Cui Ya looked ahead and saw a large door and several windows, all tightly closed shut. It must be the main hall of the palace.
Suddenly a piercing cry came from inside. Startled, Cui Ya grabbed her chest as her heart began racing.
She inched forward with timid, light steps but suddenly her foot met empty ground and she could feel herself falling. Before she could even make a sound, she had already hit the bottom of the pit. Her hands felt around, the ground was soft and slightly sticky. It seems she must’ve fallen into a dry well. Flustered, she didn’t know whether to call for help or not, especially after hearing that frightening cry.
She covered her mouth with one hand to stop the groan from escaping her lips. When she fell, she must’ve sprained her ankle. With her other hand pressed against the ground, she tried to stand up but suddenly her hand touched something. It seemed to be some kind of object. The object was hard yet also soft, it was clearly bone….Her heart gripped with terror, it was a human hand!
She quickly clutched her mouth with both hands to suppress her screams of panic.
Was there someone else in the well? Was he dead or alive? She couldn’t help the chatter of her teeth as she dragged her feet to the far corners of the well and leaned against the wall frightfully.
Suddenly, a sound came from above.
“Where is she?”
Startled, Cui Ya felt this man’s voice was seemingly familiar.
“The lady must not be here yet.” Another voice sounded, somewhat sharper than the previous, like it belonged to an older man.
“Hmm.” The first man quietly ordered, “Xu Xi, you and Qing Feng stand guard outside, make sure no one gets in.”
“This old servant understands.”
As it finally dawned on her, Cui Ya instantly trembled. It was the Emperor!
But wasn’t Her Highness resting at the Emperor’s quarters tonight? Why was he here then? She involuntarily covered her mouth and nose even tighter, fearful of making a sound.
Though she was flustered, she couldn’t help but prick her ears to listen closely.
All of a sudden, the soft sound of footsteps was heard above.
“You’ve come.” It was a woman’s voice. She only heard her say, “I dare not come here immediately for fear of being discovered by others.”
The emperor said, “Your safety is the most important. You must always be careful.”
The woman seemed to smile before continuing, “She went to that place again tonight. Your plan worked perfectly. Yu Kou Zi’s clothes had secretly been infused with a light floral scent. That small moth loves that flower scent the most. I had sprinkled some powder on its wings. Once it flapped its wings, the powder fell off. When the powder came into contact with water, a trail appeared and soon evaporated without a trace. I followed the trail and finally came upon the entrance.”
Her voice became heavier.
“Who would’ve thought that there was a hidden chamber beneath Hua Yin Palace. I’ll have to find a way to investigate further.”
The Emperor interrupted her thoughts. “No, we’ll be discovered if we act hasty, your safety is still my number one priority.”
He continued, “If it wasn’t for you, I would’ve already been killed the night before ascending the throne. Now you are also willing to aid me in saving my mother, if she knew, she would also not want to risk your safety either.”
“Rescuing my mother is a must, but your safety is also important. If we make even one misstep the entire plan could fall apart.”
“I need time to consider our next steps.”
“I understand,” the woman responded. “But… we do have a problem right now.”
“What is it?”
“That day when I sent my servant to pass on a message to you, she was dressed as a eunuch to avoid suspicion. I gave her my embroidered pouch to show you as proof of my faith in her. That silly girl ended up losing the pouch somewhere. If someone were to find it…” She trailed off.
“I will order Xu Xi to send people to search for it immediately. Don’t worry.”
“If someone really were to see it….” the woman’s voice held a tremor of fear.
“Then I’ll have him killed,” he said simply.
“Hmm.” The woman paused for several moments before speaking again.
“Your Majesty, I’ve missed you, have you missed me?”
At the bottom of the well, Cui Ya was sharply biting into her own fingers to keep silent, she barely even dared to breathe.