This chapter is brought to ya’ll by Xena❤️ and Claudia❤️
Upon awakening the next morning, Hua Zhu Yu found herself all alone in bed. Her heart felt at loss as she thought she would wake up with him by her side.
The room was quiet and desolate with only the sound of her steady breathing. The following two days, Hua Zhu Yu did not see Ji Feng Li; whether he was busy with wedding preparations or dealing with state affairs, she did not know.
The gugu(older female palace servant)overseeing the inner palace paid her a visit in order to tailor her clothes. However, once her work was complete, she did not bother her again. No matter how occupied the eunuchs and maidservants were with the wedding preparations, Tao Yuan Ju remained serene as ever.
However, during these past two days, Hua Zhu Yu did not sit idle. She had decided to personally embroider a sachet for Ji Feng Li.
Needlework was not a task Hua Zhu Yu was adept in. Dan Hong, who had followed her to the western border, wasn't proficient at it either. Thus Hua Zhu Yu knew little about the intricate works of embroidery. However, she was aware that women in Southern Kingdom followed a custom where they would embroider pillow cases, wedding clothes, and sachets for their future husband before the wedding took place.
As for the wedding clothes and pillow cases, even if she could embroider she would not be able to complete it in 3 days time. Those items were already being prepared by the Inner Palace Department. But the sachet was something doable and she wanted to personally embroider one for Ji Feng Li.
Thus she quietly asked Long Yu to find her some fabric, silk threads, and embroidery patterns.
However, she did not expect there to be such a variety of embroidery patterns. There were mandarin ducks wading in the water, birds chirping amidst flowers, proud plum blossoms blooming in the snow, twin lotus flowers, pair of fluttering butterflies…. they were all beautiful and meaningful.
Looking at the variety of patterns displayed before her, she suddenly focused on a pattern with a child riding on a fish. Looking at the chubby cheeks of the child and the red bib he wore, her eyes began to moisten.
Seeing her staring at the pattern for a long time, Long Yu said with a teasing smile, "Princess Consort(Wangfei), the Prince(Wangye) will certainly like that pattern. It's just that for the wedding, these three patterns are more appropriate." She then pointed at the patterns of the mandarin ducks, twin lotus flowers, and the pair of butterflies.
Hua Zhu Yu shook her head as her fingers stroked the pattern of the child and said, "Take it all away."
Long Yu was slightly taken by surprise. She carefully suggested,"Your Highness, how about I go find some other embroidery patterns." She thought that Hua Zhu Yu did not like these patterns because they were too complex.
"No need," Hua Zhu Yu lightly said.
“Then is Princess Consort still embroidering?” Long Yu asked. When she learned that Hua Zhu Yu wanted to embroider a sachet for Ji Feng Li, she was thrilled. All the servants here, including herself, could see how much the Prince cared for the Princess Consort. If the Princess Consort was to embroider a sachet for the Prince, he would be so elated. Now seeing that Hua Zhu Yu didn't want to embroider anymore, Long Yu couldn't help but ask.
Hua Zhu Yu kept her eyes lowered, concealing the emotions in them as she lightly said, "These embroidery patterns are too complex, I fear I won't be able to do them. I'll just think of a simple pattern myself."
Hearing this, Long Yu sighed in relief and said," Princess Consort is right. The Prince will surely like the pattern that you create more."
Will he like it?
Hua Zhu Yu's heart felt slightly sour. There were certain things that she must tell him. She
raised her eyes and said, “Long Yu, prepare some paper and brush for me."
Originally, she wanted to embroider a sachet, now she wanted paper and brush. Long Yu couldn't wrap her head around it but still went to get the materials.
translations at peachblossomgrove . com
Three days. It took exactly 3 days for Hua Zhu Yu to embroider a sachet.
Her fingers had been pricked multiple times during the process but the sachet was finally done before the wedding.
The sachet was made of white brocade and she had embroidered the face of a child. It was different from the child from one of the patterns she had looked at previously. Instead, she had embroidered it based on an image she thought of in her heart.
Her needlework was poor and the embroidery was a bit clumsy. If it was someone else, they surely would've been embarrassed to gift it but she placed it in a box and instructed Long Yu to send it to Ji Feng Li.
Perhaps because the wedding came so fast, Hua Zhu Yu still found it difficult to believe it was actually happening, even the day before the wedding, everything felt so surreal like a dream.
