Chapter 14.1: Prince Zhou

Fu Rou had a nightmare. She dreamt that Lu Yunji schemed against Sheng Chumu and killed him. When she woke, although she knew it was just a dream, she could not fall back asleep. Fu Rou’s heart clenched as she left her room to stroll under the moonlight.

“Yan Zifang, don’t blame me for calling you again. I am feeling extremely confused now and cannot sleep. Yan Zifang, if you really are the one that sent Chumu to me, please protect him. He has gone to war and will be facing enemies in front and yet he still has to worry about Lu Yunji setting him up from behind. I am very worried for him….” 

“Who’s there?” A patrolling guard passed by. It was only then did Fu Rou realised that she had subconsciously walked to the Imperial Garden. She quickly replied, “Head Seamstress Fu Rou from the Ministry of Works.”

The guard checked her Identification Plate but remained suspicious. He wanted to bring her back to the Imperial Guard Quarters to interrogate, Fu Rou felt helpless as she realised that things were getting serious. Prince Zhou suddenly appeared. 

“Oh, I am the one that asked her out. It is almost time for Concubine Yan’s birthday and I wanted to ask her to embroider something special for me. Because I wanted to keep it a secret, I chose to meet her in the night. If you all cause a commotion like this, you will leak out my secret and ruin the surprise I prepared for my mother. Will you all be able to take on this responsibility?”

The Imperial guards immediately apologised and let go of Fu Rou.

“Thank you for helping me out, Your Highness.” Fu Rou bowed and felt a sharp pain in her elbow.

Prince Zhou examined her carefully. “Are you hurt?”

“Nope.” Fu Rou did not want to create any more trouble.

“Those Imperial guards were all specially selected to be the fittest and strongest. You are a lady. It must have been uncomfortable when they held onto you.” Prince Zhou suddenly extended his hand and grabbed onto Fu Rou’s elbow, where the guards had grabbed her. Fu Rou inhaled sharply.

“And you still say it is nothing?” Prince Zhou stared at Fu Rou’s expression as he smiled. “Come to Lingxiao Palace first thing tomorrow morning to get medicine.”

Fu Rou turned down his offer. “I do not dare to trouble you, Your Highness. I will just go to the Imperial Physician to get medicine.” Although Prince Zhou had helped her, she felt that it was better to stay away from him.

Prince Zhou asked, “What follows after, when bestowed a gift?”

Fu Rou paused. “Do not decline.”

“It is good that you are aware. Tomorrow, I will be waiting for you at Lingxiao Palace. If you dare to ignore my order and not turn up, you can wait and see what I will do.” Prince Zhou turned and left without waiting for her reply. 

Fu Rou was unhappy. It’s such a small issue. Why is Prince Zhou being difficult? She could not even feel grateful for his help.

 

The next day, Fu Rou arrived at Lingxiao Palace.

Lingxiao Palace was the residence Prince Zhou stayed at. It was on the opposite side of the Eastern Palace but was close to the Emperor and Concubine Yan’s residence. When Lingxiao Palace was first built, the Emperor personally oversaw the construction and put in a lot of effort into the design and furnishing. It was one of the rare few that had a three layer structure. It had the best scenery in the palace and its name meant the skies. It was clear how much the Emperor doted on this son of his.

Fu Rou gazed at the scenery absentmindedly, hesitating at the door. 

“You are already here, did you think you could turn and leave so easily?” Prince Zhou hid his smile as delight filled him.

“I thought about it. If Your Highness’ medicine comes at a price, I will not be able to accept it. Moreover, I have not stepped in and cannot be considered to have reached.” Sure enough, this was a trap.

“Even if you do not accept my medicine, you still owe me for the incident at the Imperial Garden.” Prince Zhou walked behind the study desk.

Fu Rou stood by the door. “What do you want?”

“Come over, help me prepare ink.” Prince Zhou sat down.

Fu Rou thought that he was being strange. “It is my fault for wandering around in the middle of the night. If Your Highness thinks that I should be punished, you can simply hand me over to the Imperial Guards. If you want to threaten me, I am sorry but I will not accept it.” 

This was not part of her duties. Even if this person had a much higher status, she did not want to degrade herself.

Prince Zhou looked at Fu Rou, who was still standing outside. “Everyone in the palace says that you treat things seriously and are careful in everything you do. It seems like they were speaking the truth. Head Seamstress Fu, how many people are there in the Seamstress Department?”

Fu Rou was baffled. “Your Highness, why do you want to know this?”

Prince Zhou replied, “The internal courtyard of the Royal Palace is the place with the most schemes and tricks in the world. There was a huge case in the previous dynasty. A group of palace maids were unhappy with Consort Lu for killing one of their people and planned to poison her. However, one of the palace maids was caught by the Imperial Guards as she was headed to meet them in the night. She was interrogated and eventually spilled the truth. All the palace maids were then executed. Head Seamstress Fu was behaving strangely in the middle of the night. Who knows if you were plotting something along with the Seamstress Department? Should the Imperial Guards lock up all the heads, ladies and palace maids to interrogate them?” It was a pity not everyone had a personality like hers.

“I will be responsible for my own actions…” Fu Rou became anxious.

“This is the Royal Palace. It is a taboo to form a group and any actions will implicate others. It is not possible for one person to take responsibility.” Gullible! If he wanted to frame her, she would have to drink from a teapot! “So do you want to come over or do you want to leave?”

Fu Rou looked at Prince Zhou for a while before slowly making her way over. She helped him to prepare his ink. 

Prince Zhou lifted his brush in preparation to paint. From the corners of his eyes, he caught sight of a red angry face. The corners of his lips turned up in a smile; he was feeling happy.

 

Very soon, the entire Royal Palace was busy preparing for the Crown Prince’s wedding. The Seamstress Department worked around the clock to prepare all sorts of embroidery required for the wedding. Not only did Fu Rou have to check every single piece of item, she also had to help out with the embroidery. However, she did not think that this was tough. On one hand, it distracted her from imagining the worst for Sheng Chumu. On the other hand, she could avoid being called over by Prince Zhou to become his personal servant.

When the wedding ceremony ended smoothly, everyone in the Seamstress Department breathed a sigh of relief. However, the following day after the wedding, Fu Rou returned to the Seamstress Department first thing in the morning. 

Lady Xue, who had just been promoted, saw that Fu Rou was not looking great and urged her to go and rest. However, Fu Rou noted issues on the pillowcase that they were making for Princess Xinnan and corrected them.

All of a sudden, everyone greeted, “Prince Zhou.” Fu Rou felt as if the sky had just darkened. She sighed silently as she turned around and greeted the huge figure standing by the door. 

“What is that?” Prince Zhou was not interested in the pillow case but was interested in finding things for Fu Rou to do. “Sew one for me as well.” 

“I still have various tasks that have been assigned to me.” When faced with ‘bullying’, she did not back down.

“When are you going to be done with the pouch that I asked you to make?” He suddenly recalled.

“I…” She hadn't even started and had completely forgotten about it. She wanted to brush it off. “...will try to finish it quickly.”

“I want the pillowcase at the beginning of next month and the pouch in three days. Come to Lingxiao Palace in the afternoon.” Since she was so busy, he would help her arrange it.

“If you have anything else for me, you can say it here.” She did not want to go back to preparing ink.

“You can refuse to come but you need to consider carefully what the consequences are. I will leave now.” 

Prince Zhou’s gaze swept across the entire Seamstress Department. Seeing how Fu Rou’s expression changed, he achieved his goal. He then walked away calmly.

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