Always By Your Side - Chapter 18
Chapter 18: Moshang People are Like Jade
That afternoon, Yuanyuan picked up a manuscript from Professor Fu at the Ancient Literature Department. Professor Fu smiled and informed her that Fu Beichen had come back at noon. When Yuanyuan heard this, it was like a burst of wind brushed over her heart with ripples. Just as she walked out of the Ancient Literature Department and looked in the direction of Fuxin Xinyuan, Fu Beichen called.
Yuanyuan exclaimed in her heart: So amazing.
When Fu Beichen learned that Yuanyuan was at H University, he made an appointment to meet her at Orchid Pavilion.
Orchid Pavilion was a scenic spot in the west corner of H University. Many orchid species had been planted around the pavilion. There was also a miniature version of Qu Shui Liu Shang.1 Usually many young couples would linger in this area, especially in the evening.
At this time, the sun was already inclining to the west. The golden afterglow sprinkled over the campus, giving off an especially warm feeling. Yuanyuan walked through the famous Chinese parasol tree road of H University. Because school had started, the surrounding students all carried books or rode by on bicycles. Compared to the last time she had come to H University and encountered Cheng Bai, there were many more people coming and going in a hurry.
When she was about to reach Orchid Pavilion, Yuanyuan saw Fu Beichen standing quietly beside the orchids. He had been gazing at her from the moment he saw her. When she approached, he smiled and began to speak. “Long time no see, Yuanyuan.”
Yuanyuan also had a smile across her face as she replied: “Long time no see, Fu Beichen.” She hadn’t seen him in five days.
Soon after, the two sat down at a nearby bench. After sitting down, Fu Beichen took out a small, delicate box from the pocket of his suit. He gave it to Yuanyuan. “A gift from my business trip, I hope you like it.”
Yuanyuan took it hesitantly, “You always give me things, I’ll be greedy in the future and ask for gifts every time I see you. Then what’s to be done?”
“I would be glad to see it happen.”
Yuanyuan was amused by Fu Beichen’s generosity. She opened the box and was hit with astonishment. A small, delicate comb lay within, but upon closer inspection, it was a red comb underneath a smaller golden comb at the top. She wondered: “Such a small comb, how do you use it? Also…is this…one comb, or…two?” She held the comb between her thumb and fingers, then suddenly realized when she saw the back. “Is this a brooch? It’s so unique!”
“If you like it then wear it, it happens to suit the colour of the sweater you’re wearing today.”
Yuanyuan nodded and put the box aside. She was about to put it on herself when Fu Beichen stooped down, took the brooch, and said softly: “I’ll help you.”
From this kind of angle, he could kiss her as soon as she raised her head. Yuanyuan tried her best to assume an air of unperturbedness. She reached out and grabbed the brooch back, “I’ll do it myself.”
Fu Beichen straightened up and looked at her.
The two of them each had their own thoughts in their hearts. Neither of them noticed the edge of a red skirt swaying in the light breeze not far away.
Leaning on crutches, Cheng Bai came out of the rehabilitation centre. He was walking towards Master Lao Yang’s car parked on the side of the road when his cellphone rang.
At a glance, it was Shen Yu. He thought about it and then answered, “What is it?”
“You care about Cheng Yuanyuan, right? If you don’t do anything, she’s going to be taken away.”
“What’s your meaning?”
Shen Yu’s voice carried the tone that she was watching a good show. “My senior brother has given her a ‘comb’. To come of age and be of one mind, a comb is gifted.”
Shen Yu waited for a while, but Cheng Bai didn’t speak.
“Hello? Cheng Bai?”
“Don’t you really care about Cheng Yuanyuan? Why—” Before she could finish speaking, the other end had already hung up.
Shen Yu wasn’t offended about being treated so rudely by Cheng Bai. She put away her phone and turned to walk towards the dormitory building. As she walked back, she laughed at herself. “Compared to Cheng Bai, I seem to be much worse.”
