106 So Close Yet So Far
The Heavenly Door competition had come to the end, and Lu Mingshu became famous. Her amazing result of eighteen wins in a row was known by everybody in Nine Jade Palace in no time, and her background became known as well.
Eight years ago, she was notorious due to the ugly rumors that Zhou Yinru had spread about her. Now, stories about her were much different from what she was associated with back then. Maybe it was because of the history-breaking record of eighteen wins, or perhaps some other reason.
“Zhou Yinru claimed that Senior Sister Lu’s family was materialistic. Weird. If they really were, why would they come to fetch the Sect Leader back instead of trying to join the sect?”
“And she claimed that they came just to cling onto Fu Shangqing? Lu Mingshu's mother is already dead! What kind of moneygrubber would come just to kill themselves? What’s wrong with leaving her daughter with her father?”
“Anyway, I heard that Senior Sister Lu did well during the spring hunt, but the Zhou family called her a traitor, tsk….”
Gao Xiang happily told Lu Mingshu about all the rumors he heard.
“Miss, time for medicine!” Hui Niang entered with a bowl of Chinese medicine.
Lu Mingshu cringed when she smelled the medicine, “Aunt Hui, can I not take the medicine?”
“Of course not!” Hui Niang replied sternly, “How could you not when you are seriously injured?”
“That’s right!” Gao Xiang popped some peanuts in his mouth, “Hui Niang, you must make sure she takes the medicine! It’s so rare and effective that it cost an arm and leg on top of my master’s face!
“Yes, we shouldn’t waste the Grand Elder’s effort.”
Seeing that her whining was to no avail, Lu Mingshu pinched her nose and poured the medicine into her mouth. She wanted to pour away the residue, but she was stopped by Hui Niang.
She then proceeded to rinse her mouth to get rid of the bitterness of the medicine.
“Have you heard about Zhou Yinru?” Gao Xiang asked as he popped a peanut in her mouth.
“Nope,” she popped another peanut in her mouth.
“The Zhou family has betrothed her to someone!”
Lu Mingshu’s jaw dropped, “Betrothed? To who?”
“The Jin family, which deals in gold,” Gao Xiang took one more peanut. “You may not have heard of them, but the Jin family has been expanding their business these past few years, and they’re aiming to expand their business into the aristocratic families.”
“Oh…” Lu Mingshu took the peanuts Gao Xiang handed her, “Each side takes what they need, and things all fit together. That’s good.”
“Good for both families, but not Zhou Yinru,” Gao Xiang tried to wink at her suggestively, but failed since he couldn’t wink.
Lu Mingshu giggled, “Stop being so mysterious! Spill it!”
“Okay, okay,” Gao Xiang leaned toward her, “The young master of Jin family… is retarded!”
“You mean Zhou Yinru’s fiancée?” Lu Mingshu couldn’t believe her ears.
Gao Xiang grinned from ear to ear happily, “Yeah! Rumors say that Zhou Yinru was unwilling to do so, but the Zhou family was so determined that she couldn’t do anything about it. Now that she’s a cripple, her only value is in sending her off to be married off for the sake of an alliance,” he sneered.
The room went silent for a moment before Gao Xiang broke that silence with a question, “Why do you seem so moody?”
“There’s nothing to rejoice over,” Lu Mingshu answered. “No matter whether she’s alive or dead, the Zhou family wouldn’t be affected much because she’s just a nobody.”
“By the way, have you heard anything about me from the Zhou family?” Lu Mingshu changed the subject.
It’s weird, why hasn’t the Zhou family taken any action toward me? Elder Zhou came to disrupt things and then Jie Wenhan helped bail me out. After that, there’s been nothing from the rest of the Zhou family. Lu Mingshu didn’t understand what the Zhou family was
“Nah, I haven’t heard anything yet,” Gao Xiang gave her a cup of water after the peanuts were finished. “I predict that the Zhou family won’t do anything to you for now. Not because of your wins or anything, but because of the Grand Elder. With you having the support of the Grand Elder, they will be well-behaved for now.”
Lu Mingshu nodded. It must have been a blessing from above that the Grand Elder would speak up for her; she never expected things to end this way.
The Grand Elder was the greatest within the Nine Jade Palace’s hierarchy, and the most powerful as well. With her present, Zhuo Jiangui was just a junior.
“By the way, there’s something you should take note of,” Gao Xiang gulped. “Being who they are, the Zhou family must still be planning something against you since they haven't taken any direct actions against you yet and because the Jade Terrace has spoken up for you.”
“They’re just trying to make use of me,” Lu Mingshu smiled.
The rules of the Nine Jade Palace’s game were easy to understand. The line of Jade Terrace sided with her since they found her useful. As for the Zhou family, she hadn’t completely figured them out yet, but no doubt their actions were based on making use of and suppressing other parties.
After chatting for a while more, Gao Xiang stoop up, “It’s getting late soon, got to go! My master is being stricter with me these days!”
“Oh, go ahead. Could you please help me feed Little Daze too? It must be starving.”
“Again? Have you not seen how fat it is right now?”
Gao Xiang reached the Willow Woods.
Standing in front of his house, Gao Xiang looked up to the sky.
“What are you doing here?” Zhuo Jiangui, who was watering the plants, asked as he saw Gao Xiang staring into space.
Gao Xiang’s thoughts were cut off. He sighed and lowered his head.
“Am I useless?”
“Are you mad? Aren’t you always full of confidence?” Zhuo Jiangui furrowed his eyebrows in confusion.
Gao Xiang remained deep in thought as he leaned against a rock.
Seeing that Gao Xiang was feeling down,
Zhuo Jiangui made an effort to show some concern, “What is upsetting you?”
Gao Xiang twirled the vine in his hand as he sulked, “After passing through the middle door, I thought that Mingshu was in trouble and wanted to turn around to look for her. “
“But when I reached the upper door, she was already there, battling with all her might.”
“There’s a weird feeling. I thought I knew her like the back of my hand since we’ve been friends for so long, but it seems that I was wrong; I still don’t know her well enough. The Mingshu at the competition was so awesome that she was shining. Someone like me would never be by her side, but always behind her….”
Zhuo Jiangui nodded as he made his way up.
“She’s physically beside me, yet why do I feel that I am being neglected and left behind by her…?” Gao Xiang sighed.
And why is it that, when Lu Mingshu took on the other disciples during the competition, Gao Xiang chose to be a spectator and not a teammate? Because… who was he to interrupt the Lu Mingshu who was shining so brightly?
He was there when she got her first win. He felt extremely happy for her, but he couldn’t help but feel bitter about it as well. Happy that she was now so powerful and outstanding, but bitter that he had been left behind by her.
He had always believed that they were so close, but now Gao Xiang finally realized that they had never been close at all.
“Martial Grandfather, so what should I…?” Gao Xiang turned around to ask for advice, but Zhuo Jiangui could no longer be found.
Gao Xiang stared blankly.
“Nevermind,” he muttered.
“Hey!” Just as he was feeling upset about what happened, Zhuo Jiangui shouted at him, “Go and practice before your master comes back and canes you!”