When Empress Zhangsun saw Sun Lingshu, she thought that these few days were bustling with activity. Her entire family had come to greet her, one after the other.
“Didn’t I tell you that you can pass on greeting me? With your condition now, you should not be moving around.”
“I came today to greet you as well as to tell you something else.”
When Shuangxi repeated whatever she had eavesdropped on to Sun Lingshu, Sun Lingshu could not sit still. She had created trouble for Fu Rou previously. If Fu Rou were to become Prince Zhou’s consort, in the future Fu Rou would be able to stand proud in front of her. Sun Lingshu would not be able to take it. Luckily, Shuangxi overheard Fu Rou talking and found out her weakness. As long as she took the chance, Fu Rou could forget about perching on a branch as high as Prince Zhou’s.
“I heard that Imperial Mother was intending to let Fu Siyan become Prince Zhou’s consort?”
Empress Zhangsun frowned. “Crown Princess, you should just take care of yourself and not bother about other things. This has nothing to do with the Eastern Palace.”
Sun Lingshu hurriedly spoke, “Imperial Mother, you are wrong.”
Empress Zhangsun’s gaze sharpened. “What did you say?”
“Forgive my impudence. Please calm down, Imperial Mother.” Sun Lingshu softened her tone. “I mean if Fu Siyan follows Prince Zhou, it will have something to do with the Eastern Palace. The personal relationships that Fu Siyan has in the palace cannot be something Prince Zhou uses to deal with the Crown Prince in the future.”
“Personal relationships in the palace?” Empress Zhangsun controlled her expression.
“Imperial Mother, think about it. Why would Prince Zhou, who is such a young and talented prince, desire Fu Siyan and would even fight Grand Prince Liang for her? Could it only be because of her looks? Fu Siyan is a very smart and bright person. What she is best at is not her embroidery but how she is able to get everyone to like her. Although she hasn’t been in the palace for long, is there anyone in the six offices and twenty-four departments that is more outstanding than her? She wins over her superiors and subordinates and creates relationships with various consorts and princesses. When that happens, will there be anything that happens in the palace that Concubine Yan will not know?”
“She has good relations with various imperial consorts and princesses?” Empress Zhangsun did not think of this.
“Prince Zhou has always been favoured by Imperial Father and this has been a hidden danger for the Eastern Palace. Imperial Mother, you must definitely not allow Prince Zhou to increase his power in the palace through Fu Siyan. For the Crown Prince, you cannot let Fu Siyan marry Prince Zhou.”
Empress Zhangsun fell silent for a moment. “I understand. Please return to your palace.”
Sun Lingshu knew that she had definitely succeeded. After all, Empress Zhangsun was most concerned about the Crown Prince. She would not overlook even the slightest threat to the Crown Prince.
On the same day, Empress Zhangsun invited the Emperor. She told him that she was still having difficulty in deciding between Grand Prince Liang and Prince Zhou.
“A dilemma?” The Emperor was not pleased. “You have always been a decisive person. Why is this small issue difficult for you? In my opinion, isn’t Prince Zhou a good choice? Of course, I handed it over to you so you have the final decision. I am just stating my opinion. I will not interfere.”
His response was exactly as Empress Zhangsun expected. The Emperor was biased towards Concubine Yan. She became even more determined.
“I have always treated Prince Zhou as one of my own. I would definitely hope for him to get what he wants. However, the Grand Emperor has stated clearly that he wishes for someone to be by Grand Prince Liang. Fu Siyan is considerate and bright, she could take care of him. As a daughter-in-law, if I ignore the Grand Emperor’s wishes, I will be considered unfilial. How can I be unfilial?”
“Are you really thinking of handing Fu Siyan over to Grand Prince Liang?” The Emperor frowned.
“I understand what you are thinking. Grand Prince Liang has always been disrespectful to palace maids and ladies. I have heard of his various misdeeds. I have only kept silent for Grand Emperor’s sake. Indeed, I should not hand any more palace maids or ladies to him and increase his overweening attitude. But we need to give the Grand Emperor a reason.”
“What do you intend to do?” The Emperor was curious.
“Heaven’s will.” Empress Zhangsun smiled slightly. “On the same day, four men asked Your Majesty for a palace lady’s hand. It is uncommon so we should use an uncommon method to resolve it. I was having a headache initially, but Xinnan gave me a good idea.”
