TIGR Chapter 50
The Imperial Guard’s Revenge
Chapter 50 Face to Face
On the second day of the third month, it was entirely overcast. In the evening, it was raining outside the window. The rain was not heavy, pattering on the eaves, like silky music.
Because of the rain, the sky darkened early, and the light was dim and hazy. Lu Heng untied his cloak, and a succession of water droplets fell from the corners of his clothes, hitting the ground like falling beads. Wang Yanqing stood aside, bringing a towel with her own hands, and asked: “Second Brother, I sent someone to bring you an umbrella, didn’t it arrive?”
As soon as it started raining, Wang Yanqing sent someone to deliver rain gear to South Fusi, for fear that Lu Heng would get soaked on the way back. Unexpectedly, however, Lu Heng returned home with water from head to toe.
Of course, Lu Heng received it. In fact, it was only when he saw the umbrella that he had the idea of returning to the mansion early.
Most Imperial Guard errands were secret and dangerous, and it was common for them to be exposed to the rain. Moreover, the falling clouds outside could not be considered rain by Lu Heng’s definitions.
But someone still brought him an umbrella. South Fusi naturally recognized the commander’s servant and presented the things to Lu Heng without delay. At that time, Lu Heng was returning from the prison, and with the residue smell of blood on the tip of his nose. He was explaining to his subordinates how to conduct torture when a military officer came over and said that the Lu Mansion had sent an umbrella, and asked Lu Heng where to put it.
Lu Heng was stunned for a moment, then pointed to a corner casually. This was just a brief interlude, but after that, while Lu Heng continued to talk about torture, the other Imperial Guards did not pay much mind. But when they went out, everyone glanced at the corner of the room.
There sat a sky-blue umbrella, the edge of the umbrella was carefully closed, and it stood neatly in the corner of the wall, unexpectedly having a bit of womanly grace. The Imperial Guards thought it was very strange that the commander was so tender. It was rumored that there was a new female master in the Lu Mansion. They originally thought it was like catching wind and chasing shadows, but now it seemed to be true.
Gleaning information from the small details, it was not difficult to see from this umbrella that this female master should have a gentle and elegant temperament. They couldn’t tell that the commander liked this type.
This was really a trivial matter so the subordinates withdrew one after another, and the hall was quiet again. But this time, the never-ending files on the table suddenly lost its appeal, and Lu Heng inexplicably wanted to go back.
He was the chief of the South Fusi Division, and no one dared to say anything if he wanted to leave, not to mention that it was almost time to disperse from the office, it was reasonable to leave at this time. It was just that in the past, Lu Heng would always stay at South Fusi until nightfall. Everyone was used to seeing Lu Heng in the prison day and night. Suddenly, leaving the office normally for once seemed to be particularly prominent.
Lu Heng left because of the umbrella sent by Wang Yanqing, but he did not use it when he returned. You can’t ride a horse with an umbrella. The Imperial Guard’s cloak was specially made and coated with tung oil, to keep rain and snow from invading. Lu Heng really didn’t want to have his face washed with rain, but he did not want to want to delay his arrival home.
He wanted to see her sooner.
Lu Heng didn’t say these words to Wang Yanqing and instead said lightly: “It was delivered. But the rain was not heavy, so there was no need to bother.”
Wang Yanqing stood on tiptoes and carefully wiped the water on his neck with a towel: “It was not raining for long, even if you didn’t want to bother to hold an umbrella, you could have just waited, why did you have to come back with the rain?”
Complaints came from her mouth, but the movements of her hands were gentle and soft. Lu Heng felt a faint touch on his neck and thought to himself, it was no wonder that wedding festivities could rival top ranks on the imperial examination. With such a person waiting for him at home, how could he wait for the rain to stop?
Lu Heng couldn’t say that it was for her, so he said vaguely: “Some things can only be done tomorrow, and it was useless to wait, so I came back first.”
Wang Yanqing let out a sigh but did not doubt him. The towel in her hand ran along the water droplets and gradually touched Lu Heng’s adam’s apple. Lu Heng was wearing an azurite official uniform today. The clothes were stained with rainwater, and the color became darker and darker, which made his neck slender and fair, as the collar glowed brightly. The sharply shaped, slender protrusion moved slightly. In the end, he did not hide, letting Wang Yanqing’s breath rush in front of him, wiping traces of water on his neck for him.
He was very cooperative, and the towel quickly carried slight dampness. Wang Yanqing handed the used towel to the maid behind, then replaced it with a new cotton cloth to wipe the water on his fingers. Lu Heng rushed back from the rain, so his fingers were cold, and his skin looked particularly pale. Wang Yanqing wrapped his hands with dry cotton cloth, using both of her hands. Her slender knuckles were quietly placed on the white cloth, looking incredibly beautiful.