She thought about Fu Beichen again. Those focused eyes of his, she hadn’t seen such a look on his face for more than two years. Fu Beichen seemed warm and easy to talk to, but he politely kept people a thousand miles away. If Cheng Bai was the cold, direct edge of a knife, then Fu Beichen was warm water. Falling into this water, one would find it very comfortable. But soon they would slowly drown. There would be no courage to even struggle out.
Her cousin was a true example.
Because she was about to start reporting on the princess and her husband’s shrine, Yuanyuan returned to her hometown on Saturday. She didn’t want to approach the deputy bureau chief of the Cultural Relic Office as soon as she arrived, and naturally she didn’t want to trouble Fu Beichen even more, so she set out to survey the people around her first.
Yuanyuan visited the elderly of Yuxi one by one, writing down all kinds of legends and rumours. She spent an entire weekend collecting and summarizing the general idea.
That year, the current political situation was unstable. The princess and her husband both couldn’t bear to see the long-running malpractice in the imperial court, so they fled together. They departed the place of wrongdoings and chose a quiet, remote area to live in seclusion. This was now Yuxi.
There was one other person who had come with them, but there were many legends pertaining to this person. In general terms, there were two theories. One was that he was an imperial bodyguard accompanying them, and the other was that he was a friend or brother.
First: The theory of the imperial bodyguard accompanying them believed that the guard was an ancestor of the Cheng family. The princess and her husband had no male descendants, so it was the descendants of the bodyguard who built an ancestral hall to commemorate them. But the imperial guard had always been fond of the princess, so he planted the red bean tree after her death. When he approached the hour of his own death, he requested his descendants to bury him beside the red bean tree.
Second: Friend or brother. This theory believed that he lived in seclusion with the princess and her husband. This friend had a beloved, but that person might have already passed away. Therefore he planted the red bean tree as a symbol of his yearning, and was buried there after his death. The ruins next to the red bean tree were the ancestral hall built for him by the princess’s husband.
Comparing these two versions, it seemed as if both statements had their own rationale, yet they also had their own plot holes. The first hypothesis reasonably explained the emergence of the Cheng family, yet it was hard to explain why the Cheng family hadn’t preserved their own ancestor’s memorial hall and allowed it to become ruins. The second hypothesis sounded very favourable, but who constructed the princess and her husband’s shrine? How had the Cheng family appeared, and why did they offer sacrifices to the shrine every year?
In the evening, Yuanyuan took a bus back to the city when she suddenly recalled that the princess’s husband was surnamed Fu. Fu Beichen was also a Fu—was Fu Beichen possibly a descendent of the emperor’s son-in-law?
“If it’s true, then he’s indeed descended from nobility.” Yuanyuan couldn’t help laughing, then patted her face twice and mumbled to herself, “Alright, stop thinking about him. Think about work, think about work. The first article will be about the princess and her husband, there are so many historical materials.”
During this period of time, Shen Yu had both an internship and classes to attend. On the weekend, she had some spare time to report her state of affairs and recent research to her teacher, and to ask questions. Before leaving, she suddenly remembered that she had seen a set of “Ming Confucianism” books in Professor Fu’s study. The annotations at the top had been quite interesting, so she wanted to borrow it.
“Beichen took them to read a few days ago. It should be on the desk in his room, you can go get it yourself.” Fu Jiasheng sat on the sofa, picked up his reading glasses, and turned a page of his book.
Shen Yu made a sound of agreement and pushed the door of Fu Beichen’s room open. The room was extremely tidy, so the set of “Ming Confucianism” books immediately entered her eyesight. Shen Yu stepped forward and picked up the two books she wanted. She was preparing to leave when a piece of paper suddenly fell from between the books.
