Looking around, she realized this was the peach blossom grove outside of Tao Yuan Ju.
In the spring, these trees were covered in pink blossoms. Now that it’s winter, the flowers have long since died, but the bare branches were coated with a layer of frosty snow. Be it spring or winter, it was beautiful regardless.
The coachman had stopped the carriage here under Dan Hong’s instruction. Did that mean that Ji Feng Li was staying in Tao Yuan Ju?
Walking through the grove, it was very quiet and tranquil, the only sound that could be heard was the patter of her footsteps on the snow.
As she walked farther, she could suddenly hear the distant sound of a flute; a familiar tune resonating in the snowy skies, sounding unspeakably wistful.
Passing through the grove, she caught sight of the emerald lake glistening under the flurries of snow.
At the edge of the lake, he stood facing the waters, his wide sleeves rustling in the wind as snow continued to descend, clinging to his body. From behind, he looked awfully thin as if the wind would topple him at any moment.
Watching his cold, desolate figure from afar, her heart sank and she remained rooted in place.
Accompanying the sound of the flute, the snow continued to fall, increasing in intensity.
Rendered motionless for a long time, Hua Zhu Yu’s legs finally moved as she slowly approached him.
The sound of the flute suddenly came to an abrupt stop. Without looking back, he coldly remarked, “I’ve said not to disturb me, did you not hear?”
Hua Zhu Yu’s heart throbbed with pain and she suddenly froze but after a moment, she continued making her way over to him.
“What? Are you taking my words as mere wind slipping through your ears ……” he said as he suddenly turned around. The moment he saw the person behind him, his body shook slightly from shock. His eyes flashed with a complicated look; there was joy yet also sadness in his gaze.
Behind him, the lake reflected the bright, flurries of snow. A white fox fur cloak was draped over his shoulders, bringing attention to his sharp jawline, offsetting the paleness of his complexion. Even his lips have lost color, appearing sickly pale.
Looking at him, Hua Zhu Yu’s heart ached.
Ji Feng Li, what was wrong with him?
She hadn’t seen him in a few months and never did she expected him to become so thin and wan.
Standing there, their gaze remained fixed on one another, eyes full of emotions, staring intensely as if wanting to imprint the image of the other’s face in their heart forever, never to fade.
Somewhat in a trance, Ji Feng Li approached her, slowly, step by step until his trembling fingers could reach out and touch her cheeks as he enveloped her in his arms delicately like she was a fragile treasure.
They hugged one another, holding each other in a tight embrace in the snow for a long time, wordlessly.
The flurries of snow continued to fall, clinging to their bodies but at this moment, they could see nothing else but each other.
“Am I dreaming?” He asked in a hoarse voice as his fingers brushed the hair in front of her forehead aside and stroked her face.
“It’s not a dream, it’s me. I’m really here,” Hua Zhu Yu said as she hugged his waist even tighter.
Ji Feng Li’s body trembled and he suddenly pushed her away. Coldly, he said, “Go away! Who asked you to come!”
Hua Zhu Yu staggered back a few steps. After stabilizing herself, she looked up and saw him pressing his hand against his chest, panting heavily as if he was in great pain. A trace of blood spilled from the corner of his lips and fell onto the snow-white fur, like a red flower blooming in an instant.
“What’s the matter with you?” Hua Zhu Yu anxiously asked as she lifted her hand to support him.
Ji Feng Li’s breathing was becoming increasingly labored. His pale face grew ashen and his forehead was beaded with sweat. Fearing that she would worry, he tried to smile reassuringly.
“Bao’er I’m fine. You should go.” Before he could finish speaking, he was overwhelmed with violent coughs as he pressed his hand on his chest, trying to suppress it. But it was all in vain as he could not control it, coughing out a mouthful of blood and slowly shutting his eyes thereafter.
“Someone help!” Hua Zhu Yu cried out.
From an unseen place, Ji Shui and Ji Yue came out. Seeing Ji Feng Li unconscious, their eyes shone with sorrow but they were not shocked. They came and carried Ji Feng Li back into the house. A’Gui had also come to seal several acupoints on Ji Feng Li’s body.
“Physician Gui, what’s wrong with him, what kind of illness is this?” Hua Zhu Yu worriedly asked.
A’Gui’s expression turned unsightly and Hua Zhu Yu’s heart seemingly fell into a bottomless pit in that instant. Suddenly, her vision darkened and her legs grew soft as she fell back into the seat.
With a complicated look on his face, his sharp eyes narrowed as he surveyed Hua Zhu Yu and asked,”You really don’t know why the Emperor is ill?”
Hua Zhu Yu shook her head and tried to remain calm as she asked, “Please tell me Physician Gui.”
A’Gui smiled sadly and said in a low voice, “His Majesty is poisoned with an ancient type of poison. Whenever it attacks, it not only eats away at his heart but also his 8 meridians, drowning him in excruciating pain and torment1.”
