Chapter 39.1: Life Exchange Paper

Court Lady

A banner was raised in the wide courtyard of the Royal Palace. The last time that the place had been so lively was when the Imperial Competition was held. This time, even the Grand Emperor came to watch.

Lu Qi stepped up to greet them. The Emperor had high expectations for him. After all, this was the second time Xinnan’s marriage was brought up.

“Lu Qi, today’s Peacock Screen Selection was suggested by Princess Xinnan out of remembrance of her late Imperial Grandmother. It is also a way for me and the Grand Emperor to commemorate Grand Empress Taimu. I hope that you will not disappoint me.”

Lu Qi was respectful yet confident. “I will not let you down, Your Majesty.”

The internal attendants reported that Sheng Xiaojing and Sheng Chuling were seeking an audience.

Xinnan was sitting on the same platform as the Emperor. When she saw Sheng Chuling enter with a bow in his hand and arrows on his back, she could not help but smile.

The Emperor frowned, “Duke Lu, why are you here to join?”

“I heard that Your Majesty had set up the Peacock Screen to help Princess Xinnan select a consort. Although my son Chuling is untalented, his archery skills are still passable…”

The Emperor cut Sheng Xiaojing off. “So you thought that he could also try and shoot two shots.” 

Sheng Xiaojing braced himself. “Your Majesty has always been fair. The Peacock Screen Selection is based on true abilities…”

“Do you think that my daughter is like a cabbage in the market? You can take one if you have the ability?” The Emperor shook his head. “Sheng Chumu has disappointed me before. Are you trying to disappoint me again? My daughter is a peerless beauty. First of all, Sheng Chuling will not inherit the position of Duke. Secondly, he has not achieved any merits from war. What is he going to use to compete with Lu Qi? Even if he can shoot the Peacock Screen accurately, he is not qualified to marry Xinnan.”

Sheng Chuling summoned his courage. “Your Majesty…”

Sheng Xiaojing tugged on his sleeve, indicating for him to keep quiet and back off to the wooden shed by the side.

Meanwhile, Chief Cao ordered people to set up the Peacock Screen a hundred and fifty steps away from the start line.

Yang Bo muttered, “Why is the Peacock Screen so far away? Wouldn’t it be easier if the shooter could stand closer?”

Chief Cao laughed, “You brat, you received so many benefits from Duke Chen. Are you trying to help Young General Lu?”

Yang Bo immediately waved his hands expressing that he would not dare.

Chief Cao smiled with a hidden implication. “Don’t worry. Even without you saying, I know to help them too.” Even if they did not know how to read others, they would at least know how to read the Emperor. From his expression, it was clear that the Emperor favoured Lu Qi. How could they remain by the book?

The internal attendants signalled to Chief Cao that they were done setting the screen.

Chief Cao reported to the Emperor. “Your Majesty, the Peacock Screen has been set a hundred and fifty steps away.”

The Emperor bestowed the arrows, asking Lu Qi to prepare.

“Wait!” Xinnan remembered Sheng Chuling mentioning that Lu Qi’s archery skills were extraordinary. “A hundred and fifty steps is too close, it has to be at least two hundred steps.”

Lu Qi halted. Two hundred steps? Even the best bow can only shoot about three hundred steps. Moreover, he was using a bow for hunting.

The Emperor asked Chief Cao, “You are the oldest person in the palace. Does the palace have any rules for how far the Peacock Screen must be?”

“The palace does not have any rules set for this. Your Majesty, do you want to change it to a hundred steps? We can have a good omen of a hundred percent success.” Chief Cao was trying to please the Emperor.

“What?” Xinnan frowned. “You just said that there weren’t any rules. How dare you suggest more?”

Yang Bo suddenly added, “Your Majesty, it is not certain how far the screen should be placed. However, the ancient books do state how to differentiate whether it is good to shoot.”

The Emperor signalled for him to continue speaking.

“In the mention of archery in the ancient books, it was written that in the Chu nation, to differentiate whether an archer is good, he would shoot at a willow tree a hundred steps away. If he shoots a hundred arrows and all is on target, he is considered good. Therefore, according to customs, it should be a hundred steps to differentiate whether one’s archery skills are good.”

Xinnan fumed, “You are just a lowly attendant. How dare you speak in front of my Imperial Father!”

The Emperor ignored her as he turned to the Grand Emperor. “Grand Emperor, what do…”

The Grand Emperor muttered, “Mmhm, I am looking forward to the continuation of the Peacock Screen Selection. Since Lu Qi is the only participant today, wouldn’t it ruin the mood if he misses because it is placed too far?”

The Emperor carried on, “Okay, then let’s set it to a hundred steps.”

Xinnan opened her mouth to speak. The Emperor threw her a look and she had no choice but to keep silent.

Lu Qi took fifty steps towards the Peacock Screen and proudly pulled his bow. He was full of confidence as he was about to shoot. However, he suddenly saw the peacock on the screen move. He was startled as his arm drooped. He thought that he had seen wrongly and blinked several times. Thereafter, he pulled his bow once more. However, the peacock did not stop moving and there was no way for him to aim properly.

The audience noticed that there was something wrong with Lu Qi.

Sheng Xiaojing narrowed his eyes. “He has been standing there in that posture for a while. Why isn’t he shooting?”

Seeing how the Emperor was frowning, Lu Yunji immediately spoke up for his son, “When an expert is in action, it is natural to be careful. What are you anxious for!”

