Tome of Troubled Times - C.71: Three-Year Agreement

Tome of Troubled Times

C.71: Three-Year Agreement

Only Cui Yuanyang truly understood what Zhao Changhe felt about the whole situation.

When the Tome of Troubled Times appeared, the Cui Clan felt that it was a pain in the ass. Zhao Changhe also felt like he had met with misfortune.

What was supposed to be him escorting someone home then wandering far away, only to look back at the journey as a joyous experience in the jianghu, had completely changed. And every method he thought of to protect Yangyang’s reputation had been rendered useless.

The whole world was now envious, wondering how Zhao Changhe would become Cui Wenjing’s son-in-law. However, had anyone ever considered that Zhao Changhe, from the very start, had no intention of becoming anyone’s son-in-law?

Everyone was imagining the relationship between him and Yangyang. Was he supposed to take responsibility for it? All he’d done was help her get home; he had absolutely not done anything to her except for overcoming obstacles together and narrowly escaping death. Was he supposed to walk toward this future he had no intention of ever pursuing?

Other than Yanyang herself, who else had ever considered this? Everyone merely thought that he had struck gold.

The young lady had seen through all of it. She glanced back, refraining from speaking even though she wanted to. This feeling rippled in her heart, and until today, it had not gone away.

She expected Cui Wenjing to fly into a rage after listening to what Zhao Changhe said, but to her surprise, her prediction did not come true.

Cui Wenjing, on the contrary, slowly sipped his wine and leisurely asked, “This lover of yours... Is it Xia Chichi from the Four Idols Cult? Or is it Yue Hongling—who people thought she was not the real deal when she pretended to be your mountain mistress?”

Fuck. You really know too much.

Zhao Changhe’s arrogant attitude, which had surprised Cui Wenjing just now, became considerably more sincere. He answered. “Chichi. My relationship with Lady Yue is one of friendship; she is both a teacher and friend, and nothing more. Other people have misunderstood, including your esteemed son...”

“Na?ve.” Cui Wenjing sneered. “You might as well have said Yue Hongling. She would at least be a good match. But you’re actually saving yourself for a witch from a demonic cult...”

Zhao Changhe pursed his lips, not willing to back down. He felt like Chichi treated him genuinely. Even though he said his feelings would not change until the end of time, or something like that at any rate, Zhao Changhe did not know if they would weaken in the future. She had also told him “if you want to find another woman in the future...” and did not seem to care too much. However, he felt that she very much did care, at least at that point in time.

Cui Wenjing sized him up for a while, and with every moment that passed, he found the whole thing to be more amusing.

When he put on an attitude, Zhao Changhe responded arrogantly, stood shoulder to shoulder with him, and spoke assuredly of himself. When he did not object to Zhao Changhe’s stern decision, and even teased him a bit, the boy turned sincere. Cui Wenjing even felt that Zhao Changhe refusing to back down and pursing his lips without refuting him was rather cute.

What natural-born bandit or natural-born renegade? He’s just someone who knows his gratitudes and grudges. He’s a youth who hasn’t had his sharpness dulled yet.

Even his thoughts about love are typical of a youth. How the hell is he like a bandit? Have those people ever met a mountain king that shows this sort of attitude to a woman?

That identity of his... is more and more likely to be real.

Cui Wenjing lightly tapped the table with his index finger and slowly said, “I asked Yangyang repeatedly last night. You say you’re not interested in her. I believe you. When you two were fleeing from danger, there was some body contact, but that was because the situation called for you to be pragmatic. The Cui Clan isn’t stupid and inflexible, so you don’t have to worry about being misunderstood. The problem is...I’m afraid Yangyang might be interested in you. Very interested.”

Zhao Changhe did not answer.

This was why he was constantly plagued by that indescribable feeling the whole day before he came to tell Cui Wenjing that he wanted to decline the marriage.

One had to work themselves into a position of power, fame, and wealth to be with a beautiful woman. The young lady’s annoyed and resentful gaze consumed his mind. It was, indeed, extremely difficult to say he wanted to reject her. If he had to say it to her, Zhao Changhe was not sure if he could do it. It was a good thing he was talking to her father.

Yangyang knows all of this. She knows it wouldn’t be convenient for her to listen to us talk. She’s afraid that I won’t be able to say what I want to say. Maybe she’s also scared of crying after hearing my words. She’s actually known all this while...

Cui Wenjing looked at his expression and thought it all the more amusing. He continued, “I can’t blame a little girl for being childish and having her heart moved... And to be frank, your heroism this time is worthy of moving Yangyang’s heart.”

Zhao Changhe could not help but scratch his head, somewhat at a loss. Why is he becoming more and more reasonable as he speaks? He even praised me. I was clearly rejecting you just now, bro. Shouldn’t you be angry with me or something?

Cui Wenjing said leisurely, “When planning for the family, one must consider the pros and cons of everything. But speaking as an individual, who doesn’t value heroes? If you were really after the Cui Clan’s support or planned to go after our money and women, we might actually agree, but that doesn’t mean we’d respect you in any way. We’d feel like our daughter has been taken away by a pig. But you declined. I love my daughter, but also admire you. In fact, it’s precisely because you declined the marriage that I think you are worthy of her. Is that so hard to understand?”

Zhao Changhe: “Eh...”

Cui Wenjing smiled. “Back to the topic at hand. Since understanding must be mutual, do you understand Yangyang’s current predicament? Or do you feel not a shred of guilt and feel like you can walk away from all this? About how the world will view Yangyang—do you think it’s her problem?”

Zhao Changhe remained quiet for a while before saying in a low voice, “To be honest, if I thought that, I’d feel guilty...I can’t bear to watch Yangyang being the object of other people’s ridicule.”

