On this day, Liu Yu naturally gained nothing.
She didn’t see Lu Chengxiao, and she couldn’t even give away the purse in her sleeve.
There was a faintly bad premonition in her heart. This premonition became even stronger when she still couldn’t see Lu Chengxiao on the second day.
This is not right.
Since the day she pretended to injure her foot, it has been six days, meaning she hasn’t seen Lu Chengxiao for five days.
In the first two days, she didn’t dare to go to town because of the lie about her foot. However, in the last three days, she went to town without fail every day but never saw Lu Chengxiao.
Others might not be so sensitive, but Liu Yu is different. She is in a race against time, and in dangerous situations, instinct is always closer to the keen sensitivity of animals. Moreover, the teachings she received over the past two years involved studying and understanding the psychology of men.
All of Lu Chengxiao’s reactions told her that he was an young man experiencing the awakening of emotions.
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Tso nswze y uswdt xyd kd vbl lyazu pvytlp sq lxsvksdyz yoyjldkdt ldewal dsv pllkdt sa blyakdt yduvbkdt ycswv vblka zshle sdl qsa y obszl qkhl eyup obld nsdekvksdp yzzsole?
Ls, dsv vs xldvksd qkhl eyup, lhld sdl eyu sa sdl bswa oswze cl ytsdkgkdt.
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Tla nsdvkdwswp ralpldnl yvvaynvle vbl yvvldvksd sq plhlayz pbsrjllrlap yde yppkpvydvp, ryavknwzyazu vbl uswdt zyep yaswde lktbvlld sa dkdlvlld ulyap sze qasx vbl kdektldswp rsrwzyvksd sq Ubydtqldt Msod.
Ohld vbswtb kv oyp nzlyazu vkxl qsa zwdnb, vbl pvallv kdlmrzknyczu clnyxl zkhlzu. Mbl cwpvzl oypd’v vbl wpwyz eyuvkxl dskpl cwv ayvbla y nszzlnvksd sq tzydnlp vbyv snnypksdyzzu qlzz wrsd bla. Mblal olal yzps psxl qyxkzkya qynlp, rlsrzl obs ldvlale vbl pyxl pbsrp yp bla sa cawpble rypv bla.
Liu Yu felt extremely embarrassed. The discreet or lingering gazes were like thorns, making her uncomfortable all over. However, because Lu Chengxiao had not yet arrived, she had no choice but to endure.
In the backyard of the fabric store, Babao was also in a dilemma.
“Is she still outside?” he asked the young apprentice.
The apprentice nodded.
He had checked seven times in the past half-hour. “Although the girl occasionally switches shops, she has been on this street the whole time.”
Babao waved his hand, signaling him to keep watch. Meanwhile, he paced around in the backyard.
This was to intercept the Third Young Master.
Glancing at the sun’s shadow and then at the accounting office, it was about time to go back for lunch. Feeling a bit distressed, the stern shopkeeper approached and asked, “Is the Third Young Master having lunch in the shop today?”
Babao was delighted. This was like someone offering a pillow when you wanted to take a nap. He smiled and said, “Just wait, I’ll go ask right away.”
The shopkeeper chuckled, “Go ahead. If the Third Young Master is having lunch in the shop, tell Liu Da to cook a couple of good dishes.”
Liu Da was a shop assistant in the fabric store, and what made him unique was that he had independently learned some excellent cooking skills. He took charge of all the meals for the shopkeeper and assistants in the store.
Babao responded with an acknowledgment as he watched the stern shopkeeper head back to the front of the shop. He then turned towards the accounting office.
The door was not closed, he stood outside and knocked.
Lu Chengxiao was engrossed in examining the annual accounts in his hands. He heard the knock and replied without lifting his head, “Come in.”
Babao entered, seeing that Lu Chengxiao hadn’t looked up. He spoke, “Third Young Master, Shopkeeper Yan sent me to ask if you’ll be having lunch in the shop today.”
As he asked, he observed Lu Chengxiao’s expression, silently praying, “Say yes, say yes, say yes!”
Perhaps all the deities were too busy, as no one seemed to hear his prayer. When Lu Chengxiao finished writing the last few words, instead of responding positively to having lunch in the shop, he stretched his shoulders and neck, asking, “What time is it?”
Babao sighed inwardly. Reluctantly, he answered, “It’s a quarter past noon.”
“Alright,” Lu Chengxiao replied. “I’ve been here since morning. Let’s go home for lunch. My mother is probably waiting.”
With that, he set down his pen and stood up to leave.
However, when he looked up, he noticed Babao still lingering there, appearing to have something to say but unsure whether to speak.
Lu Chengxiao glanced at him. “What are you thinking?”
At this point, Babao had no choice but to spill the beans. “Um, about that girl from the other day. She hasn’t gone home yet today. She’s been waiting outside, wandering the street. It’s been half the morning already. If you go out now, you’ll definitely run into her.” So maybe it’s better for us not to go out.
