Chapter 4.1: Wudi

As Fu Jun walked into Fu Rou’s room, she saw Fu Rou focused on sewing a fragrance pouch. The red flower on the fragrance pouch looked so real and fresh. The eagle embroidery lay beside her, not having had much progress.

“You are still sewing that? If we talk about embroidery skills, you are famous for being fast and good. Yet, you are taking a few days just to sew a fragrance pouch. Although, the flower does look extremely beautiful.”

Fu Rou did not even lift her head as she continued sewing. “I am using the Sun Embroidery’s Interleave stitching method. This method hides the holes made by the needle. It will only blend well when many colours are used. By embroidering a waterway, it allows the embroidery to pop out, resembling a real flower.”

Fu Jun made an oh sound. Fu Rou sensed that something was off from Fu Jun’s voice as she lifted her head to look into Fu Jun’s eyes. “Elder Sister, why are you looking at me like that?”

Fu Jun asked, “Hasn’t it been several days since that handsome and perfect young lord showed his face?”

“According to Official Lu, he has gone out to settle some matters.” Fu Rou seemed to suddenly realise something as she knitted her brows. “Why did you suddenly bring him up?”

Fu Jun took the fragrance pouch, flipping it over to take a look. “If not him… then who is this fragrance pouch for?”

Fu Rou snatched the fragrance pouch back, looking shy and lovable. “I’m not telling you. Did you come for something?”

At this, Fu Jun became serious. “I heard from Ziyun that ever since Third Madam took over the accounts, she has become more demanding towards you. I heard that she even reduced your embroidery threads while she herself continues to behave extravagantly. What are you going to do about it?”

Fu Rou was about to answer when she was interrupted.

The housekeeper panted as he ran into her courtyard. “Second Lady Rou, there’s a problem! The dye workshop has ruined the five hundred rolls of blue cloth that the Xu family ordered. It is all…all dyed an off-blue colour!”

Fu Rou laughed as she stood and led Fu Jun out. “Elder Sister, now you can witness for yourself what I am going to do about it.”

Fu Jun could not help but feel calm as she followed Fu Rou to the dye workshop.

Beside the dye pond, a sad looking batch of cloths lay, seeming to have lost all energy. It was neither green nor yellow.

Third Madam looked uncomfortable when Fu Rou asked what had happened. It was only when she felt everyone’s gazes on her, did she have no choice but to step up to explain.

“It is nothing big. The Xu family requested for a royal blue colour. However, money was tight and indigo was a lot cheaper than woad. So…”

“So, you changed the woad dye in my formula to indigo?” Fu Rou did not bat an eye.

Third Madam straightened up, not wanting to seem guilty. “Now that I am managing the accounts, I have to think of how to help our family save money. How was I to know that this would happen?”

“How much can you save by changing the dye ingredients? On the other hand, how much would it cost to compensate the Xu family?” Fu Rou asked amiably.

As Third Madam calculated, her expression turned sour. “This…”

“I am worrying too much. Since the accounts are under you, I should not bother about this. Third Madam, please handle this situation.” Fu Rou signalled that she was going to leave.

Third Madam rushed to stop her. “Rou’er, good Rou’er, you can’t do this to me. To begin with, I am not familiar with the family matters. In the time that I helped you manage, I…I have done my utmost best. Quick take the accounts back, don’t think of pushing this on me.”

Third Madam threw Old Maid Chang a resolute look. Old Maid Chang then shoved the account book into Ziyun’s hands as if to dump a hot potato.

Third Madam then claimed, “It is getting late, I need to go back to see if my husband’s dinner has been prepared.” She quickly left with Old Maid Chang, not sparing a second glance backwards.

The housekeeper asked Fu Rou, “Second Lady, regarding the compensation to the Xu family for the five hundred rolls…”

Fu Rou replied calmly, “Compensate what? Add two hundred and forty grams of turmeric, fifty grams of black acorn and three sticks of purple root to the dye pond. Then throw all the cloth in and soak them for four hours. It should turn out to be a royal blue.”

All the workers felt relieved and started carrying out her orders. Fu Jun smiled, “That’s good. Now the account book is with you, you will get your embroidery threads and you can continue sewing your fragrance pouch. All that is left is for the young lord to appear.”

Fu Rou became shy and slightly anxious, “Don’t talk nonsense, who is waiting for him?”

