The frequency with which the poison would attack was increasing by the day. Consequently, Ji Feng Li would lay in bed unconscious more often. Seeing him so listless each time, a fear that he would not wake up would prick at Hua Zhu Yu’s heart.
One day after the snow had finally stopped, Hua Zhu Yu supported Ji Feng Li as she took him out for a walk in the peach blossom grove. Beneath the warm sunlight, the snow-covered trees gave off an iridescent glimmer. As usual, Ji Feng Li’s complexion was quite pale but his eyes shone with mirth.
“Bao’er, the plum blossom in the Imperial Garden must be blooming beautifully this time of the year. Let’s take a walk there and enjoy the scenery,” Ji Feng Li suggested with a smile.
Hua Zhu Yu knitted her brows and said, “The Imperial Garden is quite far from here. How about I go and pick some plum blossom branches and bring them back instead? We can arrange them in a vase and display them in the house.”
“Alright,” Ji Feng Li agreed with a smile.
“I’ll go then. You stay here and enjoy the sunshine,” Hua Zhu Yu said.
Ji Feng Li answered with a smile, his eyes creasing like crescent moons as he gazed warmly at her departing figure. The moment her shadow disappeared from the grove, the light in his eyes gradually dimmed.
“Lan Bing! Tang Yu! Come out!” Ji Feng Li suddenly voiced.
Lan Bing and Tang Yu slowly walked out from their hidden location.
“Your Majesty, do you really want to leave?” Lan Bing asked, his brows tightly furrowed.
Ji Feng Li nodded, his dark eyes steadfast with resolve. He couldn’t let her watch him die, she would suffer and he could not bear it. It was better off for him to just leave. With the passing of time, her heartache would soon fade.
A horse-drawn carriage passed through the peach blossom grove quietly, stopping at the gate of Tao Yuan Ju. Just as Ji Feng Li was about to step into the carriage, An and Tai came running over. After hearing from Old Madam Hua that Hua Zhu Yu had entered the palace, they had followed after her and arrived 2 days ago.
An stepped forward and said in a low voice, “Your Majesty, do you really intend to leave like this? Don’t you think that General would be more hurt by this?”
Ji Feng Li calmly replied, “I fear that she would be hurt thus I don’t want her to watch me die. If I leave, she can forget me sooner.”
Hearing this, An suddenly laughed and said, “Do you really think she can forget you in this life? Don’t you know? Last time you faked your death, she almost followed after you? She bribed many officials on the execution ground and wanted to let you fake your death to save you from being executed. Unexpectedly, you had already made prior arrangements. She thought she had really killed you. When Tang Yu came to assassinate her, she didn’t even escape. When she fell into the waters, she didn’t even struggle. When I rescued her, she was unconscious yet she still called out your name.”
Tai calmly added, “That day, she was determined to follow you to the afterlife. If I hadn’t saved her in time, I’m afraid she would’ve already been dead. Later on, if it wasn’t to clear your name of your injustice, I don’t think she would’ve had the will to live on. On Huangfu Wu Shuang’s wedding day, did you know why Xiao Yin revealed that Dan Hong was the princess of Northern Kingdom, clearing your name of treason? It was because she had asked him for that favor.”
Hearing these words, Tang Yu quickly knelt down in front of Ji Feng Li. “Your Majesty, this subordinate deserves to die.” On that day he had been impatient to seek revenge. Thinking back now, she really did not evade his attack back then.
Ji Feng Li had already known these things, but listening to them again, straight from An and Tai’s mouth, his heart still stirred.
That’s right, she won’t forget him, never.
“Take me to her,” Ji Feng Li finally said. Since that’s the case, it’s best to cherish the little time they had left together.
translations at peachblossomgrove . com
Standing in the Imperial Garden, Hua Zhu Yu stood amid the thousands of blooming plum blossom trees. As the light breeze swept by, the air lingered with the faint scent of plum blossoms.
Each tree was lined with beautiful plum blossoms along with speckles of snow, glistening beneath the sunlight. The scenery was enchanting and the flowers were beautiful to behold but in her eyes there was only a look of desolation.
A’Gui had said it; Tai had also said it. So did all of the imperial physicians in the palace. They said that he was severely poisoned and that he might not make it past this winter. He might not even get to see their child.
Why was it like this?
You said you would hold my hand and grow old together, die together. You said you would stay by my side always and forever. You said that if I lived, you lived; if I died, you died. But now you want to leave us mother and child.
Hua Zhu Yu sat down on an old stone and stared at the plum blossoms in the garden as warm tears trickled down her cheeks.
Suddenly, the faint sound of footsteps sounded and she quickly raised her hand to wipe away her tears. When she raised her head, she saw that it was Jin Se who she had not seen in a long while, approaching. She looked thin as her dress fluttered in the wind, like a solitary flower that had fallen, drifting in the air.
Hua Zhu Yu never expected to see Jin Se here. It’s just, was that really the same Jin Se? Her face was pale and wan, her expression indifferent and cold. Completely different from the lively person she had known previously.
