TIGR Chapter 83

The Imperial Guard’s Revenge

Chapter 83 Going to Battle

It was nearing the end of the year. The wind whistled and every household strung up red lanterns. Vendors were pushing carts in the streets and alleys selling New Year’s goods. The capital was filled with a strong New Year atmosphere. Regardless of what happened this year, New Year always came.

In the Zhenyuan Marquis Mansion, the servants were also in a hurry, busy moving in and out. In the twelfth month, Prince Aichong passed away. The emperor lost his mother and son this year and was so sad that he ordered there would be no New Year’s festival in the palace this year. Since this was the situation inside the palace, the nobles outside also held back their extravagance, for fear of offending the emperor.

And this was even more true for the Zhenyuan Marquis Mansion. Although it was good to be bestowed a marriage, the Marquis would be going to battle soon. The Madam and Old Madam Marquis couldn’t be cheerful, and they didn’t have the mind to organize the annual banquet. In the main courtyard, Fu Tingzhou was discussing the new staff arrangements with a steward, when suddenly the sound of people talking came from outside the window. They were making a racket with their noisy arguing and didn’t stop for a long time. Fu Tingzhou glanced outside and asked: “What happened?”

A young man walked in quickly and greeted Fu Tingzhou: “Marquis, Old Madam Marquis has sent someone.”

Fu Tingzhou sighed secretly. The only person who dared ignore his rules and whom he couldn’t drive away was his mother. Chen Shi’s disturbance had already traveled this far and Fu Tingzhou could not avoid personally going out. Fu Tingzhou stood up but walked very slowly, and spoke to the steward: “After I leave, the affairs of the mansion will be arranged according to what I just said. Especially those key people, who cannot be changed under any circumstances. If someone criticizes it, just say it was my order.”

The “someone” in Fu Tingzhou’s words referred to his father, Fu Chang, and his mother, Chen Shi. These two people wouldn’t understand, but one was more confident than the other. They might take advantage of Fu Tingzhou’s departure from Beijing and “kindly” take over the affairs of the Marquis Mansion. Fu Tingzhou didn’t dare to let them take care of it. It was better to let the servants make their own decisions than to let them give advice.

Fu Tingzhou felt very tired when he thought about this. He was going to Datong to fight. The road ahead was difficult and unknown, yet he still had to worry about what was behind him. What was even more ironic was that it was not outsiders who were causing trouble for him, but his blood relatives.

If Qing Qing was in the house, would he be so constrained?

As soon as this thought came up, Fu Tingzhou quickly stopped. The steward followed Fu Tingzhou closely and responded. He obviously knew the conduct and ways of the Old Madam Marquis.

The steward couldn’t help but sigh in his heart when he saw that Fu Tingzhou was very busy and had lost weight in just a few days. The steward hesitated for a moment and then said: “Don’t worry, Marquis, I will take good care of the Marquis Mansion. The Old Madam Marquis has been neglecting things all year round and does not understand the difficulties of being in charge of the family. You have to be busy with external affairs and cannot keep an eye on the house all the time. If there was a sensible mistress here, the Marquis would be able to save a lot of trouble.”

Fu Tingzhou laughed self-deprecatingly. Yes, if Wang Yanqing was here, Fu Tingzhou would get the opportunity to lead the army and he would already be getting ready to go by now. He would not need to worry about packing, arranging manpower, and how the Marquis Mansion would be run after he left. This time Fu Tingzhou arranged it himself and he realized that there were so many troubles behind the trivial matters that he didn’t see.

It turned out the reason why he was able to focus on the outside world and ignore family matters was because someone silently took care of it for him. He never worried about food, clothing, housing, or transportation these years, and never found traveling to be a troublesome thing. When he wanted to go out riding, he only needed to say something, and then someone would naturally pack his luggage for him, including medicine for his wound, clothes, and everything he could and couldn’t think of. If he needed it, he would definitely find it in the luggage.

Everything was so naturally uncomplicated and perfect, that Fu Tingzhou felt dealing with the trivial matters in life was very easy and could be taken care of with just a stick of incense.

Wang Yanqing was like air and water to him. When he had her, he couldn’t feel her presence. After she left, he found that everything was extremely difficult.

When she first disappeared, Fu Tingzhou was angry and resentful, and his whole body was filled with a sense of purpose to save her, as it seemed she couldn’t live if she left. Later, Fu Tingzhou slowly discovered that even if she lost her memory and woke up in a strange place, she could still live a good life. Actually, it was he who couldn’t live without her.

