(T/N: The Luo here is a different surname from Luo Wei’s. It’s the Qi Lin Mountain Villa master, Luo Ting Chao’s, surname).
Xie Wang Bei and his wife arrived in the capital on the third day of the Lunar New Year. Once they heard the news that Xie Yu had headed for Yue Zhou, they were anxious to follow.
Luo Zhi Qiu prepared a small feast in the reception pavilion. Only Fu Hua, Luo Zhi Qiu, and Xie Wang Bei and his wife sat together around a small round table. Both hosts and guests enjoyed themselves while having a familial meal.
Luo Wei brought the five people headed by Nineteen over to see Xie Wang Bei so that Xie Wang Bei could bring them with him to Yue Zhou.
An outpouring of gratitude towards Luo Wei flowed from Xie Wang Bei’s lips.
Luo Wei only said with a smile, “This little nephew just now saw Uncle Xie’s family all looking tired. They’ve suffered on the road here. I’m thinking that it might be better for Uncle Xie to bring two useful subordinates. The others you brought you can let them stay here at the official’s residence to rest. When Uncle Xie returns from Yue Zhou, then he can bring them back.”
Xie Wang Bei protested, “This is too much trouble for the Prime Minister and the Third Young Master.”
Luo Wei replied, “Uncle Xie shouldn’t regard himself as an outsider. This small nephew is making considerations for Uncle Xie. Uncle Xie’s time is originally limited. If his trip is delayed due to his underlings’ exhaustion I’m afraid that when you meet Brother Xie Yu, you won’t have time to spend as a family.”
Luo Wei’s words moved Xie Wang Bei. He brought two old stewards, the five Shadow Guards, and fifteen imperial bodyguards from the official’s residence. This group of people left the capital the next day towards Yue Zhou.
The letter Xie Yu sent from Yue Zhou rested upon the desk in Luo Zhi Qiu’s study. It only stated that Long Xuan had arrived at Yue Zhou but hadn’t made any movements. After Luo Zhi Qiu gave this letter to Luo Wei to read, Luo Wei declined to comment. Whether Long Xuan really made no movements, or he had but Xie Yu did not discover them, or Xie Yu had discovered them but did not disclose, all would be clear after Xie Wang Bei arrived at Yue Zhou.
One day later, news came from the Qi Lin Villa. Ning Shu Ying had left Ming Jian Villa one month ago, bringing his people with him.
“Young master, this is the gift that our villa’s master ordered this humble one to deliver to the young master. The villa’s master said to consider it his New Year’s gift.” At the same time that he offered the letter, the messenger also presented a black, lacquered wooden box.
Luo Wei personally opened the wooden box. The moment he did, he choked on the stench of lime and coughed a few times. Half the box was filled with lime, and within the lime rested a human head. Luo Wei clutched at his nose and mouth, carefully considering the head for a while before he recognized it as Ku Liu’s.
“Young master,” the messenger continued, “our villa’s master wanted this humble one to inform the young master that he did not allow this person an easy death.”
Luo Wei gently shut the lid of the box. “Go back and thank your villa’s master for me.”
“Yes,” the messenger agreed. He then asked, “Young master, then Ning Shu Ying?”
“Kill.” Luo Wei only said this one word to the messenger.
Wei Lan had been guarding outside the whole time. When the messenger left Luo Wei’s study, he and Wei Lan regarded each other. Wei Lan recognized this messenger. This person was one of Luo Ting Chao’s capable subordinates. The messenger also recognized Wei Lan. Wei Lan had grown to be beautiful within the Qi Lin Shadow Guards. Luo Ting Chao had truly shown “special favor” towards Twenty-Nine for a spell.
Wei Lan stepped to the side. He knew Luo Wei wanted to use the Qi Lin Mountain Villa, but he himself did not wish to associate with the Qi Lin Mountain Villa’s people.
The messenger noticed that Wei Lan’s clothing was much higher quality than that of the other ordinary servants in the official’s residence. He also saw that Wei Lan alone stood guard outside Luo Wei’s study. With this, he understood Wei Lan’s current position. The messenger dipped his head at Wei Lan in greeting. It seemed that this shadow guard was the Third Young Master’s trusted aide. The messenger did not expect that a minor shadow guard supplied for pleasure could actually enter the Third Young Master’s eye.
Wei Lan lowered his head as he stood. The messenger’s gaze left him very uncomfortable.
“Please, this way,” Qi Zi arrived to send the messenger out.