Cui Wenjing’s smile brightened even more. “So how do you intend to resolve this dilemma?”

Zhao Changhe suddenly said, “Yangyang is still young. She’s not even at the age to discuss marriage.”

Cui Wenjing looked at him fixedly and did not say a word.

Zhao Changhe scratched his head. “Would you agree to us becoming adopted siblings?”

Cui Wenjing’s mouth twitched. “Whether I agree or not, I’m afraid you’re taking the people of the world to be idiots. Even if I gave you a grand ceremony to become my adopted son, that doesn’t mean anything. Does the etiquette of your Zhao House forbid marriage between adopted siblings? Let me tell you, the rest of the world has no issue with that custom.”

Zhao Changhe: “...”

Cui Wenjing: “...”

“Then...give me three years.” Zhao Changhe proposed, “The Cui Clan can announce to the whole world: Zhao Changhe’s background is a shabby bandit stronghold. If he cannot rise to the Rankings of Heaven, Earth, or Man within three years, he is not qualified to marry Yangyang. What do you think of this, senior?”

Cui Wenjing thought this was very interesting, because this was actually one of the solutions he had in mind. He was conflicted about it because telling Zhao Changhe this could make the young man feel like he was deliberately making things hard. However, Zhao Changhe had now said it himself.

Using this as a pretext, the Cui Clan would be the one driving Zhao Changhe away. Yangyang would not lose face, but neither would the matter come to a definite end; there would still be some hope, so the Cui Clan would not be seen as overly harsh, pitiless, or ingracious. In the eyes of people around the world, when choosing people, powerful families were obsessed with one’s background. Everyone was used to this. A few might chastise the Cui Clan for it, but the family would not receive any significant damage to their reputation.

Within three years, Zhao Changhe could well die somewhere or otherwise fail to meet their demand. If that happened, would not the Cui Clan consider the matter settled?

This Zhao Changhe was very interesting. He had actually done nothing wrong, but still felt guilty. Cui Wenjing thought the solution he proposed would also put Zhao Changhe in a difficult position. The rumors about Zhao Changhe not being able to marry Cui Yuanyang because Cui Wenjing denounced him as a bandit would not be nice... Did Zhao Changhe feel nothing for his daughter? No, on the contrary, he cared for Yangyang dearly, and he was not concerned about his own reputation.

“The problem is... What if you actually manage to reach the Ranking of Heaven, Earth, or Man within three years?” Cui Wenjing smiled as he asked, “If you really come back to marry Yangyang, will you still go after Xia Chichi?”

Zhao Changhe replied, “When the time comes, why can’t it be the case that I, Zhao Changhe, hold a grudge and do not wish to go ahead with the marriage?”

“If by that time, Yangyang still hasn’t gotten over her feelings for you, will you really be able to ignore her?” Cui Wenjing laughed heartily. “We’re all men here. There’s no need to lie! By then, you’d have enough strength to decide if you want both for the taking!”

Zhao Changhe stared at him and did not respond.

He felt like he had been wrongly accused. He had not thought that much about this. He was not some military tactician that meticulously thought out each step. To be able to think of a solution to allow them to more-or-less solve this situation in such a short period of time was not easy. How could he have still thought that far ahead?

However, Cui Wenjing actually laughed heartily as he said all that. He was not one bit angry. His attitude made Zhao Changhe feel that... Eh...

Cui Wenjing smiled. “This was actually one of the solutions I thought of. I never thought you’d bring it out first... However, there’s a small difference between your plan and mine. Do you know what it is?”

Zhao Changhe shook his head. How was he supposed to know?

Cui Wenjing answered, “You said three years, while I originally intended to give you five.”

Zhao Changhe was twenty this year. The age limit for the Ranking of Hidden Dragons was twenty-five, so Cui Wenjing intended to give him five years.

It naturally made sense for the Tome of Troubled Times to put in place this age restriction. There were many great figures in the jianghu, but they all had a limit to their aptitude. After all, once one reached a certain level after training for thirty to forty years, why would they not be able to defeat a youth? It was natural to rank youths by their potential.

Once one reached twenty-five years of age or older, they would have experienced much of the conflict in the jianghu. At that age, there was no longer any need to speak about potential; it would be shameful. One should have begun aiming for the Ranking of Man by then.

Of course, the exceptionally talented could do things that others could not. While other people were still at the age where they measured their potentials, they would have already become masters and entered the Ranking of Man. There were definitely people like this in history, but they were rare.

The last person that managed to do this was a certain somebody called Xia Longyuan. He was only twenty-two when he entered the Ranking of Man.

After Zhao Changhe’s proposed three years, he would be twenty-three. With Xia Longyuan’s precedent, reaching the Ranking of Man at twenty-three was not too shocking, but it was still something that no one under heaven would dare to boast about trying to accomplish, let alone Zhao Changhe, who had only started training in martial arts at the age of nineteen...

Cui Wenjing already felt like five years was already rather enough, but Zhao Changhe actually said three years. Do you have any idea what it means to accomplish all that in three years?

Of course, Cui Wenjing was not some goody two shoes. Damn brat. You stole my daughter’s heart. Last night I didn’t kill you because I didn’t want her to go insane. If you say three years, am I supposed to give you five or ten?

Cui Wenjing smiled, raised his wine cup, and drank. “I have concubines myself. Naturally, I won’t limit you to just one person. If you really have what it takes to reach the Ranking of Man within three years, would it be so strange for you to take a few concubines for yourself?”

Zhao Changhe felt that Cui Wenjing was subverting all his expectations. His not-father-in-law was actually quite easy to talk to.

After thinking for some time, he finally realized: He kept beating around the bush, but isn’t this still a sort of engagement? This old fox even managed to settle the matter with his first wife...

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