Fairy Emperor’s POV
“Woohoo! I landed on my feet!” The Ninth Son shouted excitedly, hands in the air in triumph, while half his body was solidly wedged in the snow.
“Iermuf-- I’m stuck!” Came a muffled shout from the Tenth Son, who landed head first in a particularly deep snowdrift. His feet were currently hanging out and swinging as he tried to remove himself from the snow.
Jin stood up and watched them out of the corner of his eye while he removed the snow and debris that was all over his outfit. He was pleased to see that they were as hardy as their older brothers, and had suffered no injury.
The Ninth Son saw his younger brother’s feet kicking wildly in the air and burst out laughing. “I’m coming, I’m coming, I’ll get you out!”
After struggling to pull himself out of the snow, he hopped over to Tenth Brother and with a single tug got the younger boy free. As the older son was cleaning the snow off the younger one, he glanced up. The smile on his face froze.
He saw his Fourth Brother, along with a crowd of important looking people, staring in their direction. All the important people had eyes as big as plates and mouths open like dead fish. Quite a few looked horrified. Fourth Brother had an extremely stiff smile on his face and was already walking over.
“Eh, what’s wron--” Tenth Brother started asking until his eyes fell on the same scene his older brother had just been looking at. He quickly hid behind his Ninth Brother, hoping the older sibling would take the brunt of what was coming.
Fourth Brother first went to Jin and gave a respectful, hand’s cupped, bow. The smile on his face remained as he spoke, but Jin could see his usually amicable son’s spirit was practically raging with irritation.
“Imperial Father, this Prince has been showing the noble guests from the Nations Lan Xang, Wudahu, and Hou in your absence. This Prince hopes he hasn’t inteferred with Imperial Father’s meeting by doing so.”
Lu Shao’s eyes were clearly asking: ‘What took you so damn long?’
Jin’s lips curved up slightly. “We are grateful for Fourth Prince’s efforts. As Fourth Prince knows, there is a set schedule We follow in the mornings. Along the way here, We were unfortunately accosted by the rambunctious Ninth and Tenth Prince, causing a further delay.”
‘I was spending time with your Mother and then playing with your siblings.’ Jin tilted his head, clearly unrepentant for putting his son in a tight spot.
At the mention of his younger siblings, Lu Shao looked over at them. They were slowly backing away, silently trying to escape unnoticed. When they saw Lu Shao turn to them, smiling wide and eyes narrowed, a shiver ran down their spines.
Lu Shao laughed in a pleasant, but highly threatening manner as he stared at the Ninth and Tenth Prince. “Since Imperial Father has arrived, he surely won’t mind if this Prince hands over the guests to him? This Prince thinks his Imperial Brothers are lacking in proper manners and etiquette and could use some extra lessons.”
Jin raised his eyebrows slightly and then nodded in a sagely manner. “It would be their honor.”
Ninth and Tenth son looked thoroughly betrayed at Jin’s words.
Lu Shao immediately pivoted on his foot and walked over to them. Hands behind his back, he leaned over them and asked, “Imperial Brothers weren’t planning on going somewhere without this Prince, were they?”
Ninth Brother hung his head while Tenth Brother looked pleading at his Father again. Being the youngest, he was sometimes given special treatment, but his Father thoroughly ignored him. Seeing he wasn’t getting any parental support, he too hung his head in defeat.
“That’s what this Prince thought.” Lu Shao grabbed them both by the ears, pinching them painfully, he began walking and dragged them along with him. “Come, Imperial Brothers, this Prince has much to teach you about appropriate behavior in public.”
Jin listened to his children whispering as they walked away:
“F-fourth Brother we didn’t know anyone was here! Honest!”
“It was an accident, Big Brother!”
“I-It was Second Brother’s idea!”
“Yeah, it was his idea!”
“Was it an accident or Yan Li’s fault?” Lu Shao whispered angrily, “And do you think shifting the blame is going to work? Are the rules of the Palace a joke to you? Even Shan Hui, the Eldest, follows them! Not to mention Yan Li! Since you seem to forget them so easily I’ll have you write and copy them out for me. How many times should I have you copy them out? Five times? Ten? Twenty?”
His ninth and tenth sons let out a low groan at the incoming punishment.
The Palace rules came from the Lanhua Imperial Family Rule book. Any child raised in the Palace knew about it and passionately hated it. Just reading a small portion of it was enough to make their brains go numb from boredom. Copying it was a great way to punish children, and it had been utilized that way for quite a few years now.
While the children were having their amusing argument, Jin had walked over to his “noble guests”. He felt his mood drop at the sight of them.
“Greetings to Emperor Huang!” the dignitaries said together, cupping their hands respectfully as they bow.
