Sandy's Read Receipts
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The tiring carriage ride worsened into a miserable journey because of my re-injured foot.
Each person around me had a different reaction to my condition.
Wei Tan continued to carry me in and out of the carriage as usual, giving me instructions.
Wei An appeared thrilled; when we rested that night, he ran to me with an angle ruler and noted my body measurements. He produced a charcoal drawing of a cart for my perusal. Except, the drawing didn't look like a cart or a chair; but a "wheelchair" as he called it.
Meanwhile, Ah Yuan chattered nonstop. One moment she grieved over my sprained foot, and in the next, nagged me about how it felt to share a bedroom with my husband.
I ignored her and reclined on the mattress, pretending deafness.
Ah Yuan walked towards me: "Furen doesn't know, but I heard that after we left last night, those courtesans urged Eldest Young Master to drink and dine. Fan Yue tried hard to present those beauties to him."
I opened my eyes: "Heard? From whom?"
"One of the Eldest Young Master's attendants, Wang Hui. Furen, guess what happened? Just as Fan Yue was about to ask the courtesans to serve Eldest Young Master in bed, he rose to leave and returned to our courtyard."
I raised my eyebrows, refusing to react; I had already guessed last night's events.
"Furen, you said only a fool would refuse a beautiful woman who arrives at his doorstep." Ah Yuan looked doubtful, "Then...... is Eldest Young Master a fool?"
"Yes, who said no."
Presenting a beautiful woman was nothing but giving favors; someone refuses only for two reasons. One is that you couldn't accept it, and the other is that you couldn't afford it. I didn't understand why Wei Tan refused, but I was sure it wasn't for my sake.
"Furen, did you decide to stay with Eldest Young Master?"
"Who said that?"
Stunned, Ah Yuan stammered: "But you and Eldest Young Master...... eh?"
What ran through this girl's head? I glanced at her and shrugged, "I'll decide whether to stay or leave later. The Prime Minister hasn't defeated Tan Xi yet."
Prepared to wait until Wei Jue won before talking to Wei Tan, I hadn't intended to start last night's conversation. But I hadn't expected a character like Fan Yue to intervene with intentions of gifting beauties. I needed to settle Wei Tan's mind first. Otherwise I would have no chance to cry, kicked out before Wei Jue and Tan Xi even fought.
I hoped for Wei Jue's win; besides controlling the Emperor, he would occupy the largest territory with the highest population. Both my living and businesses would be better off as his Daughter-in-law.
This was the reason I left with Wei Tan back in Huainan.
Yes, it was a gamble; but what isn't?
Ah Yuan stared at me and sighed: "It's a pity; Eldest Young Master treats Furen well."
Her face blushed somewhat red, and I knew what she was suggesting.
When we left Yingchuan today, Wei Tan acted the perfect husband. Besides carrying me in and out, he often rode to the carriage to check on me. When he spoke, he leaned forward and bowed his head. Even I blushed, let alone Ah Yuan.
"Ah Yuan, do you know Han Guang?"
She froze, before nodding: "Yes, Furen's former husband."
"He used to hug me with joy every day. In the morning, he asked if I was hungry, and in the evening, if I was cold. Whenever I fell ill, he toiled hard to take care of me, not even allowing me to sit up to eat." After a pause, I added, "But later, when his Father sent me away, he didn't move one foot to stop him."
Ah Yuan's eyes widened.
I patted her shoulders, "Ah Yuan, the Eldest Young Master is the same; he's just a man."
She stared at me and nodded, half-understanding.
If it was my first marriage, I might have been full of spring love. But as an experienced woman, I understood how couples got along daily. When Pei Qian had separated us, Wei Tan showed courtesy. Yet now, even when he had every right, he showed restraint with his simple cuddles and occasional ambiguity.
As a grown male with no maids or concubines, Wei Tan had only me for a wife. I guessed I would experience bedroom matters soon. Although I felt awkward, chastity has long been meaningless to me. Married for over five years; even Ah Yuan wouldn't believe me if I told her my virginity was still intact.
