan Liang Han observed that Xiao Shao’s expression was without humor, so he replied astringently, “If he really is Jiang Quan’s child, even then, he is nothing like Jiang Quan . Regardless of when he looked like a scholar til now as a Deputy General, he is indeed a man among men . ”
“Is there anything special about him,” Xiao Shao’s cold vivid eyes conveyed a profound expression, “such as the gift for prophecy?”
“Prophecy?” Guan Liang Han was stunned, “Third Brother, you’re not sick are you? What’s this talk about prophecy? If he had that ability, then we would be victorious in every battle . Why would they need me then, this general?”
Upon hearing what Xiao Shao said, Mo Cong’s expression shifted, “Third Brother, did you discover something?”
“It’s nothing . ” Xiao Shao languidly said, “The emperor has a.s.signed Eighth Brother to manage the flooding situation, and also stuck Li An along . ”
“Li An? Why’s he back?” Mo Cong queried . He was totally antagonistic towards Li An . Li An was highly intelligent, but unfortunately his intelligence wasn’t used uprightly . When those n.o.ble young masters were younger and had even the slightest a.s.sociation with him, undoubtedly, amongst them could there be found any who successfully managed to escape from being set up by him? Mo Cong was among those, and because he was also rather intelligent, when Li An was younger, he had tripped him up many a time . Furthermore, as Li An grew, his covert and veiled underhanded machinations were honed to perfection . His modus operandi had also become more sinister and malicious .
“What does the Emperor mean by this? Is he favouring Eighth Brother?” Guan Liang Han asked . Should such talk be heard by others, these presumptuous comments concerning the imperial family was reason for beheading, but Guan Liang Han did not care at all . If Xuan Li succeeded in managing the flooding situation, he would gain much recognition . This would not only elevate his standing within the imperial court, but he would also garner the support of the common people . On the other hand, the Crown Prince’s position would imminently become more and more perilous . The thoughts of the person seated on the Jiu Zhong palace’s dragon seat was not something these subjects were able to fathom, moreover, over these past few years, it was getting even more unpredictable . The mirage of what is true and what is false, one is afraid even Xuan Li himself wasn’t able to decipher the emperor’s true motives .
“If he is sincere and acts favourably towards Xuan Li, then the Crown Prince would not have survived till now . ” Xiao Shao stated grimly .
“Third Brother, what should we do now?”
“Wait . ” Xiao Shao was playing with the dagger as he said indifferently, “It is definitely not by chance that Li An has returned to the city . I would like to see what the Li family is really up to . ”
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