Court Lady - Chapter 40.1: Crickets and Ants
When Lu Qi met with Grand Prince Liang in the early morning, he was fuming mad. After tossing and turning in bed the whole night and consulting the best seamstress in Chang’an, he still could not find out anything amiss. However, he was now certain that Fu Rou had a part to play in this!
“Lu Qi, why did you drag me out to the palace gates so early? What is going on?” Grand Prince Liang was still feeling sleepy.
“Of course it is to invite Your Highness out to have fun with women.” Lu Qi chuckled. As long as Fu Rou ends up in the hands of Grand Prince Liang, she would not be able to beg for her life nor death!
Just as the two were speaking to each other, Fu Rou walked out from the palace gates. Her bright eyes and elegant figure immediately captured the attention of Grand Prince Liang.
“Your Highness, look, it is Sheng Chumu.” Lu Qi swivelled around and pointed towards the streets.
Grand Prince Liang observed Fu Rou hurrying over towards Sheng Chumu. Although he could not hear what they were talking about, he saw that they were talking and laughing together. They also appeared to be very intimate.
He scoffed coldly, “I had planned on teaching a lesson to that Sheng Chumu brat but I was distracted when my brother gifted me with two blonde haired and blue eyed foreign beauties. I shall let Sheng Chumu and his woman live for another day. Once they have had their bellies full of happiness and joy, I will take action and bring them down to hell from heaven.”
“Grand Prince Liang, you are very wise!” Lu Qi praised, “In the future, Sheng Chumu will only be left with this last happy memory of him and Fu Siyan. He has no idea that he will be sending his lover back to the palace and giving her to Your Highness. This lesson will be gut wrenching for him.”
Grand Prince Liang snickered, “Anyone who goes against me will have to suffer.”
Sheng Chumu and Fu Siyan did not know that they were being targeted by Grand Prince Liang. They paid a visit to the Fu family before heading to the outskirts for a walk.
“Don’t worry about Sister Yin, I will look for her.” Sheng Chumu understood Fu Rou’s personality well and knew that she was most concerned about her family.
“There must be a reason why she only left behind a letter and voluntarily left on her own. I have a feeling that even if we find her, she might not want to return.” Fu Rou sighed, “I am more confused than upset. It is only now that I realise that my time in Guangzhou was so peaceful and valuable. I feel that people are always exiting my life. Third Madam is no longer around, Brother Tao has left and Sister Yin is missing. Chen Ji was alive and well and in the next instant he was dead. A palace maid wanted to reduce the number of rats in the kitchen and brought poison into the palace. She…she was killed by Her Majesty. Another internal attendant was also implicated and was killed. I cannot have anyone by my side.”
Sheng Chumu grabbed Fu Rou’s hand and whispered, “You still have me.”
Fu Rou stared deeply at Sheng Chumu and smiled. “Yes, I still have you.”
“Oh yes, Chuling wanted me to convey his thanks to his future sister-in-law.”
Fu Rou laughed, “Who agreed to be his sister-in-law? None of you behaves seriously. Princess Xinnan and I get along well and I helped her because I really liked her.”
“You can continue to be stubborn. Are you sure the one you like is Princess Xinnan? You like me; the handsome, strong and unrivalled Sheng Chumu.”
Fu Rou was speechless but smiled internally. Sheng Chumu could always make her laugh and that was one of the reasons why liked him. He could make the heaviest burdens on her shoulders disappear in an instant.
Sheng Chumu took the opportunity of her good mood and stammered, “Rou’er, Ma Hainiu…”
“You don’t have to explain.” Fu Rou immediately placed her index finger on Sheng Chumu’s lips.
“Ah? I am not even allowed to explain?” Sheng Chumu mistook her intentions. “I have been severely wronged. It must be that idiot Chuling who did not explain things properly to you.”
“No.” Fu Rou shook her head, “Chumu, when I heard that you died, I begged the heavens and promised that I will treat you well as long as you return. As long as you are alive, I will not be picky about anything. And I trust you.”
Sheng Chumu’s heart jumped and he stared deeply into Fu Rou’s eyes before taking her hand once again.
“A person’s life is too feeble. You think that it will last for very long but when you think back, you realise how short it was. Compared to you being alive, Yan Zifang and Ma Hainiu are nothing. Chumu, I do not know how long this journey will be. So many people have lost their lives along the way and I am very scared. You must hold tightly onto my hand and never let go.”
Sheng Chumu firmly nodded. It was a sweet moment between the two of them when Ma Hainiu and Ma Haihu suddenly charged over.
“What are you trying to do?” Sheng Chumu’s confidence was soaring after hearing Fu Rou’s words.
“I am not here for you.” Ma Hainiu turned and pointed at Fu Rou. “I do not care if you are Prince Zhou’s woman or Leader Yan’s woman, but I am warning you, Sheng Chumu is mine!”
Fu Rou gazed at Ma Hainiu.
