Chapter 9.1: Chang’an

After a long journey, the entire Fu family had finally reached Chang’an. 

Their horse carriage had just passed Mingde Gate when human voices filled the air. Hearing the bustle, Fu Rou curiously opened the window of her carriage and peered out. On the wide and straight road ahead of them, there were carriages and humans moving continuously. Both sides of the street were symmetrical and filled with tall and imposing buildings.

“Rou’er, what do you think of Chang’an?” Sheng Chumu stuck out his chest as he felt like he had returned to his own territory.

“It really seems like heaven on earth.” When Fu Rou read about Chang’an, she could not imagine what it looked like. Only now when she was physically in Chang’an did she understand.

“That is the West City.” Sheng Chumu pointed. “When you have settled in, I will bring you there to have a look. You will definitely like it.”

Fu Rou looked over as her eyes widened slightly. Shops lined the street. There were many foreign looking stores and shophouses and she could see foreigners wherever she looked. She had thought that the number of foreign merchants in Guangzhou was high but it was incomparable to Chang’an. There were various foreign races coming from the shipping route as well as the Silk Road. She only glanced over them but the shopfronts and shop names of various shops selling spice, flowers, jewellery and food were all imprinted in her memory.

It was not that she might like Chang’an, she already liked Chang’an.

Sheng Chumu sent Fu Rou to her second uncle’s home before rushing back to his own home. 

He had already decided that he would tell his parents about Fu Rou as soon as possible and marry her. What Sheng Chumu did not know was that his parents had already heard about his ‘Brave Achievement’ and how he activated the South Navy to deal with pirates. They also knew that he had done it for a girl.

Madam Sheng had always been protective of her sons. When she heard about this, she immediately sent people to investigate who the girl was. She found out that Fu Rou had a childhood engagement before and had recently gotten married. However, on the day of her wedding, she was forced to go through an examination to check if she was still a virgin from her potential mother-in-law. She then returned home, causing her potential mother-in-law to faint from anger. All these incidents made Madam Sheng anxious. She was desperate to ask her son to stay away from this “vixen”. Little did she know that when her son came back, he also brought the girl along with him. 

Therefore, Sheng Chumu only managed to mention that she was from a merchant family. He did not even have the chance to bring up Fu Rou’s name before Madam Sheng immediately objected. She even threatened him to make a choice between her and Fu Rou.

Madam Sheng had been extremely certain that her son would choose her. After all, she had always doted on him and could never bear to scold or hit him. She had always stood up for him in front of Sheng Xiaojing. She did not expect that Sheng Chumu would resolve to marry Fu Rou and even pushed the choice back to her. She had to either permit Sheng Chumu to marry Fu Rou or he would not acknowledge her as his mother.

Pushed to her wit’s end, she went to find her daughter, Consort Han, to cry to.

Consort Han naturally sided with her mother, believing that Sheng Chumu was acting wilfully but was ultimately still a filial child. She gave her mother the idea of pretending to be sick to distract Sheng Chumu while she dealt with Fu Rou. 

Sheng Chumu naturally fell for it and stopped forcing his mother to choose. He accompanied her and even personally brewed medicine for her.

 

Fu Rou did not manage to meet Sheng Chumu but was instead confronted by Consort Han’s servants. Everyone knew that Consort Han was Sheng Xiaojing’s daughter. However, Fu Rou could sense that Consort Han’s intentions were not good and wanted to ignore her. Unfortunately, Fu Rou’s second uncle did not allow her to ignore Consort Han. It was then that she realised that her second uncle was working in Huanglaishun Pawn Shop. The Huanglaishun Pawn Shop was owned by the Han Mansion. Because of this, Fu Rou could not reject her invitation. After all, her second uncle took their entire family in out of the goodness of his heart. She could not cause him to lose his job.

Fu Rou walked through the garden with a bridge and a pond. She walked past the public square built with white stone and stepped on the long and broad stone step. She finally entered the majestic main hall of the Han Mansion. Luxurious items were everywhere but the most luxurious of all would be Consort Han.