Chen Shi was still waiting outside, but Fu Tingzhou stopped in front of the door, with a sad expression and nostalgic eyes, obviously thinking of someone. The steward’s heart skipped a beat. The person Fu Tingzhou was thinking of was probably not the one the steward wished for. The steward had to hint again: “Marquis, the emperor has granted you and third Miss Hong a marriage. This is a great honor. Although the marriage was settled by the imperial edict, you will go to Datong to fight in the war for however long. It is not a good idea for the third Miss Hong San to stay at home and wait. Why don’t you ask the emperor for forgiveness and postpone your departure for a few days to move up the wedding?”

This was not only the opinion of Chen Shi and Old Madam Marquis, but also the opinion of the Yongping Marquis Mansion. No one could tell how long a war would last, it could be as short as a few months or as long as five or six years. Hong Wanqing couldn’t be dragged on without marriage, right?

In an emergency, there was no need to be so ceremonious. Even if they couldn’t finish the six rituals, she still wouldn’t just be ignored. They could get the wedding done quickly so that both the Fu family and the Hong family could breathe a sigh of relief. The emperor specially granted the marriage to Fu Tingzhou before he went to war, so it could be implied that he also understood the Fu family’s approach.

Chen Shi and Old Madam Marquis mentioned it several times vaguely, but Fu Tingzhou pretended not to understand and was determined to go to Datong to fight. As for marriage, he completely ignored it and had an attitude that it was okay to do whatever he wanted and that it would be better if he didn’t do it.

Chen Shi was so anxious that even the steward couldn’t sit still and quietly reminded Fu Tingzhou. The steward understood Fu Tingzhou’s thoughts. Fu Tingzhou and Wang Yanqing grew up under the noses of these old servants. The two were inseparable since childhood. If it weren’t for the difference between men and women, they would have slept together at night. At that time, the old marquis and his servants thought the two would be husband and wife, and that mutual understanding between them would bring prosperity to the family, so they turned a blind eye to it. Who could have known that the two children would cause such a big mess when they grew up.

When Fu Tingzhou first proposed to make an alliance with the Yongping Marquis Mansion and keep Wang Yanqing as a concubine, although the steward felt that doing so would be unfair to Wang Yanqing, he was a servant of the Fu family after all, and he naturally felt that their Marquis deserved the best, so he did not say anything.

People should not go against their conscience. If they are selfish once, they will make more and more mistakes later. Wang Yanqing fell off a cliff and the Marquis went looking for her like crazy and even ignored the marriage with the Yongping Marquis Mansion. The Fu family members realized that Wang Yanqing’s position in Fu Tingzhou’s heart was more important than they had imagined.

But at that time, they still didn’t take it seriously. She was just a woman. If Fu Tingzhou couldn’t find her after searching for a few days, he would slowly lose interest. However, Fu Tingzhou searched like a madman for several months and later went to fight with Lu Heng. And Lu Heng also fought with Fu Tingzhou as if he had taken the wrong medicine.

The steward was horrified when he saw what Fu Tingzhou had done during this period. Even the prince did not dare to offend the Imperial Guards easily, but Fu Tingzhou confronted the most difficult Imperial Guard commander since the founding of the Ming Dynasty who was powerful, bold, and careful. How could this be a good thing?

Especially during the Southern Patrol, one night when Fu Tingzhou came back, his body was covered in blood and his face was pale as if he had been hit hard. The doctor said that if he came back a little later his life would be in danger. The Fu family were all terrified and kept asking who did it, but Fu Tingzhou remained silent. The steward could vaguely guess who it was.

It was as if the steward was met by lightning, but the horror was still coming. Fu Tingzhou seemed to have suffered a severe blow after this incident. He had been depressed ever since and no longer held the vigor and vitality he once did. He even considered breaking off the engagement with the Hong family.

When Fu Tingzhou returned to the capital after the Southern Patrol, he ordered the steward to pack up Wang Yanqing’s things. Many things passed through the steward’s hands, and he slowly completed an outline of the whole thing. Wang Yanqing seemed to have lost her memory and surrendered to Lu Heng, but their Marquis was still obsessed with her and insisted on “saving” Wang Yanqing.

