Dou Qian Jin did not reside at Eastern Yan's guest house but in a refined residence located along Lanyi Lane.
Hua Zhu Yu followed Dou Qian Jin, walking past several corridors before arriving in front of a house. Through the green bamboo curtain, Hua Zhu Yu caught a glimpse of a woman's back. Dressed in light green robes with a soft yellow waistcoat, she was playing the qin. The delicate sound resonated from within, slowly diffusing across the room towards the courtyard, intermingling with the gloomy starlight above, evoking a sense of melancholy in people's hearts.
A maidservant stepped forward from the corner and paid her respects before informing, "Prince, madam has been inside waiting for some time."
Dou Qian Jin nodded before glancing at Hua Zhu Yu. Smiling, he said, “Follow me!”
Lifting aside the green bamboo curtain, Hua Zhu Yu and Dou Qian Jin stepped inside.
The stirring melody of the qin came to a staggering halt with their entrance and the womanslowly turned around to smile at them.
Hua Zhu Yu did not expect to suddenly come face to face with Madam Xuan. She wondered what method Dou Qian Jin used to be able to actually invite Madam Xuan who had vowed to spend the rest of her life on Xiangfu Mountain, never to leave.
As a child, in addition to Hua Mu, Madam Xuan was also a prominent figure in her life.
Madam Xuan was the one who taught her to play the qin and how to dance and sing. It can be said that Madam Xuan wholeheartedly taught her everything she knew. Madam Xuan was just as strict as Hua Mu. However, Hua Zhu Yu was close to Hua Mu but she did not dare to get close to Madam Xuan.
When Hua Zhu Yu was eight years old, Hua Mu had sent her to Xiangfu Mountain to pay respects to Madam Xuan as her master. Madam Xuan had a scary appearance, half of her face had been disfigured. Moreover, it seemed as though Madam Xuan had a dislike for her. Although Hua Zhu Yu was young, she could still sense this. But for a young child who did not grow up with a mother's love, Hua Zhu Yu was content to have such a master, no matter how indifferent Madam Xuan was at times. In her free time, she would often go see Madam Xuan until that one night.
That night for Hua Zhu Yu was like a nightmare. That night she was sleeping but as a person who had practiced martial arts, her senses were heightened and the slightest of sound was able to awaken her. She heard the faint footsteps at her door and blinked her eyes before peeping over the cover to see Madam Xuan quietly enter her room. She quickly closed her eyes. She honestly didn't know why she pretended to be asleep. She could sense Madam Xuan taking a seat next to her on the bed. Hua Zhu Yu remained motionless, trying not to breathe too heavily. She could feel Madam Xuan's gaze on her and was uncomfortable. For a moment she was about to open her eyes when suddenly her neck was tightly seized.
The force made Hua Zhu Yu's eyes instantly open. In the darkness, she was confronted by Madam Xuan's pair of beautiful eyes, like two deep pools of water eager to pull her under.
Hua Zhu Yu was petrified and desperately struggled. Although she knew martial arts, she was but a young child at that time, too small to ward off an adult, especially one that was in a manic state. If Hua Mu had not arrived in time that night, Hua Zhu Yu might've been strangled by Madam Xuan.
Later Hua Mu told her that Madam Xuan was ill and would occasionally go crazy. However, Hua Zhu Yu did not fully believe Hua Mu because Madam Xuan generally appeared normal. However, after that incident, Hua Zhu Yu would only go see her when she had lessons and did not dare to get close to her. Moreover, she felt the look in Madam Xuan's eyes were strange whenever she looked at herHZY. There was a hint of something in her eyes that was like hatred but not exactly.
It never occurred to her that the person Dou Qian Jin wanted her to meet was actually Madam Xuan.
In her mind, Madam Xuan and Dou Qian Jin were two people from completely different worlds. Hua Zhu Yu never expected to see her in Dou Qian Jin's residence. However, Madam Xuan did not appear surprised when she saw Hua Zhu Yu. She casually stood up and smiled, walking towards Hua Zhu Yu.
"Xiao Yu…… " Madam Xuan's said with a smile, her voice soothing and beautiful. It could be presumed that she too was once a great beauty.
