Chapter 98.2: Return (Final)

Sheng Chumu rushed into Concubine Yan’s palace and was shocked when he saw her corpse. Yu He and Fu Shui were brutal. If they could even kill Concubine Yan, what about Fu Rou?

He yelled, “Rou’er---Rou’er---”

He went through rooms after rooms but did not see any sign of Fu Rou. It was only when he passed a small courtyard, he saw a half-opened fan hanging by a lock. His heart palpitated as he slowly walked over. 

There was someone wearing a palace maid’s attire lying on the ground.

He thought to himself. This is not Rou’er. Rou’er is the court lady of the Six Offices and should be wearing a female official attire. But those pale white hands and the scattered fine black hair all reminded him of the girl that yearned for. 

His voice was low. “Rou’er?”

The person did not move.

He walked into the room and quietly looked at her for a moment. He then squatted down to flip her over. Her complexion was as white as paper. Yet, her eyebrows were intricate, as if they were in a painting. Her once cherry red lips were now pale. If this was not Fu Rou, who else would it be?

He gently hugged her in his embrace. With trembling hands, he held her cold face. “Rou’er, I am here. Wake up.”

The person remained lifeless.

“Rou’er, don’t be petty. Didn’t we agree? When the Emperor wakes up and Prince Qin returns to the palace safely, we will beg the Emperor for grace. I know that I don’t understand things well. Whenever it comes to you, my brain does not work well and I would be immature, causing you to be upset. But I promise I will not do it in the future. From now onwards, I will listen to you. If you say let’s go to the east, I will definitely not head west. Okay? Open your eyes. Smile for me. If not…” Tears fell down his face in that instant. He hugged her tightly as he cried aloud, “No! No! No! Heaven cannot be so cruel. We have gone through so much. It was so difficult…so difficult for us…”

Some time passed and the sun was in the west. The golden rays slowly turned to dark blue. A few crisp bird calls broke the deathly silence. Sheng Chumu lifted his head in a daze and saw a pair of green parrots land on a tree in the yard. They were playing with each other, yet they looked so sweet.

The tired bird returns to the nest. As he thought of this, his nose soured. All of a sudden, he felt a pulling sensation by his side. He looked down to see the corner of his shirt being pulled. He was in disbelief. He did not dare to confirm the owner of this hand but his breathing became faster.

“Chumu…” A gentle call, like a drizzle in a forest. His entire body froze as he hugged her even tighter, putting his face against hers. She's warm!

Tears rolled down his face. “Rou’er, you are back...you are back…”

Fu Rou blinked and her consciousness slowly returned. She suddenly hugged him tightly. “Chumu, you are here! You are finally here! I was so afraid. They wanted me to take poison and forcefully shoved it in my mouth. I thought I would never see you again!”

At this moment, for the person she loved, all her strength turned into a pond of spring water.

“Don’t be afraid! Don’t be afraid! Rou’er, we have been separated by death twice, it won’t happen a third time. I swear on my life that there will not be a third time--”

She covered his mouth with her hand, and emotions filled her eyes. “No. Don’t swear on your life. You have to live well. That is the only way for me to live well.”

The two of them hugged for a long time, until the light of dawn shone in, and slowly dyed the entire room.

 

On this day, the Emperor personally held morning court. Although his voice was slightly weak, he looked a lot better.

Sheng Xiaojing, who seldom appeared, came out looking energetic. “Your Majesty, I have caught Lu Yunji and Lu Qi. Please give me instructions, Your Majesty!”

The Lu father and son pair were pushed into the main hall.

Lu Qi had escaped after the Crown Prince’s rebellion and met up with Lu Yunji, who had been out of the city. Lu Yunji then repeatedly delayed his return trip. He only made a move when he received Concubine Yan’s personal order to shift his troops to protect Chang’an. Unexpectedly, Lu Yunji met with Sheng Xiaojing’s blockage not far from Chang’an. Lu Yunji then found out that the Emperor had already suspected that he killed Du Ning. At the time, the Emperor had secretly instructed Sheng Xiaojing to lead an army to wait for the father and son pair. Seeing that he was on the losing side, Lu Yunji did not struggle and surrendered to Sheng Xiaojing.

The Emperor asked in a low voice, “Lu Yunji, do you know your crime?”

Lu Yunji kneeled and spoke sincerely, “I have committed a huge crime and deserves to be given the death sentence. I am willing to be punished according to the law!”

