CHAPTER 28 Heavenly scripture without words
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Spring came late in Tongye, and when they got back to the General’s mansion, it was already snowing lightly.
Shentu Rui’s horse moved slowly, and Lan Dan sat in his arms, tightly holding onto his bow. It was heavy, but it gave her an indescribable sense of security.
The streets were dimly lit, with only the moonlight shining down to light the way. It wasn’t very late, but the entire city was quiet, except for the faint echo of Shentu Rui’s horse hooves as they passed through the streets. The entire world seemed to be sleeping in the chilly moonlight, leaving only her and him. She watched as Shentu Rui’s pale breath dissipated in the air, feeling as if they were the only two people in existence.
She knew it was an illusion. With Shentu Rui’s temperament, he could walk alone for eternity. But even if it was just an illusion, she didn’t want to break the magic of this night, this moon, and this man.
Unfortunately, someone had to disturb this rare state of tranquility. Sun Shi Xiang arrived on foot, carrying a lantern made from a sheep’s horn, from the direction of the General’s mansion.
Shentu Rui saw it and knew something was wrong. He dismounted from his horse and held the reins, walking a few steps to meet Sun Shi Xiang, creating some distance between himself and Lan Dan who remained on the horse.
“Your Highness, there is an urgent report from the capital.” Sun Shi Xiang lowered his voice, but the surroundings were too quiet, and Lan Dan heard him clearly.
Sun Shi Xiang extracted a letter from his pocket and handed it over to Shentu Rui. He held the lamp up high to assist him in reading the letter.
Lan Dan could only see Shentu Rui’s back. Even though he did not say anything, she felt his mood had become gloomy. Even his action of burning the letter and envelope on the fire seemed to be done reluctantly.
He turned to look at her, with a slight crease on his forehead. “I have an urgent matter to attend to in the capital and need to return as soon as possible. You…”
“I’ll go with you!” Lan Dan knew he was worried about her enduring the hardships on the road and wanted her to take a carriage back to the capital slowly, but she didn’t want to.
Shentu Rui slowly nodded. “Alright then, rest early tonight. We’ll set off at dawn tomorrow.”
“Alright!” Lan Dan said cheerfully.
In the stillness, Lan Dan heard all kinds of slogans and orderly footsteps in her sweet sleep. She unconsciously opened her eyes, looked at the window paper, and saw no light. She doubted if she was dreaming, but the sounds were too real. She froze, sat up straight, and wondered if Shentu Rui had already left.
The slogans got closer, and Lan Dan realized that it was the army morning exercise. Her heart accelerated too violently, even if she understood it for a while, she could not calm down, and became flustered.
She arranged her tangled hair and acknowledged her predicament— that of a duckweed with no roots. The sense of helplessness was deeply embedded within her, and neither she nor Shentu Rui could alleviate it.
She shook her hair in annoyance, jumped off the bed, and realized once again that she was a weak person who avoided problems because she did not know how to solve them. She felt frustrated as she prepared herself for the day, her face looking pale and lifeless in the mirror.
She went to the dining room for breakfast, where Shentu Rui and Su Yi Ming had just returned from their morning exercises, looking radiant and energetic. Although breakfast was simple, they ate heartily. She only had a small piece of bread, which was hard to swallow, but luckily, there was hot soy milk, which she drank listlessly.
“Miss Fu Zhu, did you not sleep well or are you feeling unwell?” Su Yi Ming asked, showing concern in a friendly and frank manner, as if they had never experienced any awkwardness between them.
Lan Dan shook her head and forced a smile. “No, I’m fine,” she said, trying to hide her unease.
She really admired Su Yi Ming’s open-mindedness. She wished she could be as carefree as him.
Shentu Rui glanced at her sideways and continued eating his steamed bun.
Su Yi Ming was unsure of what was going on and nudged Shentu Rui with his elbow. “Brother, did you offend her?”
Shentu Rui said plainly, “No.”
Su Yi Ming’s suspicion escalated, “Did you hit her?”
Shentu Rui looked at him with disdain and said, “Don’t talk nonsense. You’ll understand when you get married. Women’s minds are harder to read than the enemy’s General.”
Lan Dan knew he was referring to Lan Cheng. Shentu Rui’s words were full of hidden meanings. Lan Cheng’s thoughts were more difficult for Su Yi Ming to understand than that of an enemy’s general. He would definitely face troubles in the future.
“Oh.” Su Yi Ming nodded with a complicated expression while chewing his steamed bun. He observed Lan Dan’s expression and concluded that if he were in Fu Zhu’s place, he would have laughed heartily when Shentu Rui compared her to a wife. However, Lan Dan remained indifferent and unhappy. It seemed that this beautiful girl’s thoughts were indeed harder to understand than a strand of hair in the deep sea.
“We will leave after finishing the meal,” Shentu Rui said as his expression turned grim.
Su Yi Ming felt like a failure as his attempts to please fell flat. “Where are we going?” Su Yi Ming asked eagerly, deciding to go along with him today, so as not to be treated as an innocent punching bag.
“Back to the capital,” said Shentu Rui coldly.
Su Yi Ming was drinking soy milk when he suddenly sprayed it out. “Don’t you want to stay for a while before leaving? Are you in such a hurry that you want the child to be born by the roadside, and you need to rush to deliver it?”
Shentu Rui laughs incredulously. “You’re right on point,” he remarked.