Lying on the bed was the red wedding dress made of silk brocade, giving off a dazzling glow beneath the candlelight. How many people did it actually take to make such a gorgeous dress, she wondered to herself.
“Princess Consort, it’s almost time, let's apply your makeup,” Long Yu reminded softly.
"Miss, a eunuch from Xuan Cheng Palace came to relay the Retired Emperor's words. He wants to invite you to Xuan Cheng Palace for a visit," the maidservant outside the door reported.
Xuan Cheng Palace was the residence of the Retired Emperor Yan. It seems like he wanted to see her. Hua Zhu Yu pondered for a moment before taking off the phoenix crown and stepping outside with Long Yu.
Hua Zhu Yu still had some doubts about the Retired Emperor Yan.
On that day, after Ji Feng Li was executed on the execution grounds, she had remained in the palace to investigate the Retired Emperor at Xuan Cheng Palace.
That night, after the third night watch, she took advantage of the time when the Imperial Guards changed shifts and snuck into Xuan Cheng Palace.
Hiding on the rooftop, she could hear the sound of the flute coming from the main hall which puzzled her. It was said that the Retired Emperor was seriously ill. How could he be in the mindset to indulge in music in the middle of the night? She had planned to sneak into his room at this late hour to interrogate him when he was alone but it seems with the current situation, it wasn't possible to proceed as planned.
She was just about to leave but the sound of the flute suddenly stopped. A sequence of light coughs ensued alongside the faint voice of a woman. Hua Zhu Yu decided to quietly lift off a glazed rooftop tile and peered down into the room.
Inside, the lights were dim and the Retired Emperor Yan was sitting in bed, leaning against the headboard. By his side was a woman, Liu Tai Fei(High Consort). She was the one who had sat next to him during the ascension ceremony.
"Retired Emperor, drink the medicine," Liu TaiFei said, her clothes half-open as she gracefully lifted the bowl of medicine to him.
Unblinking, the Retired Emperor gazed at Liu Tai Fei with a cold, solemn expression. He took the bowl and lifted it to his mouth, finishing it in one breath.
"It's good isn't it?" Liu Tai Fei asked with a smile.
"It's good, isn't it?" the Retired Emperor Yan repeated with a cold expression.
Witnessing this, Hua Zhu Yu's heart was clouded with suspicion. There was something off with the Retired Emperor.
She recalled the banquet welcoming the return of the soldiers from the northern expedition and Huangfu Wu Shuang's accession ceremony. Liu Tai Fei had been right by the Retired Emperor's side on both occasions. Seemingly, it was as if his words were all under the direction of Liu Tai Fei. Even when Yu Tai Fei presented the silk cloth stained with blood, the Retired Emperor remained indifferent.
It was very evident that the Retired Emperor Yan was being controlled by Huangfu Wu Shuang.
However, on the night that Ji Feng Li attacked the Imperial Palace, he employed the Retired Emperor's Lei Ting(Thunder Ride) Troops. It could be seen that the Retired Emperor's condition had improved. She just didn't know how Ji Feng Li was able to slip through Huangfu Wu Shuang's tight surveillance of the Retired Emperor and even cured him.
She wondered what the Retired Emperor wanted to see her for today.
Hua Zhu Yu took Long Yu along with her to Xuan Cheng Palace. At the entrance, Chang gong gong(eunuch) swiftly came forward and bowed. "The Retired Emperor has private matters to discuss with Princess Consort, anyone else should wait outside," he said.
Hearing this, Long Yu waited at the entrance of the palace.
Following Chang gong gong's lead, Hua Zhu Yu stepped inside the palace. The first thing she noticed was the heavy smell of medicine in the air. The next thing that came into view was the golden canopy of the bed, behind which the once powerful Emperor Yan rested. Chang gong gong quickly went to his side and supported him.
Looking up, the Retired Emperor saw Hua Zhu Yu. He then motioned for all the servants in the room to withdraw.
“So you're Hua Mu’s daughter?” the Retired Emperor questioned as he narrowed his eyes.
“That's right, I'm Hua Mu’s daughter, Hua Zhu Yu. The one you sent to Northern Kingdom for a marriage alliance, the one you wanted to poison and render mentally foolish, Hua Zhu Yu, " she responded slowly, word for word.