She stooped down to pick it up. Unexpectedly, it was a traditional drawing of a woman in ancient costume. The woman in the drawing had low eyebrows and a smile on her face. The contours of the lines flowed smoothly, as if to convey that she was extremely gentle and soft…Shen Yu felt that the woman’s eyes and brows were somewhat familiar, but she couldn’t call anything to mind.
“Xiao Shen, have you found it?”
“Found it,” Shen Yu replied to Fu Jiasheng. She quickly slipped the drawing between another two books.
After coming out of the professor’s house, Shen Yu thought about the drawing, and then her cousin Zhao Jue…
For a long time after Zhao Jue’s incident, Shen Yu couldn’t accept that her older cousin would actually commit suicide for love. Zhao Jue was such an outstanding and arrogant person, even if the person she liked had no intention of reciprocating, it was unlikely she would choose death. Shen Yu felt that this was not the Zhao Jue she knew. After the incident she had tried to log onto Zhao Jue’s QQ, hoping to find some clues. She tried all kinds of passwords to no avail. Just when she was about to give up, she entered 123456789 and unexpectedly succeeded. It turned out that the password of a genius was surprisingly simple. There had been very few people on her cousin’s QQ. Except for herself, Shen Yu didn’t recognize a single person, and thus gained nothing.
Afterwards, Shen Yu was accepted as Fu Jiasheng’s graduate student. The first time she saw Fu Beichen, the young and talented senior brother that everyone talked about, she was so startled that she couldn’t speak. This person—their senior brother—was the person in the photo that her cousin kept in her diary, the person her cousin had died for back then! Even now, Shen Yu still clearly remembered how she stared at Fu Beichen that time. Her heart had churned with uncontrollable emotions. She later thought that this might have been arranged by the Heavens—they were letting her find out why her cousin chose the path of no return, disregarding the feelings of her relatives.
Shen Yu looked at the “Ming Confucianism” books in her hand and recalled the woman in the drawing once more. She hadn’t remembered before, but at this moment it was like waking up from a dream. That person in the drawing bore a remarkable resemblance to Cheng Yuanyuan!
Early on Sunday morning, Yuanyuan was woken up by Wang Yue’s phone call.
“Classmate Cheng Yuanyuan, today there’s a gathering in the hanfu circle. Come with me!” Lately, Wang Yue had suddenly fallen in love with hanfu for some reason, and even became involved in the hanfu circle. She had always wanted to pull Yuanyuan into the group because she felt that Cheng Yuanyuan’s facial features had the same appeal as ancient times. Towards hanfu, Yuanyuan’s inner heart felt they were the most good-looking. However, the quality of Wang Yue’s hanfu friends was irregular, and some of the photos sincerely had her between laughter and tears.
“But I don’t have a hanfu.”
“You don’t have one but I do! Wear mine, I will definitely prepare an especially beautiful set for you.”
“Can I politely decline?”
“You can. But from now on, you and I will go our separate ways. The bridge returns to the bridge and the road returns to the road. We will eat separately, very close to each other yet on opposite ends of the world.”
After a battle of wits and bravery, Cheng Yuanyuan finally succumbed to Wang Yue’s tyrannical abuse. Wang Yue’s hanfu circle was gathering at a teahouse by Xizhao Lake. Because it was a weekend, there were many tourists coming and going. Wang Yue wore a chest-length skirt with a buttoned Chinese coat and silk draped over her arms. She looked like the unmarried daughter of a noble family. Many tourists saw them and came up to ask the group for photos. Wang Yue was naturally very enthusiastic and didn’t refuse anyone. Yuanyuan, however, kept shrinking back for fear of meeting an acquaintance.
After a while, the tourists regarded Wang Yue as a mascot. Wang Yue simply threw her bag on a bench off to the side and concentrated on taking photographs. At this time, an extremely thin young man picked up Wang Yue’s bag without batting an eyelid. He was about to slip away when Yuanyuan, who was hiding behind everyone, happened to cast a glance his way. She quickly shouted: “There’s a thief!”