Lan Dan was stirring the sugar at the bottom of the bowl with a spoon when she heard this and her hand trembled slightly. Could yesterday’s confidential letter have come from Lan Huang? No wonder Shentu Rui took it so seriously and even changed his expression. He hadn’t spoken to her since then.
“After I’m gone, you have to take good care of this place,” Shentu Rui told Su Yi Ming in a pleasant tone. “In a few days, a new county magistrate will arrive. You should get along well with him, and not bully him just because he’s a scholar. If you perform well, I will call you back to the capital for a vacation, to see your family, and to receive something great in your life.”
Su Yi Ming laughed foolishly upon hearing Shentu Rui’s words and joked, “Are you promoting me to a high-ranking official so quickly? I’m not even ready yet.”
Shentu Ruu also laughed kindly and said, “There are more things to achieve than just being a high-ranking official.”
Lan Dan looked at the laughing Su Yi Ming and felt sorry for him. She also looked down on Shentu Rui’s calculated and insincere smile. She realized why he was laughing at Su Yi Ming, and knew that she would not be so lucky next time. When he smiled at her like this, she would be just as foolish as Su Yi Ming and be tricked by him.
“Then I’ll wish you both a safe journey here,” Su Yi Ming said insincerely, bowing his hand.
Actually, he didn’t care if they had a safe journey or not. He just thought that if they stayed here, he would be caught in the middle and wouldn’t get anything good out of it.
After walking out of the city for half a day and resting for a while, Shentu Rui couldn’t bear any longer and pulled Lan Dan to a place where no one was around, furrowing his brows to ask her, “What’s wrong with you again?”
He used the word “again” because he had noticed that she had been going through mood swings for some time now.
She had a thousand words in her mind, but she couldn’t say them, as everything was related to him. Tired and sad, she weakly rested her head against his chest, as if he could help her share the burden of other things.
His breathing deepened. He hesitated for a moment, and then he hugged her, distressed and angry. “Alright, I won’t guess your thoughts anymore! You can just keep worrying and fretting!”
She relaxed in his embrace, so tired that her whole body ached. No wonder people would say that mental and physical exhaustion were about the same.
“Aren’t you supposed to be good at reading people’s minds, especially mine?” she accused him gloomily. Her worries were like an announcement on a city wall for him, weren’t they?
“I’m also very puzzled,” said Shentu Rui, looking as confused as Su Yi Ming did. “Your brain looks like a big calligraphy book for children to practice writing, except for that small part, which is like a heavenly scripture with no words!”
For a moment, Lan Dan didn’t understand what he meant. After a moment of confusion, she realized that he was insinuating that she was foolish!
Angry, she wanted to push him away, but he hugged her tighter. His head lowered, and he whispered softly in her ear, “Give me a kiss, maybe that’ll help me decode that little portion of the unknown script.”
Lan Dan’s face suddenly turned red-hot. She subconsciously turned her face away but refused to admit defeat. “Didn’t you already kiss me before!”
“Does that even count?” Shentu Rui felt wronged. “Who knows if I kissed a piece of wood or a door frame!”
He smiled again, and his lips approached her…
Lan Dan had nowhere to hide, and her heart made up her mind. Why should she hide?
“Your Highness! Your Highness!” Sun Shi Xiang cautiously shouted through the bushes.
It was no use being cautious. Shentu Rui was already furious.
“Someone is here to see you.” Sun Shi Xiang heard the Prince snort coldly and had a very bad premonition. Could it be… if he ruined something good, he would be in big trouble. When the Prince walked out from behind the bushes, he took a careful glance, making sure that his clothes were tidy. If it weren’t for the fact that the person who came to see them was too important, he wouldn’t have been so foolish as to report it.
Just as he was about to take a deep breath and relax, he was kicked in the stomach. He quickly fell to the ground pretending to be seriously injured. Shentu Rui didn’t even look at him as he headed towards where the team was gathering.
As Lan Dan helped him up, Sun Shi Xiang looked at her with a pleading expression and said, “Miss Fu Zhu, please help me plead with His Highness to let me stay in Tongye and follow the Young General.”
Lan Dan was glad that her face couldn’t make complicated expressions, or she’d look like she was neither crying nor laughing at this moment.
When Lan Dan passed by, she noticed the visitor looked somewhat familiar. After a moment of thought, she was surprised to find that he was the governor of Yingshan. He was dressed in plain clothes, accompanied by only two servants, and had simple luggage, indicating that he had been demoted.
The conversation between Shentu Rui and the governor was nearing its end. To Lan Dan, it sounded like nothing more than casual conversation, reassuring the governor that he need not worry and should cooperate with the general in charge of the border. If there were any uncertainties, he should consult with the county magistrate of Zhaoling.
The governor of Yingshan, who had been demoted as magistrate of Tongye, said farewell with deep gratitude.
After riding for a while and not seeing the shadow of the Tongye county magistrate, Lan Dan asked Shentu Rui, “Did you intercede for him and spare him the death penalty? Is that why he is so grateful to you?”
He also has a lot of bodyguards, so even if he wanted to intercede for him, he would need to send a letter. She didn’t know how he managed to do it.
“In a way,” Shentu Rui replied lazily, clearly unwilling to explain further.
Lan Dan felt awkward. This seemed to be the first time that Shentu Rui didn’t explain things to her in detail. To her, Shentu Rui’s heart was a completely unreadable book, which she could only understand if he wanted her to. As long as he didn’t want to, she couldn’t understand even a single page or even a single word.
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