The Unconventional Prince Lian
Before Duan Mu An Guo could finish speaking, he was immediately cut off by someone else. Not only were his words stuffed back down, just as he was about to go down and grab Feng Yu Heng, but he was also suddenly pushed to the side. This push was extremely strong, and Duan Mu An Guo was pushed back a few steps despite his military upbringing. In the end, he sat back down in his chair with a “thunk.”
Feng Yu Heng felt a wave of red come once more, clearly cutting off her sight from Duan Mu An Guo. Her face became covered in dark lines. How had she become an ice flower deity?
“Your Highness!” Duan Mu An Guo also became furious and immediately ignored Prince Lian’s status, loudly saying: “That is someone that I chose!”
Prince Lian furrowed her brow and turned around to look toward Duan Mu An Guo, asking in confusion: “You said that you chose her? When did you say it? Who heard it?”
“I…” Duan Mu An Guo’s tongue was tied, as he only got to say half of what he had wanted to say, “But these girls were sent here for me to choose! They are to enter the Winter Palace!”
“No, no, no.” Prince Lian shook her head. At the same time, she dragged Feng Yu Heng back to her seat, “When these northern provinces belonged to Da Shun, you could do as you pleased, and this prince did not care, but since you have announced to the world that the three provinces will belong to Qian Zhou once more, this prince will tell you that Qian Zhou will not put up with your nonsense. You’ve set up your own imperial palace and begun taking in imperial concubines and talented people. Is it your intention to tell Qian Zhou that you will announce yourself as an emperor? Duan Mu An Guo, you referred to yourself as this official, yet you’re trying to steal someone from this prince. Where exactly do you find the courage.”
Feng Yu Heng’s hand was held by Prince Lian, and she felt that this woman’s hands were truly too soft. It was as though there were no bones and were made of fluff. Holding it felt very comfortable, and she could not help but hold it tighter.
Prince Lian noticed this and turned around to wink at her. The earlier domineering look from when she was scolding Duan Mu An Guo immediately disappeared.
Feng Yu Heng thought that this woman was truly too much to her tastes. Whether it was the things that she said or did, they all left her with a familiar feeling. It seemed that it was another copy of herself. If she was not part of the imperial family of Qian Zhou… Unfortunately, she was a member of Qian Zhou’s imperial family. This meant that she would be an enemy in this life. For the simple reason of Zi Rui’s missing finger, she had no intention of forgiving anyone with the surname Feng.
Thinking like this, she subconsciously tried to pull her hand back, and Prince Lian looked back in confusion. She then suddenly realized what had happened: “Duan Mu An Guo, you can get up. Continue with the festivities. Do not scare our Xiao…. what was your name again?”
Feng Yu Heng rolled her eyes, “Xiao Ya.”
“Right, Xiao Ya. Come, come, come, sing and dance. Don’t scare our Xiao Ya. As for you, Duan Mu An Guo, if you heard what this prince said earlier, let these children go back. At a later date, change the name of this Winter Palace. This prince does not care what happens to the girls in this palace; however, they can no longer be considered imperial concubines. I figure they should just be considered concubines for your amusement. But if you have no intentions of listening.” Her gaze became bone-piercingly cold, and her tone changed, immediately returning to her earlier attitude, as she said: “If you have no intentions of listening, you can continue, but you must think carefully about these three provinces. Qian Zhou does not want them, and you have already revolted against Da Shun. From this day forward, the citizens of these three provinces will need to be protected by you alone.”
After she said this, she sat down, while Feng Yu Heng stood behind her. The two maids that had been holding the lotus flower ice lanterns looked toward Duan Mu An Guo as though to force him into a decision.
Duan Mu An Guo’s old face had been left in tatters by Prince Lian. He had been extremely conceited in the northern provinces. Even when Da Shun’s officials came to visit, they needed to act according to his whims; however, the tiny Qian Zhou left him trembling with fear. Prince Lian was just the cousin of Qian Zhou’s ruler, yet she still dare to speak to him like this.
However, no matter how angry he felt, he could only hold it in. He had just spoken to everyone present about how good Qian Zhou was, causing them to all stand behind Qian Zhou. He had talked about their roots and ancestors and returning to Qian Zhou’s embrace. If he caused a fuss over this, he would be slapping himself in the face.
Duan Mu An Guo was able to adjust, frankly waving his hand: “You can all leave!” He then walked back to his seat and sat down, saying to Prince Lian: “It was this official that was not thorough in my thinking. Your Highness, please give this official a few days to resolve this matter.” After saying this, he thought for a while then added: “In truth, this official only setup this Winter Palace and filled it with these imperial concubines for the Emperor of Da Shun to see. Your Highness must know that this official has never been happy with Da Shun’s imperial family.”
Prince Lian nodded but did not even look at him. She just said in confusion: “Why have the performances not begun yet?”
Duan Mu An Guo laughed, waving his hand once more, and a group of singers and dancers immediately came out. It was just that he turned his attention back to Feng Yu Heng and raised his voice to ask: “That girl, what did you just say your name was? What family do you belong to?”
Feng Yu Heng replied: “This humble girl’s family lives in the Fu residence in the Southwest side of Song Zhou City. This humble girl’s name is Fu Ya.”
“Fu Ya, un.” Duan Mu An Guo nodded and ordered an attendant at his side: “Bring 100 taels to the Fu family. Just tell the family that their daughter was well-liked by her Highness Prince Lian. At the same time, send someone to Xian Zi Pavilion and bring the most recent painting of the Fu family’s daughter from the past three years here.”
In the three northern provinces, once a girl turned ten-years-old, a painter from Xian Zi Pavilion would go to each province to paint their likeness then store it in Xian Zi Pavilion’s storage. This was to allow Duan Mu An Guo to go and take a look whenever he wished.
