Chapter 1.2: Spring

In front of the Chen family’s main entrance, the sound of a suona being played pierced the air as a marriage sedan was lowered to the ground.

The person who came to greet the new bride was not the groom but the First Lady Chen. Her actions were straightforward as she immediately asked for a small temporary tent to be built at the main door.

The sound of the suona stopped as the people around looked at each other in dismay.  Amongst them, an impressive looking man stared fervently at the carriage’s swaying door curtain. His gaze was expectant. 

The Sixth Matchmaker, as she was known by others, mocked, “My bride, there are some debatable rumors about you floating around. For your sake, your mother-in-law wishes to reveal the truth. We have brought an old servant to check you out before you can enter.”

Ziyun, who had followed the bride over to her new residence, fumed, “Are you purposely trying to bully my lady? My lady has always been upright and honorable. She has nothing to hide!”

Sixth Matchmaker looked back at the First Lady Chen. First Lady Chen looked scornful. “If she is as pure and clean as you claim, why can’t we examine her? If you don’t go through with the examination, don’t even think about stepping into our door!”

Ziyun argued back, “Why should she!”

Sixth Matchmaker laughed apologetically, “This is also for the bride’s own good. If she passes the examination, then everyone will know that she is pure.”

Ziyun immediately rebutted, “So if she doesn’t go through the examination, does it mean she isn’t pure?”

“Ziyun.” Fu Rou came out of the carriage, the bright scarlet veil concealing her appearance. Her demeanor was graceful. “I’ll go through with the examination.”

Fu Rou immediately entered the temporary tent. Everyone stood rooted to the spot as they awaited the results.

Soon, the old servant reappeared. She held back her sleeves, whispering into Sixth Matchmaker’s ears. Sixth Matchmaker chuckled and walked up to First Lady Chen. “Congratulations, the bride’s body is untouched.”

First Lady Chen raised her eyebrows, “Are you sure?”

Sixth Matchmaker wondered why she seemed to detect a hint of disappointment in the First Lady’s voice. However, she brushed it aside as she nodded with certainty, “Yes, I am sure.”

First Lady Chen snorted softly.

Ziyun helped Fu Rou out of the tent and towards the marriage sedan. Fu Rou acknowledged the urging of the marriage coordinator but did not enter the sedan. Lifting her hand, she suddenly pulled off the red veil covering her face.

Her long black hair fell beside her snow-white face tinted with rouge. Her eyes resembled black gems as her beautiful face seemed to radiate moonlight.

The people gathered in front of the main entrance all gasped in surprise. Behind the door, Sheng Chumu seemed to turn into a fool. Only the impressive looking young man in the crowd had a hint of longing in his eyes.

Fu Rou was indifferent to all that happened. To everyone’s shock, she suddenly turned towards the wall, wanting to smash her head against it. 

As if in a matter of life or death, a hand grabbed onto Fu Rou and pulled her back. She felt herself get pulled into something warm. She looked up only to stare right into the person’s eyes. It was a pair of deep eyes embedded into a handsome face that was illuminated by the sun. She felt slightly out of it.

Sheng Chumu had rescued Fu Rou. In the past, he was always able to present himself well in front of beauties. This time, however, he could only stare in a daze at the small flower that was falling from Fu Rou’s hair. He could hear his heart pounding wildly.

Without giving Sheng Chumu a second glance, Fu Rou pushed Sheng Chumu away and headed back towards the sedan. She instructed them to bring her home.

Sheng Chumu did not look away as he rolled something between his fingers gently. It was the small flower that had fallen out of Fu Rou’s hair. He had made up his mind. A beauty with a personality. As a playboy, how could he not chase her?!

 

The next day, the entire city was talking about what had happened at the Chen Residence. Fu Rou’s residence had already been cleaned and there were no signs of a wedding.

Second Madam walked into Fu Rou’s room. Seeing how clean it was, she became even more sad as she burst into tears.

Fu Rou sat near the window as she focused on sewing. It was as if her crying mother, who was sitting beside her, was simply a house sparrow. It was only when she carefully finished tucking the end of the thread did she pause her needle and lift her head.

“Mother, please don’t cry. I will never marry into the Chen family.”

Second Madam suddenly spoke sternly, “Are you planning to remain single for the rest of your life?”

Fu Rou’s face remained expressionless as the corners of her mouth lifted to let out a small chuckle, “If that is the case, then it is fate. In the past, the marriage with the Yan family also did not go through.”