Consort Han had her hair combed in a high updo, pinned with golden hairpins. Her appearance was extremely exquisite as she wore a dress with pink hibiscus on it. She was also wearing a thin muslin cloth that stretched to the floor. She sat upright on the main seat, giving off an imposing aura.

However, Fu Rou was calm and did not give off an inferior vibe. Although this was her first time meeting a noble from the royal family, she had learned embroidery for over ten years and had long understood how people behaved through dealing with embroidery matters. 

“Our Han Mansion is lacking a seamstress. I heard that your embroidery skills are pretty good. You can stay with us.” Consort Han was impressed by Fu Rou’s calmness but remained unfriendly. 

Fu Rou was surprised as she had assumed that Consort Han would be more direct and ask her to leave Sheng Chumu. Who knew that Consort Han would ask her to stay in the Han Mansion? Was Consort Han afraid that she would not go to a far away enough place and rather keep her closer to watch her?

Consort Han sneered, “People can rely on other people’s success. However, if a person is not tactful and offends someone that they are in no position to offend, they will bring trouble to their entire family, not to mention the successful person they were relying on. Isn’t that right?” 

“Thank you, Consort Han, for the reminder.” Unfortunately, her second uncle was relying on the Han Mansion and anyone related to Fu Rou would be implicated.

Consort Han proudly instructed her butler, “Give her a five year contract as a seamstress. Anything that she needs, including her meals and clothes, will be covered by the residence. Her salary will be doubled. Don’t let other people say that our Han Mansion is stingy. Every year, she will be allowed one day of leave during the new year holidays to go back to see her parents. For the rest of the time, she is not allowed to take a single step out of the Han Mansion.”

Her butler brought a contract over to Fu Rou. Fu Rou gritted her teeth and stamped her fingerprint on the contract. She did not forget to greet Consort Han before leaving with the butler.

Consort Han looked at Fu Rou’s retreating back as her expression softened. Her mother had exaggerated slightly. Fu Rou was indeed beautiful but did not give off a vixen vibe. Her behaviour was still generous and appropriate and she was qualified to at least become a concubine. She was going to let Fu Rou stay in the Han Mansion for a while to learn the rules and how to conduct herself. Given that Sheng Chumu was adamant on marrying her, it was bound to be better than letting her die.

 

After several days had passed, Fu Rou’s emotions had stabilised. She believed that all these were temporary and Chumu would find a way to get to her. Moreover, the work that she had to do in the Han Mansion was a lot easier than she had thought. All she had to do was mend clothes and no one intentionally made things difficult for her.

Carrying the clothes that she had just mended, she was going to hand them over to Maid Xiahan. From afar, she could hear a smacking sound followed by Xiahan’s anguished cry. Fu Rou quickened her steps. She saw Madam Lu, the head of the seamstress department, asking other servants to cane Xiahan.

Madam Lu had given one of Consort Han’s robes to Xiahan to mend. Xiahan took silver and gold threads as well as pearls to mend the robe but procrastinated on mending the robe. Alas, as Madam Lu sprung a surprise check on her today, she found out that Xiahan had yet to begin and had resorted to caning her.

Although Xiahan had acted slightly haughtily when she was assigning Fu Rou with tasks to do, she did not try to make things difficult for her. Fu Rou felt like she did not have a bad nature. Hence, Fu Rou stood still and waited for the caning to stop. After Madam Lu left with the other servants, she assisted Xiahan back to her room.

Fu Rou looked around the room and her gaze eventually settled on an elegant looking robe. She picked it up to have a look, “Although the hole is pretty big, it is not impossible to mend. Why weren’t you able to finish it?”

“I thought that you would need at least a few days to finish this. I can’t believe that you are done so quickly and it does not even look like it has been mended.” Xiahan remained silent initially. However, as she flipped over the robe that Fu Rou had mended, she was extremely surprised. 

Fu Rou smiled as she placed the robe back down. “I have passed the robe to you. I shall take my leave.”

Xiahan held onto Fu Rou and stammered, “Can…you help me?”

“You have to answer my question first. Did you make that wedding gown for yourself?” Fu Rou glanced towards the corner of the room. There was a huge trunk lying in the corner with the cover down. However, the wedding gown was peeking out from the corner and glimmering in gold and silver. It also had pearls sewn in it. 

