Chapter 45.1: Secret Tunnel

“Repeat what you said!” Fire was blazing in Sheng Chumu’s eyes as he wanted to burn a hole in this old face.

“I told the Empress that Fu Siyan will benefit her and suggested that she values Fu Siyan more.” Master Yuan was unperturbed. “The Empress is so worried, I could not bear it. Furthermore, I looked at Fu Siyan’s face. She can indeed help the Empress greatly. Moreover, you are so concerned about Fu Siyan, I suggested to the Empress to treat her better. Isn’t that perfect?”

“Perfect your head! I want to marry her but you asked the Empress to treat her better. If the Empress decides to keep Fu Rou by her side for life, are you going to marry me instead?”

This old priest had an abundance of failures but not a single success. He wasted half of the exceptional Chess Book to set up a trap and finally coaxed them to fall in. In the end, although Fu Rou was not given to Prince Zhou nor Grand Prince Liang, the Empress was also not willing to let her go. He did not gain anything from this.

Master Yuan chuckled, “If you don’t look down on my old age and stiff bones, I am willing to take responsibility for my mistake.”

“That’s enough! We had agreed that you would stop the Empress from giving Fu Siyan to Prince Zhou or Grand Prince Liang and make her realise that Fu Siyan should only be given to me. Only after you did this then I would give you the entire edition of the Linglong Chess Book. Now that you have made things like this, I…” Sheng Chumu took out the Chess Book as he prepared to tear it. “...shall perish together with this!”

“Don’t tear it!” Master Yuan stopped him. “I also tried my best. When I tried to bring up your name, I was immediately cut off. The Empress said not to mention anyone else other than the two royal princes. What was I to do? If I mention your name for no rhyme or reason and say that Fu Siyan is best matched with Sheng Chumu, won’t they see through us? How would the Empress not suspect that something is fishy then? I have already tried my best. At least Fu Siyan was not given to Grand Prince Liang or Prince Zhou right? You have to give me the rest of the Linglong Chess Book.”

Sheng Chumu snorted, “What can you do if I don’t give it to you?”

“If you don’t give it to me, I will go to see the Grand Emperor and the Empress right now. I will tell them that I read Fu Siyan’s face wrongly and Fu Siyan would be a great match with Grand Prince Liang. They would be a heavenly pair and a great blessing to Great Tang’s future.” For the exceptional Linglong Chess Book, he had thrown caution to the wind.

“You are too despicable.” The old priest had such a kind face. One really could not tell. 

“In order to rescue the Linglong Chess Book from your evil clutches, I am willing to sacrifice myself and be despicable for once.” Master Yuan extended his hand and raised his brows.

How could Sheng Chumu not have known the disadvantages of this plan. If he were to fall out with the old priest, he would lose his wife and army. He had no choice but to think of another plan.

Master Yuan took the other half of the Linglong Chess Book and hugged it to his chest as he walked away.

Sheng Chumu looked at the high walls of Fengtian Monastery. Similar to when in Chang’an, they were split by a tall wall, as if on two sides of a river. They were both at Fengtian Monastery, he just needed to get over this tall wall and he would be able to see his Rou’er.

However, he could not meet her. His elder sister has said that Empress Zhangsun is extraordinary and has a nose as sensitive as a dog. If she suspects that Master Yuan had been bought over by Sheng Chumu, whatever he had done would have gone to waste. For his beautiful future with Rou’er, he had to bear with it and wait for another opportunity. He has to create a plan that has no chance of failure so he could strike with one shot!

 

In two short days, she was nervous when they arrived and calm when they left. Fu Rou waited beside the carriage as she gazed at Cangshan Mountain. She listened to the sound of the ancient bell ringing from Fengtian Monastery. She was happy. She did not know why but she felt like Sheng Chumu was beside her the entire time. She did not feel lonely.

Empress Zhangsun walked out. Before she got into the carriage, she suddenly smiled at Fu Rou. “Fu Siyan, sit in the carriage with me.”