Lu Chengxiao: …
“You had someone keep an eye on her?”
The tone of Lu Chengxiao’s question was hard to interpret. Babao straightened up immediately and stammered, “It’s not… If you don’t want to see her, I should keep an eye on her. Don’t worry, I didn’t ask anyone else, just the little apprentice in our shop.”
Lu Chengxiao glanced at him. “There’s no need for this in the future.”
As for why there was no need, he didn’t say anything more. Without another word, he stepped out.
Babao could only follow suit. As they left the shop, he kept an eye on all directions, stealing glances at Lu Chengxiao’s expression.
He didn’t see anyone lingering on the street, and Lu Chengxiao’s face remained indifferent, as if he hadn’t heard about anyone waiting to intercept him.
They walked for a while and Babao breathed a sigh of relief when he saw that no one was following them. It seemed that the girl couldn’t wait any longer and had left.
This relief was only halfway through when Lu Chengxiao, walking ahead, suddenly stopped.
Babao, who had been paying attention to him, followed his gaze, and his expression changed when he looked.
The person he thought had already left was inside a ready-to-wear clothing store on the left, about to come out. A young man called her to a stop not far away. Babao could clearly hear the young man asking, “Does the girl live in Changfeng Town?”
Babao turned to look at Lu Chengxiao, and he saw Lu Chengxiao tightly pursing his lips. After a single glance in that direction, Lu Chengxiao withdrew his gaze, remained silent, and walked away.
When Liu Yu noticed Lu Chengxiao, all she saw was a distant figure. He was walking fast, and she wasn’t even sure if he had seen her just now.
Ignoring the person who was bothering her, Liu Yu hurriedly left the ready-to-wear clothing store and followed him outside.
The gender gap was clearly evident at this moment. Lu Chengxiao simply walked on, while Liu Yu, though mindful of others’ eyes, also briskly walked, keeping up the pace. In this way, she chased him for half a long street, turning onto another road before finally narrowing the distance with Lu Chengxiao.
The small alley was quiet, and she decided to jog to catch up.
She called out.
Babao’s steps hesitated.
Lu Chengxiao seemed to ignore it.
A chill ran down Liu Yu’s spine, fearing that her intuition was about to be confirmed.
She bit her lip. This time, she called out to him with both his given name and surname, “Lu Chengxiao!”
This was the first time she had called him by his name.
Her voice lacked its usual softness, sounding urgent, heavy, with a faint trace of breathlessness.
Lu Chengxiao finally stopped in his tracks, meeting her gaze head-on.
She pressed against her chest, her breath not yet steady. With those incredibly beautiful eyes, she stared at him, a cluster of light hidden within them. The intensity was enough to burn into one’s heart. Without uttering a word, she conveyed stubbornness, grievances, and confusion. Her eyes were bright and clear, openly asking him for an explanation.
Lu Chengxiao looked at her determined appearance, and a faint laugh, audible only to himself, escaped his nostrils. He met her gaze but remained silent.
It seemed like a silent confrontation.
This silent confrontation made Babao, who was cast aside from the battlefield, uneasy and he withdrew.
Helpless, even he felt that he was a bit too redundant in this atmosphere.
Liu Yu certainly didn’t reach the point of being out of breath after a short jog. Whether it was in Liujiacun or in Liuxian Pavilion, whether doing farm work or practicing dance, she had never associated herself with physical weakness. She just needed an excuse to observe Lu Chengxiao.
The young man’s features were stern, his pair of cold eyes seemed to hold nothing and yet appeared to conceal something deep within.
He was no longer someone she could easily read.
Liu Yu could sense that most of her speculations in her mind had probably come true.
Throughout the morning, she had considered many possibilities, and the only loophole she could think of was when she hastily followed the headwoman of the Zheng family that day1the wife of the village head. If Lu Chengxiao had seen her in that state, it would explain the recent failed encounters and his current indifference.
Liu Yu regretted her carelessness, but she also knew that the further it went, the less she could afford to feel guilty.
Her thoughts shifted rapidly, and as if finally steadying her breath, she looked at Lu Chengxiao and straightforwardly asked, “Master Lu, do you not want to see me?”
Seizing the initiative, she wanted to get an explanation from him.
Lu Chengxiao looked at Liu Yu’s clear eyes, genuinely admiring her composure and acting skills.
She’s probably around fifteen, he thought.
Did he have her level of strategy and mindset when he was fifteen?
However, even though he clearly understood the kind of person she was, facing her direct question at this moment, an indescribable discomfort welled up within his heart.
The words of heartlessness were impossible to utter, not even half a sentence.
“Do you feel that there’s something between us that must be discussed in person?” he asked, looking at her.
However, this subtle concession did not escape Liu Yu’s keen perception.
If there wasn’t complete indifference, she still had a chance. If he had truly seen through the foot injury as a disguise that day, she needed to bring up a topic to provide an explanation.
