“Imperial Brother, even if you send Yan’er off to the nunnery today, I still must speak my mind. Has she not harmed you enough? If her feelings for you were truly sincere, why was she carrying someone else’s child? Why did she stab you to death on the execution grounds? She’s only here because she wants to help Hua Mu! Yan’er begs Imperial Brother, please don’t be fooled by her, don’t ignore everyone’s advice.”
Huangfu Yan knew that Ji Feng Li wanted to safeguard Hua Zhu Yu. Thus she voiced her honest opinion though she truly did not know where she had the courage to do so. She didn’t hold back or stop for breath for fear Ji Feng Li would interrupt her halfway.
But Ji Feng Li did not stop her and allowed her to speak without restraint. His expression was a vision of stillness and composure but his eyes had grown bleak.
Seeing that Ji Feng Li had no intentions of stopping her, Huangfu Yan continued, “Such a woman is not worthy of you!”
“Leave! Go accompany your Imperial Mother at the nunnery,” Ji Feng Li ordered in a light voice as his weary gaze directed at Huangfu Yan.
Huangfu Yan’s eyes welled up with tears as she looked at him. After a moment, she replied with difficulty, “Yan’er …..shall leave.” It seems that Imperial Brother had believed her and that was good enough.
In truth, Ji Feng Li did believe in Huangfu Yan’s words. Normally, he wouldn’t just take her word for it but he suddenly recalled that night when he had ran into Hua Zhu Yu in the night market.
At that time, he thought that Huangfu Wu Shuang had already decreed for Hua Zhu Yu’s beheadment in the street market. That night, he had an encounter with Miss Nie along the road but he hadn’t known that it was her. He remembered that she had fallen towards him but he was caught up in his pain and didn’t notice what was wrong with her. After she left, he noticed that there was blood on his hands.
At that time, he was not in the mindset to dwell on things not of his concern. Even if someone died in his arms then, he would not have spared a second glance.
These past few days he was so caught up in the happy moments he spent with her that he completely forgot about this. Now thinking back to that night, she could’ve had a miscarriage!
Thus he did believe there was truth behind Huangfu Yan’s words.
If she was pregnant then the father of the child she was carrying must be the person she loved. It could be Huangfu Wu Shuang or Xiao Yin. In short, he was certain it was not him.
After Huangfu Yan withdrew, the whole hall fell silent.
He slowly went back to take a seat behind the dragon table. He silently held the cup of tea up and a eunuch arrived in a haste to pour him tea but he coldly shouted, “Pour wine!”
The eunuch was unaware of what had happened and did not have the courage to question authority so he quickly gave the order for someone to bring forward the wine.
Ji Feng Li raised the cup of wine and stared at the amber liquid inside as a self-deprecating chuckle escaped his lips. In other people’s eyes, good wine was rare and should be appreciated. Yet to him, it was only an object for him to relieve his sorrows.
He dropped his head back and finished the last drops of wine in the cup. One after another, he continued to drink until he was no longer aware of how much he had consumed.
In the end, he had drowned out the surrounding sounds and could only hear the heavy pounding of his heart. With every breath he took, there seemed to be a burning flame rising in his chest. Moreover, his head was throbbing as if ready to explode any minute.
This kind of feeling, this intense pain made him recall the events of that day when she had given him several consecutive stabs on the execution grounds. When he had woken up from that ordeal, he had felt this same pain.
Seemingly, he was sinking into a dark, cold pit.
Surrounded by nightmares of the past, he seemed to be unaware of where he was. He was moving forward in the darkness, intoxicated. But he could suddenly hear a distant sound.
…… Do you think she really likes you? …… Do you think she has an interest in you? …… The person in her heart is not you, not you, not you …...
Countless sounds echoed in the night, cold and distant.
He stood there silently, despite the voices encircling him.
He could only stand there, quietly enduring the aching pain in his chest.
…… This is your destiny, just like the fate of your Imperial Mother …… You can’t escape … can’t escape … can’t escape ……
The echoing voices continued to surround him.
