It was the first month of the second year of Hong Wu1.
With a recently crowned Emperor, Southern Kingdom received the congratulatory greetings of the surrounding smaller states. On the 18th day of the first month, the envoys of Bo Si, Gui Zi, Eastern Yan, and Western Liang all arrived at Yu City to have an audience with the Emperor that morning.
Huangfu Wu Shuang was dressed in his golden, satin court attires. On his head rested his crown decorated with jewels. He appeared peerlessly noble and dignified as he sat upright upon the golden throne as Hua Zhu Yu stood on the side.
With all the officials present, Huangfu Wu Shuang ordered in a loud voice, “Escort in the envoys.” His imposing voice resonated within the grand palace hall.
Moments later, a group of envoys attired in exotic robes entered the hall under the guidance of a palace eunuch.
From Eastern Yan, there were two representatives present, Rui Wang Dou Qian Jin and his subordinate. Like his name his whole presence shone brilliantly. No matter where he went, it was impossible to ignore his existence with his dazzling red brocades embroidered with golden patterns. Moreover, today he wore a waistband that was inlaid with a wealth of precious gems that glimmered brightly.
From Bo Si, a group came led by a man with a high nose bridge and deep eyes with curly hair. He had a dark complexion and he was dressed in magnificent silver silk brocades. Bo Si was famous for their glamorous clothing but standing beside Dou Qian Jin they paled in comparison.
From Gui Zi, the prime minister, a man in his late sixties arrived. The envoys of Bo Si and Gui Zi knelt down to perform their greeting ceremony for Huangfu Wu Shuang. “Your Honorable Majesty, on our King’s order, we came to relay our country’s alliance which we hope will be solid for generations to come!”
“No need for formalities, you may stand,” Huangfu Wu Shuang said with a smile. He was satisfied by their display of sincerity.
Dou Qian Jin also stepped forward and bowed as he gave his greetings. “This prince heard that Your Majesty had recently ascended the throne thus came to congratulate.”
Huangfu Wu Shuang smiled and nodded courteously.” Since Rui Wang is here, you should certainly take a stroll around Yu City and enjoy the scenery.”
translations at peachblossomgrove . com
Dou Qian Jin smiled lightly and replied, “This prince had long wanted to appreciate the beautiful scenery that Yu City has to offer. It’s just that this time, this prince isn’t particularly interested. This prince personally came this time to find a person. Don’t know if Your Majesty is aware of her whereabouts?”
“Oh?” Huangfu Wu Shuang brow slightly raised as he asked, “Who exactly is Rui Wang searching for? Zhen will certain help Rui Wang find this person.”
“In fact, Your Majesty is acquainted with this person, it’s the unmarried wife of the Left Chancellor Ji Feng Li, princess of the Northern Kingdom, Zhou Ya. The princess was betrothed to this prince but she ran away on the wedding day. This time this prince came to find her.”
Hua Zhu Yu was slightly startled. Each time Dou Qian Jin appeared, he had a purpose. Last time, he came with Xiao Yin to Southern Kingdom to find Ying Shu Xie. Now he came to find Zhou Ya.
These were her former identities so the person he was looking for must be her.
But Hua Zhu Yu was uncertain. Was Dou Qian Jin looking for Zhou Ya or her? It seems she must find the opportunity to have a talk with him to figure this out.
Seemingly, it was Huangfu Wu Shuang’s first time hearing this. Or perhaps he took light of the situation. He displayed a slight surprise and quickly said, “Rui Wang, zhen was unaware that Princess Zhou Ya was once engaged to you. But she had fled from the Left Chancellor’s residence. It seems she has a knack for escaping. But rest assured, zhen will certainly assist Rui Wang by sending troops to search for Princess Zhou Ya.”
“Great, this prince hopes Your Majesty will not let her suffer any harm,” Dou Qian Jin slowly said as he played with the golden coins in his hand. His words were faint but laced with a hint of oppression.
Huangfu Wu Shuang was unbothered. He remained calmly smiling as he replied, “Rest assured, Rui Wang.”
From Western Liang, the envoy was a young man. Because Western Liang had aided Northern Kingdom in the recent war and attacked Liang Zhou, their relationship with Southern Kingdom was slightly tense. At this time, they seemed quite eager to be on friendly terms again.
The envoys presented their gifts and Huangfu Wu Shuang ordered the servants to receive them with a smile. In a grand voice, he said, “All are guests!. Zhen has prepared a banquet and invite everyone to move to Kang Ning Palace for the feast!”
“Your Majesty, the envoy of Yui Zhi state has not yet arrived,” an official stepped forward to inform.
Huangfu Wu Shuang brows knitted as he questioned, “Has the envoy of Yui Zhi arrived in Yu City?”
“The envoys had arrived last night. This small official had also arranged a place of residence for the envoys. This morning, this small official sent people to escort them to the palace but those guards came back and reported that the Prince of Yui Zhi stated that he won’t come unless an official of 3rd rank or higher came to invite him,” the official said fearfully.
