CHAPTER 32 A plausible theory
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At daybreak, Shentu Rui sat up quietly to avoid disturbing Lan Dan who was sleeping next to him. In the faint light, he was struck by how delicate and beautiful she looked. He couldn’t resist bending down to kiss her cheek.
She trembled slightly, clearly awake, but kept her eyes tightly shut, pretending to be asleep. Shentu Rui smiled and called her out, “Are you awake?”
Realizing that Shentu Rui could see through her act, Lan Dan gave a muted hum in response, her voice sounding huskier than she had anticipated.
Shentu Rui got out of bed, dressed himself, and made some tea. He then helped Lan Dan sit up and offered her the cup to drink.
Lan Dan huddled under the blanket, refusing to come out. Shentu Rui found her behavior both endearing and frustrating, but chose to give her the tea and let her go back to sleep.
“I’m going to the palace today,” he said. Afraid that Lan Dan might misunderstand, he explained, “I’m going to accompany my mother for the day, otherwise she’ll really be angry. You don’t have to wait for me. I should come back very late.”
Lan Dan snorted and muttered, “Who’s waiting for you!”
Feeling in a good mood, Shentu Rui didn’t want to argue with her and got up to prepare himself.
“I’m going to see my Second Sister today.” Lan Dan lay motionless under the blanket, but her tone was firm.
Shentu Rui clicked his tongue in displeasure and scolded her, “You’re already in this condition, why run around? Just lie down and rest!”
“I’m going,” Lan Dan said with calm decisiveness.
Shentu Rui moved his lips a few times, but only snorted in the end. He opened the door, and called the servant girl to bring a bag of silver. “Give it to your sister. You can’t come to the door empty-handed,” he said bitterly, feeling that the prestige he had established in front of her was further lost. “I’ll have Sun Shi Xiang take you there,” he added, feeling even more frustrated when she unhappily hummed in response.
Sun Shi Xiang rode alongside Lan Dan’s carriage on horseback. Just a little while after leaving the residence, Lan Dan signaled to stop the carriage. Sun Shi Xiang quickly got off his horse and asked what she wanted.
“I want to take a walk.” Lan Dan got out of the car with a tired expression.
Sun Shi Xiang blinked, thinking he had guessed why Lan Dan was so despondent, so he didn’t dissuade her. Instead, he signaled for the carriage and followers to leave a distance and slowly followed along with Lan Dan through the streets.
The sky was overcast, as if it was going to rain. Although it was already the time to do business in the market, the street was sparsely populated. Lan Dan walked absent-mindedly, her eyes lifeless.
“Miss Fu Zhu, you don’t have to worry too much about Zi Fu and the others,” Sun Shi Xiang said disdainfully. “His Highness didn’t want to offend Her Excellence, so he reluctantly accommodated her.” When it came to Lan Huang, he showed much more respect.
Lan Dan’s eyes flickered. “Is your master very familiar with Her Excellence?”
Sun Shi Xiang hadn’t expected her to bring up Lan Huang so suddenly and was suddenly at a loss for words.
Looking at Sun Shi Xiang’s reaction, Lan Dan didn’t need to hear his answer anymore.
“How long have you been following Shentu Rui?” She changed the subject.
Sun Shi Xiang heaved a sigh of relief and proudly smiled. “More than ten years.”
“Then you know a lot about Shentu Rui, don’t you?” Her tone was flat.
“Mm… yes.” Sun Shi Xiang felt a chill down his spine, thinking that she was back to the previous topic.
“Did he have anyone he liked before?” Lan Dan was still speaking in the same calm tone, as if the answer didn’t matter.
Sun Shi Xiang looked at Lan Dan cautiously and probed, “You… don’t know?” It sounded like a rhetorical question.
Lan Dan didn’t answer. She didn’t know. How could she know? But… she could feel it!
Shentu Rui was a perceptive person who could see through schemes and set traps without making a sound. He was skilled at playing these games. However, he was honest in his emotions, perhaps because he was young or because of his mother’s influence, who was also not shallow in her thinking, otherwise she could not have hidden in the Duke’s mansion for more than a decade. The Empress Dowager’s words and actions, her love for Shentu Rui, were all so direct and intense, without any concealment. Even when she scolded him, Lan Dan thought it was like an ordinary mother-in-law complaining about her daughter-in-law. The Empress Dowager was not pretentious, and she did not put on airs. In front of the people she truly loved, she did not hide her emotions.
She had a big influence on Shentu Rui.
Lan Dan felt that she was the exact opposite of Shentu Rui.
Although she was naive and inept in many areas, she was extremely perceptive when it came to her emotions with Shentu Rui. She observed every detail closely, including things like a kiss that was avoided or a candle that was extinguished before a moment of intimacy.
“I know…” she murmured, sighing.
Obviously, Sun Shi Xiang misunderstood her words. He put his mind at ease and tried to meddle again, with a hint of flattery. “Miss, please don’t tell His Highness that it was me who said it! He… has been in love for many years, but has kept it to himself.”
Suddenly, Lan Dan felt very tired, as if she had no strength to take a step and her whole body was in pain. Of course, her heart was the most painful.
“I can’t walk anymore,” she said irritably.
“Oh,” Sun Shi Xiang was a little confused and had a vague feeling that he might have made a mistake. “Then take the carriage.” He graciously helped Lan Dan onto the carriage, feeling uneasy because if the Prince found out, he would be chopped to pieces! He prayed to the gods and begged Lan Dan not to tell the Prince.