 

At this moment, in the plaza of Wudi Manor, there was a target moving actively. A rider rode furiously, cutting through the wind. Arrows shot out continuously and rained down from the sky like shooting stars.

As one incense stick completely burned out, the rider made it out in the nick of time. Landing gently, he took big strides to stand in front of Niu Wudi. Who else was it other than Sheng Chumu!

Wearing a girdle over his lower half and a top that covered only half of his body, Sheng Chumu walked as if he was stepping on clouds. His skin was a deep bronze colour and his eyes cold. He lifted his longbow looking like a completely different person from his past self. 

A burly man who had acted as the target reported, “Thirty arrows were shot. Twenty-nine hit the bullseyes. One missed.”

Sheng Chumu took off his top. Niu Wudi had instructed that he would get one stroke of the cane for every shot missed.

Piak! A merciless cane struck his already scarred back, adding one more scar.

Sheng Chumu did not make a sound as he wore his shirt once again.

Ever since that day, when his ‘crazy’ uncle had caught him, he had endured being soaked in a boiling pot of medicinal bath, being forced to memorise military tactics while tied to the back of a running horse and even practicing shooting while hanging upside down in a net. One thing that he learnt was to never beg for mercy. It would just lead to more misery.

“Uncle, test me.” Sheng Chumu only had one wish. That was to leave this place as fast as possible. Fu Rou had already taken root in his heart and each passing day without seeing her felt like a year.

“Test again?” Niu Wudi had said before that he would only let Sheng Chumu go when he passes his test. “Have you thought of the consequences of failure?”

“It is just more punishment. I am already used to it.” Sheng Chumu twisted his neck and stretched his waist. A single hit from the whip did not hurt.

“Good lad, you have character.” Niu Wudi was secretly happy. “Okay! What does it mean to choose for talent?”

Sheng Chumu did not even pause to think. “A good strategist will look for talent and not rely on people. They will be able to select the right person and give them power. During battle, the person with ability…”

Niu Wudi picked up a ruler as he knocked onto Sheng Chumu’s head. “Did I ask you to memorise? I want you to tell me your opinion!”

Sheng Chumu muttered to himself to control his temper, “To choose talent refers to placing your army in an advantageous position. In the army, there will be stronger and weaker soldiers. They each have their strengths and weaknesses, but as the leader…Ah!”

Despite being bound to a wheelchair, Niu Wudi was not considered short as his aura was frightening. “You are not telling me your opinion but the opinion that I told you last night. Are you a parrot that only knows how to repeat after others? Is this what it means to understand? Is this what it means to ponder? Is this what it means to master a subject?”

Sheng Chumu quickly grabbed onto the ruler that was about to hit him and became serious.

“Advantage can be man-made. When a stone is placed on the floor, is it not much of use. But if it is placed at the edge of a cliff, a single push could kill. This is called advantage. Water can be weak and powerless. But when it is gathered in a river and moves from a high point, the drop in elevation creates a force. The torrential force can then push aside a large stone or even crush a wall. This is also an advantage. When a knife is raised up and slashed downwards, this is also an advantage. When an arrow is nocked and pulled back, it is also an advantage. The difference is that it has yet to be released, an accumulated advantage.”

Niu Wudi’s eyes glimmered. “And?”

Thoughts flooded Sheng Chumu’s head. “A narrow mountain pass will occupy a good position. One man will be able to hold the pass against ten thousand enemies. This is what it means to create an advantageous position.”

“And!” Good lad!

“When in a battle, it is important to consider the overall situation. Although the battle is out in the wilderness, the true battle is internal. We must shake the foundation of the enemy. This is what it means to dig out the roots to gain an advantage.”

“Good! As a general, you must first know how to create an advantage. Only with power can you use it favourably. And!” Not bad, not bad!

“As a last resort, to gain an upper hand, placing your soldiers in a life or death situation will force them to fight for survival.”

“And!” He was simply burning!

“I am done. Did I pass?”

“Mmhm…” He still wasn’t completely satisfied!

“Uncle, as a general, you have to keep to your word.”

Niu Wudi eventually nodded. He turned and watched as Sheng Chumu dashed off, as if he was afraid that he would change his mind. Niu Wudi could not help but laugh. He was not going to use the same strategy twice. This time, he had set up a long line to catch the big fish. If Sheng Chumu really wanted to protect the woman he loved, he will eventually realise that he needed to come back to learn more!

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