The tourists around them became nervous. One after another, they checked their belongings. For a moment, the scene was somewhat chaotic. Meanwhile, Yuanyuan saw that the thief had turned around and nearly escaped. She didn’t care that she was wearing a long and complicated dress. She stomped her foot and broke into a run to chase after him. She chased him for no less than five minutes until she reached a snack street. In front of a restaurant with wine flags fluttering, Yuanyuan finally caught the thief, utterly exasperated. Out of breath, she said: “You…you…can’t you be a good person? Why be a thief?” At this moment, Yuanyuan could clearly see that the other party still seemed to be a minor.
Presently, aside from the circle of onlookers who weren’t clear on the truth, there were also some people looking at Cheng Yuanyuan through the floor-to-ceiling glass windows of the restaurant. These people were exactly Fu Beichen’s colleagues. Of course, Fu Beichen was also present. A pair of his colleagues from the same hometown had gone back to get married two days ago. Since their hometown was quite distant from Jinghai, and the wedding date wasn’t on a weekend, none of their colleagues were able to attend. Therefore, the newlyweds had returned and invited them to a meal to make up for it.
After the groom saw the situation outside, he said in astonishment, “Fu Beichen, isn’t that the little girl who came to our office last time?”
Then all the experts at the table looked over—
Cheng Yuanyuan was wearing a light-yellow, narrow-sleeved outer coat on her upper body. The cuffs and collar were embroidered with curling grass patterns, and inside she wore a carmine red tube top. Her lower body was dressed in a smoky pink, floor-length skirt. She appeared beautiful and elegant. It was just that her hairpin was slanted, and the hair at her temples were scattered. The coat on her body was also worn crookedly.
Fu Beichen was stunned when he saw Cheng Yuanyuan, then saw that she was dragging a young man who clearly looked like a good-for-nothing. He stood up and immediately prepared to go outside.
A female colleague watched Fu Beichen as he ran out, teasing, “Until now, I have never seen Expert Fu have this sort of anxious expression.”
“What are you doing?”
Yuanyuan heard the familiar voice and turned her head to see Fu Beichen. Although she was surprised, she couldn’t tolerate any distractions at this moment. Panting, she said, “He took my colleague’s bag.”
Fu Beichen had already reached her side. His heart contained some anger, but he didn’t show it on his face, only saying expressionlessly, “Then let him take it.” The implication was that she should not be impetuous by trying to catch the thief on her own, as she was putting herself in a dangerous situation.
The thief who was being dragged by the arm nodded and scolded: “Exactly! Loathsome woman, quickly let go of me!” The next second, he felt pain in his back. Someone had pushed him against a wall, rendering him unable to move a single step.
The expression of the man in front of him did not change, but the thief felt a chill in the air. He was a little afraid for no reason and hurriedly said, “Don’t hit people, don’t hit people, I’ll return the bag to you!” He threw the bag to Yuanyuan. “I’m begging you guys not to report to the police! This is my first time stealing, really.”
Yuanyuan considered how the bag had been returned anyway. In addition, the other party was still quite young. She merely said, “Little brother, in the future you must turn a new leaf, don’t do it again.”
Fu Beichen glanced at Yuanyuan and let go. He personally didn’t believe the thief’s claim that it was a first offence, but at this moment he unexpectedly didn’t want to waste time on irrelevant people. As soon as the thief was free, he ran away in panic and disorder. Fu Beichen frowned and said to Yuanyuan, “Do you have any injuries?”
Yuanyuan shook her head. Her nerves were still tense.
At this time, Wang Yue finally rushed over. “Yuanyuan, are you okay?!”
Yuanyuan handed her the bag, “I’m fine.”
“That’s good, that’s good.” Wang Yue had only been worried about Yuanyuan just now. It was at this moment that she finally noticed a man at Yuanyuan’s side. Without thinking, she blurted out, “Yi? Mr. Fu?”