Excruciating pain and torment1? Hua Zhu Yu felt as if her heart had taken a heavy hit, and the pain was spreading throughout her body, engulfing her in a sea of anguish.
“How do we neutralize this poison?” Hua Zhu Yu asked in a heavy tone as she gripped A’Gui’s arm anxiously.
translations at peachblossomgrove . com
“If this poison could be neutralized, the Emperor wouldn’t have let you go,” A’Gui remarked in a low voice.
He had let her go because he was severely poisoned and there was no antidote. Realizing this, Hua Zhu Yu felt as if her heart was being subject to death by a thousand cuts, consuming her in a deadly coldness. At this moment, her abdomen suddenly throbbed with pain. She looked down and stroked her belly. Child, you sense that your mother is hurt, that your father is ill, isn’t that right?, she sadly thought as her vision fell into darkness.
By the time Hua Zhu Yu woke up, the skies were completely dark. Outside the window, the snow was still falling.
The room was quiet and warm with a brazier. As soon as she opened her eyes, she immediately thought of going to see Ji Feng Li but the moment she got up, she felt her hand being tightly held in another.
Sitting beside the bed, Ji Feng Li was fast asleep. The soft candlelight illuminated his face; his long lashes were lowered, obscuring his dark pupils, casting shadows on his cheeks.
Hua Zhu Yu held her breath, raising her free hand to his face to gently caress his cheek.
She didn’t know he had been poisoned so seriously. Thinking of how he had been suffering such excruciating pain for the past months, her heart ached. In his times of pain and torment, she was not by his side and had went to Northern Kingdom instead. He must’ve been very sad, but he bore through it all in silence.
Ji Feng Li stirred and his hand caught her wrist as he slowly opened his eyes.
“Bao’er!” On his pale face surfaced a weak smile as his eyes lit, gleaming like the billowing waters of the sea.
“Hm, are you still in pain?” Hua Zhu Yu asked as she moved her hand to his forehead, her slender fingers gently rubbing at his temples.
“It hurts every day. I’m used to it,” he quietly said with a hint of bitterness in his voice. He stood and wrapped one arm around her gently as he placed his other hand over her belly, stroking it. As if cognizant of his touch, the child made a movement. Shocked, Ji Feng Li raised his brows, remarking in amazement, “Bao’er, our baby(bao bao) is moving.”
Hua Zhu Yu looked at Ji Feng Li’s bright smile and her heart throbbed. “The baby knows you’re the father, the baby also misses you,” she quietly said.
Ji Feng Li smiled and nodded. His phoenix eyes welled up as he continued, gently stroking her belly.
Hua Zhu Yu suddenly realized something and she asked as she tilted her head to the side, “Who told you it was your baby?”
Ji Feng Li held her hand and said, “If it’s not mine, who else would it be?”
“It’s not yours,” Hua Zhu Yu stubbornly replied, deliberately ignoring him, ignoring the fact that he was seriously poisoned, but in the end, her eyes still welled up and a drop of tear silently streamed down her face.
“I hate you!” She said full of grievance as her fingers jabbed at his shoulder.
She hated him, hated him for letting her leave with Xiao Yin, hated him for separating them for so long.
Ji Feng Li was taken aback by her tears. “Bao’er, don’t cry,” he said as he held her face and kissed the corner of her eyes which were wet with tears, tears that seemingly submerged his heart in sorrow and agony.
“Because you’re poisoned, you didn’t come find me? Why didn’t you make me stay by your side? Do you think I’ll be happy if you leave Southern Kingdom to me? I don’t want anything,” she said as she nestled closer in his arms, holding tightly onto him like a drowning person holding dearly to a saving driftwood.
“Don’t be sad, Bao’er,” he gently coaxed as he patted her back. He tried to make his voice sound light, as if he was indifferent to matters of life and death but his heart knotted with bitterness. He really was indifferent to life and death but the moment he saw her again, his heart stirred and he felt unresigned to give up. Heaven knows how reluctant he was to leave her.
“Bao’er, I’m fine. Even if I die, you must look after yourself,” he said with a faint smile. His lips were pale, void of color, yet his smile was gentle as jade.
Hua Zhu Yu closed her eyes. From her chest, something seemingly fell, shattering into a million broken pieces.
“If there’s a next life, will you be my wife?” he suddenly asked cautiously, his head lowered.
Hua Zhu Yu lifted her head and gazed into his eyes. Though his long lashes were covering his eyes, his pupils shone through as he gazed at her.
“I will. What about you? Will you marry me in your next life?” she murmured.
“I will, in the next life and the following. Forever and always, I will!” he whispered in her ear tenderly as he lowered his head and captured her red lips in an affectionate kiss.
- The chinese idiom used here is ‘tòng bù yù shēng’ which means’ to be in so much pain that you don’t want to be alive’. But thats too wordy so I just left it as ‘excruciating pain and torment’.