Chapter 22.1: Hidden Treasure

The peony in Duke Lu Residence bloomed once again. Sheng Chumu sat on the steps in the front courtyard, laughing bitterly at the garden. He recalled when his father chased him to scold him and he escaped to Guangzhou, meeting Fu Rou there. A year had passed since then. Not only has he not returned with a beauty, the more time passed, the less he got to see her. Meeting her was as difficult as ascending to heaven. 

“Elder Brother, I am back!” Sheng Chuling ran over with a huge bag in hand.

Sheng Chumu did not move as his eyes filled with resentment. Who would have thought that Sheng Chuling would like Princess Xinnan. That brat was actually capable and went into the palace to become a guard. Although his position was low, he could enter the interior palaces easily and meet with the person he likes everyday. Tsk, if he had known this, he would have followed his brother to become a guard. What general? If he could stay by Fu Rou’s side, he would do anything. However, climbing a mountain was easier than getting off. He could not simply tell the Emperor that he did not want to be a general and just wanted to be a guard. 

Seeing how Sheng Chumu had no reaction, Sheng Chuling’s eyes flashed. He hugged the bag and laughed sinisterly, “Elder Brother, do you know what this is?”

Sheng Chumu looked at Sheng Chuling with jealousy in his eyes, his tone was bad, “Hurry and say what you want!”

"I had to take a huge risk to get this. I crossed mountains and oceans -” Sheng Chuling opened his mouth, “Sister-in-law gave this to you!”

When Sheng Chumu heard him, he immediately snatched the bundle over. He quickly opened it and his eyes lit up. He could tell that all these embroideries were made personally by Fu Rou! Rou’er knew that he really loved her work and he had to spend so much effort just to get them in the past. Now, she literally prepared embroideries for him to don on from head to toe. He could tell that Rou’er was also missing him from the palace.

Sheng Chumu started to laugh to himself as if he had found a treasure. He hugged the bag tightly to himself.

“Elder Brother, I quarreled with Princess Xinnan because of this.” Sheng Chuling was tactless. “She bickered with me and even broke the bag, causing everything to fall onto the ground.”

“What? You drop the things Fu Rou gave me on the ground?” Sheng Chumu could not be bothered with the process and only focused on the end result. Rou’er gave the things to you and now they are dirty. Who should I blame if I don’t blame you? Go and squat now…” Sheng Chumu narrowed his eyes. “No! Do the horse stance for 4 hours!”

Sheng Chuling did not dare to disobey his elder brother and obediently went to the corner to do the horse stance.

Sheng Chumu picked up one embroidery after another as he examined the needlework. He laughed to himself in a silly manner.

“Do you miss me so much? So much that you don’t even need to sleep? Haha, now you know how precious I am! You went to talk to me at my grave? Oh right, I haven’t gone to my coffin yet, I wonder how many jewels it is covered in...”

 

The next morning, Sheng Chumu was filled with energy as he headed to court. During the court meeting, Sheng Chumu brought up the matter of Fang Ziyan, the leader of Four Seas Sect, paying allegiance to the Emperor and requested for the Emperor to accept them. 

“Your Majesty, you definitely cannot accept them.” Lu Yunji, who had just spent his days eating prison food, strongly opposed. Yet, he still had not learned his lesson and was bursting with energy from his release. “The Four Seas Sect is a group of pirates and their leader, Fang Ziyan, is a famous pirate in the South Seas. These people rob and burn ships. There is nothing that they haven’t done. They won’t be sincere in joining the empire.”

Sheng Chumu was unhappy with the Emperor’s decision to let Lu Yunji go so easily. Lu Yunji plundered and killed innocent citizens. If any of his crimes were to be on any other person, they would definitely have been beheaded. However, Lu Yunji’s crimes were simply offset by his achievements. Nonetheless, he still caused harm to others yet he did not seem to be repentant.

Sheng Chumu chuckled, “Duke Chen, why do you seem to hate the Four Seas Sect so much? Is there an unspeakable reason?” Lu Yunji refused to look at Sheng Chumu. “Your Majesty, I have a strong hatred towards all robbers.”

Sheng Chumu sneered, “Including those who use investigating rebel armies as a reason to rob the citizens of their valuables?”

The Emperor frowned. “Sheng Chumu, I have already released Duke Chen. Do not bring up matters of the past anymore.”