These past few years, Hua Zhu Yu had been on the battlefield and rarely had the chance to see Madam Xuan. Meeting Madam Xuan again, her voice was still as beautiful and charming as ever. That year, Madam Xuan was well known in the brothel, be it singing, dancing or playing the qin.
"Master Xuan! Why are you here? When did you come to Yu City? " Hua Zhu Yu asked as show bowed to Madam Xuan. Although they weren't close, Hua Zhu Yu still held great respect for Madam Xuan, after all she was the one that had taught her all her skills.
When Madam Xuan heard her question she did not answer but looked over at Dou Qian Jin and said, "Qian Jin, it's no longer early, you should go and get some rest. Tonight, Xiao Yu shall stay at my place. I will tell her everything. Then, if she agrees to follow you, I will also go with you both to Eastern Yan."
Dou Qian Jin bowed and said, “Alright, if that’s the case, Qian Jin shall withdraw."
Madam Xuan took Hua Zhu Yu's hand and led her into the inner room. Hua Zhu Yu felt unaccustomed to Madam Xuan sudden act of intimacy. Under the pretext of having to take off her cloak, she let go of Madam Xuan's hand. However, just as she was about to untie her cloak she remembered that her clothes underneath had been torn.
translations at peachblossomgrove . com
Madam Xuan ordered the maidservant to bring a new set of clothes. Hua Zhu Yu received the clothes and stepped behind the screen to change. After changing she stepped out and saw Madam Xuan sitting on the bed, her eyes slightly closed, seemingly thinking of what Hua Zhu Yu did not know.
“Master, you are acquainted with Prince Rui?” Hua Zhu Yu casually asked. Madam Xuan was staying in his residence and not only that, Dou Qian Jin's attitude towards her was also very respectful. She even called him by his name. If it was just a normal relationship, even though she was older, Madam Xuan would still have to address him as prince.
“Xiao Yu, come here,” Madam Xuan patted the bed, motioning Hua Zhu Yu to come sit beside her.
Hua Zhu Yu went over and took a seat as she was directed. Madam Xuan's hands reached up and untied the bun on Hua Zhu Yu's head. Her long hair unfurled straight down her back, shining like a jade luster under the candlelight. Madam Xuan picked up a comb and carefully helped her comb her hair.
Towards Madam's Xuan's abnormal behavior tonight, Hua Zhu Yu quietly takes it in though her heart was very perplexed.
Madam Xuan finished combing through her hair and placed the comb down. With slightly red eyes, Madam Xuan said, “Xiao Yu, you’ve suffered these years.”
Hua Zhu Yu smiled and reached out to hold Madam Xuan's hand. “Master, why are your hands so cold, let me warm them for you.”
Madam Xuan's cold hands stiffened as they were held in Hua Zhu Yu's warm hands. After a moment, sensing Hua Zhu Yu's concern and the warmth coming from her palm, her heart also eased. That year it was these same hands that nearly strangled this brightly smiling girl.
“Xiao Yu, you are a smart child. These recent events must have made you feel suspicious right?" Madam Xuan slowly asked. "There are some things Hua Mu must not have told you."
Madam Xuan slowly got up from the bed. "Xiao Yu, do you know the previous dynasty's nation of Mo?"
“Nation of Mo?” Hua Zhu Yu repeated with a frown.
She didn’t know much about the previous dynasty. With the transition towards a new dynasty, the information regarding the previous would be sealed, leaving behind only a narrative of how the previous dynasty fell and deteriorated while the founding Emperor of the new dynasty was glorified as a hero.
The last emperor of the nation of Mo was Emperor Guang, Mu Ye. It was said he was a weakling, unfit to be emperor. Originally, the nation of Mo was already on the decline when he ascended the throne. How was a weak emperor to build it up again? As a result, the surrounding vassal states staged an uprising, one after another. Thousands of common people suffered as a result. At that time1, Emperor Yan's Lei Ting troops and Empress Xie's Feng Yun troops were the 2 strongest armies. Subsequently, it was said that Emperor Yan and Empress Xie grew affection for one another and joined forces, their troops united as one, increasing in strength. A few years later, their rebel army at last made way through the Imperial Palace, conquering the nation of Mo. It was said that before the rebel army arrived at his palace hall, the Emperor had already set his palace aflame. Buried along with him was his Empress who was said to have been pregnant.
