Half a month later, Yunnan Qi Jing, Fu Residence
Wet nurse Aunt Lin slept until the early hours of the morning but was startled awake when she heard a quiet noise .
It was at an hour where everything should have been asleep so it was so silent that there should have been no noise save the wind. Not only was the sound sudden but spine chilling, scaring away any sleep she had left.
She felt her way to the edge of the bed, lifted the bed curtain, peeked her head out and listened intently. She continued to hear that noise, although it was suppressed but it clearly drifted into the room. As it was not the first time, she got up, covered herself with a cloak with a sigh, lit the lamp and entered the adjoining room.
“Miss. Miss.” She lifted up the curtain, knelt down and said in an anxious voice, “it’s Auntie. Don’t be afraid. Did you have another nightmare?”
As the faint yellow light came closer, it cast a glow on a beautiful pale skinned girl but it was unknown what she was dreaming about as her porcelain forehead was covered with sweat, drenching even her hair and her brows were scrunched up into a frown. Now and then, a cry would leave her lips.
Auntie Lin was afraid that if she continued to have nightmares it would affect her mind and anxiously places the lamp on a side table before pulling her into an embrace. After gently rubbing her back and called her in a low voice, the girl finally gasped and woke up.
There was still traces of fear that remained in Fu Lanya’s eyes as she clenched the blankets and gasped for air. Seeing Auntie Lin she startled and almost cried out.
Only when Auntie Lin comforted her and she realized where she was, did she slowly clam down.
When Auntie Lin saw the fear draining out of Fu Lanya, did peace finally return. She called for several female attendants to come in and bring hot water and a cloth to wipe off the sweat from her mistress and change her drenched clothes.
Meanwhile Fu Lanya lay quietly as she was attended by Auntie Lin and her maids, her thoughts still remained in the dream.
Her father had been summoned urgently back to the capital and all this time she had been distracted by her nightmares.
At first, her dreams were all disjointed, and no matter how she tried to remember them, she would not be able to do so.
But in the recent days, her dreams became clearer and clearer. There were several times where she would see herself surrounded by thick smoke in the dark and silence. Everything in front of her would be twisted and strange like the reflection of a Ling Hua mirror. She was alone, afraid, calling out to her elder brother and father but only the wind would respond to her, never her family.
She would stumble around, worn out, but suddenly, a cold hand would rest on her shoulder and when she turned around….. she saw her mother’s pale and sad face….
Seeing her mother, she would be overcome with anxiety. Ever since her mother’s death she would rarely dream of her, but when she finally did…. it was in such a frightening state.
“Miss,” Auntie Lin said as she passed a steaming hot bowl of soup to calm the nerves. “We’ve already changed the medication several times, but these nightmares will just not go away. Tomorrow let’s ask House manager Zhou to bring another physician to look at you.”
As she spoke, she lifted a hand to feel her forehead, “it’s a relief you don’t have a temperature. The refugees have been restless recently and Physician Cheng has gone home to hide from it all otherwise with his skill you would have recovered long ago.” She watched her mistress anxiously. If it wasn’t for the nightmares, making her lethargic, she and her young mistress would have traveled to Shu Zhou to visit her mistress’ uncle a month ago and thus avoiding the chaos that the Southern Man invaders brought instead of being trapped here in the city.
Fu Lanya lifted the soup to her lips and silently drank it. She thought back to that night when her father hurried back to the capital on a secret decree and leaving everything in the hands of his subordinate Shen Fu. Now, in over a month she had not yet received any news of him, making her raise her suspicions.
Ever since the new Emperor ascended the throne he had not stopped trying to grab her father’s power. First, he removed him from the cabinet, then he transferred him away from the capital, sending him to far away Yunnan, at the same time, Father’s political opponent Li Shimao gained the favor of the Emperor , not only did he make him the Chancellor but also the Head minister of civil appointments, helping him gain countless supporters and strengthening his power at court each day. In contrast, it doesn’t take much to know how difficult her father’s position is.