Fu Rou was slightly stunned. Under everyone’s gaze, she boarded the Empress’ carriage. Everyone knew that only people that the Empress trusted wholly would be allowed to sit in the same carriage as her.

The entourage set off, occupying a long stretch of road.

Empress Zhangsun broke the silence. “Four men were asking to marry one woman. Today, with a single sentence from Master Yuan, the issue has been resolved. Fu Siyan, how do you feel about the outcome?”

“Truth be told, I don’t feel good.” Fu Rou was bitter.

“Tell me why.” 

“It is my fate but I am not able to decide and can only wait for others to decide. I don’t like this feeling.” Fu Rou hesitated slightly, “I spoke carelessly, please forgive me Your Majesty.”

“There is no crime. You are merely speaking the truth.” Empress Zhangsun sensed this from a long time ago. “Fu Siyan, do you want to leave the Royal Palace?”

“Yes.” She did not want to lie.

“You did not hesitate to answer.” Empress Zhangsun smiled.

“If I were to beat around the bush and speak secretively, it would be asking for trouble.” There was no need to make things harder on herself.

“You wish to leave the palace. Do you know what my wish is?”

“Could it be for Great Tang to have peace and prosperity?” Fu Rou guessed.

“No.” Empress Zhangsun shook her head. “My wish is for all my children to grow up safely and healthily. I want them to live until it is time for them to go peacefully. All mothers are willing to sacrifice their lives for their children. However, as you know, the majestic Royal Palace is filled with lonely souls wandering about every night.”

“That is why I wish to leave.” She wants an ordinary family, to do normal things and live carefree days.

“But I wish for you to stay a while more to help me.” Empress Zhangsun cared about what Master Yuan said. “Are you willing to?”

“If I may be so bold as to ask you something.”

Zhangsun permitted.

“If Master Yuan said only the first half of what he said and there was no latter half, would Your Majesty have given me to Grand Prince Liang?”

“If I were to say no, would you believe me?” Empress Zhangsun looked at Fu Rou. “Fu Siyan, do you resent me?”

“I do not dare to resent you.” So she was prepared to sacrifice her.

“You did not say that you don’t resent me but said that you did not dare to resent me. I can see that you are angry inside. The power struggles in the Royal Palace is complicated. Whenever I make a decision, I have to consider the balance and there are many things that I feel helpless in. However, I have to admit that this time, I considered the Grand Emperor, Emperor, Grand Prince Liang and Prince Zhou. I did not consider your feelings. I have decided to make it up to you.” Empress Zhangsun took out a handkerchief and handed it to Fu Rou. “On this handkerchief, I wrote the word pardon. I am giving this to you. It can pardon the mistakes of a person once.”

“It can pardon any kind of mistake?” This was surprising! Previously, there was the Life-saving pill and now there is a Death-relief handkerchief?

“Are you thinking of it as a Danshu Iron Voucher [1]? This can only be used to pardon small mistakes. It will be useless against severe crimes. However, don’t look down on it. You are the only one who has ever received this from me.”

“Thank you, Your Majesty.” Fu Rou accepted it. She could no longer pretend to be generous and reject gifts. Maybe one day, it could save a life.

“Be at ease and stay by my side. I won’t neglect you.” Seeing how she took it gracefully, Empress Zhangsun thought that Fu Rou had a clear view of things.

All of a sudden, the carriage jolted to a stop. Fu Rou hurriedly supported Empress Zhangsun before opening the curtains to look out. She could not help but be taken aback. A group of wild animals were dashing out of the forest.

 

Looking at the roaring black bears and wolves, Lu Qi first called for Caoyuan. After all, Caoyuan had been doing a recce of the road before they crossed it. He was in-charge of clearing the way. He then recalled that Caoyuan had sprained his leg at Fengtian Monastery the previous day. He cursed under his breath. The wild animals seemed to have gone crazy and Lu Qi did not dare to try to force their way through. He instructed the group to hide in a mountain pass. Who would have known that as soon as they entered the mountain pass, they would find that it was packed with people.

“Hong Yide?” Upon seeing who it was, Lu Qi was extremely shocked. He thought that Hong Yide was in Guangzhou.

