Love in Another Life: My Gentle Tyrant (Chapter 36)

[Summary and partial translation of Ch 104 – 119 of the Chinese text]

Chapter Thirty-Six
The Calm Before the Storm.

– – –

Hearing that Long Fei-li has uncharacteristically dismissed court, An Jin, feeling uneasy, arrives at Fengjiu Palace on the pretext of visiting Xuanji. Diefeng, who was keeping guard, tries to turn her away. 

– – –


Fengjiu Palace.

Standing before the doors of Fengjiu Palace were two groups of people. The first group belonged to the servants and eunuchs of Fengjiu Palace, while the second consisted of the mistress of Qiuying Pavilion, An Jin, and her servants.

‘Oh, Eunuch Xia Sang is also here,’ An Jin smiled, and led her group of servants past Diefeng to approach Xia Sang.

Diefeng was angered, but after thinking for a moment, she decided that since Eunuch Xia Sang was here, he would be able to handle the situation, so there was no reason for her to interrupt. Moreover, it seemed wiser to judge the situation and remain silent, in case she created more trouble for her mistress.

‘Greetings to Your Highness,’ Xia Sang said, his tone neither reverential nor deferential. ‘I wonder if you have arrived because –’ His tone was mild, but in his heart, he could not help his lament.

In the end, though An Jin was intelligent, it was evident that she had not been raised within a noble family, for her character was less restrained than those who had lived within aristocracy from birth – after all, which of the other three mistresses of Luanxiu Hall, Qinfang Palace or Liuli Palace had arrived in Fengjiu Palace?

For the first time, the Emperor had dismissed the morning’s court session for a concubine. Everyone was anxious, but it was clear that the Emperor’s favour was directed towards Concubine Nian now.

Who could fathom the Emperor’s thoughts to understand the reasons behind his actions?

So, it was better to avoid unnecessary trouble.

An Jin shot a glance at her servant, Ah Ya, who stood by her side. Ah Ya understood her mistress’s meaningful look, and propped the box she had been carrying onto her elbow, stepping forward.

With a smile, Ah Ya said, ‘Eunuch Xia Sang, our mistress heard that Concubine Nian is unwell, and specially ordered us to prepare some tonic for her.’

Xia Sang said, ‘His Majesty will be heartened to know that Your Highness has come to share his worries. Unfortunately, as His Majesty and Concubine Nian have both rested for the day, let me deliver this to Concubine Nian on your behalf.’

An Jin’s heart sunk. Though the Emperor’s uncharacteristic actions left her anxious, in actuality, before she arrived, she had already sent a servant to make inquires about what had happened, to learn that the Emperor was currently perusing his court documents within Fengjiu Palace while Concubine Nian remained unconscious.

In the past few days, she had not taken the initiative to visit Chuxiu Hall in search of the Emperor, only because she harboured a hope that the Emperor would instead come to her. But who knew that after all these nights of hoping, all that awaited her was his continued visits to the Empress’s Luanxiu Hall?

And now, on the pretext of visiting Xuanji, she wanted to meet the Emperor.

Her hands curled by her sides.

He had once said to her that he liked her temperament, and now, all that she had done was to make a cup of tea, so why did he treat her in such a manner…

At this moment, the door behind Xia Sang opened. Alarmed, everyone turned in the direction of the door, only to see Long Fei-li exit, clothed in a simple white inner robe. His face was defined, yet his expression was dark.

‘Greetings to Your Majesty!’

Everyone scrambled to kneel. An Jin followed suit, but her heart remained bitter at the thought of the Emperor and Xuanji…

Yet Long Fei-li did not give them permission to rise.

His sharp gaze swept across the group of them. ‘Xia Sang, how have you been keeping control? I made you keep guard outside, yet you have allowed all these people to create so much noise?’

‘Your humble servant knows his mistake,’ Xia Sang hurriedly said.

Hearing the tone of the Emperor’s voice, a faint glimmer of anger rose within An Jin. Though he had not pointed out any names, who else could he have referred to but her, when he accused the group of them of creating noise?

No, she must recover from this situation.

Biting her lips, An Jin raised her head and said, ‘Your Majesty, I –’

At this moment, the door creaked open. It was the little wolf, who had seen the door open, and was about to enter.

Long Fei-li slanted a glance to the side, and Qingfeng quickly grabbed hold of the back of the little wolf’s neck, lifting him up.

The little wolf was furious, and opened its jaws to bite Qingfeng, but as it could not make contact, it began to howl in its displeasure.

***

The voices of people mingling with the howls of the little wolf drifted into the rooms of Fengjiu Palace from the courtyard.

Xuanji rubbed her head, and slowly opened her eyes. Her head felt as though it was splitting open; since last night, this pain had only intensified.

Raising her hand, she pulled back the curtains hanging around her bed. The bedroom door was shut, and she could not see what was happening outside.

Light flitted in through the windows. It was dawn?

Dimly, she remembered that she seemed to have fainted by the side of the lotus pond last night. As she recalled the night’s events, her heart sunk, and she patted herself on her head… now, she did not wish to think about any of these.

Sharp pain continued to stab at her body, and she only wanted to have a good rest.

She struggled to sit up, wanting to leave the room to tell the others to quieten down. Pinching her nose-bridge, Xuanji walked out.

‘Diefeng, let the others and the little wolf quieten down. My head hurts, I want to sleep –’

She had not even finished her sentence when she halted in place.

Because of the person who had turned around to meet her eyes.

The man’s eyes were burning with suppressed anger.

Long Fei-li… he was here?

In an instant, she was at a loss, and only after a long moment passed did she finally realise how she was dressed.

As she was within her own quarters, she had not attired herself properly. Her hair was let loose, her outer robes open and untied.

And, the moment she spoke, the roomful of people who had been kneeling on the grounds raised their heads to look at her.

Those pairs of eyes landed on her neck, taking in the faint red marks which had been left behind by the Emperor.

An Jin was also here? Xuanji met her eyes, and saw the jealousy and disbelief brimming within them.

