Fu Rou never would have expected trouble to arrive before Sheng Chumu returned.
Previously, Sheng Chumu bluffed and said that he was Hong Yide’s subordinate. Now, the official guards were all looking for him in the inn. She naturally could not just sit and wait as she asked the innkeeper and found out that Sheng Chumu had headed west of the city. She rushed to find him.
Unexpectedly, she did not meet Sheng Chumu but bumped into her elder sister and brother-in-law. Furthermore, her brother-in-law was binded and led by the official guards. She heard that he was captured for indulging in a wanted criminal, Hong Yide.
Fu Rou could not understand. With the kind of courage that her brother-in-law has, why would he be involved with Hong Yide? However, when she saw her elder sister begging pitifully as she followed her husband, Fu Rou could not stand and watch. She mingled amongst the crowd and went to the government office to see what was happening.
Xu Youtong was usually inflexible as a government official and flattered his superiors. He never thought that he would get blamed for helping a wanted criminal. However, he did not dare to step out of bounds and simply cry out that he was innocent. Minister Fan knocked the gavel and prepared to give him his sentence.
Fu Jun has always been a gentle person. However, this time she was determined to defend her husband. “Minister Fan, my husband is an official. You cannot subject him to torture to force him to confess.”
Minister Fan blew at his moustache and glared. “This is not somewhere you can speak. Drag her out.”
Fu Jun did not yield. “Just to catch Hong Yide, you all caused everyone to panic and be fearful. As the County Magistrate of Guangzhi County, my husband simply stood up for the citizens that were wrongly captured. How is that wrong? How can you falsely accuse him of colluding with bandits? Although Hong Yide’s men appeared in Guangzhi County initially, they were committing crimes in Guangzhou yesterday. Does it mean you are going to accuse Guangzhou’s official, Official Cao, for colluding as well?”
Minister Fan was guilty. Cao Junlin had been through this with Minister Fan. Lu Yunji was pursuing the matter with Hong Yide and they had to find someone to take the blame.
Fu Jun continued, “My second sister, Fu Rou, is the Empress’ Siyan. Just for your own greed, you are falsely accusing your subordinates and meting out severe punishments. What will be the consequence if the Emperor and Empress hears about this?”
“How impressive it is to have a younger sister who is a female official attending to Her Majesty.” Minister Fan sneered, “If your sister were still alive, perhaps I would show you some face. But now, a dead female official cannot save you.”
Fu Jun was stunned. “What did you say?”
“Foolish woman! Why do you think Official Cao is announcing his intention to capture all of Hong Yide’s men? It is because Hong Yide committed a huge crime in Chang’an. I have just received the news. Hong Yide caused a disturbance on Cangshan Mountain resulting in numerous deaths. One of them is the Fu Siyan serving the Empress.”
“Dead?” Fu Jun could not stand as she was in disbelief. “That cannot be...no! Second Sister cannot die! You are spouting rubbish! You are framing my husband and cursing my sister! You are despicable!”
“This woman is hindering me from carrying out my duties and is raging in court.” Minister Fan threw out a bamboo tag. “Cane her!”
Two bailiffs held Fu Jun on the ground. Fu Rou could not watch any longer as she walked into court and shouted for them to stop.
Fu Jun struggled to lift her head. Her eyes lit up in surprise. “Rou’er!”
Fu Rou smiled at her elder sister and indicated to her to rest assured. She turned to Minister Fan. “My surname is Fu and my name is Rou. I belong to the Court Lady Department and am in-charge of the Siyan Office. I am a sixth-ranked official.”
Minister Fan narrowed his eyes. “You are Fu Siyan?”
Fu Rou took out her Identification Plate. “Here is my Identification Plate. Please take a close look at it.”
Minister Fan’s eyesight was good and he could see clearly. “You are really from the palace. But I don’t understand. I am carrying out the case, what reason do you have to interfere?”
“I saw the entire process. Magistrate Xu was not able to catch the wanted criminal and can at most be said to be incapable. Whereas the claim for colluding with Hong Yide is completely baseless. You have no witnesses nor anything to prove that he did it. Why are you holding him captive?”
