Lu Chengxiao’s smile never waned throughout his journey. When he approached the servants who had been riding in the mule carriage all day, they looked at his beaming face and were taken aback.
“Third Young Master, did you dig up hundred-year-old ginseng in the mountains?” Babao asked. Then, he checked behind him and wondered, “What about your backpack? Didn’t Zhongjue ask you to find something for him?”
“I found it and left it in the mountains. I’ll come back for it tomorrow,” Lu Chengxiao replied casually. He briskly lifted the curtain of the mule carriage, took out the bag of medicine his mother had given him that morning, and finally grabbed a bottle of medicine for treating bruises and sprains. He then turned and hastily walked away.
Babao was bewildered, “Third Young Master, where are you going?”
No one answered him; Lu Chengxiao had already vanished.
As for Liu Yu, she had been watching Lu Chengxiao as he walked away. Adhering to the principle of performing the entire act, even after he left, she didn’t immediately leave herself. Instead, she continued to feign injury, waiting for some villagers she knew to pass by and help her return home.
Caution prevents major mistakes, and it’s careful steps that sail a ship for a thousand years.
Lu Chengxiao hadn’t misheard earlier; someone was indeed approaching their location. Liu Yu didn’t know who it was and remained quietly waiting for the newcomer to get closer.
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Fbl oyp ycswv vs nyzz swv cwv blyae y xyzl hsknl.
“Ysx, bso kp vbl xyaakytl rasrspyz vs vbl Nkw’p tskdt? Tyhl usw vyzjle vs Pye ycswv kv?”
Nkw Zw oyp ycswv vs nyzz swv “Gwdv,” cwv obld pbl blyae vbl osaep “xyaakytl rasrspyz,” pbl qsankczu pwrralpple bla hsknl.
“Yyaakytl rasrspyz?” Mbl osxyd zssjle yaswde vs ldpwal ds sdl oyp dlyacu yde pyke, “Zsw’e clvvla tkhl wr sd vbyv kely, psd.”
“Ebu? Ebyv’p oasdt okvb Nkw Zw?”
The urgency in the man’s voice was evident, and it had grown a bit more forceful.
Liu Yu, hiding in the mountains, and Lu Chengxiao, who had rushed over with the first-aid kit, were both taken aback.
Liu Yu covered her mouth. She had never imagined that the so-called marriage proposal would be for her. As for Lu Chengxiao, he quickly moved to a spot hidden by trees.
Someone was about to propose marriage to her.
Indeed, a woman like her wouldn’t lack admirers.
Suddenly, Lu Chengxiao felt a sense of inexplicable panic.
The woman remained silent, and the young man was persistent, stopping his mother in her tracks. “Mom, you’ve always praised Liu Yu. Who in the entire village could be a better match for me?”
The woman, somewhat resigned, halted and said, “I know you like Liu Yu. Yes, who in the whole village doesn’t? But I dare say that none of you will be able to marry her.”
The young man was bewildered and asked, “Why?”
The woman shook her head, making sure there was no one around. She decided to be direct. “That girl has a good appearance. The Liu family will definitely find a better match for her. Haven’t you noticed her constantly going to town lately? Our family doesn’t have the means. You don’t need to think about it. You’d better give up.”
The young man only heard that the Liu family was planning a better match for Liu Yu and overlooked the part about her constantly going to town.
However, Lu Chengxiao in the distance did take notice. The fact that the Liu family was planning to find a better match for Liu Yu was their own business. But the mention of her frequently going to town carried a deeper meaning, implying that Liu Yu herself was aiming high.
Lu Chengxiao clenched his lips tightly, clearly unhappy about the insinuations in the woman’s words. And Liu Yu remained completely unaware of Lu Chengxiao’s back-and-forth presence. She was simply nursing a headache, never expecting that the village leader’s son had such intentions. It was clear that he had hardly spoken more than a few words from his childhood until now.