Something even more disastrous than going against Lu Heng happened, competing with Lu Heng for a woman. The steward was going crazy, but he couldn’t tell anyone. Fortunately, the emperor granted a marriage to Fu Tingzhou and Hong Wanqing. Now the steward hoped that Hong Wanqing would marry him as soon as possible. Perhaps the Marquis had no other woman around him, so he was still obsessed with Wang Yanqing. If he had more women, his thoughts would fade.

When Fu Tingzhou heard what the steward said, his face was indifferent, and he said without even thinking: “Military orders are like mountains and the situation on the front line changes rapidly. There is no time to delay for marriage.”

The steward was sorely disappointed, but not surprised. He carefully observed Fu Tingzhou’s expression, finally made up his mind, and said boldly: “Marquis, it’s good that you are worried about the battlefield, but you can’t be careless about your lifelong affairs. Third Miss Hong is your future wife, it will be better for everyone if you marry her as soon as possible.”

Fu Tingzhou turned around and stared at the steward coldly. The steward was sweating profusely, but he still gritted his teeth and refused to give in.

Fu Tingzhou talked about the interests of his country and family, but didn’t everyone know he was dragging his feet because he was thinking about Wang Yanqing? Wang Yanqing had fallen into Lu Heng’s hands. Even if Lu Heng got tired of playing with Wang Yanqing in the future and sent her back to the Zhenyuan Marquis Mansion, was it possible that something could happen between Fu Tingzhou and Wang Yanqing?

Where would that put the reputation of the Zhenyuan Marquis Mansion, the Yongping Marquis Mansion, and even the emperor?

What Fu Tingzhou hated to hear the most now was the words “bestow marriage”. The crowd congratulated him, his parents were happily preparing for the wedding, and everyone around him was happy, but he seemed to have fallen into the waves, dizzy and not knowing where he was.

He regretted it. But Lu Heng didn’t give him any room to make amends.

Fu Tingzhou’s throat was dry, and he choked for a moment before speaking hoarsely: “Just do your job and don’t worry about other things.”

Chen Shi waited for a long time in the cold wind and finally saw Fu Tingzhou. Fu Tingzhou knew that his mother’s trouble would never end, so he had no choice but to go to Chen Shi in person. When Chen Shi saw Fu Tingzhou, she immediately pulled him down to sit and kept chattering: “Marquis, are you really going to leave? The weather has turned cold again these days. Why not wait until after New Year before leaving?”

“No.” Fu Tingzhou had no expression on his face and said calmly, “Military orders are as heavy as mountains. If they are delayed, property will be confiscated and one will be sentenced to death.”

Chen Shi sighed. Fu Tingzhou already said “death” and Chen Shi couldn’t persuade her son to die, so she asked earnestly: “Have you packed your luggage? Did you pack any food? There are only men around you, and men are not careful when packing. How about I send someone to help you pack?”

Fu Tingzhou didn’t even hear these words and rejected them mercilessly: “No need.”

“Then how about bringing two maids? You don’t know how long you will be gone. You can’t be without close people.”

“The military camp is a restricted area. Women are not allowed to enter.”

“Alright.” Chen Shi sighed in disappointment and then said cautiously, “If you don’t bring a maid, then how about getting married before you leave? The wife of the Marquis of Yongping told me that the third Miss is a person of great justice and does not care about empty ceremonies, it doesn’t matter if the wedding is a little hasty. It is also a good story for a woman to come home early to take care of her parents-in-law and manage the household affairs while her husband is away at war.”

“The emperor has already issued the order.” Fu Tingzhou’s eyes showed no fluctuations, and he said coldly, “I will set off immediately, without delay.”

Chen Shi was rejected one after another, and even if she was slow-witted, she would have noticed. Chen Shi’s face fell. She held back her anger and asked: “I don’t know how long you’ll be gone, and the girl is waiting for you, so we can’t help but say something. Before you leave, you should meet third Miss Hong to at least reassure her.”

“My journey is already scheduled. I’m afraid I don’t have time.”

No time for New year, no time to get married early, no time to even meet people. Chen Shi finally couldn’t help it and asked coldly: “Do you have no time or no will? Marquis, it has been so long. Are you still thinking about Wang Yanqing?”

Fu Tingzhou stood up with a bang, bowed to Chen Shi in a standard and indifferent manner, and said: “I have other things to do. I hope my mother is well. I will take my leave.”

“You…” Chen Shi slammed the table in anger and shouted, “Stop right there, I’m your mother, don’t you even listen to me?”

