The popularity of soccer as a sport spread like wildfire. Both teams continued to expand, their skills gradually improving and becoming more fascinating.
Meng Fuyao sealed the soccer ground and started charging the anxious spectators tickets to the game, even introducing the betting and sponsor system. With these, she managed to empty out the pockets of some ardent fans, and with that money, she conveniently established a few educational institutions for the Han and Rong children. She also built bridges and roads, and a few government-run pharmacies.
Life in Yaocheng became fresher and livelier. Under Mayor Meng's leadership, the citizens led their own enriching lives, and a rare peace returned to the city. There were no more Rongsmen who were seeking revenge, and there were no more burning houses and chaotic streets. In contrast to the fluctuating weather, Yaocheng was quiet and still.
As the current founder of the new Yaocheng, Meng Fuyao did no forget to look far. The military reports in her hand thickened as days passed, and the allied armies were no longer containable.
On the 7th January, the southern Rong army attacked Dezhou's Longcheng. After three rounds of battle both parties fell into deadlock, and on the 10th January, a troop within the northern Rong army was dispatched to execute a sneak attack but was found out just as they were ready to cross a river near Suishui.
Having faced consecutive setbacks, the Rong army was arranged by King De to stay put outside the main force. The strange thing was that both armies hadn't launched a decisive battle. King De, who had always been generous about dispatching soldiers, was advancing in a stable manner.
Meng Fuyao stacked her reports like poker cards and played them one by one while sighing the whole time. The southern and northern armies were moving about nearby, and she had to be wary of these...
The year had gone by unknowingly, and she had been recuperating during the new year. All she remembered was having a reunion steamboat dinner with Yuan Zhaoxu and Lord Yuan Bao before being put to sleep. It did not feel like the new year, but whatever it was, she had to find a special way to celebrate the special occasion that was the Lantern Festival.
As she was about to focus, the door behind her opened. "What are you thinking about? So engrossed."
Meng Fuyao placed her reports down and turned around. Yuan Zhaoxu was leaning against the door frame and was surprisingly dressed in a fitting robe. It was a common mounted soldier look that he had on, similar to modern times. He appeared clean and sturdy, and the sunset from behind produced an alluring silhouette different from normal days. Nevertheless, his appeal was as fatal as before, and Meng Fuyao couldn't help but shudder.
An idea popped up in her head in that moment. She threw her reports aside, laughing. "I know how we're going to celebrate Lantern Festival this year."
It was the15th of January, the day of the Lantern Festival.
The Lantern Festival in the Five Region Continent was indeed similar to that in the world she had lived in formerly.
'Is this really a parallel universe?' Meng Fuyao questioned, cold-sweated. She did not want to ponder over this for too long as she had many things to attend to that day.
She was going to hold a dance party like never before.
While she was a workaholic in her previous life, she had been frivolous like any other students in university. However, archaeology was deeply profound, and she had spent a lot of time buried in a pile of old books, often looking forward to seeing something bright and fresh. As such, she had always been an enthusiast when it came to parties.
The strange thing was that Meng Fuyao, with her bold and at ease attitude, preferred graceful and light dances like the waltz over intense ones like tango. In fact, she could still remember many tunes from the waltz.
That day, seeing Yuan Zhaoxu in his gear before the sunset reminded Meng Fuyao of the waltz. Yuan Zhaoxu's respectable and refined appearance, scholarly and magnificent posture were all aspects needed in a waltz dance. Didn't a waltz dance require the most elegant gentleman?
Plus, Yuan Zhaoxu's birthday fell on the day of the Lantern Festival.
No one told her, of course. It was her pair of sharp eyes that took in the details engraved on the jade tablet he had given to Xiao Dao previously. Furthermore, Lord Yuan Boa had been acting all excited and secretive, as if preparing something as a gift for his owner.
Those few days, Meng Fuyao had been busy finding people, locations, costumes, musicians, and teaching them tunes. Nevertheless, she was happy during the process, and whenever Yuan Zhaoxu would ask about it, she would simply let out a mysterious smile and nothing else.
'Where's the fun without a surprise?'
The dance party was in the office's garden, and Meng Fuyao had arranged for a western style reception and menu. On the long feasting table were porcelain cups and fully bloomed Bourgaineas. Dishes were placed on silver plates, and on the white tablecloth were silver candle stands with burning candlesticks, placed along the table and the garden entrance. Flowers were used as decoration, and they could be seen and smelled from three gates away. Chefs dressed in white uniforms were grilling steak, and while supervising, Meng Fuyao couldn't help sneaking a few bites. She wanted to leave the best part for Yuan Zhaoxu.
