Chapter 15.1: Depth

In the battle between Great Tang and Sheng Empire, life ended in the most violent ways. It did not matter who the enemy was, living was a victory.

Sheng Chumu was the bravest and most outstanding because he was fearful of death. Death would mean that he and Fu Rou would be forever apart. As such, he rejected Lu Qi’s offer of a drink and the Lu family’s invitation for a meal. This all made sense. He treasured his life dearly. It was all for his woman who was waiting in Chang’an for his return.

Sheng Chumu’s eyes were bloodshot but he forgot that the battlefield was littered with flying arrows. His horse was shot by one and it lost its footing, throwing him down onto the floor. A few enemy troops rushed towards him with murderous intent and it seemed that it would be his end.

In the blink of an eye, a black shadow flashed past him. The man dealt decisive blows and quickly finished off the enemy troops.

“Thank you.” Sheng Chumu observed that the man was wearing Great Tang armor. The man turned around with his blood stained face. Gritting his teeth, he yelled, “Sheng Chumu!”

Sheng Chumu lit up and exclaimed in surprise, “Fu Tao!”

To his surprise, Fu Tao jumped onto Sheng Chumu and punched him. “Once we finish this battle, I will settle it with you!” With that, Fu Tao turned and concentrated on the battle again.

Sheng Chumu came to a realization. Fu Tao was still unaware of what happened in the Fu family and did not know that he had made up with Fu Rou. Sheng Chumu smirked. Without hesitation, he picked up his sword again and rushed toward Fu Tao. The two guarded each other’s back for the rest of the battle. 

The pair seemed to be invincible as they continued fighting against the enemy troops. Corpses lay all around them and they were both drenched in blood. It was only then that the two of them leaned back to back against each other as they struggled to catch their breaths. 

Fu Tao pushed Sheng Chumu weakly with the top of his elbow. “You are an idiot who bullies my Second Sister.”

Exhausted as well, Sheng Chumu stopped Fu Tao. “Stop it, I have resolved things with your sister.” Sheng Chumu retrieved the fragrance pouch he kept with him. “Look.”

Fu Tao wearily turned around to face Sheng Chumu. He surveyed the fragrance pouch and commented, “This is my sister’s work.”

Sheng Chumu laughed lightly and the two supported each other to walk towards a more peaceful area.

“Why are you here?” Sheng Chumu asked.

“I constantly received transfer requests in the army. In the end, I was assigned to the same team as you. I performed well and was promoted to be Assistant Lieutenant Rong, a ninth-grade soldier.” Fu Tao wearily took out a handkerchief and opened it, revealing a gold ring inside. “I used my first salary from the army to buy this. My mother has a gold ring that was passed down to her from my grandmother. She treasures it a lot and when I was young, I was even reprimanded by her for playing with it. Now, I have the ability to buy a gold ring for her. Once this battle is over, I will write back to my family and tell my mother that I have become a Ninth-Grade Assistant Lieutenant. I will send this ring back to the house. Hehe, wouldn’t she be so beautiful wearing it? I can imagine her wearing it every day and night, boasting to First Madam and Second Madam.”

A heavy feeling filled Sheng Chumu’s heart and he sighed, placing a consoling hand on Fu Tao’s shoulder. “Fu Tao, a big fire occurred in the Fu Residence. Your mother…” With that, he shook his head solemnly.

Fu Tao blankly stared at Sheng Chumu. The handkerchief and gold ring in his hand fell towards the ground, carrying with it the sorrow of the battlefield.

 

On this day, it was the deadline for Fu Rou to give the pouch to Prince Zhou. She had no choice but to stand before Lingxiao Palace once again. After staring at her feet for a long while, she finally headed in. She placed a pouch on the shelf and lowered her eyes, careful not to look at Prince Zhou.

Prince Zhou played with the pouch and asked, “Did you make this pouch by yourself?”

Fu Rou answered, “I do not dare to disobey Your Highness’ orders.”

Prince Zhou stared at the strange beast sewn on the pouch. “This embroidery here is of a Guardian Lion…are you trying to mock me?”

Fu Rou lifted her gaze, her eyes bright and clear. “I definitely do not have any intentions of mocking you but I felt that this Guardian Lion was befitting for you. Despite being a royalty, you are different from the rest of the dragon sons. Although the Guardian Lion looks like a dog, it is actually a dragon. Furthermore, like Your Highness, this Guardian Lion is the third son of the dragon. The Guardian Lion symbolises prosperity, beauty and it is majestic. I can personally vouch for these qualities in Your Highness.”

“Heh, you are very smooth with your words. The Guardian Lion’s majestic features are meant to scare away demon beasts. I will target whichever demon comes my way too.” Prince Zhou did not know that he was very smooth with his words too.

“I have given you the embroidery, I will take my leave now.” He is a demon beast. Should she not avoid him?

“Stop.” Every time she wanted to leave, he prevented her from doing so.

