Chapter 15.2: Depth

A few days ago, Sheng Chuling and Princess Xinnan caused a commotion at Qinglou Winehouse. The Empress found out about it and wanted to punish Sheng Chuling. However, Princess Xinnan took responsibility and was caned. 

Fu Rou heard that Princess Xinnan went to Qinglou Winehouse and was disguised as a guy. Sheng Chuling happened to be there at that time and stood up to protect Xinnan. Eventually, he fought with others. By the time she heard about this issue, the situation had already been resolved and she did not have a chance to ask what happened. Now, she was interested.

“This peace knot is so ugly, I bet you made this yourself. What is going on between you and the Princess?” The fact that the both of them were in the same place could not have been a coincidence.

“Sister-in-law, you are such a smart person and can definitely guess what is going on. Don’t make fun of me.” Sheng Chuling was awkward.

“Oh, hearing you say that made me think of another thing. Recently, there have been a few cases of kites flying into the palace after getting cut off from their string. There were words written on the kites and Princess Xinnan said that the kites were all hers. Anyone who picked up a kite has to send it to her palace. She would even reward them. Are you the cause of this?” There was definitely something going on between these two.

“Really? She really said that all the kites belong to her?” Sheng Chuling was overjoyed. “Then she definitely must have seen the…”

Sheng Chuling tugged on Fu Rou’s sleeve. “Sister-in-law. Please help me. You have to help me give this peace knot to her.”

Fu Rou laughed, “How old are you? You are still trying to act cute. Aren’t you embarrassed?”

Sheng Chuling was unfazed. His skin was too thick. “Elder Brother said that he would definitely marry you. Since you are my future sister-in-law, there is a saying that an elder sister-in-law’s is like another mother. Therefore, you are like a mother to me—"

Fu Rou could not bear to listen to him any longer as she grabbed the peace knot and walked away. The three Sheng brothers all like to depend on others. They all spoke too well and no one could win against them. She had no idea that someone had already leaked out that Prince Zhou snuck her out of the palace.

 

Sun Lingshu carried a bowl of ginseng soup as she entered the Crown Prince’s study. Sun Lingshu sat by the side quietly until the Crown Prince was done giving his instructions before serving the ginseng soup to him. 

When she first entered the palace, she did not feel anxious and believed that she would take things as they come. Other than their wedding night, the Crown Prince had never once been to her palace. She did not know what to do and did not know whether it was a problem with her or the Crown Prince was simply too busy. The Crown Prince finally looked up and smiled at Sun Lingshu. “I am sorry for making you wait, Crown Princess. It smells amazing.”

Sun Lingshu told herself that the Crown Prince must be too busy. He smiled warmly towards her and must like her.

She smiled back warmly. “Drink it while it is hot.”

Yet, just as the Crown Prince was about to drink the soup, his attendant handed him a slip of paper. 

When the Crown Prince looked through it, he snorted. “Just because my Imperial Father dotes on Third Brother, he does whatever he wants. He actually brought a palace lady out of the palace. Let’s see what he has to say for himself when I report this to my Imperial Father tomorrow.”

Sun Linghus heard this and thought to herself. Isn’t that Fu Rou?

She thought about how she still owed Fu Rou and said, “Your Highness, pardon me for asking but will that be too harsh? Prince Zhou has the Emperor’s favor and although it is not appropriate, it is also not a crime. When the Emperor hears about this, he will reprimand Prince Zhou, but will also start to think that you are narrow-minded and want to drive a wedge between him and your brothers. You will win a little but stand to lose a lot. Moreover, Head Seamstress Fu caught the Empress’ eye and was brought into the palace. If she gets into trouble, Mother will lose face and the Han Mansion will also be implicated. We will stand to lose a lot.”

The Crown Prince nodded. “Not bad, I will listen to you and drop this matter.” As he said this, he brought the spoon to Sun Lingshu’s mouth. “Crown Princess, you are bright and it is my good fortune to have you by my side.”

Sun Lingshu giggled shyly and drank the soup. “It is my fortune to be able to accompany you, Your Highness. The sky is turning dark, we should rest early.”

The Crown Prince lowered the spoon. “I still have some things to settle before I can head to bed. You can go first. If you stay here, I will be distracted and may not be able to finish my work before the sun rises.”

Sun Lingshu was disappointed. It was always this lukewarm attitude that made her feel helpless.

 

Sun Lingwei noticed that her sister’s mood was not great after she had returned from the Crown Prince’s place. Without saying a second word, she brought her sister out into the Imperial Garden to play hide-and-seek. Sun Lingshu started to feel happier once again when someone coughed --

“Who is making such a big commotion?”

Sun Lingshu turned around and immediately hid her smile.

Official Situ walked up to Sun Lingshu. Her expression did not change as she greeted, “Your Highness is the official wife of the future leader of this country. You are the owner of the Eastern Palace. Your words and actions have to abide strictly by the rules. You should not laugh loudly or conduct yourself so ungracefully. You are ruining the reputation of the Eastern Palace.”

