Seeing her wake, Ji Feng Li bent down and silently drew her closer into his arms. The warmth from his masculine body wrapped around her and the unease within her heart slowly vanished.
Inside the dark room, she could smell the faint scent emanating from his body, calming and serene.
“Why are you here?” she asked softly.
He raised his head and replied in a quiet voice, “I came to see you. Just now … did you have a nightmare?”
Hua Zhu Yu nodded slightly but in truth the nightmare did not frighten her greatly. It was just that she hadn’t experienced such a warm embrace for so long that she couldn’t help but bury herself closer against his chest.
But in that moment, Wen Wan’s voice reverberated in her ear and recalling her remark, Hua Zhu Yu didn’t know how much longer she could remain within these arms.
Comforting Hua Zhu Yu, Ji Feng Li murmured in a soft and gentle voice. Akin to a sheathed knife, his sharp brows were composed with a quiet, noble bearing.
While holding her hand, he also patted her back soothingly. After some time, he said softly, “Bao’er, let me take you to a place.”
“Where?” Hua Zhu Yu asked in confusion as she got up along with him. It was the middle of the night, where did he want to take her?
Ji Feng Li did not answer. Instead, he proceeded to drape a fur cloak over her shoulders and said, “It’s cold at night, quickly put this on.”
Afterwards, they both exited the room and were greeted by the bright moonlight and chilly night air.
Ji Feng Li held her hand as he silently led the way. In the past, this palace had seemed so cold and remote but now, being here together with him, all she felt was an unprecedented warmth. They continued walking past the corridors as they headed towards the northeastern side of the Imperial Palace.
“Bao’er how do you want to spend the rest of your life?” Ji Feng Li tilted his head to the side and asked her with a smile.
Hua Zhu Yu was surprised by Ji Feng Li’s sudden inquiry but she did not think much of it and honestly replied, “I just wish for a normal life, one without war, without killing. Rich, glory and power are unimportant to me. Just a peaceful life is enough.”
Ji Feng Li silently listened to Hua Zhu Yu and his eyes filled with mirth as his smile deepened.
“Is there anything else?” He asked in a low voice. He placed his hand on her shoulder while he held her cold hand with his other. She could feel the heat from his palm pouring into hers, bringing her great warmth. She smiled softly and replied, “And marry a man I love. I’ll weave while he tends to the field. We’ll build a wooden house by the lakeside. In front of the house there’ll be trees which will bloom with beautiful flowers in the spring and bear fruit in the fall.”
Listening to her, he smiled and said in a low voice, “Bao’er, your thoughts and mine are quite similar but there’s something more that I want.”
Hua Zhu Yu looked up into his deep eyes and asked in a quiet voice, “More? What’s that?”
Ji Feng Li smiled at her and leaned in, whispering in her ear, “To have kids running around the house.” His breath brushed her ear and she could feel her face flush. Luckily it was dark and no one noticed. “Close your eyes, we’re almost here,” Ji Feng Li suddenly said in a low voice.
Hua Zhu Yu looked at him in surprise and closed her eyes, letting him guide the way. Moments later, she heard him softly say, “You can open your eyes now.”
She silently opened her eyes and was startled by the sudden brightness of the scenery before her. There were countless lanterns hanging from the treetops, shining brightly in the dark night like a dream. In front of them was a large lake, the surface waters glistening under the dual luminance of the moonlight and lanterns. On the bank, peach blossom trees lined in succession, blooming with a radiance as bright as the afterglow of sunset.
As she continued to walk deeper inside, she suddenly stopped in amazement.
Inside the peach blossom grove, a courtyard appeared before her eyes. Hua Zhu Yu couldn’t help but voice her surprise as she raised her skirt and quickly went inside. Pushing open the gate of the courtyard, she saw a wooden house standing tall in the night.
She carefully opened the door of the house and noted the simple yet elegant interior design. Inside, a glass lamp emitted a warm glow that clearly illuminated the interior. She first entered the hall then explored deeper inside, walking towards the inner room where she opened the back window and admired the view of the elegant bamboo forest. In concert with the night breeze, the bamboos swayed lightly with grace.
Adjacent to the inner room were 3 additional ones consisting of a library, bathroom and kitchen.
