Fuzhu’s Ballad Chapter 38

CHAPTER 38 Suspicion

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After waking up, the first thing Lan Dan did was to open all the windows, to let in the fresh morning air, as if it could dispel the gloominess accumulated in the room. She leaned against the door, breathing hard, hoping that her chest would not feel as constricted as before.

Shentu Rui walked in with a servant girl to serve breakfast, but Lan Dan didn’t want to talk to him or even look at him, preferring to gaze at the dewdrops on the flower buds in the back garden.

He walked over to her and gently asked, “Did you sleep well?”

Lan Dan looked at him indifferently, even though she wanted to ask him how he and Zi Fu slept last night, she didn’t have the energy to even mock him.

Under her gaze, Shentu Rui showed an unusual panic, grabbing her shoulders and examining her closely, “What’s wrong with you? Your hair…”

Confused, Lan Dan coldly twisted her shoulders and broke free from his grip. The gentle morning light shone in, illuminating the copper mirror on her dresser, and her reflection was especially clear and vivid. At her left temple, a strand of hair had turned snow white overnight, contrasting sharply with her otherwise dark hair. Lan Dan looked at herself for a while and wondered why he seemed so surprised and worried when it was not that much of a big deal.

“This…” Shentu Rui was still very anxious and sat heavily behind her, asking her insistently, “Did you take the pill on time?”

“Yes.” She replied nonchalantly.

“Take it out! Let me see!” Shentu Rui’s face darkened, his voice turning cold. Even if she was angry with him, she couldn’t make fun about her own health like that!

Lan Dan opened the small box on the dressing table, took out a porcelain bottle, pulled out the cork vigorously, and turned it upside down. The only remaining pill inside rolled onto the dressing table and fell to the ground, but no one picked it up.

“Do you fear me getting old? Fear me dying?” She asked him coldly with a faint smile. “Shentu Rui, be honest with me. As long as you tell me the truth, I won’t blame you. You…” She wanted to say “you treat me so well”, but she couldn’t say it after seeing what happened between him and Zi Fu last night. “Do you want me to be more loyal, more devoted, and more compliant with your plan?”  When he felt that he had completely controlled her heart and had nothing to worry about, he would show a helpless look again and send her to Shentu Cheng, right? She chuckled, seeing through his smugness. “No wonder you’re afraid of me being ugly and old. When Lan Huang gives birth to a son, it will be time for Shentu Cheng to die without knowing it, and you’ll need me then to poison him, won’t you?”

Shentu Rui’s face suddenly turned livid. He stared straight at her with a fiercely attractive expression when his eyebrows were furrowed.

Lan Dan looked at him without flinching, sighing inwardly at how deceptive his face was. If she hadn’t overheard his conversation with Lan Huang, she would have believed that he was a man of deep emotions and sincerity. Did Lan Huang really believe in him? Did he really believe in her? Perhaps he had already secretly deployed his forces, and while Lan Huang was still dreaming of being the Empress Dowager,  he, the new Emperor, had already led his army into the Zhaoyang Hall and sat securely on the dragon throne. He was still worried that she would despair and seek death, but she didn’t want to die. She wanted to watch closely as these jackals and eagles fought each other, until only the last survivor remained!

“You!” Shentu Rui suddenly stood up, panting in a slightly uncontrolled manner. He pointed at Lan Dan as if he wanted to poke her to death. After suppressing himself, he turned around and walked out with heavy footsteps, as if he was trying to stomp the floor to pieces.

Lan Dan didn’t care. She had to speak out sooner or later. She didn’t want to watch his hypocritical performance, fearing she might fall for his scheme again.

After Shentu Rui left, the courtyard was as silent as ever. There was no sound from Zi Fu’s wing across the yard. It was likely that they either left with Shentu Rui or were secretly plotting with her master.

Lan Dan felt trapped once again. Pacing back and forth under the eaves, she reassured herself that there were at most two months left until Lan Huang gave birth, and it would be a turning point. She wouldn’t be trapped like a quail in this place again, no matter the outcome of the birth.

In the afternoon, there was a small dispute outside the courtyard. Although she couldn’t hear what was being said, she recognized a familiar voice.

Lan Dan stepped outside and saw Ge Chun, who looked disheveled and carried a small suitcase. He even used a branch as a cane, making him look older and less sophisticated than his reputation as the top physician.

