On this day, Fang Ziyan led his brothers from the Four Seas Sect into Chang’an. The Emperor offered them amnesty and bestowed the title of General Zhenhai onto Fang Ziyan. He granted him a relatively grand residence, worthy of a general.
“You are already here, what are you so proud about?” Although Sheng Chumu said that he would welcome him, he was not very willing and only came because of the royal decree. “You really dare to come. Aren’t you afraid that I would trick you with fake news and betray you?”
Fang Ziyan replied, “I don't trust you but I trust our Great Tang Emperor. If the Emperor goes back on his words just to catch a pirate like me, then I have no choice but to accept my fate.”
Sheng Chumu laughed. “You have only pledged your loyalty to us a few days ago and you are already saying our Great Tang Emperor. Have you done what the Emperor asked you to do?”
Fang Ziyan pointed to the prisoner chariot behind him. “I have already wiped out all the more famous pirates along that stretch of sea. In one of the carriages behind, there are heads cast in limestone. I have a few that are still alive. I will present them to His Majesty to show him what fresh pirates are like.”
Sheng Chumu felt like this was extra. “Isn’t it enough to look at you? Why is there a need to catch them alive for the Emperor? Do you think the Emperor is very free?”
“Sheng Chumu!” A fat human plank suddenly dashed towards Sheng Chumu and hit him. Seeing how he did not budge, she nodded in satisfaction. “Not bad, you are still as strong.”
Sheng Chumu pushed the person away and protected the front of his body. “Ma Hainiu, I have a wife. Don’t anyhow touch me!”
“But you have already seen my body. You have to take responsibility.” Ma Hainiu did not care, she had set her sights on him.
Sheng Chumu yelled, “Ah, ah. When have I seen your body?”
“You haven seen it twice. Didn’t you see clearly?” Ma Hainiu’s eyes turned. “If there is a chance, I can let you take a look again.”
Sheng Chumu immediately turned and left. He did not dare to provoke women but that didn’t mean he could not hide from them.
Fang Ziyan held onto the reins and looked towards the crowd. He caught sight of an unforgettable beautiful face, with a pair of bright eyes that were incompatible with her family name. He remembered her name clearly, Lu Yingying.
Lu Yingying forced her way to the front of where Fang Ziyan was. She greeted him with a smile, with her face filled with excitement. “It's you!”
Fang Ziyan also smiled, exposing his white teeth. “Do you still have the pearl I gave you?”
Lu Yingying nodded happily.
“Throw it away.” He stated coldly.
“Why?” She froze.
“Your father and I cannot exist under the same sky.” He looked away and nudged his horse, leading the group forward.
She should be afraid. She should run as far away as possible. Because this time, he had come to make the Lu family pay the price!
Sheng Chumu sent Fang Ziyan to General Zhenhai’s residence and thought that he could finally breathe a sigh of relief. He never thought that he would hear grievous news as soon as he got home. The Emperor was bestowing marriage on him with Princess Xinnan!
Sheng Chuling had finally told their parents about his relationship with Princess Xinnan and asked them to ask the Emperor to bestow marriage on them. Sheng Xiaojing and his wife had wanted Sheng Chumu to marry Princess Xinnan but Sheng Chumu was only willing to marry Fu Rou and no one else. Now that they were still able to marry Princess Xinnan into the family, it would have been perfect.
Unfortunately, while everyone thought it was perfect, heaven had other plans. When Sheng Xiaojing met with the Emperor, he only managed to mention “Xinnan” and the Emperor immediately bestowed marriage on Sheng Chumu and Princess Xinnan. He even generously gave a date to be two months later. Sheng Xiaojing had no choice but to thank His Majesty for his graciousness.
Sheng Chuling’s reaction was larger than his elder brother. “How did you manage this? It is such a simple thing yet you caused such a ridiculous conclusion! Princess Xinnan’s father was confused so you should have rejected it! You should have stood your ground! You can’t just kneel and thank him! You have no guts! You have no pride! You have no…”
Sheng Xiaojing smacked Sheng Chuling’s head. “Little brat, is this how you speak to your father? Have you gone crazy?”
Sheng Chuling was flustered as he suddenly fell to his knees. He hugged onto Sheng Xiaojing’s legs and cried out loud, “Father, I know I am not as good as Elder Brother. I am not the eldest and I am also not General Xuanwu. But I am your son, I can also carry on the family name. Father, you cannot do this to me! The woman I want as my wife suddenly became my elder sister-in-law, how can I take this? Father, you are biased! You gave my wife to Elder Brother!”
Sheng Xiaojing sighed, “It is not that I gave your wife to your Elder Brother. The Emperor is the one that wants to marry his daughter off to your Elder Brother.”
Madam Sheng was, however, delighted at the turn of things. “Okay, okay. Now that the Emperor has given his command, we have to listen to him. Chumu marrying Princess Xinnan is a good thing!”
Both Sheng Chumu and Sheng Chuling’s eyes widened. Sheng Chuling fell to his butt on the ground. “Was I picked from the streets and brought back home to raise? I can’t live anymore and you only care about Elder Brother!”
Sheng Chujun clicked his tongue and shook his head. “Second Brother, your ability to roll about and throw a tantrum impresses me.”
Sheng Chuling got up and punched his younger brother. “Who is asking you to take joy in this!”
