“You—” Lu Qi laughed exasperatedly at her, “What nonsense are you speaking? Back then, I was most afraid of both of you crying! How would I dare to pinch you? Alright, fine. I didn’t make myself clear just now, and it turned into a misunderstanding. Anyway, I’m still saying this for your own good. You shouldn’t hang around those people, especially since you’re a girl. It will be bad for your reputation! Be good and don’t visit them anymore.”
Lu Xiao Shu giggled as well. After a thought, she looked at him and asked, “Was it because someone badmouthed me?” She raised one eyebrow, her eyes sharp as she asked menacingly, “Which bastard is that? Tell me so that I can teach them a lesson they’ll never forget! How dare someone badmouth me. Don’t they have anything better to do?”
Lu Qi sighed, “Look at yourself. Is there any girl who acts like this? That’s enough with your nonsense! You have your older brother to deal with whatever is out there in the world for you. As for you, listen up! You’re not allowed to wander around anymore!”
“No but’s! There’s no use for your excuses and pleas! No means no!”
“Why are you huffing?” Lu Qi demanded, “Do you think that I can’t do anything even if you don’t follow my rules? Let me tell you this: If you put one foot into the city, I will always know, and if I catch you, I’ll tell father and mother about your secret!”
“Secret?” Lu Xiao Shu was confused.
“Of course!” Lu Qi faked a cough and glanced at her before whispering, “Bi Teng Shan Ren…”
Lu Xiao Shu’s expression took a 180 degrees turn as she pointed at him, “You… You’re being unreasonable! Are you threatening me?”
Lu Qi was glad to see her worry as he blatantly nodded, “That’s right! I’m threatening you! So, are you afraid now?”
Lu Xiao Shu was momentarily stupefied. This fellow actually asked if she was afraid! However, oh, dear Lord, how could she not be scared? Of course, she was!
“You’ve got me trapped!” Lu Xiao Shu huffed.
When Lu Qi saw that she had finally given in, he let out a sigh of relief and smiled, “You could say so. Anyway, just listen to me, alright?”
Lu Xiao Shu was very annoyed with him, but she suddenly put on a grin, “Lu Qi…”
He took a step back with his eyebrows raised, “What do you want, little brat? I’m warning you, you can’t change my mind!”
“It’s not that!” She pulled on his arm, smiling sweetly, “If I’m bored out of my mind, could you bring me out to play? Come on! Let’s bring Xiao Xue too. You can’t always keep us grounded, right?”
Lu Qi was getting a headache with her constant pleading, so all he could do was to agree with a mumble, “Alright, fine. If you got my permission, then you can go.”
“That’s good enough! There’s no need for me to worry anymore.” Her lips hooked into a wide grin.
Lin Fang had visited Lu Qi at the pier for two or three days, yet he could not help but feel disappointed every time he went there. He lacked enthusiasm in everything they did, rendering Lu Qi in confusion. Only Cricket knew what was going on inside his head as he rolled his eyes and thought: What’s wrong with the young master? He could fall for any girl in the city, yet he fell for that wild brat! So what if you can’t meet her? Is it necessary to act so depressed?
That day, Lin Fang finally could not hold back anymore so he asked innocently, “Oh, by the way, how come we haven’t seen Xiao Shu in quite a while? Is she very busy at home?”
Lu Qi was confused, but he nodded and smiled in response, “Yeah, things have been a little hectic back at home, and that’s keeping her quite busy.”
“She needs to work? Gosh, she’s so young! It’s such a pity!” Lin Fang’s expression changed unconsciously.
Lu Qi chuckled and said, “What’s wrong with that? Don’t we all do the same in the villages? To be honest, she’s merely tending the fire, cooking, feeding the chicken and ducks, and embroidering. My parents aren’t very willing to make her work that much.”
“Oh,” Lin Fang finally let it go, then his eyes lit up in laughter, “She embroiders?”
What Lu Qi did not want to hear was that. His face turned sour as he huffed, “Xiao Shu is still a girl anyway. How could she not know embroidery? Her embroideries are beautiful! My mother and auntie always compliment her for them. They’re exquisite!”
Okay, Lu Qi would admit that what he said was exaggerated with little truth, but he was mad about the comment. People said that any girl from Feng Ye Village would have no trouble getting married, but how could a girl not even know the basic female tasks like embroidery? Would she still be a girl? Lin Fang probably thought that Xiao Shu was carefree so he looked down upon her. How could that be allowed? Lu Qi would never let any comments like that go easily.
“I didn’t mean that!” Lin Fang knew that Lu Qi misunderstood him, so he smiled apologetically, “What I meant to say is that Xiao Shu is really talented. I didn’t expect her to know everything…”
Lin Fang’s compliment was heartfelt, but it sounded awkwardly like something else in Lu Qi’s opinion. However, since he had already said it, Lu Qi was not bothered to make a fuss out of it anymore, so he nodded and mumbled, “Yes, that’s of course.”
