Fuzhu’s Ballad Chapter 17

CHAPTER 17 Fact or fiction, reality or illusion

<Previous Chapter<Table of Contents>Next Chapter>

Lan Dan was no stranger to horseback riding, but she had never quite mastered the skill due to her limited opportunities to practice. Fortunately, Shentu Rui’s horse was gentle and just the right height for her. Despite her nerves, Lan Dan managed to maintain her composure and avoid any major blunders.

Lan Dan heard the sound of approaching horses, so she guided her horse to the side of the road to avoid startling it.

The sound of the horse galloping was clear and crisp. Lan Dan turned her head to see that it was none other than Lan Cheng, mounted on a striking ebony steed that seemed to contrast perfectly with her cloak, billowing behind her like a graceful fan. The morning sun, peeking through the crevices in the roofs, lent her a soft radiance that appeared to illuminate the entire world around her.

As she watched, Lan Dan recalled Shentu Rui’s remark about a woman’s beauty stemming from her inner self. Women of great distinction all had a unique charm that set them apart. Like Lan Cheng, her unwavering confidence and poise shone through, making her an ethereal beauty to behold.

“Brother Rui! Brother Rui!” Lan Cheng called out eagerly, waving at Shentu Rui. He stopped his horse and waited for her, raising his hand to greet her and telling her not to ride so fast.

Lan Cheng urged her horse forward, commanding it to halt abruptly in the same location as Shentu Rui’s steed. Her breaths came in rapid gasps as she gazed at him, her eyes betraying her annoyance. “Why… why didn’t you wait for me to see you off?” However, as her gaze flickered towards the figure of Lan Dan perched on the horse by the roadside, her expression turned sour with anger.

“Why did you bring her along?” Lan Cheng pointed her horsewhip at Lan Dan. “Didn’t Brother Emperor already made arrangement for her?”

Shentu Rui, who was usually impatient with Lan Cheng, surprisingly appeared to be in good spirits on this particular day. “I do not trust anyone else to attend to her needs, so I decided to take her myself,” he declared.

Lan Cheng was caught off-guard, choking momentarily before her eyes widened in fury. “No way! You cannot bring her along! What sort of man takes a woman with him on official business?”

Shentu Rui’s pleasant smile faded, but his composure remained firm as he lifted his chin. “What of it? Who dares question my actions?”

Lan Cheng seethed with rage, yet found herself at a loss for words. The Prince of Yan was so tyrannical, even the Emperor dared not cross him.

“Alright, you came to see me off, I appreciate the gesture, now you can leave,” said Shentu Rui in his usual indifferent tone.

Lan Cheng gritted her teeth, considering her options before reluctantly agreeing, “I shall see you off to the city gate.”

With a swift glance in Lan Cheng’s direction, Shentu Rui cracked his whip, prompting his chestnut horse to take off in a thundering gallop. Lan Cheng hastened to follow suit, trailed by their retinue. The sudden acceleration jolted Lan Dan, causing her to fall behind the rest.

By the time she reached the city gate, Shentu Rui had already managed to make Lan Cheng cry. Infuriated, she whipped her black horse and raced back to the city, nearly colliding with Lan Dan’s mount in the process. A gust of wind stirred up dust, momentarily blinding Lan Dan.

The pace of the team slowed down again, allowing Lan Dan to catch up with Shentu Rui easily.

“What did you say to make her so angry?” asked Lan Dan, feeling a twinge of indignation on behalf of her sister. Despite her sibling’s hot-headedness, Lan Dan couldn’t help but feel protective of her due to her concern for Second Sister’s situation.

“She brought up marriage again!” snapped Shentu Rui irritably. “She said I have to marry her when I come back from this trip.”

Lan Dan nodded thoughtfully. In fact, this was a good marriage union. Lan Cheng and Shentu Cheng were half-siblings. Marrying Shentu Rui would further strengthen the ties between the two royal families of Da Yan. She looked at Shentu Rui curiously. She was used to listening to his analysis and explanation of this kind of intrigue, so she sincerely asked, “What’s wrong with that?”

Shentu Rui’s anger faded at her question and he looked at her coldly. “Is there something wrong with marrying you off to Shentu Cheng?”

Lan Dan didn’t dare to answer hastily. She carefully considered the situation and came to a conclusion that personal emotions shouldn’t be factored into political strategy. If she said she hated Shentu Cheng, he would likely ridicule her. “No,” she replied calmly and objectively.

For a moment, Shentu Rui’s expression remained unchanged. But then, his lips tightened into a thin line and he gave her a stern look.

Lan Dan felt a twinge of guilt. Had she given the wrong answer again? She tried to make up for it by asking another question, one that had been nagging at her since they had set out on their journey. “Actually,” she began hesitantly, avoiding his gaze, “why did you agree to take me away? According to your plan, shouldn’t…shouldn’t…” She trailed off, not wanting to mention his plan because she despised it so much.

Shentu Rui pulled his horse to a stop. “It seems that you regret coming along?” he asked, looking back at her. “You can turn back now if you want!”

Lan Dan looked at Shentu Rui in confusion, wondering why he was becoming so triggered when they were trying to discuss the matter calmly. “I’m just asking why you won’t marry Lan Cheng,” she said, feeling a rising anger within her at his unwarranted outburst. “Why are you bringing me into this?”

Shentu Rui’s lips curled into a cold smile, and he raised his eyebrows, as if daring her to challenge him. “Who said I won’t marry her?” he retorted. “I’ll marry her as soon as I get back!”

