Chapter 16.1: Hidden Battle

After a few days, Fu Rou submitted the dance outfit that Sun Lingshu requested. She tried her best to make it as she was ordered, keeping it elegant while adding jewels wherever possible. Unexpectedly, Sun Lingshu was not appreciative of the dance outfit that Fu Rou put in effort to make. She did not even bother to try it on and threw it onto the table, showing a dark face. 

“I heard that your embroidery skills have been acknowledged by both Imperial Mother and Concubine Yan. But why is it so poor when it comes to me? Are your abilities limited or could my Eastern Palace not be worthy of your jewels?” She had thought that Fu Rou had good foresight and that’s why she made that raining flower dress that day.

“I do not dare.” Fu Rou did not expect Sun Lingshu to be so demanding. “I believe that having too much is as good as not having anything. As the Crown Princess, you can wear as luscious a dress as you want but it would not be fitting of your personality.”

“Enough!” Sun Lingshu interrupted impatiently, “Before I got married, I was restricted by my family to not seek lavishness. But now that I am the Crown Princess, what I eat and wear has to match my status. If not, people will think that I am petty. Head Seamstress Fu, you entered the palace before me and should know this.”

Fu Rou opened her mouth before closing it.

“That’s enough. Bring it back to amend it.” Sun Lingshu waved dismissively and spoke as if she was tired. “Head Seamstress Fu, don’t just treat Imperial Mother and Concubine Yan well, you should look further ahead. Moreover, we have a past together. As long as you are sincere, from now on, you can rise along with me.”

Fu Rou felt a chill in her heart. Was this what it meant when people say the palace devours people’s souls? The Sun family’s daughter had already been swallowed. The Crown Princess in front of her is no longer the girl she knew before.

“I will obey your order.” 

She did not persist, there was no need to. They were going on separate ways.

Fu Rou held onto the dress as she walked through the Imperial Garden. From afar, she caught sight of Prince Zhou and wanted to hide. However, he had already seen her.

“I haven’t seen you recently and thought that you had fallen sick again. I was just intending to go and find you.” She really knew how to hide. It was as if she grew a thousand eyes and he could not find her wherever he went.

“I have been busy.” She was telling the truth. She had gone to the Eastern Palace twice and still had to amend the skirt. 

“Are you sure you weren’t just avoiding me?” Prince Zhou took a step closer to her. His face was haughty, yet his eyes displayed a hint of eagerness. 

“No.” She did not see the eagerness in his eyes and was focused on looking back to see where she could find an escape route.

“That’s good. If not, I will be upset. I risked getting reprimanded by my Imperial Father just to let you see your family. In the end, not only did you not thank me, you even avoided me.”

Fu Rou did not realise that Prince Zhou used ‘me’ to refer to himself. “Your Highness must be kidding.”

Prince Zhou smiled. “What are you holding?” Without waiting for Fu Rou to answer, he grabbed it and opened it up to see. 

“It is beautiful. I didn’t expect you to know how to embroider and dance as well. When will you let me watch you dance? You must be mesmerising.” 

“I don’t know how to dance. This dance outfit was made for the Crown Princess. However, Her Highness is not satisfied so I am bringing it back to add more pearls and gems.” Unknowingly, she expressed her dissatisfaction.

Prince Zhou immediately sensed it. “It seems like you have different thoughts.”

“When making clothes, what we consider most is the suitability. It does not mean that the more you put on a dress, the better it becomes. But since this was the Crown Princess request, I can only do my best. I have to at least add a few pearls and gems.” Fu Rou spoke the truth.

“Add a few?” Prince Zhou wanted to laugh. “Head Seamstress Fu, you are going against the Crown Princess. The Crown Princess has just entered the palace and this is the time where she should establish herself. All she wants is a luxurious dress, yet the Seamstress Department is trying to stop her. Those who know you will understand that you just want to do your best and not ruin a dress by adding too much material. However, those that do not know will think that the Seamstress Department, which is just a small department, does not respect the Crown Princess.” 

“Why do you all always complicate things?” Fu Rou really could not understand. “All there is to a dance outfit is whether it is suitable or not.”

“In the Royal Palace, everything is related. Anything you do will have resounding impacts. Nothing is as simple as it seems.” It was just like him at the moment. Although it looked like he was looking at a dance outfit, he was thinking of other things.

Fu Rou sighed. She had wanted to pretend to understand in front of the Crown Princess and act dumb, only intending to change a small part. Perhaps she could satisfy both sides. Thankfully Prince Zhou pointed this out. It seemed she had been too ignorant.

“It is a small matter whether the dress still looks nice after I add more gems on it. The Seamstress Department cannot go against Her Highness instructions and belittle her. I shall do whatever she says.”

“You learn fast.” A brilliant smile appeared on Prince Zhou’s face.

 

The next day, Fu Rou handed over the altered dress to Sun Lingshu.

Sun Lingshu looked at the dress. Silver and pearls were all over the dress and every thread had a gem attached to it. The entire dress was dazzling. This was a dress that was worthy of her status. She was delighted and immediately wore it. Putting on an outerwear, she ran to the Crown Prince’s study room, intending to surprise him. 

