On this day, Fu Rou officially became a court lady. All the female officials from the Seamstress Department, the Siyan Department and the Rites Office admired her greatly. It made her feel that perhaps there was still hope in this place.
As she took up her new position, she immediately did two things to the Head of the Lateral Courts. The first was that when other departments came to the Lateral Courts to select female officials, they had to go by the rules and there was no need to submit a blacklist. Secondly, she ordered everyone to study the rules of the six offices. If anyone were to continue disobeying the rules and using their power to bully others, she would deal with them accordingly.
Fu Rou was unafraid that the Head of the Lateral Courts would think that she was taking revenge. If she had looked for every single one who treated her unfairly, she would be operating on selfish motives. However, the reason why she pointed out the head was fair. The Head of the Lateral Courts’ failure and neglect of her duty was the reason why the Lateral Courts was so chaotic and the subordinates were undisciplined and arrogant.
When Fu Rou finally went through all the things from the various departments and offices, she lifted her head and realised that it was already late at night. She suddenly remembered Empress Zhangsun. She was only handling matters regarding palace ladies and there was already so much to do. Empress Zhangsun had to manage the entire harem. No wonder she fell sick from exhaustion.
As Fu Rou thought of her, she unconsciously walked to Lizheng Palace. She remembered vividly the day that she had been dragged away. At that time, she even felt a strong hatred for this place. Now that she returned, she finally understood Empress Zhangsun’s troubles and choices. No one is perfect. In her short life, Empress Zhangsun did all she could to be kind and beautiful; she was noble. Without going through what Empress Zhangsun had gone through, who was she to criticise or be disappointed. If she was a mother herself, she might not even be able to do what Empress Zhangsun did.
Without a female owner, Lizheng Palace lacked elegance and warmth. The cold wind blew past the seemingly barren ground. Fu Rou walked to the corner that Empress Zhangsun liked to read at. She did not expect that there would be someone there. Yet, it was also within expectations.
Fu Rou stepped up and greeted. “Your Majesty.”
“You are here.” He did not seem surprised to see Fu Rou wearing the third rank female official uniform. It was obvious that the Emperor had known about the Empress decree. “With the Empress gone, this place does not have any trace of warmth. When I walked in, my whole body felt cold. The Empress always said that you are someone who likes to read. Actually, isn’t she someone that likes to read as well? Perhaps the reason why she felt that the both of you were fated is also because you both enjoyed reading.”
“When Her Majesty was still alive, she was reading the History of Sui and Shi Ji. At times, she would read until late in the night. She was stubborn like that. Her health was not good yet she kept tiring herself out. Now, she has cruelly left me behind.” Sorrow flooded out from the Emperor and he covered his face with his hands.
Fu Rou did not say anything as she stood by the side.
After a while, the Emperor calmed down as he stood up to walk out. “Court Lady Fu, come with me.” Fu Rou followed.
“Now that the Empress is gone, someone needs to take care of the harem.” The Emperor needed advice. “What about Concubine Yan?”
Fu Rou remained silent.
“I have granted you the permission to speak and don’t intend to retract it. Tell me your thoughts.”
Fu Rou finally spoke up, “When the Empress was around, she once had Concubine Yan help her to manage the harem. Her Majesty said that Concubine Yan did her best. Unfortunately, Concubine Yan’s body is weak as well. When she helped the Empress set new palace rules, she even fell sick for a period. The Empress felt uneasy and never asked Concubine Yan for help after that.”
The Emperor nodded. “Concubine Yan is indeed frail.”
“Her Majesty’s health was not good. On top of that, she had to manage the harem and was always busy handling matters. She tired herself out, causing her illness to worsen. Eventually, she had to let go. Now, Concubine Yan’s body is not well either. If Your Majesty passes on the matters of the harem to Concubine Yan, I am afraid her body will not be able to take it.”
The Emperor hesitated, “However, Concubine Yan has the highest rank after the Empress. It will not seem right to hand matters over to someone else.”
“Her Majesty has just passed on and everyone in the harem is feeling anxious. For now, why don’t you assign someone with virtue and experience to temporarily take charge.” Fu Rou spoke under the Emperor’s encouraging gaze. “Imperial Concubine Wang. When the Grand Emperor was in power, Imperial Concubine Wang was in charge of the harem and ensured everything was in order. The Empress once told me that when she first took charge of the Six Offices, Imperial Concubine Wang gave her lots of advice. She was extremely grateful to Imperial Concubine Wang.”
The Emperor understood. “My mother passed away early. When I was still a prince, Imperial Concubine Wang took very good care of my mother. She even stood up for us in front of Imperial Father many times. When she was in charge of the harem, she was very fair. Where is Imperial Concubine Wang now?”