Fu Tingzhou ignored her, turned around, and walked out. As he went out, he heard Chen Shi yelling in frustration: “Injustice! What an injustice! There is no possibility between her and you anymore, can’t you just treat her as dead?”

Fu Tingzhou lowered the door curtain, without even glancing back, and strode into the cold wind.

He walked very fast, the wind blew past him, and the only sound he could hear was the whistling of dead branches in the wind. It took a long time for Fu Tingzhou to calm down and hear the voice of this world again.

Chen Shi’s words were like a sharp knife, constantly stabbing bloody wounds in his heart.

There is no possibility between her and you anymore, can’t you just treat her as dead?

Yes, it was already impossible. Even if he exposed Lu Heng’s lies and told Wang Yanqing the truth, she would never come back to him. Perhaps, as Chen Shi said, the best ending would have been for Wang Yanqing to die on the icy cliff the last twelfth month and never have any contact with him again.

But she was clearly not dead, how could Fu Tingzhou pretend not to know?

Fu Tingzhou didn’t know how long he stood in the cold wind. He felt numb for a long time before he finally moved and walked in one direction like a puppet.

However, this direction did not lead to his house but to Wang Yanqing’s former residence.

Fu Tingzhou stopped in front of the door, not entering. He closed his eyes and before him appeared writing materials on a desk, ancient books on the bookshelf, and many ornaments on the jewels shelf. Everything remained the same as before as if someone was still living here.

As long as he didn’t push open the door, he wouldn’t see the dust accumulating on the bookshelf and the desolation in the room. He could deceive himself that she was still here.

Since the Southern Patrol, Fu Tingzhou had become less and less courageous to open this door. He used their ten years of memories to win back Wang Yanqing, but she didn’t believe him and would rather believe a strange man.

Yes, he didn’t even know what Wang Yanqing liked to eat, so why should Wang Yanqing trust him?

Fu Tingzhou stood in front of the door and did not move for a long time. Footsteps sounded behind him, and someone coughed deliberately. Fu Tingzhou turned around indifferently, and when he saw who arrived, his expression looked a little better.

He didn’t want others to disturb him at this time, but since the person who came was her former maid Fei Cui, Fu Tingzhou was willing to be more patient. Fu Tingzhou asked: “What are you doing here?”

Fei Cui greeted Fu Tingzhou and asked in a low voice: “Marquis, I have prepared all the things you asked. When will it be delivered to Miss?”

When Fu Tingzhou heard Fei Cui’s words, he was brought slightly out of his stupor. After he rescued Wang Yanqing during the Southern Patrol yet was framed by Lu Heng, Fu Tingzhou immediately sent people to prepare witnesses and evidence as soon as he returned to the capital. With so much evidence to support his claim, he wanted to see how Lu Heng could argue. He had been preparing for so long, but now he hesitated.

Even if he proved that Lu Heng was fake and shattered Wang Yanqing’s dream, what would be the use? The marriage was bestowed and Fu Tingzhou was too embarrassed to let Wang Yanqing return to the Zhenyuan Marquis Mansion. If he arranged a house for her outside, where would that leave her?

No matter how well he concealed the truth or how tightly he guarded her, he couldn’t stop Lu Heng or the Hong family. If Fu Tingzhou disregarded everything for the sake of momentary pleasure, not to mention her status, he probably wouldn’t even be able to give her the most basic security.

What qualifications did he have to meet Wang Yanqing and ask her to go with him?

Fu Tingzhou was silent for a moment in the wind, and finally shook his head very slowly, and said two short words with great weight: “Forget it.”

Not even mentioning Lu Heng, he couldn’t even compete with the Yongping Marquis Mansion. It was better to talk about these things when he came back from the battlefield and had enough strength to protect her.

·

Because of the prince’s early death, the entire capital was silent, and no one dared attract the emperor’s attention. The twelfth month of the twelfth year of Jiajing was exceptionally peaceful, but beneath the calm surface, there was a dramatic change of power.

Head Auxiliary, Zhang Jinggong, was suspended from his post, and the Marquis of Zhenyuan, Fu Tingzhou, went to Datong to lead the troops. On the twentieth day of the twelfth month, Fu Tingzhou left the capital, and on the twenty-fourth day, the court was on holiday.