Minister Fan replied, “Hmph, a palace lady dares to interfere with a local minister handling a case. On account of your status, I won’t pursue this matter. If not, you will be considered disrupting official matters for your own personal interest. You won’t get away even if it is brought up to the Emperor and Empress.” He sneered and ordered the bailiffs to quickly carry out his orders. “What are you standing there for? Cane him!”
“Stop it!” The mountains were huge and the Emperor was far away. Fu Rou reacted quickly. “Fine, then I won’t use my status as palace lady to speak. Let me use Great Tang’s laws. Firstly, without a decree from court, you cannot act on your own accord and strip a government official of his title and punish him.”
Minister Fan was unafraid as he knew there were people supporting him. “I would tremble in fear when it came to Great Tang’s laws. However, with Hong Yide’s case, the case is serious. I have Prince Zhou’s permission to carry out my duties. If you are going to hinder me, don’t blame me for not being courteous.”
Fu Rou held onto the handkerchief the Empress gave her. Should she use this?
“Minister Fan, if I had known that you would use my personal order as an arrow, I would not have given it to you.” All of a sudden, Prince Zhou’s voice sounded. He then walked out from within the crowd. “Fu Siyan is right. The crime that Official Xu is being blamed for is far-fetched and Minister Fan should not obtain confessions by torturing.”
Minister Fan almost fell off his seat. “Your Highness?”
“Guards, take off his official hat and lock him up. I will deal with him later.” Prince Zhou smiled as he ordered Minister Fan to be locked up.
Fu Rou had not managed to speak to her elder sister before Prince Zhou came over and pulled her aside.
“On Cangshan Mountain, when I saw you smile, my heart melted and I let Sheng Chumu take you away.” He had seen Fu Rou and Sheng Chumu reunite. “If you had not appeared again, I would not have interfered. I never thought that you would expose your identity. You have to return to Chang’an. I already gave Sheng Chumu a chance, I will not give him a second chance.”
Fu Rou shook his hand off. “Why must I listen to you?”
Prince Zhou whispered into Fu Rou’s ears. “General Xuanwei seduced a palace lady and stole the Empress’ servant from Chang’an and brought her all the way to Guangzhou. If I am in a bad mood and blurt it out, what do you think will happen to Sheng Chumu?”
Fu Rou frowned. Prince Zhou was blackmailing her once again!
“Sheng Chumu is still in the city right? Chen You was the person that reported and said that Hong Yide’s subordinate had stolen his wife. I heard that he once had a marriage agreement with you? That means the Hong Yide’s subordinate that stole his wife was Sheng Chumu?” Prince Zhou knew everything.
“Since you know everything, Sheng Chumu is definitely not Hong Yide’s men.” Fu Rou was angry that he did not speak the truth.
“I know but I have to make it seem like a hard case so that Sheng Chumu and the Duke Lu Residence will be doomed.” He had never been proud of the power he had been born with. But for her, he was willing to use it.
Fu Rou knew that the moment she stepped into the court, her happy life with Sheng Chumu would screech to a stop. But she could not watch as her elder sister and brother-in-law were framed. Moreover, even if Prince Zhou did not blackmail her, she would have to return to Chang’an. Now, she wished that he could understand what difficulties she was having.
Fu Rou followed Prince Zhou until they were in front of his carriage. “I want to see Chumu one more time.” She had to explain properly.
“No! The Cangshan Mountain case has yet to be resolved. I have to rush back to settle it. Moreover, I cannot promise that I won’t capture Sheng Chumu when I see him…” Prince Zhou suddenly turned and grabbed Fu Rou’s hand gently, helping her onto the carriage.
Fu Rou was startled and wanted to pull back her hand. Prince Zhou moved closer. “Sheng Chumu’s future is in your hands. Moreover, if you smile at me now, I promise that I will be well-behaved on the way back to Chang’an.”
Fu Rou remained rigid. Eventually, she thought of Sheng Chumu and smiled at Prince Zhou. What she did not know was that Sheng Chumu was amidst the crowd and Prince Zhou had already caught sight of him and intentionally behaved in this manner.
Sheng Chumu watched as Prince Zhou’s carriage rode off. The steaming hot bun fell to the ground as his heart froze over. He did not understand. Why? Last night, they married one another. Today, she had gone with the wind. Yan Zifang, Prince Zhou, one after the other. They were all in her heart except for him. He was the only one that she could easily abandon.
He was the world’s biggest fool after all.
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