These were outsiders from the west and it showed. Their spirits were very frail, so thin it seemed like a strong gust of wind would blow them away. And they were filled with greed, arrogance, and envy. All very typical of men in their stations. The only thing keeping those darker traits in check was the very obvious fear they had of him, of people in power.
They were afraid so they did not dare misbehave. This was the only thing that saved them. A truly wicked heart did not feel fear. It only felt frustration at what it couldn’t grasp and devour. That they feared him meant they weren’t hopeless.
But instinct was a powerful thing and it was irksome just being around them. When it came to evil in men, his tolerance had always been naturally low. It felt like a very annoying itch he couldn’t scratch, which just made him want to scratch it all the more. His fingers twitched slightly as he suppressed the impulse, which when carried out on them would snuff out their lives.
He kept reminding himself that he’d promised his Mountain Flower to be merciful. Civilized, respectable leaders didn’t go around destroying people for looking irritating. If he wanted to gain true admiration and praise, he had to act somewhat within the bounds created by human morality. Therefore, he had to have a certain level of tolerance and at least wait until they made a serious mistake.
So he would be tolerant. It’s not like they were corrupt enough to be angered or a threat. He could restrain himself. Taking a deep breath to calm himself, the amicable expression he’d been sporting smoothed into indifference.
“Follow.” He commanded, regulating his voice into coldness rather than annoyance, and skipping all the normal pleasantries he should have said in return. He had to be tolerant, that didn’t mean he had to be pandering.
The dignitaries scrambled to keep up with him as he took wide steps, not caring how he inconvenienced them. It wasn’t his fault they were so out of shape.
Though the people behind him said not a word, mostly because they were struggling to keep pace, he could practically feel their resentment and confusion for how he was treating them. He turned a deaf ear, feeling somewhat resentful himself for such weaklings not appreciating his benevolence.
They hadn’t walked very far when several sedan chairs came into view. Jin refrained from rolling his eyes. Of course, such soft spoiled men had been touring with sedans chairs. Even his youngest could walk from one end of the palace to the other without getting winded!
There was a collective sigh of relief as the dignitaries saw their transportation salvation. Their steps quickened but instead of getting in immediately, they arranged themselves in a line and sweatily waited for Jin to get into a sedan chair first.
The one in the front was the nicest looking one and must have been what Lu Shao was using. It even had a random stringed instrument sitting inside.
Jin grumped inwardly. What was his Fourth Son thinking, showing off his elegance instead of his strength? These were backwater aristocrats from the west that needed the fear of the mountain jammed into their tiny little brains before they could be useful.
As it was, these feeble spirited humans were harboring thoughts of superiority!
He waved his hand dismissively at the two fairy servants who were tasked with carrying the sedan.
“Put it away.” He turned to the dignitaries and nodded to the remaining sedans. “Get in.”
Most of the men gave another respectful bow and hastily climbed into the sedan. The fairies hauled Lu Shao’s sedan away after giving a respectful bow.
The youngest of the dignitaries couldn’t quite help himself and dared to ask, “How will His Imperial Majesty get to the Hall of Serenity without a sedan?”
The Hall of Serenity was a large building where Palace, national, and foreign leaders could meet for official business. It’d been built, plus many other buildings, after Lanhua had been created and the need arose.
All of these buildings were located in the western portion of Blue Flower Palace, known as the Front Court. The Front Court was small compared to the Back Court where his family lived. If there’d been even a hint of malice or arrogance in the young dignitaries words, Jin would have been offended by the implication that he needed help getting around the Front Court.
Jin turned to the young man. It was only this young man’s pure blunt curiosity that saved him. Jin never minded such curiosity and felt this young man’s inability to control his was a mark in his favor. Honesty was always easier to deal with than a scheming heart.
Being under Jin’s scrutinizing gaze, the young man immediately realized he’d been rude.
“Majesty, this one--” He began to apologize.
“We will walk.”
“We will walk to the Hall of Serenity.”
The young man looked shocked. Probably, he hadn’t expected Jin to answer him directly and without any rancor.
The curiosity that had overwhelmed him before surged up again.
“But the Hall of Serenity is quite far away, is it not? Won’t his Imperial Majesty be tired?”
Jin furrowed his brows slightly. “Do you tire from walking around in your own home?”
“Than why would We tire from walking around the Palace, Our home?”
The young dignitary opened his mouth, closed it, and then bowed.
“This official asked in ignorance. Rumors of His Imperial Majesty’s strength have not been exaggerated.”
Jin laughed, eyes narrowing as his gaze swept over the weaklings in front of him.
“If Us walking causes you to say that, then We think you will discover before the end of your time here that the rumors did not even touch upon Our strength.”