All the officials in court had a long vacation of nearly a month, and Lu Heng also had a few rare days of leisure. While the emperor was in a bad mood this year and no one dared cause trouble, Lu Heng was fortunate to have a very peaceful year.

There were only two masters in the capital Lu Mansion, Wang Yanqing and Lu Heng. There were no relatives to deal with and no rules to follow like in big families. They could do whatever they wanted. Wang Yanqing came to Lu Heng and handed him a list: “Brother, this is the menu for New Year’s dinner, what do you think?”

Lu Heng didn’t care about what he ate, he only cared whether it was poisoned. Lu Heng took it and glanced at it. The dishes were quite standard, light and healthy, and not likely to be poisoned, so he nodded and said: “Not bad, let’s follow this arrangement.”

Wang Yanqing saw Lu Heng’s actions and snorted: “You didn’t even look.”

These words were full of twists and turns, with the ending tone drawn out and emphasized, full of accusation. When Lu Heng saw her pouting and glaring, his heart melted. He reached across the table, held Wang Yanqing’s hand, and said with a smile “I saw it. As long as it is arranged by you, I will like it.”

Wang Yanqing pretended to pull her hand away but couldn’t break free of Lu Heng’s grip. She raised her eyes and glared at him: “You’re just saying that.”

“I’m really not.” Lu Heng felt the low table between them was in the way, so he moved to the other side and sat next to Wang Yanqing, “Qing Qing is perfect, she’s good at everything she does. How could the dishes you picked be bad?”

The color of Lu Heng’s eyes was slightly lighter than others, as if they contained a pool of water, sparkling in the sun. Even when he was not smiling, he seemed smiling. At this moment, he was still holding Wang Yanqing’s hand, and looking at her seriously with his eyes. His words, which were obviously very slick, held a hint of flattery.

Wang Yanqing couldn’t help but smile, pull out her hand to put away the menu, and sigh: “After all, there are too few people in the mansion. If we make too much New Year’s dinner, it will be too extravagant, and if we make too little, it will be deserted. No matter how we arrange it, it won’t work.”

Lu Heng raised his eyebrows and said slowly: “It’s just the two of us, is that not good?”

“It’s not that it’s bad, it just feels empty and there’s no sense of New Year.”

Wang Yanqing felt like it wasn’t New Year, which was not good. Lu Heng asked: “Then should we go out and celebrate?”

Wang Yanqing shook her head, still without much interest on her face: “The restaurant is too noisy, and the food may not be safe, there is no need.”

Lu Heng held Wang Yanqing’s hand tightly and said: “Do whatever you want, you don’t have to save money for me. You can’t be unhappy on a holiday, what do you want to do?”

Wang Yanqing’s eyes moved, she thought of something and pursed her lips in embarrassment. When Lu Heng saw her movements, he immediately said: “Don’t move.”

Wang Yanqing was startled and looked at Lu Heng with her eyes wide open, not daring to move. Lu Heng held her cheeks with his hands and said seriously: “I have learned a lot from studying with you these days. Don’t say anything, let me guess what you are thinking right now. You blinked your eyes, you must have thought of something, but you felt it was troublesome and afraid that I would disagree, so you were embarrassed to say it, right?”

Wang Yanqing’s eyes widened in surprise and Lu Heng knew that he had guessed right. Lu Heng held Wang Yanqing’s face, pecked her lips unceremoniously, and said: “Don’t say anything, I know I guessed right. This was my reward. I took it myself.”

He took his own references, graded the papers, and gave out his awards. It was so seamless, it was ridiculous. Wang Yanqing laughed and pushed his shoulder, scolding: “Stop playing.”

Lu Heng put his arm around her shoulders and sat down, asking: “What were you thinking just now?”

Wang Yanqing curled her eyes slightly, but refused to cooperate, and deliberately said: “Didn’t you say that you have learned a lot of skills in observing words and expressions? What do you think?”

Wang Yanqing kicked the ball back to Lu Heng, turning the tables on him. Lu Heng raised his eyebrows, looked at Wang Yanqing with a half-smile, and said: “If you say that, I will take it seriously. But we agree in advance that if I guess it, the reward will be more than just kisses and hugs.”

In fact, no matter how strong Lu Heng’s observation skills and logical thinking were, he couldn’t guess what Wang Yanqing was thinking. But Lu Heng’s past record was so brilliant that Wang Yanqing lacked confidence after being tricked by him and didn’t dare bet with him anymore. Wang Yanqing bit her lip slightly and confessed: “Nothing, I just think it’s too lonely for two people to have a New Year’s dinner. There’s nothing else to do except eat. If we cooked our own food, it would probably be better.”

