They’d originally planned on admiring the plum blossoms, but who had the heart to do so now?
Apart from the seated Shi Sheng, everyone else stood at the sides of the pavilion in their own little cliques, afraid of being implicated.
“My Lady…” The palace maid beside her, Tao Qin, worriedly spoke, “If Shu Fei-niangniang continues to stand out there like this, she won’t be able to take it. If anything really happened to her, it might be difficult to explain to His Majesty.”
Shu Fei was currently freezing to the point where her face was turning blue, her body shivering in the icy wind.
Shi Sheng propped up her jaw. ‘The leads should be arriving soon.’
And, true to her thoughts, a woman wearing palace maid attire appeared in the plum blossom forest.
Lu Ruo had snuck out of the cold palace to find an opportunity to meet the Emperor.
She had smelled the scent of plum blossoms while she was in the area and followed it all the way to Snowfall Garden.
The FL’s preferences naturally resembled that of the ML’s deceased Empress to better get his attention by reminding him of the latter, thereby giving them a link.
Therefore, this novel’s FL liked plum blossoms.
The FL was delighted upon finding such a large copse of plum blossom trees—so much so that she nearly forgot she was in a different world. She recklessly barged in, bumping into Shu Fei, who was still being punished to stand outside.
The body Lu Ruo had taken over held the rank of Jie Yu. Although she hadn’t ever served the Emperor and had only ever seen him once, plenty of concubines still recognised her.
Afraid that Shu Fei would as well, Lu Ruo immediately lowered her head.
Inwardly though, she was wondering why Shu Fei was standing alone out here and wearing so little to boot.
There were a lot of plum flowers around the pavilion that blocked it from view. Adding to the fact that Lu Ruo was facing away from it, she naturally didn’t notice the people inside.
Shu Fei was already starting to see black. Without even the time to discern who it was standing before her, her body swayed weakly and her stiff legs failed to find an appropriate balance, so she started falling to the ground.
Lu Ruo subconsciously made to help Shu Fei up, but it was at this moment that a tall figure swiftly walked over from the side and picked Shu Fei up in a princess carry. Lu Ruo could smell a thick ambergris scent.
“This is how you serve your mistress?” The man in the bright yellow dragon robe stood beside her, coldly rebuking, “20 strokes.”
The man appeared very cold, his handsome features seemingly having been carved out of ice. When he stared at her with those frosty eyes of his, she felt as if she’d entered an ice cellar.
‘But this guy is pretty handsome… Is it because ancient times are better for producing good-lookers? No wait, he wants to give me 20 strokes of the rod?!’
Lu Ruo finally came around and immediately loudly retorted, “Your Majesty, Shu Fei-niangniang was already like this when I got here; and I’m not her servant girl either!”
Yuwen Xun, who had been planning to leave, frowned slightly, his sharp, dagger-like gaze turning to bore into Lu Ruo.
Lu Ruo puffed up her tiny chest in a way that practically screamed, “You can’t pin the blame on me!”
“Presumptuous!” The eunuch accompanying Yuwen Xun was called De-gonggong and he had a horsetail whisk in his hands. He berated her in his high-pitched voice, “You actually dare to disrespect His Majesty?! Who gave you the courage?!”
Only now did Lu Ruo realise that she had been too reckless. In this day and age, even looking directly at the Emperor was a great offence. She hurriedly lowered her head.
Yuwen Xun seemed to be in a daze, a complicated look in his eyes. After a while, his thin lips moved as he spoke, “What is your name?”
Hearing an unfamiliar name, Yuwen Xun’s face darkened once more. “30 strokes.”
Lu Ruo was dumbstruck. ‘Why did you give me 10 more?! Are all ancient people this unreasonable?!’
Yuwen Xun carried Shu Fei and prepared to leave.
“Your Majesty, please wait!” Lu Ruo anxiously called out. She didn’t want to have to suffer the strokes lest she die, meaning that she’d be unable to return home. So she definitely had to avoid them.
Yuwen Xun really did pause and turn to look at Lu Ruo.
Lu Ruo took a deep breath. “Your Majesty, I have a method to cure the young prince’s ailment.”
The look in Yuwen Xun’s eyes changed, as he asked her in a deep voice, “What is it?”
