Chapter 2.2: Recognizing Kin

“My lord, did you manage to see it?” Junhui was loyal and quickly rushed out to help him get out of this sticky situation.

“Keep quiet.” Sheng Chumu thought Junhui was asking if he had seen Fu Rou and quickly shushed him.

“See what?” Fu Rou assessed the tree before looking at the wall in her garden. She became suspicious.

Junhui answered, “My lord was star gazing, he does this every day.” While he helped Sheng Chumu up, Junhui gave him an eye signal. “You said that the Great Star will shift towards the south tonight and you had to climb the tree in order to see it properly. So, did you manage to see it?”

Sheng Chumu came to a sudden realisation. “Oh! The Great Star, of course it has shifted, but the shift is not very obvious. If you don’t focus, you won’t be able to tell the difference.”

Fu Rou believed him slightly, “You know how to read constellations?”

Sheng Chumu pretended to be humble, “I know a little. The Duke Lu is a family of generals. We lead troops to war, so we have to know geography. As they say, stars guide us in the night and the sun guides us in the day. If ever there is an obscure day, then we will use the south-pointer.”

Fu Rou suddenly came to a realization. “Oh, you are the relative that Third Madam acknowledged today.”

Sheng Chumu bowed, “My name is Sheng Chumu, I apologise for scaring you, Lady Rou.”

Fu Rou was astonished, “How do you know my name?”

Sheng Chumu reminded her, “We met yesterday, in front of the Chen Residence.”

Fu Rou remembered and thought that it was too coincidental.

“Here’s your flower.” Sheng Chumu thought that he was pretty suave as he took out a fresh flower.

“A fresh flower will wither once it leaves its stalk. This flower is vibrant and fresh, it is not my flower.” Fu Rou did not take it. She then turned and headed back into her courtyard, closing the door. 

Sheng Chumu was slightly disappointed as he watched her head in.

Junhui assessed his performance and gave a thumbs up. “My lord, your performance is so much better this time. You are much cooler than when you tried to attract Lord He’s daughter.” 

“Really? Was I cooler?” Sheng Chumu immediately became cheerful as he grabbed onto Junhui’s hands and jumped up and down.

The courtyard door suddenly opened and Fu Rou walked out. Sheng Chumu and Junhui quickly hid their smiles and pretended to be serious.

“Young Lord, in the future, if you wish to see the stars, please do it further away from my garden.” Fu Rou said coldly as she stood at the door.

Sheng Chumu casually rebutted, “This tree is the tallest in the entire Fu Residence.” 

However, Fu Rou did not wait for him to finish before shutting the door on him.

Junhui stole a look at Sheng Chumu. However, Sheng Chumu was still delighted, he rubbed his hands together looking like he was not going to give up. The both of them chatted and discussed their next step.

No one noticed that there was a man behind the fake stone mountain.

That man was the one that was staring at Fu Rou in front of the Chen Residence. He held an eagle flute tightly in his hands. A frown was etched into his handsome face, he seemed to be annoyed at himself for being a step behind again.

Eventually, he sighed and left.

 

Although Fu Rou missed the banquet the previous night, their family held another banquet the following afternoon. She didn’t know what excuse Third Madam gave, but this time, Fu Rou was invited. Fu Rou typically did not like to join social gatherings, however, she agreed to go as she thought of Sheng Chumu. It was the first time someone had given her flowers. While he might seem a little too eager, at least he was somewhat sincere.

When Fu Rou reached the rear garden, she saw that her father, First Madam, her mother and Third Madam were all present. Third Madam’s side of the family, Fu Tao and her youngest sister, Fu Yin, were sitting beside their mother. Other than the selfish Third Madam, Fu Rou got along well with the rest of them. Fu Tao was the carefree casual type, while Fu Yin’s looks and personality was obedient and cute; they were completely different from the cunning Third Madam.

As soon as Fu Rou entered the pavilion, Sheng Chumu was immediately energized.

Third Madam had been enthusiastically trying to talk to Sheng Chumu. When she saw his reaction, she found it strange, only to turn her head and see that it was Fu Rou. She plastered on a fake smile.

“Oh, our busy woman is here.” The sourness in Third Madam’s voice was apparent.

Fu Rou ignored her, paying her respects to her father. “Father, I went to the dye workshop this morning. There were some changes that had to be made to the colour of the dye pond. I have altered the formula and will get someone to send it to you later on. There is nothing much going on at the embroidery house. A few of the new seamstresses are quite good and pick up very quickly.”

