Chapter 38.1: Peacock Screen

Fu Yin sat on the steps and sobbed. She shivered as the cold wind blew, bending her body over and forming a ball. All of a sudden, a breeze brushed past her ear as something warm fell on her shoulders. Lu Qi had brought a coat for her and sat down beside her. She stood and made a move to leave.

Lu Qi spoke in a commanding tone, “Stop right there! Didn’t Housekeeper Wu teach you the rules?”

Fu Yin shivered as soon as she heard the word rules.

Lu Qi pulled her back down and held onto her wrist. “Where is your bracelet?” He remembered that Ling Long had once eyed that bracelet of hers. It was something Fu Yin's deceased mother had left behind. 

“It broke.” Like her, it was broken.

Lu Qi reached out and lightly brushed her face, wiping away her tears. However, she shrunk backward and turned her head.

Lu Qi spoke warmly, “Are you annoyed at me?”

“I wouldn’t dare.” The lives of servants in the Duke Chen Residence were as thin as paper. “I cannot compare to people who are born lucky and have a good surname. No matter how many evil things they do, they can still live.”

Lu Qi looked at her. He found it strange. “Why do you hate Lu Hanxing so much?”

Fu Yin could not tell him the truth. “I just find it unfair.”

Lu Qi fell silent for a while before suddenly saying, “Yin’er, your mother is not around anymore. I don’t have a mother anymore either. At that time, Great Tang had yet to be established. Father was always out fighting battles. There was a disaster that befell our house. My mother was pregnant with Yingying at that time and could only bring me to find my aunt.”

In Fu Yin’s eyes, Lu Qi had always seemed superior and proud like a peacock. She had never seen him in distress.

“On the way, my mother went through a difficult pregnancy and finally gave birth to Yingying. However…” Lu Qi’s eyes glistened. “Do you think I treat Yingying well?”

Fu Yin nodded. She actually found it strange when she saw how caring he was towards his sister.

“But at that time, I hated her for causing our mother’s death. I once left her on the streets for wild dogs to eat. However, she cried so loudly she scared the wild dogs away. I had no choice but to carry her once again. But she kept on crying and I did not know what to do. I used my hand to cover her mouth. I never thought that she would suck on one of my fingers and stop crying. She even smiled at me.” A hint of smile flitted across Lu Qi’s face. “I was still young at that time and walked slowly. I don't know how long it took me to walk 15 kilometers. When I finally reached my aunt’s house, Yingying no longer cried nor smiled. I was scared. I was scared that she would end up like my mother; to sleep and never wake up. It was my aunt that rescued Yingying. She also saved me. My aunt helped us through those challenging days until my father finally found us.”

Fu Yin was moved. “Your aunt is a good person.”

“She is a widow. Lu Hanxing is her only son.” Lu Qi looked at Fu Yin. “Now do you understand? No matter how much of a bastard Lu Hanxing is, I can scold him, bully him and use him. But I cannot take his life.”

His gaze softened as he lightly held Fu Yin’s face. “Does it still hurt?”

Fu Yin bit down on her lip. “It is much better.”

Lu Qi draped the outer coat over Fu Yin once more. This time, Fu Yin did not struggle. In her heart, a small voice called out to her. He knew how to be grateful and protect his sister. Maybe this person was not incorrigible.

 

On Princess Xinnan’s birthday, she received two big presents. One made her laugh, the other made her cry.

Sheng Chuling was slightly awkward as he gave her another peace knot. This second peace knot was a lot better looking than the previous. She was extremely delighted.

She thought that the day started off well and was excited to receive all her presents. Unexpectedly, when she saw her Imperial Father, she received a lot of presents. Amongst the presents, Lu Yunji managed to mix his in. It was the Lu family’s family heirloom, a jade pendant.

No matter how insensible she was, she knew she could not accept something like this. However, when she moved to reject it, her Imperial Father said that Sheng Chumu did not have good fortune but Lu Qi was also talented in both the martial arts and literal arts. He wanted her to marry Lu Qi. She was so shocked that she nearly dropped their family’s jade pendant. Xinnan immediately expressed that she was unwilling. Eventually, she angered her Imperial Father and was even escorted back to her palace by guards and ordered to be watched. 

“Is he afraid that I will grow wings and fly out of the palace? He is actually asking people to monitor me!” Xinnan fumed and paced in circles.

“How did your birthday end up like this? Princess, it is not that I want to lecture you but you are too rash. Of all people, you decide to contradict His Majesty. It is no wonder that His Majesty is furious and called guards to lock you up.” Zhenzhu was honest.

