In the dark murky dungeon, Hui Xue stood in front of the cell bars staring at Hua Zhu Yu with a calm expression on her face. The lantern in her hand exuded a faint soft light that did nothing to illuminate the dungeon, not even reaching Hui Xue’s face. Hui Xue hadn’t changed much in the time they were apart. She still sported her perpetual cold expression, the only difference now was the complicated look in her eyes when she stared at Hua Zhu Yu.
“Who exactly are you? Why must you pretend to be Princess Zhou Ya? “ Hui Xue looked straight at Hua Zhu Yu and asked.
Hua Zhu Yu was surprised to be asked this question right off the bat. It was obvious from this question that Hui Xue knew she wasn’t Xiao Yin’s sister, which meant Xiao Yin probably knew as well. She hadn’t been sure if he heard her that day when she told him to ask Bai Ma furen but it seemed he had.
“Hui Xue, whoever I am is not important. That day I came to Northern Kingdom to take refuge; I have no ill intentions.” At the moment she still had to keep her identity hidden.
“Then how do you know Princess Zhou Ya? You even have her pendant on you. Where is Princess Zhou Ya now? “ Hui Xue thought Hua Zhu Yu was a servant from the Hua family sent as a replacement; she would never have suspected that Hua Zhu Yu was actually the Young Miss of the family. She didn’t know Hua Zhu Yu was Ying Shu Xie either, the only one who knew that was Xiao Yin.
Hui Xue asking about Princess Zhou Ya caused Hua Zhu Yu to fall silent.
Jin Se’s death left a painful scar on her heart. The mention of it made her feel like someone was stabbing her heart and ripping the wound open again.
After a long silence Hua Zhu Yu finally replied, “She has passed away. That pendant was something she left me.”
Hui Xue’s eyes filled with sorrow and the hand she used to hold the lantern shook slightly. She knew such an important pendant would not have been given away so easily unless…
“It’s hard to explain with just a few words. But Hui Xue, what has happened to your Emperor? Why is he invading Southern Kingdom? Why is his hair purple?” Hua Zhu Yu asked with a solemn expression.
Hui Xue’s face darkened but she refused to reply. Instead, she lifted her head and stared deeply at Hua Zhu Yu before unlocking the door and saying, “The Emperor wants to see you, follow me!”
Hui Xue held the lantern and led the way. The fact that she didn’t reply to her questions made Hua Zhu Yu suspicious. What exactly happened to Xiao Yin that made Hui Xue look at her with so much resentment? She had thought Hui Xue came to tell her something but that seemed not to be the case.
Hua Zhu Yu knew Xiao Yin would eventually call for her. Whatever Wen Wan whispered to him on the battlefield was interesting enough for him to set out and capture her personally. Considering the fact that he completely forgot about her, why else would he bother with a minor soldier?
translations at peachblossomgrove . com
As Hua Zhu Yu was hesitating, Hui Xue spoke up, saying, “Let’s move quickly, His Majesty isn’t in the best of mood these days. If you’re late, you would only suffer.”
Hua Zhu Yu followed Hui Xue out of the dungeon. Lui Feng was waiting outside and took the lead, escorting them to Xiao Yin’s quarters along a paved pathway.
“Your Majesty, this subordinate has brought the prisoner,” Lui Feng announced as he entered.
Hua Zhu Yu followed after him.
When they last parted ways, they were reluctant yet once they met again, they were strangers. In just a number of days, the blue sea had turned into mulberry fields(1). He was still him. She was still her. But as their gazes met, she was no longer her in his eyes, and he was longer him, in hers.
Resting on the thick carpet was an ebony wooden table. A small furnace lied on top with an incense stick currently burning, its faint fragrance permeating the room.
On one side of the room sat Wen Wan, playing the qin while a number of beautiful women danced along to the music on the red carpet, their movements graceful and provocative. But their eyes didn’t match their dance steps, which were wholly fixated on Xiao Yin’s body, gleaming like spring waters.