“I don’t have to go over it. You can just make the decision.” Father Fu was extremely confident in his second daughter’s abilities. 

The Fu family managed a dye workshop and an embroidery house in Guangzhou. Although they were not extremely rich, they had no trouble feeding themselves and buying clothes. Fu Rou was talented in embroidery and dyeing, so ever since she took over, the business became even better.

“It must be difficult on you, Rou’er. You are already married, yet you have to worry about your maiden family.” Only Third Madam was unhappy.

Fu Tao sang the opposite tune from his mother. “Second Sister is the best. With her around, there is no need to worry about the dye workshop or the embroidery house.” Third Madam secretly pinched Fu Tao. However, Fu Tao’s skin was thick and he was not afraid of pinches.

“Rou’er, this is the relative that your Third Madam recently acknowledge. He is the eldest son of the Duke Lu, Young Lord Sheng.” Second Madam also had a motive but considered the larger picture. All she wanted was for her daughter to marry into a good family. “Aren’t you going to greet him?”

“Please don’t treat me as a stranger. You can just call me Brother Chumu like Sister Fu Yin does.” Sheng Chumu was happy that the topic had finally switched to him and revealed a brilliant smile.

“Young Lord.” Fu Rou ignored him as she greeted him distantly.

At this moment, Fu Jun and her husband Xu Youtong entered the yard. From afar, Xu Youtong stared at Sheng Chumu. He quickened his pace and entered the pavilion. All of a sudden, he gave a formal bow and greeting.

Sheng Chumu found out that Fu Jun’s husband, Xu Youtong, was the new magistrate of Guang county. He expressed that as a family, they need not be so polite.

Xu Youtong, however, ran beside Sheng Chumu and held onto the wine jar, intending to serve him.

Fu Jun was slightly awkward. Fu Rou pulled Fu Jun to sit with her, conveniently separating herself from Sheng Chumu.

Sheng Chumu did not care as he picked up a piece of sweet and sour pork with his chopsticks. Stretching past Fu Jun, he placed it into Fu Rou’s bowl. “Take this as an apology from me for startling you the other night.”

With this, everyone’s attention was on Fu Rou. Fu Rou did not think that Sheng Chumu would bring this up in front of everyone and was extremely uncomfortable. She could neither agree nor disagree.

Fu Jun could sense how uncomfortable Fu Rou was and changed the topic to get everyone’s attention. “I am sorry we were late, what were you guys talking about?”

First Madam brought up how Sheng Chumu was good in martial arts and was even praised by the empress before. Junhui took the chance to praise him and everyone echoed after him.

The way Fu Rou looked at Sheng Chumu changed slightly. Initially, she had thought that he was a lecher and what he said about reading the constellations was just a pretext. But if even the empress has praised him before, then he must be the real deal. 

Sheng Chumu recalled Fu Rou mentioning that she liked guys who were well-rounded and thought that he finally had a chance.

“It might sound arrogant so I can’t say that I am able to beat everyone in the royal palace. But I have just been trained by a few of the top experts and practice diligently every day.” 

Junhui mirrored him, “My lord, you are too modest. Even the emperor said that you are a tiger among generals. Since you are in a good mood today, how about you show us something?”

Old Master Fu disagreed, “How can we do that? Young Lord Sheng is so precious…”

“No worries, I am willing to perform a sword dance in order to entertain everyone.”  

In order to win the approval of the beautiful lady, Sheng Chumu was willing to do anything.

“A sword dance is considered skill?” Fu Tao scoffed, “How about exchanging blows with me instead?”

Sheng Chumu hesitated, “A sword has no eyes, it won’t be good if I accidentally injure you.”

“Then we can use a rod. I have been looking forward to seeing the rod technique that has been passed down in the Duke Lu’s family. Furthermore, my skin is very thick. I will be able to take a few of your hits. But if you are injured, you cannot blame it on me. Do you dare to accept my challenge?”

From the corners of his eyes, Sheng Chumu could see Fu Rou’s gaze focused on him and he automatically responded, “Why not?”

Very soon, the two men held rods in their hands and stood outside the pavilion. Sheng Chumu circled around Fu Tao as they both started towards each other simultaneously. Sand and stones flew in the air as a strong wind rose.

Fu Tao assessed him seriously for a while and suddenly reached out with his bare hands. He caught Sheng Chumu’s rod and tugged it towards himself, pulling his other fist back and aiming for the middle of Sheng Chumu’s face.

Sheng Chumu’s eyes rolled to the back of his head. Everyone was stunned.

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