Xinnan did not care as she shouted loudly to rush him. “Are you going to shoot or not? If you wait so long, then you might as well not shoot!”

Lu Qi had no choice but to force himself to shoot. When the internal attendants brought the Peacock Screen over, both his arrows had missed the peacock’s eyes. The Emperor was disappointed. The higher his expectations, the greater the disappointment.

Lu Qi kneeled. “Your Majesty, please forgive me. When I was shooting, I noticed the peacock…”

Xinnan cut in, “You realized that the peacock’s eyes were too small and that is why you couldn’t shoot it. Imperial Father, you said that he was excellent in both martial and literal arts. Luckily, Imperial Grandmother has blessed me. If not, I would have married the wrong person.”

Lu Qi wanted to argue, “Princess, it is not like that…”

The Emperor cut him off. “Don’t say anymore. I don’t know if you have been enjoying yourself and archery skills are out of practice or if it was a moment of anxiousness and you made a mistake. If you missed, you miss. The more you try to argue, the more it seems like you are incapable.”

The Grand Emperor stood up and sighed, “Sigh, I guess the story of the Peacock Screen Selection will not continue. Head back to my palace. I am disappointed.”

Xinnan was delighted. When she left, she secretly exchanged looks with Sheng Chuling. They were both rest assured.

Very soon, the Peacock Screen was taken down and everyone left.

Sheng Xiaojing walked beside Lu Qi. “Young General Lu, you should not be too disappointed. Your archery skills are not bad, it is just that you mistook the feathers on the peacock’s head for its eyes.”

Lu Yunji was furious. “Duke Lu, you don’t have to take a jibe at us. Even though Lu Qi did not get to marry Princess Xinnan, at least His Majesty acknowledged him and gave him a chance. Unlike your son, whom His Majesty did not even consider.”

Sheng Xiaojing could not stand being outdone. “Chuling only lacks military merit. He is still young. In the future, he will naturally have the chance to serve Great Tang. We will see.” He had three sons whereas this old monkey had only one son. Tsk. Just based on numbers, he had already won!


Fu Rou looked at the height of the sun, it was already midday. The Peacock Screen Selection must have ended. As expected, Yang Bo dashed in happily.

“Fu Siyan, both of Lu Qi’s arrows were slanted. The marriage between him and Princess Xinnan is no longer happening.”

Fu Rou breathed a sigh of relief. “Yang Bo, this is all thanks to you.”

“This is nothing. I merely repeated what you told me from the ancient books to His Majesty. After I said it, His Majesty even looked at me with slight appreciation. In the future, if His Majesty gives me an important position, I will have to thank you.” Yang Bo looked curiously. “Fu Siyan, since you don’t want Lu Qi to marry Princess Xinnan, why did you ask me to suggest to His Majesty to let Lu Qi stand closer to the screen? If he stands closer, won’t it be easier for him to shoot?”

Fu Rou smiled mysteriously, “Although he stood near to the screen, ultimately he still missed right?” She suddenly looked behind Yang Bo. “Oh right, didn’t I ask you to help me bring back the Peacock Screen Embroidery?”

Yang Bo grimaced. “I asked a few other attendants. They all said that they saw the Peacock Screen Embroidery being torn down and thrown into a broken basket. However, when I looked through the broken basket, I could not find it.”

Fu Rou’s expression changed. “You couldn’t find it? Did you try again? Could it have fallen into some corner?”

“Fu Siyan, would I dare not put in effort into something that I promised you? Not just the huge piece of Peacock Screen Embroidery, I could not even find a cloth as big as my palm. I was worried that I missed out and looked through it three times. Smell me. My entire body stinks of garbage. I guess that someone might have taken it away?” Yang Bo lifted his sleeve.

Fu Rou’s heart sank. If someone with ill-intentions had taken it away, things would be horrible.

The peacock was brilliant and colourful except for two holes near the eyes ruining the entire embroidery. Fu Rou could not find the embroidery no matter how hard she tried because it had already fallen into the hands of the Lu father and son pair.

“You saw this peacock move?” Lu Yunji walked around the study table. The embroidery did indeed look extremely life-like but it was still just an embroidery.

“Father, I am speaking the truth.” This time Lu Qi could not see any significant difference. “The palace said that this Peacock Screen was personally made by Fu Rou. With her abilities, it will not be difficult for her to plant some tricks on this screen.”

“If she really dared to do something, this will be the evidence that can be used against her. She has always had a good relationship with Consort Han and an ambiguous relationship with Sheng Chumu. Once we can prove that she deceived the Emperor, everything will go our way. We can implicate the Duke Lu Residence.” Lu Yunji believed that this was an opportunity.

“I will ask someone to send this to the most experienced seamstress in Chang’an.” Lu Qi understood.

“No, this is too important, we cannot lose it. Ask them to come over to examine it.” Lu Yunji was experienced. “They have to check this thoroughly. Don’t let even a strand go unchecked.”

Lu Qi acknowledged and followed Lu Yunji out of the study room.

Fu Yin had been eavesdropping and she entered the room. She saw the embroidery on the table and was alarmed after hearing their conversation. If they found a clue from the embroidery, Fu Rou would be in trouble and would even implicate Brother Sheng Chumu’s family. She picked up the peacock embroidery as her other hand reached for the scissors in the drawer.

“Yin’er.” Lu Qi entered. “What are you doing?”

Previous Chapter Next Chapter