Xiahan quickly headed towards the trunk. Initially, she was intending to shove the wedding dress back in. However, she thought about it and decided to take it out as she walked in front of Fu Rou. She told Fu Rou that the wedding dress was for her younger sister. Her parents had passed away when she was young and her younger sister was currently under their uncle’s care. Now that her younger sister was about to get married, the only thing she could do for her was to personally make her a wedding dress. The reason why she stole some of the silver and gold threads from the Han Mansion was to make her sister’s wedding dress look more precious. It was all to make up for the years that she could not spend beside her younger sister.

Fu Rou was slightly moved and thought of Fu Yin. She had promised Third Madam to give Fu Yin a glamorous wedding. When the time comes, she will be like Xiahan and wish to give the best to her sister.

“How much material do you have left? Bring it all over. Let me help you.” When it came to maximising whatever little material there was, there was no hurdle that could stop Fu Rou.

She does not take shortcuts and would always try her best. It was only valuable if she put her heart into it.

 

At the risk of getting beaten, Junhui snuck information to Sheng Chumu. Sheng Chumu realized that this was his mother and his elder sister’s plot to separate him and Fu Rou. Sheng Chumu barged into the Han Mansion. Not only did he face the guards with his sword unsheathed, he even shouted at his elder sister, who had doted on him since he was young.

“Sister, where have you hidden Fu Rou?” How absurd. If there have a problem, they should come for him. It has got nothing to do with his innocent Fu Rou! 

Consort Han walked up to him and gave him a hard slap. Sheng Chumu was momentarily dazed.

Consort Han reprimanded, “This is the Han Mansion! The residence of the fourth prince of the current Emperor, Prince Han Litai! How dare you brandish your sword?” 

Sheng Chumu knew that he had overstepped his authority and did not dare to argue back.

“Back then, when you studied military tactics and learned to ride and shoot, I was happy for you. I thought that you had matured. I never thought that you would lose your composure. How can you barge into the Han Mansion and make such a big commotion just because of a girl? If things were different or slightly more serious, would you barge into the palace? Are you trying to bury the entire Duke Lu family with your bare hands?” The pain travelled from Consort Han’s hand into her heart. She had never hit this younger brother of hers. However, as the saying goes, spare the rod and spoil the child. She had to hit him.

“I am in the wrong. But this has nothing to do with Fu Rou. Elder Sister, please let her go.”

“I can’t do that.” Consort Han had already made up her mind. This was a good chance to train Sheng Chumu. “Keeping Fu Rou by my side is a wake-up call for you. If you continue to tangle yourself with her, I will kill her.”

Sheng Chumu became frantic. “You dare!”

“I dare.” Consort Han maintained a cold glare. “Why? Do you want to point your sword at me now?”

Sheng Chumu took a deep breath. All of a sudden, he seemed to be able to control his anger as he kneeled down in front of Consort Han. “Elder Sister, I really like her. I have never liked someone so much before. I beg you to not hurt her.”

Consort Han was moved but she did not show it. “Father spent his life on the battlefield and suffered numerous injuries before he was conferred the title of Duke Lu. Now that our parents are getting old, you have to be the role model to your two younger brothers. Chumu, you can’t behave as wilfully as you did before. Fu Rou is safe with me. If you truly want to be with her then you should show your sincerity. You can’t ignore the consequence and do as you wish. The first thing you have to do is gain Mother’s approval.”

Sheng Chumu did not blink and listened to his sister. He then bowed politely to Consort Han. Consort Han was slightly relieved. She felt that her brother had matured quite a bit. As Sheng Chumu walked out, he saw Fu Rou walk over.

Deep down, Consort Han cared for her brother. When she knew that Sheng Chumu had come, she summoned Fu Rou so the two could meet.

For a moment, his gaze became docile. Fu Rou was also overwhelmed with emotions. However, as she remembered Madam Lu was ahead of her, she quickly lowered her gaze. However, Madam Lu understood Consort Han’s intentions and quickened her steps after greeting Sheng Chumu, giving the two of them some space. Sheng Chumu took the chance to grab onto Fu Rou’s wrist. “I will get you out of here. Wait for me.”

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