The real Fu Ya had only turned 13-years-old with the new year. She was a full year younger than Feng Yu Heng. Even if she had not joined the Illusory Hall, she still would have needed to participate in the imperial concubine of Winter Palace selection this year. Up until this year, Xian Zi Pavilion had collected three paintings for Fu Ya’s appearance. Clearly, Duan Mu An Guo wanted to use this to expose Feng Yu Heng’s true identity. Although he was not completely certain that she was the girl that had set fire to the palace on that day, his eyesight had not yet deteriorated to such a degree. He was able to see 70 or 80 percent similarity, thus he could feel certain.
Feng Yu Heng heard him say this and did not reveal any special reaction. She just bowed and gave her thanks then continued to watch the performance. Her gaze did not wander in the slightest.
But in reality, there were countless question marks that had appeared in her mind. The biggest was why did Prince Lian save her? Since there was no such thing as unconditional love in the world, this meant that she was clearly trying to gain her favor.
Feng Yu Heng was completely unable to understand. Prince Lian, the madwoman, actually came up with another wicked idea, as she said to Duan Mu An Guo: “I heard that great leader’s palace has a frozen pond. Under the frigid ice, there are some nice fish being hidden.”
Duan Mu An Guo did not hide it, nodding and saying: “Thanks to the ruler of Qian Zhou’s favor, a few fishes from the Four-Colored Lake will be left for this official. This official will then bring them back to raise them. Those fish are too valuable, and this official was only willing to eat two this past year. The remainder have been left for this new year’s celebration to be provided to any noble guests that came. This year, your Highness personally came to Song Zhou, thus this official will arrange for someone to break the ice to bring one up tomorrow for your Highness to enjoy.”
“Hah!” Prince Lian waved her hand, “Lord Duan Mu, it’s clear that you do not want this prince to try it. Otherwise, why would you wait until this prince personally mentioned it? And to wait until tomorrow? It should be brought up today! But today is the first day of the new year, thus this prince will not argue with you. This prince has already personally broken the ice of the frozen pond and fetched two fishes. I have already ordered the chef to cook them. Thinking about it, they should be about ready by now.”
As soon as she said this, a servant outside brought two large plates into the hall. The people were able to smell the fragrance of the fish from far away. The fish that had been fetched after breaking the ice had a unique fragrance. The flavor of the fish was even better and was extremely delicious.
Duan Mu An Guo watched the servants bring the two plates over to the table in front of him and Prince Lian before bowing and leaving the hall. The fishes had been cooked as a whole. It did not look to have been touched in the slightest. These were the rarest type that he had worked so hard to bring back from the Four-Colored Lake.
Duan Mu An Guo looked at the fish then looked at the one before Prince Lian. The look on his face was one that was even more hurt than if his wife had died.
Feng Yu Heng forcefully held in a laugh, nearly resulting in internal injury. She was thinking back to when she had burned down his palace, and Duan Mu An Guo only looked to be angry; however, there was no sign of any heartache. Now, it seemed that this old man was truly heartbroken! It was as though it was not a fish that had been cooked. Instead, it was many large handfuls of banknotes.
This woman, Prince Lian, did not care for these things. Picking up her chopsticks, she poked at the body of the fish then placed a large piece in her mouth. After chewing a bit, she nodded and said: “Pretty good.” She then looked at Duan Mu An Guo and could not help but say: “Great leader, why do you not eat? Could it be that you don’t like eating it? If you don’t like it, don’t just leave it there to waste. Bring it over for my maidservants to eat.”
Duan Mu An Guo’s nose nearly became crooked with anger. Picking up his chopsticks, he fiercely stabbed at the fish!
The people below watched the performance, while the people above ate fish. Her Highness Prince Lian ate happily, and Feng Yu Heng quietly asked one of the maids holding a lantern: “A prince in Qian Zhou can be a woman?”
The maid looked at her as though she was a weirdo then coldly snorted, saying: “What’s it to you.” She then stopped talking.
Feng Yu Heng had been rebuffed, but she did not get angry. She just turned around and asked the other maid: “A girl is also able to be a prince?”
That maid was even more direct in her response: “You’re insane, right?”
You’re the one that’s insane? Feng Yu Heng rolled her eyes and wanted to say that the people of Qian Zhou really went at their own pace. She had received so much favor in Da Shun, yet the Emperor never spoke of conferring her the title of Prince. But that shoddy little place called Qian Zhou, there were female princes. It really was odd.
Just as she was thinking to herself, she saw someone come forward. Giving a shallow bow, they brought their cup forward, “This lowly commoner is Duan Mu Cong and would like to toast your Highness Prince Lian.”
The woman furrowed her brow, “Lowly commoner? A lowly commoner wants to drink with this prince?”
Duan Mu Cong had an embarrassed look on his face and quickly changed his tone: “This lowly commoner is toasting your Highness Prince Lian on behalf of my father, Duan Mu An Guo. Father is getting older, and his health is deteriorating. It is not good for him to drink too much wine.”
“Oh.” The woman finally stopped eating fish but said: “That’s also the case. I figure all of your father’s energy has gone to doting on those girls. How could he still have the energy to drink. Forget it, this prince will give you some face and drink.” After saying this, she picked up her cup and did not exchange any pleasantries before downing the cup.
Duan Mu Cong was even more embarrassed. He had finally managed to bite the bullet and down the wine and was about to return to his seat; however, he heard the woman mutter: “Huh? Why do your eyebrows so light? Are they naturally like that or were they made to look like that after the fact?” As she said this, she slapped her forehead, “Oh right, they were burned by the fire the day before yesterday, right?”