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Ballad Of The Desert - Volume 1 - Chapter 14


Chapter 14: Stargazing

’’Bam!’’ I slam my chopsticks on the table ’’What is this? A perfectly fine steamed bun, why are you putting weird things in it?’’

Hong Gu gave me an odd look and continued to eat her steamed bun ’’An acacia flower scented steamed bun is very fragrant, and I purposely told the kitchen to do it. A few days ago you got mad when I used acacia flowers to brew some tea. And today this steamed bun has offended you. What did the acacia do to you that the moment you see it, you flip your lid?’’

I sit there in silence and stew while Hong Gu keeps eating and ignores me.

It's not the acacia that offends me, it's that I don't want to think about the person standing under the acacia trees.

I lay in bed for a long time unable to go to sleep. I put on a robe and open the door. There are stars outside, and I see a black shadow figure standing next to the Lover's Vines. I startle for a moment before immediately recognizing who it is. I am momentarily speechless.

Huo Qu Bing turns around and looks at me for a few moments before saying ’’You didn't keep your promise. You said you would come find me in a few days, and til now you still haven't come.’’

I walked up to him in silence because I don't know how to respond. I look at the Lover's Vines, where one flower is starting to bloom. In excitement I yell out ’’Look! That flower is blooming, the first flower of the year.’’

Huo Qu Bing gives the flower a side look ’’It appears that I'm the first person to see the flower bloom.’’

I take a deep breath ’’It smells lovely, can you smell it?’’

Huo Qu Bing answered ’’I missed the flowers blooming last year because I was in Xi Yu. But at least they are considerate, allowing the first flower to bloom for me.’’

I smiled ’’I've never seen anyone as full of himself as you, assuming flowers would open just for you! It was just a coincidence is all.’’

He stared at the flower, like there was a lot on his mind ’’Sometimes timing is everything. Some things, if it happened one step earlier, everything would be different.’’

’’One, two, three....’’ I bury my head in the flowers and count the buds. He was so amused he laughed ’’You aren't planning on counting all those buds, are you?’’

I laugh back ’’If I can't count them, that would make me happier, because it means they are working hard to bloom.’’

Huo Qu Bing asked ’’Why are they called Gold Silver Flowers? I see the white which looks like silver, but where is the gold? I play coy ’’I won't tell you now. Come back in a few days to look at the flowers and you'll see why.’’ He smiled ’’I'll take that as an invitation then, an invitation from a beautiful woman is one I will definitely not miss.’’ I gasp ’’You are such a......’’

He suddenly grabbed my elbow and steered me outside ’’Tonight there is a sky full of stars, I'll take you somewhere fun.’’ I hesitated but noticed that he was in a good mood, so I don't have the heart to say no. I quietly follow behind him.

We went to Shang Lin Fan, an Imperial retreat with thirty-six different pavilions and residences on the premises. I ask which one we were going to, and he is amused that I've not been scared out of my wits to be here.

I tell him ’’If I get in trouble, I'll be taking you down with me.’’ He stared at me ’’So are you staying we will live together and die together?’’ I scoff and ignore his crazy talk.

He takes me to Shen Ming Tai (The God's Tower), the highest building in Shang Lin Fan. On top of the tower, one can see the entire Shang Lin Fan and half of the city of Chang An. Stargazing up there is likely comparable to watching the stars in the desert. I think about how the view doesn't have any obstructions and a wide expansive vista, and immediately my heart is intrigued. We flip over walls and safely arrive there. Because no one lives there and it doesn't house any valuables, there is no guard on duty, just the occasional guard walking by on his rounds.

I climb the stairs in the darkness with Huo Qu Bing. Before we arrive at the top, we heard the sound of two voices from above. We both stop and he whispers angrily ’’Now which bastard is that?’’

I laugh ’’So only you can come here, but no one else can enjoy it? Since there is already someone, let's go back!’’ He tells me ’’You find a place to hide while I go see which bastard it is and then kick him out.’’ I pulled at him but he was already at the top.

