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The commotion in court quickly died down and everyone simultaneously fixed their gaze on Hua Zhu Yu. In that moment, many past events flashed through her mind.
Within the hall it was bright and warm but Hua Zhu Yu felt frigid cold. The coldness seem to charge through her, perforating into her heart, causing her to helplessly shudder. Beneath her sleeves, her hands clenched into fists in an effort to suppress her emotions and remain collected.
Raising her head, she smiled with composure and responded, “That’s right, this gonggong is acquainted with the wife of Left Chancellor. As for this pendant, I indeed have seen her wear it.”
“You….” A few officials furiously clamored and countless eyes focused on Hua Zhu Yu, some held anger, some held hatred and even ridicule…..
Hua Zhu Yu’s eyes unwaveringly surveyed the officials but when her gaze landed on Ji Feng Li, the smile on her lips froze.
He was smiling!
His lips were lifted in a faint smile yet it was nevertheless gentle and peerlessly noble. But his gaze was chilling, enough to cause one’s heart to palpitate. Though they stood separated by quite a distance, Hua Zhu Yu could feel the iciness of his gaze seeping into her.
“Yuan Bao, this is a serious matter. You cannot spout nonsense! How can you be acquainted with Left Chancellor’s wife?” Huangfu Wu Shuang asked as his brows knitted.
Hua Zhu Yu lowered her head and said, “Replying to Your Majesty, this servant is not spouting nonsense. On the battlefield, this servant had gone against military orders to rescue Left Chancellor’s wife. Due to this, Left Chancellor daren had also punished this servant. This matter is known to all the generals in the army camp, Your Majesty can ask them to verify.”
Upon hearing this Huangfu Wu Shuang narrowed his eyes and asked the generals “Is this true?”
In court, there were a few generals present who had participated in the war with the north. One stepped forward to answer, “It’s true that Bao gonggong is acquainted with the wife of the Left Chancellor. However, this does not prove that this pendant belongs to her. May I ask, Commander Bao is a man, Left Chancellor’s wife is a woman, how can you have seen this personal item on her?” he angrily asked.
“Enough!” Huangfu Wu Shuang coldly uttered as he slammed the table. “This matter will be clearly investigated. Guards! Go to the Left Chancellor’s Residence and relay my decree to escort the Left Chancellor’s wife into the palace!”
“Your majesty, this servant wishes to go relay the decree!” Hua Zhu Yu stated as she knelt down, her brows slightly knitted.
“Yuan Bao, you are needed here to wait on me. Jixiang, go to the Left Chancellor’s Residence to relay my decree!”
Jixiang assented and led several Yulin army guards to the Left Chancellor’s Residence.
The entire hall was enveloped in complete silence, not a single voice could be heard.
Among the officials present, a few were angry, some were secretly happy, while a few were frightened.… Only Ji Feng Li remained standing there calmly. Ever since Hua Zhu Yu said she was acquainted with Jin Se, he remained silent, his face was calm as a lake surface, no matter how big the pressing wind was, not a single ripple was seen.
Standing in the hall, Hua Zhu Yu could feel the uneasy calm before the storm, making it hard for her to somewhat breathe.
An unknown amount of time had passed before Jixiang finally returned, hastily entering the hall with his horsetail whisk. All eyes were instantly fixed on him.
“Your Majesty, Left Chancellor’s wife is not at the residence. This servant questioned the people in the residence and they said that she had went to burn incense at the temple since the early hours. This servant sent men to search all the temples within the capital but cannot find her, ” Jixiang carefully reported as he knelt down.
Jixiang’s clear loud voice resonated in the hall, shocking Hua Zhu Yu.
translations at peachblossomgrove . com
Jin Se’s missing?
If that’s the case then it would be hard to confirm Ji Feng Li’s crime.
“Oh? Not in the residence? Continue searching!” Huangfu Wu Shuang ordered.
“Your Majesty, she clearly knows she lost her pendant. Fearing that things would be revealed, she must have escaped!” Nie Yuan Qiao said.
“Ji aiqing(beloved official), is there anything you’d like to say?” Huangfu Wu Shuang slowly asked.
