The next day, the sky was slightly overcast, and a gentle breeze carried a slight chill. I didn’t want Tian Shu to be cooped up in the room all day, so we went to the Han Courtyard to get some fresh air. Several young maids brought a chessboard, and I sat with Mu Ruoyan at a stone table, ready to play.

Two games, three games, and it became tasteless.

The pleasure of playing chess lies in the struggle over gains and losses, the back-and-forth battles over one or two pieces, the competition for points and advantage. Your joy, my anger; your satisfaction, my cold smile. It was a game of wits, sometimes causing frustration, hesitation, and cold sweat, all for the sake of enjoyment.

But when Mu Ruoyan played chess, his expression remained unchanged. Whether he captured one of my pieces or I captured one of his, his expression remained serene. His face didn’t change whether he won or lost, which greatly annoyed me.

Back in the Heavenly Court, I had played a few games of chess with Tian Shu Xing Jun. It wasn’t like this. Even when you cornered him, he would furrow his brow and ponder for a moment. When I made a critical move, although he didn’t show pleasure on his face, there was a glimmer of amusement in his eyes. Not much, but there was some joy and anger. Compared to that, the wooden-like Mu Ruoyan was slightly different from Tian Shu of the past.

I still remembered one time when we met at the Southern Polar Immortal’s place. Tian Shu and I played a game of chess, and I was unusually unlucky, constantly at a disadvantage. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t turn the tide, so I reluctantly threw down the chess pieces and admitted defeat. At that time, Tian Shu still had a white piece between his fingers, lightly tapping the board. When he heard my surrender, he smiled gently, and his slender fingers picked up the pieces on the board and put them away. Tian Shu Xing Jun usually had a cold and distant demeanor, but that smile was truly warm.

As I looked at Mu Ruoyan before me, I realized that Tian Shu’s warmth had vanished in his reincarnation. Mu Ruoyan was like the gentle breeze today, gentle but still carrying a chill.

Mu Ruoyan lifted his clear eyes and looked at me. I was lost in thought, and his gaze caught me off guard, leaving me momentarily stunned. It took me a moment to realize, and I awkwardly smiled, “My mind wandered, and I forgot to make a move.” I casually placed a piece on the board, but Mu Ruoyan finally showed a hint of emotion, “Lord Li, you played a white piece, why did you place a black one?”

My face grew warm. While eating a few of Mu Ruoyan’s pieces and observing his reactions, I had been absentminded and still held a black piece in my hand. I made a mistake in my confusion and placed it on the board. Picking it up again, I felt even more embarrassed, “I was careless, I was careless.”

I heard a distant voice, slow and gentle, saying, “It’s not carelessness, it’s being intoxicated by the wind while leisurely enjoying the flowers.”

I coughed and saw a figure in a green robe walking into the courtyard. The maidservant said, “Young Master, Mr. Zhao has arrived.”

In my heart, I thought, of course, if Mr. Zhao is standing in front of Young Master, how could he not know?

“Mr. Zhao” bowed to me politely and said, “Forgive me for my intrusion and for entering the courtyard without permission, Third Young Master.” I also had to bow and said, “Mr. Zhao, no need to be so polite. I couldn’t have hoped for Mr. Zhao’s presence today. It’s a pleasure.”

Heng Wen came today, surely driven by curiosity to see Tian Shu Xing Jun.

I waved my hand, asking the attendants to leave, and indeed, Heng Wen pretended to look somewhat puzzled and naturally turned to look at Mu Ruoyan. Mu Ruoyan stood up, and I coughed again, “This is Mr. Zhao. Mr. Zhao, this is…”

Heng Wen politely bowed to Tian Shu, “I am Zhao Heng, the chief secretary of the Wang Mansion. I apologize for intruding and disturbing Young Master Yan’s chess game. I hope Young Master Yan won’t mind.” A pair of smiling eyes were fixed on Tian Shu.

Mu Ruoyan also returned the gesture, saying, “Mr. Zhao, no need for formalities. If Young Master doesn’t mind, you can just call me Ruoyan. The title Young Master is more than enough.”

Heng Wen glanced at Tian Shu with no malicious intent, but considering Tian Shu’s current situation, having an outsider around would only bring out more of his inner pain. Just then, a breeze passed, and Mu Ruoyan lightly coughed twice, probably to suppress the remaining coughing fit, and forced a smile at Heng Wen, “Apologies for any rudeness, forgive me.”