‘Why have you come out?’ The Emperor’s expression was dark.

Xuanji continued to stare, not knowing how to respond. A wave of giddiness seized her, and she clung onto the door.

A warm arm tightened around her waist. Her feet left the grounds, and she was carried within his arms.

Just like that, Long Fei-li held her in his arms, and hurriedly returned to the rooms.

With a sweep of his sleeves, the door swung shut behind them, an echo of the Emperor’s anger.

She was tossed onto the bed.

‘Do you always dress in such a manner around Fengjiu Palace?’

By the bedside, she heard the tight anger which laced his words.

Her head thrummed with pain, and she did not wish to continue arguing with him. Curling up into a ball, she hoisted the quilt over her head. In any case, she had already committed a long list of disrespectful acts against him, so this would just add another line to her crimes.

‘My head hurts. Can we talk about that later, after I sleep?’

Yet her body was abruptly pulled into his arms, and the warmth of his embrace caused her heart to fill with a strange sadness.

‘You’ve slept for long enough. It’s not a good thing for you to sleep too long.’

‘Then, I want to eat.’

Long Fei-li paused, then laughed, as though this strange answer amused him.

‘En.’ He let go of her, and walked out.

But this simple action caused Xuanji to freeze, staring at his back as he slowly disappeared from view.

What did it mean for Long Fei-li, an Emperor, to personally summon a meal for her?

En, it means the embroidered pouch meant a lot to you.

I have never liked a person before, so I do not understand.

Perhaps, when we first begin to like a person, even knowing that there are others by their sides, still, we wish to fight our way in.

In the beginning, I only wanted a corner of your heart.

But last night, you kissed me in that manner, as though, you were sincere.

Last night, I was extremely cold, did you know.

But when I first surfaced from the pond, you did not ask a single question on how I was.

Later, I saw the way you stared at the pouch.

It turns out, a human cannot be compared to a mere object.

I seemed to have finally understood – when you began to like me, and started to give me more of your heart, I also became greedy.

But how could an Emperor belong to only one woman?

This was not like the stories Yuhuan often read, where the powerful and lonely Emperor would only love one woman in his life. This was Xi Liang, in the continent of Yuncang, a thousand years ago in history.

And it seems like I will never be able to understand if you truly felt an inkling of love towards me, or if your actions were driven by other motives.

An Emperor’s love could never be simple.

Did he love and hate a woman, or her family behind her?

Most importantly, in your heart, there had long been another woman.

So, just like what others often said, don’t hold onto me then let go of me in the name of love. If you could not love me with the whole of your heart, then don’t give me even a silver of your love.

Last night, I said to you, never come into my rooms in the dead of the night to hug me as we sleep, for such a gentle action will only raise my hopes. If you wish, summon me to serve you for the night – this is the duty of a consort, and I have no other choice.

But I know, you will never summon me, because you would rather use a pill to erase the shougong sha on my arm.

If, Yuhuan knew, she would surely say that I must be the most incapable woman in the history of time-travels. And the fiercely independent Zhuizhui would perhaps laugh as she said, Ah Qi, your love is too inferior.

But this was only because I loved you. If I loved a person, I would never calculate.

To weigh every action and deliberate over every word; to look at the way I loved and measure the sacrifices I made through rational eyes – I am not sure if this could be considered love.

Love, maybe it was just love. Intertwined with nothing else – it was so simple. I only wish for you to be happier, that is all.

Perhaps, only now did I finally begin to display some traits of a person from the modern world.

As I began to fall for you, I wanted you to be mine, and mine alone.

But this could never be possible.

So, Long Fei-li, in my dreams last night, I made a decision.

I will escape.

I will leave this palace.

– – –

Later that night, Long Fei-li is in the midst of a discussion with Duan Yuhuan, the head of the imperial guards, and others, including Long Zijin, Xia Sang, Xiahou Chu and Qingfeng.

– – –


Chuxiu Hall. 

‘Your Majesty.’

Long Fei-li placed his book down, and glanced at the door.

Xia Sang opened the door. Xu Xi, Xiahou Chu, and another young man entered.

Within the room, Long Zijin and Qingfeng exchanged a glance. As these three men crossed the door to enter, a strange tension seemed to accompany them.

‘How is it?’ Long Fei-li’s lips lifted in a strange smile.

‘Your Majesty, let me begin first.’ That young man’s face was grave as he said, ‘The false Prince Zuoyou has departed from the Nian residences, and I watched him leave the capital with my own eyes.’

This young man was Duan Yuhuan, the commander of the imperial guards within Xi Liang.

Long Zijin said, ‘Ninth Brother, you were right in refusing to summon both Nian Songting and Wen Rukai. Now, they can only wait to see who you will hand the military command to.’

Qingfeng sneered, ‘Yet Minister Nian is unable to resist the lure of moving in secret. Prince Zuoyou of the Xiongnu has already arrived to liaise with him.’

‘It is the Xiongnu who cannot bear to continue waiting. They are eager for war,’ Long Fei-li said tonelessly. He turned to Xiahou Chu. ‘Xiahou, how is the situation with Junwang?’

Xiahou Chu nodded and said, ‘Your Majesty, Junwang has nearly completed the training of his soldiers. Even if they were to be allocated to the front-lines of the army now, it will not be an issue.’

Xia Sang smiled, ‘If that is so, the command of the three-hundred thousand strong army can be handed over to General Junwang if we were unable to locate the remaining descendants of the Bai family. General Junwang has always been a force in the battlefield, and over the years, he has been observing the military situation at our borders in secrecy. Everyone says that the three Great Generals guarding the borders of Xi Liang are valiant, but they have never imagined a fourth general.’

‘Xiahou, before the commencement of the war, you must ensure that Junwang’s existence is not revealed,’ Long Fei-li said.

‘I understand,’ Xiahou said.

‘Xu Xi.’

