When Hua Zhu Yu finally returned to Tao Yuan Ju, the wedding palanquin Ji Feng Li sent had already arrived. The palace servants quickly helped her change into the wedding dress and fixed the gorgeous phoenix crown on her head. They then put on the finishing touches of her makeup and supported her as she walked out the door.
Hua Zhu Yu was a bit in a trance as they helped her out.
Outside, the music was loud and bustling.
In less than half an hour, the palanquin had arrived at the Qing An Hall. As the palanquin was placed on the ground, the beating of the drum suspended. In the silence, a piercing noise sounded as three arrows whistled through the air. The groom had pulled out his bow and shot at the palanquin door in accordance to tradition to ward off evil spirits. Afterwards, the curtain was lifted and a slender hand extended towards her.
Still slightly in a trance, Hua Zhu Yu heard Ji Feng Li as he said, “Bao'er, you're my wife from now on. In the future, whether you're in trouble or danger, I shall protect you with my life. In this lifetime, I will never leave you and never forget."
Hua Zhu Yu placed her trembling hand in his and as his hand enveloped hers, the nervousness in her heart finally calmed.
Due to the phoenix crown, her vision was obscured so she followed his lead as they walked step by step along the grand red carpet to enter Qing An Palace Hall. Listening to the official presiding over the ceremony, they kowtowed and paid their respects.
“Husband and wife may now worship each other!” the official said at last but suddenly the heavy ringing of a bell sounded outside the hall, “dang dang dang…..,” disrupting the ceremony.
Eight. It had rung eight times. This was the sound of the death knell.
It was the signal of an Emperor's death.
Hua Zhu Yu was shocked.
Emperor's death! There is no one else but the Retired Emperor Yan. She had just seen him before she got on the palanquin. Just within half an hour he had died?
This was truly an unexpected turn of events in today's grand wedding which can no longer continue it seems.
The hall had fallen in a frenzy as the court officials voiced their shock at this sudden occurrence. In the midst of this commotion, Ji Feng Li's voice overwhelmed the masses and brought back order as he ordered, "Continue with the ceremony!" His voice did not divulge any traces of emotion, whether it be happiness or anger.
For a moment, everyone was stunned.
After a moment, the official from the Ministry of Rites composed himself and continued on with the ceremony, announcing in a loud voice, “Husband and wife may now worship each other!”
“Your Highness, the ceremony must not continue. The Retired Emperor is dead. He was assassinated and she may be the murderer. She was the last person to visit the Retired Emperor!” A man stepped forward on the red carpet of the hall and proceeded to kowtow non-stop as he pleaded. Upon hearing this voice, Hua Zhu Yu recognized it immediately, it was Chang gong gong, the Retired Emperor's servant.
Extending her hand out, Hua Zhu Yu pulled off the red veil covering her head. Her eyes swept across the officials proudly before finally focusing on him.
Standing there in her dazzling red wedding gown, her heart burned like a flame, casting everything else aside, her eyes focused solely on him.
Those pair of dark phoenix eyes were still calm and elegant as usual, but deep within their depths was a sliver of despair.
The last time they saw each other he was drunk and they had spent the night together. Haven't seen him for the past few days, she had missed him and thought that the next time they would meet would be on their wedding night. But unexpectedly, it was at this moment.
“Ji Feng Li, I didn’t kill him,” she calmly said as she gazed into his eyes.
Ji Feng Li's expression did not change. Without a word, he took the red veil from her hand and placed it over her head again.
“Continue with the ceremony,” he said, emphasizing each word as if it was taking up a lifetime's worth of energy just to speak.
"The ceremony is complete, the bride shall enter the bridal room…" the official from the Ministry of Rites announced in a quivering voice.
"Your Highness, you can't protect the suspect who killed the Retired Emperor. Your Highness, you are disregarding the law of Southern Kingdom!” Imperial Tutor Wen lamented.
“Even if she's a suspect, can’t I marry her? When did this prince say that I'll protect her? Guards!” His voice was cold with an undertone of anger that made it difficult for others to voice their protest. "Escort the Princess Consort to prison!”
translations at peachblossomgrove . com
The prison in the Ministry of Justice was cold and mucky, polluted with a foul smell compared to Nei Cheng Yuan(Inner Punishment Courtyard). Be it day or night, it was dark and gloomy all the year round, almost like a ghost prison. Punishment aside, if one had to live in such a dungy place for long, one would surely die of insanity.