Hua Zhu Yu took out a brocade handkerchief and quietly wiped away the tears on her face.
“Jin Se, it’s been so long since we last met, where have you been all this time?” Hua Zhu Yu asked with a complicated look in her eye. In the end, Jin Se was also Hua Mu’s pawn.
“Where? Naturally, I’ve been imprisoned by him all this time,” Jin Se said. Glancing at Hua Zhu Yu’s belly, Jin Se’s lips formed a smile tinged with melancholy and bitterness.
Hua Zhu Yu didn’t realize Jin Se had been imprisoned by Ji Feng Li all this time.
Seeing her again, Hua Zhu Yu was suddenly reminded of a doubt that had crossed her mind. At the beginning, her father Hua Mu had brought Huangfu Wu Shuang into the palace and replaced a princess that was born. That princess that Hua Mu had taken away, who could it have been?
“Jin Se, are you staying in the palace now?” Hua Zhu Yu slowly asked.
“Yes, I am in the palace. I’m staying in the royal temple in the palace. There’s also someone else staying there, that person says she’s my mother,” Jin Se said with a sad, ridiculing smile.
Hua Zhu Yu knitted her brow. The person staying in the royal temple was Empress Nie.
“Jin Se…” Hua Zhu Yu looked at Jin Se but didn’t know what to say. Now, no matter what she said, it was meaningless.
“In fact, from the beginning, His Majesty had never trusted me completely. However, when he found out the whole plan, he didn’t kill me and just kept me under house arrest. At the time, he thought I was pregnant with his child. However, he never thought that the person who poisoned him was not me but actually you!” Jin Se coldly said as she bitterly stared at Hua Zhu Yu’s bulging belly.
“It turned out that Young Miss was the one pregnant with his child. That means that the one who poisoned him with the toxin was you! I thought Young Miss really loved him, but it turned out that you were just trying to hurt him!” Jin Se said as she looked up at the skies and laughed, tears streaming from her eyes. “Pity he loves you so deeply!”
Hua Zhu Yu’s heart jumped and she grabbed Jin Se’s hand, asking anxiously, “Jin Se, what are you talking about?”
Jin Se smiled gently and asked, “What am I talking about? Don’t tell me you don’t know?”
Hua Zhu Yu shook her head.
“You really don’t know?” Jin Se looked at her in disbelief then said with a sad smile, “His Majesty was poisoned with Mei Sha. This poison is first planted in a woman’s body but does no harm to the woman. However, once the woman spends the night with a man, the poison will transfer to the man. If it wasn’t you, who else could’ve poisoned him? Who else could’ve had the opportunity? Young Miss, His Majesty loves you so, why did you hurt him? Even resorting to such a vicious method.”
Feeling light-headed, Hua Zhu Yu found it hard to breathe as if there was a knife stabbing at her heart.
The person who poisoned him was her? No wonder when she asked him, asked A’Gui, asked Lan Bing how he was poisoned, not one would tell her.
It turned out someone had planted the poison in her body and she had transferred it to him.
As she tried to wrap her mind around this, she thought of how much pain he must’ve been in when he found out she was the princess of the previous dynasty, when he found out she was the one that had poisoned him. Perhaps he even thought that she remained by his side in the palace, even married him, all just to harm him!
But who had planted this poison, Mei Sha, in her body?
If he was not poisoned after that night in the barracks, then she must not have been poisoned at that time. It must’ve been some time afterwards. But who could it have been that had done it? Wu Shuang? Hua Mu? Or ……Madam Xuan?
Hua Zhu Yu suddenly recalled when Dou Qian Jin had taken her to see Madam Xuan. At that time, Madam Xuan had acted strangely intimate with her, even taking the initiative to comb her hair. At that time, she had detected an unusual faint fragrance on her body.
However, be it Madam Xuan, Hua Mu, or Wu Shuang, none of them were alive any longer.
Hua Zhu Yu grabbed Jin Se’s arm and asked coldly, “Tell me, is there any way to neutralize this poison?”
Tears trickled from Jin Se’s eyes as she sadly replied, “There is no antidote!”
There’s no antidote!
They all say there’s no antidote!
Hua Zhu Yu’s complexion became increasingly pale as she pursed her lips and shuddered from the engulfing coldness of the passing wind.
The person that harmed him turned out to be her!
Even though he knew that she had harmed him, he beared with it silently, never denouncing her. Even when he knew this kind of poison had no antidote, he did not resent her but instead offered her the world.
She had harmed him!
She had inflicted such pain on him, caused him to suffer all alone for so long. Thinking back to each time the poison attacked, he was in such torment. Watching him suffer, her heart was drowned in anguish. She leaned against the trunk of a plum tree dully. Though she was still present, her soul had seemingly floated to a far away place, as if she was half-dead.
A few birds in the Imperial Garden took flight, rustling the plum blossoms and the snow along with it. From above, flurries of snow descended, coldly landing onto her cheeks along with the faint sunlight shining through the branches of the trees to illuminate her eyes that had no more tears to cry.