Lan Dan was taken aback by his response. She might really not be as astute as Qiuyue… It was true that Shentu Rui never said he didn’t want to marry Lan Cheng. It was she who had made the wrong assumption.

“For anything or anyone,” he said coldly, “the level of cherishment is equivalent to the cost paid to obtain that thing or person. I am willing to take you away because I don’t want Shentu Cheng to get you too easily. Save for your face, everything about you is not interesting. He will definitely get tired of you in just a few days. I’m not ready to rebel yet, and you’ll probably be dead weight by then. Of what use are you to me?”

Lan Dan was rendered speechless by his cruel words. Silently, she lowered her head, feeling tears prick at the corners of her eyes.

“You can go back!” he spat, his voice filled with merciless contempt. “I already think you’re a burden.” And with that, he whipped his horse to gallop away, leaving her behind in a cloud of dust on the official road.

Lan Dan coughed lightly a few times, her vision blurred, but she didn’t feel choked. Instead, she felt a deep sense of disillusionment, as if the harsh realities of life had finally caught up with her. She let her horse wander aimlessly without direction, lost in her own thoughts. She couldn’t help but think that anyone who appeared warm-hearted or kind was simply an illusion, a mirage that would disappear as soon as she reached out to touch it.

As she rode, a young man carrying a long sword passed her with ease. He paused briefly to glance in her direction before pulling his horse to a stop. With a warm smile, he addressed her. “Where are you heading, Miss?”

Lan Dan was caught off guard by the sudden interruption. She didn’t want to engage with this stranger, for she despised false and frivolous behavior.

The young man wasn’t surprised or annoyed by her silence. On the contrary, he seemed even more attentive and concerned. “It’s still quite chilly out here,” he remarked gently. “Why don’t we make our way to Shili Pavilion and have a warm cup of tea?”

Shili Pavilion?

Lan Dan’s eyes lit up. Although Shentu Rui had left in anger, he would definitely be waiting for her at the Shili Pavilion!

Without a second thought, Lan Dan spurred her horse forward, galloping as fast as she could towards the pavilion. The young man followed closely behind her, his sword clanking softly against his side.

The Shili Pavilion on the outskirts of the capital was built on high ground. From a distance, Lan Dan could see Shentu Rui’s horses tied up in pairs near the pavilion. Although she didn’t see anyone, her heart settled when she saw the horses.

Descending the slope, Lan Dan found the area teeming with small vendors and travelers taking a break. The bustling and lively scene was extraordinary. Lan Dan dismounted from her horse from a distance and made her way forward amidst the crowded people. The young man who had accompanied her persisted in following her, offering to treat her to tea.

Lan Dan searched around and finally saw Shentu Rui at a tea stand with a canopy.

With an idea in her mind, she walked over with a stern face, and the attentive guards came to help her take away the horse. Instead of sitting at Shentu Rui’s table, she took the empty table beside him and confidently ordered a cup of good tea from the owner.

The young man, who was late from tying up his horse, came over with a smile on his face and sat at Lan Dan’s table. He spoke knowledgeably of the vendor’s sugar cakes, his words carefully chosen to impress.

Shentu Rui reached for his quiver and deftly extracted an arrow. The guard by his side handed him a fine sandpaper, which he used to polish the arrowhead with ease, a faint smile playing on his lips.

“Hey!” Lan Dan called out to him arrogantly. “I heard the sugar cakes here are delicious. Buy some for me.”

Shentu Rui’s obsidian eyes flicked towards the corners of his vision, a cold and disdainful glance aimed at her. Without uttering a single word, he plunged his long arrow deeply into the tabletop.

The young man’s complexion changed suddenly. In fact, he felt a little strange when someone led the horse for her just now. As soon as the beautiful girl spoke to the noble man at the next table, he immediately understood everything. As someone who had traveled far and wide, he knew exactly which people he should avoid. With a quick nod and a bow, he plastered on a fake smile before hastily leaving the pavilion. He mounted his horse and rode off at breakneck speed, wanting nothing more than to put distance between himself and the dangerous game being played out before his very eyes.

“What took you so long? What were you doing?” Shentu Rui began to find fault.

Lan Dan sipped her tea and said, “I was hesitating whether to move forward or listen to you and go back.”

Shentu Rui’s face twisted in a sneer as he stiffened, his hand still tapping his palm with the arrow he had just removed from the table.

“Where are the cakes?” Lan Dan ignored his threatening gesture. Shentu Rui was always ambiguous when he spoke, so since she knew it was just an angry outburst, it didn’t matter much. “I’m really hungry.”

Shentu Rui was silent for a while before saying, “Eat until you die!”

Lan Dan pretended not to hear his ominous words, knowing full well what was coming next. As expected, the boss of the teahouse arrived with a large plate of cakes, a genial smile on his face as he placed it before her.

Once Lan Dan had finished indulging in the delicious treats that the teahouse had to offer, her attendant produced a silver ingot from his pocket to pay for their meal. Lan Dan made a show of acting surprised and stood up, positioning herself in the aisle between the two tables.

“Why is it so expensive?” she exclaimed in feigned shock. “And what about the table fee?”

Shentu Rui pursed his lips tightly, looked her up and down, and walked out of the tea stand with a grim face.

If you enjoy this novel, support the Translator ginevre on her ko-fi account :))

<Previous Chapter<Table of Contents>Next Chapter>

Leave a comment