Fuzhu’s Ballad Chapter 8

CHAPTER 8 Insignificant

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Shentu Cheng was wearing a bright yellow fur robe embroidered with dragons, with gold and pearl ornaments, and a jade belt around his waist. His hair was styled in a high bun with a small red-gold dragon crown. Such attire, which was supposed to add to his air of nobility, unexpectedly highlighted his already outstanding features. After several years of plotting, he had finally achieved success, but instead of becoming complacent, he became even calmer and more restrained. When he stood there looking at her with a smile, there was a hint of light clouds and snow about him.

Lan Dan also looked at him, thinking she would flare up and attack him, but she felt nothing, not even love or hate.

Princess Danyang, who adored him like a little girl, felt shy and timid when she looked into Shentu Cheng’s eyes, and would unintentionally shy away. Xiao Lan Dan, who had been on the execution platfrom and guarded the mass graveyard, could pin him with a cold, indifferent look.

What was he thinking about?

She seemed to never know what he was thinking, never could see any emotion in his beautiful and deep eyes.

But she knew what she was thinking. It wasn’t the sweet words he said to her on a warm afternoon, but the empty city walls she had stared at absentmindedly while kneeling on the execution platform in the snow and haze.

“Who’s there?” the Empress Dowager in the side hall asked sternly.

“It’s the young lady brought into the palace by His Royal Highness the Prince of Yan,” someone promptly answered.

The smile on Shentu Cheng’s face grew even wider. “So it’s you. No wonder he went to such lengths to open the city gates in the middle of the night.”

The two maids who brought her in looked a little panicked when they saw Shentu Cheng. After greeting him, they rushed over to Lan Dan, pulled her off the kang without saying a word, and led her to the side hall.

Noticing Lan Dan’s abnormal gait, Shentu Cheng let out a faint sigh of surprise before joining them in the hall.

The Empress Dowager’s face was icy as she sized up the approaching Lan Dan, but seeing Shentu Cheng enter shortly after, she quickly furrowed her brows and asked him, “Why are you here?”

Lan Dan felt a chill run down her spine at the question. It was a clear indication that Da Yan was still firmly entrenched in its humble origins. While the wife from a government family had her own gracefulness, she was still lacking in the necessary competence to be an Empress Dowager.

Lan Dan knew all too well the intricacies of the imperial court. The relationship between ruler and subject came first, even above family ties. As someone who had experienced this firsthand, every subtle difference felt like a sharp knife in her heart. The Empress Dowager’s question was not for the Emperor but for her own son.

But the newly enthroned Emperor smiled brightly, as if not sensing anything wrong. “I have finished my work, and came here right away.”

The young girl beside the Empress Dowager stood up and ran over to Shentu Cheng, hugging his arm and sweetly calling out, “Brother Emperor.”

Lan Dan was kneeling down with the support of two palace maids, but when she heard the girl’s cry, her chest felt like it had been hit with a heavy hammer. Her head buzzed, her eyes went black, and she fell to the ground, half-kneeling and half-prostrating.

“That’s enough, no need for formalities.” The Empress Dowager waved her hand impatiently. “What a scheming vixen you are. If you were to injure yourself while seeking an audience with me, I shudder to think how many people would blame me for it.” Her tone was heavy with accusation, directed pointedly at Shentu Rui.

Lan Dan breathed a sigh of relief, and was helped up by the palace maid to sit on an embroidered cushion. She couldn’t help but look at the young girl who had called Shentu Cheng “Brother Emperor”. It was her sister, Lan Cheng.

Lan Cheng was the youngest daughter of Father Emperor. After the death of her biological mother, the favored Consort Xi, she was fostered under the Empress’ care. Although their circumstances were similar, Lan Cheng was far better off than Lan Dan, who was fostered under a less favored concubine. In recent years, as Lan Cheng had grown up, the Emperor’s favor towards her had increased day by day, second only to Lan Huang. Lan Cheng, who was doted on by Father Emperor, not only lived safely in the court of Da Yan, but also interacted intimately with the Empress Dowager and the Emperor?

Lan Cheng threw Lan Dan a sharp look that pierced through Lan Dan’s heart. Seeing her face turning pale, Lan Cheng thought she had intimidated her. Satisfied, she pulled Shentu Cheng to sit on the edge of the kang.

The eunuch heartily announced behind the soft curtain, “His Royal Highness the Prince of Yan is here to see the Empress Dowager.”

As the curtain was drawn back, a tall and handsome figure in vibrant red strode into the room, his radiance outshining even the flickering candlelights.

The Empress Dowager turned her head and pouted her lips. “Is he afraid that someone will be eaten alive? He really comes rushing here without even wearing a cloak on such a cold day.”

Shentu Rui smiled and bent his legs symbolically, his eyes sweeping over everyone in the palace. Without waiting for the Empress Dowager to speak, he walked over and sat down beside her.

“Get up quickly! The chill on your body is making me cold too!” The Empress Dowager scolded, but her tone held a hint of affection as she handed him a cup of tea.

Because Lan Dan had been discreetly observing Lan Cheng, she noticed how her sister’s body stiffened when Shentu Rui came in. She got up after steadying herself, glanced at him and then quickly looked away, calling out, “Brother Rui.”

Lan Dan had once liked someone, so she understood the emotions conveyed by these small expressions. However, in the short time it took for her to enter the side hall, her world had shattered, leaving her in shock and unable to process her thoughts.

Shentu Rui just smiled perfunctorily at Lan Cheng, a trace of melancholy flashing between his brows. Then he hooked his mother’s arm and said, “Mother, since you haven’t eaten her, I’ll take her with me.”

“If you dare to leave so early, I will definitely fry her up next time,” the Empress Dowager hummed in disbelief.

