Chapter 586: A Deal

It took Zu An a long time to react to what was happening. He couldn’t believe that this starstruck woman was the same valiant and formidable warrior from before. Does she have any idea that the man she adores is a cross-dressing trap?

Or maybe she does know?

Huh? Why do I sense some girl-on-girl romance going on? But they’re both beauties... What an interesting pair...

Chu Youzhao was about to speak up for Murong Qinghe, but the moment she saw Zu An, her eyes widened. “It’s you!”

Zu An nodded. “Who else would it be? I never expected you to be this popular with girls.”

Chu Youzhao obviously knew what he was implying, and her face immediately turned red.

She quickly ran over to him and pulled him to the side. “You’re not allowed to expose my identity!” she hissed quietly.

Zu An was stunned. So she really does think you’re a man? If I’m not mistaken, isn’t Murong your grandmother’s clan? Doesn’t she know the truth?

Then again, this issue was the Chu clan’s greatest secret, since the fate of the Chu clan’s noble title rested on it. It wasn’t a surprise that they did not know about it.

Sorry, Miss Murong, your love is doomed to be unrequited.

The whole thing was quite strange to him. It seemed like one’s outward appearances really didn’t say much about one’s preferences. Murong Qinghe was such a tough-looking girl, yet she had ended up falling for a pretty boy like Chu Youzhao.

Chu Youzhao had an artifact that hid her feminine traits. Even though she looked quite dashing, there was still a feminine side to her appearance. So this is Murong Qinghe’s type?

“Why should I?” Zu An replied in amusement.

Chu Youzhao bit her lip, which might have seemed slightly disgusting if she really was a guy. On the other hand, knowing that she was a woman made the gesture rather alluring. That was the benefit of having good looks.

“Because you’re my brother-in-law! Why would you leak out the Chu clan’s secrets?”

Zu An raised his eyebrows. He was extremely pleased that she had called him brother-in-law. “So I’m not a scoundrel?”

Chu Youzhao snorted. “You’re clearly my brother-in-law, yet you touched your wife’s little sister. What else are you but a scoundrel?”

She had been terribly upset that her amazing eldest sister had ended up marrying a completely useless man. She did not approve of it one bit, and she was also worried about her big sister’s happiness.

However, she had seen with her own eyes how easily he had taken care of those powerful assassins. She had to admit that he looked rather gallant right then.

Unfortunately, this fellow just had to touch her there. Back then, she had been embarrassed and furious, but she gathered her composure again after one night. What else could she do about it? She couldn’t just kill him since he was her brother-in-law, after all. She couldn’t beat him either… She could only console herself that, at least, it hadn’t been an outsider.

Zu An couldn’t believe she still held it against him.

“I was trying to save you, okay? I never thought that you were… hmph.”

Chu Youzhao’s lips curved upwards in a half-smile. “All I know is that you touched me. I’ll just tell my eldest sister if I have to. Let’s see what she thinks about that.”

Ugh, what a pain. Zu An had just gotten together with Chu Chuyan’s best friend. When she found out, Chu Chuyan hadn’t been sure if he would manage to stay alive, so she couldn’t bring herself to get angry, which allowed him to weather that storm. Who knew if she’d bring it up again? If she found out that he touched her little sister, she might really lose it...

Chu Youzhao was delighted when she saw him grimacing. It went a long way to soothe her sense of injustice. “So? How about it? You keep my secret and I’ll keep yours.”

“Why do I feel like it’s not fair?” Zu An said, hesitating. “How about you call me brother-in-law a few more times?”

“No way!” Chu Youzhao was annoyed. “I’ll tell my eldest sister, then.”

“What are you two doing?” Murong Qinghe was confused by the sight of the two of them whispering in a corner.

“Uh… I’m going to help you teach this guy a lesson since he’s bullying you!” Chu Youzhao turned around and replied, draping her arm around Zu An’s shoulder. “Come on, show me some consideration and play along.

Zu An had a weird look on his face. Did you forget something, perhaps? If you put your arm around me like that, I can feel everything! What happened yesterday was an accident, but now you’re doing this on purpose...

