Book I The spring day’s apricot flowers scatter above, who is the youth who walks elegant and quick?
Chapter 40 Asking your intentions
After the fright of the mountaintop and the drama in the palace, Chu Yu was exhausted. She slept and didn’t wake up until the sun was high in the sky.
In her day clothes but with her hair still scattered, she slowly enjoyed the breakfast delivered to her by You Lan. In a strict voice, she noted, “It’s almost lunch time.”
When she was half done with the meal, she noticed that You Lan’s expression seemed tense, as if she wanted to say something. In a gentle voice, she asked, “Is there something wrong?”
Princess Shanyin of course had more than one maid. But since Chu Yu had come here, the first female she had met was You Lan. She was the one who had given her a brief overview of her identity. Since then, she had appointed her to be her chief maid, and improved her living conditions in all ways.
Seeing that Chu Yu seemed to be in a good mood, You Lan finally opened up. “Princess, there are people waiting outside the inner yard’s gates since morning. They still haven’t left, even now.”
Grabbing a silk handkerchief, Chu Yu wiped her mouth. “What are they doing, waiting there?”
Seeing that she still didn’t seem displeased, You Lan was secretly relieved. Gripping the treasured jewelry flowers hidden in her sleeve, she lowered her head and said in a humble voice, “They are here for Sir Rong. There are a few projects that require great spending. Without his signature, they can’t go into storage to get what they need. There’s that, and the numbers that need to be checked twice each month, as well as several matters of staff that need to be attended to…” She stopped there tactfully, but the meaning was clear enough. Because of Rong Zhi, all these things couldn’t continue.
Did he really have so much power in the palace?
Chu Yu was originally planning to eat more, but she had to stop now. She thought it over. “Rong Zhi isn’t willing to see them?” Was this his way of getting back at her?
“Of course not!” Surprised at Chu Yu’s line of thought, You Lan shook her head hurriedly, afraid that she would misunderstand. “He isn’t refusing. But Sir Hua is standing at guard in his yard.”
After a moment of silence, Chu Yu put down her chopsticks and stood up, putting on her robes. “All right. I’ll go and take a look.”
After she departed from the quarters, Yue Jiefei naturally tagged behind her. The two of them traveled together all the way to the upper western quarters. Near the usually lonely Mu Xue quarters, there were quite a few servants, maids, and attendants standing around, about twenty in total. Yet none of them dared approach the door. All of them wore a look of fear, as if there was some kind of man-eating beast there.
They shared something in common as well. Some of them had a cut at their collar, while others seemed to have part of their hair sliced clean off.
This was probably Hua Cuo’s work.
Seeing that the Princess had arrived, some of them tried to bow. Chu Yu dismissed them with the wave of a hand. Calling one of them close, she asked, “How are things inside?”
The man lowered his head and said carefully, “Yes, Princess. Sir Hua said that he won’t let anyone see Sir Rong. We wanted to go inside, but we were all held back.” The first move was a warning, but the second move would be more than that. Although they were all running errands, none of them were willing to risk their lives for that.
Just then, some brave soul trudged into the quarters. After only a second or two, a scream issued from inside. Along with that, a figure was tossed over the wall like litter. It was the same man who had tried to enter only a few seconds ago.
Chu Yu took a look inside. Aside from the slight swaying of bamboos, there wasn’t anyone visible in there. She turned her head to ask the young man next to her again, “Must you have Rong Zhi for everything?” Without Rong Zhi, could no one take care of business?
The young man gave her a thorough response. Although Rong Zhi looked quite leisurely all the time, he had the seal of the palace in his hands, and controlled the flow of money and people alike in the Princess palace.
He had such power?
Chu Yu was shocked, but also confused. If he had so much power, he could leave the palace whenever he wished, even kill her if he so wished…what was it that made him stay?
After standing outside Mu Xue quarters for a while, she called the people around her and told them that she would handle business here. She commanded them to scatter for now.
Even after most of them had scattered, she still hadn’t taken a single step closer to the quarters. Turning around, she walked quickly back along the path she had come from.
Yue Jiefei caught up with her and couldn’t help but ask, “Princess, where are you going?”
Chu Yu said in a cool voice, “Xiu Yuan house.”
In Xiu Yuan house, Huan Yuan wasn’t skimming through a book like normal. He had finished all the books he had lent from Rong Zhi last time and was now unwilling to greet him again.
From outside came the sound of guards talking. Then someone pushed the door open to enter. Huan Yuan glanced to the side: who could be coming for him at this hour?
Smiling, Chu Yu entered Huan Yuan’s dwelling. Spotting him sitting in the corner, she walked directly up to him.
Complicated emotions rippled through Huan Yuan’s handsome face when he saw Chu Yu. He watched the young lady walk toward him in a dazed state. It seemed to him that he had never looked carefully at this person. After what had happened yesterday, his determination had wavered. But the shame he had suffered, buried deep down for two years–he couldn’t let momentary weakness deny him that.
Two completely different emotions weaved together in his heart. One was gratefulness for being saved, the other the shame at being the exclusive plaything of the royal family. He didn’t know what kind of expression he should put on for Chu Yu.
Contrary to Huan Yuan’s internal struggle, Chu Yu already had a clear idea of what to think and say. Coming before him, she sat across the table from him and said openly, “Huan Yuan, I came here today to make a deal with you.”
Huan Yuan frowned. “Do I even have the privilege to talk about making deals with you, Princess?” He said this without thinking. Somehow, after speaking the words, he felt a pang of regret and softened his tone. “Forgive me, I spoke foolishly…please tell me, Princess. What deal is this?”
Chu Yu slowly extended three fingers. “Three years. In the future, you will no longer be my companion, but my accomplice. Work three years for me, and I will give you a clean new identity and grant you your freedom. Are you willing to say yes to this deal?”
Although it was a long stretch of time, Chu Yu had her own considerations. She needed an effective, reliable helper. Compared to Rong Zhi, who seemed too difficult to read, Huan Yuan fitted the bill for that much better.
“But Huan Yuan,” Chu Yu’s sharp gaze caught his, not allowing him to look away. “These three years, I will need your fully loyalty. This is my most basic demand. If you can’t do it, then just pretend that I never came today.”