Xu Xi came forward, and said in a low voice, ‘Your Majesty, I personally kept watch outside the Nian residences that day. Once the pretender Prince Zuoyou left, Nian Songting immediately followed suit, and went to receive the real Prince Zuoyou. According to our scouts, the two of them will reach the Nian residences by the day after tomorrow.’

With a cold sneer, Long Zijin added, ‘Minister Nian’s move is not too bad. He correctly surmised both His Majesty and the Empress Dowager will allocate scouts to monitor his liaison with the Xiongnu, and duly arranged for a fake Prince Zuoyou to mislead us. Only when the scouts we have hidden in the Nian residences have left, did he then arrange for his adopted son to meet with the real Prince Zuoyou. Thankfully, Ninth Brother has already anticipated his thoughts. Ninth Brother, what do you intend to do? Are we to continue planting our scouts within his manor?’

Long Fei-li said mildly, ‘No. This time, I will personally make a trip to the Nian residences.’

Unanimous looks of alarm crossed the faces of everyone in the room.

‘This matter has serious implications. I will retrieve their military map myself.’

‘Your Majesty, Minister Nian is suspicious by nature. If you were to make a personal visit to his manor, he –’ Duan Yuhuan faltered.

‘There is no concern. First, our scouts have already been weeded out by him.’ Slowly, Long Fei-li closed his eyes, and continued, ‘Second, what if Concubine Nian had an important message to deliver to her father?’

Realisation dawned on Long Zijin’s face. ‘Ninth Brother, you deliberately allowed Nian Xuanji to remain within Chuxiu Hall that day for this? You wish to let her know that you are planning to search for the descendants of the Bai family?’

A long moment passed, but Long Fei-li did not reply.

Xia Sang looked over, to see that the Emperor had strolled over to the windows, stopping before them. His hands were clasped behind his back, his attention faraway.

Light from the window danced in his eyes.

Nian Xuanji, I am waiting for you to request to visit your family.

Will you… betray me?

‘Ninth Brother, what if Concubine Nian chooses to pass this information to her father by another means? If that is so…’ Long Zijin said worriedly.

‘You can all withdraw.’

Long Zijin’s sentence had not been finished, but Long Fei-li’s toneless voice had already issued.

‘Yes, Your Majesty.’

No one dared to raise another word, and withdrew.

A faint smile appeared on Long Fei-li’s lips.

Planted within Fengjiu Palace were his hidden guards – unless he gave the permission, how would Minister Nian’s informants be able to gain access to Xuanji? Moreover, Minister Nian was a cautious man, and would have considered the high price to pay in making contact with Xuanji. Once he alerted the enemy, things would only be complicated in the future.

So, the most prudent method would be for Xuanji to personally deliver him any information when she received it.

At such a crucial point in time, be it him or Minister Nian, if either of them made one wrong move, the concatenation of their plans would lead to a ripple effect, culminating in their defeat.

The hidden guards he had arranged by her side would report to him every move she made that was out of the ordinary.

In recent days, nothing had been highlighted.

Abruptly, he slammed his palms, and a figure quickly descended from the eaves of the roof.

A hidden guard emerged. ‘My Lord, there has been no movements from Concubine Nian’s side,’ the hidden guard said in a low voice.

‘Tell me how Concubine Nian prepared my tea and climbed the trees. Tell me what she has been doing each day.’

The Emperor’s voice was dispassionate, yet that hidden guard froze in uncertainty. In the past, they would choose only the most suspicious movements made by Nian Xuanji to report to the Emperor, but why was the Emperor suddenly interested her everyday life?

Yet the Emperor had asked, and he did not dare to hesitate in his reply…

Long Fei-li closed his eyes. Silently, he listened to the hidden guard describe what she did every day.

– Long Fei-li, are you tired?

– Have Xia Sang and Qingfeng been with you for a long time?

– At least now when you are tired, you can also have a moment’s rest… because they are there.

– En, that’s good.

– One meeting in our lifetimes.

– We should eat something simple for this meal.

Whose voice was it which filled the room?

Long Fei-li, you are insane…

‘You can withdraw.’ When Long Fei-li reopened his eyes once more, they had regained their usual clarity.

Beyond the windows, the halo which surrounded the moon was dim. It seems as though Xi Liang’s moons were rarely full.

– – –

Xuanji continues to plan her escape from the palace.

Physician Lady Cui, together with two other attendants, make a visit to Fengjiu Palace to check on her health. As they prepare to leave, one of the attendants suddenly returned, saying that she has left something behind. As that attendant brushes past Xuanji, she slips a piece of paper into Xuanji’s hands.

– – –


Sending everyone within the room away, Xuanji shut the door, before she cautiously opened the slip of paper within her hands.

The words were small but neatly written, their strokes defined. The composure behind its writer was evident.

A letter to Xuan’er:

I know that you have suffered much within the palace, and my heart is filled with anxiety for you. Though I have wished several times to bring your mother into the palace to visit you, unfortunately, I am but an official, and have no choice but to restrain myself. There are those who will denounce this simple action as my attempt in using you to cement my political power within the courts of Xi Liang.

After thinking it through, I admit that the rules of the imperial harem cannot be done away with, so I hope you can empathise with my difficulties. Yet your mother has fallen ill, and wishes to see you. Left without choice, I can only deliver this message to you, in hopes that you can obtain the Emperor’s sympathies to leave the palace and pay a visit to your mother.

Crumbling that slip of paper, uneasiness and alarm seized Xuanji’s heart.

This was Minister Nian’s writing!

Since she entered the palace, Xuanji had suffered much, and had wondered several times why her powerful father had chosen to remain indifferent towards her. Reading his message now, she finally gained an inkling behind his actions. Minister Nian’s message rang with reason, and even if it were to be intercepted by a third party, he could not be faulted.

Except – Xuanji smiled bitterly. Deep within her father’s heart, was this truly what he thought? Did he only prevent the Nian family in paying her a visit in the palace, only because he wished to live as an upright official and give others no reason to denounce him?