Ji Feng Li stepped forward, his figure straight and upright as thought among heaven and earth he stood alone. His gaze was exceedingly cold as he looked at Nie Yuan Qiao but once it moved to Huangfu Wu Shuang, the look in his eyes turned into sorrow and alarm, he bowed and said, “This official never colluded with Northern Kingdom nor harbored any intentions of rebelling. As for this official’s unmarried wife, though this official is unclear about her background, but this official believes she is definitely not the princess of Northern Kingdom. Your Majesty, please investigate this matter clearly and return this official’s innocence!”
Huangfu Wu Shuang let out a long sigh. “Alright, Left Chancellor, no need to worry. Zhen will certainly investigate this matter thoroughly. But this time I’m afraid Left Chancellor will have to suffer. Where are the guards of the Yulin Army?”
The guards were standing outside the hall for some time. Upon hearing the Emperor call for them, they quickly rushed in, the person leading the way was Nie Yuan Qiao’s son, Nie Ning. He cupped his fist and knelt down, stating, “Commander of the Yulin Army Nie Ning is here to follow command!”
“Temporarily take Left Chancellor Ji Feng Li into custody. After this matter has been thoroughly investigated, judgement will then be passed!” Huangfu Wu Shuang coldly ordered.
“Yes Your Majesty!” Nie Ning stood and led the guards over to Ji Feng Li.
“Wait!” Upon hearing the order, a few officials surrounded Ji Feng Li in a protective circle. A few generals also stepped forward to stop the guards.
Momentarily, the hall shimmered with a light as swords were unsheathed and a dangerous ambience enveloped the air. Both sides glared at one another, the atmosphere was tense as an arrow pulled on a bowstring. “Audacious! Do you all want to rebel!” Nie Ning questioned in a loud voice.
Once the words were spoken, the hall descended into silence.
Standing beside Huangfu Wu Shuang, Hua Zhu Yu silently observed the turn of events.
The hall was exceedingly quiet, save for the limpid sound of dripping water from the Seven Pagoda on the dragon table.
“You all retreat. I believe His Majesty will investigate thoroughly and return my innocence!” Ji Feng Li voice sounded in the quiet hall, neither urgent nor slow but clear like spring breeze with a trace of majesty.
Upon hearing this, the officials, though unwilling at heart, stepped back.
Ji Feng Li turned to face Huangfu Wu Shuang. He knelt down and paid his respects before standing up and leaving the hall. From beginning to end, he did not look at Hua Zhu Yu even once.
Nie Ning quickly led the Yulin army to follow after.
Standing beside Huangfu Wu Shuang, Hua Zhu Yu was at the highest position within the hall. From an unknown location, a gust of wind seemed to have blown through, carrying an icy chill that engulfed her as it flickered her clothes.
Hua Zhu Yu watched as Ji Feng Li’s figure continue to become increasingly distant until he gradually disappeared in front of her eyes.
Strangely, when she saw Ji Feng Li being taken away, she did not experience joy nor euphoria in her heart. On the contrary, a deep sense of emptiness like a sharp knife was lodged in her chest.The emptiness seem to be drowning her but she was unable to resist, nor did she want to resist.
“Court is adjourned!” Huangfu Wu Shuang ordered, startling Hua Zhu Yu. When she got back to her senses, she saw that the officials were already leaving.
Now all that remained in the hall was Huangfu Wu Shuang and Hua Zhu Yu, one sat while the other stood. Surrounded by silence, Hua Zhu Yu quietly gazed at the Seven Pagoda on the dragon table. It was imposing with faint steam rising in spirals.
“Xiao Bao Er, finally zhen can take down Ji Feng Li, are you excited?” Huangfu Wu Shuang asked with a bright smile as he patted Hua Zhu Yu’s shoulder.
Hua Zhu Yu faintly smiled. “This servant did not know Your Majesty’s methods were this brilliant. Ji Feng Li’s reputation is impeccable so it’s hard to make a move against him. But unexpectedly, his wife is Northern Kingdom’s princess. He is personally courting disaster ah! But the fact that his wife is Northern Kingdom’s princess should be a hidden secret. How did Your Majesty find out?”
Huangfu Wu Shuang smiled and asked, “Xiao Bao Er, you really want to know?”