Sheng Chumu pulled Sheng Chuling behind him, forming a wall between his two brothers. Having experienced numerous obstacles to be with Fu Rou, he had now learned how to remain calm.
Sheng Xiaojing massaged his temples and bellowed, “That is enough!”
Madam Sheng sighed, “The Emperor has given his command, we cannot change the marriage.”
Sheng Chumu and Sheng Chuling shouted together, “We must change it!”
Sheng Xiaojing asked, “How can we change it?”
Sheng Chuling said as a matter of fact, “Elder Brother can tell the Emperor his opinion and reject the marriage!” He looked towards Sheng Chumu. “Elder Brother, you have a way, don’t you?”
Sheng Chumu gave a heroic look. “For Rou’er I have even resurrected. Rejecting a marriage is nothing!”
In the official court meeting, civil and military officials formed a patch of black as they lined up. Fang Ziyan entered to have an audience with the Emperor and receive the royal decree.
“According to the mandate of Heaven, the Emperor has a royal decree. Fang Ziyan has gone against Tang’s laws in the past. However, he is repentant and wiped out pirates in the ocean. He has made contributions to the country. Confucius has said that benevolence is one of the most important traits. He has presented the Mountain-River Embroidery, Diagram of Large Vessels and given advice on ship manufacture. He is bestowed the title of General Zhenhai. Accept the royal decree.”
Fang Ziyan accepted the royal decree. “Thank you, Your Majesty.”
However, he continued to kneel. “Your Majesty, I have sinned.”
The Emperor replied, “I have already pardoned you.”
Fang Ziyan said, “I am referring to another crime, regarding my true identity. When I was young, my family was torn apart, I fell into a river and was rescued by the sect leader of the Four Seas Sect. That was how I became a pirate. I know I had nothing to be proud of when I became a pirate and did not dare to use my actual name. I then followed the surname of my godfather and changed my name. Fang Ziyan is not my actual name. Now that I have received the benevolence of Your Majesty and am pardoned of my crimes, I can finally lead an upright life. I hope that I can use my original name. It would console my parents who are now in heaven.”
The Emperor was slightly curious. “So you have such a backstory. As a son, you became a pirate and was afraid of embarrassing your parents so you changed your name. At least you know how to feel ashamed. Okay, you can use your original name. Along with your experience of being a pirate, you can throw your name, Fang Ziyan, away as well. What is your real name?”
Fang Ziyan kneeled straight as his gaze was bright and clear. “Your Majesty, my real name is Yan Zifang.”
Standing amongst the crowd, Sheng Chumu’s smile faded. He remembered this name too well. Yan Zifang was the person that Fu Rou had a childhood engagement with. No wonder he wanted to steal Fu Rou away, he already had a connection long ago. He held it in till now. Yan Zifang must have been afraid that if he told him earlier, he would not have helped him out. That brat knew him too well!
Lu Yunji’s expression changed as well. He remembered that he had ruined the Yan family over an eagle. No wonder, he kept going against him.
Yan Zifang finally regained his proper identity and thanked His Majesty. He got up and joined the rest of the officials. On his way back, he exchanged glances with Lu Yunji and a sneer pulled at the corners of his mouth. Just wait. The show is about to begin.
When Lu Yunji and his son returned home, Lu Qi burst out in anger.
“Sheng Chumu, that bastard. He must have known that Fang Ziyan is your enemy. I was right! The reason why he put his life on the line to help a despicable pirate and even coaxed His Majesty into conferring him the title of a general was all to pit himself against you.”
“Even if General Zhenhai joined hands with Sheng Chumu, they are just two inexperienced brats. What threat could they possibly pose to me?” Even though Lu Yunji was slightly shocked when he realised that Fang Ziyan was Yan Zifang, he was not afraid. “Now all we need to do is make sure that Yingying’s marriage goes on without a hitch. When our Lu family and the Duke Cheng’s family is linked by marriage, we will become the Crown Prince’s helpers.”
Lu Qi said, “Sheng Chumu, that bastard! Ever since we got associated with him, our family has been unlucky. He even dares to make a joke out of Yingying and says she is a jinx. Previously, it was because she failed to become the Crown Princess. Now, if Duke Cheng’s son dies from his illness, everyone will believe his nonsense and it will be difficult for Yingying to find a husband in the future.”
At this moment, their housekeeper ran in. Duke Cheng had sent a messenger to deliver the good news. They had invited Master Faya to chant sutras to drive away the illness and the young master had finally awoken. He could be saved.
Lu Yunji laughed and shouted, “Great.” Heaven was still on his side.
However, Lu Yingying was staring into blank space in her room. She held the pearl that Yan Zifang gave her between two fingers. She did not understand. Why couldn’t he live under the same sky as her father?
When the congratulatory news was told to her, it was like a bolt from the blue. Before this, she had no opinions on who she would be married off to. When she was in Guangzhou, she knew that her father had always wanted her to become the Crown Princess. Because of this, she put in a lot of effort into learning etiquette and grooming her talent, in order to repay her father for raising her. However, when she failed in the Crown Princess selection, she was secretly happy. When the son of Duke Cheng fell ill, she also breathed a sigh of relief.
There was a person, who had used a small knife to pry open an oyster and given her the most beautiful pearl on earth. It was as if he had pried open a corner of her heart and made room for himself in there. Aside from him, she could no longer let anyone else in.Previous Chapter Next Chapter