Hua Zhu Yu did not think Ji Feng Li could build such a foreign courtyard in the palace. Everything about this place brought a sense of solace and comfort, completely different from the palace. It was as though she was at a place far from the secluded deep palace and the sense of oppression which had been weighing on her heart for the past few days instantly vanished.
Turning around, she did not see Ji Feng Li anywhere. She pushed the door and went outside. Above the lake, there was mist swirling about but not a sliver of his shadow could be seen. Where did Ji Feng Li go, she wondered as a sense of loss suddenly rose within her.
Breaking the silence of night, the splashing sound of water emitted from the thickets of reeds near the lake and a small boat suddenly appeared. Standing at the bow of the boat was Ji Feng Li in his moon-white gown which fluttered in the wind as the mist lingered around him. He turned around and spotted Hua Zhu Yu. Smiling brightly he said, “Bao’er, get on the boat!” In the darkness of night, his deep, melodious voice was bewitching enough to warm the heart.
Hua Zhu Yu boarded the boat. Once Ji Feng saw that she had settled into her seat he began to row. The boat swayed for a while, but did not move forward. Ji Feng Li kept paddling away with the oar but the boat only turned in its place.
Hua Zhu Yu laughed as her eyes curved like two crescent moons. “It appears there are also things that can make it difficult for the all-powerful Ji Feng Li,” she remarked with delight.
Gazing at the beautiful dimples on her face, Ji Feng Li’s dark phoenix eyes sparkled with a radiance bright enough to entice one’s soul.
The spring night was quiet; the skies vastly dark. Beneath the rays of moonlight, mist rose gently from the lake like wisps of smoke. On the lake surface, the image of the cold moon was reflected, stirred by the rippling waves.
Standing at the bow of the boat, Hua Zhu Yu couldn’t help but laugh as she watched Ji Feng Li laboring away ineptly.
“I’ll do it!” She said as she took the oar from Ji Leng Li and began to row slowly. The water splashed about and occasionally a fish would jump out of the waters in fright.
“What a big fish!” Hua Zhu Yu exclaimed.
With a smile, Ji Feng grabbed a harpoon from the boat and stood at the bow, staring intently into the lake. Then with a swift, powerful move he thrust the harpoon in the waters. When he lifted the harpoon up, a fish was successfully caught. He looked back at Hua Zhu Yu and said with a smile, “Later, I’ll stew fish soup for you.”
His beaming smile made the moonlight fade away in an instant. It even made Hua Zhu Yu momentarily forget to row and the boat was left floating on the lake idly.
On the lakeside, the blooming peach blossoms were full of fragrance. With a gust of wind, a flutter of pink petals danced in the air and a few fell upon the heads of the two people on the boat. The delicate pink offset against the black mane of hair was a stirring scene to behold.
When Ji Feng Li turned back and saw this scene, he placed the harpoon down on the boat and softly asked, “Are you cold?”
It was early spring and late in the night so the air was quite cool near the lake. In addition, the lake mist had dampened their clothes. After a long time, it was quite cold but Hua Zhu Yu shook her head and replied, “I’m not cold.”
Ji Feng Li helplessly smiled. Perhaps due to disguising as a man for so long, she did not have a weak nature like other girls. If it was any other lady, she would definitely have said she was cold and then took the opportunity to snuggle up to him. But she did not do so. She rarely acted coy; perhaps she did not know how. She was always resilient and strong but seeing her like that made his heart ache but it also made his interest in her deepen as well.
Suddenly, a cold stream of water shot at him. He could not avoid it in time and was struck in the face. Her clear laughter resonated in his ear as another splash of water was sent his way.This time, he was on guard and was able to dodge while inadvertently mobilizing his body to arrive in front of her. His arms made their way around her and pulled her in. In an instant, her scent flooded his senses and he couldn’t help but lower his head to kiss her lips. The skies began to turn and her breath mingled with his. His thin, soft lips showered her with gentle, soft kisses.
“You little witch, why didn’t I recognize that you’re a woman before?” he said as he bit her lips softly as if punishing her. Gradually, his kiss deepened with passion and demand.