“Well, then…” Shentu Rui pretended to be helpless. “I’ll stay and have dinner with you, but I have to send her back first.”

The Empress Dowager raised her eyebrows. “Fine…then send her off!” Shentu Rui surrendered with a smile, giving his mother a playful glance.

Shentu Rui pulled Lan Dan to her feet. Sensing her confusion, he simply picked her up, and with a touch of pity, said, “Let’s go.”

The Empress Dowager clicked her tongue at this excessive intimacy, but Shentu Cheng chuckled, as if watching a good show. Lan Cheng was the only one who remained expressionless.

As the curtain was raised, Lan Dan was hit by a cold gust of wind, which sobered her slightly, but the pain in her heart still came in waves.

There were many people standing under the eaves of the corridor. Apart from the servants, two noble ladies dressed in brocade were particularly eye-catching.

They had been waiting in the veranda for a long time, their expressions already collapsing. When they saw the Prince of Yan emerged from the hall, they crowded around him, jostling to speak. In fact, it was unnecessary, because they all asked the same question, “Is the Empress Dowager still unwilling to see us?”

Lan Dan shuddered. If Shentu Rui hadn’t hugged her harder, she would have almost slipped out of his arms.

She had not paid attention to the two women before, but hearing their voices, she looked at them in astonishment. They were familiar faces, even relatives— her Third and Ninth Sisters-in-Law.

Shentu Rui ignored them, took two steps forward to seat Lan Dan on the bench by the eaves, and instructed the eunuch to prepare the carriage.

The sight of her two sisters-in-law, adorned with pearls and silk, reminded Lan Dan of her two brothers who had passed away at a young age, wearing only tattered prisoner’s clothes and buried in shallow graves.

“Lan Cheng, that wretched girl,” the former Ninth Princess Consort stamped her cloud boots, and the precious gemstones on her hairpin flickered with fiery light. “She must have said bad things about us to the Emperor! And the Emperor himself! At a time like this, shouldn’t he say a few words for us?”

Lan Dan pressed her chest violently, as if a sharp knife had been pierced into her heart. The pain was nauseous, almost choking her breath. How could the Ninth Sister-in-Law speak of the “Emperor” in such a tone? Didn’t she know that her husband had just died recently?

Her brothers’ bones had long been cold in the shallow grave, and what was even colder was the sisters-in-law standing alive in front of her.

She didn’t know which eunuch called out, “Her Excellency has arrived.”

Lan Dan slowly turned her head, feeling a sense of premonition in her heart.

Her Excellency’s grandeur was indeed impressive. After being announced by the eunuch, her eight-person shoulder carriage entered through the gate of Taici Palace. The snow had already stopped falling, and the figure sitting high up in the thin snow mist was remarkable without needing a closer look.

Lan Dan felt a bit dazed. It was Lan Huang, but not quite like her.

Lan Dan had never seen such fierce and killing intent on Lan Huang’s face before. She was still beautiful but the charming makeup couldn’t conceal the unfamiliar hostility. Lan Huang’s chin was raised slightly, and her eyes narrowed into a cold and disdainful curve, with only one side of her mouth slightly turned up, as if mocking all worldly matters. Her past beauty was nowhere to be seen, replaced only by cold arrogance, which seemed to surpass Shentu Cheng’s calmness, as if she was the one who successfully seized the throne. /check grammar

The shoulder carriage didn’t stop until they reached the eaves. Lan Huang remained seated high up without getting off the carriage. She waited until Shentu Rui reluctantly bowed to her before raising her hand and descending from above.

The Third and Ninth Sisters-in-Law acted strangely towards her, almost as if they were intimidated by her presence and harbored some resentment towards her. They took a few steps back and refrained from approaching her or paying their respects.

Lan Huang didn’t even look at them. She walked into the hall with her head held high.

After getting in the carriage and leaving the imperial city, Lan Dan finally took a breath and asked, “Are they all alive? Then who died?”

Shentu Rui smiled sarcastically. “Do you think a lot of people died? When your father founded the country, corpses were scattered for thousands of miles, and the mountains and rivers were dyed red with blood. Your father went on expeditions and bones piled up like mountains. We only killed a few people, which was merciful for this country and the common people.”

Lan Dan frowned in annoyance. She was not interested in the country and the common people. “Who died?”

“The ones who died were all…” He looked at her and smiled. Although he was handsome, he was incredibly cold-blooded. Every word seemed to be permeated with the blood of the dead, but he didn’t care. “Useless people.”

The blood in Lan Dan’s veins seemed to congeal.

But he looked as if he was afraid that she would not understand. “Your Father Emperor and Mother Empress died because they had to. Your Third and Ninth Elder Brothers died because their wives are eager to become concubines of the new Emperor. Some people who had received your family’s small favors also died, but they were just worthless people… There was also Princess Danyang, who bore all the sins and sentenced to death.”

Lan Dan suddenly spurted out a mouthful of blood, staining the pattern of treasure flowers on her skirt.

Shentu Rui watched her with a smile, understanding the piercing pain. He even envied Lan Dan a little because she still had blood to spill… But for others, when the weight of hatred and suffering reached their peak, their hearts turned numb and cold. The pain and anguish that once raged within them became like razor-sharp blades, tearing apart their very being with a silent ferocity.

He narrowed his eyes. “Have you seen their imperial decrees? Their husbands used to receive your family’s salary, and now they receive mine. They don’t care. They need them to stabilize the country, whether they are remnants of the previous dynasty or not. These people are still alive and well. Your sisters and sisters-in-law are still fighting and vying for favor in the palace, just like before. Only insignificant people are killed without hesitation. Danyang… you already have enough capital. Do you still want to continue being an insignificant person?”

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