Fu Rou answered, “After the Grand Emperor passed away, the imperial concubines without children all went to the temple. Imperial Concubine Wang is now staying at the temple.”
“Imperial Concubine Wang once had a son. He was my fifth brother, Zhiyun. The previous Emperor loved him a lot. It was a pity that he got killed by Yin Shishi when he was fourteen. Imperial Concubine Wang served the previous emperor for many years and should be respected. Pass on my decree. Invite Imperial Concubine Wang back from the temple. Let Imperial Concubine Wang handle the harem matters. She is a senior and has a lot of experience. As for Concubine Yan, let her help to manage the Six Offices like she did in the past for the Empress. In this manner, Concubine Yan’s health will not suffer and everyone will accept this arrangement. This is the best of both worlds.”
The news spread like wind into Concubine Yan’s palace.
Yu He reported, “His Majesty had intended to allow you to manage the harem. Unexpectedly, Fu Rou suddenly interfered and brought up Imperial Concubine Wang, messing up everything.”
Concubine Yan stared up at the night sky for a long time. “As expected of the Empress. She is already buried underground yet she can cause me to be pricked by a thorn. Fu Rou, Court Lady of the Six Offices...I want to see how long this small chess piece that the Empress left behind can survive on the chessboard.”
She had plotted for so long and cleared all the obstacles in her way. Even the huge mountain that was the Empress, has now been razed to the ground. Heavens was helping her. She did not believe that a mere third rank female official could defeat her.
Fu Rou brought Xiao Lu along with her as she arrived in Prince Qin’s palace.
Because of Fu Rou’s warning, the air in the Lateral Courts had stabilized. This time, everyone had a chance to be selected during the palace maid selection. Because Xiao Lu was literate and answered well, she had been chosen to join the twenty-four departments. Coincidentally, Shu’er hasn’t been feeling well recently and Xiao Lu became her accompanying palace maid.
Prince Qin remembered Xiao Lu. This beautiful young palace maid helped Fu Rou carry a stool over, handed her books and served tea. She was extremely intelligent.
“Why is she here?” Prince Qin was curious.
“I asked Court Lady Fu to teach me how to read and Court Lady Fu agreed. Both Your Highness and I are Court Lady Fu’s students.” Seeing how Prince Qin was younger than her, Xiao Lu spoke casually.
Fu Rou corrected her, “Xiao Lu, you cannot speak in such a manner to His Highness.” Following that, she explained to Prince Qin. “Xiao Lu has just been selected to join the twenty-four offices. From today, she will be following me.”
Prince Qin smiled, “I quite like her temperament.” He turned to Xiao Lu. “I am Teacher’s senior disciple whereas you are Teacher’s junior disciple. So am I your senior?”
Xiao Lu was dissatisfied. “But you are younger.”
Prince Qin spoke as a matter of fact, “I am younger than you but I started learning before you. Call me Senior.”
Xiao Lu replied, “Since we are studying, then we should establish seniority based on our knowledge.”
Prince Qin was curious. “Aiya, you are a palace maid. You dare to compare knowledge with me?”
“In the palace, the hierarchy between the noble and lowly are already distinguished. Is there a need to differentiate between social hierarchy when learning as well? Why can’t a palace maid compare knowledge with Your Highness? May I ask Your Highness, do you know the reason for wanting to gain knowledge?”
Xiao Lu’s argument impressed Fu Rou. However, Fu Rou could not praise her. “Xiao Lu, you are behaving so boldly just because His Highness is kind. Hurry and apologise to His Highness.”
Prince Qin waved his hand. “There is no need to apologise. Teacher, your new student is very good. She is much more interesting than the abiding palace maids around me.”
He asked Xiao Lu “Then do you know the reason for seeking knowledge?”
Xiao Lu was confident. “Court Lady Fu has just taught this. Confucius said that there is nothing special about knowledge. It is simply obtaining what has been lost. Learning is just to live in a more relaxed way.”
Prince Qin laughed, “So it's to live in a more relaxed way? Haha, listening to this indeed makes me happier.”
Fu Rou laughed and shook her head. “You listen only to one sentence and think highly of yourself. You are even teaching others. Aren’t you embarrassed? Don’t fool around anymore, let me teach the both of you something.”
Prince Qin pulled on Xiao Lu’s sleeve and pointed to the seat beside him. Xiao Lu still understood the rules. “A palace maid cannot sit in front of a prince.”
Prince Qin laughed, “Didn’t you just say that when learning, there should not be any differentiation between social hierarchy? Are you afraid now?”
Xiao Lu immediately sat down beside Prince Qin and raised her brows at him in a provocative manner.
Looking at these two children bicker, Fu Rou’s eyes were filled with humour. Having a partner would help them learn better.Previous Chapter Next Chapter