The person before Hua Zhu Yu was sitting in bed, her legs tucked neatly beneath the blanket. Her long hair was loose, adorned with but a simple jade pin. Though her complexion was slightly pale, she appeared to be in better spirits.
The moment she looked up and saw Hua Zhu Yu, she froze in shock.
“Miss?” Jin Se stared at Hua Zhu Yu in disbelief. “You… you’re still alive? You’re really alive!” Jin Se exclaimed as she grasped Hua Zhu Yu’s hands.
“Jin Se,” Hua Zhu Yu said as she repeatedly nodded in affirmation, “we’re both alive!”
Embraced in each others’ arms, tears of joy and relief were shed. Never could they have imagined that they would see one another again, let alone in these circumstances.
“Miss, why are you dressed like that? It can’t be you’ve been in the army all along? You’re the person Lord Chancellor spoke of, the one who saved this servant?” Jin Se asked as she wiped her tears.
“It’s a long story but first, Jin Se, tell me why are you here? Why are you with Ji Feng Li? Why are you Rong Si?” Hua Zhu Yu questioned.
“It was Lord Chancellor that saved me. That night, I 1….” her voice wavered and her eyes welled with tears as she thought back to that moment. “That night, those men wanted to sully me but I’d rather die than let that happen. I fought back and was heavily beaten for it. When I no longer had the energy to keep resisting, I suddenly saw a white figure appear right before I passed out. Once I finally regained conscious, 10 days had already passed and I was already back in Southern Kingdom. I heard the servants whispering, they had said that Miss Hua was murdered during her marriage procession and Southern Kingdom was launching an attack against Northern Kingdom as a result. I had thought that Miss was truly gone.”
Hua Zhu Yu tightly held onto Jin Se’s hands. She too had thought Jin Se had left her for good. The thought of that night still left her with a lingering fear and unease. Yet unexpectedly, both of them were able to escape safe and sound.
“At that time, I hated Ji Feng Li to the core. But he and his people had mistaken me for you. Thinking that you had passed away, I let them carry on thinking that. They gave me a new identity which allowed me to remain by their side. I wanted to use that opportunity to investigate your death. But I discovered that Lord Chancellor had nothing to do with it. Miss, Lord Chancellor is a good person, he’s a good official.”
“How do you know? What did you find out?” Hua Zhu Yu asked solemnly.
“Miss, Lord Chancellor had no choice. He never had the intentions of harming you. That night, the conjugal wine laced with poison was his doing but the poison was bestowed by the Emperor who feared you would refuse the marriage (to Northern Kingdom). I don’t know what kind of poison the Emperor had given him but Lord Chancellor had switched the poison. He had laced the wine with a poison specially made by Tang Yu. He said that the poison could be resolved with a cup of wine. When he rescued me back then, he thought that I had already resolved the poison2,” Jin Se said.
translations at peachblossomgrove . com
Hua Zhu Yu thought back to that time. It was true that her poison was resolved after she had drank that cup of wine Xiao Yin had poured her. At that time she was puzzled over what had happened. So the wine was actually the antidote. If she had a sip of wine along the long marriage procession, would everything had been different? Hua Zhu Yu felt troubled inside. After a moment, she composed herself and said, “ Even if he’s a good person, it can’t prove that he has no hands in the demise of the Hua Family. At such a young age he’s already the Left Chancellor. Who knows how much blood has drenched his hands. Neither of us are able to grasp his thoughts and motives. Jin Se, everything you know came straight from his mouth. You shouldn’t believe his words so easily.”
“But Miss, he truly did save me! He had no idea that Southern Kingdom was going to sacrifice us; that’s why he didn’t say anything. But after he got wind of what was happening, he rode out straight through the night. He personally came and saved me from those people but he was actually trying to save you,” Jin Se anxiously said in between coughs.
Hua Zhu Yu pat Jin Se’s back and asked with concern, “How are your wounds? Does it still hurt?”
Jin Se shook her head and replied with a smile, “I’m fine. I heard that a young commander had rescued me. I didn’t know who it was but I could never have imagined it to be Miss. I heard that Lord Chancellor had punished Miss for disobeying military order. Later when I see Lord Chancellor, I will tell him the truth, that you are the true Miss of the Hua family.”
Hua Zhu Yu furrowed her brows. “Jin Se, you mustn’t do that! In the future, you will still be Miss Hua and I shall remain a commander in the army.”
Though Ji Feng Li had growing suspicions that she was Ying Shu Xie, she didn’t care as long as he never finds out that she’s Hua Zhu Yu. She wants to conceal the fact that she’s female so that he never finds out.
“Jin Se, did you figure out who sent those assassin to kill us that day?” Hua Zhu Yu asked.
“It must’ve been the Southern Emperor!” Jin Se asserted.
Hua Zhu Yu shook her head.
It’s possible that he’s behind it but it’s not definite. Though Ji Feng Li had saved Jin Se that day, it doesn’t prove that he didn’t send those assassins.
“Jin Se, don’t regard yourself as this servant, we’re sisters. Moreover, Jin Se, do you remember that pendant you gave me that day?” Hua Zhu Yu suddenly asked.
“Miss, could it be that you’ve found my family?” Jin Se asked in with wide eyes.
Hua Zhu Yu nodded. If she had realized Rong Si was Jin Se sooner, perhaps Jin Se wouldn’t be in this state.
Jin Se’s grip on Hua Zhu Yu’s hand tightened anxiously and her lips slightly trembled. “Miss, where….where are they?”