What a overlord! No wonder there isn't a single person in Chang An who dares to piss him off. I look around and want to hide outside the window when he quietly returns. He takes my hand and immediately pulls me down the stairs. I want to ask him ’’Who is that upstairs that would make you hurry up and leave?’’ He replied ’’The Emperor.’’

I smirk ’’So it's that bastard the Emperor.’’ He gives me a warning look but I can see he's trying hard not to laugh. I pull his hand ’’Let's go up and check it out.’’

’’What is there to check out? If you get captured, I won't help you.’’ He refused to move, so I tugged at his elbow and pleaded ’’It's impossible to eavesdrop on the Emperor, so can we go up and listen. Plus he's.....he will surely not notice us.’’ Huo Qu Bing looked at me and then sighed, pulling me up without another word.

Just like I suspected, Li Yan was there. Under a sky full of stars, Li Yan was sitting on Liu Che's lap, and Liu Che used his cape to wrap Li Yan tightly. He was casually sitting on the ground and the two of them were snuggled together, not saying a word.

Huo Qu Bing whispered in my ear ’’There is nothing to overhear, but perhaps there will be a peep show to see.....’’ I glare at him and give him a pinch. He grabbed me and then bit my ear. The two of us were tightly pressed against each other. I can't yell out or struggle, so I just reach for his hand. Initially he thought I was going to try something so his hand was tense and on guard. Seeing that I just held his hand and lightly shook it, he was silent for a moment before the strength in his hand went away. He tenderly kissed my ear lobe and released me. I lightly tripped because my body was tingling, so in that moment I felt weak-kneed. When I gathered my wits and wanted to get him back for that, I heard Liu Che tenderly say ’’The Palace residence is higher than this. After you give birth and can move about freely, let's go up there and look over the entire Chang An city.’’

I hurry to hear how Li Yan responded ’’That Palace is where all the hundreds of ministers pay fealty to my lord husband. As your wife I dare not go.’’ Li Yan and Liu Che's privately converse like they are a normal husband and wife couple. He does not refer to himself as the Emperor, and she does not call herself his consort wife. Huo Qu Bing, who is pressed tightly behind me, lets out a long sigh. I lightly squeeze his hand.

Liu Che laughs out loud ’’If I say you can go, you can go. Who dare object.’’ Li Yan wraps her arms around Liu Che's neck and kisses him ’’Your majesty taking your consort wife here to look at the view, your consort wife is already very happy. The most important thing is that there is just the two of us. You are my husband and I am your wife. Oh, and your child. Our entire family is here and that is all I ask for. The Emperor may want to make me happy, but I don't want your majesty ever to frown. I don't want people to use my visit there as fodder for political conversation. I don't want you to be unhappy, I want you to always smile.’’

Liu Che was silent for a few moments before saying ’’I feel the same way about you’’ before pulling Li Yan tightly into his embrace.

Li Yan, Li Yan, this man cherishes you without any reservation or hesitation. Can you protect your heart? Is this real or playacting? I can't tell, so how can you be certain yourself? Are you plotting a battle with each step, or stepping ever deeper into the abyss with each step?

I want to listen more, but remembering Huo Qu Bing, decide it's enough. I pull his hand to indicate that we should leave. As we are turning, my skirt gets caught and the sound of ripping renders the silent night.

Liu Che roared ’’Who is it?’’

I was frantic and looked at Huo Qu Bing, but he shook his head indicating I needn't worry, he was here. He pulled me up on the tower roof.

’’Your servant I wanted to come view the stars on this clear night, and didn't realize we would be thinking the same thing. Apologies for interrupting your majesty's and your highness' enjoyment. Your majesty did not bring a servant, so you must have snuck here alone as well?’’ Huo Qu Bing bowed to the Emperor with a twinkle in his eye.

