Fuzhu’s Ballad Chapter 41

Chapter 41 Born sinner

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Lan Dan’s complexion was very bad, and she was trembling non-stop.

Shentu Rui draped a thin cloak over her and supported her as they walked slowly towards Anli Gate. The night was dark, and the small lantern carried by the eunuch in front could only illuminate a small area. Although he could not see her expression, he could feel her trembling. He sighed and advised her, “Don’t be sad, and don’t be fooled by that wicked maid. It was not your reward that killed Jiang’er, it was her greed.”

Li Qin led a team of Imperial Guards quietly behind them. Due to Lan Dan’s slow pace, the whole group had to slow down. The sound of their armor became louder due to the slow movements, causing Lan Dan to become frightened. Shentu Rui patted her hand and reassured her in a serious tone, saying, “It’s alright, don’t be afraid, I’m here.”

Although the words were simple, they struck a chord in Lan Dan’s heart. Tears suddenly streamed down her face, but luckily it was dark and she had her back to everyone, so no one noticed.

Outside Anli Gate, Shentu Rui helped Lan Dan into the carriage and nodded at Li Qin, “General Li, you may leave us here. It’s late and the dew is heavy. Please don’t trouble yourself any further.”

Li Qin saluted and insisted, “Since the Emperor has ordered me to escort the Prince back to his residence, how can this subordinate not follow his command? Your Highness, please don’t be polite. Please get on the carriage.”

Shentu Rui chuckled lightly, said nothing more, and bowed his head to get on the carriage. After the curtain fell, the sound of Li Qin’s armor and footsteps seemed to be the only sound in the world.

The inside of the carriage was very dark. There were lamps, but neither was lit. The darkness was scary, but it also provided a sense of hidden security. Shentu Rui reached out and held onto her shoulder, letting her lean into his embrace. Lan Dan couldn’t refuse. She was too scared and too bitter inside. Regardless of how Shentu Rui had become so chilling to her, his embrace had a strange warmth that transcended all emotions. In this darkness, she especially craved this comfort. He held onto her with one hand, while the other searched for and held onto her hand. Her hand was so cold, but his was large and warm. She was almost like a drowning person who couldn’t help but grab onto his hand. He held onto her tightly and lightly brushed her head with his chin. Shentu Cheng’s ears and eyes were outside the carriage, and every word they said could be heard. But at this moment, what more words did they need when they were leaning on each other and holding hands? Lan Dan clung to him greedily. Tears kept streaming down her face. Their hearts were so close again. Perhaps because they had faced life and death together, they needed each other’s support even more.

Every opening and closing of the palace gate sounded like unlocking a shackle. When they finally arrived at the gate of the Prince’s mansion, Shentu Rui got off the carriage to bid farewell to Li Qin with some formalities, and Lan Dan’s heart finally calmed down a bit.

The carriage continued into the inner courtyard, and when Shentu Rui helped Lan Dan out of the carriage, his face was particularly solemn and worried.

Four maidservants came out to greet them, two stayed behind to make sure no one approached the small courtyard, and the other two followed them into the courtyard and guarded Lan Dan’s door, not following inside.

As soon as Lan Dan entered the room, she stiffened and fell down, not daring to move quickly, afraid of making any noise, or… hurting the baby bound on her lap.

Shentu Rui quickly lifted her skirt and untied the baby’s bindings. There was no light in the room, only the moonlight shining through the open door and windows.

Lan Dan was horrified as she looked at the infant held in the hands of Shentu Rui. The baby was so small that it could be tied to her leg and covered with a skirt without anyone noticing. The infant appeared so fragile that it did not move, nor did it show any signs of life. She was afraid that the baby had already died. She dared not touch it due to the various complex emotions she was feeling.

“Xia Xin,” Shentu Rui called the maid outside the door. “Bring everything in.”

The head maidservant quickly brought in a tray of bottles and jars. It was the first time that Lan Dan knew her name.

“Ready,” Shentu Rui instructed her calmly. Xia Xin nodded and poured warm breast milk into a thin tube, waiting to coordinate with Shentu Rui’s next move.

Shentu Rui lifted the infant’s legs and let it hang upside down. After hesitating for a moment, he firmly smacked the baby’s buttocks.

The baby trembled slightly but still didn’t cry.

Lan Dan tightly covered her mouth and unconsciously bit her own fingers. She felt that when Shentu Rui hit the baby’s butt, it was as if he hit her heart, causing her whole body to ache.

Shentu Rui gritted his teeth and hit the baby’s bottom harder two more times. The baby made a gurgling sound and finally gasped for air, crying out loud. Shentu Rui quickly handed the baby to Xia Xin, who skillfully fed her and successfully stopped her crying.

Lan Dan cried so much that her head ached. Like the baby, she didn’t dare make a sound.

This little girl, born in the royal family, should have been the most delicate and precious little sprout, but from the moment she was born, she was destined to face hardships and difficulties throughout her life. Lan Dan felt empathy for her, as they were both lonely and uncertain about their futures. Being a princess seemed like the cruelest joke of fate for both of them.

Xia Xin carried the baby out of the room, leaving only Shentu Rui and Lan Dan. Suddenly, Shentu Rui half-rose and easily pressed her to the floor. He looked down at her face seriously.

Lan Dan also looked up at him, noticing how handsome he looked in the moonlight. Perhaps too tired, he could not hide his sadness and coldness.

“Why?” He carefully looked at every expression on her face. “Why did you help Lan Huang?”

Lan Dan did not dare to avoid his gaze, afraid that he would see something from her shrinking. “I didn’t help Lan Huang, I helped you.”

As the words came out, she felt disgusted. She hated lying more and more, hated conspiracies, and even more hated hiding things.