Lan Dan was so exhausted that she didn’t even want to say anything after visiting her Second Sister. She walked all the way to her room with a blank expression, wanting to lie down as soon as possible.
When she entered her room, she was startled to find that Shentu Rui was still there.
He sat cross-legged by the low table, slowly sipping wine, with a strangely straight back, not like someone casually drinking. Lan Dan didn’t expect him to be at home. Wasn’t he supposed to go to the palace to accompany the Empress Dowager? He was indeed wearing his usual noble attire, but at this time… she didn’t know if he had returned or had never gone in the first place.
He remained silent as she walked in, his eyes coldly fixed on her. Lan Dan felt uneasy, unable to confront him as boldly as she usually did. His gloomy expression made her heart increasingly timid, causing her to stand at the door and not dare to approach him.
For a while, he held his wine glass with his hand in the same position, looking at her, then suddenly exploded, throwing the wine and glass at her.
Scared, Lan Dan turned her face away, but didn’t move or make a sound. She knew he didn’t really intend to hit her, otherwise with his accuracy in shooting Fifth Brother’s thigh in the dark, he wouldn’t have missed her and only thrown the cup at her feet. The spilled wine soaked through her thin spring dress.
“What did you do?” he said in a low, slow voice, as if interrogating a prisoner.
Lan Dan tried to remain composed, but she was afraid of provoking him. “I went to see my sister,” she replied.
“And what else?” he asked coldly, drawing out his words.
Lan Dan didn’t speak and kept her head down. She had hoped to keep it a secret from him, but he had found out so soon! She had left her Second Sister’s house through the back door, bought what she needed, and returned the same way without anyone noticing, before meeting up with Sun Shi Xiang and the others through the main entrance.
“What medicine did you buy?” He continued to ask patiently, but his expression and tone became even colder, exerting invisible pressure on her. Seeing that Lan Dan remained silent, his anger could no longer be suppressed. “Does it disgrace you to have my child?” he shouted, slamming the low table with force and knocking over the cups and pots on it.
Although he had many curses on his mind, he couldn’t bring himself to say them out loud. He couldn’t sit still and had to stand up.
Lan Dan waited until everything had quieted down before saying, “Why do you have to question me like this? I just don’t want to be used by you.” Tears flowed silently down her face.
“Used by me?” Shentu Rui laughed in anger. Did she even know what it meant to be used by him? If he really wanted to use her, could she still stand there calmly and confront him? “With your foolishness, what other use do you have besides giving birth to a child?”
Hearing this, Lan Dan gave a bitter smile as tears streamed down her face in a line. “Yes… I’m so stupid that I’m only good for bearing children,” she said.
Shentu Rui was taken aback.
“You want me to have a boy to give to Lan Huang, don’t you? You’re doing this for her…” Lan Dan felt bitter all the way to her throat. Lan Huang was looking for the most suitable baby boy, and wasn’t Shentu Rui’s son just that? Once successful, the two of them could form a much stronger alliance than herself and Shentu Rui.
Shentu Rui’s face was livid. He stepped forward and raised his hand, really wanting to slap her to death.
Thinking that he was about to hit her, Lan Dan braced herself. His hand came down and clenched into a fist, then he poked her forehead with his index finger with such force that she staggered back, her forehead aching.
“What are you even thinking?” He was so angry that he was about to jump up. “What a good idea, but do you have what it takes? Ah!”
Pouting, she held her forehead and looked quite ridiculous.
“Do you think you are a hen that could lay eggs whenever you feel like it?” He was so angry that he fanned himself with his other hand, feeling like the blood in his veins was boiling. “I need you to have a son, are you confident that you can do it?”
Lan Dan sobbed and felt very aggrieved by his scolding. Tears were streaming down her face, but she didn’t feel that sad anymore. It turned out that… he hadn’t planned it like that.
“She’s due in three months, can you give birth in three months for me?” He was so angry that he couldn’t speak coherently.
Lan Dan wiped away her tears and pouted even more, thinking that she had already considered this problem. Both he and Lan Huang were very resourceful and could come up with any tricks to overcome it.
“Take it out!” he shouted.
Lan Dan searched in her waist for some time before unsteadily taking out a bottle of pills, which he snatched from her and tossed out through the open window.
“Think more with your brain in the future!” His anger finally dissipated, and he took back what he said. “Forget it, your brain is better off not being used! You only think wildly and imaginatively! Just be obedient in the future!”
She cried even more at these words, lifting both hands to wipe away her tears, like a sulking little girl. He softened when he saw this and went up to hug her, smelling the scent of alcohol on her body, which turned out to be the spilled alcohol on her skirt that hadn’t dried yet.
He carried her to the inner room to change clothes, but she didn’t pay attention to him and just kept sobbing. As she changed, he became restless and suddenly pressed her shoulders, pushing her to the floor.
“How about… a quick one?” He smirked down at her.
“No!” Her voice rose again in a sudden burst of bravery.
He didn’t listen to her either, and pushed her down, pressing his lips to her ear.
Lan Dan pushed him, “Don’t… it still hurts…”
Her gentle plea made him stiffen for a moment, and then he slumped down beside her, angrily pounding the floor.
“You’re just trying to get back at me.” He gritted his teeth in anger, feeling powerless. It must have been a payback for the incident in the rapeseed flower field.
Thanks, RB, for the support! ( ˘ ³˘)♥
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