Huo Qu Bing brushed aside the sneaking into Imperial grounds, and made it seem like running into the Emperor here was just coincidence because they both had the same idea. Liu Che has no way to response other than let it go. He smiled when he saw me, then said to Huo Qu Bing ’’I haven't chastised you, and here you are asking me questions. Looks like we have other ideas in common as well tonight, in addition to what you just said.’’

I bowed deeply to the Emperor and then went to stand behind Huo Qu Bing. Liu Che lets go of Li Yan, who stands up and gives me a dead eyed stare, and then looks towards the ground. I sigh inside, thinking of how to explain this to Li Yan.

Liu Che addressed me ’’Since you are here to stargaze, don't just look at the ground, boldly look around. I heard you were raised in Xi Yu, so at least you should be more carefree.’’ I lower my head and answer yes, then look up at a distance, despite not really seeing anything.

Li Yan tenderly says ’’Your majesty, we have enjoyed the views, we should be going now. I am feeling tired.’’ Liu Che looks at Li Yan's protruding belly and quickly got up ’’It is time to go. You guys can have this spot.’’ He smiles at Huo Qu Bing and then picks up his lantern, leaving with Li Yan.

Huo Qu Bing and I kneel to send the Emperor off. When Liu Che reaches the staircase, he suddenly turns to Huo Qu Bing with a smile ’’I'll let you off the hook this time, but you will come explain everything to me in a few days.’’ Huo Qu Bing smiled ’’Your servant will obey.’’

Li Yan suddenly mentioned how she's going to view the lilies in the pond in a few days and wants me to accompany her. I quickly answer that I will obey her request.

After they leave, Huo Qu Bing pulls me up ’’When you see the Emperor, you are more docile than when a rabbit sees a tiger.’’

I walk to the edge and lean on the railing ’’How should I behave when I see the Emperor? Talk freely?’’ He leaned on the railing next to me ’’This is good. There are lots of docile women in the Palace and the Emperor is sick of them. Li Yan retains a woman's tenderness but has some steel in her backbone and a bit of wildness, which is what attracts the Emperor.’’

I ask if he's alright and he smiles ’’I am constantly in and out of the Palace, and it's not that I haven't seen the Emperor close with one of his wives. But for you, an unmarried girl, to see this....’’ I glare at him ’’You know I wasn't asking about this.’’

He looked out into the distance ’’Like I said, I've seen the Emperor with many women. But this is the first time I've seen him sitting silently with a woman, just embracing each other. Nothing more. And this is the first time I've heard the Emperor talk to a wife in in first person without the honorifics. I was just shocked initially.’’

He sighed ’’The Emperor is just a man, and sometimes he needs a woman to just see him as an equal, because so many people revere him. My aunt isn't bad, but her personality is much too gentle and docile. Years ago, under the control of Dowager Queen Bao, the Emperor didn't know if he could retain his throne. And his first Queen had a bad temper, unreasonable and spoiled. With his frustrations back then, he needed a woman like my aunt, someone who worshipped him with her very being. But now the Emperor is full of power and strength, at the prime of his rule, now he needs a woman who he can sit and laugh with, and who will sometimes give him a bit of temper.’’

I laugh ’’You always speak up for the Emperor, no wonder he values you so much.’’ He laughed ’’How many Emperor's were faithful in history. This my aunt already knows, so it's not a big deal. Today there is Consort Li. In the future there will be Consort Wang and Consort Zhao. So why get upset about it.’’

Like he said, there is no hundred day flower in the Palace harem. If it wasn't Li Yan, another woman will catch the Emperor's fancy. If Li Yan doesn't interfere, then no one will mind her. But if she gives birth to a boy, she will want to stop the Han encroachment on Xi Yu by putting her son on the throne. At that time, the battle between the Li family and the Wei family will surely be unavoidable. For the first time, my head hurts and I sigh.

’’What's wrong?’’ he asks.

I shake my head and look at the stars. Tonight we sit side by side stargazing, will we one day become enemies? If this tenderness will one day become a shattered memory, then I want to treasure this very moment.