“Prince Zhou, what other…”

“…orders do I have for you. I knew you would say this. How are you feeling now?”

Fu Rou was mildly taken aback as she felt that he was asking her sincerely. “I do not dare to trouble you to worry about me. I am much better now.” It didn’t matter if he was sincere or he was joking. She did not care. 

“It seems that it was effective for me to personally feed you your medicine.” Prince Zhou teased her, a slight warmth in his voice. Fu Rou blushed again at his comment.

“Alright, since you can’t seem to take jokes. I won’t tease you any further.” Prince Zhou knew when to stop. “Actually I felt bad for causing you to faint the previous time and I wanted to make up for it. If you have anything you want, feel free to request it from me.”

“I only have one request from Your Highness, please do not ask me to come over for no reason anymore.” Fu Rou silently prayed that this would be her last time coming to Lingxiao Palace.

“I cannot promise you that. I am too bored in the palace. Without your company, my mood will be bad.” 

He wanted to see her everyday and talk to her. When he listens to her, he momentarily forgets where he is and feels a lot happier.

“Since that is the case, I don’t have anything else I want to request from you.” 

“Really? This chance is hard to come by. It is a pity if you do not cherish it.” His tone seemed to want to lure her in.

Fu Rou’s eyes widened slightly. This was not her first time dealing with Prince Zhou. Everything that he gave always came with a price. The less she associated with him, the better. 

“What a pity. I thought that you would miss your family having been in the palace for a while. I wanted to take you out for a day. Since you don’t want to be involved with me, then forget it.” He looked at her, confident of himself.

Fu Rou’s eyes lit up. She knew that she should not act so obviously but she could not hide the longing for her family. Ever since she entered the Han Mansion and the Royal Palace, she only managed to reunite with her family for one night and had not been home ever since.

“Then I will have to trouble Your Highness.” She struggled internally and eventually gave in.

“Okay.” Prince Zhou answered quickly and did not tease her anymore. After all, he wanted her to feel grateful to him.

With Prince Zhou’s arrangements, Fu Rou disguised as his internal attendant to leave the palace. Her parents were doing well despite not enjoying as wealthy a lifestyle as before. They were getting along well with her second uncle and their family. Fu Rou could rest assured once she saw her family. As soon as she came out, she thanked Prince Zhou but was also hesitant. 

Prince Zhou achieved his goal and was delighted. He felt generous as he asked, “Is there anything else you want?”

“When I was at the Han Mansion previously, Consort Han was very kind to me. I would like to pay her a visit.” That was the only place for her to get information about Sheng Chumu.

“Consort Han?” Prince Zhou was not suspicious as he wanted to portray himself as a good person. “Sure.”

When the pair arrived at the Han Mansion, Prince Han recognised Fu Rou but did not say more. After serving a cup of tea to Prince Zhou, Consort Han pulled Fu Rou into her room.

“Why are you with Prince Zhou?” Consort Han was concerned. “It won’t be good if people found out you snuck out of the palace.”

“Prince Zhou willingly brought me out, I don’t think we will be discovered.” Fu Rou found it hard to hide her concern. “Your Highness, is there news about Chumu?”

“Despite being away for so long, we only received a single letter from him. He hastily wrote a few brief sentences and didn’t say anything else.” Consort Han was also hesitant. “I am afraid that he is having a hard time now.” 

“It is all my fault. Because of me, Chumu fought against Lu Qi. Now that he is Lu Yunji’s assistant general, Lu Yunji must be bullying him.”

“That is not true.” Consort Han rebutted, “Even if the battle had not occurred, the Lu family is not on good terms with the Sheng family. I am just worried for Chumu since this is his first time in the battlefield.”

“The Duke of Lu holds a high position in court. Did he not ask anyone to take care of Chumu?” 

When it came to Sheng Chumu, Fu Rou was willing to try anything.

Consort Han told her that their family had already tried. However, Lu Yunji was extreme and transferred all of her father’s friends to other battalions. He even came up with excuses to send away the guards that the Duke Lu sent to Sheng Chumu. Chumu could only rely on himself now.

Fu Rou had expected things to be difficult but did not expect it to be so difficult.

Fu Rou’s eyes reflected her concern and Consort Han continued to console her. “You don’t have to worry too much. My brother is smart and he can take care of himself. Although he did not mention you in his letter, I know it is because he doesn’t want us to tell you anything and make you worry. All you have to do is take good care of yourself in the palace; that would be his greatest wish.”

Fu Rou broke into a smile and nodded. Fu Rou left Consort Han and was heading to the main hall when she heard someone call, “Sister-in-law”. Sheng Chuling jumped out in front of Fu Rou. Fu Rou was startled.

“Sister-in-law, come with me.” Sheng Chuling pulled Fu Rou to the side. Acting secretive, he fished out a peace knot. “Sister-in-law, you are a palace lady and can walk around freely. Could you help me give this to Princess Xinnan?”

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