“Auntie, have we received news from my elder brother at all?” she suddenly asked.
Auntie Lin shook her head as she helped her fold her blanket away,”I asked housekeeper Zhou during the day. Master and Young Master are very busy. I think they are probably busy with court affairs so they have not the time to write.”
Lanya frowned and looked out of the window. Suddenly she remembered that her nightmares only started a month ago when her father left their home.
She was deeply immersed in her thoughts so she did not realize how beautiful she really was , bathed by the light beside her bed, which gave her perfect pale skin an ethereal glow as if she was carved by the smoothest white Jade.
Despite serving her since her birth, even Auntie Lin was still not immune to her beauty as she stared at her young mistress. Her mother was already extremely beautiful but Fu Lanya was even more. She did not understand how that Young Master Lu could have given up a marriage with her for someone else.
She thought back to 2 months ago when Master received news that Young Master Lu was about to marry a concubine and in a fit of rage called off the marriage. When her young mistress heard about it, she did not seem to be upset or angry, instead she seemed indifferent.
But Auntie Lin knew that although her young mistress did not say so but she was quite satisfied with the arrangement. After all Young Master Lu was extremely handsome and knowledgeable. What disappointed her more was that the two families had a good relationship therefore when Young Master Lu would come to visit and he would sometimes run into Lanya. The smile in his eyes when he saw her was as plain as day.She knew then that he liked her mistress and if they were to marry, they would support each other equally and spend the rest of their life happy and peaceful.
But such a good marriage ended just like that. Never mind young mistress, even she, a mere wet nurse felt disappointment. It was probably because of that that Young mistress fell ill.
But Fu Lanya paid little care to her thoughts. “Auntie, in this month have we received any news from outside at all?”
Auntie Lin did not understand why her young mistress would not let this topic go but despite her confusion , she dared not to lie.
“I asked House Manager Zhou every other day whether there is any news. But it is so strange, we have not received a single letter at all.”
When Fu Lanya heard this she couldn’t lie still anymore. She pulled herself up and asked,” Auntie, do you remember if the little box Mother gave me before her death is in the chest of drawers?”
“Why did you suddenly ask?”
But Fu Lanya only replied, “I just miss my mother and I want to take a look at it. Please can you retrieve it for me.”
Auntie Lin only thought that it was because of the sickness which made Fu Lanya so sentimental. She quickly agreed, stood up and opened the drawer with a small hidden key she kept on her person. After taking out the box, she returned to the bedside.
The box had 3 layers, with an unlocking mechanism on all layers so it was heavy to hold.
Fu Lanya took the box and habitually went to the last drawer and took out a small drawstring purse. Pulling it open, she emptied the small round alabaster pills into her hand.
“That…” Auntie Lin gasped in surprise as she saw what was in Fu Lanya’s hands.
If she remembered correctly, apart from a few old medicinal books, there were those pills. It was rumored that Mistress had spent more than 1000 ounces of gold to purchase them, as they were supposedly an antidote to hundreds of poisons. Back then, when Master was touring Ji Zhou, he was hit by a poisonous arrow and almost died from the poison and infection. It was this pill that saved his life. But why did Fu Lanya suddenly decide to take them out?
She rolled one of the pills with her fingertips and flashed a rare smile. “Give me some water, I wish to take some medication,” she ordered Auntie Lin as she lifted her head up.
“Take medication?” Auntie Lin gasped in shock,”how could you do that? You should know it is an antidote for a poison, even if you do not feel unwell from it, it is not something you can just take.”
But her mistress simply placed the pill to her lips and gave her a look of warning to be quiet.
Seeing this Auntie Lin realized something might be wrong. She lowered her voice and whispered,”Young Mistress, could you….”
Fu Lanya frowned and said in a cold voice, “I’ve been thinking for a very long time in these past few days, something is not quite right, Auntie I just wish to confirm something quickly, am I tortured by nightmares or am I…. poisoned.”
“Poisoned?” Auntie Lin gulped shock silencing her.