But this time he did not stand there foolishly but started to run like crazy.
He didn’t believe in fate!
He didn’t want his fate to be decided by anyone. In this world, he will not forgive anyone who wants to manipulate him. Except for her….
Unaware of how long he had run, the darkness began to disappear and what unfolded before his eyes was a vision of green forest scattered with beautiful lights.
While he was still in a daze, a small boat suddenly appeared on the lake. On the boat stood a woman in a pink dress, her long hair cascading behind her back. It was her.
Her sudden arrival had dispelled all the voices haunting him. What remained was only silence.
“Bao’er ……” he called out her name.
She stood on the boat smiling at him. Her bright eyes were gazing back at him full of tenderness. She floated over towards him, her long dress fluttering the air along with her hair.
“Feng Li ……” She opened her lips and gently called him.
He watched her slowly approach him and a ripple stirred his heart. His hand reached out, wanting to pull her into his embrace. But suddenly, her pink dress had turned into a dark crimson eunuch attire. In her hand she held a sharp knife that was stabbing straight into his chest.
Ji Feng Li was instantly startled awake.
Inside the room it was dark; night had already fallen. The moonlight seeping in through the window was faint and dim. He wondered if it was because of his mood that the moonlight seemed oddly cold and desolate, even a bit heartless tonight.
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He suddenly realized that he had fallen asleep after getting drunk. Everything was merely just a dream. But he still felt a stabbing pain in his chest though his wounds had long since healed. In the end, he couldn’t tell whether the pain stemmed from his heart or his wound.
He gently squeezed his forehead which was slightly aching. As he tried to recall his dream, his heart grew heavy. He extended his arm and had inadvertently knocked the cup of wine to the floor with a thud.
“Your Highness! Is anything wrong?” The eunuch standing outside the door cautiously asked when he heard the commotion inside.
“I’m fine. Come in and light the candles!” Ji Feng Li coldly ordered.
As the candles lit up, the quiet hall was basked in light.
What time is it now?” He asked in a cold voice, his expression returning to its usual composure.
“Your Majesty, it’s time for dinner!” The eunuch carefully responded. “Did Your Highness want to return to Tao Yuan Ju to have the evening meal?”
Ji Feng Li picked up the brush and continued to review the memorials. Without raising his head, he ordered, “Set up the meal here.”
Upon hearing this, the eunuch gave a surprised startle. Normally, His Highness would always return to Tao Yuan Ju for dinner. The eunuch did not know why he wanted to have his meal here tonight but did not dare to make any wild speculations. Quickly, the eunuch sent people to serve the meal in Qin Zheng Hall.
One by one, Ji Feng Li ate the dishes but it was all tasteless to him.
Huangfu Yan’s poison was actually not a vicious poison. Besides making Hua Zhu Yu feel dizzy, it didn’t cause any other symptoms.
In fact, she had long guessed that the purpose of Huangfu Yan’s visit wasn’t truly to make amends with her. So she had been on guard. But based on Huangfu Yan’s nature, Hua Zhu Yu didn’t think she would go as far as to kill her either so she dared to save Huangfu Yan.
Huangfu Yan’s purpose was to make her feel unwell so that the Imperial Physician could take her pulse. Once it was confirmed that Hua Zhu Yu wasn’t pregnant, she could imprison her for being the daughter of a treasonous subject.
Hua Zhu Yu did not hate Huangfu Yan so she did not want her to suffer from Ji Feng Li’s scolding. Thus she had told Tang Yu and the servants of Tao Yuan Ju to keep quiet about what had happened and not report it to Ji Feng Li.
Seeing the Hua Zhu Yu was fine, Tang Yu nodded in assent.
The following days were quite peaceful. It seems that Ji Feng Li had been quite busy and hadn’t visited Tao Yuan Ju for several days. Ji Feng Li had just taken control of Southern Kingdom so he must be busy with court affairs thus Hua Zhu Yu was not too concerned. Fortunately, Ji Feng Li had provided her with many interesting books to read so she wasn’t too bored.