I laugh and point ’’Do you know where the milky way came from?’’ He scoffed ’’Even though I don't like reading, but I have heard the story of the cow herd and the weaver girl. That is the cow herd star. Can you find the weaver girl star?’’ I look carefully and point, but he shakes his head. I point at another and he shakes his head again. I point at a third and say this must be it, otherwise he's mistaken.

He bops me over the head ’’You're the stupid one and you question me? In the army we need to use the stars to determine our position. Before I could even walk I was sitting on my uncle's lap recognizing the stars.’’

I rub my head and ask ’’I'm stupid? You're not smart either. Only when an idiot looks at another idiot do they like each.....’’ I don't finish and just shut my mouth. I'm like a fat pig running into a butcher's shop, looking to be slaughtered. Why did I mention that?

Huo Qu Bing leans on the railing and looks at me, with a half smile. His staring is making me nervous so I pretend to be calm and look back up at the sky ’’What about that one?’’ He lightly laughed ’’Your face is red.’’ I retort ’’It's the Summer right now, and I'm hot, okay?’’.....

The beautiful scenery, with stargazing such an enjoyable experience. Our two voices appear to be drifting under the sky full of stars, with the stars twinkling as if it is secretly smiling.


I walk with Li Yan by the lake shore and tell her that my saving the Grand Duke in the desert was by coincidence and I didn't know his identity. And running into her stargazing was also a coincidence. There is nothing going on between us. She has a slight smile ’’You may not have something going on with him, but he clearly has something going on with you. Everyone knows his temper, with his eyes on the top of his head. But when he looks at you, his eyes stay right where they are.’’ I try to explain that I saved his life and he's just polite towards me.

She looked at me ’’I heard you hired a teacher for my second brother. Even though you don't hold a contract to Fang Ru's life, but she feels indebted to you, and will not leave until you say so. If she doesn't leave, then my big brother will keep waiting for her. Plus the Princess, and Li.... Everyone appears to be a chess piece for you. Jin Yu, what exactly do you want?’’

I silently think to myself that I don't want riches or power, what I want is more simple than anything out there. I just want to be with Jiu Ye. If Jiu Ye is willing to leave Chang An, then I can throw everything here away and leave with him. But he won't, so I have no choice but to stay here, and do what I can to be a big tree and help block him from the rain and the wind. I don't want to be a flower seeking shelter under his branches. If the flower is a woman at her most seductive, then I still would rather be a stolid tree. That way I can alleviate some of his burdens.

Li Yan knows that I run the dancing houses but always come up with new fashions and hairstyles that the ladies want to copy. Plus I've opened some salons for only the rich ladies and wives to sip tea, and it is there I'm likely the recipient of all the salient gossip in Chang An about the political tide. I see that Li Yan is aware of what is happening outside the Palace, which means she is starting to get support inside the Palace to pass her this information. I commend her on seeing through what I thought was a very subtle plan of mine.

Her eyes twinkle ’’It's because you are Jin Yu, and I always need to be wary of you. What do you really want?’’

I promise that whatever I do, our goals will not be in conflict. She used to think so, but seeing me with Huo Qu Bing, she's not so sure anymore. While everyone is a chess piece for me, why does it seem like I've purposely ignored the largest chess piece - Huo Qu Bing.

’’I....I....’’ I cannot explain, having no reason that Li Yan would believe. This is the first time I'm realizing that as I am planning, he's completely slipped by. I really forgot about using him. I give a bitter laugh ’’I don't have a good reason. Perhaps it is because this chess piece is too valuable, so I won't use it lightly.’’

I tell Li Yan that the Yue Ren Ge she taught me before she entered the Palace, I learned it to play for the Big Boss of the Shi Enterprises. Does she believe now that nothing is going on between me and Huo Qu Bing? She looks at me and then asks me to make an oath to her. I refuse, I cannot promise I will never become her enemy. What if she hurts me first? That was not the oath she wanted. She wanted me to swear on the life of the person I love that I will never ever divulge her background. I am angry, but I agree to swear an oath on life of the man I love that I will never reveal her identity. She points to the sky, that the Gods have heard me.

