Chapter 114 – The Northern Border (2)
He Sanlang experienced an instant of confusion. Barbarian language? His fluency with it was all because he had been exiled to the northern border in his previous life. He had lived amongst the lowest of the barbarians for three years, suffering all the hardships there were in this world. After all that, how could he possibly not know the most basic language amongst them?
Thinking back to those dark days, He Changdi’s hands clenched into fists, hidden under his sleeves.
However, the heavens had been kind to him; they had given him a chance to redo it all!
When they entered the tent, a short but sturdy barbarian came up to welcome them. He placed his right hand over his heart and bowed respectfully to He Changdi.
He Changdi nodded and headed towards the short table in the center of the tent. He waited for the barbarian to sit together with him. In a moment, the madam they had met outside brought in two earthenware jars.
The barbarian man indicated for him to go ahead, in the manner of the Han people. He Changdi didn’t stand on ceremony and filled the roughly made bowl before him with food. He ate one bite before jerking his head towards Laiyue, who was kneeling behind him, indicating for him to eat as well.
The two of them hadn’t eaten for almost a day in their rush to reach Liangzhou; their empty stomachs were growling by now. They had relied on each other along the way, so He Changdi didn’t bother with keeping up with his noble airs and simply treated Laiyue as a comrade. Each time they entered an inn to eat, they always shared a table.
Laiyue didn’t reject the offer and followed He Changdi’s example to fill up a bowl of food for himself. Due to his hunger, he drank a huge gulp of the food in the bowl immediately.
However, the moment the food touched his tongue, Laiyue’s face contorted. He secretly glanced at his master, only to see that He Changdi’s expression hadn’t changed at all, and that he was eating the food in the bowl with small bites. It was only because of that that Laiyue managed to swallow the mouthful he had taken.
Looking down at the black, strange substance in his bowl, Laiyue completely lost the courage to take another bite.
What was this made of? It was harder to swallow than the steamed buns they had on the way here. The barbarians couldn’t possibly be eating only this everyday, could they?
After a while, He Sanlang had already elegantly polished off all the food in his bowl. He looked calmly at his manservant. “Finish it all. There’s nothing else to eat here. You’ll go hungry otherwise.”
Laiyue looked at his master’s empty bowl. With no choice, he faced his own bowl and valiantly did battle with the food in it, not daring to taste it at all.
That food was the northern border’s specialty, Chinese olive porridge. Although the taste wasn’t very good, it was the main source of food for the barbarians living here. In He Changdi’s past life, even this terrible porridge was hard to come by. He could only have it once a month, thanks to a barbarian woman who pitied him and secretly brought him some every month.
Upon tasting this flavour again, He Changdi had initially thought that he might reminisce about his past, or even like the taste of it this time. However, he didn’t feel anything special at all upon tasting it. He stared at the steam rising from the earthenware jars, going into a daze. The Chinese olive porridge on the table slowly changed into steaming hot scallion pancakes and wontons.
His companion at the table changed into a lovely, innocent young woman, who would stare at him huffily from time to time. The look in her eyes was accusing him of being a big eater who had snatched away the food she had carefully made.
The taste of those delicious wontons and crispy scallion pancakes seemed to slowly cover up the flavour of that Chinese olive porridge, causing him to forget what he was actually eating.
He Sanlang suddenly pinched his own palm fiercely. His eyes froze over into pools of black jade.
Damn it! Was he cursed or what? Why was he thinking of that wicked woman again?!
He replayed the tragedies that he had faced in his past life in his mind, reminding himself that all the hardship he had gone through was caused by that woman and that woman alone. He slowly shut his eyes… When he opened them again, they were back to his usual clear gaze.
Laiyue set down his bowl with all sorts of emotions on his face, and turned towards his young master with a pitiful look.
The barbarian man was sitting across from him. He found Laiyue’s expressions amusing, so he openly burst out into peals of laughter, before ordering the woman to clear the table and serve some fermented milk.
Laiyue was more careful with what he ate this time. He picked up the fermented milk before him and sipped a tiny mouthful. Although it couldn’t be compared to the capital’s cheapest yellow rice wine, it was heavenly compared to that Chinese olive porridge.
The barbarian man smiled again upon seeing Laiyue’s change of expressions. He turned to He Changdi to speak.
Laiyue couldn’t understand anything, but he did see the barbarian man pause in his words to pull out a small pouch, handing it over to his young master with both hands.
He Sanlang opened up the small pouch and took out the two letters inside. Following that, he glanced at the remaining things in the pouch and balled it up before he stuffed it into the sack he carried with him at all times.
When Laiyue noticed the seal on the back of the letters, his expression turned more serious.
Those two letters had been sent along Prince Jin’s connections.
He Changdi first opened the letter from Prince Jin and skimmed through it. No change in emotions could be discerned from his face. Next, he opened the other letter.
The handwriting in this letter wasn’t as bold as the previous one, but was more neat and orderly. This had been written by Senior Servant Zhong.
There were five pages in total, miniscule words covering every blank space on the letter. They reported every single thing that Chu Lian had done in the two weeks he had been away from the Jing’an Estate, big or small.
He Sanlang’s face noticeably cooled as he read the letter. At the same time, a trace of doubt surfaced in his eyes, unseen by the rest.
He Changdi continued reading. When he reached certain parts, his mouth couldn’t help but twitch in response.