However, as Sun Lingshu entered the study room, she saw that the Crown Prince was frowning, looking extremely troubled. 

Earlier, Prince Zhou had presented the Emperor with a piece <<Admonishing Extravagance>>. The Emperor was full of praises for him and rewarded Prince Zhou with a precious horse that was given as a tribute by Great Shi. The Emperor also instructed the Crown Prince to make a copy of it and read it often. Firstly, Prince Zhou had garnered the Emperor’s favour and this made the Crown Prince unhappy. Secondly, he had hinted to his father that he liked the precious horse that had been given by Great Shi but his father had given it to Prince Zhou. How he could not feel suffocated?

“Your Highness, you look upset. Is something wrong?” Sun Lingshu thought that this was her chance.

The Crown Prince forced a smile. “No, I’m just a little tired.”

Sun Lingshu threw her own palace maid, Shuangxi, a look. Shuangxi remarked. “The Crown Princess has been practicing dancing and singing. How about the Crown Princess perform a song and dance for Your Highness to enjoy?”

Sun Lingshu took the chance to add, “Although you have a lot of things to do, you have to relax as well.”

“Okay.” The Crown Prince hesitated but recalled how fairy-like Sun Lingshu was during the Crown Princess selection and could not help but become excited. Eventually, he nodded.

Shuangxi immediately clapped and the musicians entered.

The music started and other female dancers entered, starting to dance. When they spread out, Sun Lingshu appeared in the middle. Sun Lingshu stood up and started to turn. Her dress tinkled with the sound of gems hitting each other. The numerous multi-coloured jewels sparkled and were extremely blinding.

The Crown Prince was extremely shocked as the book << Admonishing Extravagance>> lying on his table pricked his eyes. 

“Stop dancing! Get out!” He suddenly shot up and bellowed furiously. Everyone dispersed like birds. Only Sun Lingshu stood where she was. She was too shocked to move.

“Your Highness?” Sun Lingshu stammered.

The Crown Prince picked up << Admonishing Extravagance >> and threw it at Sun Lingshu’s feet. “Look at what is written on there! The stack of petitions are so much that they form a screen, fortunately my wife’s dress don’t touch the ground. Han Wendi was a role model emperor and even his beloved wife, Empress Shen, did not wear dresses that touched the ground. Look at yourself. As a Crown Princess, not only are you not practicing prudency and being a role model for the other palace workers, you are excessively extravagant. Your dress is packed with precious pearls and jewels! Your Sun family has always prided yourselves on being moral and having good conduct. Is this what you consider good conduct?”

Sun Lingshu’s voice trembled. “Crown Prince, I only…” She only wanted to gain his pity.

“Get out!” If my father were to know about this, this << Admonishing Extravagance>> would seem to be directed at him. “I do not want to see your proud and hateful look!”

Sun Lingshu cried as she ran out. Who knew that she would bump into Official Situ. 

As Official Situ looked at the sorry sight Sun Lingshu was in as well as the extravagant dress that she was wearing, she remarked, “Crown Princess, you are charging around violently. You do not have any bearing!”

“Official Situ, that is enough! I don’t need a female official like you to lecture me!” Sun Lingshu was feeling extremely wronged. In other people’s eyes, why does it seem like everything she does is wrong?

Official Situ maintained a serious expression. “I am in charge of the behaviour of everyone in the palace. If anyone behaves inappropriately, I have the right to lecture them. You are the Crown Princess, yet your hair is in a mess and you are running around sloppily. How is this appropriate? And what are you wearing? It is extravagant and vulgar and does not uphold the look of the Royal Family. Do you think you are some low class dancer that you can wear this?”

Sun Lingshu lifted her hand and slapped Official Situ across the face. She was furious. “I am still the Crown Princess. You are just a servant serving the Royal Family and you are worth as much as the dog we rear at home. How dare you insult me?”

“What great upbringing you have, Crown Princess. The official in charge of Rites in the Royal Palace, is only as worthy as your dog.” Empress Zhangsun’s voice pierced through the air.

“Imperial Mother, I…” Sun Lingshu dropped to her knees in fear. “I just…” She could not utter a word.

“I never knew that our female officials turned into dogs of the Royal Family. This is the first time I am hearing something like this and it is actually coming from your mouth, Crown Princess.” Empress Zhangsun narrowed her eyes as she instructed her attendants. “Go and find a place for the Crown Princess to kneel. Don’t let her block anyone’s way.”

Sun Lingshu looked up, pain and indignance filled her eyes. She had always believed that before marriage, her parents would dote on her. After she got married, her husband would dote on her. However, in such a short time, her entire world collapsed and she had no one to rely on. In the Royal Palace, all there is are rules. There was no sorrow. There was no one that would be concerned and ask her why she was crying in her dance outfit.

Empress Zhangsun left without caring and asked Official Situ to follow her to Lizheng Palace. She was disappointed with Sun Lingshu and thought that she had made a mistake during the selection. She should have chosen Lu Yingying, who was smart and sharp.

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