Instead of saying that the purpose of this letter was to explain to Xuanji the reasons behind the indifference of the Nian family, it was clear that Minister Nian’s true intentions was all harboured in his final sentence: to leave the palace and pay a visit to your mother.

He wanted her to leave the palace and make a visit to the Nian residences!

But why?

Xuanji was still deep in thought when she heard Diefeng’s urgent voice sound from beyond the doors.

‘Your Highness, it’s bad –’

Alarmed, Xuanji hurriedly opened the doors, and asked, ‘What happened?’

Diefeng clung onto her arm as they re-entered the room, then said with furrowed brows, ‘A moment ago, Eunuch Yu of Huayin Palace arrived and delivered an edict. He says that the Empress Dowager has summoned all the consorts and concubines to Huayin Palace.’

Xuanji froze, then smiled. ‘Look at how you’re acting. I thought something bad happened.’

Diefeng’s face was brimming with worry. ‘Your Highness, nothing good ever comes out of your visits to Huayin Palace.’

Xuanji paused. As she thought about it, she had to admit that Diefeng was right.

‘Did Eunuch Yu say what it was about?’

‘I heard it is to celebrate Princess Yuzhi’s return to the capital. Earlier, the Princess has already met with the Emperor and the other two Princes, and now, she will be paying her greetings to the other consorts. I estimate that in another few days, the Princess will be returning to the pugilist world.’

Xuanji nodded. She had also heard the news revolving around this Princess.

She thought for a moment, then asked in a low voice, ‘Will His Majesty be there too?’

‘This, I’m not sure.’ Diefeng shook her head.

– – –

The Empress Dowager has set up another banquet to celebrate Princess Yuzhi’s return. Among those invited are the Emperor and Empress, the two Princes, Long Zijin and Long Liyu, as well as all the other consorts and concubines.

As the banquet progresses, Yuzhi pays her greetings to all the Emperor’s women. As she stops in front of Xuanji, she pauses, and asks if they had met before. Xuanji immediately recognised Yuzhi as the young lady she had met the other day at the doorstep of Chuxiu Hall – the person she had tricked into thinking that a pig was flying in the skies. She quickly prevaricates and insists that Yuzhi must have seen wrongly.

At this moment, the Empress Dowager interrupts.

– – –


Huayin Palace.

‘Concubine Nian, I have heard from the others that your mother has fallen ill. Is this true?’

Xuanji’s heart hammered. Why was the conversation directed back towards her?

Suddenly, she recalled Minister Nian’s message and gave a start. Did Minister Nian wish for her to pay a visit back to her family, only because he wanted to hear something from her? Did the original Xuanji and Minister Nian have an agreement or sorts?

In an instant, the events which occurred in the recent days began to rearrange themselves within her mind. The conversation she had heard that day within Chuxiu Hall replayed itself in her mind… The imminent war with the Xiongnu; the delicate issue of who Long Fei-li would be entrusting the military command to.

The more she thought, the greater her alarm.

Did the Empress Dowager harbour greater meanings behind her simple question?

Abruptly, another thought surfaced in her mind – the journal from the blue-eyed man foretold that Long Fei-li would be leaving the palace in search of the descendants of the Bai family with her.

But could the future be changed?

She knew that she would never disclose Long Fei-li’s discussion to Minister Nian, but if she requested to make a visit to the Nian residences on the pretext of visiting her mother, could she then gain a chance to escape from the Nian residences later?

Even if she failed to escape, could this also be an opportunity for her to map out her escape route?

Still, she could not fathom the motives behind the Empress Dowager’s question. This was a woman who wanted her dead, time and time again –

If she replied ‘yes’, then this would be equivalent to admitting that she had always been keeping contact with her family.

Xuanji thought for a moment, then decided to phrase her answer in a roundabout manner.

Suppressing her uneasiness, she left her seat, and knelt before the Emperor and Empress Dowager. ‘Your Majesties, I am apprehensive, and understand that I should never have raised such a request, only, my mother is gravely ill, and I am filled with worry for her. May I leave the palace for a few days to pay her a visit?’

The Empress Dowager stared keenly at her. ‘I was thinking of having the Empress arrange for some of the palace’s medicinal herbs to be delivered to the Nian residences. And though those of the imperial harem should not leave the palace frivolously, after hearing what you have said, I find myself in a difficult position. This – Your Majesty, why don’t you make the decision.’

Long Fei-li said, ‘Minister Nian has made significant contributions to Xi Liang’s prosperity. Moreover, as my father-in-law, I am equally anxious over Madam Nian’s illness. How about this – tomorrow, I will accompany Concubine Nian in making a trip back to the Nian residences.’

As Long Fei-li’s words registered themselves in the minds of all who were gathered within Huayin Palace, in an instant, jealousy and surprise distorted their faces.

A month ago, the Empress’s father had fallen ill, but the Emperor had only dispatched an imperial physician over to his manor to attend to him.

But what status did Concubine Nian have, to receive the Emperor’s favour to this extent? For her, the Emperor had already dismissed a morning’s court session, and now, he even wanted to accompany her back to visit her family! This sort of favour had not even been bestowed upon the Empress.

Xuanji lowered her head, and did not look at Long Fei-li’s expression. His voice was low, with no hint of emotion, be it anger or displeasure, yet a sudden fear accompanied by an ever-increasing sense of uneasiness surged within her.

Throughout the banquet, she wanted to glance at Long Fei-li.

But she did not. She did not dare to, and she did not understand her fear.

In the feast which continued, her mind was distracted, and she ate her food without looking at it. Rather than calling this a family banquet, it was simply allocating a small couch to each person within the room, where they ate their meals separately.

After the banquet, she led Diefeng and her other servants to exit Huayin Palace.

The faces of all the other concubines were exquisite. Enchanting smiles were plastered across each of their faces, but within the shadows, the sharp stares which followed Xuanji were reminiscent of an arrow, as though they wished for nothing more than to pierce through her.

***

Xuanji continued to walk within the imperial gardens, when a sudden child-like laughter sounded from behind her back.