On one particular day, Hua Zhu Yu was leaning against the sandal wood bookshelf, slowly flipping through a book called “The Records of Southern Kingdom’s Scenery.”
Her dream had always been to travel the world. Now that she couldn’t, reading about it would suffice. As she flipped a page, something suddenly fell out from the book. Picking it up, she saw that it was a neatly folded paper. From its faded color, it seemed to be quite old. She wondered who had placed it in this book. She was about to put it back in its place but then something caught her eye. There seemed to be a painting of a woman on the back of the paper. Hua Zhu Yu’s heart gave a slight startle. She had once seen Wen Wan’s portrait in Xiao Yin’s study. Is this also a portrait of Wen Wan that Ji Feng Li had left in this book? A feeling of displeasure rose within her and she couldn’t help but unfold the paper to take a look.
On the old paper, there indeed was a painting of a woman, but it was not Wen Wan.
The woman had a gorgeous countenance. She wore a bright red dress, though the color had faded, it was still charming. The woman had a pair of bright eyes and an enchanting smile. She sat on the railing by the lake, with a sword on her back. She was slender with a heroic spirit to her. The brushwork of this painting was not skillful, but the painter obviously devoted all his efforts to depicting the charm of the woman’s demeanor.
Who is the lady in this painting? Who painted this?
Hua Zhu Yu looked at the signature at the bottom right of the paper with suspicion. There were two small characters, “Jin Hua” with a red seal of “peace and prosperity” that Emperor Yan had used at the beginning of his reign when he first ascended the throne.
Hua Zhu Yu was surprised to see this. It appears this painting was the works of Emperor Yan. He also must be the one that left it here in this book. She wondered if Ji Feng Li was aware of this.
Jin Hua? Hua Zhu Yu suddenly recalled that the palace Ji Feng Li currently resides in was Jin Hua Palace. That means that the woman in this painting should be Ji Feng Li’s birth mother, Empress Xie. She carefully took a second look at the woman’s face and saw there was indeed some resemblance to Ji Feng Li, especially her eyes. It turns out that Empress Xie’s name was Jin Hua.
Hua Zhu Yu did not know much about Empress Xie. She only knew that she was the Emperor Yan’s wife before he had become the Emperor and had accompanied him to fight on the battlefield. She silently looked at Empress Xie in the painting, silently lamenting at her tragic fate. Such a beauty had fallen victim to an illness and departed from the world too early.
“Miss, Prince Na Lan is here to see you,” Long Yu stood at the doorway and softly reported.
Hua Zhu Yu put the book down and went out to the front hall. Na Lan Xue was sitting on the bamboo chair with a smile when he saw Hua Zhu Yu appear. With his black, emerald-like eyes, he looked at her intently, then slowly said, “Yuan Bao, if I had known you were such a beauty, I would not have fought against you. “
Hua Zhu Yu laughed softly and remarked, “I didn’t realize prince was one to have tender feelings for the fairer sex.”
“Of course! To this prince, women should be pampered!” Na Lan Xue said with a smile. His expression then grew serious as he asked. “Yuan Bao, if you decided to stay with His Highness, why don’t you agree to marry him? Do you know how many women are dying to marry him?”
Hua Zhu Yu lightly remarked, “Does that include Lady Wen?”
“So you do know. But there’s some things you probably don’t, ” Na Lan Xue shook his sleeve and approached her, asking in a low voice, “Do you know why he hesitates to ascend the throne? Do you know that those officials pressure him everyday in court, saying that a kingdom cannot go a day without a monarch?”
Hua Zhu Yu also found it quite strange. He had planned for so many years, spent so much effort. Was it not to ascend the throne?
“Is it because of his father? There must be something troubling his heart in regards to his father. Otherwise, he would have revealed his identity to him long ago,” Hua Zhu Yu said lightly.
Na Lan Xue looked at Hua Zhu Yu like he was looking at a fool. Then he said, ” It’s all because of you!”
