Fu Yushang had a lot of things to do with his life.
There were droughts in the south, leading to a dangerous risk for famine. There were complaints of bandits terrorizing the government-sent resources for the civilians suffering from the drought. There were complaints about one of the major tax collectors Yushang appointed committing fraud. Those against him took it as another chance to tear the Crown Prince down, even if Yushang did not have any hand in the swindling. The logic that he appointed said tax collector was enough to bring mass criticism.
Conspiracy rumors were arising about a coup and so-and-so official, but those were nothing special. His father's rule over the empire was not the best. The Emperor was a military genius, had a passion in the arts, yet was not the wisest ruler. His cruelty when dealing with matters garnered plenty of objection and dissatisfaction amongst the government officials. As a result, rumors about conspiracies were more than common. Nevertheless, they did not have much harm— only when they spun into reality would it be dangerous, but even then, that was when the Emperor's military genius came into play.
Out of all the rebellions attempted during the Emperor's rule, the number far exceeding any prior record in recent history before Yushang's father's rule, not a single one succeeded. All who participated were executed. Not even family or children were spared, even if they were innocent.
Although rebellions were common, the thing that made it difficult about this one was that the rumors involved Yushang himself. Yushang, meanwhile, had no interest in overthrowing his father. It had been a hassle to smooth everything out, uncover the true perpetrators for starting the rumors, and proving his loyalty to the Emperor.
Besides the drought and the rumors, news had also arrived of numerous military reports involving the Xiang Empire's greatest enemy, Northern Zhou. Yushang had to sort over all of those himself to formulate an overall report to present.
The three major issues stacked upon each other meant that Yushang barely had a wink of sleep for so many nights, spending his time by candlelight, reading and marking papers.
Times like these were what made Fu Yushang wonder if this was the life he wanted.
All his life, he had sought after his father's approval. He was the Crown Prince, yet it only seemed like that was the case because he was the first and only son of the Empress. The Emperor preferred his other sons more, despite all of Yushang's efforts.
In certain moments of his life, Yushang experienced a sort of ease and happiness that made him crave for more. He used to seek these moments through ventures outside of the palace, the fresh air and interactions with unknowing civilians providing him with an outlet for his stress. Recently, he liked to put his time into his shop and interactions with the co-owner, Yang Yujia.
Moments like those were what made him wonder what his life would be like if he was not the crown prince of the Empire. But then again, that sort of reality did not exist. He had responsibility to carry out his role as a prince. He was raised with the command that he would one day inherit the throne, and this was the fate that he could not walk away from, if he valued his life.
Because of this, Fu Yushang learned how to carry himself in two different ways. Inside the palace, he was the honorable Crown Prince. Every move had to be calculated. Every word had to be planned. Mistakes were not allowed. Only when he was in the privacy of his room, with only Si Shen waiting by the side, could he express his true self. Outside of the palace, on the other hand, he did not have to worry about who he was in front of. He was allowed to relax, laugh freely, and be as stupid and childish as he wanted. They were brief, stolen moments that would never last for long, but they would be enough for him.
And so, Yushang really did appreciate the moments he spent with Yujia.
What he didn't appreciate so much, though, was her comment from two seconds ago, about how his art looked like trash.
"What?" Bo Zhizhong exclaimed, slamming his hand on the table as he stood up. "Bad? You think this painting looks bad?"
He raised it, stepping back and staring at it. He painted a simple mountain range, but it was definitely not bad. His father's interests in the art forced him to learn how to paint as well. He had learned how to paint from masters, and even they said he painted well. So, even though he didn't feel that much passion for art, the skill was still there. He knew it.
Meanwhile, a small laugh escaped Yujia, seeing how outraged Zhizhong sounded when he heard her words.
She placed a hand on the table, stating slowly, "Calm down; I'm just joking."
"Joking?" Zhizhong snapped back.
She nodded in response.
Zhizhong's painting was not bad. There was a good sense of balance and unity. His control over ink to produce various values along the mountain range also hinted at signs of skill. The painting was a bit bland, nothing too special or notable about it, but it definitely was not bad. She merely said that to see his reaction, something that she predicted to be hilarious. She didn't guess wrong.
Snickering, Yujia explained these things to Zhizhong while he gaped at her in disbelief. At the end of her explanation, she added on with a grin, "Did I scare you?"
Zhizhong huffed, sitting down again. "I was just shocked that you could possibly criticise my work," he replied arrogantly, his tone clearly joking as there was a small smile he was trying to suppress with a typical scowl.
With a giggle, Yujia relented, "Whatever you say."
The two talked for a while longer, but then, Zhizhong had to go. Yujia, thus, returned back to Lingxin as well. She saw Yufeng as she entered her courtyard, and she greeted the girl with a wave.
Yufeng, her expression flat as usual, reported, "A servant dropped by, saying that someone came looking for you with a message."
"Only a few minutes ago. They're still waiting outside, I think. Might be someone from the Yang Villa?"
A name appeared in Yujia's mind: Lianye. After all, Madam Zhang promised that she would send Lianye to Yujia, instead of making the young maid suffer the same fate as the rest of the fellow servants, who would be interrogated under the law. It was one of Yujia's requests. She wanted to take the girl away from the villa with all of her trauma.
Could it be Lianye? Yujia immediately spun around, hurrying to the back of the villa.
Yet when she arrived, she saw the unfamiliar face of a servant, wearing the Yang Villa robes. Yujia wrapped an arm around herself, her posture stiffening. "What is it?" she asked.
"I bring a word from the Yang Villa," the servant obediently replied, "from the words of the Madam. She says that she has asked for the maid that you wanted to give her opinion on leaving, She does not want to."
Yujia blinked, processing the words.
Lianye was not going to be leaving the villa?
She thought that Lianye would be happy to leave the Yang Villa. She thought that their friendship was good enough. But maybe, Yujia realized, she was the person reminding Lianye of her trauma. She had been there that night, after all, even if she was there to save Lianye.
Yujia bit her lip.
The servant who came to pass the message added on, "The Madam also wants you to know that the maid can choose to stay or leave the villa, and regardless of her decision, she will be treated well. So, you don't need to worry."
Slowly folding her hands together, Yujia replied with a nod.
It would be selfish of her to demand Lianye. If Lianye wanted to stay or leave, it would be her decision. Yujia didn't want to force the girl to do anything. She only hoped that Lianye could find happiness again.
a little sneak peek into yushang's pov ;) slowly exploring a side of him that's rarely seenn
also so... yesterday, i spilt an entire cup of water over my laptop keyboard. so now, its REALLY broken, and that was why i couldn't update. ;u; im currently writing/posting with slow desktop pc, but yeah, just wanted to explain why no update yesterday u_u
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