Hua Zhu Yu replied, “Naturally, this servant would like to know. Your Majesty is also aware that there is bad blood between this servant and Ji Feng Li. This servant also wanted to overthrow him since long ago. So this servant would like to express gratitude to the person who helped make this possible. But if Your Majesty does not wish to say, this servant will no longer ask.”
Huangfu Wu Shuang threw his head back laughing and said, “You obviously want to know! Alright, there is no need to hide it from you. I will take you to see this person!”
The night moonlight was like water, clear and cold.
Hua Zhu Yu followed Huangfu Wu Shuang and they strolled pass Tai Ye lake which was covered with a thin layer of ice, crossed the red bridge and entered the harem(place of residence of the imperial wives/concubines.
Huangfu Wu Shuang’s ascension had taken place not too long ago. The harem was not filled with women. Apart from Dan Hong who was free to move about because of Hua Zhu Yu, the others(referring to the prior Emperor’s women) who had no background were all shuttled to the Cold Palace by Huangfu Wu Shuang. Those that came from large official families on the other hand were all sent home. And since Huangfu Wu Shuang was recently enthroned, he had yet to select any imperial concubines so this harem was pretty much empty. As a result, it gave off quite a gloomy and dull impression, especially at nighttime.
However there was a palace within the harem that was brightly lit. It was magnificent, even more brilliant in splendor that Empress Dowager Nie’s Ci Ning Palace.
Hua Zhu Yu did not understand why Huangfu Wu Shuang led her to the harem, it can’t be the person he’s talking about was a woman?
Huangfu Wu Shuang headed straight to that brightly lit palace and Hua Zhu Yu followed along. When they arrived at the entrance, Hua Zhu Yu looked up at the name plate, the words were written in bold, grand calligraphy “Qi Feng Palace’.
Seeing these 3 words, Hua Zhu Yu was a little startled at heart.
Qi Feng Palace was the residence for the Empress. That must mean that the person living here must be the one Huangfu Wu Shuang intends to crown as his Empress. But as far as Hua Zhu Yu knew, there was only one woman he cared for, the precious daughter of Imperial Tutor Wen, Wen Wan.
Hesitation halted Hua Zhu Yu’s steps and she was uncertain if she should enter.
A small eunuch standing at the entrance had quickly raised his voice to announce, “The Emperor arrives!”
Everyone standing at the entrance quickly knelt down as Huangfu Wu Shuang entered with his hands clasped behind his back.
Hua Zhu Yu followed behind Huangfu Wu Shuang. They walked into the courtyard and saw another group of servants who all hastily knelt down upon hearing the arrival of the Emperor. Hua Zhu Yu did not expect this place to have so many maidservants and eunuchs.
Under the eaves hung several lanterns illuminating the entire courtyard in a dazzling light.
Beneath the plum tree, a woman was dancing in the snow.
She had her body bent as she spun around, her each and every movement, heart-stirring. She was adorned in a pink dress that fluttered lightly in the night wind. Her beauty far outshone the plum blossoms over her.
This woman was indeed the precious daughter of Imperial Tutor Wen: Wen Wan.
Surprised, Hua Zhu Yu watched her as her mind fell into confusion.
Jin Se’s pendant must have been brought back by Wen Wan. Hua Zhu Yu had handed the pendant to Xiao Yin and Wen Wan had been by his side this whole time so it wasn’t difficult to imagine that she was aware Xiao Yin had a long lost younger sister. It probably wasn’t difficult for her to take the pendant either.
But how did Wen Wan know Jin Se was the Northern Kingdom’s princess? She recalled that when she last met Xiao Yin, she still thought Jin Se was dead. She also hadn’t told Xiao Yin about Jin Se either.
Surely Wen Wan had heard the eunuch announce the Emperor’s arrival but she was still immersed in the dance, not stopping for anyone.
A maidservant bowed and said, “Your Majesty, this servant will go report to Miss Wen!”
Huangfu Wu Shuang lifted his hand and said, “No need!”
Hua Zhu Yu stood beside Huangfu Wu Shuang. The night wind rustled their clothes, carrying a slight chill.
