Seven years ago, on Qi Yan’s birthday.
Xia Xun was still adding the final touches for the wooden rabbit, knowing nothing about what was about to happen.
In the late afternoon of that day, Xia Hongxi returned to his house from the court, his face extremely ugly.
Seeing his distorted expression, Lady Xia asked what happened. Xia Hongxi said that today the emperor suddenly arranged a deputy for him.
It was called assistance. In fact, he felt that the emperor became suspicious of him and placed this person by his side to investigate.
Xia Hongxi was the official in charge of the transportation of goods on official ships. According to the current law, official ships were allowed to carry official goods and were not allowed to carry any private goods.
Those who used official ships for personal profit would be severely punished.
Ten years ago, Xia Hongxi began to use the convenience of his position to secretly use official ships to carry private cargo in exchange for money.
In ten years, he made a lot of money and became rich.
He acted cautiously and had not missed a step for many years. He had always been a good, diligent subject in front of the emperor.
This time, however, his activities seemed to be exposed; the emperor suddenly asked him about matters related to water transportation, and his words were full of vague suspicions.
Today, he had given him a deputy, requiring him to consult with this deputy on all official duties, large and small.
Xia Hongxi said angrily: “Isn’t this obviously surveillance?!”
Lady Xia didn’t feel good either:
“Why don’t you… stop a while? Those ships with cargo, don’t let them come to the capital for the time being and wait until the storm is over—”
Xia Hongxi waved his hand:
“No way! They need those goods in a hurry, and since they pay a lot, it is not possible to delay! Anyway, it’s just a little deputy, can’t I handle him?! I don’t believe he can notice anything!”
When Lady Xia returned to the inner courtyard, she specially found Xia Xing and asked him to comfort his father.
Xia Xing had recently become obsessed with dancing girls in the wine shop, spending his whole days there. When he was drunk, he danced with the girls. People said that the second son of the Xia family could do nothing else, but he could dance better than the dancing girls.
The night before, he drank in the wine shop as usual and didn’t come back until the middle of the night.
When Lady Xia came looking for him, he had just woken up, his hangover still raging.
His mother was not happy:
“You look like this, what will your father say when he sees you!”
Lady Xia forced him to drink a large bowl of hangover soup and said in his ear:
“Your father loves you so much! What’s wrong with saying a few words to him? You’re the son who knows that your own father is in trouble. If you don’t go and calm him down, others will see it and say you’re not filial!”
At her request, Xia Xing reluctantly went to Xia Hongxi’s study.
When he came to the door, he rubbed his face and his impatient expression disappeared in an instant, changing to concern.
“Father!” He started shouting loudly even before he entered. “Father! Who is so bold to offend you?! Tell your son, your son will solve them for you!”
Normally, Xia Hongxi doted on him. Xia Xing did not study and spent days drinking and frolicking, and Xia Hongxi never interfered. A few years ago he found Xia Xing a cushy job, so Xia Xing didn’t need to worry about his sustenance.
Xia Xing said that he hadn’t had enough fun and didn’t want to marry a wife, and Xia Hongxi also let him go. He had accepted seven or eight concubines, but Xia Hongxi only said a few words and never cared about it again.
Who knew that today, when Xia Hongxi saw Xia Xing, he would think of all the shameful things his son had done and a sudden fire would surge in his heart:
“Who offended me? It’s you, you useless brat! I’m warning you, stay at home for the next few days! Don’t even step foot outside! If you make any trouble at this moment, I’ll make you pay for it!”
This was the most severe he had ever treated Xia Xing. Xia Xing felt very disappointed and annoyed.
He didn’t dare to retaliate against Xia Hongxi, but as soon as he got out of his father’s courtyard, he couldn’t help it.
His face red with anger, he cursed endlessly, stomping his feet:
“What did I do?! What did I do? You want to take it out on me when someone out there angers you? If you have the guts, why don’t you take it out on the emperor? Go ahead!!!”
His subordinates rushed to stop him, advising him to hold his tongue. Xia Xing was furious and kicked over several newly planted osmanthus trees.
When his anger subsided, his craving returned. He thought about the dancing girls in the wine shop, the image of their snow-white waists lingering in his mind.
His heart felt itchy and unbearable. Because of Xia Hongxi’s order, he didn’t dare to sneak out; he walked around the pond sullenly and kept walking without noticing the road, anxious and uneasy like an ant on a hot pot.
When he suddenly looked up, he saw that he was already outside Xia Xun’s courtyard.
Without thinking, he kicked open the courtyard door and barged in with his subordinates.
Xia Xun was in his room, quietly carving a small wooden rabbit. The sound of Xia Xing breaking in startled him. His hand shook and the carving knife almost cut off the rabbit’s ear.
Today was Qi Yan’s birthday. Xia Xun always remembered his promise to make his zodiac animal for Qi Yan as a gift.
Qi Yan’s zodiac sign was the rabbit, and Xia Xun planned to make a light brown rabbit for him.
Seeing Xia Xing break in, Xia Xun jumped up from his chair with a start.
“What’s wrong with you! What are you kicking in the door for? Is your hand broken?”
Every time he and Xia Xing met, swords were drawn and bows bent (figuratively; meaning a state of mutual hostility). He had fought Xia Xing many times, almost never won, but never admitted defeat.
Xia Xing sneered: “You are idling here again! Just watch me tell Dad!”
Xia Xun was not to be outdone: “Go tell him! Do you think I am afraid? I have long been used to kneeling in the ancestral hall! If you have the ability, go and complain now!”
In a rare instance, Xia Xing didn’t say anything back. With a gleam in his eyes, he walked into Xia Xun’s room and sat down with a big smile on his face.
