The dark house crackled as the fire ignited, and the air filled with the acrid scent of smoke.
Outside, swords and staffs faced off against one another. Once the barking the people had heard from the village quieted, the atmosphere became silent and stifling.
"Second Uncle." Lady Fang pushed aside the people guarding her. She took several steps forward to look at Head Shopkeeper Song outside the entrance. The firelight behind her illuminated her face in flickers; it was rapidly fading in and out of darkness. Her expression was a amalgamation of sorrow and other emotions. "Why what?"
"Why what? Is there any other possibility?" Head Shopkeeper Song said seriously. "Of course, it's for money."
Lady Fang was probably not expecting this answer. She didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
"Money? You wanted money?" she asked. She pointed at the sky. "Father said that he would give you half of the De Sheng Chang, and you didn't want it. Husband asked you if you wanted stocks, you didn't want it. Mother spoke of you as a respected senior, you didn’t want it. Song Yunping, you didn't want it, you said you didn't want it."
"What you gave was not mine," he said. "It was your bestowal, it was you granting a boon from above."
As he said this, he pointed at the sky with fury.
"I wanted it. For my whole life I was just a junior to you. Not just my whole life, even my descendants would have to bear your feelings. I worked myself to the bone, staked my life for the De Sheng Chang, but in other people's eyes it was just as it should be. You said you would give me mountains of gold and silver, but would they be mine? They were yours. The more I wanted the more I owed you. The more I wanted, the more you looked good to everyone else. And me? I am just your Fang Family's dog!"
The deluge not only made Lady Fang's expression furious yet mournful, even her guards were shocked.
"Song Yunping, why do you think this way?" She looked at him. "What do you take other people's good intentions for?"
"What do I take other people's good intentions for? I said I didn't want emotions, I only want money," he said solemnly. "When I supported him, he should've just died and given me the De Sheng Chang. He clearly called us sworn brothers, but what's the use in sworn brotherhood? It was him who owed me, but I still owed him? Is this not too unfair?"
She stared at him.
"You're mad." She reined in her sorrow. "We never needed to feel sorrowful over your damage to us."
The guards formed a tighter formation around her. They looked around warily, but they couldn't discern how many opponents there were.
"Are you saying that Father did not die of a sudden illness?" she asked.
He smiled again, looking at her with condescending pity.
"Eldest Daughter-in-law, no matter how you say it, you have called me Second Uncle for so many years, so I will share this modicum of truth with you." He paused. "Yes, Fang Shouyi did not die of a sudden illness. He was healthy as an ox; even the strong poison almost did not kill him."
Lady Fang’s hands flew to her mouth, but she swallowed down the acid creeping up her throat.
"And husband was also you?" she asked huskily.
"Yes," he admitted. "You don't need to ask, I'll tell you too that Chengyu was also my design. Oh, speaking of which, Concubine Su is also of my arrangement."
"And Eldest Son was really an obedient and filial child. I gave him Concubine Su. She wasn't very pretty or outstanding in any regard, and he still treated her especially well."
Lady Fang felt like a knife had sliced through her heart. As she thought of these things, she hated Song Yunping, and she hated herself.
They had treated this person with respect and love. She really wished she could die.
She tamped down on the cry of pain from her heart.
"Why? Why did you do i
t?" Her voice cracked as she spoke.
Head Shopkeeper Song was still as calm as ever, solemn as he always was, but in the night, his eyes gleamed with hidden joy.
"For money," he said. "Didn't I say that?"
"If you wanted money, we would have given it. Didn't you say you wanted the De Sheng Chang? Well it's yours," she said.
Head Shopkeeper Song was furious.
"How can you women have such a muddled mind?" he shouted. "If you gave me what I wanted, in other people's eyes the De Sheng Chang wouldn't be mine. Even if my head was plastered on it, everyone would only remember you, remember you, the tale of the Fang Family, and I, I would forever be just a piece of trash who had received benevolence."
Lady Fang did not know whether she should be sad or angry.
"That is why you're like this?" she asked.
"Say, where is Fang Chengyu?" Head Shopkeeper Song had recovered himself. "Did you think that the stuffed rice straw sack would fool me? Did you think that I really would be fooled by you?"
Lady Fang's expression was wooden, and her back was ramrod straight.
"I would rather feed myself to a tiger. What reason do I have to tell you were Chengyu is?"
"Tell me. Of course, I won't let you go, but I will let Chengyu go." An affectionate expression appeared on his face. "I will let Chengyu live happily until he dies."
At this he laughed, like he had made some hilarious joke. But soon his laughter subsided.
"In brief, you can relax, I won't kill him. I will let him live until his last moment, with dignity. After he dies, his funeral will be in style."
Lady Fang looked at him sneer but didn't say anything.
"Eldest Daughter-in-law, why do you need to be like that?" he asked. "Why do you need to have him hide like a rat? Where is the meaning in that?"
"It's fine even if you don't say anything. The will of Heaven has already been cast," he said, looking solemn again. He pointed up at the sky. "Your Fang Family's fate has been decided by Heaven. Only I can bear the burden of the De Sheng Chang, I, Song Yunping, am receiving the rewards of Heaven."
He lifted his arm.
The moment Head Shopkeeper Song lifted his arms, Lady Fang's guards had sprung into action by lifting their shields.
The sound of an arrow whistling through the air.
A pained shriek.
Head Shopkeeper Song was now cradling the arm that he had raised. He didn't finish saying 'fire' before it turned into a strangled scream.
His people hastily crowded around him, their torches illuminating the single arrow stuck in his arm.
The arrow had gone through the arm, leaving only the trembling feather.
"You are not the will of Heaven, so you see, you are still one step behind," rang an old woman's voice from the night.
The night seemed to light up. In a moment, countless torches had been set aflame, and a noisy clamor followed.
The guards looked around furiously, but all they could see were countless mounted riders pouring in. Even the sleepy village was teeming with people
And these people were no ordinary people.
The blazing fire illuminated their shining armor, and their weapons glittered like frost.
These weapons were professional soldier equipment.
So the ones who came were actually soldiers.
The people around Head Shopkeeper Song were in a frenzy.
He suppressed his pain to look at the approaching old woman.
"Song Yunping, thank you for finally letting our Fang Family know why we suffered so much misfortune over and over again," said Old Lady Fang with furious eyes.
Head Shopkeeper Song looked at her, then at his surroundings.
"Why?" The word 'inconceivable!' was written across his face.
"Why?" Old Lady Fang smiled coldly. "Of course it's because this is a trap. Could it be you didn't know?"