“Shut up! I am already annoyed. Can you not annoy me further? Do you think I want to go against Imperial Father? I had to contradict him before he marries me off to Lu Qi. I can’t possibly smile and nod right? Even if I die, I won’t marry Lu Qi.” In the past, she thought that she could do anything as she was the princess. Now, she felt like she could not do anything because she was the princess. She could not even choose the person she wanted to marry.

“Peh peh peh, it is your birthday today. How can you talk about death?” Zhenzhu was extremely loyal. “Princess, what should we do now?”

“We just settled a Sheng Chumu and now we have to settle Lu Qi--” She suddenly paused. “Speaking of this, how did I settle Sheng Chumu?”

Zhenzhu replied, “You did not do anything. Sheng Chumu’s side settled it.”

“Oh right.” Her eyes suddenly lit up. “I remember a story that Sheng Chuling once told me. Zhangsan borrowed Lisi’s money and had to return it the next day. However, Zhangsan did not have any money. At night, Zhangsan could not fall asleep and he tossed and turned in bed. Zhangsan’s wife could not stand it and asked him what was going on. Zhangsan replied that he could not fall asleep because he could not pay back the money owed. When Zhangsan’s wife heard this, she got out of bed and opened the window. She shouted towards Lisi’s house - Lisi, Zhangsan does not have money to repay you tomorrow. Thereafter, Zhangshan’s wife told Zhangsan to sleep peacefully. Now it was Lisi’s turn to suffer from insomnia.”

Zhenzhu was puzzled. “What is the point of this story?”

“You are really beyond help. Only someone as clever as me can understand the deeper meaning behind this story. Whenever Sheng Chuling has a problem, he always pushes it to his elder brother.” She smiled proudly. “Therefore, whenever I have a problem, I can do the same and push it to my elder sister-in-law.”

Zhenzhu was in a daze. Xinnan yawned and lay on the couch. “Finally, I don’t have any more worries.”

While the birthday girl went to bed, Concubine Yan had to pacify the furious Emperor.

“Your Majesty, even if you are angry, you don’t have to lock Xinnan up. You should just scold her.”

“I want to correct her attitude. It is not that I am petty and want to punish her just because she contradicted me. I am worried that her temper will become an issue when she gets married. She won’t have as carefree days as she has in the Palace. She needs to love her husband, teach her children and be filial to her parents-in-law. How can I not do something about her spoiled attitude? I have really spoilt her!” The Emperor was fuming.

“It is not an urgent matter to correct her attitude. After all, it is her birthday today.” Concubine Yan gently consoled.

“I have already locked her up. Let’s drop the matter.” The Emperor suddenly halted. “Speaking of birthdays, Ge’er’s (Prince Zhou Lige) birthday is coming up soon right?”

Concubine Yan smiled, “It is not coming soon, it has already passed.”

The Emperor froze. “Has it already passed? Why didn’t I know about this?”

Concubine Yan did not think it was a big deal. “Your Majesty has been busy. Her Majesty empathize with you and did not instruct the internal attendants to report to you. It is pardonable.”

The Emperor shook his head. “The Empress cannot be blamed for this. Recently, she has always been ill. However, the group of internal attendants have become more and more bold, they even dare to make their own decisions now. And you, even if they did not report it, why didn’t you remind me?”

“Your Majesty was troubling over Lu Yunji’s act of ransacking the citizens. Ge’er said that he did not want to add any more troubles to you.” Concubine Yan remained gentle.

The Emperor sighed, “You have taught this child to be too considerate. It makes me frustrated yet my heart aches for him at the same time.”

“There are so many princes and princesses in the palace. Your Majesty has so many things to handle daily, how can you care about every single one of them? Ge’er has received Your Majesty’s benevolence to stay in the palace temporarily to accompany me. We are very grateful.”

“Concubine Yan, you have attended to me for so many years and have always been attentive and cautious. I know that you have received quite a number of grievances because of your birth origin. You even suffered as you brought Ge’er up.”

“I am the daughter of Emperor Yang of Sui. Although Great Sui has already fallen, I am still able to enjoy the luxuries in the palace. This is all because Your Majesty loves and protects me. Ge’er does not care about suffering a little, he knows that Your Majesty loves him.”

“The more understanding he is, the more I feel like I owe him as a father. Although his birthday has passed, I want to make it up to him.”

“Does Your Majesty truly want to make it up to Ge’er?” Concubine Yan raised her brows.

“I cannot be biased.” The Emperor’s words held enormous weight.

“Since Your Majesty has the intentions, forgive me for being bold and asking on his behalf.” Since her son was not going to ask for it, then she shall do it as his mother. After all, this concerned his lifetime happiness.

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