On the eleventh lunar month, Huangfu Wu Shang’s wedding procession arrived in Northern Kingdom to escort the bride. By this time, Xiao Yin had fully recovered from his injuries and Hua Zhu Yu had decided to return to Southern Kingdom along with the wedding procession. Next month, she was due to give birth and she didn’t want to do so in Northern Kingdom.
Xiao Yin tried to get her to stay but she had already made up her mind.
To her, the moments they’ve spent together and the experiences they’ve gone through, will forever be a beautiful memory which she holds dear in the depth of her heart.
One beautiful day.
Standing amid the vast grasslands on the outskirts of the city, Xiao Yin’s gaze was fixed ahead in the distance. He urged his horse down the path the wedding procession had taken as his gyrfalcon flew above him in the clouds.
Speeding down the road on his great, black horse, the wind roared past him, stirring his black cloak to fly uninhibited in the air behind him.
One man, one horse, racing across the open grasslands.
He didn’t know how long he wanted to continue on like this but besides sending them off, he didn’t know what else to do.
As he reached the foot of Mt. Lianyun, he pulled on his reins and his horse came to a stop.
His sister was married off to a distant place while the woman he loved was gone to that distant place as well.
Behind him, his guards stood a hundred steps away, not daring to approach and disturb him.
The lonesome wind blew as the sun silently set in the horizons. Spreading across the vast skies, the rich shades of blood-red illuminates his tall figure, extending his shadow upon the ground farther and farther…..
From now on, in his life, all that’s left was his duty as Emperor; as for true love, it was forever gone.
Once she returned to Southern Kingdom, Hua Zhu Yu temporarily stayed at Qing Xin Temple for the time being. Her grandma had devoted herself to Buddhism and had been staying there. Qing Xin Temple was not far from Yu City, but she did not plan to return to Yu City.
In the early morning, the skies were still overcast and the air held a slight chill.
Hua Zhu Yu was in her room, busy embroidering baby clothes, carefully stitching each thread diligently with care. In the past, she wasn’t the best at embroidery but these days, for her child, she had learned a lot.
“Yu’er, take a break and come talk to grandma,” Old Madam Hua, dressed in white robes, said as she entered the room.
Hua Zhu Yu placed aside her things and got up to help Old Madam Hua to a seat. She then poured her a cup of tea and smilingly asked, “Grandma, you’re not chanting Buddist scriptures this morning?”
“Yu’er, grandma is worried about you. You look so worn and tired lately. What’s been on your mind? I heard from Dan Hong that the child in your belly belongs to the Emperor,” old Madam Hua said.
Hua Zhu Yu nodded and softly replied, “Yes.”
Old Madam Hua let out a heavy sigh and patted Hua Zhu Yu’s head. Her eyes shone with a look of pity as she said, “You, child, have been like this since young. You keep it all in your heart and never tell anyone. Come, take a seat. I have something I want to say to you.” Old Madam Hua held Hua Zhu Yu’s slightly cold hand and smiled. “Grandma wants to tell you that you shouldn’t let certain things occupy your thoughts for too long, pay it no mind. No matter what kind of identity you once had or what kind of identity you have now, it doesn’t matter. The Nation of Mo is gone not because of Emperor Yan nor because of Southern Kingdom. Like a man advanced in his age, time was merely up. The death of your father and the fall of Mo can’t be blamed on any single individual. As for Hua Mu, he was too stubborn and I was negligent. I had no idea he had been planning to restore the dynasty.”
“Grandma, you really think so?” Hua Zhu Yu curiously asked in a soft voice. She always thought her grandma was well aware of her father Hua Mu’s plans. She didn’t think her grandma would have such an open-minded way of thinking.
Old Madam Hua smiled gently and said, “Yes, the pain, the anger, the resentment, I’ve been through it all. But after so long, I’ve decided to place the past behind me once I’ve decided to follow Buddha’s teachings. I’ve realized many things. Yu’er…”Old Madam Hua paused and slowly continued, “You may not know, but I once was a princess of the Nation of Mo.”
“Grandma, you were a princess of Mo?” Hua Zhu Yu couldn’t help but ask in surprise.
Hua Zhu Yu always had a feeling her father Hua Mu wasn’t merely an ordinary official of the Nation of Mo. It turns out that her grandma was also a princess of Mo.
Old Madam Hua nodded, softly saying with a smile, “Yes, I was your Imperial Father’s aunt, your Imperial grandfather’s younger sister which makes me your Imperial Great Aunt.”
Hua Zhu Yu was taken aback. When she found out Hua Mu was not her real father, she thought that meant she would have no blood relations with her grandma either but it turns out they still shared the same blood. Her grandma had even witnessed first hand the destruction of her own country and family. The scars in her heart must be even deeper than hers.
“Yu’er, if you love the Emperor, go to him.” Old Madam Hua stroked Hua Zhu Yu’s face. “One day, you will forget that you are the princess of Mo. Don’t bear such deep hatred in your heart. Live a happy life instead of carrying such a heavy, hopeless burden on your shoulders. Just forget it all and listen to your heart.”