Wei Tan could do just one other thing than Han Guang. Couldn't I exchange it for a future?
We rested in tiny villages for the next three or four days on the road. The village houses were shabby because of wartime recession and I thanked God that it didn't rain. To make room, Wei Tan didn't sleep with me, and instead, I shared a bed with Ah Yuan.
Since it was inconvenient to get water on the road, Wei Tan didn't soak my foot in water, but he still changed the dressings daily. Everyone had to pay their debts; since he caused my injury, I was quite comfortable with his service.
"We reach Luoyang in two days, so endure a bit," Wei Tan said, binding my foot in cloth.
"Hmm," I replied, lying on the straw mat.
"I'll take you to stay at the old Residence at Luoyang."
I nodded. Wei Jue had a family home in Luoyang from the time he served as the northern lieutenant. His words made the old Residence sound so wonderful.
"Have you ever been to Luoyang?"
"No, I haven't," I said, before adding, "But my Mother is from Luoyang."
"Oh?" Wei Tan smiled, "My Mother too."
"I learned Fujun spent his childhood in Luoyang?"
"Hmm," he nodded, "I was 14 when I traveled to Chang An."
Oh, so he was a country hick until he was 14.
I did the math: 14 years old? Then when he reached Chang An......
"You were 9 years old," Wei Tan said.
Surprised by his words that rang out like mini-thunderclaps, I froze: "What?"
"When you count, your eyes glance to the right," he murmured.
Ten feet away, the firewood "crackled" with a burst of sparks.
I stared at him, both amazed and suspicious.
He returned my stare.
"Yes." Unwilling to make a fool of myself, I forced a nonchalant expression, "How did Fujun know I was counting?"
Wei Tan smiled.
Just then, a nearby sergeant shouted for him.
He called back before saying, "Go to sleep." He rose and walked away, leaving me confused on the straw mat.
When I woke up the next morning, a troop of men and horses arrived, led by Cheng Mao, whom I hadn't seen in long.
With how travel-worn he looked, I understood he had rushed here on an urgent matter.
"Young Master!" He greeted Wei Tan first. When he noticed me, he bowed again, "Furen."
With his expression stoic, Wei Tan didn't waste time on greetings: "What's the matter?"
"Young Master, the Lord and Tan Xi are fighting at Wuzhi and the battle is at a crucial stage. The Lord ordered me to urge Young Master to return to camp at once!"
Wei Tan nodded and ordered the Sergeant to pack light and delegate the troops. As he turned to me, Cheng Mao interrupted.
"Young Master, the Lord told me to ask Fu Furen to join us if she was here."
The carriage sped along the road, jolting so much that one could neither sit nor recline. Wei Tan dropped most of his soldiers, keeping only a few with horses to follow Cheng Mao's party. We rushed as if a vicious dog chased us, covering hundreds of miles before changing horses in nearby counties, almost without rest.
With me wounded, Ah Yuan joined me in the carriage. When Wei An wished to follow his Father and Brothers to war, Wei Tan didn't refuse, taking him along with us. I feared he was the only one thrilled on the road.
Cheng Mao explained why Wei Jue wanted me to join them.
Zhao Jun was the Prime Minister's deputy, backed by my Father in the Late Emperor's Court. After the Fu Clan's ruin, Zhao Jun resigned because he despised Empress Bian's exclusion of dissent in the Court. When Tan Xi rose and issued a notice to recruit scholars, Zhao Jun joined as a strategist in his camp.
Cheng Mao informed me that Wei Jue admired Zhao Jun's talent for strategy and had captured him recently. Though Wei Jue tried every means to persuade him, he refused to surrender, prompting Wei Jue to think of me. I traveled this great distance just to be a mediator.
It wasn't my first visit to a military camp; I married Wei Tan at the camps outside Laiyang.
Yet this camp was much larger. As we entered, I saw the banner on the regiment gates. A barrier of spiked sawhorses encircled the camp, a faint momentum in the air.
Before we even reached the gates, a group of men rushed to welcome us.