Heng Wen said, “I came to find the Third Young Master for a small matter and won’t disturb Young Master Yan’s rest.” He discreetly pulled my sleeve, and I followed him a dozen steps away, whispering, “Why did you come?”

Heng Wen whispered softly in my ear, “Nanming Emperor Jun is here, in the front courtyard.”

I was surprised, “Ah?” Heng Wen said, “Shh. Act as if you have no idea and go to the front courtyard. Tian Shu doesn’t look well. Let him rest in the bedroom first.”

I immediately turned around, and Mu Ruoyan was collecting the chess pieces from the table. I said, “You should go to the bedroom to read and rest for a while. Let the servants tidy up.” Mu Ruoyan put down the chess pieces and said, “I’ll tidy up. I won’t do anything and just be like a useless person.”

The way he said it left a bitter taste in my mouth, but I had to let him stay in the courtyard. Heng Wen and I hurried to the front courtyard.

On the way, I asked Heng Wen, “Nanming Emperor Jun is so bold. He openly comes to the Wang Mansion with the title of General of Nan County?”

Heng Wen smiled, “General Dan is both passionate and strategic. How could he do something so foolish? You’ll understand when you see it.”

The scene in the front courtyard startled me.

About a dozen people in casual attire stood in the open space. The chief steward of the inner courtyard stood with one hand behind his back, twirling a goat’s beard, pacing back and forth in front of these people.

These dozen people were newly selected household servants of the Duke of Dong County’s mansion.

Among them was a towering figure, dressed in tattered clothes and worn-out trousers, and wearing hemp shoes. It was Nanming Emperor Jun, Shan Sheng Ling Er.

I had imagined countless scenarios of Shan Sheng Ling infiltrating the Duke of Dong County’s mansion. When the fortune-teller told me that he would snatch Tian Shu in the middle of the night, I assumed he would appear in the dark of night, under a moonless and windy sky. Scaling walls, breaking doors, and slipping through dog holes, displaying his lightness skill as he landed on the roof… I had considered various possibilities, but I never expected him to sell himself and become a household servant in broad daylight at the Duke of Dong County’s mansion.

Nanming Emperor Jun was truly infatuated.

I sighed.

Nanming Emperor Jun had sold himself and entered, and the mansion’s chief steward had accepted him.

What kind of eyes did the chief steward have?

Shan Sheng Ling looked almost the same as when he was Nanming Emperor Jun. Over eight feet tall, a sturdy figure, slanting jet-black eyebrows, and bright eagle-like eyes. Despite the dust on his head like a bird’s nest, he still stood out among the crowd, resembling a wild boar among a group of skinny pigs. One glance was enough to tell he was extraordinary. How could someone like him become a household servant?

Could it be because of fate?

The chief steward took out a register and began to record. I strolled over, and the chief steward immediately bowed with his hands hanging at his sides, saying, “Greetings, Third Young Master.”

As soon as I spoke, Shan Sheng Ling’s two knife-like gazes immediately turned towards me. I pretended not to notice and nodded, saying, “Are these all newly recruited household servants?”

The chief steward confirmed, and I walked in front of the crowd, pretending to scrutinize each one. I lingered by Shan Sheng Ling’s side, pretending to assess him while contemplating in my heart. Since Nanming had fallen into my hands, to live up to the Jade Emperor’s trust, I wanted to send him on a mission that would allow him to see Tian Shu but not touch him, both of them suffering together.

He couldn’t work as a firewood splitter or a gatekeeper as usual, and Nanming was too formidable to be a servant boy. After thinking it over, there was only one task that would allow him to enter my courtyard and see his beloved.

After pondering, I turned to the chief steward beside me and said, “For now, let him go to various courtyards and handle the night incense.”

That night, I embraced Tian Shu and said, “The weather is getting cold. Let us sleep together.”

The next morning, after I finished washing up, I pretended to go to the back garden to take in the morning air, avoiding the attention of others. I quickly slipped into Heng Wen’s room with a calm face and asked him to bring out my true body from Li Siming’s body. Heng Wen gladly complied, and we returned to the Han Courtyard together, hiding in mid-air to watch the excitement.

Shan Sheng Ling, dressed as a household servant, was counting incense pots in a corner of the courtyard. As he reached out to pick up an incense pot, he inadvertently looked up and happened to see the slender figure of Yan Ruo standing in the corridor. Sensing something, he turned his body, and in that moment when their eyes met, time stood still.

Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai met on the tower.