With the departure of the Empress and Huangfu Yan, a heavy atmosphere hung over the banquet.
If would’ve been fine if Ji Feng Li refused the marriage on any other day but today there was Xiao Yin and Dou Qian Jin present yet Ji Feng Li refused so bluntly, what’s left of the Emperor’s face?
But the Emperor was calm as he gave orders to the performers to continue on with their dancing and singing. With the rising sounds of instruments and melodic voices, Bai Hua Yuan returned to its former lively air.
Hua Zhu Yu snuck a glance and saw amidst that festive scene was Ji Feng Li still kneeling there as though forgotten. The Emperor did not voice for him to rise, perhaps deliberately giving punishment.
Within Bai Hua Yuan, the flowers were still in full bloom as before, their fragrance permeating the air. A few light petals fell and landed upon his shoulders. It was uncertain whether due to the dim light or something else but his back figure looked somewhat desolate and bleak, like an aimless trifling stream. Yet his face did not show the slightest signs of regret; no regret that he turned down the Prince Consort title nor regret that he offended the Emperor.
This was the first time Hua Zhu Yu felt like she didn’t understand him at all.
To her, he was undoubtedly a despicable little bastard that resorts to any means for power. But why, with such a great opportunity in front of him would he refuse with such resolution. Moreover, even if he refused, why didn’t he give any face to the Emperor? A man like him shoudn’t be doing such foolish things!
But of course Ji Feng Li couldn’t be solely blamed for today’s matters.
The Emperor was too impatient. Just because he wanted to protect his precious treasured princess he didn’t discuss with Ji Feng Li beforehand before bestowing the marriage. It seems the Emperor didn’t think Ji Feng Li would refuse the marriage in such a manner!
The night gradually grew late and the banquet finally came to an end. Though the guests and host were all smiles, they were not wholeheartedly joyous due to Ji Feng Li’s matters.
Since it was the Emperor who ordered Hua Zhu Yu to wait on Xiao Yin, Huangfu Wu Shuang naturally did not dare to object. After speaking a few words to Huangfu Wu Shuang, Hua Zhu Yu followed after Xiao Yin.
The Emperor arranged for Xiao Yin to stay at Bei Yuan(Departing Courtyard) in Qing Jiang Guan(Green River Pavilion) which was not far from the Qing Jiang Palace. It was also built alongside the mountains and took about as long as the time to drink a cup of tea to get there. The Emperor sent imperial guards to escort Xiao Yin and Dou Qian Jin so along the way, Hua Zhu Yu and Xiao Yin were both silent.
Xiao Yin was walking ahead with four guards accompanying him, Lui Feng, Hui Xue, Qing Yun and Bi Yue. These four were all aware of her. It must’ve been Xiao Yin that instructed them beforehand for they were regarding her as a stranger. As for Dou Qian Jin, even now he still didn’t know that the person he was looking for was actually her.
In the dark night sky, the moon hung high, casting faint rays of light that was clear yet frosty.
Beneath the moonlight, Xiao Yin’s back appeared exceedingly tall and lofty. Naturally that was a sturdy physique that had been honed through hardships and training for years on end in the army. It’s just that he seemed a bit thinner compared to when she first met him.
Never once did he turn around to take notice of the little eunuch that was Hua Zhu Yu. Dou Qian Jin on the other hand would occasionally look at her with interest. As though wearing a mask, Hua Zhu Yu would, from time to time, reveal a weak smile, a frightened expression and a cautious look just like how the other little eunuchs would appear on normal days within Eastern Palace.
The mountain roads were quiet while the night breeze was chilly. Along the way, not a word was uttered as they continued to walk along in the dark. The chilly breeze brushed against their faces and lightly swept across their clothes. The time it took to finish a cup of tea seemed to take quite a while. Hua Zhu Yu felt somewhat apprehensive having to face Xiao Yin. After all is said and done, she did deceive him.
At last they arrived at Bei Yuan and the Imperial Guards returned to report back to the Emperor. Dou Qian Jin was also led to his courtyard.
Following Xiao Yin, Hua Zhu Yu entered the courtyard. With a wave of his hand, Xiao Yin had instructed all the guards to retreat but before leaving, Hui Xue lightly winked at Hua Zhu Yu before sighing and retreating with quick steps.
Now, only the both of them were all that remained inside this courtyard.
Slowly they entered the room. With the candlelights casting Xiao Yin’s silhouette upon the wall, he appeared even more towering.
He was still as handsome as before and those dark purple robes made him appear even more profound. He quietly gazed at Hua Zhu Yu, somewhat domineering with a hint of icy arrogance. He slowly walked towards Hua Zhu Yu, each step more powerful than the previous. His purple sleeves fluttered like the passing clouds, though it was uncertain whether it was disturbed by the night breeze or heavy atmosphere.
He stopped right in front of her.
Gazing at her, he doesn’t speak.
Inside those pair of deep purple eyes was a stillness and an icy arrogance that made others unable to meet his gaze directly.
Images of Xiao Yin began flickering through Hua Zhu Yu’s mind, including that time when he drank and spoke too much. Though he was sober at the moment and had on his usual frosty air, there was still a bright fire flickering in those purple eyes, even if he tried to restrain himself, it was hard to conceal.
Beneath his watchful gaze, Hua Zhu Yu felt slightly uncomfortable. The corners of her lips lifted in a soft smile as she said, “Crown Prince Xiao, you really want this servant to teach you the sword dance?”
Looking at her, he gave a faint sigh and said, “Yatou ah, why are you dressed like this?”
“How is it, really beautiful?” Hua Zhu Yu laughingly said as she stroked her robes, trying hard to soothe the heavy atmosphere.
Hearing Xiao Yin call her yatou, Hua Zhu Yu knew that Bai Ma furen did not tell him the truth about her. Though she was Xiao Yin’s wet nurse, she also had selfish motives for her niece, Qi Qi Ge, was in love with Xiao Yin.
“That’s right ah, no matter what clothes you wear, it cannot hide your beauty!” He lowered his head, his eyes fixed on her face as he softly said, “Yatou, is it possible for elder brother to hold you once?”
Hua Zhu Yu stood in silence.
She did not expect him to suddenly give such a request. However, it wasn’t too much of an issue for an older brother to embrace his younger sister, it’s just that she wasn’t his sister ah!
When she was contemplating what to say, a hand tightened on her waist and her slender figure was pulled into Xiao Yin’s arms.
Xiao Yin used his identity as her older brother to hold her but his embrace was too tight, as though he couldn’t control himself. Hua Zhu Yu felt it was somewhat hard to breathe, moreover his male scent was swirling at the tip of her nose, causing her heart to palpitate. His chin rested atop her head as his purple eyes became even more unfathomable.
“Come back with me!” he calmly said and let go of her after a long while.
Hua Zhu Yu was left in a muddle-headed state from his embrace and didn’t fully comprehend what he had said until a while later. He did not ask why she fled from the arranged marriage nor did he criticize her. He asked of nothing and merely requested her to return so that he could continue to love and cherish her. But was she able to leave this place?
“You came to Southern Kingdom this time …. was to find me?” Hua Zhu Yu calmly asked.
Xiao Yin lowered his head to look at her and let out another sigh. His fingers extended out to brush the fine wisps of hair back behind her ear and helplessly said, “In this world, besides you, who else, what else, can make me trudge thousands of miles to find?”
Hearing these words, Hua Zhu Yu felt her heart somewhat constricted.
Though she had speculated that Xiao Yin came to find her, to hear him actually say it, she was nevertheless touched.