“That’s right!” Hong Yide sneered as he brandished his huge sword. “Lu Qi, I have been waiting for you here. You and your father are trash. Today, I will let Lu Yunji feel what it is like to lose a child!”

Lu Qi grabbed his sword and shouted at the guards behind him. “Protect the Grand Emperor and Her Majesty. Leave!”

Fu Rou heard him clearly and pulled open the carriage’s curtain. She realised that the carriage driver was nowhere to be found and hurriedly assisted the Empress off the carriage. Thereafter, she saw Grand Prince Liang leading a carriage with the Grand Emperor in it, preparing to leave. She immediately jumped out in front of them.

“Do you want to die!” Grand Prince Liang pulled on the reins. 

“Bring Her Majesty with you.” She was not thinking about herself.

“The carriage will be too heavy to move quickly. Get lost!” Grand Prince Liang raised the reins.

“How can you leave the Empress behind in a time of danger? Moreover, she is your biological sister-in-law. Even if you manage to escape today, do you think the Emperor will forgive you? Let Her Majesty on!” Fu Rou lifted her head and spread out her arms. 

“You!”

Grand Prince Liang did not complete his sentence before Grand Emperor interrupted, “Don’t delay any further! Quick, let the Empress on!”

Fu Rou helped Empress Zhangsun onto the carriage. Empress Zhangsun turned around and pulled Fu Rou on. The both of them entered the carriage.

Grand Prince Liang hollered and the carriage headed towards the other end of the mountain pass, into another forest. 

Hong Yide’s real motive was to catch the Grand Emperor and Empress. As he saw them leave, he immediately ordered his men to give chase. Lu Qi wanted to stop them but was surrounded by Hong Yide and his men. He was dragged into a bitter fight. 

Lu Qi was frustrated. That morning, they were supposed to wait for the army to gather before leaving. However, Grand Prince Liang was impatient, having lost his potential wife, and kept on rushing him. Lu Qi thought that he could show off his abilities and left half the army to pack up while he led the other half first. Now, Hong Yide had more men than him and they were all ready to fight to their deaths. He looked at their horses leaving without the men.

With Lu Qi distracted, his opponent managed to take the advantage and aimed their long sword at his ribs. When he found out, it was already too late.

Bam! Another sword slashed in, sending the long sword flying. A figure appeared behind him.

Lu Qi looked behind. “Sheng Chumu!” He never thought that it would be him!

Sheng Chumu did not look at him as his sword continued to slash. He was only concerned about one thing. “Where is Rou’er? Where is she?”

Lu Qi was disgruntled. “As soon as you open your mouth, you ask about your woman. Why don’t you ask about the Empress?”

“She is most likely with the Empress. By asking about her, I am asking about the Empress.” Sheng Chumu did not hesitate.

Lu Qi scoffed, “They have escaped.”

Sheng Chumu asked, “Which direction did they go? I have to rescue them.”

“Get through this obstacle in front of us first before talking.” Lu Qi did not want to lose someone that could fight at this point in time. 

With their backs against each other, they did not allow anyone to get through to them. Despite attacking for a long time, Hong Yide did not manage to succeed and the local army managed to send assistance. Seeing that he had lost his advantage in numbers, he waved and ordered for his men to retreat, abandoning those that had been captured. He led the remainder of his men into the forest. 

Lu Qi noticed that Sheng Chumu was glaring at him. “What? Are you waiting for me to thank you?”

Sheng Chumu did not say a word as he lifted his leg and kicked Lu Qi. 

Lu Qi fell onto the ground before hopping up. “You bastard…”

Sheng Chumu was fuming. “If not for you, this would not have happened today. You instigated Grand Prince Liang and bullied Rou’er, all to get back at me. I have been wanting to settle this score with you.”

“So what if it was me? You and Fu Rou have been hindering my family. Don’t think I'm unaware!” Lu Qi threw a punch.

The two men that had just fought back to back were now tangled in a fight.

 


1. Given in ancient times by Emperors to pardon his ministers of any crime.

Previous Chapter Next Chapter