She tells me not to hate her. She is walking an exhausting road. Empress Wei controls the back Palace harem, with General Wei and General Gong Xun on the outside, and now added to it is Huo Qu Bing. Li Yan might have the Emperor's favor now, but who knows how long that will last. While Empress Wei seems benign and gentle, she can afford to be because other people do her dirty work for her. We walk until suddenly a man calls out a greeting to her highness Consort Li.

We turn and see Li Gan. Third master Li might not be as flashy and radiant as Huo Qu Bing, he's still the ideal catch for all the ladies in Chang An. Huo Qu Bing's aura is too bright, too strong, making it hard for people to get close, having no clue where he's headed. Li Gan is like a mountain, giving ladies a feeling of security.

He smiles to see me, asking if I remember him from last year when Huo Qu Bing brought me to the army barracks. I tell him I remember, and that I am here today at the summons of Consort Li. Li Yan tells Li Gan that I am the owner of Luo Yu Fan. His eyes sudden turn dark and ominous, shooting daggers at me. I avoid his gaze and turn to see Consort Li, who makes it clear she isn't always going to be manipulated by me, it's time I tasted my own medicine.

I glared at her and decided to pretend to be clueless. We both notice that Li Gan's sleeve has the same ’’Li’’ character embroidered directly on it. While Li Gan looks like he is furious, Li Yan has tenderness in her eyes, while I plaster on a happy smile.

Huo Qu Bing's cold voice rings out ’’Li San (Third Li), what are you looking at?’’ From his angle all he can see is Li Gan staring at me, but he can't tell the look Li Gan is shooting me. He can only see my happy smile, but doesn't know my internal struggle with Li Yan right now.

Li Gan wants to explain but can't, how can he explain that he hates me right now because of Li Yan. Huo Qu Bing's expression grows colder, wondering what it is that Li Gan can't explain, likely thinking really far off conjectures.

The situation is so ridiculous and awkward that Li Yan and I have no choice but to collapse in laughter against each other. Even Li Gan has no choice but to shake his head and laugh, leaving Huo Qu Bing watching us laughing oddly.

Liu Che and Princess Pingyang arrive and ask why we are all laughing. Li Yan looks at me and says that I told a funny joke. I punt the ball and say I was merely retelling the joke I heard from Master Li, who should be the one to tell it now. Everyone looks at Li Gan while Huo Qu Bing stares at me with icy precision. I wrinkled my brows at him, that silly idiot. How could I have had any opportunity to hear a joke from Li Gan.

Li Gan thinks for a moment and then tells the joke, which does meet with enjoyment. Though his joke was really a jab at me, discussing how crafty people who want to achieve their own selfish goals will sacrifice others for their own gain. When Li Gan is talking, Li Yan keeps looking at his sleeve and shooting me pleading looks. She feigns tiredness and is escorted by the Emperor off to rest at the nearby pavilion.

We follow behind, with the Princess talking with Huo Qu Bing, while Li Gan and I take up the rear. Huo Qu Bing shoots me a deathly glare and I give him another brow wrinkle and ignore him. As we neared the pavilion, I slip right next to Li Gan and reach for him. He is adept at martial arts and has a great reflex, immediately avoiding me. But I was expecting his move so I went the other way, and since I also know martial arts, my hand is able to grab onto his sleeve. With a loud rip, the sleeve tears and everyone turns to look at us. The expression on Huo Qu Bing's face could not be more furious.

Li Gan angrily points at me while I profusely apologize. I drop his sleeve on the ground and step on it during my apology, until the Li character is no longer recognizable.

Huo Qu Bing suddenly hollered ’’What are you two doing? Is this a place for you guys to be pushing and pulling?’’ Li Gan finally understands why I purposely tore his sleeve, and he and I immediately get on our knees to beg forgiveness from the Emperor. Li Yan wants to ask for us as well, but the Emperor is in a good mood and chats with the Princess about his mishaps in his youth. Liu Che looks from Huo Qu Bing to me to Li Gan and tells us to get up, and tells Li Gan to go change. Li Gan gets up and smoothly picks up his sleeve before leaving.

