Fuzhu’s Ballad Chapter 58

Chapter 58 Ashes to ashes, dust to dust

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Lan Dan was sun-drying medicinal herbs in the courtyard when she saw Sun Shi Xiang enter the gate. It had been a few months since she last saw him, but he looked the same as always.

Sun Shi Xiang’s face was filled with embarrassment as he bowed to her and made a formal greeting. Lan Dan smiled at him, which made him even more uncomfortable. He stammered and said, “Miss Fu Zhu, I was too anxious that day and lost my composure, which caused you to get injured. I haven’t had a chance to apologize to you…”

Upon hearing this, Lan Dan quickly stood up and waved her hand to stop him from continuing, “It was my fault that day. Please don’t take it to heart.” Although he had pushed her down hard, causing her to scrape her knees and elbows, it was only because he was angry at her and had revealed to her that Shentu Rui had liked her for many years. Although she had told Shentu Rui about Sun Shi Xiang’s wrongdoing, she still felt grateful to him in her heart.

Sun Shi Xiang didn’t want to continue talking about that matter, so he quickly asked, “Where is His Majesty?”

Lan Dan nodded towards the room. Just now, a guard had delivered a letter, and Shentu Rui’s expression had become a little unhappy after reading it. She thought it would be better to avoid the subject, so she came out to sun-dry herbs.

Sun Shi Xiang was about to go into the room when Shentu Rui came out and stood at the doorway, looking at Lan Dan. He handed the reply letter to Sun Shi Xiang, sounding a little impatient as he said, “You must deliver this letter to Lan Cheng yourself, and tell her that this is my decision. She doesn’t need to participate in this northern campaign, and she should not be stubborn about it.”

Sun Shi Xiang took the letter with both hands and said “yes”, but then paused and seek confirmation, “Will Shentu Cheng’s ashes still be handled according to the original plan?” This was a big matter, so he had to ask again.

Shentu Rui nodded and said, “He will be buried back in the Shentu family’s cemetery. The fallen leaves should return to their roots.”

Sun Shi Xiang breathed a sigh of relief and left to carry out the orders.

Shentu Rui walked out, and after hesitating for a moment, he walked slowly. Understanding what he wanted, Lan Dan secretly smiled and caught up with him, holding his hand and asking, “Where are you going?”

As expected, Shentu Rui did not shake her off and obediently let her pull him along. “I want to take a walk around. Tongye has been rebuilt nicely. It’s time to reward Su Yi Ming for his merits.”

Lan Dan laughed and nodded repeatedly. Young General Su naturally deserved the reward.

Tongye was not big, and after wandering for a while, they had already reached the bottom of the city wall. Shentu Rui looked up and pulled Lan Dan up to the top of the wall.

After a while, they saw Sun Shi Xiang leading a group of soldiers passing through the city gate and heading towards the capital. The box containing Shentu Cheng’s ashes was tightly wrapped and hung on Sun Shi Xiang’s horse. She couldn’t help but sigh.  As the world knew, the Da Yan Emperor died in battle at Tongye, and because the country was newly established, his tomb had not yet been built, so he was buried in the tomb of the previous dynasty’s Crown Prince, which was not yet in use. Many inaccuracies were recorded in history because the so-called iron-pen historians only knew what those in power wanted them to know. They did see the Da Yan Emperor’s coffin being sent to the mountain tomb, but they could not know what was actually placed inside the coffin.

“Did they only bury Shentu Cheng’s clothes and hat in the Crown Prince’s tomb?” Looking at the departing cavalry, Lan Dan felt desolate and ironic. Her Brother Crown Prince had been confident in his future, and the tomb he had built was in accordance with the regulations of Emperors. However, after the sudden change, he was left with a neglected grave, while his enemy enjoyed a carefully constructed tomb.