Hua Zhu Yu gently nodded. In fact, between her and Ji Feng Li, it was never about hatred. But she didn’t know why, the man who once loved her deeply, once used any means to keep her by his side, has now willingly let her go. She thought that he would come to Northern Kingdom to look for her but he never did.
She thought perhaps because Ji Feng Li knew she was a princess of the former dynasty that he let her go. But was he such a person? Would he care that she was a princess of the former dynasty?
“Madam, Princess(wangfei) Kang is here to visit,” a young nun outside the door stated. Huangfu Wu Shang was reinstated as Prince Kang so Princess Kang was Dan Hong.
Old Madam Hua got up and said, “Yu’er, you should go accompany Dan Hong for a while. Grandma will go chant Buddhist scriptures.”
Hua Zhu Yu nodded and sent her grandmother out. Moments later, she then saw Dan Hong entering wrapped in a fox fur cloak.
“It’s really cold, it seems like it’s going to snow soon,” Dan Hong said as she entered the room and took off her cloak, hanging it on the hanger.
Hua Zhu Yu smiled and chided, “One such a cold day, why did you run over here for?”
Dan Hong rubbed her palms together and said, “General, don’t you want to visit the palace and see the Emperor?”
“See him for what? He’s probably spending a lovely time with his Empress. I’m not the least bit interested in disrupting their beautiful time together,” Hua Zhu Yu said lightly.
“What Empress? Wen Wan’s already lucky enough that she hasn’t been put to death by His Majesty. She instigated the Third Princess to harm you, how could His Majesty make her his Empress?” Dan Hong said with a frown.
Hua Zhu Yu was surprised by this news. These days, she had never taken the initiative to inquire about Ji Feng Li so she had assumed that he had already made Wen Wan his Empress.
translations at peachblossomgrove . com
Dan Hong sighed as a trace of sadness surfaced on her beautiful face. “There’s something I don’t know if I should tell you or not. Yesterday, I dwelled over it for an entire day and have even discussed it with Wu Shang for a long time. But I still feel that I should not keep it hidden from you.”
“What’s the matter?” Hua Zhu Yu asked. She began to feel a trace of uneasiness rise in her heart as she looked at Dan Hong’s solemn expression.
“See for yourself,” Dan Hong said as she took out a scroll from her sleeve and handed it over to Hua Zhu Yu.
“What’s this?” Hua Zhu Yu asked suspiciously. She didn’t know why but her heart began to race anxiously. She vaguely could guess it was related to Ji Feng Li. She quickly unfolded the scroll and looked at the words written inside. It turned out to be an imperial edict, to put precisely, it was a posthumous edict.
There were many things written in this edict but she merely glanced over it and focused on the words written at the end: When I was still a prince acting as regent, my Princess(wangfei) Hua was of noble bearing with a high sense of moral principles. Adept in both civil and military affairs, she can take my place in unifying the lands and succeeding the throne…… it was also written that she could remarry and change the country’s name, that the civil and military officials were to assist her.
Hua Zhu Yu felt lightheaded and entirely speechless. She opened her eyes wide and read the edict again, one for word, carefully. There was no mistake, he wanted her to succeed him as a female monarch.
“What’s going on?” Hua Zhu Yu asked in a shaky voice.
“After rescuing Wu Shang, the Emperor had shown him this edict and asked him to assist you in the future. Wu Shang had no desire of being Emperor so he had naturally agreed. When I came to Southern Kingdom, he told me about this. I felt that since this matter was related to you, I should tell you about it so I begged Wu Shang for the posthumous edict so that I can show it to you. The Emperor wants you to rule as Empress and change the country’s name back to what it was. He doesn’t care if you’re from the previous dynasty,” Dan Hong said in a low voice.
“What’s wrong with Ji Feng Li?” Hua Zhu Yu asked anxiously. Something must have happened to him, otherwise he wouldn’t have written a posthumous edict. She gazed at the date the edict was written: The first reigning year Tai Ping(Peace and Security), on the 18th day of the 5th lunar month, at the hour of the rat(11pm-1am).
The 18th of the 5th lunar month.
He wrote this posthumous edict so long ago.
Hua Zhu Yu slowly stood, her body shaking, her face ashen as she steadied herself with one hand on the table. Qi and blood was racing in her chest and she found it difficult to breathe.
“Take me to him!” She said in a cold voice.
Frightened by her appearance, Dan Hong asked with concern, “General, what’s wrong with you?”
But before she finished speaking, Hua Zhu Yu had already rushed out of the door, heading to Dan Hong’s carriage that was still stationed outside the gates of the temple. Once she got on, she told the coachman to head back to Yu City. She didn’t even have time to inform Ping, An, Kang or Tai.
On the journey back, Hua Zhu Yu remained silent the whole time. Obscured by the carriage curtain, the scenery outside could not be seen but she was not in any mood to enjoy it either. With her mind troubled by many thoughts, there was nothing that could enter her eyes, nothing could enter her heart.
It was uncertain how long the journey took but once the carriage finally came to a stop, Hua Zhu Yu lifted the curtains and saw that the skies were already darkening.
She also noticed white flakes of snow drifting from the skies.
One flake after another….
Each flake, like the sharp blade of a sword, stung her eyes and made her heart ache.
The wind was strong and the snow was flying all around, hugging the trees and blanketing the ground in a vision of white.