Changfeng Town, the Lu family.
A mule-drawn cart stopped outside the Lu family gate, and Lu Xun1Lu Chengxiao’s dad got off the cart, paid the fare, and politely invited the cart driver to come inside for a cup of tea and a rest. The cart driver declined the offer, waved his hand in thanks, and went on his way back to the county seat.
Lu Xun entered the front gate, and in no time, the courtyard echoed with the joyful shouts of the two Lu family children, who were excitedly calling him “grandfather.” Chen Shi2Lu Chengxiao’s mom, the eldest daughter-in-law Qin Shi and the youngest daughter Lu Shuang, heard the commotion from the main hall. They hurriedly came out to greet him.
Lu Xun carried his young grandson, who was just learning to walk and a bit unsteady, with one hand and held his eldest grandson’s hand as he entered. Before reaching the main hall, Chen Shi had already come around from the side hall and greeted Lu Xun with a happy expression, saying, “Aren’t you supposed to come back at the end of the month? How come you’re here a few days early?”
She also arranged for Lu Shuang to fetch water for Lu Xun to wash up and for her daughter-in-law to prepare tea and some snacks. She asked Lu Xun, “Have you had lunch yet at this hour?”
Lu Xun sat down in the main hall, placing his young grandson on his lap. He smiled and said, “Originally, I was planning to return in a few days. But early this morning, we received a letter from the Li family, delivered through someone, addressed to Chengxiao. So, I decided to return earlier. Chengzong and Chengzhang are in the left and right shops, so it’s not like there’s a lack of help.”
He glanced towards the west wing where his youngest son was usually found and asked, “Where’s Chengxiao? Is he not here?”
Chen Shi replied with a smile, “He’s gone out with Babao, but he should be back later.”
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Because of this life-saving grace, Li Cunyi regarded Lu Chengxiao as his adopted son. After discussing the matter with Lu Xun, Li Cunyi secured a three-year scholarship for Lu Chengxiao to study in the best school in Yuanzhou, alongside their eldest son.
Lu Chengxiao had made good friends in the school, and he also found a partner among them who had a business in Anyi County. Convincing Lu Xun to lease a shop there, Lu Chengxiao used Li Cunyi’s recommendation to establish solid trade connections and access a variety of goods. This allowed the small cloth shop in Changfeng Town to expand into a large cloth emporium in Anyi County, which in turn led to an increase in the scale of their shop in town.
It can be said that the Lu family’s recent success is closely tied to Lu Chengxiao’s experiences and operations.
“Indeed, it’s not unexpected. Besides, Chengxiao used to be quite skilled in martial arts, and he’s had teachers guiding him in horsemanship and swordsmanship at the school these past few years. Don’t worry too much. We can’t just keep our children by our side because of potential dangers outside, can we? Should a person stop eating because of choking?.”
Even their son’s future prospects were brought into the conversation. Chen Shi had no choice but to agree, saying, “Yes, you’re right. I’ve never really said much, have I? I’m just nervous and worried on my own.”
Lu Xun, who adored his wife, tried to soothe her worries, and she eventually gave in. Their daughter-in-law, Qin Shi, brought in a tea tray and overheard the conversation, offering tea and then taking the two boys along with their younger sister, Lu Shuang, to the inner courtyard, leaving the elder couple to chat.
Meanwhile, Lu Chengxiao returned home, and when he saw Lu Xun, he couldn’t contain his joy. Before he could ask how his father came back early, Lu Xun produced the letter given by Li Zhongjue and handed it to Lu Chengxiao, saying with a smile, “Perfect timing. Take a look at what business Xiao Jue sent in the letter so that your mother can stop worrying.”
Lu Chengxiao also knew what his mother was worried about, so he smiled and opened the letter in the main hall.
In addition to a letter, there were also several copied drawings. After reading the letter, he understood the situation.
“Zhongjue has always been interested in studying the craft of dyeing fabrics. He came across a book that contains recipes for plant-based dyes. Knowing that our area has many mountains, he drew some illustrations and asked me to search for plants that can be used for dyeing in the mountains around here.”
Upon hearing that it was related to this task, Chen Shi breathed a sigh of relief. Lu Xun, who was present, chuckled and asked, “Are you relieved now?”
He received a glare from Chen Shi and then turned to his third son, saying, “This isn’t a difficult task. The area to the north of the town is full of mountains. Just head to the mountains and take some precautions.”