At that moment, someone hurried over to the door and started knocking anxiously at the door, ” Young Mistress! Young mistress! There’s a group of soldiers outside! They said… They said Master has committed a crime so they must come in and investigate. They are all wearing a fish tail uniform ( it’s a chinese robe which is pleated at the bottom that looks like a fish tail.) and they claim to be the embroided uniform guards. House manager Zhou couldn’t hold them back so he has already allowed them in.”
Embroided uniform guard? Auntie Lin paled in fear but steadied herself. “Ridiculous! Our master is the Emperor’s appointed monitor censor for the Yunnan area. Even if they are here to investigate, it is our master who will investigate someone else! What embroided uniform guard? They’re more than likely refugees pretending to be soldiers! Hurry! Hurry and tell House manager Zhou to throw them out. Don’t let them scare young mistress.”
But before the the attendants could reply, the door to the yard was thrown open and the dark yard lit up in the morning light.
Fu Lanya’s heart beat rapidly in her chest, and heard a young man’s voice call out, ” I heard the only member of the family is Miss Fu. Where is she? If she does not come out immediately, then we will go straight in and look for her ourselves!”
Outside she could hear housekeeper Zhou plead to him, ” Our young mistress is still unmarried, could you please show her some respect….?”
“Respect?” The young man scoffed, ” you should know that if the family of criminals do not follow orders we can execute them on the spot! Look at the time! How can you not know what is important? Losing your head is not anything you can take lightly about.”
The man who spoke was Wang Shizhao. Upon entering the Fu residence, Ping Yu immediately headed to the study whereas Wang Shizhao rushed to the inner buildings .
Auntie Lin’s body went as cold as ice when she heard this. House manager Zhou had been by the Master’s side for so long, traveling from the north to the south, meeting many people so there was no question that he would not be able to distinguish the fake from the real.
On the other hand, Fu Lanya’s heart was as calm as a body of dead water, but when she opened her mouth to speak, she realized that her heart was in her throat and could only croak, “Auntie, whether the one outside is a person or ghost, help me dress first.”
Although Auntie Lin felt that her world had practically collapsed but seeing how calm her mistress was, she regained a little of her normal self and hurried over to help her dress.
Listening to the silence after he spoke, Wang Shizhao narrowed his eyes and scanned the buildings surrounding the yard from left to right, quickly attempted to work out which room was Fu Lanya’s.
“Then we will charge before we negotiate. As the family is unwilling to cooperate then we can only force our way in,” he announced.
As soon as the words left his mouth, the door from the eastern side slammed open. Two people walked out, one was a forty something elder woman and behind her was a 15/16 year old young woman….
Wang Shizhao’s eyes immediately became riveted on the young woman. He had not read many books but he had frequented places of pleasure enough times to know phrases such as ” when she blossoms there is excitement across the capital,” or ,”when she looks lovingly at me and smiles tenderly, to me that is like where the most beautiful flowers blossom.” No matter which poetic phrase it was, he felt that it was not enough to describe her beauty. It only took one glance, before he felt himself melt under her glance.
He struggled to speak but just as he opened his mouth he heard footsteps behind him. Turning around, an indescribable anger rose in him when he saw who it was. “Lord Ping.” He said but refused to move.
Lanya silently watched the interactions between Wang Shizhao and his men and when he saw their fish tail uniform and their blades, the little regard they had towards the law, and their ferocity, any hope she had left that it was all just a mistake was quashed. Her mind turned to the situation her father must be in, her lips paled in fear and her heart squeezed with worry.
Just when her fear almost escalated out of her control, a group of young men suddenly matched into her yard. They carried an air of coldness like dark winged demons.
Leading them was a tall, graceful looking young man whose features were clearly ones that will make any face handsome. He gave a brief glance to Lanya when he came in before turning to give a half smile to Wang Shizhao. “It seems when Captain Wang goes to raid someone’s house he does not look anywhere but only in the women’s quarters, no wonder it was so difficult to find him.”
Although he had a smile on his face but it was not enough to hide the sarcasm in his words.