Wang Yanqing shook her head slightly and wiped his fingers. Wang Yanqing gave the handkerchief to the maid at the back, and the wet clothes and cotton handkerchief were naturally cleaned up by the maid. Lu Heng naturally took her hand and led her in.
The two sat down. Lu Heng carefully felt the temperature on her hand, and then said with satisfaction: “It is warmer than my hand. Have you been taking your medicine on time?”
Wang Yanqing pouted secretly and said: “Yes. Second Brother, why do you always ask this kind of thing?”
It was the beginning of the month, and it was time for Wang Yanqing’s period to come again. Lu Heng gave her medicine in the twelfth month of last year and then forced her to drink it every time before and after her monthly period. Even if the maid reminded her to take her medicine, Lu Heng always asked about it. Wang Yanqing didn’t believe that Lu Heng would know what she was doing in the mansion every day.
Hearing Wang Yanqing’s tone, Lu Heng glanced down at her and said with a smile: “Not happy? I’m just conscientious, I’m doing it for your own good.”
Wang Yanqing naturally understood, but this kind of thing was hard to talk about. She really didn’t know how Lu Heng could ask about so normally. Wang Yanqing didn’t want to continue this topic at all, but Lu Heng continued to speak as if he couldn’t read her face: “In the past few days, there have been cold waves. Don’t learn from those maids, change your shirt early, and then wait a few days for it to warm up to change it again.”
Ling Luan waited upon them from the side, and her expression became embarrassed when she heard this. She glanced at the raindrops outside the window at lightning speed and felt that she could still fight for leniency. If she was discovered by the commander tomorrow, it would be troublesome.
Ling Luan considered her tone and said carefully: “This servant has neglected her duty. A few days ago, I gave Miss her clothes for the Shangsi Festival. I’m afraid that it is probably a little thin. I will have this changed immediately and absolutely will not delay the outing tomorrow.”
Lu Heng heard that there was no fluctuation, and in his opinion, this seemed to be the right thing to do. Wang Yanqing however, did not have the heart to order that. It was already this hour, and suddenly she had to change her clothes. Wouldn’t the needlework maid in the mansion be unable to sleep all night? She couldn’t bear it and said: “Don’t bother, I don’t want to go out anyway. It’s just fine if I don’t go out for the outing tomorrow.”
Lu Heng slowly remembered that tomorrow was the third day of the third month, a rare festival for women. It was said that taking water in the river could keep you safe and healthy in the coming year, so no evil spirits will invade. Of course, Lu Heng didn’t believe that splashing the water in the river would ensure that you would not get sick for a year, but this was a grand event for all women in the city.
Lu Heng said: “The clothes are ready, why not go? If the clothes are thin, then let them thicken them. If you are afraid of getting your shoes wet, tomorrow we will go to a dry and sunny place by the river. If someone makes a reservation, just mention my title. All the women in the city will go out walking by the river. Why don’t you want to go?”
With Lu Heng’s current status, money had just become a number for him, and he didn’t need to care at all. Wang Yanqing had the best in everything, so how could she be wronged in this festival outing?
Wang Yanqing still felt that it was too much trouble: “Second Brother, if you don’t go, I don’t want to make trouble by myself. What’s more, my mind is still not good yet. Even if I go, I don’t know anyone, and it won’t be interesting, it’s better to just rest at home.”
When Wang Yanqing said these words, her eyelashes were lowered and her lips were slightly raised. She said that she didn’t care, but her tone was not without loss. Lu Heng paused and felt a subtle unpleasantness at that moment.
Since Wang Yanqing arrived, or in other words, since she was caught by Lu Heng, she had never lacked food, clothing, housing, or transportation. Although Lu Heng lied to Wang Yanqing, other than that, everything was exactly as how he would have treated his real sister. Jewelry was always the most fashionable style in the capital. Clothes were changed every season and never repeated. The food and beverage expenses were similar to Lu Heng’s. If the Lu family really had a young lady, the treatment would not be better than Wang Yanqing’s.
Lu Heng dared to guarantee that her food and clothing expenses in Lu Mansion were no worse than that of the Zhenyuan Marquis Mansion. There were two old madams on top of the Zhenyuan Marquis Mansion, and a bunch of concubines below. Wang Yanqing, as the nominally adopted daughter, may not have had a more comfortable life in the Fu family than in the Lu family. However, there was one thing that Lu Heng couldn’t bring to Wang Yanqing.
— She didn’t have social interaction.
She couldn’t go out to banquets like the female relatives of other families and make friends nice ladies. She couldn’t even reveal her own identity.
What would she say, that she was the adopted daughter of the Lu Mansion? Although the Lu family was low-key and cautious after coming to the capital, the outside world still knew how many people there were in the family. In the past, Wang Yanqing followed Lu Heng in all her actions. With Lu Heng there, no one dared to ask more questions. In addition, all the people she met were criminals, ordinary Imperial Guards, low-level court ladies, and some people who had no chance to get involved in the upper-class social circle, so Wang Yanqing didn’t feel that anything was wrong. However, as soon as she saw those madams and noble ladies, the lies that Lu Heng painstakingly maintained would be exposed.
