Chapter 3.2: Self Improvement

“As long as you are able to guide my third brother, I will do my best to repay your kindness.” Fu Rou did not consider further.

“First, you are no longer allowed to call me Young Lord, you have to call me by my name.” Sheng Chumu wanted a more intimate address. 

“Okay.” Fu Rou did not think it was difficult.

“Secondly, make me fragrant.”  Sheng Chumu slipped up.

“What?” Fu Rou’s eyes hardened. Did she hear wrongly?

“Err…err…I meant to say that you should help me sew a fragrance pouch.” Sheng Chumu was crying internally, he almost treated Fu Rou as one of the wild girls back in Chang'an.

“A fragrance pouch?” Fu Rou was slightly hesitant. A fragrance pouch was a woman’s item and its significance was different when it came to men.

“Why? I taught you calligraphy and will be teaching your third brother military tactics. Isn’t that worth at least a fragrance pouch?” Sheng Chumu was not compromising on this.

“Okay.” For her brother’s future, she will think of it as giving it to a relative. “I will give you a fragrance pouch.”

“You have to personally make it. It has to be like the flower I gave you the other day.” Sheng Chumu was asking for more.

Fu Rou did not say anything more as her gaze deepened. She was trying to suppress a smile.

 

Alas, upon returning to his room, Sheng Chumu started pacing in circles.

These few days, as he witnessed Fu Rou becoming more sure of him, he started to struggle internally. Fu Rou liked a man that sought improvement, was good at both literal and martial arts and was upright. He was, however, a hedonist which is the kind that Fu Rou hated the most. As the time they spent together grew longer, he did not know how much longer he could keep up the act.

Du Ning looked at Sheng Chumu, who was pacing in circles, like an ant in a heated pan. Has this good old friend of his gone too far in order to woo a girl?  Not only did his friend come to live in the Fu Residence, he was frantically trying to improve his calligraphy as well as crafting poems. He even practiced martial arts three times a day. If this goes on, he will really be all-rounded.

Sheng Chumu suddenly raised his fists towards the sky. “I will not be a hedonistic noble! I will do my best to become the guy of her dreams and win her admiration. I will be an all-rounder good in literature and martial arts!”

Du Ning drank his tea calmly and tried not to laugh. “Since you are so determined, you should really persevere all the way.”

Sheng Chumu dashed towards Du Ning and got down on his knees. He stretched his arms out as he begged pitifully, “I can’t pretend any longer. I have used all my tricks. This is all because of Fu Tao, that brat. He is the one that is adamant in me teaching him military tactics. You are well aware that I am hardly capable of anything, how am I supposed to teach him military tactics? If I make a mistake, all my effort in creating a good image of myself in front of Rou’er…will be for nothing.”

Du Ning thought solemnly. “If you are really determined to work hard, I know an exceptional master that teaches military tactics. He stays just outside the city.”

Sheng Chumu’s eyes lit up. “Who?”

Du Ning suppressed his laughter. “Your uncle, Niu Wudi.”

Sheng Chumu ran towards a wall, looking as if he had decided he was going to turn into a lizard and live on the wall. “That king of hell? I won’t go to him even if you kill me!”

Not only was Niu Wudi Sheng Chumu’s uncle, he was also his nightmare. When he was younger and knew less, he had once tried to learn martial arts from Niu Wudi and almost lost his life. Whatever semblance of martial arts that Sheng Chumu had now was the remnants of his training with Niu Wudi long ago.

“Up to you.” Du Ning could not be bothered. “The only thing to lose is your good image. However, it doesn’t matter. There are so many beautiful ladies in the world. You don’t need to have Rou’er.”

Sheng Chumu jabbed his finger at the tip of Du Ning’s nose. “Don’t think I will fall for your trick! That old geezer is crazy. He blabbered that I was talented and wanted to force me into becoming his disciple. He almost killed me. If I walk into his trap one more time, I will be the biggest pig head in the entire Chang'an!”