“Trust me, I have been acknowledged…” Ma Hainiu pulled out the letter containing Sheng Chuling and Sheng Chujun’s fingerprints. “Your brothers are on my side. The evidence is in black and white.”
Sheng Chumu snatched the paper over, pushing away Ma Hainiu who refused to let go of it. Ma Haihu fumed with rage when he saw Sheng Chumu’s violence towards his sister and he threw a punch at Sheng Chumu. However, Sheng Chumu refused to back down as he tore the paper and retaliated against Ma Haihu.
Fu Rou stepped out but Ma Hainiu suddenly pointed a dagger towards her neck.
“I do not normally hit women. However, anyone who steals my man from me shall die.”
Fu Rou remained cold and calm. “Young lady, you can be anyone’s wife as long as you do not achieve it through violence.”
“Then what should I do?” Ma Hainiu spoke directly, “I like him but he likes you. Since I cannot get what I want through kind ways, I can only use violence.”
“If you want to enter the Duke Lu Residence, you have to do work for him and obtain the acknowledgement of his family.” Fu Rou continued, “You are not wrong in this aspect. However, Sheng Chumu is the oldest, why would he listen to his younger brothers?”
“Could it be…that I must obtain the fingerprints of Duke Lu and his wife?” Ma Hainiu wondered aloud.
“Young people can learn. Do you know who Sheng Chumu listens to the most?” Fu Rou did not want to disturb Sheng Chumu’s parents.
“Who?” Ma Hainiu’s eyes widened.
“Consort Han.” Fu Rou laughed lightly.
In an instant, Ma Hainiu turned and dashed off. Ma Haihu quickly followed her, stopping his fight with Sheng Chumu.
Sheng Chumu smirked, “I did not know that you could be so cruel.”
Fu Rou threw him a side glance. “How am I cruel?”
“Asking Ma Hainiu to find my sister. Is that not cruel?” It was not like he didn’t know how influential his sister could be. She stopped him from bringing any girl home.
“Alright, I am cruel. If you do not like it, you can chase after her.” Fu Rou smiled brightly.
“Don’t even think about it.” Sheng Chumu hugged Fu Rou. “According to what Ma Hainiu said, you are my ship. My one and only ship.”
Ma Hainiu wore a peony flowered dress and carried a large bowl of water on her head as she struggled to learn the proper etiquettes of a lady. She would never have imagined herself falling into Fu Rou’s trap even as she was repeatedly beaten by the etiquette teachers with a ruler.
Fu Rou had also suffered in the hands of Consort Han before she entered the palace due to an unexpected turn of events. She had no way to get out, let alone the careless Ma Hainiu.
Ma Hainiu could not stand the work that she was put through. If she had known this beforehand, she would never have gone to Consort Han. Consort Han only mentioned that she had to be like Fu Rou, learn the proper manners, read books and learn embroidery in order to marry Sheng Chumu. Ma Hainiu had been rash and had immediately agreed to Consort Han thinking that it was going to be an easy process. Who would have expected to go through the bone-breaking suffering that she had to go through now.
Consort Han gleefully watched Ma Hainiu for half an hour before she said, “The first round today will be two hours. From tomorrow onwards, it will be three hours long.”
Dumbfounded, Ma Hainiu blinked her eyes and asked, “There is another lesson tomorrow?”
“The sitting posture is basic knowledge. You have to persevere everyday. Oh yes, as the wife of a Duke, you must also be knowledgeable in literature.” Consort Han waved and called for the palace maids to bring a stack of books. “Normally, I would give three days to memorize these books. However, I will give you four days. Fu Rou has also memorized these books.”
Another two palace maids brought an embroidery screen forward.
“This is Fu Rou’s work and it is considered average among other things she has embroidered. She has also embroidered a peony screen that the Empress really liked and brought to the palace.” Ma Hainiu was about to speak but Consort Han interrupted her, “Rest assure, I favor you more than Fu Rou and I will not demand that you embroider better than her. As long as you can roughly achieve the standard of this embroidery screen, it will be good enough.” She could only blame her brother for attracting the wrong people. However, it seemed that Fu Rou was the good fortune that her brother attracted.
“I have never held a needle my whole life.” Ma Hainiu pouted and wore a pitiful expression. She only knew how to pick up swords.
“Do you not want to marry my brother?” Consort Han frowned. Was she going to give up so easily?
“I… I want to.” Ma Hainiu’s eyebrows furrowed together.
“I am putting in so much effort just so that you can beat Fu Rou and walk into the Duke Lu Residence proudly. Are you not willing to do something so simple for Chumu? Do you not have him in your heart?” Consort Han shook her head and sighed.
“I do…!” Ma Hainiu rebutted loudly and was hit fiercely by the ruler from the teacher nearby.
Ma Hainiu whimpered and softly mumbled, “I have him in my heart…”
Consort Han sighed, “That is good. I will support you and you must persevere.” She turned around and instructed the servants beside her, “Let her stand for two hours then get her to memorize the books. Lastly, make her practice her embroidery. This is the future wife of a Duke, you must treat her well.”
The servants nodded in understanding.