Hearing this, Liu Yu couldn’t reveal herself now, as it would be too awkward for both sides. She had no choice but to continue standing behind the tree.
The young man was persistent and held onto the woman, saying, “Mother, how much bride price is Uncle Liu asking for, twenty or thirty taels? We can afford it. We’re not that poor.”
Uncle Liu was the wealthiest household in the village.
The woman was furious and shook off her son’s grip on her sleeve. She scolded him in a hushed voice, “Are you out of your mind? Your three older brothers married with very little bride price. How dare you ask for twenty or thirty taels?”
“Mother, I’m only asking for this favor from you and father this one time in my life. I’ll earn the extra bride price myself; consider it a loan from the family.”
The woman was furious, “So the money you earn isn’t considered part of the family’s income?”
The young man looked at his mother with a desperate expression and said, “Mother, I love her, and I just want to marry her.”
Seeing her son begging like this, the woman’s anger dissipated. He was, after all, her most beloved youngest son. She softened her expression and said, “It’s not just about the money. Your father won’t agree to you marrying Liu Yu.”
“Why?” This was the second time today he asked this question.
But the woman refused to speak.
The young man became desperate, “Mother, why? Please tell me clearly!”
Even the hidden Liu Yu, not far away, was puzzled. She was listening and trying to understand what the issue was.
The woman hesitated, unwilling to reveal more. However, her son was not ready to give up. He persistently questioned her, leaving her no choice. She looked around cautiously and then lowered her voice, “I told you, don’t talk about it outside. This isn’t something you can discuss openly. It might implicate your father.”
The young man was almost driven to despair by her reluctance. “What is it? Please, just tell me.”
The woman felt uneasy and carefully checked her surroundings, including the hidden path where Liu Yu was crouching, but she kept her distance, not approaching it. Liu Yu was alert and noticed something was amiss.
The woman gritted her teeth and whispered, “That woman named Wang, her background is unclear. When Liu Kangsheng brought her back all those years ago, she had no registered household status. Liu Kangsheng somehow managed to provide her with money, used it to falsely report her as a disaster victim and get her registered. Think about it, who doesn’t have household registration?”
The words struck Liu Yu like lightning, leaving her stunned in place.
Though the woman spoke quietly, in this wilderness, she had checked her surroundings beforehand. She was sure they couldn’t be heard, not even by Liu Yu, who was relatively close.
Who doesn’t have household registration? Beggars, nomads, itinerants, fishermen of nine surnames, servants, shipmates, and even beggars – all had household registration.
Liu Yu’s hand trembled slightly, and she was too afraid to consider the implications.
She had no grandparents from her mother’s side, and her mother never mentioned anything about her father, becoming incredibly agitated whenever Liu Yan brought it up.
The color drained from Liu Yu’s lips as she recalled Wang’s peculiar behavior in the past. Unconsciously, she gripped a thorny branch. Her mind raced, and she was lost in thought.
The young man was stupefied, whispering as he bit his lip, “How do you know she isn’t a disaster victim? Is it that easy for a disaster victim to replace someone?”
The woman knew her son was skeptical and scoffed, “That year, there was a disaster in the north. How many disaster victims have you seen who can travel thousands of miles and still look so well-fed? In any case, remember this: you’d better not think about Liu Yu in the future.”
After speaking, she grabbed her son, who hadn’t yet come to his senses, and left.
She hadn’t gone far when a person walked out of the mountain path ahead. The woman was startled, stepping back in surprise.
She had checked the area thoroughly, so how was it possible that someone had been hiding there? She didn’t know if her earlier conversation had been overheard.
Upon seeing that it was Liu Yu, she felt a mix of relief and annoyance. She was grateful that it was only the person involved in the matter, but she still hoped that she hadn’t heard their conversation. After all, the person concerned will not spread this family affairs to others.
Even though she had kept this secret for over a decade, her son had made her so exasperated that she had brought it up.