‘Little eunuch.’

She froze, as did Diefeng and her other servants.

A person jumped out from behind them.

It was Princess Yuzhi.

‘Concubine Nian – little eunuch.’ Yuzhi’s eyes shone, and she laughed craftily.

At once, Xuanji knew that Yuzhi must have seen through her disguise to recognise her, and laughed at herself.

Yet Yuzhi did not make things difficult for her, and did not ask why she had been dressed as an eunuch that day.

Instead, she said, ‘Did you drop something that day?’

Xuanji faltered, then said, ‘My journal is with you?’

‘Haha, so it is you.’ Yuzhi clapped her hands and laughed joyously, then asked, ‘Is it very important to you?’

Actually, a glance at Xuanji’s expression already revealed the answer to her question.

Anxious, Xuanji pressed, ‘Have you looked at it already?’

Yuzhi nodded, then said with creased brows, ‘But there isn’t anything written on it.’

Hearing these words, Xuanji was simultaneously relieved and surprised. The words that were recorded within the journal could not be seen by Yuzhi – did this mean that they had vanished again?

Putting that aside, she should still retrieve her journal first!

‘Princess, that is something extremely important to me. Can I have it back?’

Yuzhi blinked, then said, ‘Sister-in-law Nian, you should exchange something for it.’

‘What do you want?’ Amused, Xuanji went along with Yuzhi, though in her heart, she wanted to strangle this infuriating young girl!

‘Give Ninth Brother to me, and I’ll return the journal to you,’ Yuzhi said with a straight-face.

Xuanji was lost for words.

Does your Ninth Brother belong to me?

Once again, she resisted her urge to wrap her hands around Yuzhi’s neck. Exhaling, she smiled brightly, then said, ‘Sure sure sure. Take him, you’re welcome!’

‘Wow!’ Yuzhi laughed loudly, then turned as she spoke directly to the person behind Xuanji, ‘Ninth Brother, you’re mine now.’

With a jolt, Xuanji saw Diefeng and the others scramble to kneel in terror.

‘Long live Your Majesty!’

Stupefied, Xuanji followed their gazes and carefully chanced a look to her side, only to see the group which had just arrived. Long Fei-li was standing at the forefront, his expression cool as he stared at her. Behind him were Xu Xi, Xia Sang, Qingfeng and the others, including… Long Zijin, An Jin, and Jixiang?

What was this strange grouping? But…

Everyone had gathered here!

‘Greetings to Your Majesty.’ Xuanji lowered her gaze, her scalp tingling.

What was it that she had said earlier? That she was giving the Emperor to someone else?

Long Fei-li’s face was a picture of displeasure.

It should not have been her words which angered him once more, should it?

A long moment passed, but he did not say a word.

Out of the corner of Xuanji’s eyes, she saw Diefeng and the others continue to kneel on the grounds, their eyes lit with fright, matching her uneasiness.

At this moment, Yuzhi drew close to her and whispered into her ears, ‘I guess I can’t get Ninth Brother now. Let me go back and think about what I want, then I’ll come and find you again!’

With that, Yuzhi skipped out of the imperial gardens, whistling to herself.

Finally, Xuanji could no longer suppress her annoyance, and raised her head, shouting, ‘Yuzhi! Return it to me!’

Without thinking, she took a step forward to chase Yuzhi, but quickly halted in place, her arm locked within a firm grip.

Biting her lips, she turned to see Long Fei-li, the expression in his eyes icy.

– – –

Xuanji was brought by Long Fei-li to the Orchid Forest.

– – –


Orchid Forest. 

Xuanji had been brought to the Orchid Forest by Long Fei-li, before being ignored. Long Fei-li stood a distance ahead, his hands behind his back. His gaze was austere as he stared at the boundless lake. Xuanji did not know what he was thinking of.

Just like the Lin Gardens, within the Orchid Forests, there was a small lake, its surface tranquil.

Xuanji was annoyed by Long Fei-li’s suggestion to visit the Nian residences with her, for his appearance had caused her plans to escape to go up in smoke. Moreover, without reason, she continued to brood over his words to the Empress Dowager.

Tomorrow, I will accompany Concubine Nian in making a trip to the Nian residences.

His words were nothing out of the ordinary, but she could not help the strange sense of apprehension within her.

A long moment passed, but Long Fei-li did not speak. The uneasiness in Xuanji only deepened, and she accompanied him to stand by the lakeside. Yet he continued to remain distant, and seeing that he did not appear to have the intention to punish her, she grew bolder, and with a glance around, found a stone stool behind her, sitting on it.

Abruptly, Long Fei-li said, ‘Did you drop something with Yuzhi?’

A shiver crept down Xuanji’s spine. She could not let him discover the existence of that journal.

Her brows creased as she began to answer, but he had already interrupted her, his eyes unfriendly, ‘You have finished preparing your lie?’

Xuanji smiled, then said lightly, ‘I never intended to lie. I only wanted to say, I have no intention in telling you what it was.’

A dark expression crossed Long Fei-li’s face, who had not expected her response.

The moment Xuanji said these words, she immediately regretted them. She had also seen the change in Long Fei-li’s expression, and quickly lowered her gaze. Only, what met her eyes were his boots, drawing closer and closer to her.

With each approaching step, it seemed as though he was walking into her heart. Her trepidation intensified, and she could not resist looking around the Orchid Forest – was there any way for her to flee?

But none of the options seemed feasible. Long Fei-li was skilled in martial arts; in contrast, her body was still frail from her recent bout of illness.

Instead, it seemed as though the only plausible escape route was the lake, for he did not appear to know how to swim.

Jump into the lake?

As she thought about it, she could not help but laugh.

***

Long Fei-li’s brows creased as he stared at her.

She had always been this way – easily amused by even the most insignificant things.

In recent days, Minister Nian was the epitome of worry as he attended the court session each morning, his face lined with despondence. Now, who within the imperial palace did not know that Madam Nian was ill?