Chu Youzhao immediately realized what was going on as well, and she flushed red. She punched him in the gut. “Scoundrel!” She was only going to put on an act at first, but in the end, she didn’t hold back one bit.

Zu An cried out. “Why didn’t you hold back?!” he hissed at her.

“It’s your fault for taking advantage of me!”

“What…? Young lady, you were the one who came on to me, okay?”

“You’re still talking about it?!”

“Ah!!”

Murong Qinghe was now the one who was embarrassed. She rushed over to them. “Big brother Chu, I think that’s enough…”

They were from the same clan, after all. If they fell out because of her, how was she going to marry into the Chu clan…?

Chu Youzhao shoved Zu An away, her face red. “Enough! I’ll spare you this time, but only because of little sister Qinghe.”

“Little sister?” Zu An studied Murong Qinghe. Chu Youzhao was already young enough, yet this girl was actually even younger? She doesn’t look it, though, judging by her height and how developed she is… 

Murong Qinghe sensed his gaze and shot him a hateful look, but when she thought about how they were going to be seeing each other often in the future as family members, she swallowed this anger back down.

Hmph! I won’t lower myself to argue with you because of big brother Chu!

Chu Youzhao waved at Zu An. “Big s… ahem, ahem… Grandpa invites you inside.”

Zu An nodded. He was quite curious to find out what Chuyan’s grandfather, the legendary, most highly-ranked figure in the military, was like.

As they headed inside, Chu Youzhao asked Murong Qinghe, “Qinghe, why are you here today?”

Murong Qinghe gave Zu An a sidelong glance. “It’s all because of him! In the court session this morning, His Majesty was furious, yelling about how it was intolerable that there would be a public assassination attempt within the capital. My grandfather was the Security Officer, and was in charge of public safety within the capital. Because of this, my grandfather obviously had to take responsibility. He was relieved as Security Officer and moved to the position of Supervisor of Attendants, which has no real power. Hmph!”

Zu An couldn’t help but chuckle. No wonder she was so upset. The Security Officer wielded great authority, and was feared within the court. Even though the Supervisor of Attendants was considered one of the nine Ministers, and seemed to enjoy an elevated status, several of these ministerial positions were slowly becoming figureheads, with their authority being transferred to the other branches. One of these weakened ministerial positions was the Supervisor of Attendants.

In theory, the Supervisor of Attendants was supposed to be in charge of the imperial bodyguards, but the military leadership within the palace was tangled and complicated, each power intricately balanced against another. There was the Left General and Right General of the palace gates, as well as the Brave Rider General and Guerilla Warfare General who were each in charge of their corresponding troops. There was also Zhuxie Chixin, commander of the Embroidered Envoy, which maintained a large presence within the capital. The Supervisor of Attendants was only required to arrange the ceremonies that preceded the emperor’s departure on long journeys outside the capital.

“How is all of that my fault?” Zu An retorted. “I’m clearly the biggest victim. Your grandfather wasn’t able to maintain security within the capital, which was why I was attacked as soon as I entered the city. I almost lost my life, you know?”

Murong Qinghe pouted. “My grandfather isn’t the only one in charge of keeping peace within the capital, though. It feels as though we’re being punished for no reason… We’re in this position because of you.”

Zu An knew that the emperor was merely finding excuses to shuffle aside important ministers loyal to King Qi’s faction. Of course, he couldn't say this out loud.

Chu Youzhao quickly tried to mediate this situation. “Both of you are victims! The assassins are the ones we should blame for all this.”

She had almost been killed by those assassins yesterday, and she had only been saved thanks to her brother-in-law’s intervention. Hm? Why do I recall dreaming about something really embarrassing last night? Something about brother-in-law riding a horse?

They quickly found themselves entering a study. Within, a tall and sturdy elder cast his gaze over the three of them. His eyes shifted to Murong Qinghe, a smile appearing on his face. “Little Qinghe, you must have come to play with Youzhao again.”

Zu An’s face darkened. This elder was deliberately ignoring him in a clear show of strength.

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