Fuzhu’s Ballad Chapter 46

Chapter 46 Each has its own destiny

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Although the army was marching swiftly northward, there was still a regulated schedule for travel and lodging. For Lan Dan, it was much more comfortable than the last time she followed Shentu Rui out because there was a carriage available, people to serve her, and most importantly, Shentu Rui was too busy to bother her.

For the sake of convenience, the women’s carriages and horses were all concentrated at the back of the army. Shentu Cheng led the front of the army, while Shentu Rui was responsible for the rear. Lan Dan observed for two days, and realized that Shentu Rui was not heavily involved in military strategy. Shentu Cheng must have paid attention to it, and delegated him to handle daily chores such as taking care of the women and maintaining the camp. This was equivalent to pushing him out of the main military tent. Shentu Rui was not resentful at all, on the contrary, he was excited to be busy with setting up camp, preparing food, and other details. He even patrolled around the camp at night until late before returning to his own tent to rest. Despite being a Prince, he was doing the job of a third-rank general. The armies dispatched to fight against the rebels were from various regions of the Central Plains. The Generals all knew how the Emperor treated his younger brother and were naturally distant from Shentu Rui. They were not foolish enough to violate the Emperor’s taboo. Shentu Rui did not mind. He appeared to be carefree and cheerful like Su Yi Ming.

It was hot and uncomfortable inside the carriage. Unable to sit still, Lan Dan got out to ride her horse for a while and found it more refreshing.

From a distance, Shentu Rui saw her and rode up on horseback with Sun Shi Xiang. Lan Dan turned to look at the sound of the approaching hoofbeats and noticed that Shentu Rui had gotten darker, which she hadn’t realized because he always came back in the middle of the night.

“Why are you smiling like a fool?” Lan Dan couldn’t help but mock him as she felt uncomfortable with his bright smile.

“Blessed are the fools, like you. I’m envious, so I imitate one.” He leaned over, still smiling happily.

Lan Dan glared at him, thinking that it had been too long since he had irritated her. Couldn’t he have survived without doing so?

Before she could respond, he raised his chin and exclaimed excitedly, “I found a small stream half a mile away, but we have to jump over a few small bushes. What do you say, want to go?”

Under the scorching sun, the marching troops kicked up dust and dirt, but the allure of the small creek was unprecedentedly strong for Lan Dan to ignore her anger. She hesitated, “I don’t know how to jump over the bushes…”

When Shentu Rui smiled, the corners of his eyes lifted, and his phoenix eyes looked especially beautiful. Perhaps it was because he had tanned, but his teeth were particularly white. “I’ll teach you.” 

Lan Dan couldn’t help but smile and said, “You really have nothing to do now.”

Shentu Rui didn’t take Lan Dan’s sarcasm seriously and nodded his head, as if she was making sense. “It seems so, let’s go?” he said as he pulled the reins of his horse and galloped out first.

Lan Dan was also infected by his enthusiasm. She followed with a laugh, answering in a bold tone, “Let’s go!”

Sun Shi Xiang smirked, stood there without moving, and said to himself, “I’d better not go.” Watching the two young and beautiful riders galloping out of the formation, sometimes riding side by side, sometimes racing, and sometimes playing, Sun Shi Xiang thought of the dance of butterflies and suddenly felt emotional. If the Prince of Yan had not fallen into the vortex of fate, he would be laughing so loudly, riding a horse with his beloved girl.

When Lan Dan came back, her hair was still wet, and her mouth was pouting high, looking like she had been tricked. Shentu Rui rode alongside her, looking satisfied and content like a cat that had caught a fat fish.

It was lunchtime and the troops stopped to cook. Lan Huang sat in the shade of a big tree with a pale face, apparently finding the morning’s travel very difficult.

Beside her, Zi Fu was helping Zi Yuan and Zi Dai take care of the little prince. When she saw Shentu Rui and Lan Dan returning together, her expression changed. Zi Dai noticed and nudged her with her elbow, whispering softly, “It’s almost time for her to be dealt with. Don’t cause trouble for the mistress.” Zi Fu reluctantly nodded and sighed.

