Chapter 23.1: Dismantling

Fu Rou requested to see Empress Zhangsun. She wanted to dismantle the mountain-river embroidery. This was because she had spent numerous days trying to figure it out but did not manage to get anything. She wanted to see the underside of the embroidery in hopes that she would be able to figure something out by studying the sewing pattern.

Empress Zhangsun asked her how confident she was.

“Fifty-percent confident.”

“You are only fifty-percent confident and you dare to ask to open up this precious gift?” Empress Zhangsun frowned. This embroidery was given to her by the Emperor. If they were to dismantle it but still be unable to figure out the secret, it would be disastrous.

“There are two reasons why this picture is precious. The first reason has to do with the secret map behind it. The second reason is that the embroidery skill is unrivalled in this world. Now we have no leads and are unable to find a solution, we surely will not be able to find the secret. However, if we open the picture and examine it, even if we are unable to find out the secret, we can still learn Lady Hui’s embroidery method. If we can thoroughly study her embroidery method and pass on her skills, wouldn’t that be more precious?” Fu Rou spoke truthfully but carefully.

Empress Zhangsun laughed, “After saying so much, you are not so much focused on the finding of the secret map as you are for her embroidery skill. However, it is because you are a seamstress that you will think of passing on Lady Hui’s skills. I did not choose the wrong person. I will allow you to open up the mountain-river embroidery.”

Fu Rou was moved. The small embroidery that she had at home was nothing compared to this mountain-river embroidery. This mountain-river embroidery depicts the lifework of Lady Hui and was a once in a lifetime opportunity for her. It was extremely valuable.

That very night, Fu Rou did not sleep but continued studying the embroidery until dawn. She then brought the mountain-river embroidery to see Empress Zhangsun. However, when Fu Rou delivered her report, Empress Zhangsun’s expression changed.

“Say it one more time!” Empress Zhangsun’s voice rose. 

Fu Rou spoke calmly, “I have cut the mountain-river embroidery and it cannot be restored to its original state. Not only did I cut it, I removed several strands from the embroidery.” She then gestured to a palace maid to present the embroidery.

What was originally, mountains, a waterfall and clouds had now turned into an ocean and an island. It was completely different from how it looked originally.

Empress Zhangsun was dumbfounded. “This…” 

“This is a picture of an ocean.” Fu Rou’s eyes glimmered in admiration. It was a needlework on top of a needlework and a picture hidden beneath another picture. It would be hard to learn Lady Hui’s mind. “When I opened up the picture, I realised that this embroidery had used a completely unnecessary layer of stitching. In addition, the stitches ended very weirdly as if this was not a completed piece but one that was made up of ten smaller embroideries. So, I first used a scissors to cut along one of the veins. When I cut the embroidery, the picture did not fall apart. Hence, I continued to cut along the other veins and then reassembled the ten small pictures into one big piece. In addition, this embroidery had two layers of heavy stitching. I took the liberty to carefully remove the top layer.”

Empress Zhangsun came to a realization. “So that was how this picture of the ocean came about.”

Fu Rou pointed at a red dot on the picture. “Perhaps this is where the treasures are hidden. Even if the treasures are a rumour, this embroidery is still a precious artefact.”

Empress Zhangsun nodded. “Good, very good. Head Seamstress Fu, you have done well. I will reward you. What would you like?”

Fu Rou hesitated for a while. “Your Majesty, I would like…”

Empress Zhangsun lifted her hand. “If you are thinking of leaving the palace, don’t bother saying it.”

Fu Rou’s expression changed. Was it so easy to read her?

Empress Zhangsun stared at her. “It hasn’t been long since you entered the palace, but everyone is already praising you for your work. Look at all the other female officials, who have had more rewards than you? Is the Royal Palace really like a cage to you? Do you not consider the generous treatment that I have been giving you?”

Fu Rou hurriedly replied, “I am very thankful for Your Majesty’s benevolence and generosity.”

“Since you are thankful, stop thinking about leaving the palace all the time.” Empress Zhangsun smiled slightly. “I am looking forward to you staying by my side for another two to three years. That is not too much to ask right?”

“I understand.” Whether it was too much was a personal opinion. However, Fu Rou knew clearly that she could not say no. She still wanted to live to see the person she loved.

Empress Zhangsun could tell that Fu Rou was holding back. “Don’t feel wronged, I don’t mean you any harm. I just can’t bear to let you go. However, I understand that you miss your family. Since you have made a significant contribution, I shall reward you with one day of leave every month. You can leave the palace to reunite with your family. Will you be satisfied with that?”

“Thank you, Your Majesty.” Fu Rou chuckled bitterly. At least it does not seem like forever anymore. 

