“It ate them! It ate them!” Lu Xiao Shu happily did a victory dance. She gently patted and rubbed the horse. The horse merely tilted its head to look at her, but it gave her no reaction.
Lu Xiao Shu was even more excited as she hurriedly asked Lin Fang, “Give me more pine nut sweets. It wants more!”
“Oh,” Lin Fang watched as the horse’s tongue flicked over Lu Xiao Shu’s fair little palm. Watching her patting its hair, he could not help but feel jealous of the horse.
Suddenly, he regretted bringing her for horseback riding.
“Xiao Shu, you should come over here!” Lin Fang might have given her the candy box, but he could not resist saying, “These horses are quite wild. What if you got hurt?”
Lu Xiao Shu took the sweets and went over to the horse again. This time, the horse was friendlier to her as it did not pull its head back when she patted it. It made Lu Xiao Shu so happy that she felt like she was on top of the world. She replied to Lin Fang without looking at him, “I think it’s very tame. It’s not wild at all! I’m building a friendship with it now so that it’ll be easier to ride later!”
“Building a friendship? Pfft!” He mumbled, feeling depressed that a horse was getting more attention than him.
Soon after, Cricket brought the stablemen over, and it was obvious that those men were really unhappy about the whole ordeal. They had groomed these two horses and cleaned them early this morning, yet their efforts were disregarded!
“Young Master!” The stablemen dropped the buckets, towels, brushes, etc. They smiled and apologized, “It’s very untidy here. Young Master and Young Lady, please go ahead and have a rest, we will get things ready as soon as possible.”
Lin Fang had wanted to hear this as his eyes brightened, and he smiled at Lu Xiao Shu, “Xiao Shu, why don’t you come back later? When they’ve cleaned up the place, we can—”
“No!” Lu Xiao Shu did not appreciate that at all. She gave him a look, but she remembered how he was the Young Master in a prestigious family. It would be entirely normal for him to be irritated by the dirt and the mess. So, she smiled in response, “Why don’t you go inside first? Or go have a walk around the garden? I could help clean and groom the horses. I know how to do it.”
Lin Fang was momentarily stunned and speechless.
The stablemen hastily said, “This lady, this can’t—”
“It’s fine! I love these tasks!” Lu Xiao Shu interrupted him with a cheery grin.
“You may leave! There’s nothing for all of you here!” Lin Fang glared at the stablemen and turned towards Lu Xiao Shu with a smile, “That’s a good idea too! Let’s groom the horses together. Let me help you.”
As he said, he brought a bucket of water over to Lu Xiao Shu. “Okay!” She grinned, rolling her sleeves up, and got to work.
The stablemen watched with a confused expression. When did the Young Master start to like doing chores like this? He was someone who detested dirt and—
“Leave! Why are all of you still standing here?” Eventually, it was Lin Fang’s long time servant since childhood, Cricket, who knew better. Before Lin Fang sent a death glare at them, he ushered the stablemen out and left the two alone.
The Young Master was probably under a curse today. It would be best to stay far away from him and his motives.
Seeing Lu Xiao Shu happy, Lin Fang could not help but feel happy about it as well. Now that all the others weren’t around, his mood lightened up as he focused on the task at hand. He chatted and laughed with Lu Xiao Shu as they groomed and cleaned the two horses.
Since Lu Xiao Shu was not tall enough, she could not reach the horse’s back, so Lin Fang did it for her. He suddenly felt the responsibility of the task and did not feel tired from doing it.
The two kept themselves busy for a good half of the day, and finally, the clean and tidy horses were done being cleaned and groomed again. Under the blazing sunlight, a thin sheen of sweat covered their forehead, and Lu Xiao Shu’s cheeks were blushing red from the heat.
Lin Fang thought that she was adorable as he helped her wipe the sweat off from her forehead. He grinned at her, “This is enough, don’t you think so? We should go and have our lunch first before riding the horses later.”
“Okay! Let’s go and quickly have our lunch!” Lu Xiao Shu was reluctant to leave as she gazed at the horse that had grown to like her. She wanted to ride it immediately, but she thought that Lin Fang might not last long if he was hungry, so she agreed to his invitation.
Lin Fang smiled, “Let’s go!”
The two arrived at the yard to wash their hands and faces. The servants had long prepared the dishes in the dining room. The huge table was laid with sixteen dishes that the Young Master had instructed to prepare. All of the plates were beautiful porcelain that were specifically brought out from his family’s storage.
Unexpectedly, Lu Xiao Shu was in shock when she saw the table full of delicious dishes. “This is too much! How can the two of us finish all of this?”
Lin Fang grinned proudly, “It’s fine. You can take whatever you like and try everything. If we can’t finish it, we can leave the leftovers for the others in the manor.”
“Oh,” she nodded as she swallowed her thoughts of the food being a waste.
While having lunch, Lin Fang kept on persuading her to have more food. When he saw her reaching towards something, he would quickly move the dish in front of her. Half of the time, if he were not eating, he would be serving her.
Nevertheless, Lu Xiao Shu thought that “serving” was not the right word to describe the situation.
Every time she looked at him with a confused expression, he would give her an energetic grin and ask, “Is the food good? You should have more if you like them. I can treat you again next time.”
Lu Xiao Shu chuckled lowly at that. When Lin Fang noticed, he laughed along as well.