The little prince was breastfeeding in the nurse’s arms. Shentu Rui didn’t come over to see him but went to watch the cooking soldiers. Lan Dan, on the other hand, moved closer to get a better look at the little one, feeling complicated emotions.

After finishing his milk, the young prince suddenly started crying, and despite the nursemaid’s efforts to soothe him, he kept crying. Lan Huang, sitting under the tree, furrowed her eyebrows and shouted, “Make him stop crying!”

Zi Yuan and the others were flustered, trying their best to coax the little prince, but he wouldn’t stop crying. Angered, Lan Huang slammed the cushion and ordered sternly, “Give him that medicine!”

Zi Yuan had been taking care of the little prince and was one of the people closest to him among the palace maids. When she heard this, tears welled up in her eyes and she pleaded, “Your Highness, that medicine could harm his brain. It’s not suitable for the little prince…”

But Lan Huang didn’t want to hear her speak and furrowed her brows even tighter. “As long as he stops crying, I don’t care if it hurts his brain or not.”

Zi Yuan wanted to say more, but Zi Fu and Zi Dai stopped her. Zi Fu took out a porcelain bottle and poured out a pill the size of a thumbnail, dissolving it in water. Lan Dan’s anger simmered inside her with the stirring of the concoction, feeling as though her heart was burning.

The child was still crying at the top of his lungs, but Lan Huang had no sympathy for him. She even looked at him with disgust and coldness, despite him being such a weak and helpless creature. Even though he wasn’t her own child, Lan Huang didn’t show any pity.

Zi Fu scooped up a spoonful of the dark medicine and was about to pour it into the child’s mouth. Lan Dan stared fixedly at the spoon and was no longer afraid of Lan Huang.

“Hold on!” Just as she was about to shout, Shentu Rui walked up to her and calmly said, “Give me the child. I’ll take him for a walk and he might stop crying.”

He didn’t want to argue with Lan Huang, so he spoke in a gentle tone despite his unpleasant expression.

Lan Huang frowned but didn’t say anything. Zi Yuan hurriedly carried the child over to Shentu Rui. Shentu Rui couldn’t hold him well at first, but with the help of Zi Yuan, he groped for a while, and then he managed to hold him well. The child was still crying, so Shentu Rui took him for a walk in the small grove where it was cool and breezy. He signaled to Lan Dan, who was eager to follow, to come along. Zi Fu pretended to bring a water bottle for the baby but was coldly stared at by Shentu Rui, so Zi Dai held her back and made her give up.

Shentu Rui walked stiffly back and forth in the grove, holding the crying baby. The sound of the baby’s crying was distressing and heart-wrenching. Lan Dan approached and suggested, “Why don’t you give him a pat or two?”

Shentu Rui took Lan Dan’s advice and patted the baby, but his touch was too rough for the infant, causing the baby to vomit.

Lan Dan jumped back like a rabbit. Although Shentu Rui immediately stretched out his arms, he still got some of the vomit on him. Lan Dan pursed her lips into a smile, and he glared at her angrily. The child vomited for a while, and when the milk was exhausted, he began to vomit light brown medicine. Lan Dan and Shentu Rui’s expressions became heavy. Shentu Rui didn’t mind getting dirty as he tried to help the baby vomit up all the medicine. Sure enough, the baby stopped crying and tried to catch his breath through its small exhausted mouth.

Lan Dan felt pity for the baby and wiped him clean with a handkerchief while also cleaning Shentu Rui’s sleeve. She saw the way Shentu Rui looked at the baby and couldn’t tell if it was pain or self-blame.

She asked him quietly, “Do you regret it?”

Shentu Rui smiled bitterly and shook his head. “There’s nothing to regret… Just a bit of sadness. The one who died is already dead, and those who survive may have a harder time.”

Lan Dan didn’t say anything. She also started to feel the same way, that surviving was harder than dying.

“You…” Lan Dan hesitated for a while and said, “Do you want to talk to Lan Huang about this? The child is precious, and we should treat him well.” She glanced at him and added, “She will listen to you.”

Shentu Rui suddenly seemed to understand something, and his movements in handling the child became more skillful. He looked at her with a smirk and said, “Why do I feel like you’re trying to trick me with your words?”