After a moment of silence, Shentu Rui collapsed on top of her as if he had lost strength, his arms propping up on either side of her body and not really letting her bear his weight. “I…am too tired,” he rested his head on her shoulder, his voice nasal and heavy, sounding like a sigh and a sob at the same time. “I am too tired to even consider whether your words are true or false.”

Suddenly, she felt a little sorry for him because she understood how dangerous and difficult today had been for him, and the kind of exhaustion that came from within was truly difficult to bear. She pulled her hand out and gently stroked his forehead, wondering if he too, enjoyed the feeling of having his head touched. It always made her feel better when she was worried and had a headache, the gentle touch pressing on her temples made her troubles go away. Obviously, he enjoyed it too, as he made a very light and comfortable sound of agreement.

“I still have a lot of things I don’t understand. If you don’t tell me, I won’t be able to sleep.” Because she was caressing him like a child, her tone had a touch of maternal gentleness.

Shentu Rui hummed again, indicating for her to ask.

“Did Lan Huang really give birth to twins?”

Shentu Rui sneered, as if mocking, “No, she only gave birth to a daughter.”

Lan Dan thought for a moment and didn’t ask randomly to avoid sounding foolish. “You… prepared two baby boys? Just in case?”

She had asked about the most exciting part of his plan, so he made an effort to explain further. “Knowing oneself and the enemy is the key to success. Shentu Cheng is a person who likes to eliminate all potential threats. Regardless of whether Lan Huang gives birth to a boy or a girl, he doesn’t plan on leaving anyone alive. Only by preparing two baby boys can we ensure success.”

Lan Dan nodded, thinking about how Shen Tucheng had looked so satisfied outside the palace. It turned out that he had been confident all along, and the reason why the baby never cried was because he had never had the chance to.

Once this key point was figured out, all other doubts were easily resolved. Shentu Cheng’s people successfully killed the first baby boy that Shentu Rui and Lan Huang replaced. But after succeeding, they relaxed and let their guard down. They didn’t expect that there was still a second male baby alive, and they missed their chance to kill him when they momentarily let their attention slip. Lan Huang and her accomplices didn’t know who among the mixed crowd was the person under Shentu Cheng’s orders. When they revealed themselves and made their move, they were better prepared and successfully saved the second male baby. It was no wonder that when the midwife and palace maids emerged from the inner chamber, their faces were pale and they were covered in tears and sweat. In that small inner chamber, there were at least two or even three groups engaged in a life-and-death struggle, with no visible weapons but just as deadly. Even if those who joined Shentu Cheng’s side weren’t silenced, Lan Huang would never spare their lives. In this round, the lowest and most miserable servants were the biggest losers, as whether they succeeded or failed, they were doomed to die.

Lan Dan understood the despair that Shentu Cheng felt upon receiving the report. He had failed, not only in battle but also in his strategy and calculation.

She really felt that she had wasted the past eighteen years in the palace. She only saw the infinite glory of others, but couldn’t see the bloody struggle behind the scenes. If it weren’t for Shentu Rui, she would probably have never understood anything and lived her whole life in confusion.

Compared with the Shentu brothers and Lan Huang, Fifth Brother’s overt ambition was so arrogant that he couldn’t even be considered strategic.

“You killed Hai Shan not only to avenge Jiang’er, but also to escape from the palace, right?” She laughed lightly, not sure whether to admire or mock. In sending the child out of the palace, Lan Huang didn’t follow his plan entirely. If the child hadn’t been tied to the leg of Zi Fu’s palace maid, Shentu Cheng would have regained the upper hand again. After all, child wouldn’t have survived long after taking the medicine, and being trapped in the palace meant certain death.

Lan Huang had already calculated her brilliant move long ago, even Shentu Rui did not expect it. They left the palace without further argument, relying on the subtle hint from Zi Fu’s gaze.

“Tomorrow… let’s talk about it tomorrow… I’m just too tired, too tired,” his voice trailed off.

Lan Dan sighed, stretched out her arm with effort, and managed to grab the pillow, gently placing it under his head. She then pulled the blanket over him.

In fact, she wanted to ask him if, had Lan Huang given birth to a boy, one of the unfortunate infant boys would have been sacrificed, and the other secretly killed to prevent any future trouble. When Shentu Rui sent the two babies into the palace, did he already know that they were not likely to survive? Although he and Lan Huang had won a victory, she did not feel proud or impressed, but rather disgusted with the ruthless tactics used in this conflict, which involved not only intelligence but also brutality.

“Danyang…” Shentu Rui called out softly, catching her off guard. “I know what you’re thinking, but as a member of the imperial family, we are born to sin. Some people have cost lives to survive since birth, some are neglected. Even if they are phoenixes, they still fall into a chicken coop… Everyone has to bear their own guilt.”

After hearing this, Lan Dan smiled. It was exactly like Shentu Rui to be so straightforward and accurate.

“So, that child… we’ll send her far away, to a place where she can live a peaceful life, away from power, away from ambition, just as an ordinary woman.”

“Hmm.” Lan Dan nodded, She agreed with Shentu Rui. It would have been better for her to live a quiet life like an ordinary person without experiencing so much ugliness, violence and bloodshed, had it not been for the downfall of her country and the involvement of Shentu Cheng. 

“Come here, put your arms around me…” He said with bitterness, keeping his eyes closed. “I don’t want you to see me like this, but I have no choice… Just stay with me, don’t leave…”

Lan Dan’s heart trembled, quickly suppressing the impending sadness and uncertainty.

She still couldn’t bear to refuse him, so she leaned closer and hugged him. “You’re still acting like a baby at this age,” she teased him, and all the mixed emotions suddenly disappeared, leaving only tenderness.

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