Hua Zhu Yu patted Jin Se’s hands reassuringly and slowly explained, “ That pendant is currently in the hands of the Northern Emperor Xiao Yin. He said it belonged to his long lost younger sister, princess Zhou Ya. Jin Se, you’re a princess of Northern Kingdom!”
Jin Se covered her mouth in disbelief. Northern Kingdom! Princess! She never would’ve imagined such a thing! Even since she could remember, she had always lived in Southern Kingdom. In her heart, Northern Kingdom was but a rival nation. Moreover, she was currently mobilizing funds to assist Southern Kingdom invade her home country!
Hua Zhu Yu saw Jin Se’s stricken face. She too felt troubled inside. She knew how Jin Se would feel once she found out her true identity. She was just recently wounded by the soldiers of the Northern Kingdom. Xiao Yin had even taken her as hostage. What’s more, she was treated with such disrespect by Daqi. He had torn her clothes in front of the whole army, making her a laughing stock. Although Jin Se had always been strong since young, she was still a woman after all. Met with such a situation twice she surely would feel aggrieved.
But Hua Zhu Yu couldn’t hide this from her. Jin Se had the right to know.
“I know this wasn’t what you were expecting and that you may feel responsible for this war but it has nothing to do with you. When the war is over, Southern and Northern Kingdom will enjoy peace again for a few years. If you want to remain in Southern Kingdom, I will keep your identity a secret,” Hua Zhu Yu said with concern.
Jin Se nodded and smiled as tears streaked down her face, “Actually I’m very happy, thank you Miss for helping me find my family. It’s just very unexpected. I don’t remember my past very clearly. I’ve always thought I was a subject of Southern Kingdom.”
Hua Zhu Yu smiled and said, “Whenever you get the chance, return to Northern Kingdom and see your brother. If he knew you were his sister he would cherish you dearly. Before he had mistaken me for you and treated me very well.”
“Really? What is he like? Miss, it can’t be that you like him?” Jin Se suddenly asked with a smile.
Hua Zhu Yu suddenly froze, unsure of how to reply. But she quickly averted the question and poked Jin Se’s forehead, asking, “When did you start liking Ji Feng Li!”
“I..” Jin Se’s pale face slightly flushed, “I had seen him once before at Yu City.”
Looking at Jin Se blush, Hua Zhu Yu felt as though a heavy block was weighing on her heart. It seems Jin Se had developed feelings for Ji Feng Li since long ago, back at the Hua Residence when she used to pretend to be Hua Zhu Yu. At that time, to the young misses, Ji Feng Li was the number 1 bachelor of Yu City.
Perhaps Ji Feng Li had agreed to the marriage because he had seen Jin Se once before. If not, why would he agree to such a marriage? Perhaps Ji Feng Li and Jin Se were meant to be. And she was the odd one out.
“Miss….you… like Lord Chancellor?” Jin Se hesitantly asked.
Hua Zhu Yu smiled back at her and replied, “How could that be? I have never met him before and I only agreed to the marriage because it was a marriage bestowed by the Emperor. After all that has happened how could I possibly have feelings for him.”
Jin Se breathed a sigh of relief, “But whether or not Miss likes Lord Chancellor, I won’t marry him anymore! Miss, no matter what he was still once your husband!”
Hua Zhu Yu smiled and said “Jin Se, your marriage is up to you to decide. If you want to marry him, that is your choice, you don’t have to mind me.”
“Miss… I…” Jin Se’s hands tightly gripped Hua Zhu Yu’s. She was deeply moved and couldn’t find the words to reply.
“Jin Se, my identity cannot be revealed at this moment. I still have a lot of investigate. So you can continue being Miss Hua if you so please. If you want to return to Northern Kingdom, that is also fine. Jin se, because of me you nearly lost your life. In the future there’s no need for you to suffer on my behalf, ”Hua Zhu Yu slowly said. She paused for a moment and then continued, “This conversation must stay between us only, you can’t let Ji Feng Li know. Just tell him that we’re old acquaintances.”
“I… alright…” Jin Se slowly nodded. “But Miss, if it’s like this then you would have to suffer!”
Hua Zhu Yu smiled, “How could I suffer? I’m doing fine in the army and I have great comrades by my side. Before when Ji Feng Li wanted to punish me, they wanted to take on the punishment on my behalf. Don’t think too much. Here, let me help you with the medicine.”
Hua Zhu Yu brought the bowl of medicine from the table over to Jin Se when the the camp door suddenly opened and Ji Feng Li walked in.
Hello everyone!!! Yes, I know that was a reallyyyyyy long hiatus and I’m so sorry I couldn’t update as often. Classes this semester was crazy so I had to devote more time to my studies but I am finally on summer break!!!! So updates will definitely be more frequent, I promise! And thank you for all the well wishes messages/emails!!
- Note that Jin Se refers to herself as “this servant” but I’ve just used “I” so that it flows better. After Hua Zhu Yu tells her to stop referring to herself as “this servant”, Jin Se refers to herself as “younger sister” but I kept using just “I.”
- When I first read this I wondered “ how can alcohol be an antidote to poison?” but strangely during the time I was translating this, I was learning about ethylene glycol poisoning in class. Ethylene glycol can be found in antifreeze. There is an antidote to ethylene glycol but certain smaller hospitals may not carry that expensive medication so an alternative is actually to give patients alcohol to counteract the poisoning. I just thought that it was very weirdly coincidental how I was learning about it while I was translating this chapter.