Yang Gongming smiled. “It’s all in the past. I did not always look like this, Ruoxi.”
“No…that’s not it.” Lin Ruoxi chuckled awkwardly, not knowing what to say.
“You must be wondering where Yang Chen got his wandering eye. Well, you’re looking at him.” Yang Gongming teased.
Lin Ruoxi blushed at his correct assumption.
“Hey, those days were different. I was violating my own morality, Yang Chen is just enjoying his life.” Yang Gongming shook his head while smiling.
“Grandfather...let’s not talk about this anymore. Did she find out?” Lin Ruoxi interjected. She didn’t want to remember him by his dirty deeds.
Yang Gongming was ashamed of himself. “I would never forget the day she found out. We were in our room. I lied to her about attending a social event while I was really meeting one of my lovers. She was tying my tie for me and even asked me if she should prepare some hangover soup. I was feeling especially guilty that night so I jokingly asked if she ever felt threatened by other women. I tried to make it sound like a joke but I lacked confidence and regretted asking that. Guess how she answered me?”
Lin Ruoxi shook her head numbly. Her heart wrenched as though she could see the scene unfold in front of her.
Yan Sanniang’s eyes were filled with longing, staring at the space in front of her.
Yang Gongming took a deep breath and smiled dryly. “Your grandmother smiled at me gently. She said, ‘I’ll believe everything that you say. Trust is the most important thing between husband and wife, no matter what happens.’ I stood there, frozen. No matter what I did, she was always there, smiling and waiting for me. She didn’t doubt me at all. That night, after leaving home, I had the chauffeur dropped me off at a park. I didn’t meet the woman. I asked my chauffeur to buy a bottle of Baiju which I drank on the park bench till midnight. From that day onwards, I cut all ties with all the women I met. But, just as I was prepared to make things right, she died.”
The amount of grief that was pouring from his face shook Lin Ruoxi to the core.
Yan Sanniang walked up and held his shoulders, “Master, it’s been a few decades. Madame was so kind, I’m sure she’s happy up there.”
Yang Gongming nodded, “Yeah, perhaps I would be joining her in a few years. I wasn’t able to raise our son well but at least our grandson is fine.”
Sorrow crossed Yan Sanniang’s face. “Master, you’re still healthy, don’t say that.”
Yang Gongming shook his head and sighed. “Sanniang, you don’t have to serve anyone when I die. I already owe you this life. Let’s hope I will be able to pay you back in the next.”
“Master…” Yan Sanniang wiped her tears.
Lin Ruoxi could also feel tears landing on her thighs.
She sniffed and tried to wipe away her tears.
Yang Gongming calmed himself down and grinned at Lin Ruoxi. “Ruoxi, did you know, your grandmother left this garden to me. I always nagged her about doing mundane chores like this when she could live much better as the wife of the clan leader. Do you know what she told me?”
Lin Ruoxi pursed her lips and shook her head. “What did she say?”
“She said, humans will lie to you and mistreat you. Unlike soil who as long as you treat well, they will repay you in kind.”
Lin Ruoxi listened to him attentively and chuckled. “If I was a man, I wouldn’t be like you, cheating on a good wife like Grandmother.”
“I see it is your turn to lecture me.” Yang Gongming chuckled.
Lin Ruoxi’s eyes were filled with warmth. Moments like these were rare and have to be appreciated.
Yang Gongming extended his palm towards Yan Sanniang.
Yan Sanniang understood his signal and removed a rectangular purplish-red token from her sleeve.
She passed it to Yang Gongming and Yang Gongming pushed it into Lin Ruoxi’s arms. “Here you go, take it.”
Lin Ruoxi took it and examined the token closely. It was a token made out of red sandalwood.
“Those are Qilin.” Yang Gongming explained while smiling, “It was carved from Indian red sandalwood. My father got the wood from an Indian politician and had woodcarvers to carve it. “I’ve been holding onto it after my father passed away. It served as a reminder of him as well as a charm to ward off evil spirits.”
“Indian red sandalwood is almost extinct now.”
Lin Ruoxi declined immediately when she heard that it was passed down from Marshal Yang Ye. “You should take it back Grandfather, it’s too precious.”
“Eh, just take it.” Yang Gongming laughed. “I knew you felt uncomfortable with the way I treated Cai Ning last night. It’s just that Cai Ning suffered so much for Yang Chen, I couldn’t ignore her. Plus, you’re Yang Chen’s wife and she’s not. I had to comfort her to make sure she doesn’t feel imbalanced. This token is a gift from me.”
Lin Ruoxi was embarrassed. “Grandfather, I’m sorry, I thought you didn’t like me…”
“I wouldn’t have let you into our house if I didn’t like you.” Yang Gongming chuckled. “I don’t care too much about Yang Chen’s lovers but I can’t take our future lady leader so lightly.”
Lin Ruoxi was both relieved and glad to hear that.
“Young Madame, most of the old generals recognize this token since it was in the hands of both marshals. If you need help, you can bring this token to the major military zones and request for soldier troops.” Yan Sanniang added on.
Lin Ruoxi looked at the protective charm on her hand which felt heavier now.
After parting ways Yang Gongming, she returned to her room for a shower and immediately felt more at ease.
During their lunch with Yang Gongming, Yang Chen suddenly asked, “Dear, what do you want to do later?”
Lin Ruoxi was confused by his compliance. “Why are you being so nice, is this some sort of game?”
“No.” Yang Chen sighed out. “I was counting the days and I realized today is the sixth of August, it's the seventh day of the seventh lunar month on the Chinese calendar, which means it's Qixi. We didn’t get to celebrate Valentine’s day during February so I thought I will make it up to you.”
Lin Ruoxi was taken aback at first but she smiled a minute later. “Then you can accompany to the shopping streets in Beijing? I haven’t got the chance to take a proper visit.”
“Hmm.” Lin Ruoxi nodded. She did not want much anyways
Yang Chen was about to answer but was interrupted by a servant who ran in to inform them something. “Master, someone from the Ning clan is here to send an invitation.”