Only then did Lu Yunji throw Sheng Chumu a look and continue on, “Your Majesty, I am very familiar with the Guangdong region and the pirates in that area. Fang Ziyan from the Four Seas Sect is a brutal and malicious pirate. He robs all ships regardless of whether they are a merchant ship or an official ship. He has no respect for the law and does many evil deeds. It is damaging to the Great Tang’s reputation to let him live.”

“Duke Chen is so familiar with the Four Seas Sect. Is it because you have been robbed by them before? I wonder how much valuables you lost that caused you so much pain?” Sheng Chumu wanted to see Lu Yunji’s reaction.

“That’s right, he even dares to rob my ship. Can you imagine how much suffering he brings to merchant ships?”

Sheng Chumu rebutted, “Fang Ziyan does not…”

The Emperor suddenly cut him off, “Sheng Chumu.”

Sheng Chumu bowed. “Yes, Your Majesty.”

“I bestowed the position of General Xuanwei and asked you to guard Xuanwu Gate. You should be loyal to me. However, now you are helping a pirate just because he saved your life and forgetting my kindness. Do you know the consequences of your actions?”

Sheng Xiaojing reached out to tug on Sheng Chumu’s sleeve. He signaled to Sheng Chumu to back down and beg for mercy.

Sheng Chumu ignored him. “It is true that Fang Ziyan from the Four Seas Sect is my saviour. I will not hide this from Your Majesty. When I was sailing with them, I personally saw the Four Seas Sect wipe out the other pirates and bring peace to the oceans of Great Tang. This is a good thing for our Great Tang as well as all the merchant and official ships. If I am committing a crime just by saying what I think, then Your Majesty would be failing me, not that I am failing Your Majesty.”

“Sheng Chumu, you are extremely bold. How dare you spout such insolent words in court!” Lu Yunji was delighted. Sheng Chumu was asking for trouble.

The Emperor, however, replied, “Duke Chen, step aside, let him continue. I want to hear what else he dares to say?”

Sheng Chumu was not afraid. “Back then when Confucius took in disciples, he took in different people. Gong Zhizhang was a criminal but Confucius accepted him and even let him marry his daughter.  Later on, Gong Zhizhang became one of the Seventy-two virtuous saints. He had integrity, talent and was well-respected. In the past, one of the Emperors spent a thousand taels to buy bones to let everyone know of his desire for the thousand-mile horse. Everyone then presented thousand-mile horses to him. If Your Majesty forgives Fang Ziyan now and accepts his allegiance, everyone who has committed crimes will think of Your Majesty as magnanimous. They will then all come and pledge their allegiance to you. In this manner, Great Tang will have a lot less havoc and the citizens can do their business in peace. It is true that I owe Fang Ziyan my life. However, as I stand in court, I am Your Majesty’s humble servant. I am not speaking for Fang Ziyan but for Great Tang.”

The Emperor fell silent for a moment before speaking in a much lighter tone, “Sheng Chumu, this is the first time that I realise not only are you good at horse-riding and archery, you are articulate as well.”

Sheng Chumu had no fear. “When your humble servant speaks, I am not counting on my talent to phrase words nicely but my sincere and loyal heart.”

The Emperor laughed. “What a sincere and loyal heart.”

“Your Majesty, when I parted ways with Fang Ziyan, he made me a promise that he will wipe out all the pirates on the ocean for Your Majesty. He has also requested for me to present another gift to Your Majesty.” Sheng Chumu gave a meaningful glance.

The Emperor was interested. “What gift?”

“It is a beautiful mountain-river embroidery piece, personally made by Lady Hui. Lady Hui is famous for her embroideries. Her husband and father are both famous for their profound knowledge in astronomy and geography. They have been to many places and seen many things that others may not have even heard of. It is rumored that after her husband and father passed away, Lady Hui became depressed. She then sewed all the secrets that her husband and father left behind into this mountain-river embroidery to form a secret map. Several tragedies have happened when people tried to steal this embroidery. It is a pity that no one has ever been able to figure out the secret map behind this art. Fang Ziyan got this after he exterminated four other pirate groups. He specially asked me to present this to Your Majesty and wish that Great Tang will forever be as beautiful as this mountain-river embroidery.” Sheng Chumu came prepared.

Lu Yunji wanted to stop him. “Your Majesty…”

The Emperor gestured for Sheng Chumu to present the gift and he scrutinized the mountain-river embroidery. “I will have to think more about the allegiance of Four Seas Sect. We will end here. Court is dismissed.”

Deep down, Sheng Chumu was fairly sure he had succeeded.

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