Fu Beichen reverted to his refined and gentle appearance. Originally, he wanted to talk with Yuanyuan, but he couldn’t now that there was an outsider. He nodded politely to Wang Yue, then asked Yuanyuan, “Have you had lunch?”
Yuanyuan’s state of mind finally circled to the realization that she had run into Fu Beichen dressed like this. Now she wanted to dig a hole and bury herself in it. How could she let him see her like this? She was done for, she was done for, she was ruined, she was ruined…
“No.” She lowered her head and quickly pulled Wang Yue as she said to Fu Beichen, “We’re going to eat now. Then…bye.”
Fu Beichen watched her depart quickly. He stood in place without moving. Currently, the hibiscus flowers on either side of the pedestrian street were blooming in beautiful purples and brilliant reds, but they didn’t enter his eyesight at all. Eventually his colleague Zhan Hongyu ran over to inquire: “Everyone sent me to ask you why you’re standing here dumbfounded?” Zhan Hongyu followed his gaze to the end of the street, at the figure with messy hair and dishevelled ancient clothes. He said jokingly, “So it turns out you like this type, ah?”
Fu Beichen lowered his eyelids. He suddenly saw a hairpin lying quietly on the ground. He bent over to pick it up, thinking in his heart: It wasn’t a type. From beginning to end, it was just this one.
Yuanyuan returned to the teahouse by Xizhao Lake. The group of people that had gathered today to play all watched her attentively.
Yuanyuan took a sip of tea and said, “Handsome gentlemen and beautiful ladies, please don’t look at me. I know I must look a lot like Sun Erniang2 who just finished making human meat buns.”
These words caused everyone to laugh.
While Wang Yue helped Yuanyuan tidy up her appearance, she discovered that her hairpin on her head was missing. “Did you take off the hairpin?”
Yuanyuan lifted her hand and felt her hair. Sure enough, there was nothing! “It probably fell while I was chasing the thief.”
“That’s fine, if it drops it drops.” Wang Yue didn’t mind. Instead, she winked at Yuanyuan and said, “Yuanyuan, that Mr. Fu has the most ancient-style charm I’ve ever seen. Can you persuade him to join us too? I think that if he wears a white costume, he will certainly be handsome. Moshang people are like jade, the son of nobility is unparalleled in this world.”
“Really?” someone asked skeptically.
Even if they knelt on their knees, it was impossible for Fu Beichen to join their hanfu circle. But with Wang Yue’s passionate plea, Yuanyuan still couldn’t help but visualize Fu Beichen’s appearance in ancient costume. En, he would be very refined and handsome, right?
“Do I have a golden mouth?” Wang Yue suddenly stared behind Yuanyuan in a dumbstruck manner.
Yuanyuan turned her head and saw the person she had been fantasizing about.
“This is yours.” Fu Beichen walked closer and handed her the hairpin he was holding—it was the one that had fallen down. Yuanyuan took it in a daze, not daring to look up at him. Fu Beichen saw that she was uncomfortable and didn’t stay any longer. He simply smiled, nodded, and gave his regards to the others, then turned around to leave.
Because of Fu Beichen’s appearance, Yuanyuan was quickly surrounded by everyone. One-by-one, they demanded she pull Fu Beichen into their circle. Yuanyuan was truly about to burst into tears, “Don’t think about these matters.”
When everyone heard Yuanyuan speak so resolutely, they felt that it was such a pity in their hearts.
After the gathering, Yuanyuan returned home and took a bath. Then she grabbed her laptop and sat on the small sofa in the living room, planning to watch something. However, her mind kept recalling today’s events.
