Life was like a game of chess.
Within a short few months, the imperial power shifted from Emperor Yan, to Huangfu Wu Shang and now to Huangfu Wu Shuang. The abrupt shift in power made many feel that the future was unpredictable.
In the past, when Huangfu Wu Shuang was deposed of his Crown Prince title and thrown into prison, Right Chancellor Nie Yuan Qiao and Empress Nie had attempted to save him. But their plans fell through and he was left imprisoned. Now he’s out and with the assistance of the Right Chancellor, he has full control over Huangfu Wu Shang and the court.
When Hua Zhu Yu received An Xiao’Er’s secret reports, she couldn’t believe it. Perhaps she had thought that Huangfu Wu Shuang was too stubborn and incompetent.
Hua Zhu Yu followed Huangfu Wu Shuang and they finally arrived at Qin Zheng Hall. Though simply furnished, it was grand and refined, exuding a solemn and dignified ambience. Wisps of smoke was emitting from a furnace on the table, giving off a light and pleasant scent.
Huangfu Wu Shuang walked forward and took a seat on the golden dragon throne. Perhaps because of the smoke, the expression on his beautiful face was slightly ambiguous. The look in his dark eyes were no longer as it was before. That stubborn willfulness and youthful innocence had been replaced with an unfathomable expression.
“Xiao Bao’Er, that day when you left Nei Cheng Yuan (inner punishment hall), I knew you were entering the Chancellor’s Residence. I felt disheartened but I believed that you would never abandon me. And indeed it was as expected. This time, if you hadn’t sent the news of the victory to the capital, this prince wouldn’t dare make a move.” Huangfu Wu Shuang said with a smile.
When Northern Kingdom invaded, Emperor Yan was still lying in bed sick. The Left Chancellor personally led the troops to the border to fend off the invading enemy. It can be said that this was the prime opportunity for Huangfu Wu Shuang to make his move. But if he did not know how the war was going to turn out, he would not dare act recklessly. When he received the news of victory, he knew that if he didn’t make his move now, once Ji Feng Li returned to the capital with the troops, he would not have the chance.
“Your Highness, when do you plan to ascend the throne?” Hua Zhu Yu asked with raised brows.
“This prince has already ordered the Imperial Astronomer to find an auspicious date and he said the 26th of this month is a good day. Why? Does Xiao Bao’Er have any objections? You’ve just returned to Yu City and quickly rushed to see this Prince. Did something happen?” Huangfu Wu Shuang asked in a low voice.
translations at peachblossomgrove . com
Hua Zhu Yu’s eyes darkened. Ji Feng Li led the troops to fight against Northern Kingdom. The military power is currently in his hands. She originally thought that he would take advantage of the situation and seek power but now it seems that it wasn’t the case. The war was just won and now Southern Kingdom was in the midst of restoring peace. Another war was not something the populace would want and support so it’s not the best time for him to make a move. Furthermore, in the eyes of the people, Ji Feng Li was placed on a high pedestal. If he makes a move for the throne now, he would lose the trust of the people and bear the title of traitor and treason. However, if Huangfu Wu Shuang ascends the throne at this time, Ji Feng Li can make a move. Under the pretext of Huangfu Wu Shuang conspiring against Emperor Kang and inciting chaos and calamity, Ji Feng Li can send the troops to the capital. Therefore, this was not the right time for Huangfu Wu Shuang to be enthroned.
“This time Your Highness has exposed your strength. If Ji Feng Li leads the troops back to the capital, how certain is Your Highness of winning?” Hua Zhu Yu asked.
Huangfu Wu Shuang stood and slowly paced back and forth in the hall. Nie Yuan Qiao’s son, Nie Ning was in charge of the 50,000 imperial guards in the capital. However, Imperial Tutor Wen’s subordinate had control over the other 50,000 imperial guards. If they hadn’t carefully planned, he and Nie Yuan Qiao would not have easily overthrown Huangfu Wu Shang. Currently, the army of imperial guards are in the hands of Nie Ning. However, if Ji Feng Li’s army returns….
Huangfu Wu Shuang shook his head and said, “I’m afraid the odds of success is very slim.”
