12 Ideal Heir
Yuxi's tired eyes met Weihao. She strained her face for a smile, but it came out like a wince. Her balance was becoming unsteady, and her vision was beginning to double. Their training started from sunrise to sunset without food or rest.
"Mei-Mei, why didn't you ask for a break?!" Weihao harshly whispered in a scolding manner.
Girls shouldn't stand underneath the burning sun for hours or roughen their hands - especially ladies from outstanding families.
But Yuxi never minded. Despite the scorching heat of summer and the sun that berated her, Yuxi still ran around the field. Her pale skin was beginning to develop a healthy glow and her hands were becoming stronger.
She was a girl, practically the Chen Family Princess, yet she was covered with sweat and dirt. Her cheeks were getting redder by the minute and if she wasn't careful, she might develop a sunburn.
"I wanted to impress Shan Dong..." She shyly whispered, leaning closer to Weihao.
He was taller than Yuxi whose height barely touched his shoulders. His body was tall and wide, which provided the perfect shelter from the sun.
Mistaking her body movement as signs of extreme fatigues, he wiped the sweat off of her forehead with a handkerchief.
"We have an entire life ahead of us to practice. Let's take a break today." Weihao declared, turning to Shan Dong.
He was already placing the arrows back into the quiver.
"Very well, I will end the lesson here." He said with a nonchalant and bored voice. His tone hid his wandering eyes. It unconsciously trailed to Yuxi.
At the sight of her stubborn eyes and uncaring behavior, he could feel a small smile on his lips. Yuxi was a diligent child who never complained about the heat, how tired she was, or how boring the lesson was. If she felt any displeasure, she kept it all inside her head.
To Yuxi, this heat was bearable. Yuxi was used to the confinement of her eldest Uncle's walls and the dusty room provided by her previous husband: a greedy government official who was older than Commander Moyao. Yuxi didn't mind the scorching field. She'd rather stay here for an eternity than be trapped within a cold, lonely, and dirty room.
"You've done well, Mei-mei." Weihao complimented with an arm slung around her shoulders. He lead her to the closet tree and watched as she began to fan herself.
"Most boys your age would've dropped by the first two hours or complained the entire time!"
Yuxi's bright eyes met Weihao's praising smile.
"You're praising me too much." Yuxi mumbled, leaning her tired head onto Weihao's wide shoulders. Sensing her tiredness, he scooted closer to her.
Placing the equipment back into a bag, Shan Dong closely observed the two. When Yuxi caught his gaze, she met his eyes with a smile. Her eyes were slightly dropped from fatigues, cheeks bright red from the sun, and lips slightly parted to catch a breath, Yuxi had the appearance of a sleeping puppy.
"I look forward to your next lessons, Master Shan Dong." She called, lightly wavering her hands in his direction.
Shan Dong has already turned his back to her. Strolling into the distance, he has a nonchalant strut, but Yuxi knew better. She knew he had heard her. She could feel an inward smirk at the sight of his bright red ears and neck.
During their entire practice, she had constantly praised him in hopes of winning his adoration.
When her attempts seemed to not have bear any fruit, disappointment fell onto Yuxi. It immediately disappeared when Shan Dong raised his hand in the air. Yuxi tilted her head in confusion, until she felt a small smile bloom on her lips. Shan Dong have waved her goodbye.
This was a small step forward in her plan, but any advancement was greatly welcomed.
"Mei-mei, flattery will get you nowhere." Weihao teased. He watched Shan Dong disappear into the distance until he was long out of sight.
His playful eyes swept to Yuxi whose head was still resting on his shoulders. He observed the small smile on her peach blossom lips and the amusement that dangled in her hazel eyes.
"I don't understand Wei-ge's words..." She softly said.
"Is that so?" Weihao lightly chuckled at her feign of innocence.
A low, summer wind blew by. It picked up the stepped on grass, lifting it into the air, and flew away. The breeze was greatly welcomed and was beginning to sooth Yuxi to sleep.
"My little Mei-mei is a wolf in sheep disguise." He whispered, just as Yuxi dozed to sleep on his shoulder.
Watching her chest steadily rise with each breath she took, he wrapped a protective arm around her shoulder.
"That's right, just sleep like this - without a care in the world. I'll always protect you like this." He whispered to a sleeping Yuxi. Underneath the blazing sun and cooling shadows of the willow tree, Weihao felt his heart stir with protection.
- - - -
From a faraway distance, a man was watching the sleeping duo.
Chen Weihao had a protective arm around Yuxi whose tiny head was leaning on his broad shoulders.
Commander Moyao watched his grandchildren sleep beneath the willow tree. There was a faint smile on his face at the adoring sight.
He knew the two would be safe within the Chen Manor walls, but most importantly, Yuxi would be safe.
Under the surveillance of the shadow guards trained by the Imperial Army of Huoling, and within reaching distance of Weihao, Yuxi was under the highest boundaries of protection. But to the Commander, this level of protection was not enough.
His eyes narrowed into the distance and his lips twitched. Yuxi had no other companion or friend aside from Weihao, and the boy couldn't stay by herself forever.
He had his duties on the battlefield, not the training grounds of the Chen Manor. His skill was beyond his years and he needed to go to the Imperial Army's training camp.
A soft knock interrupts the Commander's thoughts.
"Master Chen, Head Maidservant Chunan has arrived." An Eunuch called from outside of the door.
