At times like this, being drunk was not a bad thing.
The candlelight continued to flicker. Lu Chengxiao absentmindedly stared at the ceiling, thinking that Lin Huaigeng’s statement was wrong.
How could he not understand the feeling of liking someone?
If he didn’t understand, there would be no need for him to come all the way to Anyi County.
While Lu Chengxiao was sleepless, in another room separated by a storage room and an account room, the newlyweds, Lu Erlang and his wife, had not yet settled down. After the passion, they were cuddling in bed, exchanging sweet nothings.
Lu Erlang’s wife, Zhou Shi, whose name was Qiongying, was the girl that the matchmaker Lin Jiuniang mentioned in Changfeng Town. The Lu family had given a dowry of ninety-nine taels of silver to marry her in Anyi County.
Lu Erlang, whose given name was Chengzhang1 Eldest is Chengzong, 2nd is Chengzang, then Chengxiao is the youngest, had originally chosen Qiongying for himself. The Zhou family was a merchant in Anyi County, with their store located just a street away from Lu Feng Cloth Store. They dealt with grains, beans, and various seasonings. Due to their recent marriage, Lu Erlang spent most of his time at the county cloth store. Lu Xun and Chen Shi were being open-minded and didn’t see the need to separate the newlyweds. As there were no strict customs for merchant families, after spending the Lunar New Year together, Madam Chen agreed for Zhou Shi to return to the county, stating it was convenient for her to take care of Lu Erlang and hoping for good news from the young couple soon.
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Tyhkdt clld kd vbl bswpl qsa y qlo xsdvbp, Hbsw Fbk oyp dyvwayzzu yoyal sq vbl Zwydgbsw’p Nk qyxkzu. Tlyakdt vbyv vbl bsapl oyp y tkqv qasx vblx, pbl qlzv csvb ldhkswp yde alxlxclale vbl plahydv dyxle “Jycys” obs bye nsxl clqsal. Fbl ypjle, “Rp vbyv plahydv yzps y tkqv qasx vbl Nk qyxkzu?”
Lu Chengxiao shook his head, saying, “No, that’s not the case. When Chengxiao was fourteen and wanted to go to Yuanzhou for schooling, my mother bought him as a personal attendant. Every scholar in the academy has a personal attendant, and they didn’t want Chengxiao to be the odd one out.”
Zhou Shi clicked her tongue, thinking that this younger brother-in-law was better cared for than the young masters of wealthy families in the county. Compared to her husband and the eldest brother, he seemed more like someone from a merchant family in the town. Whether it was because he had spent a few years in the Yuanzhou academy or simply due to his good looks, Zhou Shi couldn’t help but notice today. This young brother-in-law, with a little more time spent in the county, might soon attract the attention of matchmakers.
However, Zhou Shi had also heard that the reason why Lu Chengxiao could enter the academy in Yuanzhou was due to connections arranged by the Li family. These were matters of circumstance, and she had no reason to be jealous.
Observing her expression, Lu Chengzang smiled and asked, “Envious?”
Zhou Shi nodded.
She was not one to hide her feelings and secrets from her husband.
Lu Chengzang comforted her, saying, “Don’t worry. Our life will only get better in the future. I will strive for progress, and you’ll have a life of luxury. I’ll make sure you can order servants and maids, just like those wealthy ladies.”
This assurance made Zhou Shi feel as if she could already see a bright future beckoning. Overwhelmed with happiness, she nestled into Lu Chengzang’s arms for some more intimate moments.
The night passed quietly, and before they knew it, it was the next day.
Lu Chengxiao was accustomed to rising early. Despite having some drinks the previous night, he didn’t overdo it. On the following day, just like any other day, he got up early.
Lin Huaigeng had consumed quite a bit of alcohol, but Lu Chengxiao didn’t wake him. When Lin Huaigeng finally woke up, it was already mid-morning, and the front of the fabric shop had long been open for business.
Lin Huaigeng was initially a bit disoriented upon waking up in the unfamiliar room. Eventually, he recalled that he had stayed overnight at Lu Chengxiao’s place. Rising from bed, he tidied up his bedding and went to the front of the shop. As expected, he found Lu Chengxiao there.
Upon seeing that Lin Huaigeng had finally sobered up, Lu Chengxiao greeted him with a smile. Lu Chengxiao’s sister-in-law, Zhou Shi, aware that there was a guest who hadn’t woken up, had left warm water and breakfast on the stove for him. After Lin Huaigeng had his breakfast, Liu Zhang also joined them.
Knowing that Lin Huaigeng was in a low mood, Lu Chengxiao asked both of them, after the customary morning work, to inform their father and brother and then invited them to sit in the teahouse.
Lin Huaigeng seemed a bit lighter today. He shared his story with Lu Chengxiao and Liu Zhang. It turned out that yesterday, his mother had gone to his aunt’s house with gifts, and things escalated from subtle remarks to reopening old childhood grievances, leading to a heated argument between the two women.
After finishing his story, Lin Huaigeng lifted his teacup, tilted his head back, and drank the tea as if it were bitter wine.
Liu Zhang, learning the details just now, wore a concerned expression and asked, “What do we do? Why couldn’t your aunt just endure it?”