Wang Yanqing spoke slowly and in a low voice, her eyes constantly stealing glances at Lu Heng’s expression. For a woman, cooking a meal by herself was no big deal, but for a man, this request was a bit out of line.

A gentleman stayed away from the kitchen. Ordinary men were unwilling to enter the kitchen, let alone a second-rank official like Lu Heng. Wang Yanqing saw that Lu Heng didn’t say anything, so she quickly said: “I was just throwing out an idea. Cooking is too troublesome, so forget it…”

“As long as you are with me, nothing is troublesome.” Lu Heng interrupted her and said,” New Year is a day for family reunion, of course, we have to prepare New Year’s dinner as a family. As long as you don’t mind the trouble.”

Wang Yanqing breathed a sigh of relief. She didn’t expect Lu Heng would actually agree. Wang Yanqing’s eyes lit up immediately and her voice rose: “Then I’ll ask the kitchen to prepare it and change the menu, some dishes are too troublesome. Brother, do you have any requests?”

Lu Heng shook his head and said with a smile that he would leave it to Wang Yanqing to arrange. But in fact, he sighed for himself in his heart.

He hesitated just now, not because he was afraid of what others would say, or because he thought it was unmanly to go into the kitchen. In his opinion, if a man’s dignity was shown by deliberately not cooking or taking care of the household, there was no need for this dignity to exist. He hesitated because he had absolutely no idea how to do it.

This was an area he had never been involved in. If something unexpected happened, he wouldn’t even know what excuse to make. Wang Yanqing ran out excitedly to make preparations. However, Lu Heng pinched his brows like he was getting a headache.

Based on his understanding of Fu Tingzhou, he would not do things like cook with a woman. But what if he did?

What if Fu Tingzhou had cooked with Wang Yanqing before and Wang Yanqing still had some residual memory. What if after entering the kitchen she found that Lu Heng didn’t know how to cook anything, wouldn’t that be exposing himself? Could it be that Lu Heng even had to pretend to be able to cook?

That was too much for Lu Heng.

Lu Heng considered it again and again, finally deciding to take the gamble. New Year’s Eve was approaching quickly. When the kitchen staff heard that the two masters were going to cook today, they cleaned up the kitchen early and prepared all the ingredients that needed to be washed and cut. To not delay the New Year dinner, Wang Yanqing dragged Lu Heng to the kitchen in the afternoon.

Wang Yanqing could cook and was not unfamiliar with the kitchen, but it was the first time Lu Heng set foot in this place. He always thought that cooking was a magical thing. Things that could be found anywhere were brought into the kitchen and turned into dishes of all shapes and sizes. However, when he was there in person, he realized that the kitchen was not mysterious at all and that those exquisite dishes were also cut with a knife.

The difference probably lay in that an Imperial Guard’s knife was used on living people, while the kitchen knife was used on dead things.

Wang Yanqing walked around the kitchen and decided to stew the fish first. The cook had already cleaned the fish and soaked it in a bucket of water, even completely removing the flesh from the bone with a fishing line. Wang Yanqing rolled up her sleeves. Lu Heng saw and asked: “What are you going to do?”

Wang Yanqing pointed at the fish in the bucket and said: “The fish should be cooked slowly over low heat. I’ll put the fish broth on the stove first and then cook the other dishes slowly.”

Lu Heng didn’t understand that, but he knew that it was the end of the twelfth month and Wang Yanqing shouldn’t touch cold water. He lowered Wang Yanqing’s sleeves and asked: “What should I do?”

“Take the fish out and make a few cuts on the side. I’ll get the knife.”

“No need.” Lu Heng held Wang Yanqing’s hand, “It’s too dangerous, let me do it.”

The kitchen knife had already been washed and placed on the chopping board. When Lu Heng picked up the knife, he first felt awkward. The length was wrong and the weight was wrong. This was not his embroidered blade. He held the knife and felt constrained for the first time: “How far should I cut?”

Wang Yanqing was stunned when she heard this: “Just make a few cuts to make it easier for the flavor to come out, it doesn’t have to be too deep.”

