Chapter 48.1: Elope

Mystic rays of light shone through the forest, touching each leaf and lifting up a small cloud of dust. Sheng Chumu did not care about this beautiful scenery. He had tripped over the roots of a large tree and did not even have the strength to lift himself up as he lay against the branches and panted. Prince Zhou was long gone and Sheng Chumu could not be bothered to figure out whether he had gone to find Fu Rou or if he had returned to the palace. 

“Rou’er, are you angry at me? I am so useless, I could not protect you. If I had known this, I would not have allowed you to enter the palace. Even if I had disobeyed the Emperor and received a death order, I would have done it. I have let you down. Rou’er, is your soul still in this large mountain? Come out, let me see you. I can’t bare to lose you, I can’t bare this…” Sheng Chumu muttered to himself, his heart clenching up with pain. 

A small, blur figure appeared in front of him. Like the fairy of the forest, the figure walked towards him. 

“Rou’er?” Haha, he must be dog-tired and was daydreaming.

“Chumu.” The figure kneeled before him and caressed his face with her hand. She asked, “Have you been looking for me? It has been tough on you.” 

“This is nothing. Rest assured, I will definitely find you! Even if this is a dream and I do not have my five senses, my Rou’er is different from others. Your hand is so comforting and so warm.” 

Fu Rou laughed, “This is not…” 

Before she finished, Sheng Chumu pulled her in an embrace. She jumped in shock but upon seeing that he had his eyes shut out of exhaustion, she lay still. 

Sheng Chumu suddenly opened his eyes and grabbed Fu Rou’s arms. He stared directly into her eyes and drew closer and closer until their noses touched. 

“Rou’er, it really is you!” This is not a dream! 

“You are alive!” It's not a ghost! 

Fu Rou laughed, “Of course I am alive.” 

Sheng Chumu jumped forward and kissed Fu Rou’s face. His excitement, happiness, relief could clearly be seen. He asked, “But I clearly saw blood and a tiger’s print all over your clothes...how did you manage to survive?” 

“I…” She had promised Lu Yingying that she would not involve her. Fang Ziyan also did not have malicious intentions. She replied, “I lost my way in the mountains and met a herbalist family. They were very kind and offered me a change of clothes. The female official’s clothes I had were dirty and full of holes so I took it off and dumped it somewhere. I do not know anything about the blood marks on my clothes." 

Sheng Chumu had a few suspicions but since Fu Rou was safe and sound, he did not care about anything else. “Good, as long as you are alive!” 

At that point, shouts from the army troops could be heard. They were searching all over the mountain. Without thinking twice, Fu Rou jumped up with glee. “This is great. They are here for us.” 

Sheng Chumu immediately pulled her back. “Rou’er.” 

Fu Rou lowered her head to look at him and saw his stern expression. She understood his intention. 

“As long as you don’t get discovered, they will think that you died from a mountain beast attack. This is the only way for you to leave the palace. If we leave together, we can become the Cowherd boy and Weaver girl.” 

However, Fu Rou was rational and she objected, “We cannot leave everything behind. It would be too unfair." 

“We're being unfair?” He had lived lawfully. For her, he had suppressed his true playful self. He questioned, “We are so in love, why must we be separated by a damn wall? Why can’t you decide your own marriage? Why must you marry whoever the Empress tells you to? In their eyes, you are just a tool for their balance of power. We are not being fair? Is the Emperor fair? Is the Empress fair? Is the world fair? Fu Rou, come with me.” 

“Chumu, my parents are old. We do not know whether Brother Tao is alive or dead, and Sister Yin is also missing. I cannot abandon everyone.” 

“I understand. It is not that fairness is unfair to you. I am just not as important as I think I am in your eyes. I will not send you off if you want to return to that cage.” Sheng Chumu struggled to lift himself up before he started walking off in the opposite direction. 

Fu Rou stared in the direction of the army. Her mind told her she was right, but her heart was screaming to her that Sheng Chumu was right. Her chance of freedom was being torn away from her and she absolutely detested having her destiny decided by someone else. 

Fu Rou whipped around and ran in the direction Sheng Chumu took off to, but she could not find him. Anxiousness flooded her head and she turned around desperately. Suddenly, someone hugged her from behind. 

“Chumu.” Her eyes reddened as she cried, “I almost couldn’t find you! Why didn’t you wait for me!” 

His voice warmly passed through her ears. He chuckled sincerely, “Dummy, I was always by your side. I have never left you.” 

 

On this day, the Emperor praised Sheng Chumu generously in court. Although Sheng Chumu was absent, the Emperor promised to reward him in front of the court officials. 

Sheng Xiaojing could recently hold his head high because of his son. On the other hand, Lu Yunji wore a black face. Lu Qi had been in charge of the Empress’ journey but because of the big incident, he had to be investigated. However, in the middle of the investigation, Grand Prince Liang came with an edict from the Grand Emperor who acknowledged Lu Qi’s loyalty in fending off the rebel troops and allowing the Grand Emperor and Empress to escape. 

