The mountain breeze caressed her face. The horrifying ambush seemed like a long time ago. Fu Rou stood at the monastery and looked down. She saw the palace servants loading their luggage onto the carriage as the guards got ready to leave.
The thing that was edged most deeply into her mind was how energetic Sheng Chumu’s troop of a hundred men were. They were spread out in groups of threes but would occasionally make a strange hand signal to communicate with each other. In their small groups of threes, they protected a large perimeter, making it feel extremely well secured.
A while back, Prince Qin and the rest were all safe when Fu Rou found them. Sheng Chumu had been sent by the Emperor to secretly guard them. That was how they were able to neutralise the danger quickly.
With the addition of the hundred soldiers, Linghu Deguan was able to create an impenetrable defence. Hence, Fu Rou was able to relax and enjoy the mountain breeze.
Sheng Chumu walked to Fu Rou’s side. He did not say anything and simply accompanied her.
“General Sheng.” Fu Rou broke the silence. “Do you need something?”
“Court Lady Fu.” Sheng Chumu followed her gaze and looked down. The group was in plain sight. “Nothing. Just looking from up here to see if any of them are slacking. What are you looking at?”
“The country.” Fu Rou could not say that she was looking at his troops as well. “The tranquil mountains, gentle breeze and peace. Great Tang is so beautiful.”
Sheng Chumu’s gaze shifted to Fu Rou’s side profile. “The ladies of Great Tang are also very beautiful.”
Fu Rou turned around. “But the generals of Great Tang…”
“What?” Sheng Chumu’s ears were so upright they almost formed two pointy edges. “What about Great Tang’s generals?”
Fu Rou smiled as she walked down the steps. “No comments.”
Sheng Chumu shouted behind Fu Rou, “What about Great Tang’s generals? Great Tang’s generals are mighty, courageous and heroic. Even if they are occasionally jealous, they are still better looking than anyone else!”
This was not a flowery speech. It was one hundred percent fact. However, the lady did not turn back and appeared unfazed.
It was evening. Because Sheng Chumu was persistent on changing their route back, there was no inn or relay station available. They could only set up a simple tent. Prince Qin thought that this was interesting. He was particularly impressed when Sheng Chumu went to hunt and all his shots were on target.
However, Xiao Lu was bored to death. “Are you done? Isn’t it just shooting a few birds? All military generals know how to ride and shoot. It is not like it is some impressive skill.”
Prince Qin argued, “Not just two! He shot tens of arrows and none missed! Look, one of his arrows just shot two! Incredible!”
Xiao Lu looked for someone that could speak well. “Court Lady Fu, His Highness is making a big fuss. Aren’t you going to discipline him?”
Fu Rou was captivated by Sheng Chumu as well and did not pay attention to her. Xiao Lu found it strange. “Court Lady Fu, why are you also staring at General Sheng?”
Fu Rou reacted, “Huh...? I just think that his archery skills are good but he likes to flaunt too much. He is always so proud and thinks he is amazing. It is annoying.” God, please forgive her for betraying her own heart.
Prince Qin froze. “Tutor, so you dislike General Sheng?” He immediately stopped looking at Sheng Chumu and spoke in a bootlicking tone, “Since Teacher does not like him, then I will dislike him too. When I return to Chang’an, I will complain to Imperial father and say that he did not do a good job in protecting us and only concentrated on hunting.”
Fu Rou shouted, “No!”
Prince Qin was startled. “Why not?”
Fu Rou was serious. “Flaunting is just a small issue. No one is perfect. Who does not have a few bad habits? General Sheng is loyal, brave and smart. He is an indomitable man and a valuable talent to Great Tang. Your Highness has to treasure and use him. You can’t be prejudiced towards him just because of a small harmless bad habit.”
Prince Qin looked behind Fu Rou and winked playfully. “General Sheng, Teacher really admires you.”
Fu Rou quickly turned back to look and realised that Sheng Chumu had unknowingly been standing behind her. His smile was so wide, it looked like it was about to tear.
Fu Rou was extremely awkward and was momentarily speechless.
Sheng Chumu stopped smiling. “I am here to present the hunt to Your Highness.”
Prince Qin was always filled with energy. “Thank you. Xiao Lu.”
Xiao Lu stepped up to take the bird from Sheng Chumu. Prince Qin moved beside Xiao Lu and spoke excitedly, “Look, these two birds were shot down with the same arrow.”
“I can’t be bothered with how many arrows were used to shoot them. How do we eat this?”
“You haven’t tried barbecuing food before? I haven’t tried it either.” Prince Qin pulled Xiao Lu away. “Tonight is going to be fun.”
Sheng Chumu mumbled, “Loyal, brave and smart. He is an indomitable man and a valuable talent to Great Tang. You summarised my good points pretty well. However, without my elegance, confidence…”
A rider neared them. Fu Rou saw him first and became nervous. “Who is that?”
Sheng Chumu frowned as his hand went to his sword hilt. He rushed forward and whistled at the same time. Ye Qiulang, Zong Jianxiu and the group immediately jumped up and stepped forward to block the incoming person. It was clear that they were well-trained.
The man got off in a disheveled manner and shouted, “I am from the Duke Lu Residence!”
Sheng Chumu stepped forward. “Junhui, why are you here?”
Junhui pushed Ye Qiulang and Zong Jianxiu away as he lowered his voice, “Young Master, it is good to see you. However, I am actually here to meet Court Lady Fu.”
Sheng Chumu frowned and turned around. He saw that Fu Rou had moved to stand beside Prince Qin and she looked to be on high alert. Alas, they were thinking the same thing and both felt something was wrong.
