The weather was becoming increasingly hot.
On one particular afternoon, Huangfu Wu Shuang ordered the servants to move the bamboo couch to the back garden, the coolest place to spend during the hot summer days.
On top of the rockeries was a spring where water was splashing about like a waterfall. Behind the garden was an area full of greeneries and beside the rockeries was a well which was enclosed by a rock covered in green moss. Beside the well were bushes of oleanders in full bloom.
Huangfu Wu Shuang instructed the servants to place the couch beneath the canopy of oleanders. Today he was wearing a green silk robe with white trousers as he was half-lying, half-siting on the couch barefoot. His beautiful snow-white face was beautiful enough for people to think that if he was a maiden, he’d complement very well with the background of red oleanders.
In recent days, Huangfu Wu Shuang was in a very good mood, the person in his heart was entering the palace so naturally he was delighted. Whenever Huangfu Wu Shuang was in a good mood, the eunuchs and maidservants waiting on him wouldn’t be reprimanded without reason so they were also in a good mood. As a result, Eastern Palace was enveloped in a joyous air.
“Yuan Bao, play a piece for this prince. Wan Er said your qin skills were better than hers, but this prince have yet to hear it,” Huangfu Wu Shuang leisurely said while lying on the couch.
Hearing Huangfu Wu Shuang, the little maidservant standing on the side fanning him said while grinning, “Yuan Bao’s qin skills are great, and by relying on His Highness, this servant’s ears will be blessed.”
Hua Zhu Yu smiled and said, “If Your Highness wishes to hear then this servant shall play a piece. Though this servant’s qin skills aren’t bad, if this servant plays a piece that Your Highness dislikes, hope Your Highness pardons the offence!”
“No worries, come play!” Huangfu Wu Shuang said with a smile. “Shui Fen, bring the qin this prince prepared for Wan Er here. Little Bao Er, it’s quite convenient for you, if not for Wan Er saying that you’re highly skilled, you wouldn’t have the chance to play this qin.”
A moment later, Shui Fen came over holding a Yao qin. This qin was completely different from Xiao Yin’s ‘Rao Liang’ which was crafted from an ancient timber and filled with vitality. This qin was sculpted from a naturally occurring emerald. From a far, it was like a drop of transparent water, clear and pure.
This was an old Yao qin that was passed down many generations, the Lu Qi Yao Qin. Truly, the best qins could only be found in the palace. At first sight, Hua Zhu Yu had taken a liking to it and did not have the heart to let go. Her jade-like fingers glided across the strings producing a naturally wondrous tone that was ethereal and elegant.
Seeing Huangfu Wu Shuang leisurely lying beneath the oleanders, Hua Zhu Yu narrowed her eyes as her jade-like fingers caressed the strings, playing ‘Er Lang’.
This piece wasn’t like ‘Po Zhengzi’ and ‘Sha Po Lang’ which were enshrouded in murderous airs and the clashing echoes of war, but instead carried the sadness of a soldier forced to go to war, parting from his wife and children, carrying the pain of separation, full of grief and a ceaseless troubled heart.
Hua Zhu Yu deliberately played this piece because in her view, Huangfu Wu Shuang was a prince sheltered in the palace, lacking the experience of war. Those lessons the group of Imperial Tutors taught him couldn’t compare to her one song.
Sure enough, Huangfu Wu Shuang was shaken. After just listening to half the song, he sat up from the couch, his face slightly pale, full of grief and despair. He clenched his two fists to prevent himself from standing up.
Tears continuously streamed down the faces of the two maidservants, Yan Tai and Shui Fen. This goes to show just how skilled Hua Zhu Yu was at the qin. She possessed a very powerful lure and charm.
The song came to an end but it wasn’t until a while later that Huangfu Wu Shuang regained his composure and asked, “Yuan Bao, how do you know how to place this song?”
Hua Zhu Yu smiled and replied, “On the way to Southern Kingdom from the North, this servant heard this tune amidst the beggars’ cries for food. This servant heard that they once were soldiers but because they had become disabled due to the war, they were reduced to beggars, begging on the streets.”
“Little Bao Er, change to something else, this song of yours has dug out this prince’s heart and liver, quickly return them!” Huangfu Wu Shuang continuously patted his chess and lamented.
Hua Zhu Yu smiled and began to play a different song which was the same song she had played at Zui Xian Square: ‘Chun Guang Hao(Fine Spring)”
Having yet to finish the song, she could tell that someone was bypassing the moon gate of the garden and approaching. A moment later,the voice of Chang gong gong could be heard as he announced, “The Emperor arrives!”
Hearing this, Huangfu Wu Shuang left the couch in a haste and because he couldn’t find his wooden clogs, he could only kneel on the ground barefoot.
Hua Zhu Yu also quickly stopped playing and along with the other eunuchs and maidservants, knelt down on the cold stone floor.
The Emperor coming to Eastern Palace was something Hua Zhu Yu had never witnessed ever since arriving at the palace. She didn’t know why he came at this time, but Hua Zhu Yu could feel the intense anger emanating from the tall figure standing in front of her.
“Who is Yuan Bao, quickly come over!” Even amidst the hot summer air, hearing Chang gong gong’s cold voice, people couldn’t help but shudder.
Hua Zhu Yu quickly stepped forward and raised her voice to announce, “This servant is Yuan Bao!”
The Emperor’s sharp gaze landed on the Lu Qi Yao Qin and then on Huangfu Wu Shuang’s white feet before he coldly asked, “That song just now, was it you who played?”
“Yes!” Hua Zhu Yu replied in a clear and pleasant voice.
The Emperor slightly narrowed his eyes. Without even instructing Hua Zhu Yu to lift her head, he coldly ordered, “Drag this evil-doer who’s bewitched his master out and beat him to death!”
Hua Zhu Yu’s heart slightly shook. So the reason he came today was because of her.
Beat her to death?
Hua Zhu Yu lifted her head just to see who would dare to beat her to death?
“Don’t know what crime this servant has committed, hope Your Majesty clarifies!” Hua Zhu Yu calmly asked.
“That’s right, Imperial Father, Yuan Bao is guilty of what crimes?” Huangfu Wu Shuang was scared as he tentatively lifted up his head to ask.
What crimes did she commit? The Emperor was so angry he didn’t utter a word.
Today, just as he commenced court, a few ministers continuously, one after another voiced that the Crown Prince was favoring a little eunuch.
At the early summer festival, he secretly brought the little eunuch out for an excursion to the lake. When he went to Jiangbei to provide relief funds, he also brought this little eunuch along. During the banquet at Kang Wang’s Residence, the little eunuch received the wine commandment in his place and performed a sword dance.
According to those ministers, the sword dance was exceptionally gentle and graceful, even Imperial Tutor Wen’s golden treasure had to admit defeat. Furthermore, they said this little eunuch had an appearance that was more beautiful than a female’s, full of seduction, if this continues and the Crown Prince falls into a dark path, how was he to govern the world?