Princess Pingyang laughs that the Emperor is totally biased towards Qu Bing and got rid of Li Gan so quickly. Liu Che laughs and looks at the stone-faced Huo Qu Bing ’’If I don't get rid of Li Gan now, should I wait until they start fighting. At which time I can't punish them, and I can't not punish them.’’ The Princess laughs that with Qu Bing's temper, he'd totally do that.

A potentially dangerous situation is averted and I'm tired. Li Yan looks odd so the Emperor has her sent to rest and we are all excused. Huo Qu Bing walks next to me but doesn't say a single word. I am thinking about what I discussed with Li Yan, and with a mind full of worries, I'm also stone-faced.

Once we exit the woods, I bow to him so that I can leave, and he angrily says ’’I'll take you home.’’ I tell him it's not necessary, I'm headed somewhere else first. He jumps in the carriage and orders me inside, with a look that brokers no argument. I laugh and jump in, knowing I have no choice. ’’Don't be mad at me, I'm going to General Li's estate.’’

He glared at me and ordered the carriage driven there. I look at him and put myself in his position, feeling a tinge of pain for him, so I softly explain ’’I am not close to Li Gan. I met him for the first time when you brought me to the Yu Lin Army barracks, and this is the second time we've met.’’

His face soften but his voice is still cold ’’The second time you've met and you behave this way?’’ I reply ’’There was a reason. To me, Li Gan is a small peanut. When my eyes are tired, I wouldn't be able to pick him out of a crowd.’’

He has a slight smile on his lips ’’What about me?' I hesitated and answered ’’You're like a big doofus, is that okay?’’ He didn't smile and immediately followed with ’’What about Meng Jiu?’’ My face froze and I turned to look outside, two piercing eyes staring a hole in the back of my head.

When we arrive at General Li's estate, Huo Qu Bing just walks in, clearly used to being here. I ask why he's following since I'm going to see Li Gan. Huo Qu Bing replies ’’It looks like you are following me, not me following you. If you want, you can return to the front door and have a servant announce you.’’

I glare at him and follow him silently. He finds out from a servant that Li Gan is practicing archery in the practice yard, and Huo Qu Bing heads over there without needing any directions.

Li Gan is shooting arrows in the archery field. His every release is powerful, the arrow thundering into the center of the target. I marvel at his prowess, clearly a descendant of a great military family. Li Gan turns and sees me, and he points the arrow in his hands towards me.

In that moment I know Li Gan is not just trying to scare me. His face is thunderous and cold, with deep hatred within his eyes. He really wants to kill me. My body freezes and I can't move and can't talk. I'm afraid that the slightest movement will upset him and his arrow will come flying towards me. The world famous archery skills of this family, I doubt I can avoid it. Huo Qu Bing makes a quick move and he's blocking me. His attitude is cold and he faces off with Li Gan.

Li Gan's hand shakes for a moment before he turns and sends his arrow flying into the target, hitting dead center. The force is so strong that the arrow passes clean through the target, leaving only a bit of white feather remaining on the board.

I finally release my pent up breath and my body grows weak. I am a lowly person, and to these rich and powerful people, I am like an ant they can easily extinguish if they wanted. I kept using my mind to strategize, but I forgot that one arrow can easily end my life. All my tactics are nothing in the face of this situation.

Thank god Huo Qu Bing followed me here today, or else...... I wasn't scared during that moment, but now I'm scared. Did Li Yan anticipate Li Gan's response? Was this her warning to me? Or perhaps she wants me dead? Who can keep a secret better than a dead person?..............

The more I think about it, the more scared I become. Huo Qu Bing turns and supports me, and this is the first time I have reached for his hand. His hand tightly grasps mine. Because he's practicing martial arts and riding a horse year round, his hands are calloused. The rough feel gives off a sense of security and comfort. My heart calmed down and my hands stopped fidgeting.