“You are just a servant. How dare you speak to my sister in such an insolent manner!” In Sun Lingwei’s eyes, her sister was perfect. She even managed to become the Crown Princess and will be the future Empress. She married into the Royal Family so gloriously and everyone should respect her.

Sun Lingshu shook her head at her sister as she endured and kept her voice calm. “Thank you for the reminder. I will be more careful in the future.”

Official Situ lowered her eyes. “It is good that you know. Her Majesty, the Empress, has instructed me to manage the Office of Rites and I am in-charge of the behaviour and mannerism of everyone in the palace. If Your Highness has any questions regarding the rules, I am very willing to go through it with you.”

“You!” Sun Lingwei was bursting with anger. How could Official Situ be so demanding? 

Sun Lingshu immediately spoke, “There is no need for that. I have already learned the palace rules before I entered.”

Official Situ’s expression did not change. “Since Your Highness does not need me to teach you, I will take my leave.”

Sun Lingwei waited until Official Situ was a distance away before stomping her foot. “Elder Sister, why did you hold back?”

“You don’t understand.” However, Sun Lingshu had to understand.

Her biggest takeaway after marrying into the palace was that a woman’s most precious years were the years just before she got married. As soon as they were married, it was like they entered an entirely different universe. She faced a husband that she was not familiar with and a stranger for a mother-in-law. Even though she had half the authority in the house, everyone only paid attention to seniority. Official Situ has served the Empress and the Crown Prince before. Although Official Situ was ultimately still just a palace lady, she was highly experienced and she could not offend her as a newcomer.  

Sun Lingwei did not know of her sister’s troubles and was extremely stubborn. “When you become the Empress in the future, the first thing you should do is to get rid of that old hag and teach these palace ladies how to differentiate between authority.”

Sun Lingshu merely laughed. It was not easy to deal with palace ladies. Similar to how her Imperial Mother trusted Official Situ and gave her the authority over an entire office, she also needed to have a palace lady loyal to her. Then when she needed to do things, it would be much easier. A candidate appeared in her mind -- Fu Rou.

 

Fu Rou’s mood was low as she left the Eastern Palace.

Sun Lingshu requested for her to make another eye-catching dance costume. Fu Rou knew that it was to please the Crown Prince but she felt that this trick might not be useful anymore. Furthermore, Sun Lingshu was already the master of the Eastern Palace. It was not particularly outstanding to use dance costumes and dancers to attract the Crown Prince. She had voiced out her opinion that this might not work but Sun Lingshu had made up her mind and even criticised her for having a bad attitude.

She spoke the truth yet was misunderstood by someone she had helped before. She sighed. No wonder everyone in the palace acted carefully. It was hard to guess what other people’s true intentions are. The Sun Lingshu from the Han Mansion was so innocent and only prepared a simple dance costume. However, now that Sun Lingshu was the Crown Princess, she had become anxious, cold and arrogant. 

“Aiya!” Fu Rou heard someone shout from behind the fake stone mountain. She rushed over only to see a lady sitting dejectedly on the floor, completely drenched. A suspicious looking attendant disappeared behind the fake mountain. 

The girl on the ground was Lu Yingying.

Fu Rou knew that despite losing, Lu Yingying often entered the palace to chat with Empress Zhangsun. The Empress adored her and it was rumoured that she was considering making Lu Yingying the Crown Prince’s concubine. This would increase Lu Yingying’s status to one that was not far off from Sun Lingshu. This place was near to the Eastern Palace and the attendant had been wearing the uniform from the Eastern Palace. Someone might have done this out of spite.

Fu Rou stepped up to help Lu Yingying as an unknown feeling washed over her. She had once helped Sun Lingshu defeat Lu Yingying. Yet, today, she was helping Lu Yingying and ruining Sun Lingshu’s plans. She was getting entangled with them. 

“I have seen you before.” Lu Yingying recognised Fu Rou and her eyes glimmered. “On the day that I entered Chang’an, I met you once in front of the city gates. The curtains of your carriage were open. Nice to meet you. I am Lu Yingying.”

Fu Rou never thought that there would be such a coincidence. She imagined that Lu Yingying would be a pampered and scheming person. She did not expect her to be so generous and have such kind eyes.

“I am Fu Rou.” Although the Lu father-son pair were despicable, Fu Rou still needed some time to examine if their daughter was as evil. Hence, Fu Rou was generous. “Do you want to go to my room to change your clothes?”

“Fu Rou?” Lu Yingying froze. “You are the reason why my brother fought with Sheng Chumu in front of the Imperial family. Why would you help me?”

“The road is slightly bumpy, give me your hand.” Moreover, she might have misjudged her. “It is just a set of normal clothes, there is no need to consider it a favour. You can just disregard today.” She wanted to make it such that they did not owe each other anything.

Lu Yingying saw that Fu Rou had no intentions of using her to raise her status nor was she trying to get close. She changed her clothes, thanked Fu Rou and left. Fu Rou appreciated that Lu Yingying was a straightforward person.

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