Madam Xuan suddenly mentioned the nation of Mo, could it be ……
“Xiao Yu, we are all compatriots of the nation of Mo!” Madam Xuan asserted as she stared into Hua Zhu Yu's eyes. "That year everyone said the Empress died in the fire but in fact it was only a substitute. At that time, Hua Mu was one of the Emperor's dark guards and I was the attendant by the Empress' side. Hua Mu and I helped the Empress escape from the palace. We roamed the lands, living here and there. Later, Hua Mu joined Emperor Yan's rebel army and helped him defeat the other rebel forces and accomplished outstanding merits. Since then he was given the title of Marquis. But that was not what he desired. What he wanted was the lands of Mo Nation."
Hua Mu's words suddenly rung in Hua Zhu Yu's ears. "Only Huangfu Wu Shuang deserves to sit on the throne because he doesn’t carry the surname Huangfu!”
"Then Huangfu Wu Shuang's real surname is Mu? He's a descendant of the Emperor of Mo Nation ?" Hua Zhu Yu asked. "Father helped him ascend the throne just so that the lands under heaven would belong to the Mu family again? So all these years I have been living for the sake of Mo Nation?"
"That's right! Everyone has lived on in order to one day reestablish the nation of Mo. Me, Hua Mu, the crown prince, even you and all of the Orphan army as well," Madam Xuan calmly stated but the gentle smile on her lips have long disappeared.
"Orphan Army? They're all from the nation of Mo?" Hua Zhu Yu asked, her heart tightening.
"If there was no war that year, how could there be so many orphans!" Madam Xuan said as she clenched her teeth. Her beautiful face warped with fierceness. She resented Southern Kingdom but could only bury the hatred deep in her heart. But she could never forget what happened. No matter if she's talking, eating, or sleeping, she could always sense the bloodbath that spilt that year around her.
“Then where is the Empress of Mo Nation now?" Hua Zhu Yu asked.
“She ……” Under the flickering candlelight, Madam Xuan's face was quite pale. “She passed away after giving birth to the Crown Prince.”
Hua Zhu Yu stared at Madam Xuan's back and could feel her desolation.
Perhaps because she didn't grow up in the nation of Mo, she didn't feel a sense of loss. But she had gone to war and had witnessed the fights and struggles on the battlefield, witnessed how the defeated countries were killed, how the people were forced from their homes, wandering aimlessly about. She had witnessed it all. She thought she could understand the pain and resentment in Madam Xuan's heart. She just didn't expect this feeling was still so strong after so many years have passed.
“So why did Dou Qian Jin look for me? He said you will tell me,” Hua Zhu Yu asked, puzzled. What was the relationship between Mo Nation and Dong Yan?
Madam Xuan sighed softly and said," Because you are his maternal cousin."
“You mean that my mother and his mother are sisters?” Hu Zhu Yu asked doubtfully. Til now, who her mother was she didn't even know. Hua Mu never mentioned her mother to her nor let her ask.
Madam Xuan gently looked at Hua Zhu Yu. "Xiao Yu, if you know who your mother is, will you … hate her?”
Hua Zhu Yu lowered her eyes and faintly smiled.
She shook her head. Perhaps she did once. She hated her mother, wondering why she gave birth and left her for another world. But it's fine that she's gone. Once she did harbor hatred but not anymore. She longed for the warmth of a mother's love but if she wasn't destined to have it in this life, she would still live well on her own.
“I am your mother,” Madam Xuan calmly affirmed.
Hua Zhu Yu was dumbfounded.
After a moment, she couldn't help but laugh. This was probably the most absurd joke she ever heard.
"Don’t laugh, it's the truth. That year, when I worked in the brothel, I encountered an alarming incident and became muddled. I had forgotten a lot of things, forgotten I still had a daughter so…I never looked after you," Madam Xuan said as she looked at Hua Zhu Yu.
"Then who is my father, it's not Hua Mu is it?" Hua Zhu Yu asked.
"It's not!" Madam Xuan replied adamantly.
"Then who is it?" Hua Zhu Yu slowly asked.
- It may not be clear so I just wanted to clarify. When the author talks about Emperor Yan and Empress Xie during the war I think that they were not Emperor and Empress yet. I'm assuming they led the rebellion and fell for one another and that's how they conquered the nation of Mo and became Emperor and Empress of Southern Kingdom.