Shentu Rui showed a resigned look again. “Isn’t that too wasteful? I know you want to find a safe place to bury all your brothers and sisters who were buried in the mass graves. Your brother’s tomb is good enough, but it’s a bit crowded with dozens of people buried together, but it’s still better than a mass grave.”

Lan Dan shed tears and hugged him. “Thank you…” There were many things she wanted to thank him for, especially this one. After all, it had been a long-standing wish in her heart. She never expected him to arrange it without her asking. “But how did you find them?”

“I asked your Second Sister to help with the relocation. She’s the one who cares the most about these things.” He always showed great respect to Lan Lan, not only because he admired her sense of loyalty and righteousness, but also because she was willing to light incense for Lan Dan during the dangerous situation they were in.

“Sister Lan didn’t doubt you?” Lan Dan was a little worried.

“No, I told her to bury the people in the tomb your Father Emperor built for his concubines, and she didn’t think too much about it.”

Lan Dan looked up at him and pouted, feeling that he was being evasive. She glared at him and said, “I’m asking whether Sister Lan suspected your motives?”

Shentu Rui raised his eyebrows, unimpressed, and said, “I told her it was at Lan Huang’s dying wish. Your sister wouldn’t delve too deep as long as someone was willing to help.”

Lan Dan nodded in agreement, realizing that it was true. If it were her, she might not even want to know the reason, as long as he was willing to help. When Lan Huang was mentioned, she blinked and said a little sourly, “Lan Huang was buried in the concubine’s tomb, right?”

Shentu Rui gave a absent-minded hum.

His evasion made Lan Dan somewhat uncomfortable, and her resentment surfaced. She found fault and said, “Shentu Rui, I’ve always had a big question!”

Shentu Rui lowered his eyes and looked at her, and he knew it wasn’t a good question by her unhappy expression. He lazily responded, indicating that she should continue.

“Since you liked me from the beginning, when Shentu Cheng and Lan Huang choose me to take the blame, especially Shentu Cheng…” She felt a bit embarrassed to say it out loud, it was really a shameful experience of being deceived. “You just stood aside and watched, as if nothing happened?”

Talking about this, he also became angry. He coldly snorted and asked back, “So what do you think I should do? Jump out and warn you?”

“At least you could have told Lan Huang not to choose me! Doesn’t Lan Huang listen to you?” She poured out her jealousy. “There were many people more suitable than me, like Third and Ninth Sisters-in-Law. Aren’t they suitable for him too?” They had also hooked up with Shentu Cheng back then, hadn’t they?

Shentu Rui laughed in anger. “They just thought you were suitable, what can I do? With Lan Huang’s scheming temper, if I spoke up for you and raised a little suspicion, there would be no chance for me to save you!”

Lan Dan was speechless, frowning and pouting, helpless against his response.

“I have to save you, and change your face, do you know how much risk and arrangement that takes? If she kept an eye on me, not only would you lose your life, I’d lose mine too!”

Lan Dan was disheartened, every word he said was right. Even if he had a way to stop them from choosing her, Lan Huang wouldn’t tolerate her being by Shentu Rui’s side. Only an unidentified orphaned maid would not be noticed by Lan Huang, and she had been careless.

“Do you know? Do you know?” He spoke angrily, poking her forehead with his finger. “Look at you, so silly and easily charmed by Shentu Cheng. I had to hastily push forward my plan, afraid that if I waited too long, I would end up wearing a green hat! Because of the rush, many things weren’t properly arranged, and I had to deal with the coercion of Shentu Cheng and Lan Huang. I didn’t even come to you to settle the score, yet you’re here making a fuss!”

Tears streamed down Lan Dan’s face, and he couldn’t poke her anymore. He pushed her away without much sincerity. “Alright, let’s not talk about it anymore! How infuriating!”

Lan Dan sniffled and clung to him, feeling very wronged as she said, “Alright… from now on, we won’t bring up these things again.”

Shentu Rui’s chest felt suffocated. Why was she still feeling wronged? But with her clinging to him like this, he knew that she was just being coqettish when crying. And somehow, that suffocating feeling was gone…

“Are you good?”