"Let her in." With his back still turned towards the door, hands tucked low behind him, he kept his hawk-like eyes on the duo.
Only when he counted at least thirty shadow guards watching over the duo, did he finally feel relief.
"Master Chen, you've called for Chunan's presence?" Turning at the stern voice of his closest friend, he watched as she stood in the center of the room.
"Please, take a seat." He beckoned her with a stern expression. Chunan's wise eyes swept the room, but she made no moves of sitting down.
Familiar at her cold shoulder, he let out a low chuckle. The two had been close friends since they were children, but were raised with different rules. Although they've known each other for practically their entire life, they were smart enough to keep a healthy distance. Because after all, they were Master and Servant.
"I heard your granddaughter had failed the Imperial tests." The Commander commented as he sat down onto the cushioned chair. His hands rubbed the lion head on his cane.
"Yes, it seems she wasn't selected to become the Crown Princess's maidservant." Chunan responded, a twinge of sadness in her voice.
Her eyes stared out the window behind Moyao, a soft and tired look in her eyes.
"How is she these days?" Leaning his head on his propped up arms, the Commander's face was practically unreadable.
Chunan had know the man for sixty years now, but still couldn't see past his mask. No matter how much her skillful eyes would pry, nothing could ever crack the solid illusion.
After a long silence of a stare down, Chunan finally let out a sigh. Moving to the chair with great poise and elegance, she sat like a lady instead of a servant.
"Rufen has been greatly disheartened by the failure, but that doesn't stop her from practicing the arts." Truth to be told, the day she heard of the news, Yang Rufen had cried for none stop.
The girl was sensitive to rejection, but that didn't stop Yang Chunan from dragging her lazy body out of bed and into the training grounds.
Even if Rufen was rejected from such an outstanding position, it didn't stop Chunan from forcing the girl to practice. She needed a distraction, and laying in bed crying wasn't going to help her situation.
"Oh? She's still training with a weakened heart?" Commander Moyao had watched the stubborn little girl grow up.
Though she was only two years older than Yuxi, her height and intelligence was way beyond Yuxi's years. Yang Rufen was a gifted child who effortlessly picked up martial arts, music, art, and anything you could think of.
If it wasn't for her lowly rank as a maidservant, she could've went far in life. And becoming the Crown Princess's maidservant would've helped her achieve those dreams.
"Yes, but it wasn't voluntarily." Chunan said, a fierce look on her face.
She thought back to her stubborn granddaughter. It had taken her a lot of effort to force the girl back into the training grounds, but once she had stepped foot in the familiar dojo, nothing stopped her from beating up wooden men.
"Yes, I would imagine she caused quite a ruckus." Commander Moyao chuckled low at the memory of a six-year old breaking a wooden doll in half.
"How about I offer you a deal?"
Chunan raised a brow at the Commander's words. She knew what type of man he was. He wasn't the type of man to hand out empty benefits without gaining something in return. And Chunan was no exception to this belief.
Chunan watch the Commander turn his back to her. She was one of the few people he trusted enough to turn his back.
He was starring out the window, his eyes softening at the sight he was staring at. Chunan couldn't see his expression and thought nothing of it.
"What type of deal?" She was smart to not have jumped right into the wagon. It would to be foolish to rashly agreed with the deceitful Commander.
"What do you think of Weihao?" The Commander questioned, his voice light and mellow. There wasn't a hint of malice in his voice. The question was sincere.
"Young Master Weihao?" Chunan repeated, her head slightly tilting in confusion. What else was there to think of him? Smart, level-headed, strong, and healthy, he was the ideal heir to the Chen family.
"He's the perfect heir to your fortune. There's not a single flaw in that boy."
"And what about Weihao on the battlefield?"
Chunan felt confusion wrap around her like a heavy blanket. Just what kind of games was the Commander playing?
"He's a fierce, but just General-in-training. From the rumors and what Rufen has witnessed, he's one of the strongest fighters this country has seen. If I dare say so myself, Weihao reminds me of a younger version of you." Chunan's voice held no deceit or lie. Her opinions had been honest.
She saw no fault in the boy and had even hoped her granddaughter would receive the amazing opportunity of marrying him.
"And my little granddaughter, Yuxi? What do you think about her?" At this, Chunan was thoroughly confused.
She had only known the child for the entire two weeks since her arrival. Chunan had always properly bathed, dressed, and conversed with Yuxi as if she was just another one of her granddaughters.
Taking her silence for slight confusion, he narrowed his question. "Let's start with her interests. Did she tell you anything in particular?"
Thinking for a moment, Chunan thought back to the curious Yuxi whose eyes would light up at the talks of becoming a herbalist.
"She's quite interested in the practice of medicine, archery, horseback riding, martial arts...There's no interest in any womanly skills."
The Commander chuckled at her words.
He agreed with her. Archery over the arts, horseback riding over proper posture, and martial arts over dance. She was an unique little girl.
"And what about Yuxi as a person?"
"Like Weihao, there's not many flaws in her. She's well behaved, respectful, and rarely does she ever complain. But..." Chunan trailed off, unsure of how to phrase her words.
At the hesitation, the Commander tore his eyes from the sleeping Weihao and Yuxi. He turned towards her, his gaze no longer soft.
"But what?" His chilling voice would've stopped anyone in their tracks, but Chunan was different. She wasn't scared of the Commander.