The boys went on to lighter topics to chat with, but Lin Fang excused himself and left since he felt that it was still somewhat awkward.
“Tell me, why do you think Xiao Shu hasn’t been in the city for such a long time? Is she okay?” he sighed. Lin Fang was already thirteen, an age where love and romance bubbles from one’s thoughts. Once someone hinted to him about it, the thoughts and feelings about romance would come flooding at him like a tsunami. Actually, it had only been a short seven days without seeing Lu Xiao Shu, yet it seemed like an eternity to him.
Cricket was getting more annoyed by his master’s constant complaining, so he suggested, “Master if you miss Lady Lu so much, why don’t you visit her at Feng Ye Village?” It was not like he did not know the way.
Lin Fang’s expression lit up as he happily cried, “You’re right! How did I not think of that? Let’s go now! Wait, no. We can’t go today when I haven’t prepared anything. We’ll go tomorrow. Let’s go home first!”
Lin Fang was so excited that he was grinning widely all the way home.
On the morning of the next day, Lin Fang ordered the coachman to send him to Feng Ye village. Before they left, he purposely dressed up to look sweet and lovely.
When he arrived, Lu Xiao Shu was surprised to see him, “Why are you here? My brother isn’t at home. He’s at the pier.”
Lin Fang felt a little embarrassed about the situation as well. Since he stopped learning from Mr Wu, he had never come to the village other than coming to see Lu Qi or coming to visit together with Lu Qi.
Seeing Lu Xiao Shu’s shiny eyes and her bright smile made Lin Fang feel guilty. He did not dare to reveal the real reason behind his visit, so he gaped, “I… err… I was just taking a stroll, and I ended up here…”
“Oh, I think…” Lu Xiao Shu was not suspicious as she merely laughed and joked, “The stroll you took is quite a far distance. Eh? Why didn’t Cricket follow you too?”
That made Lin Fang stutter more as he laughed nervously, “I… haha… It’s because I’m already quite familiar with Feng Ye Village… Cricket is… I asked Cricket to run an errand for me.”
She had got to be kidding! It was his first date with Xiao Shu. How could he have that annoying Cricket tag along?
Eventually, Lu Xiao Shu sensed that something was off. He seemed kind of weird today, so she watched him closely and smiled, ”Since you’re already here, come on in and make yourself at home. I’ll get you some tea.” Back then, when he was studying in Feng Ye Village, he rarely came to visit her home too.
“There’s no need!” Lin Fang hastily rejected her invitation. Today was completely different from back then since he was planning to win someone’s daughter’s heart. How would he dare to step into their house to have tea?”
“Erm… Don’t you like horseback riding? The weather is looking good today. Since the stables at my house have some nice horses, I could bring you for a horse ride. What do you think?” Lin Fang asked tentatively.
Lu Xiao Shu’s eyes lit up brightly, “Really?”
Seeing her brought him joy. It felt like flowers bloomed in his heart as he nodded enthusiastically with a grin, “Of course! Let’s go now, and we can have lunch there too!”
“Okay!” She nodded without hesitation and joined him in his carriage.
Lin Fang ordered the coachman to rush back to the Lin’s Manor before getting back into the carriage. As he sat down with a grin, he suddenly felt like he did not know where to put his hands and legs. He had butterflies in his stomach, but he felt lovey-dovey at the same time. This was his first time sitting in a carriage alone with Xiao Shu!
Lu Xiao Shu accidentally glanced at him, only to realize that he had a dreamy expression. Almost like Cricket, she extended her arm and waved a few times in front of him as she laughed, “Hey! What’s up? Are you infatuated with me?”
Was it not obvious that he was infatuated? Lin Fang watched that slim, elegant, fair arm waving in front of his eyes. He suddenly felt uncomfortable as he tried to turn away to avoid her. He blushed, “No! Of course not! I was thinking… erm… what we should serve you when you reach the manor for lunch… ah! Oh, right! Are you thirsty? There’s some warm tea in the carriage.” He got up and opened a drawer from the side, bringing out a teapot and poured a cup of tea. While it was still warm, he passed it to Lu Xiao Shu with a smile.
He added, ”I brought some desserts and candied fruits. Do you want to try them?” He brought out a red lacquered pumpkin-shaped wooden food container, and the inside was separated into twelve little squares which were filled with various delicacies and sweets.
“Have a try, they’re all freshly made!” Lin Fang encouraged with a smile. He felt guilty that he didn’t know what Lu Xiao Shu liked to eat. He was such a failure!
To make sure he would not fail again, he hesitantly asked, “I’m not sure what you like to eat, so I prepared a few different types… Oh, right! What do you like to eat? I’ll prepare your favorite ones next time!”
Lu Xiao Shu was completely confused throughout his stuttered speech. She watched him with curious eyes.
Seeing that his questions were unanswered and the girl was eyeing him questioningly, he added again, “What? I never paid attention before, so please don’t be mad at me.”