Nian Xuanji.

Not long after that young servant slipped that piece of paper into your hands, my hidden guards have already informed me.

Today, the Empress Dowager specially hosted this banquet at Huayin Palace only for two people: one, for Yuzhi, and the other, for you.

What was the most decisive way to emerge victorious from a game between three factions? That would be for the other two factions to ruin themselves – a mutual destruction, benefiting only the third party who did not even need to lift a finger to reap the rewards.

The Empress Dowager is a clever woman. She understands the rules of this game.

That day, was she only adamant in sentencing you to death for the sake of her niece, Consort Hua?

The Empress Dowager understands the rules of the game too well – all along, she has only been creating a reason to aid Minister Nian in justifying his rebellion.

If you died, your father, Nian Yonghua, would have a reason to challenge the Emperor.

I ascended the throne at the age of seven, and did not dare to let my guard down even for a day. Using ten years, I built the prosperity of Xi Liang.

If your father wished to raise arms and wage war, he would need a justification, for how else could he quell the unhappiness of the common people?

Nian Xuanji, you have never understood that all along, the person who wanted you dead was your own father.

That day, the Empress Dowager did not succeed in her plans. And now, she is waiting for you seek permission to visit your family.

Your continued association with the Nian family would serve as another mark against you, a reason to execute you along with your fallen clan in the aftermath of their failed rebellion.

I, too, have been waiting for you to request to visit your family.

In the end, you did not disappoint me.

What does it feel like to have everything under control, like pawns on a chessboard?

It should feel good.

But I only know, I do not.

In the Lin Gardens, as we sat on the branches of the ancient Zisu trees, you said to me that you liked me, and were willing to change for me.

Like?

This is the love you, Nian Xuanji, have for me?

When Yuzhi made a joke, and asked you to exchange me for the item you dropped, you replied… without hesitation.

You smiled, the way you always did.

Very good.

Truly, it was very good.

And now, what are you laughing at?

***

‘Putting aside the question of what it is Yuzhi has taken from you, now, what is it that you find so amusing?’

His voice rang above her head. The same feeling of uncertainty clenched around Xuanji’s heart; staring intently at the grass and seeing his boots slowly come to view, she could not help but pinch her palms, which were dotted with cold perspiration.

Not daring to raise her head, Xuanji said, ‘If Your Majesty is interested to know, I am definitely willing to share, only, can you first promise me something? Could you stand there and not move?’

She was really afraid of him drawing closer to her.

‘Don’t talk terms with me. Do you want the servants of Fengjiu Palace to kneel till dawn?’

‘You –’

The two of them were within a footstep of the other. He towered over her, and she could feel his breath.

‘I was only thinking that if you wanted to punish me, I can… jump into the lake and escape, because you can’t swim.’ Finally, Xuanji said, her voice tinged with resentment. She thought for a moment, and quickly added, ‘But I definitely do not have the intention of pushing you into the lake.’

She raised her head to see that Long Fei-li’s lips were set in a hard line, his eyes unreadable.

Unexpectedly, the corners of his lips lifted in a cold smile. He turned, strolling to a stop by the side of the lake.

‘This method is ingenious. The night before I ascended the throne, this was the lake which I had been pushed into.’

Xuanji stilled; her eyes widened as she stared at his back.

She could not say what that emotion coiling around her heart was, but it drove her to walk towards him, slowing to a stop a step behind him.

Once, she had shouted to him, Weren’t you once a child? Didn’t you need someone to protect you, too?

And he had said, I am sorry to disappoint you. I did not.

‘Didn’t you want me to stay far from you? Why have you come over?’ Coldly.

Xuanji did something which made her cheeks redden when she later recalled this moment. Extending a hand, she wound her arms around his waist, tightly.

With this hug, trouble stirred.

His body was rigid in her arms, but he did not push her away.

‘Long Fei-li.’ At this moment, she did not have the energy nor the willpower to address him as His Majesty; his name was the most direct form of address.

‘If I had been there, I would have saved that child.’

He did not speak.

Quietly, she continued, ‘You must think my words amusing. You are the Emperor now, gifted with unchallenged authority, but to be born and grow old; to get sick and die – these are things everyone will experience once. You must have been afraid then –’

She was describing to an Emperor his lack of courage?

He did not make a sound; she could feel the tension suppressed in the body pressed against hers.

Xuanji halted, her voice trailing off, the faintest feelings of hesitation within her… yet her arms tightened around him.

At this moment, the image of the ugly moths which circled around fire surfaced in her mind.

Only, when these moths threw themselves into the fire, they were happy, weren’t they?

She smiled, thought for a moment, then said softly, ‘If you are unhappy with the idea of me saving you, then let me teach you how to swim? I don’t know the fancy ways of swimming, and it isn’t as easy as you imagine…’

‘Leave!’

His sleeves swept back. A strong pressure met Xuanji, and she staggered back several steps.

She knew that he must have restrained his strength, or she would have…

She bit her lips, turning away. But she had only taken a few steps when she was abruptly locked within a person’s violent embrace.

His calmness had always been unnerving to witness. Today, his temper was uncharacteristic; unstable, as though a fissure had appeared within his composure.

Xuanji’s heart thudded wildly; she did not struggle, allowing him to hold her within his arms.

Her body was quickly turned around by him. She met his eyes, hypnotised by their depths, unable to look away.

Though he had always been cold and distant towards her, the evenness in his temper was unparalleled. At this moment…

As she stared at him, his hands brushed across her lips.

Her breath hitched, yet her heart acted in the contrary as it raced.

His fingers, which had paused on her lips, were slender, the coolness of his fingertips giving the illusion that this was merely a casual play.

Her eyes closed, the way they had been the night they had sat upon the eaves of the willow forests.

Lingering by her ears was his breath, a shade heavier than they had been.

‘Nian Xuanji.’ She seemed to have heard his voice, an indistinct murmur.

The hand which was pressed against her back drew open her scarlet robes.

