After the fire had extinguished, the Fu Residence was reduced to ashes. Sheng Chumu helped the Fu family settle into one of the establishments owned by his family. Du Ning rushed over when heard the news. He sighed, “This was such an unfortunate accident.”
“The Lu family did it.” What accident? This was clearly done by someone. Sheng Chumu’s eyes were filled with hostility.
Du Ning was shocked. “That…can’t be true. I know that the Lu family has always been extremely competitive with your family. They like to compare their achievements, the Emperor’s favour and their sons against your family. But why would they implicate other innocent people? Moreover, even if Lu Qi is fighting against you for Fu Rou, there is no need for him to use such a harsh tactic as to set the house on fire. Fu Rou almost lost her life.”
Sheng Chumu nodded. “It is true that I don’t have evidence, but Lu Qi’s invitation to drink was way too coincidental. He was trying to make me drunk. In addition, he stole a look out of the window at least twice. The window was facing the northwest direction, which was also where the Fu Residence is. Lu Qi was waiting for the light from the fire. However, like you said, Lu Qi may not have done it because of Rou’er.”
Du Ning frowned. “This concerns people’s lives. Maybe you are thinking too much.”
Sheng Chumu muttered to himself, “I trust my instincts. The truth will be out sooner or later.”
Fu Rou walked over, holding an embroidery in her hands. Du Ning left tactfully. Fu Rou’s eyes were swollen and red. “Almost the entire residence was destroyed. Somehow, this embroidery was untouched. This is for you. Previously, you wanted me to embroider something big.”
Sheng Chumu immediately broke out into a smile as soon as he saw the embroidery. “I was not peeking, err, I was reading the constellations—” However, as he saw Fu Rou’s grave demeanor, he changed his words. “I was pretending to read the constellations. I was actually trying to see you and that was why I fell from the tree. You embroidered it really well! It looks so real! Fantastic! There is nothing else in the world that is comparable to this! Look how handsome I am. I look so stunning even with my limbs in the air.”
Fu Rou giggled, “Shameless. You look like a dumb pig that does not know how to climb a tree.”
Sheng Chumu smiled, “You like me even if I am a dumb pig.”
Fu Rou refuted, “Who said that I like you.”
Sheng Chumu pointed at the embroidery. “Look here. There are four horizontal lines, four vertical lines, three ticks, one left diagonal stroke and four continuous right diagonal strokes. What is this? It is clearly the word like (喜欢). Do you think I can’t read?”
Fu Rou quickly argued back. “Don’t talk nonsense. That word is clearly peace (平安).”
Sheng Chumu was thick-skinned. “I see the word like from this peace word.” Fu Rou turned to leave but was held back by Sheng Chumu.
“Okay, okay. Whatever you say is right.” He held onto her hand. “Let’s go look at the stars.”
Both of them walked to the corridor and sat on the railings. The night sky shone brilliantly with stars.
Fu Rou spoke gently, “The dye workshop and the embroidery house were situated near the rear garden. They were both not spared from the fire. Father said that we will be going to Chang'an to ask my Second Uncle for help.”
Sheng Chumu approved. “I was going to head back to Chang'an. We can go together.”
Fu Rou made a sound of assent before falling silent. A few moments later, Sheng Chumu suddenly pointed to one of the dots in the sky. “That is Goddess Zhinu (Vega).” He then pointed in another direction. “That is Niulang (Altair).”
The silence had been broken. Fu Rou sighed, “They are so far away from each other.”
“That’s why every year, magpies will form a bridge to link them.”
“It is still sad that they only get to see each other once a year.” Sighing, Fu Rou’s eyes suddenly glistened. “I want to sew a picture of the cowherd and the weaver girl. I will add a bridge between the two of them so that they can meet every day.”
Sheng Chumu’s eyes also lit up. “Great idea.” Turning back to look at Fu Rou, he continued, “Rou’er, did you know you are most beautiful when you are determined?”
Fu Rou also turned to look at Sheng Chumu. Previously, whenever she heard him boast, she would feel nothing. This time around, while he was still his happy-go-lucky self, his words were filled with warmth.
“To not get affected by anyone or anything. When I see that side of you, I feel like I am filled with energy.” Sheng Chumu held Fu Rou’s hand tightly in his. “From today onwards, no matter how many obstacles come in our way, we will face them together.”
Fu Rou nodded forcefully as she relaxed her body slightly, leaning her head onto Sheng Chuno’s shoulder. She admitted that she had a strong personality, but it did not mean that she did not want something warm to lean back on.
“It’s great that you are back.” Her whisper brushed lightly across his ears.
Sheng Chumu’s face slowly reddened.
The father-son pair from the Lu family were on their way to Chang'an.
The Fu family was considered lucky. Lu Yunji had received news from Chang'an that the crown prince was choosing an imperial wife. Hence, although the fire did not achieve their goals, he could not be bothered. All he could focus on now was to send his daughter, Yingying, into the palace.
Lu Yingying was a beauty. Ever since she was young, she had been protected by her father and doted on from head to toe just for this day.