Finally, Lu Xiao Shu realized that he was obviously trying to get on her good side. Could he have a motive behind this whole thing?
Huh! He must have some evil intentions behind this!
Lu Xiao Shu was naturally curious about everything. As expected, she would not get worried or frightened by the turn of events and ask to go home. Instead, she excitedly played along to see what tricks Lin Fang had up in his sleeves.
You’ve got to be kidding me! A chance to ride horses comes by so rarely! Of course, she would never give up on this golden opportunity.
“I’m done. How about you?” Lu Xiao Shu smiled as she put her bowl and chopsticks down, wiping her mouth clean of food.
Of course, Lin Fang had no intentions of continuing his lunch. Seeing her bright round eyes looking at him with anticipation, it was obvious that she hoped that he had finished his food too. So, he hastily nodded with a grin, “Yup! I’m done too!”
“Then, let’s go! It’s time for horseback riding!” Lu Xiao Shu smiled brightly as she got up.
“Sounds good! We have a field track behind the manor. Further out, there’s a vast forest and clearing perfect for riding horses.” Lin Fang smiled as he led her out.
Cricket had prepared for every step as he ordered for men to bring the horses before they left the dining room. He greeted them as they stepped out into the yard. When Lu Xiao Shu saw them, her eyes lit up as she lovingly patted the red horse’s head. The red horse responded by lowering its head, allowing her to get closer to it.
Lin Fang watched with jealousy as he called out, “Xiao Shu, let’s go quickly!”
Hence, Cricket did not earn any approving glance, making him more grudgeful towards his master.
“Sounds great!” Lu Xiao Shu replied before leading her horse to the field track. The field track was located in the valley, which made it look like it had a natural fence. She could not help but admire the Lin Family’s choice of location.
When Lin Fang dismissed the two servants helping them with the horses, they were hesitant to leave because horseback riding was a dangerous activity. They were one of the best horse trainers who were selected by the butler so that the young master and the lady would have help in case anything happened. However, the young master ordered them to be dismissed. What if—
Lin Fang’s expression grew darker as he scoffed, “What’s the matter? Why are you still here? Looking for a reward from me?”
“Hey! Hey! All of you need to leave now!” Cricket glared at them as well.
He did not want to fall under the wrath of his young master’s short temper.
The two had no choice but to leave.
“You too, you’ll leave as well.” Unexpectedly, Lin Fang ordered Cricket to leave too.
“Uh, master… I will be serving you refreshments whenever you need them.” Cricket was shocked. At that moment, he felt like he was not his master’s best friend anymore.
“Leave the refreshment aside. I can serve myself with the hands and legs that I have.” Lin Fang gestured at a nearby wooden table.
Cricket had nothing to say other than to comply. He left feeling depressed, thinking to himself: If you have hands and legs, why do I still need to serve you for so many years? Obviously, you don’t wish for me to be a hindrance…
When Lin Fang glanced over at Lu Xiao Shu, his face broke into a smile, “Xiao Shu, let me help you up. I can lead your horse for two laps so that you can get used to riding it. I’ll teach you how to ride it by yourself later. You should take it one step at a time.”
Lin Fang started to chatter nonstop about horse riding with a smile, trying to win Lu Xiao Shu’s favor. She wanted to smirk and laugh, yet she had no choice but to widen her eyes to act as though she was deeply interested. It was the only natural reaction to someone who had never ridden a horse before. At the same time, she could not go overboard with it, or it would seem suspicious.
“Xiao Shu, I’ll always be by your side. There’s no need for you to be afraid or worried.” Lin Fang added.
“Oh, thank you, Lin Fang!” Lu Xiao Shu nodded with a smile.
“There’s no need for you to be so formal. You didn’t have to thank me.” A warm tingling feeling bubbled up within Lin Fang. It was an indescribable excitement.
Lu Xiao Shu chuckled and let him help her up onto the horse.
Initially, Lin Fang wanted to explain to her again on how she should mount the horse. When he noticed how she mounted the horse correctly without trouble, he praised, “Xiao Shu, you’re amazing! You did it perfectly after I explained once!”
To be honest, he was kind of stumped. If Xiao Shu was not that good, he could use the chance to teach her more.
Lu Xiao Shu burst out laughing and explained after calming down, “Have you forgotten? You were the one who taught me qinggong!”
“Oh yeah! I forgot how you are skilled in martial arts!” Lin Fang slapped his forehead with a laugh, but he added in a serious tone, “But you’re still very little. Horse riding is very dangerous! Xiao Shu, you must remember to go slow, okay? Don’t try too hard on your first time. It would be a disaster if you got hurt. Anyway, if you want to ride a horse next time, I can always bring you!”
He was sincere, and Lu Xiao Shu could not help but feel touched by his gesture. She gently nodded with a smile, “You don’t have to worry. I’ll be careful.”
“That’s good! Just sit tight! I’ll bring you for two laps!” Lin Fang grinned and instructed her on how she should sit and hold her horse’s reins. He led his horse to the track and patted on it twice before they started to gallop on the track.
Time to time, he would take a glance to check on Lu Xiao She. She was happy and excited without any trace of uneasiness or fear. Her movements were natural and not awkward. He silently complimented her and felt giddy. My girl is nothing like anyone. Why did I not notice it earlier?