The Retired Emperor coldly replied, “Yes, if he had poisoned you as I had instructed, many things would've been different. For him to tell you even this, it could be seen his feelings for you are sincere."
With a cold smile, Hua Zhu Yu asked, "What about you? Has the Retired Emperor ever been sincere in this life?" From her sleeve, she took out the painting of Empress Xie and slowly asked, "Were your feelings for her ever sincere?"
The Retired Emperor's complexion suddenly paled as his eyes fixed on the painting of Empress Xie in shock. With a trembling voice, he asked, “Where did you get this painting?”
It was evident he had left this painting in a book by accident and then couldn't find it later.
"Give it to me!" He reached out his hand and snapped in a hoarse voice.
Hua Zhu Yu brought the painting before him and coldly watched as his fingers stretched out to stroke the person in the painting carefully in silence for a long time.
This person before her, she had once wanted to kill with her own hands but looking at him now, there was only pity in her eyes. At a young age, he had fought countless battles and ultimately won the throne but had lost the true love of his life in exchange. This regret and pain was bound to haunt him for the rest of his life. To him, this was even more painful than death itself.
"Retired Emperor, why look so sad? If you hadn't killed Empress Xie yourself, why would Feng Li remain in hiding for so many years? Even when you won the throne, he was not willing to recognize you as his father,” Hua Zhu Yu said quietly. After hearing about Empress Xie from Na Lan Xue, she could guess that Empress Xie's death had something to do with the Retired Emperor. Otherwise, Ji Feng Li wouldn't have kept his true identity a secret for so long. He would rather be a traitor than a rightful heir.
Hearing these words, the Retired Emperor abruptly raised his head, his sharp eyes glaring at Hua Zhu Yu. Like a madman, he roared, “How did you know?” Soon after, he smiled sadly and said, “That’s right, you're Hua Mu's daughter.”
“That being said, my father knew this. So no matter how much contributions he's made over the years, you wouldn't allow him to return to the capital, right? Once the western borders were stabilized, you planned to eliminate the Hua family, didn't you?" Hua Zhu Yu questioned.
“You're wrong. It's not for this reason that I wanted to get rid of him. It’s because I found that he had ties with the previous dynasty. I just didn't expect my own prince to be replaced by someone from the previous dynasty, ” the Retired Emperor said as he narrowed his eyes. It seems he already knew of Hua Mu’s identity. “I know you're also a person of the former Nation of Mo. I wanted you to come today because I wanted to speak to you. At that time, the Nation of Mo was already on the decline, taxed by the consecutive war and chaos as its people struggled through poverty. If I hadn't overthrown the Nation of Mo, someone else would have. I've already lost my beloved, I don’t want to lose Ji Feng Li as well. If you truly care for him, I hope you stop working for Hua Mu. “
Hua Zhu Yu was taken aback. Unexpectedly, the Retired Emperor was well aware of things.
“You're wrong. I don't work for him,” Hua Zhu Yu replied as she knitted her brows.
The Retired Emperor's gaze remained on Hua Zhu Yu, his sharp eyes assessing her, trying to distinguish whether her words were the truth or lies. After a while, he slowly said, “That's good then. You may go back. I’m going to take a rest.”
Hua Zhu Yu looked at him as his gaze shifted towards the painting. He held it in his hands as if it was some sort of treasure, gazing at it in captivation. Mixed feelings gripped her heart as she slowly withdrew from the room.
“One more thing. At the beginning, it was not Feng Li's idea to send you to Northern Kingdom for a marriage alliance of peace… it was Huangfu Wu Shuang's, ” the Retired Emperor said in a low voice behind her.
Hua Zhu Yu's step halted as a bitter smile appeared on her lips. In fact, she had already guessed as much. At the beginning, Huangfu Wu Shuang was in love with Wen Wan, whether it was true or merely a front, he would not allow Wen Wan to be sent off to Northern Kingdom for a marriage alliance. Instead, to send her(HZY) in Wen Wan's place, he could get what he wanted as well as sever the ties Ji Feng Li had to the Hua Family.
- In the previous chapters, Consort Liu had the title Fei and not Tai Fei. I’m not sure if this is a just a minor mistake on the authors part or not but I wanted to point out this inconsistency, though she’s still a consort in either case. Tai Fei is just a higher ranked Consort.