The servant girl tried to prevent Ge Chun from entering but didn’t want to offend him too much, repeatedly persuading him, “Please wait for His Highness to return first…”

Lan Dan walked over and asked him, “Are you here to see me?”

Divine Physician Ge still disliked her and scolded her, “I didn’t come to see you, but to treat you! You made it sound like you were dying, urgently asking me to come, but now you won’t let me in. What’s the meaning of this?!”

The maid was also indignant and said, “Who stopped you from entering? Didn’t you smoothly enter the Prince’s mansion? His Highness just instructed you to see him first before seeing the young lady.”

Lan Dan smiled and made a gesture of invitation, “Come with me.”

The maid could not stop him any longer and had to let Ge Chun into the courtyard.

Physician Ge’s temper was as impatient as ever. He didn’t even sit down before motioning for Lan Dan to extend her hand. He examined her pulse for a long time without speaking.

Seeing his expression, Lan Dan suspected that her situation was not good. She remained calm and asked, “Is the toxicity of the medicine you gave me becoming too much? Am I about to die soon?”

Frowning, Ge Chun stared at her, but he remained silent.

“How much time do I have left?”

Ge Chun clicked his tongue in annoyance and reprimanded her, “What nonsense! How could my medicine be toxic? I went through so much trouble to find and combine rare ingredients for it to work in harmony. After taking my medicine, you think you’re going to die? You’re being ridiculous!”

Dumbfounded by the rebuke, Lan Dan looked at him and asked, “Is the medicine… a tonic?”

“Bah!” the impatient Divine Physician Ge spat, “After using so many rare treasures, how could it be called a mere tonic? It’s clearly a divine medicine!”

Looking hesitant, Lan Dan questioned, “But… I’m still aging…”

Ge Chun was about to scold again, but Shentu Rui hurriedly walked in, looking somewhat embarrassed, like a child caught in a lie.

“You’re just in time!” Ge Chun didn’t mince his words with Shentu Rui either. “What nonsense have you been telling her? My divine medicine…”

“Master Ge,” Shentu Rui quickly interrupted, “Look at her hair, it shouldn’t be like this! “

Ge Chun rolled his eyes, “You’re overthinking it! Her body has undergone such a major transformation, her vitality was already depleted, and even with medicine to regulate it, she couldn’t withstand her own abuse.” He then gave the two a cold glance, “Didn’t you two also fail to produce a child these days? The foundation hasn’t recovered yet, so it’s natural that it won’t work.”

Lan Dan and Shentu Rui both coughed at the same time, with a red face and awkward expression for the former, while the latter tried to act nonchalant but was clearly worried.

“Then… what about this strand of white hair?” Shentu Rui sighed, looking worried.

“Easily treated,” said Ge Chun dismissively. He opened his bag and rummaged through it, while both Shentu Rui and Lan Dan watched with curiosity. Ge Chun took out a pair of small scissors and, before the two spectators could react, he quickly cut off Lan Dan’s hair strand at the root.

Lan Dan’s scalp ached from being pulled, and she exclaimed in discomfort.

Shentu Rui couldn’t help but laugh at Ge Chun’s quirky solution and sarcastically commented, “It really is easy to treat.”

Ge Chun took out a small porcelain bottle from his bag and said, “These are the ten pills I worked so hard to make, and there are no more left! If these ten pills can’t restore her energy, then let her die.” He stood up to leave but suddenly remembered something and glared at Shentu Rui. “Don’t come to me if someone is not breathing their last breath!”

After being scolded, Shentu Rui stood up sheepishly and said, “Divine Physician, Master Gao, don’t be in a hurry to leave. Let’s have a drink. I have good wine.”

As they left, Lan Dan looked down at the white hair that Ge Chun had cut off. It turned out… the medicine was not poisonous. Shentu Rui had only said so to control her.

Ten days passed since Shentu Rui left

Although she didn’t ask, Lan Dan was casually informed by her maids that the Prince had gone out. Lan Dan knew that the maids in the Prince’s mansion would not gossip, so what they told her must have been what Shentu Rui wanted her to know.

Were they already at the point where they had to rely on maidservants to pass messages?