The Emperor saw that Lu Yunji was asking for the death punishment and this stirred up his emotions. He staggered off his throne and came in front of Lu Yunji. “You were with me when we had wars all over the country and made a lot of contributions. In the ninth year of Wude, you saw Crown Prince Yin’s intention to kill me and pleaded with me to break off the relationship. You were the one that gave me the determination to  lead the Xuanwu Gate Coup. Yunji, your picture is still displayed in Lingyan Palace. How can you make me endure this today?”

Tears flowed down Lu Yunji’s face. “I have made so many mistakes and they are all mine to bear. I was lucky to have met a brilliant ruler like Your Majesty but I failed in my later years. Now, I only can die to pay for my crime. All I hope is that Your Majesty will consider the number of years I have served you, along with my contributions, and forgive my son. After I die, I hope that my son is still alive to bury me.”

Sheng Xiaojing froze. He finally understood why Lu Yunji surrendered.

Lu Qi became anxious. “Your Majesty, my father is old. After so many years spent fighting, he has a full body of injuries. Please let him live, Your Majesty. I am willing to bear my father’s crime!”

“Your Majesty, Lu Qi has made mistakes because I led him onto the wrong route. My crime is unforgivable!” Lu Yunji kowtowed repeatedly until his entire face was stained with blood.

Lu Qi cried as he called out, “Father!”

Sheng Xiaojing suddenly fell to a kneel. “Your Majesty, Lu Yunji was in control of an army. If he meant to resist, a lot of blood would have been spilt and we would have suffered severely. But as soon as I took out the Imperial Decree, Lu Yunji did not say anything more and got off his horse to surrender. Please consider the circumstances, Your Majesty.”

The Emperor fell silent for a moment. “Okay, I promise you. Lu Qi will not receive the death punishment. He shall be exiled to the south.”

Lu Yunji sobbed, “Thank you for your grace! Thank you for your grace!”

The Emperor continued, “Lu Yunji. Behead.”

Lu Qi wanted to plead. “Your Majesty…”

Lu Yunji spoke loudly to drown out his son, “I willingly accept my death punishment! The Emperor is benevolent!”

The Emperor held onto the golden railing as he walked towards the throne. He turned back. His voice was filled with pain. “Yunji, for you, in this life and from today onwards, I will not go to Lingyan Palace anymore.”

He will allow the loyal general that protected him with his life to forever remain in the picture without any blemish. In Lingyan Palace, real heroes were hung in it. 

 

Lu Yunji and his son were the last to go down in this massive change.

Soon after, Imperial decrees were sent out. Huge criminals like Yu He, Cao Yangde, Lu Yunji were all to be beheaded. Criminals with smaller crimes like Prince Han and Prince Zhou would be demoted to county lords. Those with contributions like Concubine Qiao would be promoted. Li Baolin would be promoted as well. Xinnan was granted marriage to Sheng Chuling. What Fu Rou did not expect was that Xiao Lu, who had protected Prince Qin, would be conferred the title of Talented Lady.

Fu Rou was summoned by the Emperor. She walked out of the Six Offices only to see Xiao Lu, who had donned on the Talented Lady attire, looking dazedly at Prince Qin’s palace. Fu Rou sighed. How could she not understand the hazy feelings between Xiao Lu and Prince Qin. However, in many people’s eyes, the biggest reward to a palace maid was to be promoted into the harem. Helpless and lamentable, yet there was no turning back. 

“Xiao Lu.” She did not want this child to let her mind run wild and waste time on insignificant things.

“Court Lady Fu, they said that a Talented Lady belongs to the Emperor. From today onwards, I can no longer look for Prince Qin to study or play. I don’t like this reward. Can you tell the Emperor that I don’t want any reward? Can he take this back?” Xiao Lu’s eyes were filled with sorrow.

Fu Rou shook her head. “The Emperor’s decisions are final and we cannot go against the decision. However, Xiao Lu, the road you are on may be craggy. There may be bends but you must persevere and walk down in determination. You will eventually reach where you want to go. You have to remember that the Emperor is a brilliant ruler. He can give you a chance to enjoy a glorious lifestyle and he will also respect your wishes as long as you express them properly.”

Xiao Lu perked up slightly. “Mmhm, I will be like you and respect the Emperor. If I treat him sincerely, everything will be well.”

