The Reborn Noble Girl is Hard to Find | Chapter 39: Returning a Slap

 Chapter 39: Returning a Slap

Han Yan, feeling utterly bored, scanned the crowd. She wanted to spot Zhuang Hanming, but she realized he was nowhere to be seen at the banquet. Her heart sank.

Zhuang Hanming, though mischievous, behaved appropriately in grand occasions and wouldn’t run off on his own. After waiting for a long while without seeing him return, Han Yan couldn’t contain her worry any longer. She claimed she needed to visit the lavatory and left the hall with Ji Lan and Shu Hong.

Hearing Zhuang Yushan’s complaints behind her, Han Yan ignored them. Her mind was solely occupied with thoughts of Zhuang Hanming. The palace, much like their own mansion, was fraught with dangers. Hanming was her reason to live, the person she would protect at all costs. If anything happened to him here, she wouldn’t know what to do.

There were guards around the palace, but few eunuchs and palace maids. Han Yan couldn’t directly inquire about Hanming’s whereabouts, so she wandered around until she found herself in a place resembling an imperial garden, unsure of where she was.

It was winter, and the night wind was chilling, seeping into her bones. Han Yan felt her hair getting damp from the garden’s dew, and her fingers were icy cold. Instinctively, she reached for a hand warmer, only to realize she hadn’t brought it. Ji Lan, stretching her neck to look around, said, “Miss, don’t worry. It’s dark here. There’s a light up ahead. Let’s follow it and be careful not to trip.”

Han Yan, anxious, quickened her pace towards the light. Shu Hong suddenly said, “There’s a sound over there!”

Han Yan’s heart tightened. She signaled Ji Lan and Shu Hong to move quietly, crouching as they approached the sound.

Moving cautiously through the palace was akin to being blind and deaf. Previously, she would avoid such situations, but thinking of Ming, her anxiety burned like fire. Shu Hong, leading the way, stopped as they got closer, then turned back, silently mouthing, “Found him.”

Joy surged through Han Yan; finding Ming felt like a huge burden lifted. She was about to speak when Shu Hong stopped her, wearing an odd expression.

Alarmed, Han Yan had a bad feeling and quickly stepped forward, pushing Shu Hong aside to see for herself.

Under the dim palace light, several boys around ten were gathered, seemingly up to no good. One was pushed against a fake mountain, his pine-colored soft silk jacket familiar to Han Yan.

A tall boy in pink stood in front of the fake mountain, his tone arrogant, his once handsome face twisted into a cruel smile. “Zhuang Hanming, don’t think you can act tough just because you’re the legitimate son. So what if your sister is the legitimate daughter? Everyone knows she’s not favored. I can call her ugly and stupid. What can you do about it?”

The boy pinned against the rock, eyes red, his fair face marked by five vivid slap prints, glared defiantly. “Don’t you dare talk about her that way!” he shouted, restrained by the others. “Fighting with numbers isn’t fair! Zhang Wei! Have the guts to fight me one-on-one!”

The pink-clad boy, Zhang Wei, laughed. “You? Fight me? Just like your stupid sister!”

Han Yan recognized them instantly. These boys were sons of Zhang Taishi’s favored concubine, Da Zhou. Although they were illegitimate, Zhang Taishi doted on them. Previously, whenever they visited Zhuang Mansion, there were frequent disputes with Zhuang Hanming, leading to punishments for Hanming. But now, it was clear the fights were like this!

The boy in pink was Da Zhou’s eldest son, Zhang Wei, a known bully. Today, he was ganging up on Hanming, making Han Yan’s eyes narrow in anger. But why was the Crown Prince here?

Zhang Wei’s target was clearly Hanming, likely instigated by Zhou. Seeing Hanming’s defiance, protecting her despite the abuse, made Han Yan’s heart ache.

She had failed as a sister, causing her brother to suffer. If she were more capable, no one would dare bully Hanming!

Clenching her fists, Han Yan noticed a figure in yellow, the Crown Prince, seemingly enjoying the show. Zhang Wei’s actions must have had Zhou’s backing, but why was the Crown Prince involved?

Taking a deep breath, Han Yan stepped out from the shadows, speaking with a clear, cold voice. “Such great interest, gentlemen, to leave the banquet and bring my brother here. But it’s winter, the night is cold, and there are no flowers to admire. What’s the purpose?”

Her voice, clear and calm, carried a chill that made everyone pause. Zhang Wei looked up, surprised to see Han Yan emerging gracefully, her bright attire and cold smile sending a shiver down his spine.

He quickly recovered, sneering, “Oh, it’s cousin.”

Han Yan stopped beside him, with Ji Lan and Shu Hong guarding her. “What brings you here, cousin?” Zhang Wei was two years older, making the term appropriate.

The other boys, led by Zhang Wei, circled Han Yan and her maids. Zhang Wei, not wanting to stay, dismissed her. “Just chatting with my cousin. If there’s nothing else, we’ll leave.” Releasing Hanming, he turned to go.

“Wait,” Han Yan called.

Zhang Wei, irritated, snapped, “What now?”

Han Yan glanced at the Crown Prince, whose young face showed a hint of schadenfreude. Han Yan didn’t think Zhang Wei and the Crown Prince were that close; the Prince was just watching for fun.

Stepping to Hanming, Han Yan gently touched his swollen cheek. The hot, swollen mark confirmed everything. Retracting her hand, she smiled, “Is that so, brother?”

Zhuang Hanming, his face still stinging, clenched his fists and nodded. “Yes, sister.”

Han Yan’s smile faded, her eyes icy as she turned to Zhang Wei. “Since you hit my brother, how about I return the favor?”

Zhang Wei, taken aback, laughed, “You? Hit me?”

“Yes,” Han Yan replied calmly. “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” She stepped forward, raising her hand before he could react, and slapped him hard across the face, the sound echoing in the cold night.

  • 1 July 2024