“Ah, it’s so embarrassing I could die! No matter what Sister Wang says in the future, I won’t accept.” She closed the laptop and fell over, wailing. In the end, she was probably very tired. Within moments she fell asleep. When she woke up, she felt pins and needles. Outside it was heavily raining. Just as she was about to sit up, she felt a sharp burst of pain in her stomach. She couldn’t help letting out a groan, uttering, “It hurts.” Yuanyuan thought about her previous thief-chasing exercise, as well as how she’d eaten ice cream with the girls from the hanfu circle. She’d had two ice creams and a frozen yoghurt after their meal. Under this internal and external attack, could it be that she was coming to the end of her life? “Pei pei, how can you curse yourself like that? But it really hurts.” Yuanyuan felt her forehead beginning to sweat and her stomach cramped, it really hurt.
It hurt so bad, could it possibly be appendicitis?
Yuanyuan began to panic. With trembling hands, she reached into her pocket for her phone and scrolled through her contacts. She wanted to call her mother, but then she gave it a second thought. By the time her mother arrived, she’d probably be on the verge of death. Going down her contacts one by one, she reached Fu Beichen and hesitated for a moment. She was about to scroll down again when her phone began to ring. It was actually an incoming call from Fu Beichen.
Yuanyuan didn’t know what was wrong, but her eyes suddenly turned red.
She pressed “answer”.
“What’s wrong?” Fu Beichen heard the weakness in Yuanyuan’s voice at once.
“My…my stomach hurts.”
Fu Beichen said quickly, “Wait, I’ll come over immediately.”
Yuanyuan stared blankly at the call that had ended. The joy that emerged in her heart alleviated the pain slightly.
Within five minutes, Yuanyuan heard the doorbell.
Yuanyuan clutched her stomach and got up. With great difficulty, she went to open the door. The person outside the door was indeed Fu Beichen.
Fu Beichen was panting, his hair a little dishevelled. He placed the long-handled umbrella he was carrying in the doorway, stepped through the door, and supported Yuanyuan. As soon as the two sat down on the sofa, Yuanyuan asked, “You…?”
“I happened to be nearby,” Fu Beichen said. He had her lie down, moved his right hand over her abdomen, and pressed down on her stomach through the fabric of her clothes. “Does it hurt to press here?” Yuanyuan only felt embarrassed, but still shook her head. Fu Beichen pressed again on the lower right side of her stomach. Seeing that she didn’t have much of a response, he asked, “When is your period?”
Yuanyuan stared at him blankly, then recalled that her period seemed to be on its way. At a loss for words, she said, “It’s not appendicitis? Then maybe it’s an upset stomach.” She would rather that be the case. Even though she usually felt unwell when her period came, it had never been this painful.
Fu Beichen told her strictly: “I have to determine the cause. In the event that it’s an upset stomach, then I’ll go and buy you some antibiotics.”
Yuanyuan’s entire face flushed as she replied, “It should be in these two days.” Was it her negligence by gorging on cold foods before her period?
After Fu Beichen heard this, he got up and went to the kitchen.
Meanwhile, Yuanyuan clutched her stomach and thought dejectedly, was today her day of tribulation?
When Fu Beichen returned, he had a cup in his hand. The “drink” was black and awfully muddy. She didn’t know what it was. He handed it to Yuanyuan and said, “Drink it, it’ll make you feel better.”
Yuanyuan obediently took it and tried a sip. She found that the taste was not bad. “What is this?”
“Poison,” Fu Beichen smiled.
“There’s brown sugar, eggs, and ginger in it. You don’t have any other ingredients here. Drink this first, it’s mild and warm.”
Fu Beichen sat beside her and watched her finish the drink sip by sip. Yuanyuan finished drinking and put the cup on the coffee table. She turned her head, about to thank Fu Beichen, but it was suddenly dark before her eyes.
Fu Beichen’s soft lips pressed against hers. Yuanyuan widened her eyes, then immediately shut them. The refreshing scent on his body lingered in her nostrils. The kiss was light, like a dragonfly barely skimming the water, yet Yuanyuan’s heartbeat nearly stopped.
In a trance, she heard Fu Beichen murmur: “Wanyu.”
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