Wen Wan’s delicate waist moved as she danced but suddenly, as though exhausted, she fell to the ground, her complexion slightly pale. Her pink dress sprawled on the snow like a flower blooming in the cold night.
Quickly rushing over to her side, Huangfu Wu Shuang asked with concern, “Wan Er, what’s wrong?”
Nestled in Huangfu Wu Shuang’s arms, Wen Wan slowly lifted her head and an expression of slight surprise appeared on her dignified face. She pushed away from Huangfu Wu Shuang and knelt down to pay respects. But before she could do so, Huangfu Wu Shuang said, “Wan Er, no need to be courteous!”
Wen Wan’s lips curled in a light smile and said, “Please forgive me Your Majesty. Wan Er had been immersed in the dance and did not know Your Majesty had arrived.” Her voice was soft and graceful.
Huangfu Wu Shuang laughed merrily and said “Wan Er, why are you dancing in the cold snow, what if you get sick? But with the backdrop of white snow along with the red plum blossoms, your dance is truly breathtaking. Amongst endless snow, a dance radiates of wintry enchantment, beautiful like an illusion, startling one to retreat in elation.”
Hua Zhu Yu frowned. This was the first time she heard Huangfu Wu Shuang reciting poetry. She was quite surprised that he had some knowledge in this field.
“Xiao Bao Er, what do you think of my poem?” Huangfu Wu Shuang turned around and asked Hua Zhu Yu.
Hua Zhu Yu silently snorted. These words should be directed to the person he admired, why ask her for?
“This poem compliments well with Miss Wen’s dance!” Hua Zhu Yu said with a bow.
Huangfu Wu Shuang reached to hold Wen Wan’s hand, happily saying, “Wan Er, let’s go inside and drink some tea to warm ourselves.”
Wen Wan smiled softly and replied, “Alright.”
As they turned to leave, Wen Wan shot a glance at Hua Zhu Yu from the corner of her eye, her gaze heavy with animosity.
When they were at Northern Kingdom, Hua Zhu Yu had captured Wen Wan and used her to threaten Xiao Yin into releasing Jin Se. Hua Zhu Yu had even stabbed her chest with a spear. Although she acted a little rash, she had already broken off the tip of the spear and had no intentions of taking Wen Wan’s life. But how could she know that, but even if she did, she probably still hate her the same. After all, Hua Zhu Yu did hurt her so Wen Wan surely will hate her, there was no doubt about it.
Hua Zhu Yu shook her head and bitterly smiled. It seems she has offended too many people. Just today in court, she had offended Ji Feng Li’s whole faction.
“Is this not Commander Bao? That day on the battlefield, Commander Bao was valiant and heroic, Wan Er still remembers clearly!” Wen Wan slowly said, stressing each word.
“Oh?” Huangfu Wu Shuang’s interest was piqued and he held Wen Wan’s hand as they entered the room, asking along the way,” How was Bao Er on the battlefield, tell me about it Wan Er.”
Wen Wan smiled. “Alright, if Your Majesty wants to hear, Wan Er will tell you all about it!”
Hua Zhu Yu followed them into the room. It was so warm that it felt like worlds apart compared to the coldness outside. Hua Zhu Yu couldn’t help but shudder at the quick change in temperature.
Hua Zhu Yu stepped forward to assist Huangfu Wu Shuang take off his fur coat and handed it to a maidservant to hang on the rack.
Huangfu Wu Shuang walked over to the couch to sit near the furnace and Wen Wan followed after. The two sat near the fire and talked while a maidservant attended to them with tea and pastries.
Hua Zhu Yu stood silently on the side. She thought that the scene in front of her was quite unreal.
She was sure that Wen Wan liked Ji Feng Li in the past. At the banquet at Kang Wang’s Residence, she could recognize the affection just from listening to them play a song together. Moreover, for the sake of Ji Feng Li, Wen Wan had repeatedly rejected Huangfu Wu Shuang’s courtship.
If it wasn’t for Xiao Yin taking her to Northern Kingdom, Wen Wan would have soon married Ji Feng Li. But now, Wen Wan had returned and even brought back Jin Se’s pendant, causing Ji Feng Li to become locked up in prison in the Ministry of Justice.