Chapter 1: Birthday gift
Carved in bones and engraved in the heart. A perfect description of Lu Mingshu's seventh birthday.
She was born on the second day of February, which falls on the flower festival. Where brightly coloured flowers bloomed, welcoming her birth.
On that fateful morning, Hui Niang had picked up a peach blossom as a hair accessory for Lu Mingshu that suits her.
"When I woke up this morning, I heard a magpie calling from the window. It's definitely a good sign, as it's your birthday today, miss." Hui Niang said with all smiles.
Soon after, Xiao Huan rushed, panting heavily. "Miss, miss, I've got big news!" She didn't wait for Hui Niang to berate her for her impudence as she shouted, "It's your father! Your father has sent someone!"
Hui Niang swallowed back the words she was about to say and turn to Xiao Huan, startled. "What did you say?"
"My father?" Lu Mingshu turned around immediately.
She has never seen her father before. However, based on what her mother had told her, her father had left to become an apprentice to a master while she has yet to be born, and has never since returned. "Your father may have been delayed by some urgent matters." That's what Lu Mingshu's mother always says.
"That's right, a guest just arrived. He claims to have been sent by your father…"
However, before Xiao Huan could finish her sentence, she was being cut off by Hui Niang who smacked her head hard. "What do you mean by ‘your father'? Don't you have any manners? You are to address him as ‘master'!"
"Oh…" But this wasn't the main point. Xiao Huan went over to Lu Mingshu and grabbed her by the arm while jumping up and down excitedly. "Miss, you haven't seen the horse carriage parked outside! It's so pretty! And the person that was sent over as pretty as a fairy! Before I came in, I overheard someone saying that our master was a Sect Leader. Our master must've had a great teacher and has since become an expert!"
The Lu family's son-in-law, Fu Ze, is a talented martial artist with lots of potentials. However, the town of Qingfeng was located in a remote location, thus there wasn't any good martial arts academy within a hundred-mile radius. As such, the Lu family had forked out of their savings in order to help him find a good teacher in the capital seven years ago. From then on, there hadn't been any news from him.
1Lu Mingshu always dreamed for her father to return soon so that her family could be reunited. Never in her wildest dreams would she expect for this dream to come true on her birthday!
"It must be that master ended up succeding and he's here to pick you up! Miss will be able to live a good life from here on out…"
Lu Mingshu ignored Hui Niang's shouts from behind her as she dashed right out of the room.
Within no time, she's outside of the drawing-room.
"This is for you." A feminine voice could be heard coming from the drawing-room
Lu Mingshu took a deep breath and tip-toed to get a glimpse of what's going on in the drawing-room.
Both her grandfather and her mother were present, along with a woman dressed in beautiful silk fabrics, who was seated atop a guest seat with her back to Lu Mingshu. Though she couldn't see the woman's face, she was able to see an exquisite butterfly hairpin pinned in her silky black hair, which had been rolled up into a bun.
The servant girl by her side was handing over a fine box to her grandfather.
Her grandfather received the box and carefully opened it, pulling a piece of paper out.
Her grandfather's face immediately turned bright red with anger. " This … what's the meaning of this?" his voice quivered slightly.
That servant girl put on a thin smile. . "I heard that the Lu family is the family of a farmer and a scholar. Even though you're poor, I am sure that Sir Lu is a knowledgeable and cultured man. Or could it be that Sir Lu is illiterate?"
Lu Mingshu was stunned.
"Rui Xiang." The woman seated atop the guest seat called out, her voice oddly sweet-sounding.
The servant girl turned towards the woman and bowed respectfully. "Yes, miss."
The woman said, "They're from the countryside, thus it's inevitable that they lack general knowledge. Speak nicely with them, don't be rude."
The servant girl turned around, her chin now slightly raised. " Sir Lu, as it seems that you can't read, servant shall explain it to you. This is a divorce letter. Once your precious daughter signs it, she will forever part ways with our sect leader. They will then have nothing to do with each other anymore."
Lu Mingshu stared with wide eyes.
Her mother suddenly stood up and grabbed the piece of paper. Her hands trembling as she read through it, her eyes full of disbelief.
"No, I don't believe it!" Lu Mingshu's mother tore the paper in anger. "Ah Ze wouldn't treat me like this! Where is he? Let him come here personally!"
"You want the sect leader to come here personally?" The servant girl snickered. "Mrs. Lu, do you even realize what does being the sect leader of the Nine Jade Palace represents? He's someone that even the King of Dongyue has to treat as an esteemed guest; for what reason would the sect leader come over just to meet a country bumpkin like you?" She glanced at the paper that's torn apart taking another one out. "You can tear as much as we want, we have lot's of copies here for you to tear."