However, looking at Liu Yu’s pale face, the woman knew that this time the gods had not heard her plea. She panicked, grabbed her son, and turned to walk down another small path.
Liu Yu had only encountered one other person who might know her background, besides Wang Shi. She couldn’t let the woman leave without learning more. She forgot all her usual caution and lost herself in the performance, even forgetting to consider whether Lu Chengxiao might still be nearby, watching.
She called out to her and hurriedly followed the mother and son down another small path.
The three of them turned into a different path, and no one noticed that someone was still standing behind a tree, coming and going.
Liu Yu and the mother-son duo continued in different directions. In the woman’s group, one person was clearly showing an elbow in their escape strategy, and this tense pursuit didn’t last for too long. In a field of green farmland paths, Liu Yu finally caught up with.
The fields stretched endlessly without any cover, so there was no need to worry about prying eyes.
Liu Yu grabbed the woman’s clothing, her eyes almost pleading, and looked at her. “Sister-in-law, do you still know something? Please tell me, if you can.”
With her bright eyes, rosy lips, and porcelain-like skin, even her pleading had a soft and fragile quality that made people want to pity her.
The woman understood why her youngest son had become entangled in this, with such a face, she couldn’t bear to refuse. However, there were some things that she and the old man had guessed and pieced together from their past, and she couldn’t reveal them.
The woman sighed and said, “It’s not that I don’t want to tell you more, but I don’t know much. My words earlier were not meant to imply anything. Don’t overthink it. If you really want to know, go home and ask your mother. She’s the one who knows everything, right? There’s nothing that can’t be discussed between a mother and her daughter.”
With that, she patted Liu Yu’s hand and brushed off her sleeve, then turned and walked away.
The young man, still dragging his feet and unable to move, kept turning to look back at Liu Yu. His mother gave him a stern look and pulled him away.
Liu Yu stood dejected in the same spot, her mind in disarray.
A frog hopped past her feet, and she finally snapped out of her daze. She glanced in the direction where the mule cart was, even though she couldn’t see anything through the house. Liu Yu became alert, and hurriedly left the area.
Lu Chengxiao remained standing in place, watching her catch up with the mother and son, watching her leave and grow distant.
He was too far away to hear what the mother and son whispered afterward, but he saw Liu Yu’s light-footed figure grow increasingly distant, and it felt increasingly unfamiliar.
His heart felt empty, and he held the vial in his hand, feeling a sense of absurdity.
It was only when her figure disappeared completely from his view that the pitch-black night sky enveloped everything.
Lu Chengxiao chuckled, turned, and walked away.
Babao, who had been anxiously waiting, saw him and hurriedly approached with a smile. However, he quickly noticed that Lu Chengxiao’s expression was off.
How to put it? The weather in March felt as cold as ice, and there was a hint of emotionless darkness in his eyes.
This was a stark contrast to his previous return when he had been in such a good mood right after coming out of the mountains. How had he gone back and forth once and returned in such a different state?
Babao fell silent, not even daring to call him “Young Master” as he watched Lu Chengxiao enter the carriage. He took the reins and turned to sit on the carriage box, urging the mule forward.
Every so often, he tried to sneak a glance into the back carriage.
Lu Chengxiao remained entirely unaware.
He closed his eyes, feeling as if he had lost all his strength. Leaning against the carriage wall, he tried to clear his mind while the carriage swayed rhythmically.
However, he couldn’t. Every scene since they had met was flashing through his mind. He saw every expression and gesture of Liu Yu in front of him.
It seemed like there was something thickening in the air, and as he breathed, it felt stifling.
He couldn’t understand how someone could be such a good actor. How could she control the color of her face when she was in pain, and how did she manage to blush so convincingly?
What was even real?
Lu Chengxiao thought about his own thoughts and felt like a complete fool.
Sansukini: It’s because not everything is fake. This is not a tragedy but so many sad things will happen from now. Please tune in.
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