As Hua Zhu Yu leaned against his chest, she could hear his steady, powerful heartbeat which seemed to contain some sort of strange power, giving her a sense of calm and peace.
“Bao’er, marry me!” He said softly as he let go of her lips and held her tightly in his arms.
She thought of what Wen Wan had said this morning and asked softly, “Ji Feng Li, you’re willing to marry a woman with an unclear background as me?” Ji Feng Li slightly stiffened for a brief moment before he reached out his hand and stroked her hair. He leaned in, his lips close to her ear as he softly said, “I just want to marry Bao’er, I do not care about your background.” When he thought she was a man, he still wanted to be with her. Why would he care about her identity now.
Hua Zhu Yu was honestly surprised by his answer and she looked up at him. In the dark she could see there was expectations in his eyes along with some nervousness. He was no longer smiling and was looking at her very seriously.
She was not sure if he knew she was the daughter of Hua Mu but she did not dare to ask. Once her identity was revealed, the court officials will consider her the daughter of a traitor, which was much more dangerous than having an unclear background. She placed her arms around his neck and smiled. “I’m hungry, I want to eat fish stew.”
Ji Feng Li smiled and chided, “”Truly a greedy cat!”
translations at peachblossomgrove . com
In the subsequent days, Hua Zhu Yu had moved into the new courtyard within the peach blossom grove called Tao Yuan Ju. She would spend her days playing the qin, practicing martial arts, and appreciating the beautiful flowers. On the outside, the days passed by very peacefully but deep inside she understood that the things she wanted to avoid would sooner or later happen. Because of this, she cherished these days that she had even more.
Having witnessed the life and death of many on the battlefield for several years, she knew that in such a turbulent time there were many things out of one’s control. She had no clue when she would die so she relished in the warmth that he provided her even though she knew it was going to be short lived, she still treasured it.
Ji Feng Li treated her well, it could even be said that he spoiled her to the heavens. However, he would often steal glances at her when she wasn’t paying attention. When she would look back at him, he would look away as if nothing was out of the blue. As time passed, she grew worried. Although she said she wanted to remain in the palace, in truth, she was imprisoned by Ji Feng Li. Even if she didn’t want to stay, he would never let her go. In the peach blossom grove, his hidden guards were everywhere. Moreover, the little maidservant Long Yu was no simple character. She was sent by Ji Feng Li to serve by her side, surely her martial arts wasn’t terrible either.
She really wanted to take a trip out of the palace and it seemed as though Ji Feng Li knew this as well. One day, Tang Yu had led a group of guards to her place and said that Ji Feng Li had ordered him take her and Long Yu out of the palace for a stroll along the streets. Naturally, Hua Zhu Yu was thrilled. Ever since she entered the palace, she had not seen Ping, Kang or Tai. An had already left with Hua Mu, leaving only the three of them in Yu City. Hua Zhu Yu wanted to take a trip out of the palace to see them.
Hua Zhu Yu had no interest in strolling the streets and sightseeing. She headed towards the eastern side of the city where the main road was bustling with people and different shops. The reason why she chose this place was not because she wanted to buy things but that this place had a shop which served as a contact point for Ping, Kang and Tai. It was a clothing store and the shopkeeper was a middle-aged woman. Hua Zhu Yu took the opportunity of trying on clothes as she received news from the shopkeeper who said that she had lost contact with Ping, Kang and Tai for many days. She had sent subordinates to their residence on Anhe Lane but could not find them.
Hua Zhu Yu grew worried listening to her. After she came out of the clothing store, she wanted to head towards Anhe Lane to investigate but was stopped by Tang Yu.
“Miss Bao, His Highness has specifically given order that we must return to the palace before the sun sets! Miss Bao, it’s time to head back now,” Tang Yu lightly said as he stood in front of her about five steps away. Tang Yu had once tried to assassinate Hua Zhu Yu but failed. However, since then Hua Zhu Yu had been on guard against him and he against her.
“Unless you kill me, I’m going!” Hua Zhu Yu coldly threatened him. “Anyway, it’s not like you haven’t tried before!”
Tang Yu stiffened then stubbornly retorted, “If Miss wants to go, you must kill me first!”
