Meanwhile, ever since Fu Rou entered the palace Sheng Chumu had been feeling depressed. He spent all day either training or studying military tactics. He even dragged his two other brothers along with him.
Sheng Chumu’s two brothers were tortured by him but they could not complain. Eventually they managed to drag Sheng Chumu to the wine house in an attempt to distract him. Alas, the wine was medicine as Sheng Chumu’s mood improved vastly. As the three brothers went happily to settle the bill, they bumped into Lu Qi and his guests.
“Brother Lu, what a coincidence.” Sheng Chumu suddenly burned with anger. If not for Lu Yunji, his Fu Rou would not have entered the palace.
“Of course it is a coincidence. Enemies always meet.” Lu Qi’s expression was filled with malice as he started tugging on his sleeve. “Sheng Chumu, you ruined my sister’s reputation by spouting nonsense in front of the Crown Prince!”
“What can I do if your sister has a birthmark?” Sheng Chumu intentionally shouted this loudly. He wanted the entire Chang’an to know!
“I am going to kill you!” Lu Qi brandished his fist as he dashed towards Sheng Chumu. He was, however, persuaded by his other guests to bear with it until they could carry out their challenge in front of the Imperial Judge.
Sheng Chumu seemed to have suddenly thought of something. “The challenge was meant for Fu Rou. What has it got to do with your sister?”
It was rare that Lu Qi thought Sheng Chumu made sense. “Okay, then let’s set another one.”
“Then let’s do it now.” Sheng Chumu had been bored out of his mind. Now that Lu Qi was right in front of him, how could he easily pass up this chance to teach him a lesson?
“Fine, let’s fight now. If you lose, you better take back every single word you said about my sister.” Lu Qi narrowed his eyes.
“If you lose, you better kneel and kowtow in front of our Duke Lu Residence and shout like father like son.” Sheng Chumu was a filial child. It was not that he didn’t intend to repay his parents, but the time was not right.
The two agreed and chose a room to fight in. Lu Qi had a lot of guests and Sheng Chumu’s two younger brothers were not able to squeeze past the door initially. At the start, they could only hear the sounds of fists and footsteps. However, their elder brother got kicked three times and flew out of the room. It was only then that they found out the miserable state of the fight from their brother’s bruised face.
After the third kick, Lu Qi chased Sheng Chumu out and placed a foot on his chest as if he was stepping on an ant. “Are you going to say it?”
Sheng Chumu shouted, “I will say it! I will say it! The Lu family’s younger daughter is pure. I heard about the birthmark on her lower back from the servant of the lady from the He family.”
Lu Qi snorted, “Only when you get beaten up then do you know it hurts.”
Sheng Chumu looked to be in a sorry state as he crawled up. He called out for Lu Qi who had turned to leave. Lu Qi sneered, “What? Do you want another beating?”
Sheng Chumu stuttered slightly, “I am warning you. I will win you in the actual challenge!”
Lu Qi guffawed, “Haha! I will bet a thousand taels that I will beat you up ten times more than today.”
Sheng Chumu answered back stubbornly and mumbled, “I…upon the Duke Lu Residence…bet ten thousand taels that I will defeat you!”
With the encouragement of the Lu family’s guests, Lu Qi decided to make the bet bigger. Someone opened a bet, others placed their bets. The entire wine house was bustling with activity. As the three brothers from the Sheng family witnessed everyone betting on Lu Qi, they silently left.
“Elder Brother, who cares if no one else bets on you. I will bet on you.” After considering it for half a day, Sheng Chuling decided to donate his allowance.
“Elder Brother, I will also bet on you.” Sheng Chujun did not want to be left behind. However, he felt embarrassed. “It is just that I don’t have much taels.”
Pa pa. Sheng Chumu hit his two brothers, his eyes were burning. “What kind of expressions are you all wearing? Are you certain that I will lose?”
Sheng Chuling saw how his elder brother did not look at all dispirited and his eyes lit up. “Elder Brother, did you put on a show?”
Sheng Chumu gave an obvious look. “Obviously! If I did not use my body to show them, would they have fallen for my trap and started the bet?” It was all part of his plan. “With the small amount of money you all have, you will only be able to win peanuts. We have to find a bigger investment.”