She had already informed Yuan Zhaoxu to attend the feast in his rider's clothes, and he had agreed despite the odd expression on her face.
The night was arriving, and the fragrance of grilled meat and the scent of perfume and makeup blended in together. The beauties Meng Fuyao had carefully picked out started arriving in twos and threes, dressed in somewhat strange yet pretty dance outfits, which were made from layers of embroidered lace and muslin. Along with their slender waists and perky bosoms, these ladies added a touch of unprecedented splendor and romance into the air.
Nevertheless, these meticulous thoughts and preparations were executed for one person.
Meng Fuyao's idea behind this carefully crafted party was simple. It wasn't a confession or anything, but an expression of gratitude toward his endless protection and kindness.
He couldn't have been happy meeting her, could he? She wanted him to feel genuine happiness this once so that if she were to leave one day, he would have beautiful memories worth recalling.
Meng Fuyao smiled and waited for his arrival. She was dressed in disguise but had a set of dress and dancing accessories prepared in a room beside the garden. If he was willing, she would teach him a dance, as she had wanted to say on the night of the god worshipping festival, "Do you want to learn a dance I've created? It's really graceful..."
It wasn't a dance she had created, however. It was the only entertainment she enjoyed in the other world. It was the waltz, her favorite, and the most elegant and splendid dance that suited Yuan Zhaoxu's temperament.
The ladies' giggles and voices stopped abruptly, and silence took over the heated atmosphere as breaths were exhaled.
Meng Fuyao raised her head and saw Yuan Zhaoxu approaching.
The moon that night was brilliant, its light 99% silverish and pure and its shape perfectly round. It appeared especially clear amid the blue sky, like a silk satin, and was accompanied by millions of scattered stars sharing their light.
A snowfall had passed some time ago, leaving the air fresh and cool. Mountains stood far away, overlooking the feast that was held in this small, lit city.
Yuan Zhaoxu walked toward her smilingly.
Meng Fuyao's gaze trailed from the Bourgaineas to his deep black, silver-lined boots, and then from his long black pants to his silver belt and slim waist. She noted that his clothes were fitting, accentuating his perfect shoulders, before shifting her focus to his red lips and clean, manly brows and then to his bright, deep eyes.
In natural response to those eyes, an equally bright smile appeared on her face.
What an ethereal beauty...
In her memory, Yuan Zhaoxu seldom wore dark-colored robes, and it was her first time seeing him in black. It was rare for anyone to be able to bring out the magnificence and class of that color. Sharp and cleanly dressed, Yuan Zhaoxu appeared extraordinarily handsome and charming that night, so much so that it left the guests holding their breaths.
Beneath his feet the deep red Bourgainea bloomed energetically, the broken branches not dimming their beauty.
In the hall, the well-bred young ladies covered half their face with a fan, looking at him shyly, but all he could see was Meng Fuyao.
Still in a lad's clothing, Meng Fuyao looked meager, and while she had been fed well recently, she was still too thin-looking to him. While her clothes concealed her curves, her slender waist was still visible. Her brows had an appealing upward curve, and her eyes were so bright and clear that looking into them was akin to looking into the most limpid jade springwater.
She widened her smile. Compared to the worry-free smiles she flashed on normal days, her smile at this moment was especially pure.
Together with puffs of smoke, the fragrance of grilled food continued dispersing in the air, gently stirring the hearts and appetite of those present.
Meng Fuyao walked forward and gave a classic gentleman's bow. "My noble guest."
Yuan Zhaoxu cast her a deep glance, responding a while later, "You look pretty in this male outfit, Fuyao, but do you have a matching outfit for a lady?"
Instead of answering Meng Fuyao simply smiled and gestured for Yao Xun to explain the situation to Yuan Zhaoxu. She then moved forward to make her speech.
She raised her crystal cup, filled with Springpear White Wine as a replacement for grape wine since the latter wasn't in season. The alcohol was intense, and it reflected the smile in Meng Fuyao's eyes as she stood before her audience, which gradually quietened down. They followed her by raising their cups as well. Yuan Zhaoxu sat far away, gently turning his cup while listening to her speech, her voice crisp and clear.
"I've lived 17 years in this world, and this is my first time celebrating the Lantern Festival. The last time I had experienced it was in my previous life."
The audience let our a coaxing laughter, figuring that she was merely cracking yet another joke of hers. The only person who remained silent was Yuan Zhaoxu. He placed his cup down and fixed his eyes on her.