“Good! Good!” He became angry again. She was really pushing her luck! How could she forget that just yesterday, she pitifully begged him to change his mind? Today, she was already riding on his neck! He really needed to show her more of his authority!

She heard his response and wiped away her tears, revealing a sweet smile.

Shentu Rui felt even more breathless, as if someone was pinching his seven-inch spot. He could only glare at her, but she didn’t care. She just rubbed herself against his chest like a cat, completely satisfied.

He deliberately sighed in annoyance. She was getting too proud and needed to be restrained. “I always feel like Lan Cheng doesn’t listen to me. She suddenly shows up after a few days, and she’s been in a bad mood lately. No one can control her.”

Sure enough, the smiling person froze for a moment, as if struck by lightning. He felt relieved that it was still possible for Lan Cheng to control her.

Lan Dan was stunned for a moment, then began rubbing her face against his chest and said in a coquettish tone, “Don’t let her come!”

Shentu Rui rolled his eyes. It had been a while since they last met, and her ability to act spoiled had greatly increased. “Depends on your performance…” he grumbled.

The afternoon sun shone through the window panes and was divided into several hazy light edges, shining on the desk and creating patterns of light and shadow. Shentu Rui frowned as he concentrated on reading official documents. His pen habitually licked the inkstone, and his handwriting was still stiff and awkward. He clicked his tongue in dissatisfaction, looked at the inkstone that was almost out of ink, and the person responsible for grinding the ink.

She sat on a small stool, leaning over the corner of the desk to write a letter. A ray of light shone on her hair, making her dark hair shine with a faint light. Her eyes were in the shadow, and only the tips of her long eyelashes were touched by the light, making her eyes even clearer and more transparent, like a stream under the shade of trees. She hadn’t written for a long time and was writing each stroke with great effort, her mouth tightly pursed, like a child learning calligraphy. Only the two of them were in the room, peaceful and quiet, as if time had stopped flowing and the outside world did not exist. The corners of the room were hidden in the darkness, and Shentu Rui felt a little confused for a moment. He felt like the sunlight was not shining in from the outside but from the warmth and brightness of both of them, finding an indescribable sense of peace and tranquility in each other’s company.

“What are you writing?” He looked at her paper.

There wasn’t really anything to hide, but Lan Dan still playfully covered up her paper and pouted, “I’m not showing you.”

Shentu Rui snorted, “Fine, don’t show me!” Then he poked her head with the end of his pen. “You’re not even good at grinding ink!”

When she sent off the official documents, Lan Dan entrusted the messenger with her sealed letter. “Please ask Divine Physician Ge to write back.” 

Shentu Rui made a sudden realization, “Oh, it’s written to Master Ge. It’s not a love letter, is it?”

Lan Dan glared at him angrily.

“With Master Ge’s temperament, he won’t write back.” He stated confidently.

When Lan Dan received a reply from Ge Chun several days later, she deliberately shook the letter in front of Shentu Rui, with an expression of satisfaction that made him unable to look at her directly.

“What exactly did you write?” He grabbed the letter while Lan Dan was boasting and found only one word in the reply: “Food.” 

“What does this mean? Did he forget to write the word ‘bucket’? He went all the way just to scold you.”

[food bucket (饭桶字) : incompetent]

Lan Dan was furious, thinking that everyone was as mean as him! “I asked him what kind of tonic you should take!” But Ge Chun was too perfunctory!

Shentu Rui’s eyebrows gradually furrowed, his acting was very exaggerated. “Oh, so you think I should take tonic? It seems that my performance is not good enough.” He laughed wickedly.

Lan Dan ran out the door warily and spat on him, intending to condemn him righteously for his shamelessness, but ended up saying, “You’re just not that great!”

“Oh?” Shentu Rui slowly stood up, sneering. “Come back. I’ll show you a great performance.”

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