The Lu family did not have an adopted daughter.
This kind of realization made Lu Heng very unhappy. When she came to him, did she become a low-level existence, why couldn’t she stand confidently in front of others? Was he shameful or was Wang Yanqing shameful? Lu Heng was angry for no reason in his heart and said: “It doesn’t matter if you don’t know them, it’s enough for them to know you. I have vacation days, and I haven’t used it this month. I’ll adjust it for tomorrow and go out with you.”
As soon as these words came out, everyone in the room was shocked. Wang Yanqing was surprised, while Ling Luan was frightened.
It was not a problem to adjust leave, but… Did the commander forget that Wang Yanqing was deceived into the mansion? Tomorrow, many people will go out for an outing. If Wang Yanqing is the only one who is fooled, they need to avoid crowds and go to a secluded place; if Lu Heng is also there, it will be impossible to avoid people’s attention wherever he goes.
No matter how well it was arranged, the outside could not be completely blocked from sight. What if they encountered the Fu family?
Wang Yanqing didn’t pay attention to Ling Luan’s strange expression. She looked at Lu Heng and asked unexpectedly: “It won’t disturb you?”
In addition to New Year’s Eve, the Lantern Festival, and other festivals, officials usually had one day off every ten days and three days a month. But in the past, Lu Heng rarely used his monthly leave. Being close to power could be as perilous as lying with a tiger. Any mistake in front of the emperor would be a tremendous loss. How could Lu Heng dare to take any vacation? If it hadn’t been mentioned today, Lu Heng wouldn’t even remember that he had leave every month.
Wang Yanqing looked at him expectantly, the water in her eyes forming a lustrous gloss as the light flickered. Ling Luan also looked at Lu Heng vaguely. Although she didn’t say a word, Lu Heng understood that gaze.
Ling Luan must be wondering about what would happen if they ran into people, and what if they accidentally bumped into the Fu family? This made the evil fire in Lu Heng’s heart even more intense. Why should he avoid Fu Tingzhou everywhere?
Lu Heng quickly took stock of his entire net worth, without any prejudice. In all fairness, except that Fu Tingzhou had known Wang Yanqing for ten years, he was no worse than Fu Tingzhou at all. But Lu Heng himself knew that this was not the case at all, he was blurring the point.
He was a fake brother who didn’t even count as a substitute. No matter how flawless the lie was, even if Wang Yanqing smiled sweetly beside him, once she meets Fu Tingzhou, the mirage created during this time will take its true appearance. He stole the identity and friendship of another man, and the tenderness he possessed was based on Wang Yanqing’s belief that he was her “Second Brother”.
He was acting as Fu Tingzhou. As a shadow, it was too late to escape the light. How could he dare flaunt in front of the original?
But Lu Heng couldn’t restrain himself from speaking those words. In the end, he was overwhelmed by emotions and made a very irrational decision.
Lu Heng met Wang Yanqing’s gaze, with a smile on his lips. His eyes were clear, and he spoke calmly and confidently: “It won’t disturb me.”
Second Brother was also going with her, Wang Yanqing was undoubtedly overjoyed. Then she thought of what Lu Heng had just said, and she hesitated: “But, Second Brother, you just said that you have things to do tomorrow.”
That was what Lu Heng randomly said earlier. Without blinking his eyes, Lu Heng spoke nonsense again: “I have already instructed Guo Tao. They can arrange it themselves tomorrow, so it’s no problem.”
Wang Yanqing was relieved, and her expression finally rose in excitement. When Lu Heng saw, he felt an unspeakable emotion flooding his heart, and in the end, he could only sigh.
He used to look down on Fu Tingzhou very much. He felt it was Fu Tingzhou who kept wronging her and made her develop such a temper that allowed her to be compromised. But how was Lu Heng any better? Everything about him was built on lies.
But at the least, Lu Heng should do as he says. He said he would accompany Wang Yanqing out, and the next day he really sent someone to South Fusi to report for his leave, and he took Wang Yanqing to the outskirts of the city.
Even if he was being impulsive, he would make use of this and arrange a retreat for himself. Lu Heng knew that if he appeared by the river, he would definitely attract the attention of many people. When the time came, the busybodies would come to greet him, and if they leaked any information, he would be in trouble.
So Lu Heng planned to take Wang Yanqing to a private manor upstream, which was given to him by a eunuch. The eunuch was definitely an expert in enjoyment. The manor was said to have been built by a renowned master from south of the Yangtze River. Pulling life from the upstream water into pavilions and kiosks, and gathering strange flowers, every step made for new scenery and it was very elaborately built. Lu Heng had never been there before, and he happened to be taking Wang Yanqing there today. There, they could watch the water with confidence and not have to worry about meeting anybody.
