Chapter 17.3: Swing

The following day, Fu Rou was once again dressed up as Prince Zhou’s bodyguard as she left the palace with him. They were in the outskirts of the city. Sunlight shone down on rice seedlings as the first signs of green burst through the brown earth. Spring had just arrived.

“Head Seamstress Fu really knows how to do a lot of things.” Prince Zhou, however, was only focused on the sight of Fu Rou on her horse.

“My brother learned how to ride and shoot, I know a little from him.” Fu Rou turned away from appreciating the scenery to look at Prince Zhou. She did not see his handsome features but could only focus on his evil smile.

“There aren’t as many rules outside the palace and it would sound weird to other people if they overheard us. Let’s call each other casually.” Prince Zhou wanted to get closer.

Fu Rou obeyed. “I have done as you requested. With regard to the Internal Entry Examination, can you promise to keep it a secret?”

“Well, it depends on whether I am happy with your company today.” Prince Zhou’s eyes narrowed. “It looks like you can improve on your horse-riding skills. Let me teach you.”

In the beginning, everything went smoothly. Under Prince Zhou’s guidance, Fu Rou was better able to control her horse. As she had a taste of what it felt like to be in control, she slowly grew in love with the feeling of riding through the wind. She subconsciously loosened her grip on the reins and allowed the horse to run faster. When Prince Zhou returned from being absorbed in Fu Rou’s smile, he realised that Fu Rou was now galloping wildly and quickly caught up with her. He simultaneously shouted, “Grab onto the reins!”

Fu Rou panicked as the strong wind stung her face. She was not able to sit properly as she reached out and grabbed onto the horse’s neck. This caused the horse to rebel and it kicked up its hooves to throw her off.

“Ahh—” Fu Rou shrieked. Her hands slipped as she was horrified to realise that she had been thrown into the air. 

In less than a split second, she collided into a firm warm body. She turned her head back only to see a face close to her. She wanted to push him away, but his two arms were stiff like steel. He was determined not to let her escape.

As Fu Rou was lost as to what to do, a furious farmer ran out of the alley. “My rice seedlings! You have to compensate me, or I will report you to the officials!” 

Prince Zhou reluctantly released Fu Rou. He sighed as he reached for his waist. It was only then that he realized he had forgotten to bring his pouch. He then retrieved a fan that was attached to his belt.

“Take this fan to the Huangsan Satin Manor in the main street of Chang’an. Tell them that the owner of this fan instructs them to give you five silver taels for this fan.”

“Five silver taels for a fan? Are you lying to me?” The farmer did not believe him.

Fu Rou spoke up, “It is my fault for not controlling my horse well and ruining your rice plantation. But please believe that we sincerely wish to compensate you.”

Prince Zhou could not help but smile when he heard her use the word ‘we’. 

The farmer looked at Fu Rou before turning to Prince Zhou. Both of them looked upright and honest. He chose to believe them and kept the fan.

After this incident, Fu Rou did not wish to ride any longer and Prince Zhou brought her to a wine house.

“You seem so demure and I didn’t think that you could look so dashing on a horse. You gave me another surprise.” He really could not get tired of her. Not only did he not get sick of her, he was liking her more.

Fu Rou found it hard to look into his eyes. “I did not think that you would compensate the farmer instead of threatening him with your authority.”

Prince Zhou’s eyebrows rose. “This sounds like you are complimenting me.”

“…I say it as it is.” Fu Rou paused. “I want to thank you.”

“No matter what, it is rare for you to compliment me. Let me treat you to a good meal.” Prince Zhou called for the waiter and asked for him to serve them the most expensive meal and put it on Huangsan Satin Manor’s tab.

“It doesn’t matter what I eat. I am satisfied as long as it fills me. Whether the food is good or bad is just to satisfy one’s desire for good food. I am afraid that you have wasted your efforts.” Fu Rou knew that the Huangsan Satin Manor was most likely Prince Zhou’s personal property and she need not worry about the bill.

“Have you heard of the saying that food is everything?” Just desire for good food?

“It is a common saying among the people, of course I have heard of it.” Fu Rou did not think much of it.

“You are wrong.” Prince Zhou was filled with confidence. “This phrase came from <<Han Dynasty: The History of Food>>. The Emperor treats his people as his everything while his people treat food as their everything. Gu Defen then wrote about the eight important things of the nation in his book <<History of Zhou>>. The first is food, second is goods, third is religion, fourth is work, fifth is education, sixth is justice, seventh are guests and eight is teacher. Food was listed as first. Let me ask you another question, everyone always says the empire runs the state and the state runs the empire. Do you know what this state represents?” 

Fu Rou shook her head but was curious. She didn’t find him completely intolerable due to his scholarly knowledge.

“Ever since ancient times, the millet has been hailed at the king of grains. Hence, the past emperors have always treated millet as the God of Harvest and that is why they are able to rule.” They are hence treated as the rightful son of heaven because they are able to fill people’s hunger.

Fu Rou looked at him in admiration. “You have such profound knowledge. You must read a lot of books.”

“I have read a lot of books, more than you would believe. When I can’t sleep and have nothing to do, I can only light a lamp and read to pass the night.” The corners of Prince Zhou’s lip rose but one could see the suffering behind his smile.

From his expression, Fu Rou was also able to know a lot. She smartly decided to stop asking. Turning her head, she looked out into the crowded street and froze.

Prince Zhou noticed her reaction and looked over. His eyes quickly landed on a handsome looking man. 

He asked, “Is that someone you know?” 

Shaking her head, Fu Rou explained, “I am not on familiar terms with him. It is just that he played Zhao Zilong very well in the Han Residence.”

Prince Zhou exclaimed, “Oh, so he is an actor.” 

Fu Rou noticed the shift in Prince Zhou’s tone and narrowed her eyes. “So what if he is an actor? He isn’t going to influence your high and mighty status.” 

Right at that moment, Chen Ji met with someone. They exchanged a short but light-hearted conversation before they left. Walking shoulder to shoulder, it was obvious that the two were on familiar terms. Fu Rou and Prince Zhou both fell silent upon seeing this. The Crown Prince was the person who spoke with Chen Ji. 

Fu Rou took a slight glance at Prince Zhou. She saw that he seemed to not care as he started to dig into the food again. Fu Rou relaxed and continued to eat her food. 

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