Second Madam’s face changed, “The Yan family offended Great General Lu and was destined to be killed. Why would you bring that up? In the past, I rejected their offer for your sake.”

“You have really put in a lot of effort for my sake.” Fu Rou’s eyes became slightly watery, “How did my picture end up in public? How did the nickname Guangzhou’s number one beauty come about? It is all because you want a son-in-law with power. You were picky and rejected numerous marriage offers. As a result, people on the streets are calling me arrogant and that not being able to marry is my punishment. Don’t think that I am oblivious to all this.”

Second Madam took out her handkerchief, intending to help Fu Rou dry her tears. But in the end, she could not bring herself to move and instead scrunched up her handkerchief.

Fu Rou used her sleeves to rub away her tears roughly. Her expression turned cold once again. “Mother, please leave, I am tired.”

Second Madam could not say anymore and eventually left. As she was leaving, she bumped into Fu Jun.

 

“Please help me persuade her, she refuses to listen to me.” Second Madam could only pin her hopes onto Fu Jun. 

Fu Jun nodded. “Second Madam, rest assured. Rou’er is the kind that can be coaxed but not coerced. She still listens to reason.”

Second Madam sighed, “I hope so. I only wish the best for her. If only she could be like you and be happily married.” 

Fu Jun smiled and sent Second Madam off. Shen then turned and walked into Fu Rou’s residence. Fu Rou stood up to greet her.

Fu Jun kept her smile as she huffed and sat down. “I know you are capable, but I did not think you would do something like this. First, you asked people to go to the streets near the Chen family and paste notes with rumours written on them. You then asked the matchmaker to bring up the idea of examining your body to First Lady Chen. I really don’t understand. If you didn’t want to marry, why did you agree to the Chen family’s marriage proposal in the first place?”

“I want their endowment gift.” Fu Rou confessed. 

“You!” Fu Jun’s mouth gaped open. “Is it worth it?”

“Elder Sister, you are already married so you don’t know the financial state of the house. Recently, the sea has not been peaceful and in this year alone, our ships have already been raided twice. Military taxes have been increasing every year and both the dye workshop and the embroidery house have had trouble breaking even. Our Fu family is left with nothing but an empty shelf.” Fu Rou threw out a laugh, “When I was praying at the temple, Chen You was disrespectful to me time and again. His mind is filled with nothing but dirty thoughts. I am already being merciful to only ask for five thousand taels.”

Fu Jun sighed, “But you can’t exchange your own happiness for five thousand taels.”

Fu Rou shook her head. “I didn’t have a choice.” She then handed a letter over. 

As Fu Jun read the letter, her expression completely changed. “Didn’t Third Brother go to Jiuhua mountain to learn martial arts? How is it possible that he killed someone?”

“The victim’s family demanded that we pay five thousand taels, or they will take Third Brother’s life. Now that the money has been sent over, Third Brother should be returning home soon.” Fu Rou did not elaborate further.

Fu Jun grumbled, “You should have discussed such a huge matter with me. After all, your brother-in-law is now the magistrate of the county.”

Fu Rou cut her off, “Brother-in-law has just taken up his new position, how will he get five thousand taels?” Of course, Fu Jun knew this.

“Elder Sister, don’t worry about me. I don’t intend to marry anyone in this life.” Fu Rou stated in a matter of fact.

Fu Jun stood up and walked towards Fu Rou, catching sight of the almost completed embroidery placed on the embroidery rack. It was a picture of an arrogant eagle, soaring through the sky with its wings spread out.

Fu Jun silently sighed, “After all these years, you still haven’t forgotten about Yan Zifang.”

Fu Rou’s body jerked slightly as she clenched her fist. How could she forget?

After his entire family met with misfortune, Zifang was left alone and came to rely on them but was rejected by her mother. How could she forget?

That day, it was snowing heavily. It looked as if the snow would engulf Zifang’s small silhouette in a matter of seconds. 

Fu Jun sighed a long sigh once again, “But Yan Zifang is no longer around. He was chased by people from the general’s residence and fell into the river and drowned.”

“Yes, he is no longer alive.” An immense grief radiated from Fu Rou as she stretched out her hand. The tip of her finger ran over the wings of the eagle. “That is why I cannot forget him. Otherwise, no one will remember him anymore.”

A commotion suddenly broke out from outside. 

“Where is the bride? Tell her to come out immediately!” First Lady Chen’s sharp voice was louder than the rooster at daybreak. 

Fu Jun was startled and prepared to head outside. However, Fu Rou held her back, her expression not showing any signs of giving in.

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