This envoy from Yui Zhi is quite bold, thought Hua Zhu Yu.
“How audacious!” an official remarked out loud. “ Prince of Yui Zhi is truly arrogant!”
“Your Majesty, how about this official go and arrest that little prince, see if he still dares to act presumptuous?” a general stepped forward and suggested.
Huangfu Wu Shuang’s sword-like brows furrowed and his eyes congealed. In a solemn voice he replied, “No need! As he requests, send an official to go over and invite him!”
Kang Ning Palace.
Due to the cold weather, the banquet was held inside the palace hall. The hall was decorated with a variety of potted flowers, ranging from dazzling pink to golden yellow. These flowers were all picked from the imperial garden. As soon as one enters, one could already catch scent of the fragrant blossoms.
At the entrance was a huge porcelain vase with a red plum tree. At the highest position was the dragon seat. Along the two sides were rows of rosewood tea tables. The palace maidservants were busy moving back and forth. The rays of sunlight shone through the window sill into the hall, basking the place in resplendent lights.
Because Huangfu Wu Shuang did not have a consort, he allowed the officials to attend with their family members. At Kang Ning Palace, all the noble wives and daughters of the officials had gathered, dressed in gorgeous brocade robes.
Hua Zhu Yu accompanied Huangfu Wu Shuang and waited for him to take his seat before announcing the commencement of the banquet.
After three rounds of drinks, a eunuch came over the report the arrival of the envoys from Yui Zhi.
Huangfu Wu Shuang lowered his wine cup and calmly said with a smile, “Escort them in!”
“The envoys from Yui Zhi arrives..” the eunuch’s voice echoed in the hall.
Hua Zhu Yu filled Huangfu Wu Shuang’s wine cup then looked up, glancing at the door.
It was said the envoy this time was actually the prince of Yui Zhi. The people of Yui Zhi were famous for their beautiful appearances. In prior years, only elderly officials came so no one had the opportunity to broaden their knowledge.
This year the prince came and he had quite the reputation. Everyone couldn’t help their curiosity, looking towards the entrance of the hall.
The plum blossoms were blooming in a brilliant red. A tall figure walked around the flower vase and entered in steady steps. He was dressed in black brocade robes embroidered with golden patterns of clouds. With a mask obscuring his appearance, he exuded of nobility. His black hair was untied, streaming down like a waterfall upon his back. Strands of his hair fluttered casually with each step he took. He exuded of pride and a hint of unruliness.
As he slowly entered, his clothes were like a willow tree by a lake, moving even without the wind. With each step, the black presence blended with the red plum blossoms in the background making for a beautiful sight.
Without even seeing his appearance, he exuded a glorious presence that made others dare not look. Thus when all eyes focused on his face, all was left disappointed.
He wore a golden mask with intricate designs that gave off an enticing charm.
Everyone suddenly recalled that Yui Zhi was a state located in the southern parts of the kingdom, a country that received extensive hours of sunlight so most people wore masks to obscure their faces. The fact that the prince of Yui Zhi was wearing a mask was nothing out of the ordinary as it was Yui Zhi’s custom.
The young prince did not come alone. Following behind him was another young man and a woman with a graceful figure.
This woman was attired in a colorful muslin dress with a mysterious veil. Behind the veil, her appearance was faintly discernible. Gold and silver ornaments with various gemstones hung around her ankles, neck and wrists.
As she walked, the bells on her wrists and ankles made a crisp, pleasant sound, tinkling like a beautiful piece of music.
The eyes of the crowd suddenly shifted from the prince to this woman.
The bold dress and exotic style stunned everyone at the banquet.
The prince of Yui Zhi stepped in front of Huangfu Wu Shuang, placed his left hand before his chest and slightly bowed. “Prince of Yui Zhi, Na Lan Xue formally greets Your Majesty!” His voice was calm and captivating.
“No need for such formalities, Prince Na Lan should just treat this as your home. Take a seat!” Huangfu Wu Shuang lightly replied.
Na Lan Xue smiled and his eyes indifferently glossed over Hua Zhu Yu before he followed the eunuch’s lead and went to take his seat.
“The envoys of Yui Zhi are truly audacious! Before his Royal Majesty, why aren’t you showing your true appearances? This is a crime of disrespect. Not quickly taking off your masks!” a discontented official coldly remarked.
This official had voiced the words hidden in everyone’s hearts. Everyone was staring at the prince, eagerly wishing to tear off his mask.
The young man walking beside Na Lan Xue smiled and said, “Your Majesty, please pardon. The prince has always worn this mask ever since he turned 18 years of age. This is the rule of our royal family. If you wish to see the appearance of a Yui Zhi person, please take a look at this servant instead.” Once he spoke, he removed his mask.
Only at this time did the crowd notice the man beside Na Lan Xue.
- Hong Wu literally translates to “great martial”. I think this is just the reigning year name though I’m not too certain
- Also just to remind everyone, Rui Wang means Prince Rui. So Rui is his title. While Dou Qian Jin is his name.