“I’m not here to quarrel with you today, I’m here to tell you good news. I have a crush on your maid, and I am going to accept her as my concubine. Tell her to prepare.”
Xia Xun was stunned: “What maid?”
Xia Xing pointed to Shaobo.
Shaobo’s mother was from the Hu people, so she looked different from the people of the Central Plains. Her eye sockets were deep, her nose straight, and her eyes were very light in colour.
She had been bullied by the servants of the mansion since she was a child; they called her ugly and said she was a demon. When she grew up, she was ordered by Lady Xia to become Xia Xun’s maidservant.
If she hadn’t been unpopular, she wouldn’t have been sent to serve Xia Xun.
Xia Xing hated Xia Xun, and hated her by association. He called them two ugly monsters, saying that he and Shaobo must have been born of the same mother.
Shaobo was very angry when she heard this, but Xia Xun didn’t mind.
He didn’t think Shaobo was ugly, nor did he think he was ugly. If he could be siblings with Shaobo, it would be very good.
He told Shaobo not to listen to Xia Xing’s bullshit:
“His face is ugly, he is the real ugly bastard!”
At this moment, Shaobo was in Xia Xun’s room. When Xia Xing spoke, her legs became soft with fright and she fell to her knees:
“Second, second young master… this slave, this slave…”
Xia Xun knew that Xia Xing didn’t really like Shaobo, he just wanted to get back to him and make him unhappy.
He stood in front of Shaobo. “Xia Xing! You want to be beaten again!”
Xia Xing laughed loudly. “Listen to you! What a stupid thing are you saying? It’s clear that it is you who wants to be beaten!”
He stood in front of Xia Xun, relying on his height advantage, looked down at him and said grimly:
“What’s all the fuss about? Why don’t you ask her if she is willing? Compared to following you, a commoner trash, there is still some hope for her in being my concubine! I have all the glory and wealth in the world, but what do you have here? A pile of broken wood?? Add all this pile of garbage together and it won’t sell for ten taels of silver!”
Xia Xun straightened and stared at him, asking Shaobo:
“Are you willing?”
Shaobo shivered and said: “This slave… this slave doesn’t want to…”
Xia Xun said loudly: “Did you hear that? She said she didn’t want to! You can roll!”
Xia Xing walked around him, pulled Shaobo up, dragged her into his arms and forcibly hugged her:
“Hahaha! Did I hear it wrong? She clearly said yes!”
Shaobo struggled hard; her clothes were all messed up and even her hairpin fell out of her hair. Xia Xun rushed up and pull her to stand behind him:
“Fuck you! Get out of here now!”
Xia Xing pulled her back again and kissed her loudly.
Shaobo was in shock, her face flushed, her lips turning pale.
Xia Xun’s eyes were flashing with anger as he rushed up to pull Shaobo away. He used too much strength and Shaobo toppled on the ground. She felt so wronged that she just lay on the floor, unable to get up, covering her face and crying.
Xia Xun yelled:
“Pulling an unmarried woman around! What a disgrace! Shame on you! Shaobo needs to get married, I’m going to marry her to a farm boy! I’ll marry her to a peddler! I won’t marry her to you, you son of a bitch!”
Furious, he rushed at Xia Xing and they rolled in a ball fighting
Xia Xun scratched Xia Xing’s eyebrow, tore off a strand of his hair and squashed his nose. Xia Xing punched Xia Xun on the chin, kicked him in the ribs a few times and stepped on the back of his hand.
As before, Xia Xun was beaten badly.
But Xia Xun always had a mesmerising energy in his heart; no matter how badly beaten he was, he would never give up. Even if Xia Xing had the upper hand, he would never be able to win.
The two of them fought the whole way from the room to the courtyard, with chicken flying and dogs jumping (in a mess).
The servants watched the excitement for a while and then chose a moment to separate the brothers.
Xia Xun stood up shaking, gasping for breath.
Xia Xing pointed at him and said hoarsely:
After that, he turned around and walked into the house again.
Thinking that he was going to do something to Shaobo, Xia Xun hurried after him.
Xia Xing walked past Shaobo, grabbed Xia Xun’s wood carving tools and threw them all into the brazier.
Xia Xun tried to stop him.
Xia Xing pushed him away, grabbed the new wood pieces and threw them into the fire as well.
His shove made Xia Xun fall on the floor, hitting his back; pain radiated through his body, making him feel dizzy.
Xia Xing threw everything on the table into the fire. It was not enough. He looked around and stretched out his hand to the wooden rabbit that Xia Xun almost finished carving.
Xia Xun’s blood surged to his head as he yelled:
“Do you dare—?!”
Xia Xing picked up the rabbit and looked at him grinning:
“Why wouldn’t I dare?”
With these words, the little wooden rabbit drew an arc in the air and fell on the burning charcoal.
Xia Xun couldn’t care less about anything else.
He rushed to the brazier and stuck his hand into the fire. His skin burned, emitting a weird smell of meat. The flame licked his fingers, and he saw big bubbles appear between them.
He grabbed the wooden rabbit and extinguished the fire on it with his bare hands.
The rabbit’s ears were burnt black and its originally vivid little face was melted into a lump, turning it into an unsightly monster.
Xia Xun hurriedly blew off the remaining ash and rubbed the rabbit’s ears in distress.
Xia Xing held his head high, took his subordinates and left proudly.
Shaobo still lay on the floor crying.
Yuzhu was originally barking cheerfully in the yard, but when he heard the commotion, he ran back frantically.
He didn’t know what happened. He sniffed Xia Xun suspiciously, then sniffed Shaobo and circled around the two of them, without even wagging his tail.
Xia Xun held the rabbit and stared around blankly, looking at the mess in the room, at a loss.
Apparently he would not be able to give Qi Yan his birthday gift.