‘Even the imperial physicians are unable to cure my little prince—what could a mere palace maid like her do?
Or…could it be that she’s just trying to catch my attention?’
“It’s an heirloom recipe of my family’s. It’s really effective, so it’ll definitely be able to cure the young prince’s ailment.” Naturally, Lu Ruo didn’t have any ‘family heirloom recipe’—she was relying on her system.
She figured that she could find a way to endear herself to the little prince first before approaching Yuwen Xun.
Of course, the most imperative thing now was to be spared from the 30 strokes.
“What nonsense! How could a palace maid like you treat the young prince?!” De-gonggong snapped in his high-pitched voice. “Your Majesty, this maid is simply too undisciplined! This one thinks she should be put to death!”
Lu Ruo, “…” ‘What a wicked eunuch, to call for my head the moment he speaks! Wait till this big sis becomes your superior! See how I’ll deal with you then!’
“Your Majesty, the little prince has been suffering from this ailment since he was young. The doc—the physicians don’t dare to properly treat him because they’re afraid the herbs will be too strong for him to handle. But my heirloom formula is definitely harmless!” Lu Ruo patted her chest and promised. “If it’s no use, I’m willing to atone with my life!”
‘Yuwen Xun should believe me now right?’
“If anything happened to the little prince, what use would that be?”
Lu Ruo shot De-gonggong a subtle glare. ‘This damned eunuch! Just how have I offended him?’
Shi Sheng looked at the blurred figures through the plum forest. ‘Oi, ML-sama, your Shu Fei’s about to freeze to death and you’re still dallying with the FL? Have you even considered your beloved concubine’s feelings?’
“This palace maid is really quite daring…” The concubines at the side started discussing. “She actually dares to have designs on the young prince! If anything happened to him, she wouldn’t be able to atone even if she had several lives to lose!”
The little prince’s mother was the deceased Empress. She had died while giving birth to him—there was pretty much nothing to be done about excessive blood loss in this time period.
The little prince had fallen into a frozen pond when he was two years old, which resulted in a long-term ailment.
“If you wanted to seduce His Majesty, at least pick a smarter option…”
“A petty palace maid wants to seduce His Majesty? What nonsense!”
“Jiejies, don’t you find that she looks rather familiar?” One of the concubines finally caught on.
“She does indeed.” Another concubine agreed. “But I can’t remember from where…”
“Isn’t this that An Jie Yu? You know, the one who broke Xian Fei-jiejie’s mandarin duck jade pillow?”
Lu Ruo had been sent to the cold palace for breaking Xian Fei’s mandarin duck jade pillow. Since it had been a gift from the Emperor, breaking it was an act of great disrespect.
Lu Ruo had actually caught the Emperor’s interest when she first entered the palace. She’d not only been given the rank of Jie Yu but also a title, An.
Although this wasn’t the first time someone got this treatment even before they served the Emperor, it was still something that stirred envy in the hearts of others.
These concubines were all afraid Lu Ruo would earn the favour of the ML. Fortunately for them, some things happened after that made the ML too busy to visit women, so he forgot about Lu Ruo.
Hence, the An Jie Yu who had been awarded a title but never had the chance to serve the Emperor became a thorn in the sides of certain people, who had to get rid of her to feel secure.
“Wasn’t she in the cold palace? Why is she here?”
“She snuck out of the cold palace and still dared to show herself to His Majesty? This An Jie Yu is really bold!”
“What do we do now ah?”
The group of concubines all turned to look at Shi Sheng, who had just been watching the drama unfold.
Shi Sheng, “…” ‘What’re you looking at me(bbb) for? I(bbb) just wanted to watch a show in peace.’
 Jie Yu is a rank in the imperial harem that has no direct translation. I’d know, I tried looking for one. In the end, I settled on pinyin for all the harem titles. Hopefully it’s not too confusing. I’ll include a section in the glossary to break down the hierarchy for those who need it to keep track of who’s higher than whom.
 I regret searching up what this is. You have been warned: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambergris
 That’s two different nouns that don’t really translate well into English. An, or “安” means peace/stability and is a common title handed out to nobility but it is not a rank. Meaning they are stylised as An (rank). Sometimes it is paired with another word like Ping, or “平”, or just some other adjective-ish character. I think the intention behind it is to wish them to embody said attribute.