Xiao Yin watched the dance with his hand propped under his chin. He didn’t seem bothered despite recently losing a battle in the war he was waging as he sat there, reclining against the pillow, looking relaxed and at ease.
His purple hair was left to fall behind his back, glistening under the light of the room. That combined with his deep purple eyes gave his body an enticing, soul-stirring aura that he never had in the past. But he also appeared even colder than before.
Upon seeing Hua Zhu Yu, he slightly narrowed his dark, unfathomable eyes which gleamed with an oppressing callousness.
“Why are you so late?” he coldly asked.
“Reporting to Your Majesty, this person was injured so it took a while,” Hui Xue replied after she stepped forward and paid her respects.
Xiao Yin coldly humphed, then waved his hand at Hua Zhu Yu, commanding, “Come here.”
Hua Zhu Yu clasped her hands behind her back and slowly made her way over, stopping once she was 5 feet away from him. At this close distance, she felt that his purple hair complemented his face very well, it was cold yet indescribably beautiful.
She looked at him and tried to calmly speak. “For what business does Your Majesty want a minor soldier as myself here for?”
He indifferently swept his gaze over her face and replied, “A minor soldier with such high martial skills naturally piques this Emperor’s interest. Moreover, I heard that Ji Feng Li highly values you, making this Emperor wonder just to what extent.”
Ji Feng Li highly valued her? Perhaps this was something he had heard from Wen Wan.
“Your Majesty actually believes that? I’m merely a small minor soldier, ”replied Hua Zhu Yu. Xiao Yin was looking at her with such a cold gaze; he really didn’t remember her at all.
“That’s true,” he faintly said. His deep eyes inquisitively examined her for a long time before his brows slightly wrinkled. Curious, he asked, “What’s your name?”
“Your Majesty!” Wen Wan called out. She stopped playing and gracefully made her way over to sit by Xiao Yin’s side. She poured his cup to the brim with wine and offered it to him say, “How about another cup?”
Xiao Yin lifted his hand, signalling the dancers to stop. He then turned to Wen Wan and with a bright smile, said, “Wan Er, why did you stop? This Emperor likes to hear you play.”
Smiling, Wen Wan replied, “As long as Your Majesty wishes to listen, Wan Er shall continue playing.” She then stood and walked over to the qin. When she passed by Hua Zhu Yu, she paused and glanced at Hua Zhu Yu with her beautiful eyes, flashing a meaningful smile.
Hua Zhu Yu knew that Wen Wan hated her.
On the day that Xiao Yin took Wen Wan away, he had said it was for her protection. Though Wen Wan was unconscious at the time and did not hear, it didn’t mean that she unaware. A prideful person such as Wen Wan knew that she was taken away to the far Northern Kingdom for the sake of a little eunuch’s safety. How could she silently stomach that?
Hua Zhu Yu bitterly smiled. The relationship between her and Wen Wan was truly too complicated.
Wen Wan took her seat and began playing once again. She was playing Sha Po Lang on Xiao Yin’s Rao Liang which Hua Zhu Yu had once played.
Hua Zhu Yu didn’t understand why Wen Wan chose to play this. Was it Xiao Yin’s favorite piece?
That being said, perhaps it was a piece that Xiao Yin had taught her himself.
Hua Zhu Yu had played this piece on the battlefield. After Xiao Yin mistakenly took her for his sister, he had told her to play this piece again on two occasions. She originally thought he didn’t understand music but it appeared he had committed the song to memory and then taught Wen Wan.
Hua Zhu Yu silently stood there in the room, contemplating.
“Your Majesty, I would like to have a few private words. I hope Your Majesty can let the others withdraw.” Her purpose in coming here was to talk to Xiao Yin, not to listen to music. But as soon as she spoke, Wen Wan’s playing became slightly off and after a few notes, a string snapped. Wen Wan cried out in pain and jerked her hand back. Blood could be seen oozing from her right index finger. She frowned as though she was in a lot of pain.
