Chapter 43 The Lady's Affectionate Visit (Part 2)


Beyond the fragrant haze of blossoms, there lies a quiet, secluded courtyard, separated from the garden by a circular archway.
Stepping through the arch, one's eyes are immediately drawn to two connected cottages with green bricks and red tiles.
Inside, there is only a bed, a table, and four chairs.
Although the furnishings are quite modest, they are a significant improvement from the thatched huts one might reside in otherwise.


Lin Wanrong nods in satisfaction, finding the cozy abode rather pleasing.
He looks around, hoping to find Uncle Fu, but the old man is nowhere to be seen.


“Is he slacking off on the job?” Lin Wanrong thinks, helplessly scanning the surroundings before calling out loudly, “Uncle Fu, Uncle Fu, where are you?”


A voice emerges from within the flowers, “I'm here, Lin San.”


Following the sound, Lin Wanrong spots Uncle Fu squatting among the blossoms, tending to a peony plant.
The branches and foliage hide his figure, explaining why Lin Wanrong couldn't locate him earlier.




Lin Wanrong approaches with an embarrassed smile, “Uncle Fu, I've come to report in.”


Uncle Fu nods, “I see you.
What do you think of my garden?”


Inhaling the floral fragrance deeply, Lin Wanrong exclaims, “The scent of flowers is truly intoxicating.
I wish to slumber beneath their blooms.”


Uncle Fu laughs heartily, “Just wait, you'll have your fill of fragrances.
The cultivation of the Xiao family's flowers and plants will soon rely on you.”


“Wait, wait,” Lin Wanrong interrupts, alarmed.
He is only here to pass the time, not to truly cultivate flowers and plants, “Uncle Fu, you're in your prime.
The responsibility of tending to the garden should still fall upon you.
As for me, I know nothing.
If I were to accidentally mess things up and ruin your reputation, I couldn't bear the consequences.
It's better for me to assist you by your side.”


Uncle Fu glances at him, “At least you have some self-awareness.
Follow me and learn well.
With this skill, you won't have to worry about food or clothing for the rest of your life in the Xiao family.”


Although Lin Wanrong does not wish to remain in the Xiao family forever, he is a clever man who knows he must spend at least a year here.
Uncle Fu could be his protector, and so, flattery is necessary.


Seeing Uncle Fu stand up, Lin Wanrong hastily brings him a stool to sit on, then enters the house to fetch water for Uncle Fu to wash his hands.
He follows this with a pot of hot tea, personally presenting it to Uncle Fu.
Finally, he produces a folding fan and gently fans Uncle Fu, displaying the utmost attentiveness.
This is a stark contrast to the strong demeanor he exhibited upon entering the gates earlier.


“Lin San, it is already late autumn.
Isn't that fan a bit too cooling?” Uncle Fu kindly reminds him.


“No problem, no problem.
Uncle Fu is still in his prime, full of vitality.
These gentle breezes are nothing to you,” Lin Wanrong flatters shamelessly.


Uncle Fu says no more, contentedly enjoying Lin Wanrong's service.


During casual conversation with Uncle Fu, Lin Wanrong learns about the situation in the gardener's department where he now belongs.
Although there are many servants in the manor, only he and Uncle Fu are responsible for the gardens.
It turns out that Uncle Fu has been tending flowers and plants for over thirty years, and having grown accustomed to working alone, has repeatedly declined offers from the lady and the young mistress to provide additional assistance.
It is only because of his advanced age and the fact that Lin Wanrong has caught his fancy that he has sought help this time.


It's a bitter realization for Lin Wanrong, who is somewhat disheartened.
Uncle Fu stubbornly clings to his pride and suffers as a result.
No doubt, the task of tending to the myriad of flowers and plants in the courtyard will fall on Lin Wanrong, much to his chagrin.


Naturally, Uncle Fu is oblivious to Lin Wanrong's thoughts.
The two share a similar temperament, and Uncle Fu begins to regale Lin Wanrong with tales of his past glory – how he single-handedly managed the gardens, earning the admiration of the esteemed Minister of Rites, who even granted him numerous silver rewards.


Lin Wanrong has no interest in Uncle Fu's glorious history.
He leans against the flowerbed, drowsy and unaware that he has crushed several peony blossoms beneath him.


By the time Uncle Fu finishes speaking, it is already noon.
Lin Wanrong learns from the conversation that they do not live in this courtyard.
The Xiao family's lady has arranged accommodations for the long-standing staff, like Uncle Fu, allowing them to enjoy their twilight years in peace.


Thus, this little courtyard will soon become Lin Wanrong's sole domain.
Among all the news he's heard, this is the only tidbit that brings him a small measure of excitement.


When lunchtime arrives, Lin Wanrong carries a bowl of food towards the servants' dining area.


Uncle Fu had already explained to Lin Wanrong some of the rules for servants, particularly those in prestigious households.
The servants can only eat after the masters have eaten, and sleep after the masters have retired for the night.
The servants' dining area is essentially a simple canteen, designated for providing meals to the various staff members.
Today, the mealtime was slightly delayed, and Lin Wanrong's stomach had been growling in hunger.


Upon entering the dining area, Lin Wanrong scans the simple setting: a few rows of wooden tables and chairs, and several large pots of food.
Two large signs indicate the seating areas for middle-ranking and lower-ranking servants.
High-ranking servants would not dine here, as their status sets them apart and they would not deign to share meals with their subordinates.


In the middle-ranking servants' area, about a dozen people are seated, many of them eyeing the newcomers with mocking gazes.
They find some long-missed pleasure in the new faces.
The lower-ranking area, however, is packed with around thirty to forty people.
Considering the thousands who had queued for the servant interviews, only a few dozen were selected.
Lin Wanrong feels a sense of injustice for those who didn't make the cut.
The whole event was a publicity stunt orchestrated by the Xiao family, undoubtedly the work of the clever and capable Miss Xiao.


Lin Wanrong is somewhat interested in this Miss Xiao.
After all, she is a strong, independent woman – the type he would like to pursue, achieve, and then discard, a conquest that would bring a sense of accomplishment.
Moreover, he has made a small fortune using her portrait, and he feels he should show some gratitude.
With a smug grin, Lin Wanrong fills his bowl with food and is about to dig in when he hears a commotion nearby: “The Lady is here! The Lady has come to visit us, the new servants!”


A mature and beautiful figure enters the room, exuding warmth and elegance – it is Lady Xiao.
Lin Wanrong had only caught a glimpse of her previously, but up close, he sees that Lady Xiao is indeed stunningly beautiful.
With curved eyebrows, long eyelashes, rosy lips, and smooth, tender skin, she looks nothing like a woman in her forties.
Instead, she resembles a woman in her thirties, with a curvaceous figure and an air of mature femininity.
A hint of hidden resentment adds to her allure.


Lin Wanrong nods to himself, acknowledging Lady Xiao's beauty.
No wonder so many people were eager to join the Xiao household.
Accompanied by Chief Steward Wang and Deputy Steward Pang, Lady Xiao's high standing in the Xiao family is evident by the respect they show her.
Lin Wanrong reflects on the challenges Lady Xiao must have faced as a widow, raising two young daughters while managing the vast Xiao estate.
He holds a certain admiration for her.
Indeed, capable individuals always inspire respect.

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