With a hint of shyness, she lowered her eyelashes slightly. When she lifted them again to look at Lu Chengxiao, her eyes carried a touch of girlish timidity. Liu Yu took out the purse she had been unable to deliver for several days and handed it to Lu Chengxiao. A bit embarrassed, yet with a hint of expectation, she said, “This is a purse I made myself. I’ve been wanting to thank you for helping me last time, but in the few times I came to town, I just couldn’t run into you.”
Help with what?
Lu Chengxiao naturally knew – it was about crossing five or six mountains with her on his back.
He still vividly remembered that day, how he had hoped the mountain road would never end.
For the first time in his life, he tasted the flavor of affection, and its beauty made him want to replay countless variations in his heart, from light to heavy, distant to near.
However, the mountain road had its end, and the end of the path of affection caught him off guard even more than the end of the mountain road.
It broke suddenly before it could even begin.
Lu Chengxiao lowered his gaze to see a navy-blue purse delicately held in her white, slender hand. It was embroidered with auspicious clouds, green bamboo, and the golden characters for “peace.” The intricate design featured a pair of tassels below. While the fabric wasn’t of the highest quality, it was already one of the best materials available in the embroidery shops of Changfeng Town. The most striking aspects were the style and embroidery craftsmanship, clearly showing that a lot of effort had been put into it.
To his sorrow, he discovered that even with a thousand barriers erected in his heart, facing Liu Yu was still unbearable.
She effortlessly broke down all his defenses, manipulating his heartbeat.
Unable to suppress the mixed emotions of joy and sorrow, the indescribable madness, and the half-numb, half-awake pain.
At that moment, he even thought, what if he stopped struggling, became a fool manipulated by her?
She went to great lengths to get close to “Master Lu Sanlang,” and wasn’t he Master Lu Sanlang?
Emotions surged within Lu Chengxiao, and his eyes finally showed ripples, no longer icy.
Liu Yu noticed this subtle change, her heart hanging high, waiting for an answer—whether to bypass the issue or ask directly. Regardless of which option, she rapidly calculated the best way to respond.
Lu Chengxiao, with lowered eyes, questioned himself. Could he truly be free from resentment? Could he accept a woman full of schemes, with a discrepancy between appearance and reality? Was she still the person he liked?
After a while, he understood.
He couldn’t do it.
Unable to be free from resentment, there was no need to leave room for ambiguity, wasting her time and unsettling his own mind.
He curved a self-deprecating arc on his thin lips and coldly said, “Miss is joking, you didn’t need help at that time, did you?”
“Moving gracefully, there was no need for assistance.”
The timid blush gradually faded from Liu Yu’s cheeks, leaving only a slightly pale undertone. Her plump lips trembled lightly, as if afraid to face Lu Chengxiao, yet also as if finally understanding.
Liu Yu smiled, a smile tinged with a hint of embarrassment. “So that’s how it is, no wonder…”
She restrained the unfinished words, forced a smile, and said, “I lied, and you… have every right to be angry.”
She admitted it so readily.
Lu Chengxiao chuckled, unable to distinguish between her genuine embarrassment, disappointment, and shy admiration. He neither confirmed nor denied, feeling that the situation was already clear enough. He lifted his foot, intending to leave.
“Lu Chengxiao!” Liu Yu hurriedly called out, stopping him in his tracks.
Lu Chengxiao halted, looking at her.
“If… if lying is just because I like you, can you… forgive me?” Liu Yu extended the purse in her hand towards Lu Chengxiao again. “Take this purse as my apology to you, okay?”
Her voice was soft, her eyes filled with cautious hope and an eagerness to please.
A Liu Yu like this would be hard for even an immortal to reject.
Lu Chengxiao looked at her intently for a moment, suddenly feeling a bizarre sense of absurdity.
If he hadn’t personally experienced how exquisite her acting skills were, if he hadn’t heard the woman say that Liu Yu must be searching for a well-off family to marry into, if he hadn’t seen her buying information about him from two beggars, he might have been soft-hearted at this moment.
After all, he was just a mortal.
A mortal who had fallen for her.
Lu Chengxiao smiled, a smile that seemed like a mix of laughter and tears, self-mockery.
The April sunshine bathed his face, casting a clear silhouette of his long lashes. The complex emotions between his brows were illuminated distinctly, making the subtle mockery difficult to discern.
Liu Yu froze, a deeply unsettling feeling rising in her heart. It seemed like something had slipped out of her control, but she couldn’t quite grasp what went wrong.
She felt a bit lost. “Lu Chengxiao…”
“Miss Liu.” Lu Chengxiao finally regained his cold composure and interrupted her.
“You shouldn’t call my name anymore.”
He paused his gaze on the purse in Liu Yu’s hand. “I cannot afford this purse. Such private exchanges may lead to complications in the future. It’s better for Miss Liu to have some self-respect.”
Sansukini: Wow! That hurts a lot. I know scheming is wrong, but still, a lot of women in that era scheme to get a good marriage.
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