Xiao Yin knitted his brows and quickly went over to Wen Wan’s side. He held her hand and examined the injury, then suddenly leaned down and enveloped her finger in his mouth, sucking the blood.
Hua Zhu Yu suddenly froze. She didn’t think Xiao Yin had it in him to be this gentle.
When he first came to Southern Kingdom for a marriage alliance, he fell in love as soon as he saw Wen Wan’s portrait. Perhaps that was true love and the feelings he had for her was nothing more than familial affection.
Love was something complicated, hard to grasp. Even she herself didn’t know for sure what feelings she had for him.
Watching this intimate scene before her eyes, her heart felt an aching tug. Perhaps it was a good thing that Xiao Yin and Wen Wan were together. They were well matched after all. If Xiao Yin agreed to withdraw his troops and put a stop to the war, everything would be great.
Hua Zhu Yu was lost in these thoughts when a purple light flashed before her and the sweeping sounds of sleeves could be heard as a strong fist, full of murderous intent was coming straight at her face. Acting on instinct, her body naturally moved out of the way.
“Your Majesty! What are you doing? This cannot be blamed on him. It’s my fault for not playing well. Don’t kill him!” Wen Wan rushed forward and held onto Xiao Yin.
Xiao Yin narrowed his eyes and withdrew his imposing aura. With a smile, he replied, “Who said I wanted to kill him? It’s nothing to do with you. You should withdraw. All of you withdraw.”
The guards and dancers all withdrew. Wen Wan paid her respects to Xiao Yin and with a light smile, said, “Your Majesty, don’t be angry. It will affect your health.” She then turned and glanced at Hua Zhu Yu before taking her leave.
Hua Zhu Yu was still slightly taken aback. She didn’t think that Xiao Yin would suddenly charge at her. He truly wasn’t in the best of moods as Hui Xue had said. Hua Zhu Yu had only spoken a few words which affected Wen Wan playing yet it angered him to this degree.
Momentarily, they were the only ones left in the room.
“Whatever it is that you want to say, quickly say it. This Emperor doesn’t have the time to listen to your nonsense. If you speak wisely, this Emperor shall spare your little life, speak imprudently, this Emperor shall kill you!” He went over to the table and took a seat.
Hua Zhu Yu reached for the pendant around her neck. She knew that Xiao Yin didn’t remember her so if she didn’t have this pendant, she wouldn’t have dared come here.
She took two steps forward and placed the pendant on the table, saying, “Does Your Majesty still remember this?”
When his gaze landed on the pendant, his pupils instantly constricted. Alarmed, he took hold of the pendant and asked, “Why do you have this? Who are you?”
It seemed Xiao Yin had not forgotten about this pendant, he clearly didn’t forget everything. Hua Zhu Yu smiled wistfully. She didn’t expect that she had to rely on Jin Se’s pendant to save her life once again.
“This pendant belonged to a close friend(2) of mine. She gave it to me saying that it was the only thing left behind by her family and asked that I find her family for her.”
“Then where is she now?” Holding the pendant he strode over to stand in front of Hua Zhu Yu. In the eyes gazing down at her, there was joy and anticipation.
“She has passed away,” Hua Zhu Yu said with difficulty. Speaking such words aloud pained her heart. She knew Xiao Yin would be heartbroken as well but she had to tell him eventually.
“What did you just say?” Xiao Yin asked in a raised voice. “You dare to say that she’s dead?”
“She’s gone. In order to save me, she risked her life and now she’s gone,” Hua Zhu Yu replied.
The image of that snowy night, stained with blood was forever etched in her memory.
His eyes glinted with a bloodthirsty look and his hands suddenly shot out, seizing her neck.
Hua Zhu Yu didn’t move, she knew that such a day would eventually come. She owed Jin Se her life so if Xiao Yin wanted to take hers, she wouldn’t fight back. But now was not the time, there was still much left to be done.
Xiao Yin’s fingers increasingly tightened on her neck. Hua Zhu Yu lifted her head and silently met his gaze and said with difficulty, “Wait. Later on, you can kill me then.” She still had many things left undone. She had yet to even avenge Jin Se.