Du Ning simply shrugged. 

Sheng Chumu grabbed his head and squatted. After thinking for a long while, he suddenly hopped up, extremely agitated.

“So what if you are a pig head?” Du Ning knew Sheng Chumu too well. It was true that Sheng Chumu would not fall for his tricks, but Sheng Chumu could not get past the beauty trap.

“So what if I am a pig head!” Sheng Chumu gritted his teeth as he headed out. “With this trip of mine, I will let Rou’er see how much one can change in a short time.”

“That’s not right. It is more of turning lies into reality and not letting one see through your disguise.” Du Ning wanted to laugh.

Sheng Chumu pretended not to hear as he ran out of the room.

 

Wudi Manor was located deep into the mountain ranges. As Niu Wudi was old and had withdrawn from the world, there was hardly anyone living near him.

When Sheng Chumu first set out, he already wanted to chicken out. As the place got more desolated as he headed in, his stomach clenched and he wanted to return so badly. However, as he thought of the look of admiration that Fu Rou would give him, he persevered and appeared in front of Niu Wudi.

Niu Wudi was wheelchair-bound. His legs had been crippled after spending years on the battlefield with Sheng Xiaojing. However, he did not look dispirited. On the contrary, his eyes were filled with vigor as his shoulders and arms were muscular. It looked as if he could jump out of his wheelchair and fight at any moment. 

Sheng Chumu forced himself to appear confident as he explained why he wanted to learn military tactics.

Niu Wudi shook his head slowly, “Back then, I offended your elder sister when I attempted to teach you military tactics. I was even thrown out of the residence and had to shift to this deserted mountain to spend my remaining days. You should leave. Don’t treat me like a joke.”

Sheng Chumu pushed aside the two buff men that had stepped up to him as he cupped his hands politely and said sincerely, “Back then, I was young and immature. I did not understand your good intentions at the time. But now, I have reflected. Please teach me military strategy and tactics.”

“So, you truly want to learn?” Hehe.

“Truly.” Sheng Chumu did not see the flash in Niu Wudi’s eyes.

“Learning military strategies and tactics is extremely tiring and difficult. Why would you give up your comfortable life and choose this upon yourself?” It was good to clarify.

“Of course, it is to bring honour to our ancestors and help our family shine.” Sheng Chumu spoke convincingly.

“Is it because of a woman?” What rubbish.

“Mmhm…Uncle, you are very smart.” Sheng Chumu thought about it and gave up on denying.

“You are determined to learn?” It is no one’s fault if he asked for it.

“I am determined.” Sheng Chumu suddenly looked up and he caught a small glimpse of the look in Niu Wudi’s eyes.

“You are not afraid of hardship?” Relax, relax, pretend to be relaxed.

“I am not afraid.” Sheng Chumu could sense the joy in Niu Wudi’s voice.

“You really…won’t regret?” Niu wudi shot a look at the two burly men beside Sheng Chumu. The two split up as one shifted closer to Sheng Chumu while the other shifted in the direction of the main door.

“Wait, let me reconsider.” Sheng Chumu suddenly realised something was wrong as he forced a laugh and assessed his surroundings. He internally cursed as he realised that he was in trouble. “I think I should go back and think about it some more. You don’t have to send me off.” He forgot that he needed to actually be alive in order to be the hero that he imagined himself as in front of Fu Rou.

“Grab him!” Niu Wudi ordered coldly.

Damn it, he made the same mistake! Sheng Chumu stiffened as he ran out but he was blocked by a group of burly men.

“You brat! I have waited so many years and you finally came. How can you even think of escaping after stepping into my Wudi Manor? Heaven has eyes, I finally have someone to pass on my brilliant tactics to. Hahahaha!”

The front door of the Wudi Manor slammed shut, cutting off Sheng Chumu’s frightened and desperate face from the rest of the world. Only his miserable cries for help as well as Niu Wudi’s crazy laughter could be heard.

 

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