“If that is the case, Your Highness must not ascend the throne at this time. Otherwise, Ji Feng Li will surely take advantage of this opportunity and attack. Your Highness can just state that Huangfu Wu Shang is presently ill so you are temporarily handling court affairs.”
Huangfu Wu Shuang lowered his head in contemplation for a moment before sighing. “Xiao Bao’Er is right, this matter cannot be rushed.”
He then walked over to stand in front of Hua Zhu Yu. “Xiao Bao’Er, you haven’t seen this prince in so long, did you miss me?” he asked with a smile while jabing Hua Zhu Yu’s shoulder.
“Ai yo!” Hua Zhu Yu exclaimed in pain and stepped back while grabbing her shoulder. “Your Highness punch too hard!”
“Naturally!” Huangfu Wu Shuang said as he turned his wrist in a circle while his bright eyes carefully observed Hua Zhu Yu. Her complexion wasn’t as fair as when they first met, but why was she was still easy on the eyes? As soon as he saw her, his heart was rattled. “Xiao Bao’Er….” he couldn’t help but call her name.
“This servant is here!” Hua Zhu Yu replied.
“Xiao Bao’Er…..” Huangfu Wu Shuang called again.
“Is something wrong?” Hua Zhu Yu asked, puzzled.
“If nothing is wrong, I cannot call your name?” Huangfu Wu Shuang questioned as he shot her a glare.
Hua Zhu Yu reluctantly smiled and replied, “Of course… you can.”
“Tell me about the battlefield,” he said.
The two talked merrily and it seemed as if time had returned to those days when they were still back at Eastern Palace.
“Your Highness, where are Emperor Kang’s imperial concubines?” Hua Zhu Yu suddenly asked. She was concerned about Dan Hong.
Huangfu Wu Shuang did not expect Hua Zhu Yu to ask him this. Staring at her blankly, he asked, “ Why does Xiao Bao’Er want to know?”
Hua Zhu Yu recalled that Dan Hong entered the palace under the identity of Magistrate of Qing Yuan’s daughter, Song Qi Luo. She heard from An Xiao’Er that after Huangfu Wu Shang became emperor, Dan Hong was not selected in the consort selection but remained in the palace as a palace maid. But later on, Dan Hong took the initiative to approach Huangfu Wu Shang and he bestowed on her the title of Zhao Yi.
“I heard that the Magistrate of Qing Yuan’s daughter, Song Qi Luo had become Emperor Kang’s Zhao Yi. When this servant used to wander the Jianghu, this servant had crossed paths with Song Zhao Yi once for she had saved this servant. That day, this servant had seen her by chance in Qing Jiang Palace. However, due to this servant’s identity, this servant did not dare to acknowledge her. Now, this servant really wants to meet her.”
“Song Zhao Yi? Magistrate of Qing Yuan’s daughter?” Huangfu Wu Shuang said as he furrowed his brows.
“She is the lady that played the qin in front of Your Highness that day,” Hua Zhu Yu reminded.
“I remember now,” Huangfu Wu Shuang said as he smiled. “Her qin skills were excellent but my mood that day wasn’t good. I had wanted to punish her but it was you who stopped me. So it was actually because you two already knew one another.”
“Yes,” Hua Zhu Yu replied.
“You want to meet her. Could it be that Xiao Bao’Er likes Song Zhao Yi?” Huangfu Wu Shuang questioned.
Hua Zhu Yu gave a forced laugh as she replied,” Your Highness is jesting. This servant wants to see her merely to repay her kindness in saving this servant’s life.”
“Since the both of you are former acquaintances, there’s no harm in meeting once again. Alright, Let Ji Xiang take you there,” Huangfu Wu Shuang said as he waved his hand.
Hua Zhu Yu paid her respects then took her leave.
Hua Zhu Yu followed Ji Xiang as he led the way to Hou Gong(harem/back palace for the imperial concubines).
They soon arrived at a simple yet elegant and secluded courtyard in the back palace of the harem. Above on the lintel, there were 3 large characters: Yong Tang Palace. There were more than a dozen guards stationed at the door. The security was very tight. It was evident that the palace had been sealed off and the people inside were confined.
“Yuan Bao, you go in yourself. I will return to wait on His Highness.” Ji Xiang led Hua Zhu Yu to Yong Tang Palace then turned and left.