“Me?” Hua Zhu Yu asked in surprise. What does she have to do with his throne?
“Do you know Empress Xie?” Na Lan Xue asked.
Hua Zhu Yu was a bit surprised that Na Lan Xue would suddenly mention Empress Xie, especially right after she had just seen a painting of her. She whispered, “Not very much.” If she hadn’t just seen the painting, she wouldn’t have even known her name.
Na Lan Xue continued, “This all began from the time of the previous dynasty’s nation of Mo. At that time, the monarch was weak and the vassals of the surrounding states led an uprising. The two most influential armies were Lei Ting Troops led by Emperor Yan and Feng Yun troops led by Empress Xie at that time. Later, Emperor Yan and Empress Xie developed mutual affection. When they were married, their armies became one and their strength increased greatly. With the gradual surrender of other rebel forces, their army grew stronger and stronger. A few years later, it finally overthrew the former Nation of Mo.”
Hua Zhu Yu did not expect the Feng Yun troops belonged to Empress Xie. That’s to say that Empress Xie had a hand in laying the groundworks to this Southern Kingdom. But Hua Zhu Yu had read many historical books and it’s only recorded Empress Xie as the first wife of Emperor Yan. After entering the palace, she died one year later of illness. There was nothing recorded of her merits.
“So Empress Xie was a true heroine,” Hua Zhu Yu said in surprise. This was something she never expected.
“That’s right. Since Empress Xie was constantly fighting, Ji Feng Li also grew up on the battlefield. By the age of five, he could already shoot and kill the enemy,” Na Lan Xue said.
Hua Zhu Yu was shocked. She thought that it was cruel enough that she had to accompany her father on the battlefield at the age of 10. Unexpectedly, Ji Feng Li actually grew up on the battlefield. For a child, this was such a tragedy.
“It’s a pity Empress Xie suffered the calamitous fate of a beautiful woman(chinese idiom). She knew her days were limited. She had once saved our Yue Zhi state so she had quietly hid her Feng Yun troops in our state. After Ji Feng Li turned 10, he would come to Yue Zhi twice every year to train with the soldiers. That was how he and I came to know one another. He told me that before Empress Xie passed away, she knew that after her death his life would not be easy. So she had promised Imperial Tutor Wen that if he protected and supported him, once Ji Feng Li became the Emperor in the future, Wen Wan would be his Empress,” Na Lan Xue said.
Hua Zhu Yu fell silent upon hearing his last sentence. It turns out that Na Lan Xue went in circles, talking about the Nation of Mo and Empress Xie, all to tell her that Empress Xie had once promised to make Wen Wan Empress.
Unexpectedly, Hua Zhu Yu’s words had become a prophecy.
At the beginning, she had told the Daoist priest to proclaim that Wen Wan had the fate of a phoenix.(Refer back to Chapter 67 when this happened) She did not expect that it was actually true.
No wonder Wen Wan was so sure when she had said that Ji Feng Li would definitely marry her. This was the will of Empress Xie.
Ji Feng Li had pampered and doted on her that she nearly forgot one thing. He was going to be the Emperor and she would always be the daughter of a traitor. In the end, mountains and rivers would still stand between them.
These days, he seemed to be deliberately avoiding her, was it because of Wen Wan? Hua Zhu Yu’s heart tugged with a sense of loss. She slowly strode over and took a seat in front of the qin. This was the famous qin named Qing Lian(clear water) that Ji Feng Li had sent her. She had once played it in the Left Chancellor Residence. Her fingers stroked the strings indifferently but the resulting melody sounded tumultuous, matching her present mood. The warm sunlight of March basked her figure but the warmth did not reach her heart.
“Miss Wen has done so much for him, she’s worthy of being his Empress,” Hua Zhu Yu quietly remarked as her fingers glided across the strings.
Seeing her cold, detached attitude, Na Lan Xue was upset. “Yuan Bao, I know you’re a smart woman, but quite heartless. If Ji Feng Li liked Wen Wan, they would’ve already gotten married. How could it be your turn?”
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