Xiao Yin gazed at the person before him through narrowed eyes. Looking into that person’s stubborn yet somber eyes, he didn’t know why but he felt a painful throb deep in the depths of his heart.
He suddenly released Hua Zhu Yu and stepped backwards, falling down into the chair. With eyes tinged with sadness, he stared at the pendant, gently stroking it with his trembling hands and did not speak for a long while.
The room was terribly silent.
In the end, he coldly said, “I can’t kill you. If she risked her life to save you, I won’t kill you. Speak, what is your purpose in coming here? I know that if you truly put up a fight, I wouldn’t have been able to catch you the other day.”
Hua Zhu Yu was silently standing in the middle of the room. Lifting her head she asked, “I still want to ask Your Majesty that question. Why must you wage this war? Doing so, don’t you feel sorry for the people?”
Xiao Yin scoffed. “Feel sorry for the people? It’s precisely because this Emperor wants the people to have a stable future that I must unify the lands. Don’t you see? If the lands were unified as one, won’t the world be stabilized and at peace?”
“Yes, perhaps your thinking is correct, but the world right now is already at peace. There’s no need for war.” Unification of the world was a natural end result of chaos and war, however the current geopolitical landscape was relatively stable. There was no need for Xiao Yin’s forced unification. “The people now wish for a peaceful life but you have waged a big war, throwing them into the pits of fire. This is going against the hearts of the people; going against the will of the heavens, do you really think you can succeed? Where are the people of Yangguan now? You have caused so many deaths, even if you unify the world, won’t you feel guilty? What about your troops? After losing such a battle, how many casualties are there? Don’t you feel sorry for them?”
Sitting in his seat, he suddenly looked up at Hua Zhu Yu. His head then flew back, laughing. He narrowed his eyes and said, “Do you know how ridiculous you sound right now? Naturally there will be casualties in war. But my troops aren’t afraid of death. Since the day they were conscripted into the army, they knew one day they would sacrifice their life for Northern Kingdom. Dying for Northern Kingdom is their privilege.”
“Is it really?” Hua Zhu Yu questioned.
Xiao Yin’s deep purple eyes flashed and he leaned back against his seat, not saying another word. On his cold face was the usual callous indifference.
“Are you done talking?” he coldly asked. “If you’re done then return to the dungeon. Guards!”
Hui Xue quickly entered and escorted Hua Zhu Yu out.
The night sky was getting increasingly dark and the moon was completely obscured behind the mass of dark clouds.
Hua Zhu Yu followed Hui Xue back. Deep inside she could only feel disappointment.
It seemed this war was unavoidable.
After Hui Xue led Hua Zhu Yu back into the dungeon, she left the lantern behind and turned to leave.
“Hui Xue, why won’t you tell me what happened to His Majesty?” Hua Zhu Yu didn’t understand why Hui Xue refused to tell her.
“There are certain things that I cannot say. But I can ascertain that His Majesty isn’t poisoned nor is he being forced. He is living very well, you don’t need to worry. We also do not wish for your death, so you should quickly take the opportunity to leave tonight. This is medicine for your wound so that it won’t leave a scar,” Hui Xue slowly said with her back facing Hua Zhu Yu. Once she was done, she placed the medicine bottle on the ground. She then turned around for one last look at Hua Zhu Yu before finally leaving.
- idiom for time bringing great changes
- Here she used the word that means ‘younger female ‘ but I just used the word friend so that it flowed better
Reading this chapter made me feel like HZY has feelings for XY but they’re not strong enough for her to act on. I think it’s because she just doesn’t truly understands these novel feelings, or she feels guilty because of Jin Se, or she just needs to take revenge first before anything else or it’s just a combination of everything, but I just hate how she so easily lets go of XY and let him be with WW, like she accepts the reality and she doesn’t fight for him. But I guess she really can’t since he doesn’t remember her. Idk, thats just how I feel~