Grand Prince Liang not only had the Grand Emperor’s decree, he also brought two troops of General Cao Yuan forward. They testified that Cao Yuan was not happy with Lu Qi and was negligent in reporting the situation to Lu Qi, hence, placing the blame entirely on Cao Yuan. 

Sheng Xiaojing pointed out a suspicious point. The enemy had set up an ambush early and it was evident that someone had leaked information to them, Lu Qi was still at fault. However, Grand Prince Liang still accused Cao Yuan of leaking the information. 

In the end, the Emperor decided to assign someone to investigate the case due to its sheer scale. The Crown Prince volunteered to take the case on but the Emperor placed it in the hands of Prince Zhou instead. He also assigned Grand Prince Liang to the case on account of the fact that Grand Prince Liang managed to capture Cao Yuan. 

After the court, Sheng Xiaojing shook his head and frowned at the sight of Lu Yunji and Grand Prince Liang whispering to each other as they left. 

“Father.” Sheng Chuling had waited a whole morning for Sheng Xiaojing. He informed, “I have searched the entire area but did not manage to find Elder Brother.” 

“Prince Zhou found clothing belonging to Fu Siyan, it is more or less confirmed that she met with misfortune. They called back the army and stopped the search. Your Elder Brother must not have given up yet.” 

“Would Elder Brother have done the unthinkable?” 

Sheng Xiaojing cut him off and snapped, “Keep quiet. Don’t say such inauspicious things. I will secretly send men to search for them. Don’t alert the rest, especially your mother.” 

Ever since Chumu brought fame for the Sheng family, he has also brought more worry. Sigh, there were always misfortunes in fortune. 

Who would have thought that Sheng Chumu had eloped with his lover? They went to a city near the sea in Guangzhou and were blissful. 

Fu Rou did not completely enjoy this freedom and frowned when she heard Sheng Chumu ordering a few dishes from a restaurant. Freedom came with a price. The two were penniless.

“We don’t need all this. Give us two bowls of noodles.” Fu Rou reached for her wallet and sighed. 

Along the way to Guangzhou, Sheng Chumu had spent as he wanted. Fu Rou’s words of persuasion were useless against him. 

Sheng Chumu yelled, “How can we just eat plain noodles? At the very least there should be fish and meat right? I am holding myself back and saving.” 

The waiter was impatient and he could see their distress. 

Although Sheng Chumu could see Fu Rou’s skinny wallet, he raised his head high and demanded additional ingredients along with their mains. 

Once the waiter left, Fu Rou slapped the wallet in Sheng Chumu’s hands and chastised, “Take a look for yourself. How are we going to pay up when we finish? I told you already, times are different now. You refuse to listen."

Sheng Chumu confidently reassured her. “Relax, Rou’er. I will definitely not allow you to suffer any hardship. I am smart, strong and handsome. How can I be short of money?” 

Fu Rou rolled her eyes and said, “I really don’t know if you have any plans of sacrificing your pride.” 

Sheng Chumu laughed, “Rou’er, you really know how to joke around.” 

“Otherwise, how are you going to pay?” Fu Rou felt that this was harder than her palace duties. Their wallets were empty and they were trying to eat a meal without paying. 

“I am so handsome and strong, I can work for them to settle it.” Sheng Chumu had thought this through. “With me around, who wouldn’t eat at this restaurant? The boss is getting a discount already!” 

Fu Rou stared at him speechlessly. Was there anyone besides Sheng Chumu who had such thick skin? To not pay after he eats. 

However, Sheng Chumu actually managed to curry some favor because of his looks. After finishing the meal, he got along well with the boss so much so that they became buddies. He managed to get a job working for the boss. 

Fu Rou did not say anything but waited at the tea house opposite to the restaurant. The boss had agreed for three days but she guessed that he would not last more than two hours. 

As expected, after an hour or so, Sheng Chumu walked out of the restaurant. His gloomy face immediately turned to smiles when he saw Fu Rou and he quickened his pace. 

“Rou’er, there is good news!” 

“Let me guess, the boss said that you do not need to work for him to repay that meal?” In simpler terms, Sheng Chumu had been chased out of the restaurant. 

“Rou’er, you are so smart.” Sheng Chumu grinned from ear to ear. 

“How am I smart? The boss is the one who is smart. If he allows you to work, he will have to close his shop.” 

Fu Rou cocked her head to one side and observed guests running out of the restaurant. Some of their eyes were swollen, some had red noses, some were limping. The boss chased after them frantically as he begged them. It was a pitiful sight!

“He can’t blame me! Those people poked at my eyes and nose and said that I looked like a general instead of a worker. I praised their good foresight and they started to create trouble as they disturbed me further. They even wanted me to lower my head and bow to them. How could I withstand that ill treatment from those imbeciles?” 

Fu Rou laughed, “I should just work for an embroidery house.” A young master who grew up with a silver spoon had given everything up to be with her. She would never get angry at him. 

Sheng Chumu disagreed, “No way. How can I, Sheng Chumu, allow my lover to work hard on the streets?” He suddenly exclaimed, “I might not be able to use my good looks, but I can use my hands and feet. The wild animals on the mountains are enough to last us a lifetime.”

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