It rained yesterday, but fortunately, it wasn’t that heavy, and the ground was only wet with a thin layer. The sun shone this morning, revealing crystal clear dew, the air was fresh, and each breath was refreshing. Many carriages were going out of the city today, and the closer you got to the city gate, the more blocked it was. In the end, it was almost impossible to move. Lu Heng stopped by the carriage and waited patiently for the city gate to clear, but just when he got bored, someone suddenly chased after him, looking anxious: “Commander.”
Seeing the other’s face, Lu Heng calmly dismounted and walked to a place where there were few people. When Wang Yanqing vaguely heard someone calling her Second Brother, she opened the curtain a little and looked to the other side with concern.
There were so many people around, and Wang Yanqing couldn’t completely lift the curtain, so she just had to sit and watch. She saw the person who reported the news lean next to Lu Heng, covering their mouth so she did not know what they said. The expression on Lu Heng’s face didn’t change, but Wang Yanqing intuitively felt that he was in a bad mood.
Especially when he stopped for a while before walking towards the carriage after sending the messenger away. Wang Yanqing became more and more certain that something urgent must have happened, and everyone waited for Lu Heng to return and make up his mind. Wang Yanqing was very sensible, and without waiting for him to speak after approaching, she took the initiative to say: “Second Brother, it’s too crowded, I don’t want to leave the city. Let’s go back.”
After three months of getting along, how could Lu Heng not know that this was against her heart, she just wanted to cater to him. They already came out here, and it would be too disappointing to go back again. Lu Heng looked ahead and said to Wang Yanqing: “Something happened in the imperial city, I have to go back and take a look. You go to the manor and rest first, and I’ll come to you when I’m done.”
Wang Yanqing hesitated: “I’m not doing much, I can go out any day. Since Second Brother has something to do, we don’t have to go today.”
“But today is the Shangsi Festival.” Lu Heng insisted, “It’s not a big deal, how can I wrong you.”
Wang Yanqing wanted to say more, but Lu Heng raised his hand and pressed her mouth: “Is Second Brother so incompetent in your heart, that he has to rely on his younger sister to make compromises?”
Wang Yanqing bit her lip and whispered: “Of course not.”
“Then listen to me.” Lu Heng touched a stray strand of hair on her forehead and said, “You go first and I’ll come to you later.”
After Lu Heng finished speaking, he left. After he left, the team out of the city suddenly accelerated. Wang Yanqing stayed in the carriage, and after a while, left the city gate and rode towards the manor.
This manor was not far from the capital, and it took less than half an hour to arrive. There was a eunuch guarding the door, and when he saw the Lu Mansion carriage, he immediately ran over to greet them.
This place was originally the private property of the eunuchs. After the “grieving period” was given to Lu Heng, there were still many eunuchs left to take care of the garden. When Lu Heng was away, Wang Yanqing didn’t have the heart to go to the garden. The eunuch who led the way saw her pale face and said flatteringly: “Miss must be tired after sitting in the car for a long time. My godfather built a water pavilion, the scenery is excellent, if the Miss wants, you can go to the water pavilion to rest.”
Wang Yanqing had no objection and asked the eunuch to lead the way. This manor was worthy of being made by a renowned master, one step at a time, walking through it was like walking through the south of the Yangtze River. Wang Yanqing was a little tired after entering the water pavilion. She had Ling Xi and Ling Luan stay outside while she went to the back to change her clothes.
Ling Xi and Ling Luan were used to it. Wang Yanqing did not like to be served by people in the Lu Mansion, so they had no objection and stayed obediently at the door. Wang Yanqing entered the inner room and had just turned from the screen when she suddenly felt something wrong. She didn’t have time to react, relying on intuition to stab behind her.
Ever since she lost her memory, Wang Yanqing always carried a dagger with her whenever she went out. This dagger was not long, the blade was only three inches, and it could be naturally hidden in her sleeve. Wang Yanqing felt that this was one of her habits, and even Lu Heng didn’t say anything when he saw it.
The visitor didn’t expect her to suddenly draw the knife, but years of familiarity still allowed him to avoid the worst damage and firmly hold Wang Yanqing’s wrist. His arm was scratched with blood, and the bright red blood slowly penetrated his clothes, trickling down.
Everything happened in an instant. Wang Yanqing instinctively defended, and it was only at this moment that she could see the other party’s face clearly. She was surprised for a moment but did not immediately call out to Ling Xi and Ling Luan. After this moment of delay, the other party had already covered Wang Yanqing’s mouth with his uninjured hand and said in a low voice: “Qing Qing, don’t shout. It’s me.”
|| Translator’s Note: She has amazing cliff hangers… 😱