Chapter 43.1: Wish

In Ganlou Palace, the Emperor was still in contemplation. 

Everyone always praised the Empress for being virtuous. The Emperor also respected her greatly. However, when it came to Prince Zhou, she was always harsh. He knew that she was trying her best to solidify the Crown Prince’s position. Unfortunately, this time it made him unhappy.

It was simply to help Prince Zhou get the girl he admired to accompany him. After all, he owed Concubine Yan and her son too much over the years. Moreover, Concubine Yan personally asked him for it. He really could not understand why the Empress was trying to block them.

“Your Majesty.” Chief Cao entered to report, “Her Majesty has set out for Cangshan Mountain. Everything has been prepared, do you have any other instructions?”

The Emperor remained silent.

Chief Cao continued, “This morning, Grand Prince Liang accompanied the Grand Emperor to visit Her Majesty. I am not sure what they spoke about but the Grand Emperor praised Her Majesty for being virtuous when he came out. He also mentioned that Zhiyun’s death anniversary was nearing and he wanted to head to Cangshan Mountain as well.”

The Emperor raised his brows. “Zhiyun’s death anniversary is coming soon? I have forgotten about it.”

Chief Cao replied, “Her Majesty has remembered it on your behalf.”

The Emperor could not fathom. “She has always known to please her elders. Even when I get scolded as if there is nothing good about me, she is the best daughter-in-law. She actually knows how to use Zhiyun’s death anniversary as an excuse. I have no choice but to accept it.”

“Your Majesty, if you are feeling frustrated about Prince Zhou’s issue, why don’t you speak up for Prince Zhou before the Empress does anything?” Chief Cao was talkative.

“I have already expressed my stance to her the previous night. However, the Empress was exceptionally determined this time. There are palace rules. Since I have already handed the decision over to the Empress, I cannot take back my words and hurt the Empress’ reputation. Moreover, if I forcefully interfere and demand the Empress to give Fu Siyan to Prince Zhou, the Empress might give in but she might get back at Prince Zhou in the future. When I am no longer around, the Crown Prince will inherit the throne. The Empress will become the Grand Empress. I cannot strain the relationship between the Empress and Prince Zhou. I have to think for Prince Zhou’s future.” If he had known this earlier, he would not have handed this matter over to her.

“Your Majesty is a kind father.”

“I only pity Prince Zhou. He will be disappointed once again.” He had the world in his hands but could not do much for this child of his.

“In Xinzhou, the mud inkstone is a high quality inkstone. It produces black ink that does not destroy the brush. Amongst the mud inkstone, the Yellow Eel inkstone is the best. However, it is not easy to obtain. This time, the Xinzhou Prefecture presented twenty-eight mud inkstones. There are only three Yellow Eel inkstones. Prince Zhou enjoys calligraphy and painting very much. He will understand your intentions.”

The Emperor understood what Chief Cao meant and laughed bitterly. “I am afraid that no matter how good this gift is, it will be difficult to suppress the disappointment he feels. Forget it, giving is better than not giving at all. Bring my jade brush over. Give it to him.”

Chief Cao went to carry out his orders.

 

Fu Rou held onto an outer robe as she walked towards Lizheng Palace. She coincidentally met with Prince Zhou, who had just received his gift. She greeted him unenthusiastically. She knew his admiration for her but her heart was already set.

“Fu Siyan, this is…” Prince Zhou looked at her and keenly realised, “You are going out?”

“The Empress is going on a trip, I am to go along.” Fu Rou was surprised. She thought that Prince Zhou would have known.

“When the Empress goes on a trip, isn’t it usually palace ladies from the Office of Rites that go along? Why would a palace lady from the Court Lady Department need to go?” Prince Zhou did not know and no one could bear to tell him the news.

“I am just following orders. Her Majesty instructed me to follow her to Fengtian Monastery, so I am going.” Fu Rou smiled.

“Fengtian Monastery? Is it the Fengtian Monastery that Master Yuan resides in?”

“Yes.”

“The Empress is going to see Master Yuan because of your situation?” He could not think of any other reason for the Empress to go to Fengtian Monastery at this critical juncture.

“Her Majesty did not inform me the reason as to why she is going out. I am not sure.” Despite the reason being extremely obvious.

“You are lying.” From her clear eyes, he could tell. “Do you think I am blind? Your expression is not one of confusion but one of expectation.”

“Your Highness, did you just come from Ganlou Palace? It looks like you got quite a number of gifts.” She wanted to change the topic.

However, Prince Zhou grabbed onto her wrist and pulled her in another direction. “Follow me to Ganlou Palace! Imperial Father promised to marry you to me. He cannot go back on his words. I want to ask him clearly.” 

She struggled. “Your Highness, don’t play around. Her Majesty has ordered me to go to Fengtian Monastery.”

He looked intensely at her. “Is it the Empress who wants you to go or are you the one who wants to go?”

“Her Majesty wants me to go and I also want to go.” If she wanted him to give up, she had to be unshakable.

“You really don’t want to be with me?” No matter what he does?

“Your Highness should already know how I feel.” She has never done anything to let him misunderstand. Why won’t he let go of her?

“It seems like Master Yuan is truly my predestined fate.” Prince Zhou laughed bitterly before turning to leave.

No wonder even the Crown Prince did not receive the Yellow Eel Inkstone, while he got three gifts. They had given him the shorter end of the stick and was asking him not to complain!