"Elder Brother!" The first rider with a bright smile was Wei Ci.
"Good brother," Wei Tan greeted, "Where is Father?"
"The Prime Minister is in his tent."
Wei Tan nodded, and the two of them talked as they rode into the camp.
Through the thin bamboo curtains, I observed rows upon rows of tents. Many soldiers trained in the large open spaces, drowning the air in shouts.
A little surprised to see Wei Tan carry me out, Wei Ci produced a cheerful smile and bowed, "Eldest Sister-in-law."
"Brother-in-law," I nodded.
A deep voice from the big tent in front of me sounded, "Is Meng Jing back?"
Wei Tan and Wei Ci shared a glance before replying, "Yes, Father."
Wei Tan led me inside as the guard pushed aside the tent flap.
I changed, washed, and reclined on the bed, my eyes closing with the wine's potency.
I didn't understand why, but inexplicable thoughts crammed my brain, and I was too dizzy to sleep. In the haze, I heard a door slam and murmurs sounding like Wei Tan......
I opened my eyes at once.
Wei Tan was nearby, pouring a cup of tea from the teapot. He froze when he saw me sit up, "You're still awake?"
I stared at him before asking, "Why did you return?"
"Hmm?" He sipped the tea and returned my stare.
"What do you mean?" He placed his cup on the table and walked to the bed, neither urgent nor slow, "Can't I come back?"
The thoughtlessness of my words struck me dumb.
When I remained silent, he said, "Sleep, we must hurry on our journey tomorrow."
As he spun to walk away, my heart stirred, and I called out, "Wait."
Wei Tan turned back.
I stared at him, biting my lip: "I have something to tell you."
As he and I sat opposite each other, the oil lamp's flame blazed on the desk between us.
He picked up one of the two teacups filled with fresh tea and sipped. I sat motionless, considering how to phrase my words.
Ever since I returned from the banquet, I felt stifled in my chest.
Never fond of mood swings, I was uncertain what had caused my anger. Was it Ah Yuan's words of concubines? As I had pondered with my eyes closed on the bed, I had finally arrived at the answer.
More than reluctance to accept concubines, it was that old idiot Fan Yue's arrogance. He allowed his house's courtesans to seduce my husband in front of me; something capable of angering even the kindest woman, let alone me. If I wanted stability or wealth, I needed to stay in Yong Capital. After assessing my current circumstances from all angles, the best course would be to continue putting on airs as a Young Master's Furen.
With such beauties facing us, I must make sure that I'm accepted and to hold on tight.
"Don't you have something to say to me?" Wei Tan lowered his teacup.
"Hmm." I nodded gently and gazed at him, "Fujun once said that our marriage was for convenience."
His gaze paused and turned towards me, expression deadpan: "Hmm."
I threw caution to the wind and continued: "The Prime Minister allowed me to marry into the family because of the Fu Clan's reputation, is that correct?"
Wei Tan's fingers circled his teacup's rim, "If Furen believes that, you are also right."
A lazy smile emerged at his concession: "Is the Prime Minister satisfied now?"
"The dynasty is secure now that the scholars have submitted, thanks to Furen."
I took a deep breath inwardly: "In that case, I will return to Yong Capital, okay?"
Wei Tan's eyebrows twitched.
"Let me finish!" Afraid that he would misunderstand if I didn't clarify, I pressed on: "Now that we left Huaiyang together, and with us already married, it'll be troublesome for you to explain to your family if I leave. Why don't we continue as a married couple? As you know, I have always handled household duties with full dedication. As before, I won't interfere in your external affairs. What do you think?"
Wei Tan stared at me; his gaze so powerful that I almost didn't dare to lock eyes with him.
A short while later, he spoke: "Repeat that sentence once more."
I froze and tried to recall my words: "I won't interfere in your external affairs......"
He interrupted: "The earlier sentence."
"As you know, I have always handled household......"
"The one before that."
"Why don't we continue as a married couple......," my voice trailed off into silence.
Wei Tan continued to stare at me, the corners of his mouth curling up into a smile.