Xuanji thought she must be insane, for she had completely forgotten to struggle…

His hands had already let go of her; his eyes burned as he stared straight at her.

Then, her body cooled, the belt around her waist pulled away.

Her outer robes fell to the grounds.

He lifted her into his arms, placing her atop her robes.

***

Beyond the Orchid Forest, two young eunuchs exchanged a glance in terror, their faces bright red. They had arrived in delivering an extremely precious pearl necklace on orders of Eunuch Xu.

Yet they did not dare to approach. The Emperor and Concubine Nian…

Suddenly, a glacial voice pierced the silence.

‘Put it down, and leave!’

The two of them started, and quickly placed the exquisitely-carved box on the grass, bowed, and scrambled away.

Xuanji bit her bottom lip, removing the dragon-embroidered robes which Long Fei-li had swiftly draped over her. Scooping her outer robes from the grounds, she hurriedly re-dressed herself.

In the broad daylight, within this secluded Orchid Forest, the two of them…

Her face heated. Thankfully, they had not…

Within Long Fei-li’s hands was the box which had been left behind by the two eunuchs. He had already turned back, heading towards her.

He picked his robes up from the grounds and wore them. Without looking at her, he strolled to the stone bench and sat down.

Xuanji stood rooted on the spot, and almost burned a hole through the ground from the intent way her eyes were fixed on it. Finally, she heard that man’s dispassionate voice issue from the distance.

‘Come here.’

She shifted, an urge to flee rising within her.

In the end, she accepted her fate and headed in his direction. Yet she had only just neared him when she was pulled into his arms.

***

‘What is it that has gotten the both of you so anxious?’

Exiting the Orchid Forest, the two eunuchs stumbled through the imperial gardens as they fled, their faces visibly shaken, when they were interrupted by a woman’s saccharine voice.

In unison, the two of them turned, only to see the Empress, Consort Hua, Consort Hui, Concubine Jin, and a few other noble ladies.

Of course, they did not know that after the banquet, Consorts Hua and Hui had searched for the Empress, before accusing Concubine Nian of using her vixen tricks to enthrall the Emperor into accompanying her on her visit to her family. Yet the Empress only smiled, and said that as the Emperor’s women, there was no reason for them to be calculative among themselves. At this moment, An Jin happened to pass by them from behind.

It was under such a circumstance when the group of them bumped into the two terrified-looking eunuchs.

‘His Majesty –’ One of them stammered.

‘Where is His Majesty?’ One of the noble ladies brightened with joy, and momentarily forgot her rank to speak before the Empress had spoken.

‘In the Orchid Forests.’

***

Xuanji was trapped within Long Fei-li’s embrace, and could not move.

Earlier, the two of them… If the two eunuchs had not arrived, he might have… He had pressed her on top of her scarlet red robes, his hands moving across her body.

Except, eventually, she had to leave him. If she truly spent the night with him, would she still be willing to leave?

Her mind continued to brood over what they had been doing earlier… And the more she thought, the redder her face grew, and she shifted unthinkingly, her head knocking against his shoulder.

He gave a cold snort, casually opening the brocade box.

A small crevice appeared within the lid of the box; light reflected from within.

Xuanji’s eyes widened as she saw Long Fei-li’s fingers reach into the box to retrieve a pearl necklace.

The pearls were all perfectly round, each of them large and jade-like, a blue-ish hue surrounding them, giving it the illusion of ice. What was even more surprising was that each of these pearls were completely uniform in their sizes.

Xuanji peered into the box. Within it were the trailing half of the string of pearl necklace, radiant as they reflected the sunlight, just like the seven colours of a rainbow which congealed after a rainfall.

‘It’s beautiful,’ she said softly.

Long Fei-li said expressionlessly, ‘Yuzhi has pestered me for this for a long time. If you were to use this to exchange for your item, do you think she will be willing?’

Xuanji stared at Long Fei-li.

His eyelids were hooded, shielding the expression within his eyes.

‘But, I no longer wish to give this to her.’

Xuanji was still staring at him, when a cool feeling touched her neck. Long Fei-li had placed the necklace around her neck.

What did he mean by this?

His gaze strayed towards her hair, pausing on it; his fingertips brushed across her ears.

Abruptly, Xuanji remembered that both the emerald phoenix hairpin and luminous pearl earrings she was wearing now had both been gifted by him.

And now, the necklace on her neck –

Scarlet robes; flawless skin; pearl necklace.

Long Fei-li said, ‘Today, as you crossed the doors to enter Huayin Palace, I remembered this pearl necklace from the Western Seas, and thought that it will be fitting on you. And I was right.’

As he spoke, his hands trailed her neck.

Diefeng’s words to her in Huayin Palace replayed themselves in her mind.

Your Highness, you did not see the Emperor’s expression earlier. It was as though he wanted to swallow you whole.

Her face burned. She bowed her head, his fingertips igniting a trail of fire as they danced across her collarbone, and down.

Exhaling heavily, she curled into his arms, which had tightened around her waist.

She trembled, and one thought remained in her mind: if he continued, she would surely lose the remainder of her capacity to think.

Yet she was unable to resist him. In that instant, the pearls of the necklace were reminiscent of a sorrowful pair of eyes, staring right into her.

She did not know what he was thinking about…

Nor was she aware of the dozens of eyes which stared at them from the entrance of the Orchid Forest, inflamed with disbelief, jealousy and hatred…

***

Xuanji did not know, because her eyes were shut as she leaned against Long Fei-li, allowing his hands to move across her body.

But Long Fei-li’s sense of hearing was acute, and he had already heard the footsteps which approached.

If it were any other day, he should have long been clued into the movements of the newcomers.

From the age of fourteen, he was surrounded by his concubines, and was not a stranger to the intimacy between a man and a woman.

Familiar, but not indulgent.

Yet these gentle caresses had already inflamed his desires.

This sort of carelessness and indulgence – the haziness in his black eyes abruptly vanished.