Lan Dan also reflected on herself. The biggest difference between her and the group of people including Shentu Rui was that she couldn’t keep her thoughts to herself, especially with people she thought were close to her. When she saw through Shentu Rui, she had to say it out loud, which was like taking an initial disadvantage and making Shentu Rui more guarded against her, thus further distancing herself from his secrets. Before, he didn’t mind her knowing things that were unrelated to her, or even his thoughts, but now he didn’t even bother telling her when he went out.

The sound of a young girl’s laughter could be heard in the courtyard. Lan Dan couldn’t resist walking to the door to take a look. She knew she should be more proud and reserved, but after ten days of loneliness in this small courtyard, she couldn’t resist a little bit of liveliness.

It was the two palace maids of Zi Fu who were picking impatiens in front of their chamber. Those flowers were planted by the gardener at Zi Fu’s request and had already bloomed before Shentu Rui left. These brightly colored and somewhat vulgar flowers were extremely incompatible with the style of the courtyard arranged by Shentu Rui, but he didn’t say anything. His tolerance for Zi Fu was not just because of Lan Huang. Zi Fu’s flowers, like herself, quietly took root in the Prince of Yan’s mansion and in Shentu Rui’s heart.

When the two palace maids saw Lan Dan, they greeted her with a smile and their false politeness was just as obvious as when they first arrived.

“Miss Fu Zhu, the Side Consort has ordered for you to attend the Summer Feast in the palace today,” a palace maid said.

Lan Dan lowered her eyes and smiled slightly. She understood the sharpness in the girl’s words. The command of the Side Consort had already been conveyed through Zi Fu’s attitude towards her.

Because Shentu Rui was not present, the ceremony for conferring titles and rewards on Zi Fu had no impact on Lan Dan. Zi Fu went into the palace dressed in splendor and came back dressed in splendor, that was all. If it weren’t for the little palace maid intentionally bringing it up, Lan Dan would not have paid attention.

“Let us paint your nails too,” the palace maid said with a smile as she raised the small basket containing the impatiens.

“No need.” Lan Dan raised the corners of her mouth. She understood that they were just being polite, and they had already said what they wanted to say. The two palace maids did not press the matter and went back to their rooms while chatting and laughing.

It was the maids from the Prince of Yan’s mansion who came to comb her hair and dress her up. When she was ready to enter the palace, Shentu Rui came back.

He arrived as abruptly as he left. He was well-groomed and there was not a speck of dust on him. If it weren’t for his slight tan, it would be hard to tell that he had been away.

When he entered with a smile, the maidservants all lowered their heads and stepped back. He seemed as though nothing unpleasant had happened, and he sat down beside her, intimately holding onto her arm and closely examining her.

She was caught off guard by his sudden appearance and felt a pang of sadness in her heart. Her eyes stung, and she avoided making eye contact, afraid that she might cry.

Seeing her hair, which had been cut short, he uttered, “Ugly.” But fortunately, the new hair that had grown was soft and black. To cover up the messy hair, the maidservants had carefully braided a thin braid on the side of her head and pinned a small silk bead camellia at the short hair. The pink flowers complemented her delicate and beautiful face, giving her a youthful and girlish charm.

“Of course you think I’m ugly!” With a hint of grievance and melancholy in her eyes, Lan Dan spoke out her complaints without hesitation.

Shentu Rui smiled helplessly, and hugged her tightly. “No matter how ugly, I still want you.”

He held her tight and spoke softly, “Don’t think too much, and don’t say such nonsense! As long as I’m alive, you’re mine. I won’t let anyone take you away, not even give you away!”

Lan Dan remained silent for a long time, deeply moved and almost convinced.

“Don’t you dare provoke me again, do you hear me?” Shentu Rui tugged her hair as if punishing her. “It took me ten days to recover from the last time. If you push me too far, I might not be able to resist hitting you. What will we do if I cripple you?”

He spoke with all seriousness.

“Hmm…” She answered with a choked voice.

She finally realized how ruthless it was for Lan Huang to bring her to listen to the conversation on the flower trellis. She regretted hearing those words now!

If she hadn’t heard Shentu Rui promised Lan Huang with the same earnest tone that he would ensure their safety as long as he had breath in him, how happy and sweet would she feel to hear those words now?

However, she could no longer trust these words.

Just like when Shentu Rui had walked in from the door earlier, with sunshine seeming to radiate from him. When he smiled at her, she felt like she saw a thousand flowers blooming in the spring breeze.

Perhaps this kind of candid and genuine cheerfulness was his greatest disguise.

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