Chapter 13.1: Tiger Cub

Ever since Fu Rou presented the black and white lotus to Concubine Yan, she received rewards from both the Empress and Concubine Yan. All of a sudden, she was famous amongst the 24 departments. The Seamstress Department, which had always been lacking behind, was suddenly highlighted. Everyone was impressed by Fu Rou and the three-shift system that she implemented to rush out embroideries. The atmosphere was great. 

Fu Rou was not arrogant but through this, she learnt that life in the palace was not easy. She had to be careful and do things herself. She was so busy she did not have time to think of Sheng Chumu. One day, as she was delivering embroideries, she saw a group of internal attendants talking behind a fake mountain. The two words “Sheng Chumu” floated into her ears, causing her to slow down.

She had no time to think of Sheng Chumu recently. She wondered what he would think if he knew. Would he try to remind her of himself through others? Fu Rou wanted to laugh as she walked over. Ultimately, she could not suppress the concern she felt. 

“Why is everyone betting on Lu Qi? If all bets are on him, how is Chief Cao going to survive? We need some people to bet on Sheng Chumu right?” The one who was leading the talk was an internal attendant named Yang Bo. He had an attractive pair of doggy eyes. 

When Fu Rou first entered the palace, it was Yang Bo that showed her the way. It was thanks to him that she found out roughly about the people in the palace and was not completely oblivious. 

Fu Rou suddenly chimed in, “What are you all doing?” 

“Eh? Head Seamstress Fu!” Yang Bo threw everyone else a look and the other internal attendants dispersed like birds. “Nothing much. We were just chatting.” Yang Bo wanted to collect the bets but he stumbled over himself and dropped them. 

Fu Rou laughed as she helped him pick up the silver coins. “It is alright. I heard everything. What is going on between Lu Qi and Sheng Chumu?” 

“Since you already know, then I shall speak the truth.”

Yang Bo had a good impression of Fu Rou and had long heard of what she did at the Seamstress Department. He had thought that Fu Rou would either be controlled or control others. He never thought that she would be able to stabilize her position and even help someone become Baolin. After everything that happened, no one lost out. It was then that he knew that Fu Rou was not like others.

Yang Bo told her the truth. “Recently, a huge bet was made in Chang’an. It is on who would win between Lu Qi and Sheng Chumu. The gambling odds has already reached a ten to one percentage win.” 

Fu Rou asked, “Who is the one and who is the ten?”

“Are you really asking that?” When Yang Bo trusted someone, there was nothing that he would hide. “Lu Qi was named General Zhenyong by the Emperor. Duke Lu’s son would definitely lose against a seasoned general on the battlefield. I originally advised Chief Cao not to take on this gamble. Since the outcome is clear, there is no way for him to make a profit out of this. However, Chief Cao said that a small bet would make everyone happy.” 

“Chief Cao, the one in charge of internal attendants?” Fu Rou had recently put in effort to identify everyone. It was not so that she could get into their good books but to prevent herself from making simple mistakes.

“Yes. For this bet, the Lu family is the big dealer in Chang'an while the palace’s dealer is Chief Cao. Head Seamstress Fu, please do not spread this and leak it to the higher ups.” 

Fu Rou chuckled, “Why would I? I want to join in the fun and bet on Sheng Chumu.” 

“Lady Fu, you are a good person. I will give you a piece of advice. There is a ninety-nine percent chance that you will not be able to get your money back by betting on Sheng Chumu.” 

“I do not believe in that. I will bet all my earnings in the palace.” Fu Rou strongly believed that the one she liked was a multi-talented and righteous man!

 

In the blink of an eye, it was the day of the battle. 

The Emperor was outstanding in both the literary and martial arts. Even though he had conquered the empire, he believed that guarding his empire was equally important. Hence, he set a date to organise these kinds of events to motivate the younger generation as well as take the opportunity to select and recruit talent. 

In the grand courtyard, an observation stand was built for the Emperor and the Empress. Flanking their sides were tents and wooden shelters built to allow officials and nobles to observe the event as well as rest. Short colourful curtains segregated the battle arenas as well as defined the walking area. Internal attendants walked between the arenas. Higher ranked military officers acted as judges. The winner of each battle will proceed to the next round while the loser would be eliminated. The top ten would then proceed to the second round of horse riding and archery. The two with the best scores would then move onto the final round.

Although Sheng Chumu boasted to Fu Rou before, it was the first time he treated the Imperial Competition so seriously. In addition, his opponents looked down on him and that actually gave him a huge advantage. He surmounted all difficulties and silently made his way into the top ten.

Sheng Chuling was ready to cheer for his elder brother till his throat was sore. However, he never thought that Sheng Chumu would complete the competition so quickly. He was bored and decided to wander about. All of a sudden, he saw a familiar face and took big steps into a tent.

“I finally found you! Wow, you actually hid in the palace!!” Sheng Chuling pointed at her. 