In the distance, the bonfire had been lit. Prince Qin and Xiao Lu had begun roasting the catch. It looked pretty good and the meat was overflowing with flavour.
Fu Rou and Sheng Chumu sat on the other side as they listened to Junhui tell them about the situation in the palace. He also told Fu Rou that Li Baolin had warned her not to return. Fu Rou was glad that she had such a good sister like Li Baolin. While everyone was panicking in the palace, Li Baolin took the risk to send her a warning.
The Emperor was ill, and Concubine Xi had committed suicide. Although the move to assassinate Prince Qin failed, Concubine Yan was in charge of the Six Offices and Prince Zhou was ruling. Going back would be like a lamb entering a tiger’s mouth. However, Fu Rou had to go back. She must return!
Sheng Chumu gave Junhui a look and Junhui took the initiative to leave.
Fu Rou said, “I know what you want to say.”
Sheng Chumu replied, “I know what you want to do but I cannot allow you to.”
Fu Rou fell silent. “Because it is too dangerous?”
Sheng Chumu shook his head. “Because I like you and care about you. I can’t let you put your life at risk just for your so-called duty.”
“So are we going to defect once again? We once hid and gave up on our country because we longed to be together and enjoy the sweetness of our relationship. But was that feeling sweet? Duty is duty. Chumu, you and I cannot run from it because you are not someone like that and neither am I.”
“Don’t try to convince me with flowery words!” Sheng Chumu’s voice fell, “You risk your life to enter the palace to meet the Emperor and Empress’ expectations. You won’t let Great Tang down and you would be at peace. However, I would always be worried for you. What about me? If you even care a little about me, you cannot do this to me.”
“You once did that to me as well.” Fu Rou was as calm as still water. “When you fought in Anxi Canyon, when you went to the borders, when you went to attack Qizhou. When did you not put your life on the line? Don’t you care about me?”
“Of course I care!” It was without a doubt.
“But you still chose the most dangerous path.” Fu Rou smiled and shook her head. “If you cared even a little about me, you would not always put your life on the line and make me worried.”
Sheng Chumu argued back, “But I am a general who has to lead the troops. If I leave my soldiers behind and run by myself, what would I become?”
Fu Rou suddenly hugged Sheng Chumu. “That’s great. This is why I like you. You are righteous. Even if I have to worry all the time, I still like you. And I am also not someone that can leave my responsibilities behind and run by myself. You and I are both citizens of Great Tang. For Great Tang, we will not run this time.”
Sheng Chumu’s heart pounded non-stop. “Okay, let’s not run! But you are not allowed to ignore me!”
Fu Rou pushed him away and found it funny. “Who is the one ignoring who?”
Finally, their lover’s quarrel ended with a smile.
Wei Song came to find Concubine Yan, wanting to ask for permission to leave the palace. However, Concubine Yan said that there had been a theft in the palace and the security had been increased. No one could leave even if they had the Leaving Palace Tablet.
Yu He mocked, “Fu An Palace has been burnt to ashes. As the head of Fu An Palace, shouldn’t you go and see how to clean up the remnants of Fu An Palace? Her Highness is increasing the Six Offices’ discipline and the security of the palace has been increased. Why are you even requesting to leave the palace?”
Wei Song knew the human relations in the palace best and knew that something was wrong. “I will take my leave.”
“There is something I want to ask you.” Concubine Yan did not let him leave. “I heard that an internal attendant from Fu An Palace called Zhi He has died?”
Wei Song answered carefully, “Yes. On that night when Fu An Palace was on fire, Zhi He was burnt to death.”
Yu He and Concubine Yan echoed each other, “When Zhi He was found, there were chains on his body. Things might not be so simple.”
Wei Song was calm. “Zhi He stole something from Fu An Palace and got caught. He was chained up because we were afraid that he would escape.”
Yu He snorted, “He is already dead. Is he a thief just because you call him one?”
When Wei Song heard this, he cursed in his heart. They were trying to accuse him. “With regard to Zhi He’s theft, we informed Court Lady Fu at that time. The Six Offices has a record. I did not make this up.”
Concubine Yan replied, “If there is a theft in the palace, they should be sent to the Managerial Department for questioning. Instead, you locked him up and dealt your own punishment.”
Wei Song replied, “I would not dare. I reported this to Imperial Concubine Wang and she said that this was a small matter and there was no need to bring it up. Fu An Palace could deal with it by ourselves. I was just acting according to Imperial Concubine Wang’s instructions.”
Concubine Yan chuckled coldly, “Do you have witnesses?”
Wei Song froze. “When...I reported this, only Imperial Concubine Wang was around.” Because their motive for catching him was not simple so no one else could be around.
Yu He laughed wickedly, “Imperial Concubine Wang has already passed on. That means you don’t have witnesses?”
Wei Song’s breath hitched. “You…”
Concubine Yan’s eyes showed no tolerance. “Wei Song, you were taught by the Empress for so many years yet you actually personally punished Zhi He. How could you live up to the Empress in heaven? You shall be caned a hundred times for giving out your own punishment. Men, take him away!”
Wei Song was restrained. “Ridiculous!”
Yu He shouted, “Drag him out. Cane him a hundred times.”
“Wait.” Concubine Yan added, “Wei Song is someone that has served the Empress for many years. Now that he is being punished, it cannot be left unknown. Call everyone over and tell them the reason why he is being punished. In the future, no one can complain that I am unreasonable.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
It's cute how Prince Qin winked at Chumu. He already knows how to help a bro! LOLOL
And uh oh. They are returning back to the palace. Dun dun dun...