 

Meanwhile, Princess Xinnan took the Light Fortune Stone with her to see the Grand Emperor. The Grand Emperor was delighted and retracted his command, letting Zhenzhu go. However, the moment Princess Xinnan thought about Sheng Chuling, she became depressed once again. What if that brat gave up on using kites completely? She panicked and could not hold back any longer as she ran to the Eastern Palace.

The internal attendant thought that Princess Xinnan came to find the Crown Prince and informed her that the Crown Prince was not in the Eastern Palace at the moment. Princess Xinnan then declared that she was looking for the Crown Princess. She then wandered around the entire Eastern Palace looking for Sheng Chuling.

Eventually, Princess Xinnan caught sight of Sheng Chuling patrolling the grounds with another imperial guard. Although it was obvious that he had seen her, he pretended not to have as he turned and walked away. He wanted to solve her issue with her temper and not cause her misunderstanding to deepen. However, she thought that Sheng Chuling had a change of heart.

“Xinnan, I heard that you came to the Eastern Palace to look for me. I waited for you but did not see you. It turned out you are here.” Sun Lingshu came up to her. “I have been bored out of my mind. Thank you for accompanying me to have a chat.”

Xinnan was embarrassed as she held onto Sun Lingshu and entered the side palace.

“Xinnan, you don’t look very pleased, did something happen?” Sun Lingshu asked.

Princess Xinnan did not dare to let anyone know about this. “Let’s not talk about it. Now that you are with a child, I should not speak about frustrating matters to you.”

Sun Lingshu smiled. “You really know how to talk. No wonder, the Crown Prince dotes on you so much.”

“Sister-in-law, how have you been recently? Has Elder Brother been accompanying you?” Princess Xinnan forced herself to chat.

“Sigh, if only he would accompany me for the entire day. Ever since I became pregnant, he has appeared in front of me less than before. Even if he comes, he will always ask the same few questions. Have you eaten? Did the baby move?” This was not what Sun Lingshu had imagined.

Princess Xinnan spoke up for her elder brother. “That’s quite good of Elder Brother already. At least he did not get seduced by other women while you are pregnant.” 

Sun Lingshu’s mouth twitched. “Who said that he has not been seduced? It is just that the person that seduced him is not a woman. Whenever he has some free time, he would go and find a man named Chen Ji. They would go to hunt, fish, or play chess. Recently, the Crown Prince even brought him to the palace to recuperate because Chen Ji got injured.”

Princess Xinnan did not think that it was a big deal. “It’s great that Elder Brother has a friend to accompany him.”

“Although I cannot accompany him to hunt or fish, I can play chess with him. Why must he always look for Chen Ji?” Sun Lingshu could not understand.

A palace maid entered to inform that Fu Rou was here to deliver embroideries.

Sun Lingshu instructed, “I am currently talking to Princess Xinnan. Tell Head Seamstress Fu that she can just leave the embroideries and please thank her.”

Princess Xinnan snorted, “Sister-in-law, why do you need to say thank you to her? She is a female official. It is their duty anyway.”

Sun Lingshu sighed, “Imperial Mother dotes heavily on Head Seamstress Fu. I have to be careful not to offend her.”

Princess Xinnan’s eyes lit up. “Sister-in-law, you also dislike Head Seamstress Fu?”

“Also?” Sun Lingshu thought that Fu Rou was too likeable and everyone liked her.

“I don’t care what you think but I dislike her. In front of you, she pretends to be decent and virtuous. She has even won over Imperial Mother and other concubines. They all think she is a good person. In reality, she secretly seduces other men and is inappropriate. I look down the most on women like her who are double-faced.” Princess Xinnan blurted out her grievance in a fit.

Sun Lingshu was curious. “You also know about her and Prince Zhou?”

Xinnan froze. “What Prince Zhou?”

“You don’t know?” Sun Lingshu’s eyes shifted. “Then forget about it.”

Xinnan refused to let her drop it. “Sister-in-law, tell me. Don’t hide things from me.”

Sun Lingshu shook her head. “It's best if I refrain from gossiping about matters in the palace. Once I tell you, you will feel uncomfortable and cannot do anything to her anyway.”

“What makes you think that I cannot do anything to her? Sister-in-law, please tell me.”

“She once went against the palace rules and snuck out of the palace with Prince Zhou.” Sun Lingshu was delighted to say it. She had tried numerous times to be friendly with Fu Rou but Fu Rou never cared about her. Therefore, there was no need for her to worry about Fu Rou. “But don’t tell anyone that I am the one who told you.”

“Something like that actually happened?!” Princess Xinnan huffed, “Sister-in-law, rest assured; this has nothing to do with you. Let’s see how long she can remain arrogant for!”

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