It was only when He Changdi's figure had disappeared into the dark alleyways of the small town that Mo Chenggui brought his men back, a gloomy expression on his face.
By his side was his old comrade, Huang Zhijian. Huang had become one of the He Family's private soldiers after retiring together with him.
The two of them were as close as real brothers.
Huang Zhijian patted his old brother's shoulder. "Old Mo, don't take it to heart. We shouldn't have been so rash as to leave Third Young Madam behind like that. If we hadn't tried to rush ahead of her, this wouldn't have happened."
A bellyful of anger had long been brewing within Mo Chenggui. He had managed to suppress it this whole time, but after the past few days, it was about to spill out from his eyes. He had thought he would be able to dampen it eventually, but after the aggravation of today's events, he could no longer hold it back.
"I just can't understand why the matriarch sent a spoiled young girl like Third Young Madam out to the northern border! Isn't she just making trouble for Third Young Master? Look at her tiny size, what can she do? See, we haven't even reached Liangzhou and she's already caused trouble for Third Young Master! Military orders must be obeyed. Once Third Young Master returns to camp, he'll be punished by military law! And that military law..."
"Old Mo, that's enough, stop right there."
Before Mo Chenggui could vent enough, Huang Zhijian shoved his arm.
"What! I can't even rant now?"
"Old Mo! Third Young Madam's right behind us!" Huang Zhijian had no other choice but to lower his voice and try to remind him of their location.
Mo Chenggui paused and turned around to look. As Old Huang had said, Chu Lian was currently standing under the eaves of the courtyard with the support of Wenlan, frowning while staring at them. Her expression didn't look too good.
Mo Chenggui was still angry, so his tone wasn't very nice as he said to her, "It's already dark. Third Young Madam should go and rest while it's early, otherwise the Tuhuns might capture Third Young Madam again."
Huang Zhijian quickly tugged his old comrade and turned to Chu Lian apologetically. "Third Young Madam, please don't blame Old Mo. This is just how he is."
The two of them were both leaders of House Jing'an's soldiers and old retainers of House Jing'an, so they held a high position within the estate. However, Chu Lian was still one of their masters, so they didn't have the right to speak to her in such a tone.
From the way He Sanlang had rushed to save Chu Lian- running headfirst into danger without concern for his own life- Huang Zhijian could tell that the young couple's relationship was not as bad as what the rumours outside would have them believe.
Third Young Madam was doted on by Matriarch He within the estate. Right now, the estate was still lacking the next male heir. If Third Young Madam got pregnant someday and gave birth to the first male of the next generation, her standing within the estate might even match that of Heir Jing'an's wife. If Old Mo offended Third Young Madam greatly at this time, the ones to suffer in the future would be Old Mo and his family.
Furthermore, Third Young Madam wasn't as weak as she looked. That Guilin Restaurant she opened had become the top restaurant in the capital almost overnight.
If she was really that weak, how could her restaurant have become so popular?
It was just the stubborn Old Mo who refused to see things clearly.
Chu Lian didn't care about what Mo Chenggui had said at all. Her focus had been completely drawn by what Mo Chenggui had said before that.
She couldn't help but ask, "What did you say just now? My husband will be punished by military law?"
Mo Chenggui's rage seemed to have been stoked by Chu Lian's sudden question. "Third Young Master left his camp without permission. Of course he's going to be punished!"
Chu Lian didn't really know much about the army, especially in the ancient Great Wu Dynasty. She was completely stunned by Mo Chenggui's reply. "What... what kind of punishment will he receive?"
Mo Chenggui was practically huffing fire by now, so Huang Zhijian didn't dare to let him speak. He quickly replied first, "Third Young Master has disobeyed orders, so the minimum punishment he'll get will be twenty smacks with the rod. Third Young Madam, you don't have to worry too much. Third Young Master has a strong body and he's all muscle. Those twenty smacks are nothing to him."
After Huang Zhijian finished speaking, he shot a sideways glance at Chu Lian. When he saw that she was still in a daze, he quickly pulled Mo Chenggui away and bade his farewells. "If there's nothing you need us for, Third Young Madam, Old Mo and I will withdraw for now. Please don't worry about the safety of this courtyard, we've already set up watch over the area for the night."
It was long after Mo Chenggui and Huang Zhijian had left that Chu Lian abruptly came back to her senses. She looked at Wenlan and sighed. "Let's return."
Wenlan was both happy yet sorry. "Third Young Madam, Third Young Master treats you so well! In the future, if anyone dares to say that Third Young Master doesn't treat you well, this servant will tell them this story to make them shut up!"
Chu Lian's heart was a mess right now, so none of Wenlan's words made it through to her head. She simply made a half-hearted tug of her lips in reply.
For some reason, when she thought of He Changdi's smooth, muscled back being dotted with rod-shaped bruises, her heart felt extremely pained.
Chu Lian was already tired beyond belief. She should have fallen deep asleep for a good night's rest.
However, the moment she shut her eyes, Chu Lian had a nightmare about He Changdi being beaten by rods.
In the dream, the perpetually cool-and-collected He Sanlang didn't even make a sound as the rods struck blow after blow to his back. He simply stared at her until the punishment was done. Then, he stood up and showed his bloody back to her, forcing her to look at his once smooth, unmarred skin, now a messy canvas of bruises and blood. Only after she had gotten an eyeful did He Sanlang finally turn his head and meet her gaze, smiling at her with deep affection.
"Look and see, Chu Lian! This is all your fault! You better take responsibility for it!"