“What idea did Xinnan give?” The Emperor could not think of anything.
“Master Yuan. Master Yuan’s skills are incomparable. Your Majesty even praised him for his ability to read faces and predict futures before. I was thinking of going to Qingfeng Monastery for some air and bringing Fu Siyan along for Master Yuan to read her face. I would like to see what her fate is like. If Prince Zhou is blessed in Fu Siyan’s fate, Master Yuan’s reading will help us convince the Grand Emperor. What do you think?”
“We will do as you suggest.” He was the one that left the decision to the Empress and it was too late to change anything.
“Thank you for your permission.” Empress Zhangsun was rest assured.
However, the Emperor was gloomy as he stood up to leave. “Concubine Yan is not feeling well and has been coughing. I am worried and I am going to check on her.”
It was rare that Concubine Yan requested something from him. Who would have expected the Empress, who has always been docile, would go against his will. Now that things were out of his control, he was not feeling fine. Treating Prince Zhou as her own? Ultimately, Prince Zhou was not the Empress’ biological son and she just did not want Concubine Yan and her son to get what they wished for.
The news about the Empress going to seek Master Yuan quickly spread to the Han Mansion.
Sheng Chumu purposely ran over to confirm this with Consort Han. When he realised that it was true, he was excited. Everything was going according to plan. Now, all he needed was to set out on his journey.
Ma Hainiu suddenly appeared and handed over a small box. “Consort Han, this is the antidote for your brother.”
Sheng Chumu was suspicious. “You are giving it so easily? Is it poison?”
Ma Hainiu refused to look at Sheng Chumu. “It is up to you whether you want to believe me. I have given up on you anyway.”
Consort Han gestured to her servants to take it. “Thank you. I hope that you will find a man that belongs to you. Just treat these few days of hard work as fate with our Han Mansion.”
Ma Hainiu asked, “Can I continue learning?”
Consort Han was stunned. “Why?”
Ma Hainiu replied, “I want to become someone who is responsible for myself. I want to be someone that is proud of myself and not have to rely on anyone.”
Consort Han smiled in approval. “That’s right. Women should strive for independence.”
“Consort Han, I have finished reading the books. Can you give me more?” Ma Hainiu took the initiative to ask for books to read.
Sheng Chumu cut in, “Ma Hainiu, you are so rough, I never thought you would know how to read?”
Ma Hainiu ignored him.
“Oi, Ma Hainiu, I am talking to you.”
Ma Hainiu eventually turned to look at him and greeted him politely. “Consort Han, you have a guest. I shall not interrupt.” She then turned and left.
“Oi, oi. Are you pretending that I don’t exist?” Sheng Chumu shouted at her.
Ma Hainiu did not turn back and stepped out of the door. A triumph smile appeared on her face as she muttered to herself, “Lian Yan’er was right. If I ignore you, you will chase after me.”
It was not that Ma Hainiu did not care anymore, but she had changed her tactic. Lian Yan’er taught her three golden rules. First of all, make the person owe you. Secondly, don’t chase after the other party. Lastly, she had to be independent.
Sheng Chumu was confused. “Elder Sister, what medicine did you give her?”
Consort Han snorted, “Are you regretting? She clearly said that she no longer wants you!”
Sheng Chumu glared. “I am only suspicious because she changed so quickly.” He waved and took his leave. “Elder Sister, I am leaving. I still have something important to do for my future happiness.”
Consort Han mumbled to herself, “I hope everything will go smoothly this time. If he can marry Fu Rou, I will feel less guilty.”
The sound of bird’s chirping floated in, causing Fu Yin to feel even more frustrated.
Although her second sister managed to survive the issue with the Peacock Screen, she heard that there were four men asking to marry Fu Rou. Amongst them, Grand Prince Liang and Prince Zhou both had strong backings. She knew that Fu Rou had her heart set on Brother Chumu; she would not want either Grand Prince Liang or Prince Zhou.
All of a sudden, someone hugged her from behind. Lu Qi’s high-spirited voice floated into her ears.
“Yin’er, do you hear the magpies calling?"
Fu Yin turned around and gently pushed him away. “So they are magpies, I was not paying attention to them.”