He saw that I was back to normal and shook his head with a smile ’’Now see if you dare come here to find Li Gan?’’ I can't even smile so I whisper ’’Why won't I dare? But next follow me again.’’

Li Gan walked up to her and acted like nothing happened. He bowed to Huo Qu Bing ’’I apologize for earlier, but you suddenly walked in front of my aim and caused me a fright.’’

Huo Qu Bing coldly answered ’’Third brother, we grew together in the Yu Lin Army. When I was small First brother taught me archery. We have had a great friendship. I don't want to let any misunderstanding turn us into enemies. So I will tell you today - if you ever treat her this way again, my archery skills are no worse than yours.’’

I stare at Huo Qu Bing in shock, this indescribable feeling in my heart, knowing that he's protecting me without reservation. Li Gan is also shocked but quickly understands, turning towards me with a bitter smile ’’I lost my temper a little today, and it won't happen again. Will Ms. Jin please forgive me?’’

I almost smirked. Can I understand him? Let me try to stick a knife to your neck and then ask for your understanding. I lightly murmured ’’I came here to say a few words.’’ Huo Qu Bing considerately walked away to give us some privacy.

I looked at Li Gan ’’Consort Li came from my dancing house, and everything I do is to protect her. I think you can see this after what happened today. You must believe me. I know you like her, but does she know how you feel?’’

He was quiet for awhile and then shook his head ’’She doesn't know. She is already an Imperial Consort. I am just an official in her eyes. And I don't want her to know. What I feel for her is just some of my private feelings.’’

Just like I suspected, Li Yan is pretending like she knows nothing and pushing all the blame on me. I think and then say ’’I promise that I will not tell Consort Li.’’ He coldly huffed ’’Years ago, you concealed what you should have told her, so I can trust you on doing this. But I met her before the Emperor did, but because of you, I ended up late to the party. Being late by even one step means a lifetime's regret, do you know that?’’ His sadness was mixed with rage once again.

I was afraid to continue his words ’’Since I concealed it from you, how did you know that Consort Li was the woman you were looking for?’’

He looked pained yet also happy ’’In the Palace, one day I accidentally saw her using the same handkerchief. It was a different color, but the design was the same. I was stunned and kept staring at her. I realized how silly I was, other than her, there could not be another woman with the same beauty. I was initially just stunned by her dancing on the lake, and impressed with how she engaged the Emperor's attention. Back then I refused to acknowledge my feelings, until I saw the handkerchief and realized my missed opportunity. You caused all of this to happen. Ms. Jin Yu, why did you purposely lie to me? If the Heavens wanted me to see the ’’Li’’ character again, why did it have to be too late. How can I not hate you?’’

My body is cold. I didn't dare tell him the truth back then so that this would not happen. Any beautiful woman, having a chance with a man like Li Gan who adores her wholeheartedly, would have picked him over the Emperor and his thousands of women. But Li Yan is not an ordinary woman, she would never choose Li Gan. But things moved in a circle and fate brings it all back to the same spot. I'm afraid to look into his eyes and I murmur ’’Things are what it is and is impossible to change. I beg of you, please don't hurt Consort Li. Do you know that the ’’Li’’ character on your sleeve today could have caused what havoc? It's a very distinct ’’Li’’ character that once seen will not be forgotten. I don't know if the Emperor has seen it. You cannot ever put Consort Li in such danger.’’

He sounded despondent ’’I won't hurt her. Today it was just my carelessness and I wore the wrong outfit. I will go and burn all my clothes embroidered with this ’’Li’’ character. From now on, the character will live only in my heart.’’

I hurry and bow to him before running towards Huo Qu Bing. He asked ’’The both of you looked ashen back there. What did you do to piss off Li Gan?’’ I forced a laugh ’’Just a misunderstanding, which has been cleared up.’’ Huo Qu Bing stared at me and didn't say anything. His dark eyes remain deep in thought.


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