Unlike Lu Chengxiao, who returned home less frequently in recent years, Liu Zhang was almost inseparable from Lin Huaigeng. Naturally, he knew how important Lin Huaigeng regarded his cousin. If it couldn’t work out, how could Huaigeng endure it? No wonder he drank so much last night.
Lin Huaigeng sighed bitterly. How could he endure it? He watched his mother go out with a forced smile, carrying gifts. The issue wasn’t about endurance; it was deeper than that. He said, “What can I do? Unless I become immensely wealthy, my family’s wealth needs to be several times greater than my aunt’s at least. Otherwise, she won’t consider me. With just the two businesses at my home and four brothers, how can she take a liking to me?”
Lin Huaigeng’s idea of immense wealth was akin to those wealthy households in town, owning fields or shops. His aunt had always been seeking a husband for his cousin among these kinds of people. He took another sip and continued, “I know my cousin deserves a good match, but I genuinely can’t let go.”
Lu Chengxiao poured tea for him and said, “Even if you can’t let go, then strive for it. I know your aunt values wealth, so do your best to earn a fortune.”
Lin Huaigeng chuckled, “Easier said than done.”
Lu Chengxiao asked back, “How do you know if you don’t try? When my dad was around my age now, he helped his previous employer sell some salvaged, damaged fabrics before he started the cloth business in Lufeng. It’s not easy.”
Lin Huaigeng became more animated by his words, but soon the light in his eyes dimmed again. He said, “I heard about your dad’s story when I was young. Uncle Lu worked as a fabric merchant for 3 years before opening the Lufeng Cloth Store. In those years, if my cousin has been waiting, she would have married someone else long ago.”
Lu Chengxiao played with the cup in his hand and said, “They say, ‘Do not bully the young for their poverty,’ and ‘Never underestimate the potential of the young.’ Let your aunt and cousin see your potential. Many couples in this world met in their humble times and endured poverty together. If your cousin truly cares for you, she’ll be willing to face hardships with you.”
What Lu Chengxiao didn’t say was that if Lin Huaigeng’s cousin was like his aunt, admiring wealth and despising poverty, it might be a blessing if the marriage didn’t happen.
Thinking about despising poverty and admiring wealth, Lu Chengxiao couldn’t help but think of Liu Yu. He felt a strong sense of suffocation, as if he had been poisoned. His thoughts were filled with her.
Looking at Lin Huaigeng, he could empathize with his distress. He had known Liu Yu for just over half a month, and it affected him so deeply. Lin Huaigeng, on the other hand, had liked his cousin for how long? He couldn’t find the words to persuade him anymore.
The word “love” has never been under anyone’s control.
Lin Huaigeng, influenced by Lu Chengxiao’s words, pondered. Considering Lu Chengxiao’s current life at the escort agency, in the past, when the business was good, they could earn a considerable amount of silver. But now, the situation was different. Travelling as escorts, they often encountered bandits on the road. Even the old escort head had met his end this way. Thinking about this, Lin Huaigeng began to understand his aunt’s perspective.
Suddenly enlightened, Lin Huaigeng sat up straight and said, “Chengxiao, you’re right. I need to make my aunt believe that I’m someone she can trust for a lifetime, only then will she agree to let my cousin marry me.”
With renewed spirit, Lin Huaigeng calculated his future. Liu Zhang didn’t quite understand the reason behind this change but he was still happy for his brother’s newfound optimism. He chuckled and said, “It’s good that you’ve figured it out. You had me worried with your state yesterday.”
Now feeling relieved, his appetite returned. In addition, there was the escort agency training to attend to. Having missed breakfast due to the late-night drinking and intense morning exercises, Liu Zhang was hungry now. He picked up a piece of emerald jade cake and put it in his mouth. After chewing for a moment, Liu Zhang’s eyes lit up. He had never been to this teahouse before, and the dim sum was unexpectedly delicious. Praising the food, he encouraged both Lu Chengxiao and Lin Huaigeng to try it, saying, “This emerald jade cake is delicious. You two should give it a taste too.”
His eyes sparkled, appearing as if he had discovered some rare delicacy. This lifted the mood for Lu Chengxiao and Lin Huaigeng as well. Smiling, they both tried the dim sum and found it indeed excellent.
The atmosphere improved.
After finishing a piece of emerald jade cake, Liu Zhang picked up a piece of cream puff and put it on a small plate. His mind was completely relaxed now. Thinking of the events of the past few days, he started questioning Lu Chengxiao while eating, “Speaking of marriage, Chengxiao, your parents should be considering arranging a marriage for you this year, right? Do you really have no interest in that girl from last time? The day we saw that girl near the Ji Xian Zhai (the bookstore). Do you remember, Chen Sheng? That guy chased after her to talk. You could tell from a distance how attentive he was. Chengxiao, if you’re still interested in that girl, you need to be careful. Don’t let that kid Chen Sheng intercept her halfway.”
Lu Chengxiao’s cup trembled, and hot tea spilled out.
Despite the scalding sensation on his hand, he seemed oblivious to the pain, staring at Liu Zhang in astonishment. “What did you say?”
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