Lan Dan awkwardly looked away and responded, “Who’s trying to trick you? You’re just feeling guilty.”

Shentu Rui laughed loudly, shaking the child and causing the child to make a noise as if he was about to cry. He awkwardly stopped and walked in a small circle while still holding the child. Seeing this, Lan Dan felt a sudden pain in her heart. Perhaps Shentu Rui would be a good father in the future, but it had nothing to do with her.

Shentu Rui put the child to sleep and sighed as he looked at the child’s adorable face. “I won’t persuade her. She’s not one to take persuasions. Everyone has their own fate, and maybe this child and her are not meant to be together. There’s nothing we can do about it.”

Lan Dan felt uneasy after hearing Shentu Rui’s words, believing that those who blamed others for their own misfortune were hard-hearted people.

After settling in the camp at Tongye, Lan Dan followed Shentu Rui to the city wall to observe the enemy’s situation. The city walls of Tongye were heavily guarded with soldiers patrolling every step of the way. However, the “great enemy” outside the city was somewhat disappointing, with only around thirty to fifty thousand troops. Lan Dan did not have an accurate estimate but could tell that the enemy camp was much smaller than their own.

“This…” She was in shock. Based on the difference in the military strength between the two sides, Fifth Brother had no chance of winning against such odds.

Shentu Rui saw through Lan Dan’s thoughts and chuckled, “Too few people? And they are not even the elite troops of Beimo.”

Lan Dan frowned, “Since Bei Mo isn’t sincerely helping Fifth… Xiao Bing Wen, why bother getting involved in this messy situation?”

Shentu Rui laughed and complimented her progress. “Sometimes the relationship between ruler and subject is very delicate,” but his topic flew without end, leaving Lan Dan confused, “All the important ministers of the court agree to lend troops to Xiao Bing Wen. Even if Beimo’s Emperor and Empress Dowager do not want to, they cannot refuse.”

Lan Dan took a deep breath and suddenly recalled that Shentu Rui had said before that Beimo’s Third Prince who was sent to the capital and his Mother Consort had a lot of influence in Beimo’s court. It should not be too difficult for them to secretly incite the officials to lend troops. The war had to happen in order to have an excuse to attack Beimo. Beimo’s Emperor and Empress Dowager understood, but they were powerless to stop it. That was why they sent out some shrimp soldiers and crab generals. It was no wonder that Shentu Rui said that this battle was not about the life or death of Beimo. The real decisive battle was probably when they break out of Tongye and go straight to the grassland to fight against the elite troops of Beimo.

“Xiao Bing Wen… was really played very miserably by you.” Lan Dan laughed sarcastically. It wasn’t just Xiao Bing Wen but everyone in the Xiao family had been played miserably by them.

“Come on, let’s go down,” Shentu Rui clearly didn’t want to talk about this topic anymore. He waved his hand and said, “We can have a good meal today. General Su’s mansion is nothing special, but the chef is excellent.”

Lan Dan smiled, not in the mood to continue talking either. Just thinking about it chilled her heart.

The General’s mansion had set up several tables, and the Emperor and the Generals were in the front yard while the women were in the hall, drinking and celebrating as if they had already won the war.

The front yard was lit with bonfires, illuminating the courtyard and hall, and the sounds of laughter and joy echoed through the night sky.

Zi Fu looked out from the door and saw Shentu Rui in the crowd, drinking and having fun, too busy to notice her. She elbowed Lan Dan next to her, leaned in, and whispered, “Be ready to leave tomorrow night.”

Lan Dan froze. Tomorrow night? She looked at Lan Huang sitting opposite her, who was also looking at her. Lan Huang nodded with a smile, confirming Zi Fu’s message.

Lan Dan looked towards the bonfire and saw Shentu Rui clinking glasses with Su Yi Ming before downing the contents of his cup and laughing heartily. Even though she had already made up her mind to leave, the moment of departure had arrived too quickly for her liking. She felt unprepared, but after thinking about it for a while, she realized that aside from not wanting to leave him, there was nothing else she needed to prepare for.

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