Lu Qi tapped her head. “Little fool. I mentioned magpies, you should naturally ask what happy event will be happening.”
“Oh?” Fu Yin was obedient. “What happy event?”
Lu Qi was proud. “It is highly classified, I cannot tell you. You just need to understand that it is a blessing in disguise.”
This morning, he had followed his father to court. They got an important task from the Empress. The Empress wanted to seek out Master Yuan. However, her usual bodyguard, General Fan, was not feeling well. Hence, she requested Lu Qi to substitute for him. If he did this well, he would gain the appreciation of Her Majesty and his future would be bright.
Lu Qi embraced Fu Yin once more. “Come, kiss me. Let’s celebrate.”
Fu Yin blushed and pushed him away. “Don’t fool around.”
Lu Qi smiled. “Until now, you are still so shy. However, I like to see you blush.”
Lu Yingying walked into the study room. As she saw them, she immediately covered her eyes. “Aiya, the two of you in broad daylight…”
Lu Qi released Fu Yin. “Who asked you to come in? Didn’t I tell you to inform before you enter? Do you have something for me?”
Lu Yingying wrinkled her nose. “Who is looking for you? I am looking for Yin’er.” She gestured to Yin’er. “Yin’er, come to my room. Help me to make a braided pendant.”
Lu Qi did not agree. “Don’t you have your own servant? You are always looking for my Yin’er.”
“Eh, since when did she become your Yin’er? I got goosebumps from hearing that.” Lu Yingying stuck out her tongue playfully. “Yin’er is the most skillful. I only want her. Come Yin’er, I will give you something nice to eat.”
As Lu Qi saw his sister drag Fu Yin away, he wanted to stop her but decided that he had more important things to do. When the Empress goes on a trip, the guards following her have a heavy responsibility. If anything goes wrong, someone could lose their life.
Fu Yin nimbly made the braided pendant. Her ten fingers were organised as they combed and braided. It was as if each of her fingers had a mind of their own.
“Your handiwork is so good.” Lu Yingying was amazed.
“Speaking of good, my sister is…” Fu Yin froze, she had slipped up.
“I thought you had no more family members.” Lu Yingying did not think much into it.
“She is my distant cousin. After my family was ruined, we no longer kept in contact.” Fu Yin whispered.
“Don’t brood on things in the past. It is your fate to enter our Duke Chen Residence.” Lu Yingying was caring. “Moreover, I quite admire you.”
“What is there to admire?” Fu Yin was confused.
“I am envious that you can be with the one you like everyday.” Seeing how intimate and sweet she was with her elder brother, Lu Yingying felt slightly jealous.
Fu Yin froze. “The one I like…”
“If I could happily be with the person I like, I am willing to do anything even if it is just for a month, a day or even just an hour.” Lu Yingying continued.
Fu Yin laughed bitterly, “You are so pretty and gentle, you will definitely be able to happily be with the one you love forever.”
Lu Yingying was absent-minded. “Forever? He is not even happy to see me. Let’s not talk about me. Let me tell you, my elder brother really cares for you. In the past, when I ordered his servant, he did not care at all. Now, I just ask you to help me make a braided pendant and he glares at me. Heartless. Now that he has someone he likes, he no longer cares about me, his sister.”
“Not only have you snatched my girl, you are also talking bad about me.” Lu Qi walked in. “I lent you Yin’er for half a day, yet you don’t even remember my kindness.”
Lu Yingying rebuked, “Elder Brother, you should not eavesdrop, it is bad.”
Fu Yin added, “The braided pendant is done.”
“If you are done, come with me, I waited so long for you. There is no one to pour tea for me.” Lu Qi pulled Fu Yin out.
Meanwhile, Lu Qi did not know that his plans, the time, route and duty roster, had all been noted down by Lu Hanxing and given to Hong Yide.
Previously, after Lu Hanxing suffered a beating from Lu Qi, he went out to drown his sorrows. Unfortunately, he was abducted by Hong Yide. The both of them had sinister motives and realised that they both wanted to get back at Lu Yunji and Lu Qi. Hence, they had hit off and decided to collude.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
The scene with Lu Hanxing and Hong Yide colluding was in episode 22.
I know some of you are bothered by how fast paced the novel is. It will slow down in volume 2 (from chapter 50 onwards)