Fu Rou smiled back and headed to Ganlou Palace. However, when she reached the outside of the palace, she overheard the discussions inside on how to deal with the Crown Prince. They were basically all on one side. They all believed that the Crown Prince rebelled. Although he saved his father and was not completely incorrigible, his small contribution cannot cover up for his huge mistake. He deserved the death penalty. Even Minister Fang believed that they could not ignore the law. Only the Emperor was hesitant and Fu Rou could sense his willingness to forgive.

Fu Rou walked in and greeted, “Your Majesty.”

The Emperor was slightly eager. “Court Lady Fu, you came just in time. I would like to hear your views.”

Fu Rou presented a book. “Your Majesty, I have nothing to say but I would like to submit a book.”

The Emperor was curious. “A book?”

“Yes, this book is called <<Women Principles>>. It was compiled by Empress Wende. It consists of the experience and reason she obtained from reading histories of various ladies. There are a total of ten volumes.”

The Emperor was moved and he personally took the book. As he flipped through it, longing filled his eyes. “It is really the late Empress’ handwriting…”

Fu Rou said, “Her Majesty handed this book over to me and said that she was filled with health issues and knew that she would not be able to accompany Your Majesty till old age. Therefore, she personally wrote this book as a remembrance. She wanted you to look at the book as if you were looking at her and care for the flesh and blood that she has left behind for you.”

The Emperor recalled the task entrusted to him by the Empress before she died. If there were a day that her children created trouble because of their conflict and let her down, she wished that he would allow them to live. 

Hot tears flowed down the Emperor’s face. “I promised the Empress that no matter what happened, I will protect Chengqian and his brother’s life. Moreover, the effort and hard work that the late Empress put into compiling <<Women Principles>> is sufficient to eliminate her children’s wrongdoing. Heed my decree. Li Chengqian shall be pardoned from the death sentence. Let him go to Qianzhou.”

Fang Xuanling and the rest did not say more. They all held a memory for the late Empress in their hearts. 

“Your Majesty, in the past you were a compassionate father. Now, you are benevolent.”

A load was taken off the Emperor’s mind. “Court Lady Fu, follow me to Lizheng Palace.”

Fu Rou abided, “Understood.”

The both of them walked, one in front of the other. Only when they reached Lizheng Palace did they slow down. On this peaceful night, the moonlight shone clearly.

The Emperor sighed, “Ever since the Empress passed, the moonlight has never been this beautiful.”

Fu Rou looked down. “Since I entered the palace, I was able to receive Her Majesty’s teachings. After she passed on, so many things happened. Sometimes it feels as if I have stayed in the palace for over a hundred years.” She wanted to leave this place. She wanted to start a new life.

The Emperor smiled. He had guessed it. “Court Lady Fu, you are finally saying it?”

Fu Rou kneeled. “Please have grace, Your Majesty.”

“Sheng Chumu has been coming to Ganlou Palace daily to kneel, plead, coax and kowtow. He is making a scene like a child that did not get to eat candy. It is more interesting than a monkey show. I would like to see this for another two days.” It was rare to see such an entertaining scene.

“Your Majesty……” Fu Rou chuckled bitterly.

“Hehe, they all say that when a girl is of age, she must be married off. When a female official is of age, she cannot stay as well. The Rites Office said that until now, you still haven’t passed your Internal Entry Examination?”

The two of them were outstanding court members that helped save the crisis. If he did not give in to them, he would be unreasonable. Oh well, he should let them be grateful so that they will continue to be loyal and protect Great Tang.

Fu Rou was nervous. “Er…”

“Since you haven’t even passed the Internal Entry Examination, you have less rules binding you compared to others. I shall pardon you from your position as Court Lady of the Six Offices. You can leave tonight.” As soon as he said this, the Emperor saw Fu Rou’s delighted expression.

Fu Rou could not believe her ears. “Really?”

“Since you and Xinnan both want to become Duke Lu’s daughter-in-laws, I will allow you and Xinnan to get married on the same day. You shall have whatever dowry and ceremony that Xinnan has. Let the Duke Lu Residence be exciting and have double happiness.” Has he said this clearly enough? The Emperor smiled joyously. 

Fu Rou kneeled. “Thank you for your grace, Your Majesty.”

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Coca's Thoughts

There's only one more part left!! Come back in a few hours! I want to watch the episode and then share my thoughts in the last chapter.