RFF Chapter Six (Part 1)
Outside the Zhang Manor gates, the red lanterns were replaced by white lanterns. Inside the Zhang Manor, people were crying around a coffin.
'The heavens are cruel... why take away the Zhang Household's only son?' madam Zhang asked.
'Madam Zhang, it was the drunk man's fault,' the Zhang caretaker said. 'A wine jar fell on top of master Zhang's head and killed master Zhang. It was an accident, the magistrate didn't arrest him. But I ordered someone to kill him.'
'You did a good job,' madam Zhang said. 'A life for a life. His family needs to feel the same pain I feel.'
'Madam Zhang, I heard a rumor about master Zhang's death,' the Zhang caretaker said.
'What's the rumor?' madam Zhang asked.
'I heard master Zhang was a substitute for elder Jiang,' the Zhang caretaker said. 'Elder Jiang would have died instead of master Zhang if someone didn't forewarn elder Jiang.'
'Did you say my son died in someone else's place?' madam Zhang asked.
'Yes madam Zhang,' the Zhang caretaker said. 'I heard the person who forewarned elder Jiang was Tao Fang Ao's fiance, Tao Tu Yun.'
'I don't care who she is,' madam Zhang said. 'She has to pay for my son's death.'
At the Tao Manor, Tao Tu Yun and Su Wu sneaked to the back entrance of the Tao Manor.
'Mistress, do we have to sneak outside the Tao Manor?' Su Wu asked.
Su Wu clutched the bags in her arms. Although it was a good opportunity to leave the Tao Manor, she was still scared that she and Tao Tu Yun would get caught leaving.
'There's no other way,' Tao Tu Yun said. 'We need to sneak outside the Tao Manor in the middle of the night, because the Tao Manor is heavily guarded during the day.'
'Mistress, Xiao Hong and the others will be upset that we left without saying farewell.'
Su Wu sighed and followed Tao Tu Yun outside the Tao Manor into a bamboo forest.
'Mistress, we're outside Luo Yang province,' Su Wu said.
'Let's take a rest here before we continue on our journey,' Tao Tu Yun said.
Tao Tu Yun looked at the faint lantern lights of the Tao Manor in the distance, and she felt conflicted.
Suddenly an assassin jumped in front of Tao Tu Yun and Su Wu.
'What a pity you two weren't be alive for long to continue your journey,' the assassin said and held a sword at Tao Tu Yun's chest.
'Who are you?' Su Wu asked in a shaky voice. 'What do you want?'
'Someone paid me to kill you two,' the assassin said. 'I'll make your deaths painless if you two cooperate.'
'It's me who you want to kill,' Tao Tu Yun said. 'You can take my life. This has nothing to do with Su Wu. Let Su Wu go.'
'Mistress, I'm not leaving you,' Su Wu said and cried. 'Mistress, if you die, I'm dying with you.'
Su Wu held Tao Tu Yun's hand and shook her head. She wasn't going to abandon Tao Tu Yun.
'Don't worry,' the assassin said. 'Neither of you will leave this place.'
Tao Tu Yun pushed Su Wu out of the way. But they both fell on the ground and the assassin's sword struck Tao Tu Yun's chest. Then Tao Tu Yun and Su Wu played dead.
The assassin saw blood on Tao Tu Yun and Su Wu's chests and thought they were dead so the assassin left the bamboo forest.
'Help!' Su Wu cried out. 'Someone save my mistress!'
Tao Fang Ao appeared out of nowhere.
'Second master Tao... save my mistress,' Su Wu pleaded.
Tao Fang Ao suppressed his panic when he saw Tao Tu Yun's bleeding chest. He pressed on Tao Tu Yun's vital acupuncture points so she wouldn't lose more blood.
'I'm taking Tu Yun back to the Tao Manor,' Tao Fang Ao said.
Tao Fang Ao carried Tao Tu Yun back to the Tao Manor.
The next morning, the lively atmosphere at the Tao Manor turned somber.
Tao Fang Ling and Luo Bing Liang waited anxiously inside Tao Tu Yun's bedchamber with Tao Fang Ao while a physician examined Tao Tu Yun's chest wound.
'Tao Fang Ao, what do you think happened to Tu Yun?' Luo Bing Liang asked. 'I can't think of one reason why anyone would want to kill Tu Yun and Su Wu.'
'I'm in the dark like everyone else,' Tao Fang Ao said.
Tao Fang Ao looked worriedly at Tao Tu Yun lying on the bed. If he didn't wake up in the middle of the night, he was scared to think about what would have happened to Tao Tu Yun.
Tao Fang Ao was grateful he rode on horseback last night to help him sleep. If he didn't then he wouldn't have heard Su Wu's call for help, and he wouldn't have saved Tao Tu Yun in time. But he regretted he didn't find Tao Tu Yun sooner so she wouldn't be injured. He didn't know if Tao Tu Yun would wake up.
Tao Fang Ao remembered how much Tao Tu Yun's chest bled, and his heart tightened.
'Everyone shouldn't worry too much,' the physician said. 'Lady Tao is a lucky person. She wore a jade pendant around her neck, and it protected her heart. The jade pendant stopped the sword from piercing her heart. But she lost a lot of blood. If second master Tao didn't bring her back here in time, her life would have been lost.'
'Thank you,' Tao Fang Ao said and gripped the two halves of the jade pendant in his hands.
'Second master Tao, it's my duty,' the physician said. 'Lady Tao can keep her life. But her chest wound is deep. She'll be unconscious for at least a couple of days. I'll leave an herbal remedy for you to apply on her chest wound so she won't get a chest infection.'
A maid escorted the physician outside, and another maid walked into the bedchamber.
'Second master Tao, I brought a new dress for lady Tao,' the maid said.
'Tao Fang Ao, Bing Liang, you two wait outside while I help change Tu Yun's dress,' Luo Bing Liang said.
Tao Bing Liang walked outside the bedchamber first. Tao Fang Ao took another look at Tao Tu Yun's bloodied dress, and he vowed to take revenge on the person who injured his woman.
End of Chapter Six (Part 1)