Lu Heng held the knife, and slanted the tip of the knife into the fish body, stopping at a slight and steady distance. Wang Yanqing watched from the side and rubbed her arms silently: “Why do I feel that your actions are very strange as if you are torturing this fish…”

Lu Heng thought silently that Wang Yanqing’s feelings might be correct. After Lu Heng made the first cut, he had a sense of measure in his mind, and the subsequent movements were extremely smooth. The incisions were thin and smooth, and each cut stopped at the same depth.

Wang Yanqing put the fish on the pan, fried it lightly, and then took it out and transferred it to a pot. Lu Heng stood by and handed her the necessary ingredients, then added water and covered the pot with a lid. Lu Heng looked at it and was very surprised: “That’s it?”

“Yes.” Wang Yanqing said, “We just wait for it to slowly turn white.”

Lu Heng thoughtfully considered this for a moment and said: “I think the job of a cook is not that difficult.”

“Three meals a day may seem simple. Merely cooking is easy, however, making it delicious is difficult. The meals in the palace may look like vegetable dishes, but they are actually very laborious to prepare and can only be made by someone who is an expert in the craft.” As she spoke, Wang Yanqing lightly glanced at Lu Heng and said, “Besides, even if you learned it, would you rush to take over the job?”

Lu Heng looked at her steadily, nodded while smiling, and said extremely kindly: “You are getting bolder and bolder. Do you think I can’t do anything to you in the kitchen?”

“You were the one who mentioned it first!”

Wang Yanqing was a little afraid of what this crazy Lu Heng would do, so she quickly ran to the other side, picked up some dough, and said: “Stop messing around, it’s time to make dumplings.”

The dough had been kneaded in advance, and the various fillings had been prepared, so they just needed to make the finished product. After all, the kitchen was a public area, and Lu Heng couldn’t really do anything to her. Lu Heng kindly helped Wang Yanqing put it in the accounts. He walked up to her and asked patiently: “What is this for?”

Lu Heng’s voice was calm, and his expression was indifferent, it was impossible to tell what he was thinking. Wang Yanqing thought that Lu Heng was just playing around and changing the subject meant the matter was over. Wang Yanqing spread the filling on the dumpling skin and closed the edge little by little with her slender fingers. She showed it carefully to Lu Heng: “Like this.”

Lu Heng nodded and said: “Qing Qing’s fingers are so beautiful.”

Wang Yanqing glared at him angrily: “Stop making trouble, you will delay dinner.”

“I mean it.” Lu Heng took the dumpling from Wang Yanqing’s hand and put it on the chopping board next to him. He held Wang Yanqing’s hand to look at it carefully. Wang Yanqing’s hands were indeed very beautiful. Because she practiced martial arts when she was a child, her fingers are slender and powerful, with a very realistic beauty.

Lu Heng once admired these hands, but it was no different from appreciating the porcelain from Jingdezhen and the embroidery from Nanjing. Today, her hands were covered in flour as she carefully pinched the dumpling skins. The scene was neither perfect nor elegant, but it touched Lu Heng more than any work of art he had ever seen before.

It was like the stars fell into his arms, bringing smoke and fire, becoming real and warm. For the first time, he felt the feeling of the New Year and home around him. Even the magnificent palace banquets, the endless stream of people paying New Year greetings, and the bustling streets had never given him this feeling.

No matter where he was, he was always observing the clues around him and alert to possible dangers. Only when she was making New Year’s dinner with flour on her hands could he feel at ease.

The two of them, one supporting while the other made dumplings, helped each other pass things, and despite some stumbling, they managed to finish making a plate of dumplings. There was no floor heating in the kitchen, and Wang Yanqing stood for a long time, her legs gradually feeling uncomfortable. She endured it but couldn’t help shifting her weight back and forth as she stood. Lu Heng quickly discovered that something was wrong with Wang Yanqing, and looking at her unnatural standing posture, he immediately guessed what was wrong.

Lu Heng asked: “Your legs hurt again?”

She was the one who suggested cooking, but her legs hurt after standing in the kitchen for a while. She was too excited. The pain was bearable, so Wang Yanqing shook her head and said she was fine.

But how could Lu Heng not see the truth? Cooking was supposed to be fun for the two of them and it was a casual pastime. If it caused her physical discomfort, then the priority was already backward. Lu Heng called in the cook and left them the rest of the work. Wang Yanqing felt regretful: “We agreed to do it. Now we are only halfway done and bothering the kitchen…”

“Your thoughts are kind, but your body is the most important.” Lu Heng insisted and said, “Let’s go back to the room.”