Fu Rou opened her mouth to speak before changing it to a sigh. She continued on her way to Lizheng Palace.

Everyone had things they would attain and things they would not attain. She could not force Prince Zhou to give up on her nor could she force herself to accept anyone else other than Sheng Chumu.

 

The Empress’ procession set off. It was only now that Lu Qi handed the route to Fengtian Monastery to Deputy General Caoyuan.

Caoyuan found it weird why he only got the route heading to the Monastery. Lu Qi expressed that the route back would naturally be given when they were heading back. Ever since Lu Qi took over General Fan to lead this trip, he had been acting arrogant. It made Caoyuan extremely displeased. The way Lu Qi was acting showed that Lu Qi did not trust him. 

“I did not say that. It is just that with every one less person that knows, there is less of a chance of it being leaked out. No one would dare to make any mistakes with the safety of the Grand Emperor and Empress in their hands.” Lu Qi did not trust anyone.

Caoyuan snorted, “Then why did you give me the route to the Monastery? You might as well not have given it to me. After all, all I need to do is follow you.”

“That will not do. If you don’t know the route, how will you do your tasks? At every location, you have to send people to check out the place first. The Grand Emperor and Empress must be extremely comfortable for the entire journey.” He was the highest ranking military officer. Of course he would have work for the men under him. How could they not do anything?

“I am to do the trivial and troublesome things like checking the route out beforehand whereas you can just show your face beside Her Majesty’s carriage. General Lu, you really planned this out well.” Caoyuan was fuming.

Lu Qi was calm. “I am the lead and you are the assistant. We both have different things tasks. It is fair and reasonable.”

Caoyuan glared at Lu Qi as he kicked his horse and left.

Usually, they would request for the assistance of the local troops. However, Lu Qi was a bastard, with eyes on top of his head and did not discuss anything with Caoyuan. With Lu Yunji and Grand Prince Liang supporting him, Lu Qi was arrogant. There was no need for him to suck up to anyone and he was perfectly fine giving orders.

Meanwhile, Grand Prince Liang, who was in the same carriage as the Grand Emperor, had opinions as well.

“Imperial Father, I heard that the Empress is harboring a motive to go to Fengtian Monastery. The Empress wants Master Yuan to read Fu Siyan’s face and see who she should give Fu Siyan to. Imperial Father, if she wanted to give Fu Siyan to me, would she need to go through such a big round? She could have just said it directly. She must not want to let Fu Siyan marry me and purposely use Master Yuan to shut you up.”

The Grand Emperor closed his eyes to rest. “Did the internal attendant tell you that the Empress is going to Fengtian Monastery to conduct a ritual for your Fifth Brother?”

“They did say…” Grand Prince Liang did not think much of it. “But it is a small and trivial thing…”

The Grand Emperor’s eyes shot open in anger. “What did you say?”

Grand Prince Liang cowered. “I...I didn’t say anything.”

“It is your Fifth Brother’s death anniversary. Why does it sound like a trivial matter when you say it? Other than women, is there any other thing in your heart? Don’t you feel brotherhood?” 

In the Grand Emperor’s life, he regretted allowing the relationship between him and his sons, as well as amongst themselves, to deteriorate the most.

“Imperial Father, I am at fault. I said the wrong thing, you should guide me. I am willing to let you scold and hit me. Please don’t ruin your health out of anger.” Grand Prince Liang quickly admitted his mistakes.

“It is not your fault. You were born late and did not even get a chance to see your Fifth Brother. What brotherhood could you possibly have? My Zhiyun has been intelligent since young. When he was young, he loved to hang out by my side and ask me to teach him how to shoot. Actually, he was not at all talented in archery but was much better at drawing. Before he turned ten, he could already draw beautiful pictures of skylarks. Everyone who saw his drawings could not help but praise him. During the final years of the Sui Dynasty, I was gathering an army to suppress the uprising. Because Zhiyun was still young, I did not want him to suffer in the army. Therefore, I left him at my native town, Hedong. I never thought that the local government would covet riches and abduct him. They sent him to Yin Shishi. Yin Shishi lost to me on the battlefield and killed your Fifth Brother. My poor Zhiyun. At that time, he was only fourteen years old.”

Grand Prince Liang became aware. “So Fifth Brother was good at drawing skylarks. He is similar to me, I also love to draw. However, I am better at drawing eagles.”

Grand Emperor nodded. “You and your Fifth Brother are talented in drawing. If your Fifth Brother could live till your age, he would have similar eyes, nose and side profile as you do. When I see you, I often think of him.”

“No wonder you have always doted on me all these years. It is because I am standing in Fifth Brother’s spotlight. When I have children, me and my children will be filial to you on behalf of Fifth Brother. Speaking of which, in order to have children, I will have to have a woman that can bear me children, right?”

The Grand Emperor did not know whether to get angry or to laugh. “You will never change. You talk about women every few sentence.”

“I am worried that after Master Yuan reads Fu Siyan’s face, he will say that Fu Siyan cannot be with me. What will I do then? The Empress might be thinking of this and is going to leave me hanging.” 

“Master Yuan is an old priest. His physiognomy is unique. He consults heaven and earth and must be revered. No one can change that.” The Grand Emperor was confident. “I even came over personally. The Empress will not dare to order Master Yuan to change the will of the heaven’s under my watch. Moreover, Master Yuan is famous and is unafraid of influential people. He treats gold as if it were the ground and he is not someone that the Empress can control.”

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