Sheng Chuling’s eyes lit up. “Do you mean -- from Mother?”
Sheng Chujun became excited. “Right, right, Mother has money!”
“Not only money, she has the house deed, land contract and farm contract.” Seeing how his younger brothers got more and more excited, Sheng Chumu became more determined.
Sheng Chumu was no longer his ignorant self anymore. If Lu Qi could not see this, then he could not blame Sheng Chumu for not having mercy. If the Lu family did not lose at least eighty thousand taels, it would not be able to ease his heartbreak!
At this very moment, Fu Rou was completely oblivious of the huge bet that Sheng Chumu had started in Chang’an. She brought the embroidered screen and was heading to Concubine Yan’s palace.
There was a luxuriously dressed man sitting beside Concubine Yan. On his robe was a silver python piercing through the clouds embroidered on it. Fu Rou immediately associated him to be Concubine Yan’s son, Prince Zhou. She took another look at him and realised that both mother and son resembled each other. They were both good looking.
Concubine Yan laughed, “The Seamstress Department has always been slow in their duties. With the new Head Seamstress, their speed is now incredible. How can they finish embroidering so quickly?”
Sensing the praise in his mother’s voice, Prince Zhou became curious as to who this Head Seamstress was. He examined Fu Rou.
Fu Rou maintained a stable voice, sounding neither proud nor impatient. “I promised that I will do it so I will do my best.” She then turned back to signal to the palace maids to reveal the screen that was covered by a red cloth. A pure and clean lotus was blooming. The embroidery was done only in black and white, yet, it was breathtaking.
“There is nothing to pick on with regard to the embroidery skill.” Concubine Yan, however, became overly-sensitive. “But why are there only two colours, black and white? Could it be that the Seamstress Department has run out of all other coloured threads? Even the gold and silver threads? Or do you, Head Seamstress Fu, think that my screen is not worthy of using good materials?”
“Concubine Yan is extremely precious and no amount of good material can be compared to you. The reason why I chose to only use black and white is because it would be able to bring out the unique charm of the lotus. The peony is the king of flowers and is bright and mesmerising. Hence, when embroidering the peony, I used multicoloured threads as well as gold and silver threads to bring out its majestic look. Whereas the lotus flower is born from the mud, yet it is not covered in mud. It maintains its clean and pristine state as it greets the world. It is extremely clean and other than white, what other colour would best represent the purity of the lotus flower? The colour with the greatest contrast to white is black. After considering for a long time, I decided to use black and white to embroider the lotus flower that Your Highness loves.”
Prince Zhou was concentrated on Fu Rou as she spoke her mind.
Concubine Yan did not notice her son’s attention and pondered for a few moments. “After hearing what you said, it is reasonable. It seems like I have placed the Seamstress Department in a difficult spot when I requested for you to sew this lotus screen. Alright, since the colourful peony has already been done, then my lotus flower can remain simple and elegant.” Her tone suddenly changed. “I asked you to embroider the water lily, why do you keep bringing up the lotus flower?”
“I grew up in Guangzhou and often see my grandparents offer the lotus flower to our ancestors. According to them, the lotus flower is similar but different. The family will only prosper when the entire family is in harmony.” Fu Rou tried her best.
“Similar but different, living in harmony…” Concubine Yan smiled, “I understand. Head Seamstress Fu, you have done well.”
Fu Rou silently breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank you for the compliment, Concubine Yan. If you have no further instructions for me, I will take my leave.”
“Hold up.” Prince Zhou called Fu Rou to stay.
“This is my son, Prince Zhou.” Concubine Yan announced proudly. Fu Rou had already guessed his identity as she proceeded to greet him graciously.
“Head Seamstress Fu, you embroidered the lotus flower beautifully. After looking at it, I liked it so much that I wish for an embroidered pouch. This will be a personal item that I carry and I want you to embroider it by yourself. No one else is allowed to do it.” Prince Zhou’s request was bordering on being rude and he did not know how she would respond.
“I will carry out your order. Your Highness, may I know what design you would like on the pouch?” Fu Rou carried out her responsibilities and treated him respectfully.
“The design can be whatever you think fits. You shall help me decide.”
Seeing how Fu Rou did not look at him, he did not feel good.
“Understood. I will take my leave now.” This Prince Zhou is really arrogant.
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