1"Qingyi!" Grandfather stopped Lu Mingshu's mother before she could continue, then turned his gaze towards the female that had remained relatively uninvolved since the start. "Young lady, you have to explain this clearly. Ah Ze is my family's son-in-law, which is clearly stated on the marriage certificate. Even if he does want a divorce, he should come back and tell us in person."
"Wasn't everything clearly explained in the divorce letter?" The servant girl continued, "Our sect leader…"
"I wasn't talking to you!" Elder Lu shouted. "What's a servant like you butting in for? Hasn't your master taught you anything?"
"You—" The servant girl said angrily as she straightened her body. "Sir Lu, it's already considered a courtesy for our miss to address you as a Sir. ‘A servant like me?' Did you know that ‘a servant like me' also goes to the palace? Even the high-ranked officials of Dongyue have to be polite to me!"
The woman that had remained uninvolved suddenly raised her head. "Rui Xiang, be nice. Don't be like these lower-class people, who use words in order to gain an advantage."
"Sorry miss, servant will immediately clear things up with him."
The woman waved her hand. " No need. Let me speak."
She turned to face Lu Mingshu's angry grandfather and incessantly weeping mother and said calmly, "Sir Lu, you should understand that even heroes will fall apart during difficult times. Back then, when Fu Ze had nothing but ambitions that were hard to realize, your self-proclaimed ‘kind' Lu family not only didn't lend him a helping hand, you actually forced him to become a member of your family. Taking advantage of him is unforgivable by itself. As for the marriage certificate…"
Even Lu Mingshu who were only seven could distinguish the disdain in her voice. "I wouldn't have the face to bring that up if I were you."
Lu Mingshu's grandfather's eyes immediately widen in shock upon hearing her words, while her mother forgot to cry as she looked at her, jaws dropping.
Lu Mingshu clenched her fists tightly, as she felt unspeakably shocked. The Lu family isn't rich; they only had a single residence and fifty acres of land. She'd heard from mother that in order to gather father's travel expenses, they'd sold away half of the land they had.
After a few moments, Lu Mingshu's grandfather finally looked up. "These words...are all his actual words?" His lips quivered as he said.
"Why? Do you not admit to it?" The servant girl snickered.
The woman waved her hand as she continued, "He's a broad-minded man who has become a dragon and went to where he belongs. He isn't trying to make things difficult for you. As long as these divorce papers are signed, he'll have nothing to do with the Lu family anymore. I've heard that he has a child? The silver banknotes in this box will be child support. Consider this his repayment to the Lu family for her meals all these years."
1The servant girl quickly added, "Sir Lu, is it meaningless for you to continue this argument with us. Our sect leader isn't some son-in-law you can order around anymore. With his genius level of talent, it only took him seven short years to go from the inner breath realm to the spirit realm. He's ranked as one of the top experts in Xichuan now. If it weren't for your Lu family tying him down, he could even enter the sky ranking list. Can someone like this truly be supported by your family? A noble person knows oneself. If I were you, I would neatly sign these divorce papers, in order to avoid inviting disgrace upon myself!"
"You—" Lu Mingshu's mother was so angry that she turned red. "What nonsense are you spouting?! Back then it was clearly Ah Ze—"
"Qingyi!" Lu Mingshu's Grandfather stopped her mother once again, then tightly clenched his jaw. "Don't say anything more, sign the papers!"
Lu Mingshu's Mother was dazed, then shouted, "Father!"
"Didn't they clearly explain it? If we can't support the person, even if you don't sign the papers, that person still won't stay. Since he's resolved himself to wipe us from his past, then let it be as he wishes!" Lu Mingshu's Grandfather coldly replied.
Her Mother fell silent, then slowly signed the divorce letters amidst choked sobs.
Once the matter had been settled, the servant girl put on a thin smile, "Well then Miss Lu, your marriage is irrelevant now that you've signed the divorce papers. You're still young, thus it still isn't too late for you to marry someone else. Just don't find someone like our sect leader. We all understand that you want to find someone who's young and talented, but you need to keep in mind your own status. You can't be greedy if you want to grow old with someone!"
2The woman now has stood up and bowed her head in respect. However, the words she spoke were laced with arrogance, "We've troubled you. We'll take our leave now."
When she saw them leave the drawing-room, Lu Mingshu can't help but follow them to the courtyard door.
The woman notice her and turned to glance at her momentarily, before turning back around.
Like Xiao Huan had said, she was indeed as pretty as a fairy.
And yet, would someone as pretty a fairy speak such words; words that people found unbearable?
Before the horse carriage left, she heard a voice trailing out from inside. "Rui Xiang, you said too much just now. What was the point in telling them so much?"
Rui Xiang's voice was completely different than before as she answered playfully, "Because servant could not stand them! What sort of figure is the sect leader, to have been a son-in-law to such a family…"
Lu Mingshu would have never thought that rather than a family reunion, but a divorce paper to her mother from her father.