“Oh, it’s the ocean!” Lu Yingying had a lively personality and a very innocent mind. She was the complete opposite of her brother and father.
She immediately called out to the guard walking beside her carriage. “Quick stop the carriage. Tell Father that I want to take a break by the ocean.”
Lu Qi thought it was inappropriate. On the other hand, Lu Yunji wanted to satisfy his daughter’s wish.
“Let her go. She is still a young lady and has her own temperament after all. After she enters the palace, she will never get to enjoy such carefree days.” Hence, Lu Yunji instructed the entire group to take a break. He specifically ordered people to set up a muslin screen around the beach so that no one could see his daughter.
Lu Yingying climbed on top of the reef barefooted. She dangled her bare feet over the water, lightly kicking the water surface. She started to sing.
“A twilight over the ocean, birds chase the day as it ends. Tears fall like pearls into my open hand, but Yingying will not regret.”
Suddenly, an eagle’s whistle filled the air. Lu Yingying lifted her head. There was an eagle circling the open sky.
Just as Lu Yingying was absorbed in the sight, a few stones rolled beside her and fell into the ocean. Water splashed from the impact of the stones.
“Who’s there?” She looked towards the side. A large hand gripped onto a large stone as a man climbed on. His eagle looking eyes were chilly as his body was dripping wet. His strong physique was evident. It was Fang Ziyan.
Lu Yingying was nervous but curious at the same time. Her gaze assessed him. “Who are you?”
Fang Ziyan gestured at her to keep her voice low. “Lower your volume. Great General Lu is extremely careful when it comes to protecting you. The moment you call out, I can only jump back into the water and swim back.”
Lu Yingying revealed a bright smile. “You know my father.”
Fang Ziyan’s expression did not change. He flipped his hand over as he took something out from his waist. A cold light flashed from the edge of the blade. He had been following the Lu family’s every move and knew that they had been heavily-guarded the entire journey. He never thought that Lu Yunji would dote on his daughter so much and actually allow her to play in the water. This was the opportunity he needed. Every single person in the Lu family was his enemy. This included the innocent-looking girl in front of him.
“Of course.” Fang Ziyan chuckled coldly. “Tears fall like pearls into my open hand, but Yingying will not regret. Who is so cruel as to make you cry? You sound like you are infatuated.”
“Who is infatuated? I heard other people sing this song and learned it from them. There is no other reason behind the song.” Lu Yingying did not seem to sense the murderous aura from Fang Ziyan. “How do you know my father? Are you part of the troops he brought?”
“You can say that. Your father is the one who taught me to become who I am today.” Fang Ziyan sat down near Lu Yingying as he took a dagger out from behind him.
“Sit further away.” Lu Yingying stuck out her chin. “Don’t you know that man and woman must keep their distance?”
Fang Ziyan laughed. “Okay.” He shifted to the side and suddenly fell off.
“Ah!” Lu Yingying was startled as she immediately peered at the water surface. “Hey, hey! I didn’t do it on purpose!” The waves crashed against the shore and there was no one in sight.
“He won’t drown, right?” Lu Yingying was nervous.
“Yo.” Fang Ziyan’s voice came from behind Lu Yingying. Lu Yingying turned around in surprise and almost called out loud. Fang Ziyan, however, was quick to react as he took a step forward and covered her mouth. They locked gazes and felt each other’s breath. They were extremely close.
Fang Ziyan handed a huge oyster over to Lu Yingying. “For you, it happened to float ashore.”
Lu Yingying ignored her racing heart. “Eh?”
Taking out a sharp dagger, Fang Ziyan pried open the oyster shell and retrieved a pearl from within. Lu Yingying was extremely delighted. “Wow, it is beautiful.” She held the pearl under the sun and did not realise that Fang Ziyan had lifted his dagger up into the air behind her.
“Guards! There’s an assassin!” Lu Qi was getting impatient and came over to rush his sister. As he saw the back view of Fang Ziyan and his dagger, he immediately drew out his sword and dashed towards the reef. Fang Ziyan placed the dagger between his lips as he disappeared into the ocean.
Lu Yingying stared at the bubbles that rose to the surface in a daze. Lu Yunji ran over with some men. “Brother, what are you doing?” Lu Yingying asked in oblivion.
“What are you doing? He was holding a dagger in his hand. If I were to arrive a second later, it would have been a disaster!” Lu Qi blasted.
“Although he was holding onto a dagger, he was not going to hurt me. He was using it to open the oyster shell to give me a pearl.” Lu Yingying held it out proudly for her brother and father to see.
“We have silk dresses, jewellery and exquisite cuisines at home. What kind of pearl have you not seen before? You were so easily bought over by a pearl. I really want to punch you!” She is so stupid!
Lu Yunji rushed over and heard what had happened. He did not blame his daughter and instead asked her if he knew the man’s name. Lu Yingying expressed that she did not get to find out but promised her father that she would paint a picture of him when they arrive to Chang’an. Lu Yunji was satisfied with her reply. Little did he know that Lu Yingying had only said that to appease him.
To Lu Yingying, that pearl was invaluable.Previous Chapter Next Chapter