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Chapter 45 Closer in blood, fearful at heart
Finally, it was here. Chu Yu’s heart sank, and she sighed inwardly.
Princess Shanyin’s younger brother, the current emperor. From what history Chu Yu knew, he was a licentious, lustful young emperor. Aside from being related, he also had a strange streak of flirtatiousness toward the princess.
The reason that Chu Yu had been dragging this out for so long and avoiding seeing Liu Ziye was exactly because of that flirtatiousness. In her palace, she was more powerful than anyone else. As long as she didn’t want to do something, no one would force her. But the moment she entered the imperial palace, she was in a passive position. If Liu Ziye demanded something from her and she dared refuse, would it bring a death sentence upon her?
No matter how much she didn’t want this, she needed to confront it. If she resisted this order right now, that would definitely be much worse.
The best she could do was act upon opportunity, and adapt when the situation demanded it.
Making up her mind, Chu Yu spoke immediately. “Let’s go then.”
He Ji stared at Chu Yu, shocked. “Princess, you wish to enter the palace right now?”
At first Chu Yu hesitated. Then she remembered that she had just cut her hair yesterday and it only reached her shoulders. Because of that, she’d been wearing her hair down. At home no one dared comment on her appearance. But now she was going to the imperial palace, she couldn’t be so messy.
She returned to her room and had You Lan do her hair into a simple, neat bun, put on some light makeup, and dressed up in rather formal clothing. With that preparation, half an hour passed.
While she was preparing, Chu Yu heard the sound of weapons clattering against each other, then Yue Jiefei’s sharp voice. “Hua Cuo, what are you doing, trying to break and enter the princess’s dwellings?”
Hua Cuo chuckled. “Even if I were going to kill anyone, I wouldn’t do it so openly. Rong Zhi asked me to meet with the princess, saying that there was something that needed to be given to her.”
“What is it? Let me see it first,” Yue Jiefei snapped.
The sound of battle came from the door; it seemed like the two had started fighting. After a while she heard Hua Cuo’s taunting voice. “Has it ever been your place to question what Rong Zhi brings the princess? If it were a lover’s note, would you want to see that?”
Chu Yu had the feeling that if she let him continue speaking, he’d probably say something regretful. So she stood up and opened the door, interrupting them, “Stop.”
She nodded at Yue Jiefei first. “It’s nothing.” And then glanced at Hua Cuo. “What is it?”
Hua Cuo’s wrist flicked as he extended his hand. Sitting on his palm was a small silken pouch the size of a fist, filled with…something. “Rong Zhi asked me to give this to you,” he said.
Taking it, Chu Yu smiled at him.
Hua Cuo withdrew his hand and glanced up casually. Yet as he glanced, he couldn’t help but stare.
He hadn’t seen much of the princess. Even when he did, he rarely looked at her closely. In his impression she was always quite decadent, while in recent days she had rarely looked presentable. But now he saw her in close quarters, wearing resplendent court clothes, her gaze clear yet distant, expression firm but not threatening. The delicate rouge of makeup was gentle as the stream flowing through a mountain, the wind coursing through the woods.
After his moment of surprise, Hua Cuo furrowed his brows again. Letting out a cool chuckle, he turned and left.
Unfastening the silk ribbon that was tied fast and pulling open the pouch, Chu Yu found that it was filled with spices mixed together, emanating a gentle, relaxing aroma.
She didn’t know what Rong Zhi meant by sending this to her, but realized that he wouldn’t do anything at random. This must mean something. After a moment of thought, she tied the pouch again and hid it in her robes.
This time she was departing for the imperial palace. A splendid carriage waited at the entrance of the princess’s palace. The two of them had just gotten comfortable when the carriage lurched forward.
Chu Yu and He Ji were riding together. There was a meter between them in the carriage, but Chu Yu still didn’t feel at ease. Her expression also became stiff. He Ji gazed at her, concerned, “Princess, if you’re feeling unwell, perhaps we should return to the palace now.”
“If I don’t visit him, I’m afraid that the emperor will blame you for it,” Chu Yu said with a faint smile. Now he says this? It’s way too late for that now!
“Even if the emperor blames me, I can’t overlook your body, my princess,” said He Ji sincerely.
With a sigh, Chu Yu shook her head and closed her eyes, leaning against the soft cushion behind her and pretending to nurse her spirits so she could ignore He Ji. In terms of acting skills, however, she really couldn’t compete against him. Plus, she wouldn’t get much from winning. Their apparent cordiality couldn’t change what their relationship really was. Both of them knew that much, at least.
Chu Yu’s palace was quite close to the imperial palace, and it didn’t take long for them to reach their destination. He Ji escorted her to the door before saying his farewells, after which a eunuch guided her to meet the emperor.
Before meeting Liu Ziye, Chu Yu had ran through countless fearful hypotheticals. Her historical knowledge wasn’t very deep, but even then she knew of his reputation as a lustful, cruel youth. If a youth like this were any other person, then he’d just be the scourge of a village or two. But he just so happened to be the emperor.
Chu Yu had given thought to the fact that if Liu Ziye made advances on her, should she claim that her “friend”* was here and flee from the scene?
Because she already had so many negative impressions against him, Chu Yu imagined Princess Shanyin’s brother as a distorted, snarling monster. That’s why when Chu Yu finally saw him with her own eyes, he was completely different from what she was imagining.
Chu Yu saw him first in an empty palace. In the huge room, the youth in dark robes leaned by his desk. His eyes were long, narrow just like Mo Xiang’s, but contained an extra bit of arrogant impatience that made him look cruel, cunning. On that pale face was written hatred, intolerance. But even so, his features were surprisingly…handsome.
If one ignored his irritable expressions, he would be considered quite handsome and clean-cut.
Seeing Chu Yu, his eyes lit up and he threw himself at her, hugging her tightly, “Sister, it’s been so long since you’ve come to see me!”
That youth was the emperor of the Southern dynasty, Liu Ziye.
*Alluding to her period.