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(Traditional Chinese cover scanned by Dairytea)
The next time I come across Fu is in the largest restaurant in the capital. I'm tasting the number one dish of the establishment, crystal pig's feet. And this Fu guy, lemme tell you, is he an interesting character. Seeing that I'm frowning and don't want to socialize, he still comes over to greet me for the sake of politesse.
Very absentmindedly, I say h.e.l.lo to Master Fu before ducking back to demolishing those delicious feet. However, his little lackey with an att.i.tude apparently has a problem with this.
“This gentleman, how could you speak to my young master like that?”
I look up from the feet, and Fu Qingshu reprimands him. The lackey decides to try again. “Do you know who my young master is?”
Hah! “Your young master is Fu Qingshu, that much I know.”
The lackey eyeb.a.l.l.s me as if he were shopping for a bokchoy. “Are you a new arrival in the capital?”
I look back at the feet. Is it because I ate the feet with too much enthusiasm that the minion has seen through to my poor nature?
He scoffs through the nose. “Even if you had come from elsewhere, it's unfathomable that you don't know the ident.i.ty of my young master. Who under heaven doesn't know Marquess Anguo and the House of Fu?”
Oh, no wonder even a lackey dares act so brashly. It's because Fu Qingshu is a li'l marquess. But lemme tell you, honey. I'm a motherf.u.c.king prince, two levels higher than you!
I give a cold chuckle. “Forgive my limited knowledge. I have never heard of a marquess named Fu, only that Fuliji has excellent roast chicken.”
Fu Qingshu's face immediately turns sour, and he commands the lackey to back off. “The lowly servant has no manners. I ask for your kind pardon.”
Being the big man I am, I tell him it is of no concern.
The lackey, probably worried that his li'l marquess is going to contract something dirty from the outside, whispers to his master, “Young Master, perhaps it's best that we return. The auspicious hour for Cousin Zhou's silk ball toss is upon us.”
Digging into the pig feet, I can't help but perk my ears. Silk ball toss?
Fu Qingshu makes to say goodbye, but I crack a smile at him.
“Master Fu, your cousin is seeking a husband? That sounds very interesting.”
His lips jerk. His lackey takes the mic. “Who do you think milady is? It's called a free toss, but the s.p.a.ce before the embroidery tower on Yongchang Gate has been cleared since last night. If you're not n.o.bility, don't even think about setting foot there!”
You little s.h.i.t! Who the f.u.c.k are you to be so d.a.m.n c.o.c.ky? My fighting spirit has been activated. Now, I'd be down to see if this cousin of Li'l Marquess is really such a big deal and if anybody would dare stop me from setting foot.
Right after Fu Qingshu leaves, I wipe my mouth, pay the bill and charge over to Yongchang Gate. Unsurprisingly, there are a few men keeping guard, but my fierce aura and powerful gaze make them hesitantly but ultimately let me in.
Below the tower is a gaggle of young men – silk robes, jade belts and all. I ram my way through the crowd to see for myself the looks of this t.o.s.s.e.r. I get to the base of the tower and look up – G.o.dd.a.m.n! It's completely surrounded by pink mesh, and the only things I see are a few silhouettes shuffling around. After the explosion of a string of firecrackers, some guy shouts that the hour is here. A pale hand reaches out from the mesh holding a silk ball, and the little boys around me all start clamouring. Eyes wide open, I'm trying to discern what is behind all that mesh when someone up in the tower screams:
“The one in blue, isn't that Prince Tai?!”
And then s.h.i.t hits the fan.
Some chick yelps, and the ball falls from the hand straight down onto my head.
Another girl shrieks:
“Oh no! Master! Milady hit Prince Tai!!!”
I hide my face with my fan and take flight. The screaming then changes.
“Oh no! Prince Tai is running away!!!”
I run like a G.o.dd.a.m.n madman through the roads and into the alleyways, up and down, left and right, until I finally arrive at the back door of the manor. I order the guards to bolt the gates tight and not open them even if it is the emperor himself knocking.
It's almost twilight when Xiao-Shun comes with a report: the gatekeeper has a message.
“Didn't I say not to open even if the emperor came?!” I spit angrily.
The gatekeeper is shaking all over. “It is not His Majesty. It's w.a.n.g-gonggong from the palace with a direct message from His Majesty summoning Your Highness's presence.”
I arrive at the palace. The empress dowager holds onto me, both crying and laughing, while the emperor gives me a scolding.
She wipes her eyes with a smile. “You have finally reached an epiphany, my son! I was so anxious about your age and your lack of a wife, no, even a concubine, who would give you a child! This will solve all my painful worries. That little sister of the empress, I have had an eye on her for quite some time now. I would have talked to His Majesty for you, but it's funny how destiny works. It made sure you would seek her yourself… Oh, how happy I am…”
The emperor slaps the arm of his throne, scolding, “Look at what you've done! What in the world were you doing at the silk ball toss of the empress's sister?! We know well what your little plan was, but which young master in the capital have you not already seen? Of all places, why did you have to show up there? The imperial father-in-law came earlier, and the empress wept before us for the whole afternoon. We can't take it. The whole city is talking about this like a big joke. If the heavens mandated this, then so be it. We shall release an edict granting your marriage with the imperial sister-in-law. You go home and clean up that mess of a harem and wait to get married!”
I didn't know until the end was nigh. Fu Qingshu's cousin turns out to be the empress's blood sister, Imperial Sister Zhou. I've seen the empress – so hot she's bubbling – and rumour has it that the imperial sister is only more attractive than her older sister. The only problem is her age. I could never put my claws on a sixteen-year-old. Not to mention, a man's grand ambitions cannot be so easily confined by a woman. The colourful world is full of beautiful flowers, and I haven't even stepped past the garden gate yet!
Late at night, I leave my room and stride into the courtyard, heaving long sighs. The emperor didn't seem like he was joking. The cold moonlight washes over my desolate heart. Oh, why does life treat me so! Before I know it, I find a glimmering long sword against my neck. A sinister voice demands from behind:
“Speak! Where is Chai Rong?!”
A town in Anhui famous for roast chicken.
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