Xuanji only felt a slight prick at her skin, as though something was falling apart… The sound of pearls scattering across the grounds echoed emptily in the forest.

She opened her eyes, and stared at the pearls which rolled across the grounds, not knowing how to react.

The arm around her waist relaxed. Without thinking, she stood, moving to pick the pearls up.

‘Leave.’ His voice was slightly cold.

‘The pearls -‘

They were extremely precious. If he did not think them valuable, she did.

‘Legend says that they were formed with the tears of the merpeople in the Western Seas.’ His eyes swept across the grounds, but his voice was dispassionate.

‘Was it Zisu’s Dragon Emperor?’

His brows drew together. ‘Why did you think of him?’

‘Zisu was dead. Even if he never loved her, still, he would have grieved, wouldn’t he?’ Xuanji pressed a hand against her chest. Without reason, her question made her spirits sink.

‘A legend repeated over centuries – in the end, this was likely a fabricated story.’ Long Fei-li’s lips curled as he continued, ‘If he loved her, he would never have allowed her to die. And if he never loved her, how could he have been devastated by her death?’

Xuanji’s heart gave a jolt. ‘Fabricated… I would rather believe the stories were real.’

Long Fei-li interrupted her, ‘You should return.’

He left, his figure solitary as he walked far into the distance.

Xuanji could not help herself, and stooped down.

Long Fei-li’s voice travelled from the distance, low and emotionless.

‘If it could never become yours, it would be better to destroy it.’

Didn’t he want to give the pearls to her? She did not understand the meaning in his words…

Only, her fingers, which had just made contact with the pearls, slowly drew back.

She liked these pearls, not because they were a precious treasure, but only because they were a gift from him. If he did not care for them, then for what reason did she continue to gather them?

Silently, she followed him out of the Orchid Forest, to see Diefeng and the others in the distance ahead.

Later, the group of them departed, and the imperial gardens regained their tranquility, as though all that had happened earlier were a mere figment of imagination, to disappear with the mists which dissipated…

A long moment later, a lone figure turned back. A slender pair of hands traced the grounds, picking up the pearls which were scattered across the grasses…


Translator’s Notes: 

[edit] The person who came back for the pearls is LFL, because the author often describes his hands as slender. And XJ would not have come back for it, since the pearls were invaluable to her if LFL did not care for them.

First chapter with the summary + translation of selected parts of the text. Feel free to ask if something is unclear/ there’s a gap in the flow of the story ^^ Because I’m familiar with the plot, sometimes I can’t tell if I’m actually relying on my prior knowledge to make sense of the translated scenes.

Also, disclaimer –> I won’t be summarising every single scene. Just the important ones to link the more important parts of the story which I’ve translated.


 < Previous | Chapters Index | Next >

16 thoughts on “Love in Another Life: My Gentle Tyrant (Chapter 36)

  1. This was great!! It felt like I was reading all the important bits without the frills. I’m glad you’re still translating the parts where there’s a direct interaction between our protags.. it helps cause we can follow how their relationship is progressing. I mean things like that silly back hug and stuff.. These are the things that add up and cumulate into Fei Lis feelings for her.

    I suppose Xuanji will need to start minding her back. Too much attention isn’t a good thing. Also Fei li is not going to be impressed when he learns she wants to escape!!

    Thanks for the update!!

    Like

  2. Thankyou soooo much for translating this.The emperor is really very mysterious .Hey by the way wish you very happy Christmas a nd new year ahead .May god showers all his blessings to you, so, that you shower chapters to us.Butteringgggg🤗🤗

    Like

  3. Thank you so much. Focusing on the main storyline, without the unnecessary “extras,” makes for a great reading experience. You’re still translating way more full text segments than I could’ve hoped for with this new system, which is fabulous (so much better than I expected!), but even if it turns out to be too much work and you have to downscale a bit in the future (i.e. summarize more, translate less), it’ll still be great as long as you are just hopefully able to carry us through the end of the story. Thank you so much, once more, for not leaving us hanging.

    Like

  4. I’m sad because we don’t get the whole story, but I’m also slightly happy that the story will now progress faster.

    Something is better than nothing. We’ll just rely on you to pick out the important and the good bits.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for the chapter! I read this in one go, I’ve understood everything but the execution arc. You said before it was a flashback so the process will be like this then? *concubine nian enters harem and dies – zhuqi replaces soul and resides – fast forward to execution arc – zhuqi releases from the body and watches in limbo a mirror which reflects what she did while possessing concubine nian* but you mentioned 3 days in modern = 3 yrs in past and I’m back to being confused again…

    PS I want sure where to post this question, I picked the recent one since like hood of reply (><)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The time line is sth like:

      Original Xuanji enters palace, is sentenced to death and dies.

      Zhu Qi time travels to her body, spends three years with LFL (ch 15 of my translation and onwards)

      Three years later, she is executed (execution arc). After she dies, she looks into the mirror (ch13) and sees an image of all that happened in the past three years… So we get a long flashback.

      What’s the three days in the modern world = three days in the past? O.O

      Like

  6. Wow everyone is so calculating! I am hoping that she does escape…but probably not going to happen. So angsty, so gooodd!!

    Thank you so much. You rock!!

    Like

  7. this is better than i expected! thank you so much for continuing to translate this novel even if it’s only partial trans & summary 🙂 i like this, it shows the progression rather quick and the focus between our leads are more highlighted this way ;D

    Like

  8. Wow thank you so much for the translation this chapter is like oh my goodness I don’t know what to say just so confusing and so sad and I wonder did he come back for the pearls or did she come back I don’t think so I think it’s him because it’s a lone figure so probably use his martial arts to come back quietly so sad though my heart is breaking but thank you so much for the translation I cannot wait for more.

    also Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and everybody 🎄🎄🎄🎊🎊🎊🎉🎉🎇🎇🎆

    Like

    1. It’s him, cause the author often describes LFL’s hands as being slender. In contrast, I don’t think she has described XJ’s hand in this manner. Merry Christmas too!

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s