There were two women in the tent. The one that was sitting had her hair in a bun, with a gem-shaped peony pin in her hair. She was wearing a snow-white velvet winter skirt and a white fox fur coat as she held a warmer in her hands. The one standing behind her was clearly her personal palace maid. Sheng Chuling was pointing at the one who was sitting.

The palace maid immediately scolded him, “How brazen! How dare you be so rude to Her Highness?”

Sheng Chuling jumped in shock, “Princess? Aren't you Qing…” He then saw her luxurious outfit.

“I am Princess Xinnan.” Princess Xinnan tilted her head upward. “Sheng Chuling, pour me a cup of tea.”

Bewildered, Sheng Chuling pointed at his own nose and said, “Me? Pour tea?” 

“Yes.” Princess Xinnan raised her eyebrows, mimicking Sheng Chuling as she spoke in a bossy tone. “Which residence are you from? You are so slow.” 

Scrunching his nose together, Sheng Chuling obediently poured a cup of tea for the princess.

Xinnan observed his smooth actions and remarked, “You are pretty good at this. I thought you were a klutz.”

Sheng Chuling laughed lightly, “Thank you for your praise, Your Highness. By the customs of the Duke Lu Residence, anyone who pours a good cup of tea would be rewarded with a big kiss.” 

Princess Xinnan choked on her tea, unable to stop herself. This guy was really incorrigible! She was the bigger person and was not intending to hold it against him. 

“However, the princess has a distinguished status and is like a golden branch with jade leaves. Her reputation cannot be tarnished and she cannot kiss anyone she likes. Am I right?” Sheng Chuling smiled deviously.

“Ab...absurd!” Zhenzhu blinked her eyes in horror, “How can you speak to Her Highness in such a manner!” 

Princess Xinnan lightly yelled, “Leave us alone!” 

Zhenzhu nodded fiercely, “Yes, go away!” 

Princess Xinnan coughed, “I meant you, Zhenzhu!” Although Zhenzhu was someone that she trusted, no one else could know that Sheng Chuling had kissed her.

Zhenzhu was extremely surprised and could only oblige. 

“Threatening the royal princess of the imperial family is a crime deserving of death.” Princess Xinnan watched as Sheng Chuling swaggered over to the seat beside hers and sat down. Princess Xinnan’s expression darkened. If she had known that this would happen, she would not have gone to the Han Mansion!

“Stealing the royal princess’ first kiss is also a crime deserving of death. What’s done has been done, another crime added is nothing much. The Emperor cannot kill the same person twice anyway.” Sheng Chuling shrugged confidently.

He received a glare from Princess Xinnan. “How did you know… that was my first kiss?” 

“You were so nervous. How can it not be your first kiss?” Sheng Chuling casually replied. 

“You…you!” Princess Xinnan’s face flushed red from anger. 

“What about me? Did you think that I was very happy? I completely regret it.” Sheng Chuling sighed heavily as if he had degraded himself.

“Bastard! You lowly person took advantage of me. How dare you say you regret it?” Princess Xinnan could not believe what she was hearing.

“Of course I regret it. I met a beautiful, innocent lady in the Han Mansion and I thought I was a good match with her. I originally thought she was an attendant and wanted to marry her as my consort. Who knew that she was actually the highly esteemed princess. If I knew about that, I would never have kissed her. I would have preferred if this ill-fated relationship did not happen in the first place. That would be better than the bitterness of my broken heart now.” When he got home, he kept thinking of her. His luck was too bad.

“What ill-fated relationship? You make it sound so horrible.” Princess Xinnan covered her ears.

“If you think I speak horribly, then we should not meet anymore. We should not talk with each other and should not kiss.” Sheng Chuling stood up to head outside.

Princess Xinnan slammed the table. “Stop right there! Where are you going?” 

However, Sheng Chuling did not turn around. “Your Highness is the beloved daughter of the Emperor while I am just the second son of Duke Lu. Our statuses are very different and we should not delay each other further. I will keep the beloved memory of that fragrant cup of tea and gentle kiss forever in my heart.”

Princess Xinnan was stunned and the anger in her heart dissipated. A sweet feeling overwhelmed her as she felt tingly on the inside. Her heart was pounding wildly. 

On the other hand, the seemingly relaxed Sheng Chuling’s knees immediately grew weak the moment he turned the corner. He leaned against the wall and breathed heavily while thumping his chest. 

“Oh my goodness! That damn woman is actually a princess. Thank goodness I am familiar and experienced in dealing with girls. She would not complain to the Empress about me after I said those sweet words, right?”

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Coca's Thoughts

Eight episodes of the drama have already been released on youtube! The next episode will be airing at 8pm China time, on Thursday. Chapters will resume then.

In the meantime, what do you think of the novel so far? It may sound silly and lighthearted for now, but there will be A LOT more depth and juicy content later on!