Displeased, Hua Zhu Yu passed through a series of shops and picked up various items such as rouge, pastry, silk and tossed it towards Tang Yu and the guards. Before long, their hands were full of items. “I want to buy these things for His Highness, you are not allowed to throw them away,” Hua Zhu Yu instructed as she quickly ran forward.
Along the street, there were stalls selling all kinds of foods, pens, inks, books, bows, and candied fruits. When running past the stall selling bows and arrows, Hua Zhu Yu spotted Xiao Yin. He was holding a big bow in his hand and he had just placed an arrow on it to test it out.
Hua Zhu Yu didn’t anticipate she would meet him here by chance. She even thought that he had returned to Northern Kingdom with Dan Hong. Surprisingly, someone like him was also strolling through the market street. Hua Zhu Yu quickly headed towards Xiao Yin. When Long Yu saw this she quickly shouted from behind, “Miss, slow down!”
Pretending she didn’t hear anything, Hua Zhu Yu ran even faster. Behind her she could hear a crashing sound as Tang Yu and the group of guards threw the items in the hands on the ground and quickly gave chase after her.
“Xiao Yin, help me stop them,” Hua Zhu Yu whispered as she ran past him. She knew she would not be able to escape on her own. She could only rely on Xiao Yin to stop them. Although Xiao Yin did not remember her, she thought that he would still lend a helping hand out of respect towards Dan Hong.
When Xiao Yin saw Hua Zhu Yu rushing by in a flurry his purple eyes softened with a look of tenderness as his eyes lingered on her departing back, reluctant to look away.
He suddenly turned around and focused his gaze on Tang Yu. His thin lips hooked up in a smile that wasn’t truly a smile. His four guards that followed him like a shadow had noticed his signal and quickly emerged from the crowd and stood in front of Tang Yu.
“So it’s actually Tang gongzi, long time no see. I am testing this bow, I wonder if you’d like to assist me?” Xiao Yin raised his voice and said with a smile. As soon as he spoke, he had already set several arrows on the bow and shot towards Tang Yu, Long Yu and the group of guards.
Noticing the fight, the pedestrians on the streets immediately scurried away for fear of suffering a misfortune.
Tang Yu was stopped by Xiao Yin’s arrow. He could only helplessly watch as Hua Zhu Yu jumped over the eave and escape employing her lightness skills. He rushed towards Xiao Yin but Liu Feng blocked his way as he softly chuckled and asked, “Tang gongzi, what’s the rush?”
Tang Yu knew that Xiao Yin was determined to stop them. He motioned to Long Yu to report back to the palace. Then he turned around to face Xiao Yin and said, “Alright, since the Northern Emperor wants to test the bow and I(humble) just happen to want to test my sword, it’s better if we compare pointers.”As soon as he spoke, he swung his sword towards Xiao Yin.
Xiao Yin gazed towards Hua Zhu Yu’s direction and saw that she had escaped a far distance. After exchanging two moves with Tang Yu, he broke away from the fight and gave a sharp whistle with his lips. In the sky, a gyrfalcon could be spotted swooping down like an arrow as its long wings stretched out in a beautiful arc before landing to perch on Xiao Yin’s shoulder with great precision.
Xiao Yin stroked the gyrfalcon’s head and it fluttered its wings before taking flight once again. Xiao Yin then employed his lightness skills and immediately followed after it.
I hope everyone is well amidst this COVID-19 pandemic and is practicing good hand washing technique and appropriate social distancing measures! It’s quite insane how fast this virus is spreading and how much it is affecting our society. I just received news today that my classes have all transitioned into online classes for the rest of the semester. In addition, a lot of chinese/korean shows have stopped filming because of this virus. Even the Mulan release date has been pushed back. I truly hope this virus gets under control and everything gets back to normal soon but until then everyone please stay safe!
I have been super busy with classes so this chapter took a lot longer to translate. In addition, I felt like I had translator’s block for some reason and words were just not flowing. So I had to go read other novels to give me inspiration. I just finished reading, “Refusing to Serve Me? Then off with Your Head!” It was supposed to be a light-hearted romantic comedy but it actually made me cry a lot lol. Anyways, if you haven’t read it, check it out, it’s really good!