The messenger left the courtyard entrance, and only then realized that Twenty-Nine was the shadow guard that the Third Young Master Luo had taken away from the Qi Lin Mountain Villa. The messenger thought that he should convey this matter to the villa master. Even if Twenty-Nine had not climbed into the Third Young Master’s bed, in any case he had become his trusted aide. The villa master had to make new considerations for Twenty-Nine, and he definitely had to coax him.
In those joyous days ushering the old year out and the new year in, the messenger still dragged the fierce contests of the Jiang Hu to their start.
Wei Lan entered the study and saw Luo Wei staring at a wooden box. “That’s what Steward Song just sent over?” Wei Lan asked. He had seen the messenger bring the wooden box in to meet Luo Wei.
“En,” Luo Wei replied. “Luo Ting Chao sent me a great gift, open it and see.”
Wei Lan opened the box. He was someone who had seen his fair share of the dead. When he saw the human head, Wei Lan reacted just as Luo Wei did. He had no extreme reaction.
“Do you recognize who this is?”
Wei Lan identified the corpse faster than Luo Wei did. “This person, isn’t it that Ku Liu’s head?”
“It’s him,” Luo Wei confirmed as he looked at the head in the box. “Luo Ting Chao did not allow him an easy death. Lan, looks like he’s settled the debt he owes me.”
With one wave of his hand, Wei Lan closed the lid of the box. “Damn this man. Young master, don’t think anymore about the past.”
Luo Wei said, “Go throw this man’s head a bit further away. Let him stay further away from me.”
Wei Lan carried the box and left.
Luo Wei left the study and entered his bedroom. Just as he wanted to lie down, he heard Xiao Xiao shout, “Young miss, please you cannot force yourself in ah!”
“Luo Yun Qi,” Fu Wei’s voice was very loud, “little cousin, I have something to ask you ah.”
Luo Wei rebuttoned the collar of his clothes and exited to the outer room.
The moment Fu Wei saw Luo Wei come out, she pushed Xiao Xiao to the side and ran in front of Luo Wei in the span of a few steps, “Cousin, I haven’t disturbed you have I?”
Luo Wei waved his hand to bid Xiao Xiao leave, then sat down to ask Fu Wei, “Sixth cousin is here to ask about Ning Fei?”
Fu Wei’s face reddened.
“Sit ah,” Luo Wei said with good humor. “Could it be that I guessed wrong?”
“No, no it isn’t,” Fu Wei denied. “It’s just that I heard General Ning will go to Yun Guan after finishing the year.”
“That is the case,” Luo Wei confirmed. “Zi Zhou works for my older brother. This time he’s bringing his family back with him.”
“That fast ah,” Fu Wei muttered softly.
“Cousin likes Zi Zhou?”
This question was too straightforward. Though Fu Wei was a carefree young woman, her face still turned scarlet.
“Cousin,” Luo Wei seemed to not notice as he continued, “I’m thinking I should inform you of certain things. Zi Zhou’s mother originally was a dancing girl at the Ming Jian Villa, he…”
“Then who is his father?” Fu Wei interrupted.
“His father is Ming Jian Villa’s villa master Ning Shu Ying,” Luo Wei replied. “But I’m afraid there hasn’t ever been much of a father-son relationship between Zi Zhou and Villa Master Ning. The four of them, including mother and son, already don’t have any relation with Ming Jian Villa. Cousin must remember these words of mine.”
“Okay,” Fu Wei said, “I’ll remember. I won’t ask about General Ning’s past, shouldn’t people look to the future?”
“Zi Zhou also has younger brothers and sisters. His wife must be able to manage the household for him. Sixth cousin, what can you do? Zi Zhou doesn’t need a wife who will accompany him to the battlefield to fight his enemies.”
“Younger cousin, make it a bit clearer. I don’t really understand.”
“To put it simply, can you cook and wash clothes? Can you get along well with the older madam?”
Fu Wei thought for a bit. She truly did not know how to do that work. “Isn’t it enough for servants to do it?”
“Servants will do it, but as the mistress of the household you also have to understand it no?”
“I’ll learn what I don’t know.” Fu Wei suddenly stood up. “There isn’t anything I can’t learn.”
“Then how about the older madam?”
“Who wouldn’t pay filial respect to her own mother?”
Luo Wei looked up at Fu Wei.
“I’m saying that a mother-in-law is also a mother!”
Luo Wei let out a “pfft” and began to laugh.
Fu Wei only then realized what she had just said. “Don’t tell anyone else!” Sixth cousin Fu fled, leaving behind this sentence.