The next morning, after having breakfast, Lu Chengxiao pocketed the drawings made by Li Zhongjue and took his water flask, a dagger, and several packets of snake and insect repellent, then set out on his journey.
Unexpectedly, as soon as he left the house, his mother was waiting outside. Babao had prepared a mule cart, and was inside the carriage. Lu Chengxiao had his old bow and arrows, first-aid supplies, ointments, and a large bag of dried rations.
Chen Shi inspected her son’s equipment, showing the signs of anticipating this, and said, “Have Babao accompany you and bring your bow and arrows. There have been occasional reports of large animals in the northern mountain areas.”
Lu Chengxiao chuckled and replied, “Mother, I won’t be going deep into the mountains. The dagger should be sufficient, and I won’t need the cart.”
Lu Xun, who came out behind them, added, “Listen to your mother this time. Don’t cross the stone bridge and enter the mountains directly. In that area beyond the bridge, it’s rare for people to venture. There’s abundant wildlife, and last year, there were reports of wolf tracks. Find a larger village to enter the mountains; these villages usually have locals heading into the mountains, making the trails safer and more convenient. Going north to the nearest village, Liujiacun, takes about two or three hours on foot. Having Babao take you there will be ideal. He can wait for you at the foot of the mountain, so you can return to the town in the cart when you descend, saving you the extra walking.”
Lu Chengxiao now understood the situation. “So, that’s how it is. I’ll listen to Mother; let Babao come with me. I’ll enter the mountains from Liujiacun. Don’t worry, Father and Mother.”
With that, he climbed onto the mule cart, and Babao hopped on to assist him. With a crack of the whip, the mule began to trot.
The cart’s sides had windows with hanging curtains. Lu Chengxiao casually pulled open one of the curtains and happened to see two small figures in the alley. They were looking in the direction of the mule cart.
At the North Town Stone Bridge,
Liu Yu almost doubted her ears. “You said he went where?”
“Liujiacun. It seems he’s heading into the mountains. His family’s servant drove the mule cart there.”
Liu Yu looked back the way she had come. She couldn’t believe that Lu Sanlang had gone to Liujiacun. Her eyes sparkled with a newfound brilliance, realizing that the opportunity directly linked to fate might have already arrived.
If she could use this situation to her advantage, she could soon leave the Liu family and steer clear of the unbearable fate she had experienced in her past life.
In Liu Yu’s eyes, a glimmer of a smile revealed a mixture of relaxation and hidden eagerness. She paid the brother and sister their rewards and then turned back toward the Liujiacun.
The boy received the unusually heavy coins for his work today, counted them meticulously – twenty coins, twice as many as usual. A smile broke across his lips, confirming that his earlier guess was correct.
In the mountainous Liujiacun, there were several trails into the mountains. However, it wasn’t difficult to figure out which path Lu Sanlang had taken; his servant Babao and the mule cart were the most reliable indicators.
Liu Yu circled a few entrances to the mountains that saw frequent use, and from a distance, she spotted the mule cart’s tracks. Seated on the cart’s frame was Lu Sanlang’s servant, Babao, accompanied by a few curious village children.
The narrow path leading to the mountains can’t accommodate the mule cart. Yet, Liu Yu could make an educated guess about the path Lu Sanlang had taken.
She didn’t want to create unnecessary complications, so she didn’t return to the Liu family but proceeded into the mountains along a small path.
In the mountains near Liujiacun, Liu Yu had left her footprints on nearly every passable mountain path, from the age of six to early summer at fifteen.
However, the absurdity of that other life, which spanned almost two years, crashed upon her as she stepped into these green hills once more. It came down heavily and thunderously in front of her eyes and beneath her feet, merging with her every inch of memory, bone, flesh, and blood.
As if a human who had trodden this land countless times had been endowed with blessings by the mountains and the rich soil. How could she find a person within these mountains? How could she discover a point he must have passed when he returned, creating another fateful encounter? There had never been a moment when her thoughts were so clear.
She calculated every inch, and her steps were filled with purpose. Finally, as the setting sun reached its last moments, she waited for the young man who could change her destiny.
And Lu Chengxiao, on his journey through mountains and rivers, encountered a “panacea” known as an “accidental meeting” at just the right moment.
Sansukini: Another “Chance Meeting”. Panacea is a remedy for all illness, usually a false claim.
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