When the people in the kitchen saw this, they quickly encouraged them. Wang Yanqing and Lu Heng wouldn’t be saving them trouble in the kitchen, instead, they frightened them. It was best if they were left to just cook the meal. Wang Yanqing couldn’t resist, so she handed the remaining dishes to the kitchen, and she and Lu Heng went back to the room.

Wang Yanqing’s leg pain was an old problem. It was cold, rainy, and humid, and her calf bones felt a dull pain when the weather changed slightly. Lu Heng had known about her problem for a long time, but it was an old issue, and even the doctors couldn’t prescribe any medicine, so he could only tell them to take care of her more often.

Wang Yanqing was fine while walking, but after returning to her room and sitting down, the pain in her calf seemed to be more obvious. Lu Heng went into the house to get something and Wang Yanqing took the opportunity to secretly tap her calf. She retracted her hand as soon as she heard footsteps, but Lu Heng still saw her. Lu Heng put the heater in her hand and stretched out his hand to lift her leg. He put it on his lap and asked: “Does it hurt too much?”

Wang Yanqing shook her head: “It’s okay, I’m used to it.”

Lu Heng sighed and slowly kneaded her leg bones, also quite surprised: “You have more injuries than me.”

Lu Heng’s fingers were very strong, and he could press the acupuncture points every time, making Wang Yanqing’s calves feel pained and relaxed at the same time. She was now accustomed to this level of physical contact and slowly leaned on the Arhat bed and said: “This is a good thing. I would rather have more pain in my body if it meant my brother’s life could be pain-free.”

“Don’t talk nonsense.” Lu Heng pinched her well-proportioned and straight calves and said, “They say good people don’t live long while disasters last for a thousand years. I dare not think about a thousand years, but you will still have to stay with me for a hundred years. I’m fine. You mustn’t fall ill.”

Wang Yanqing didn’t even feel embarrassed when she heard the words, “Stay with him for a hundred years”. Just like when he put her legs on his lap and squeezed them, Wang Yanqing no longer avoided and denied it. Maybe it was because she got used to it or perhaps it was tacit approval.

Wang Yanqing said: “It’s just a minor problem and doesn’t bother me. Maybe it’s because I’m taller that my legs hurt.”

When Lu Heng heard this, he laughed lightly and said: “Then I’ll have to pull all the bones in your body, so as not to delay your growth.”

Wang Yanqing chuckled. She hugged the heater and leaned her head on the bed, gradually becoming sleepy. She quietly covered her mouth and yawned. Lu Heng saw it and said: “If you’re sleepy, just take a nap for a while. Anyway, it will take a while.”

“But New Year’s dinner…”

“I’ll call you when the meal is ready. Don’t worry, I will definitely not eat alone.”

Wang Yanqing felt relieved. She nestled her cheek in her hair and sure enough, fell asleep. Lu Heng waited for her to fall asleep, then gently placed her legs on the Arhat bed, picked up the thin blanket next to her, and carefully covered her body. Afterward, Lu Heng sat next to her and touched her hair with his fingers. He wanted to stroke her hair but was too afraid of waking her up.

In the end, he took back his hand and looked at her sleeping face quietly. Even if he wasn’t doing anything, he didn’t feel bored.

For Lu Heng, money was nothing, only those who were willing to spend their time and thoughts were the rarest thing. He traced her eyes, nose, and lips with his eyes. The more he looked at her, the more he felt that there was not one spot that was not beautiful and lovely.

However, even when she slept so close to him, Lu Heng still felt uneasy. He was conceited and good at calculating people’s hearts, but one little game he played on a whim made him divulge himself.

Lu Heng felt worried when he thought of Fu Tingzhou who had left the capital some time ago. He originally expected that Fu Tingzhou would be in a desperate struggle after returning to the capital and would once again try to find a way to get close to Wang Yanqing. Lu Heng had already planned for this outcome, but Fu Tingzhou didn’t come.

This was not a good sign. Fu Tingzhou began to have self-control and restraint and just like that, the offensive and defensive sides switched. Lu Heng really didn’t like this feeling.

But he could no longer control the situation as before. Because this time, he couldn’t bear the consequences of failure.

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2 thoughts on “TIGR Chapter 83”

  1. Lu heng’s lies are so deep that now he is in a constant state of anxiety. Sigh….
    Thank you for the chapter 💜

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