"Continue as a married couple?" He picked up his teacup and sipped.
"Hmm." My nerves stretched taut.
He lowered his teacup, eyes as deep as the bottom of a pool, and drawled: "A moment ago, you called me Fujun. I haven't heard it in ages; call me that again?"
Startled, I subconsciously opened my mouth, but the word got stuck in my throat.
Something restrained within his eyes stirred faintly.
I rushed to speak, "Fu......"
"I'm going to bathe," Wei Tan murmured and rose from the bed.
As he walked out the door, I cursed myself for not completing the word "Fujun". If I had spoken it aloud without stuttering, my request from earlier would have come true, right? While Wei Tan allowed me to stay regardless of our past, I didn't even satisfy his request to call him "Fujun". On second thought, I perceived another angle to my problem. Why was I nervous? As a dignified married woman, I had an excellent family reputation and full confidence. If I'm repudiated, the Wei Clan would have to shoulder the blame for breaking ties. My earlier words already gave Wei Tan enough face......
As I pondered, one thing still bothered me. Did Wei Tan finally agree or not?
I lay on the bed, tossing and turning.
The sound of an opening door reached my ears.
"Eldest Young Master......," Ah Yuan's voice sounded.
"I'll sleep with the Furen tonight, you go to the side room," Wei Tan's voice replied.
I opened my eyes with a jolt.
Wei Tan had entered, dressed in a single-lined robe, and hair still damp.
Nonplussed to see him walk towards me, I said, "You......"
"Move inside," he picked up a pillow, "where will I sleep if you hog the space for two?"
"You," I stammered a little, "why do you want to sleep with me?"
He sat, braced himself on the bed with one hand, and turned his head to gaze at me: "Since we are a married couple, we should sleep together. Right? Furen."
His voice deepened when he uttered the word "Furen". As I stared at his face, I recognized something hidden in his eyes, twinkling and enticing.
Though I wished to retort, I could not.
My heart pounded, and I was both happy and worried; happy that he agreed, but anxious that this bastard wanted to sleep with me.
Since I was the one who suggested we should continue as a married couple, I couldn't kick him out of the room. Keeping my eyes trained on him for any sudden moves, I pulled up the quilt. I wrapped it around me and reclined on the bed, uncaring of the sultry summer night's sweat.
Wei Tan didn't care about me either and blew out the lamp beside the bed. As the bed's wooden boards creaked, I sensed a heavy giant lying next to me.
"Why are you sleeping in there? Come out more." In the dark, his voice seemed nearby.
"Not coming out, uh...... hot."
"It's hot and you're still covering with the quilt? Remove it."
"Ah...... you remove it. What are you doing with your hands?"
"Couples sleep like this; which couple sleeps like the Cowherd and Weaving maid?"
"Your body is too close to me......"
"My hands aren't long enough to hold you unless I come close."
"Who wants you to hold...... ah, your face is scruffy......"
"Don't move!" Wei Tan suddenly whispered.
I froze, halting my struggles.
I sensed a hard pressure at the top of my thighs.
Wei Tan pressed close, and my entire cheek flushed as his breath puffed into my ear. "Ah Jin......," he murmured with a manly aura, and something crawled up from my heart's depths, making my body limp. Just then, his hand reached under my clothes.
"Don't come any closer! You pervert!"
"Hiss! Don't kick...... you woman!"
That last shout was mine; a loud scream because I had sprained my foot again.
Fan Yue, that old idiot, is inconsiderate, and his family's bed is equally inconsiderate. Why did he add carved railings to a good bed? The gap in the railing was large, and in my panic, I hooked my right foot on a railing baluster to avoid Wei Tan. When he tugged on it, the baluster broke with a "crack", injuring my foot again.
Wei Tan woke the servants in the middle of the night to have them boil water and get medicine, and he started massaging my injured foot again.
"Ah......," I was in so much pain that tears were falling down my face.
"Bear with it. With your great strength, I'm surprised that the other foot didn't break too."