Hua Zhu Yu sat in the corner of a prison cell, listening to the water dripping off the ceiling. At the moment, she didn't know what to feel. After being imprisoned in Nei Cheng Yuan twice, she didn't expect she would one day also be imprisoned here in the Ministry of Justice.
To spend her wedding night in a prison cell, it seems in this world only Hua Zhu Yu would find herself in such a predicament!
She sighed and raised her hand to pull out one of the hairpins in her hair and remove the phoenix crown. The jewelry on the crown knocked against one another, giving off a crisp, hollow sound in the dark cell.
She placed the phoenix crown on the ground beside her and bent her knees as she placed her arms around them, hugging herself tightly.
The Retired Emperor died after she went to see him, making her the prime suspect. Ji Feng Li was the regent who would soon ascend the throne. Many eyes are currently on him. The murder of the Retired Emperor is a serious matter for the court as well as Southern Kingdom. After all, he was the founding Emperor of the kingdom. If Ji Feng Li did not send her to prison, it would mean that he would be violating the law for personal reasons. If that was the case, how would he be able to govern the world in the future?
Before this matter's cleared up, as the prime suspect, she had to be sent to prison. However, she wasn't troubled over being imprisoned. What worried her was that she wasn't sure what he was thinking. Did he think she was the one that killed the Retired Emperor?
She remembered his eyes upon learning that the Retired Emperor had died. His eyes had filled with despair and in that moment her heart had felt exceedingly cold.
She knew he hated the Retired Emperor but he was still his father. With the Retired Emperor murdered, he would certainly harbor hate and contempt for the murderer.
Leaning against the cold wall, she tried to figure out who could've done this.
There was no doubt that someone wanted to blame her with the murder of the Retired Emperor.
In this way, that person could, one, get rid of the Retired Emperor, two, prevent her from marrying Ji Feng Li, and three, get rid of her. This person could kill 3 birds with 1 stone; a great strategy indeed. There were many people against this marriage but few who actually dare to make a move against the Retired Emperor. Who could this person be?
Wen Wan? Could it be her? Obviously, Wen Wan did not want her to marry Ji Feng Li.
Hua Zhu Yu sat there thinking for a long time. After a while, she stood and walked around the cell, the shackles at her feet rustling with each movement she made.
Being here made her recall that time when she was imprisoned in Yangguan. At that time, Ji Feng Li had come to save her along with Tang Yu. Remembering this, her heart warmed with feeling. But tonight, she feared he wasn't able to come.
The cold night was dark as ink and silent save for the clanging of the gong, marking the fourth night watch(1-3am).
Hua Zhu Yu leaned against the cell wall and began to employ her internal strength. These days, although she was in the palace, she dared not be lazy and often trained. Although Huangfu Wu Shuang had destroyed her internal strength and she had not recovered completely, she had been training, little by little, to recover her strength.
In the darkness, she suddenly heard something moving at the prison door. Vigilantly, she stood up and the door was opened. A dark shadow swiftly entered. Under the dim candlelight in the prison, she noticed a man dressed in all black, half his face covered with a black cloth, revealing only a pair of sharp, dark eyes. Upon seeing her, he said in a quiet voice, “Miss Bao, I’m here to save you. Please leave here with me as soon as possible. Someone will take you away outside.”
"Who are you? Why did you come to save me?” Hua Zhu Yu questioned cautiously. How could she dare leave with him blindly when she didn't even know who he was.
“I'm just following orders. Now is not the time for conversation. We'll talk when we're outside,” the man in black said in a low voice.
“I'm not leaving,” Hua Zhu Yu slowly said. Escaping from prison was equivalent to admitting that she had killed the Retired Emperor herself. Thus, she can’t go. She believed that Ji Feng Li would find the real murderer and return her innocence. “You’d better leave quickly. Breaking into the prison of the Ministry of Justice, if caught the consequences will be very serious!” She didn't know who sent him but to actually break into a state prison, they indeed were very daring.