"Who told you to hold me!" I glared at him, "If you hadn't played your tricks on me, I wouldn't have put my foot in those places...... ah!"
He soaked my foot in the warm water, hooked his lips and whispered, "Lower your voice! Are you afraid everyone won't hear you?"
I finally noticed the surrounding servants, each with an ambiguous smile at my words.
Embarrassed, I stopped making noises. But I yearned to mark my footprint on the sniggering face in front of me.
Wei Tan wrapped my right foot in a cocoon again and suspended it from the bed canopy.
He still held me after lying down, but no longer made a fuss. At first, I feared that this rogue wouldn't hesitate to take advantage of my circumstance. But he didn't move and only put his arms around me. Before long, his deep breathing steadied.
Married couple? I recalled that in Laiyang, Han Guang slept with me like this every day.
Would this be the future?
......One more thing bothered me. Just then, while I raised my request, Wei Tan didn't mention his......
Never mind, it's best not to mention it.
As I indulged in flights of fancy, I sank into dreamland......
When I woke up at dawn, Wei Tan had already dressed and was standing beside the bed.
"Awake?" His voice was low and hoarse after waking, "Get dressed, we leave in an hour."
I answered and tried to rise with the quilt, but I had no strength. The canopy frame swayed and creaked along with the injured foot, but I just couldn't straighten.
Wei Tan's low laugh sounded beside me as he walked over and sat on the edge of the bed.
"Need help?" He asked, looking at me.
"Yes," I nodded.
"You're forgetting a word."
Staring at his teasing expression, I pondered for a while before I recalled the missing word.
"Fu...... Well, Fujun," I said somewhat stiffly.
Wei Tan's lips curved up as he turned to the wounded foot and untied the knot.
I watched his actions and tried to recall if I said something wrong last night. Why did he insist on this title to death?
He released my wounded foot and grasped me by the shoulders, helping me sit straight.
The quilt slid down my body, exposing my unlined robe.
Wei Tan's gaze halted below my neck.
Stunned, I followed his gaze. Unbeknownst to me, the sash had loosened, opening the collars and revealing a part of the snow-white slopes...... Reddening, I scrambled to pull the collars close.
"Get dressed and pack everything; it's time to hit the road." Though Wei Tan's eyes smiled, his expression was serious.
"Ah Yuan!" He released me and shouted towards the outside of the house.
"I'm here." The door opened, and Ah Yuan cautiously peeked in with half a head.
"Help Furen change," Wei Tan instructed, getting up and walking away.
After I washed and ate, Wei Tan came in and asked if we had finished packing.
When I spoke, he picked me up and walked out the door.
Fan Yue had led his family to the front hall, and when he saw Wei Tan emerge with me in his arms, his expression stiffened slightly.
I felt relieved, though I didn't know why. I never realized being embraced in public could make me so proud.
"Thank you for your hospitality, Lord Fan. We have inconvenienced you for long, so we will take our leave now," Wei Tan expressed his thanks to Fan Yue.
Fan Yue smiled: "My humble abode is crude and poor in hospitality, so don't take offense, Eldest Young Master." He looked at me, "I learned that Furen's foot disease recurred last night, I wonder if you are well? If you don't mind, I can arrange a doctor in Yingchuan to help you stay and recuperate."
"Thank you, Lord Fan, but it's just a minor injury. It will heal in a few days." I smiled, my voice soft, yet fully unapologetic, "I'm sorry I can't walk; I can't even offer my salutes."
Fan Yue replied, "Furen has said too much. I dare not accept your salute."
The servants had long readied the carriages and horses. After the pleasantries, Fan Yue led the crowd to the gates.
When they bowed, I glimpsed last night's dancer standing behind Fan Yue's wife. Her almond eyes looked forward, with her brows lowered, and her face dainty.
Oh, what a pity.
I held my head high and boarded the carriage on Wei Tan's arm.
T/N: I found this chapter funny. LOL'd at Fu Jin and Wei Tan's mishaps in bed + when she called him a heavy giant. (≧▽≦)
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