Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
A few of them had a short rest atop the mountain in order to ensure that they were able to combat danger if it arose and to restore their strength. After Chu Yu had rested and recovered some of her strength, they hurried down the mountain. Yue Jiefei had thoroughly searched the assassins' bodies, but he did not manage to find any clues that could be considered a lead.
Liu Sang went to the Princess's Imperial Residence first, then he returned with a carriage to bring Chu Yu back. Otherwise, he assumed that the return journey to the Imperial Residence would turn even more heads than when they first left.
On the journey back to the Princess's Imperial Residence, Huan Yuan remained silent, which was somewhat disturbing. He had never been a man of many words in Chu Yu's presence, but this silence was slightly different from earlier when they left. It was almost as if something had sunk within him, and it left her feeling downhearted.
They both entered the Princess's Imperial Residence, and after a short walk, the path split to the East and the West Courts, so they had to separate ways. Huan Yuan took a few steps, then suddenly turned around and called out to Chu Yu, "Supposing Hua Cuo had been a little late and didn't arrive when he did, you and I would've fallen down the cliff. In such circumstances, would you have kept holding onto me?"
Chu Yu was taken by surprise by such a question. She looked intently at Huan Yuan and noticed an incomparable emptiness and sense of loss in the eyes of this pretty young man. It seemed like he was at a loss without any direction. She gave it some thought, then replied, "Honestly, I wouldn't know. When one is in a life-threatening situation, one's actions may be different from what they originally intended. Probably at that point in time, I would've feared death and let go of your hand. I can't say for certain, but…" Chu Yu looked at Huan Yuan and spoke sincerely, "Just now, I really didn't want to let go."
Huan Yuan froze in a momentary daze, startled by her admission. Then, he responded in a low voice, "I believe you," before he departed almost immediately.
Chu Yu released a quiet sigh and walked away in the opposite direction.
Every word she said was true, but she had a secret motive for saying it at such a moment. It was obvious that Huan Yuan's resolve had already wavered slightly, so she had to take advantage of it.
After returning to her chambers and changing into new clothes, Chu Yu let You Lan tend to her hair. She needed a trim since a considerable amount of her hair had been slashed off by the assassin, rendering the lower half of her hair uneven.
Soon after the trim, her hair was significantly shorter again.
When Chu Yu first came to this place, she had inherited Princess Shanyin's long hair which grazed her waist. Then, for the convenience of dressing up in men's clothes, she had cut off a portion of her locks. Since she needed to cut it again, it barely reached her shoulders, making it very difficult to coil her hair into complicated and detailed hairstyles.
However, she was actually very pleased with this situation because she was rather frustrated with having to pile a heap of accessories upon her head. A few days ago, in an attempt to do so, the weight of the trinkets almost broke her neck.
Chu Yu's heart was full of delight, but You Lan was worried about how she was going to comb the Princess's hair into a beautiful hairdo. With the comb in her hand, You Lan gestured left and right, unable to decide. At that moment, Rong Zhi's soft voice distantly drifted in from outside the door. "Has the Princess returned?"
Chu Yu briefly muttered to herself and let You Lan withdraw at her own accord. Then, she draped an outer coat over herself and walked out to meet Rong Zhi. This was ideal since she also wanted to seek him out.
The two of them walked side by side, each buried in their own thoughts weighing on their minds. Neither of them spoke to initiate a conversation. At last, it was Chu Yu's vague sigh that broke the silence. "Why did you come looking for me? Speak up."
Rong Zhi smiled faintly and answered, "Today I was worried about your safety, Princess, so I told Hua Cuo to go over and help keep an eye on you. He used to be a man from the martial realm, so he's somewhat unruly and has an unrestrained temperament. If he did anything improper, stepped out of line or gave any cause for your distress, please pardon him."
Chu Yu was in a daze after hearing this. Without waiting for her to utter a word, Rong Zhi responded, "There was no harm done." She conceded, which saved her from having to ask why Hua Cuo had appeared on the mountain top.
Furthermore, to answer the questions about why Liu Sang had brought the dagger along and why he had appeared together with Huan Yuan, she thought of the perfect answer for Rong Zhi — all because they were worried about her safety.
There was no longer any need to question, but all of the doubts in her heart left her feeling an indescribable agitation. Chu Yu forcefully quelled it and remarked, "Did you come in search of me because of this?"
Rong Zhi tilted his head to one side to look at her, then a smile broke out across his face. "Naturally not."
As the two of them walked on, they arrived at the edge of the Apricot Forest where the spring banquet was previously held. Although quite a number of days had passed since then, the apricot blooms still had not withered and fallen. In fact, they were at the peak of their blossoming stage.
The myriad of snow-white petals clustered together and effectively hid their stems and stalks. This was reflected in his peaceful and reserved pitch-black eyes, radiating an enchantment that could scorch one's sight. A stalk branched horizontally outwards, nearly scraping his cheeks.
Which one was it? The flowers or the man?
Chu Yu was mesmerized and distracted for a brief moment. Then, a short while later, her mind cleared. She tightened the grasp of both of her hands such that her nails dug deeply into her skin.
I definitely mustn't lower my guard and vigilance in front of this man.
Rong Zhi continued smiling. "I have another matter to speak to you about, but this isn't the place." He turned around and took a quick glance at Yue Jiefei who had been following them all the way, then gently and politely asked, "Would it be possible to request for you to withdraw towards the outer forest? I have matters of utmost importance to discuss with the Princess."
Yue Jiefei did not act on the request. Instead, he turned his eyes on Chu Yu, as if asking for her opinion. There was a momentary conflict within herself. Shall I agree or not?
If she agreed to his request, she did not know what would happen upon entering the forest. After all, she had yet to figure out Rong Zhi's intentions.
If she did not agree, looking at Rong Zhi's stance, he would most likely not continue what he intended to say, making it even harder to figure out his objective.
She hesitated for a moment, then firmly made a decision as she nodded her head slightly towards Yue Jiefei while instructing him, "Don't walk too far off."
A slightly strange expression appeared on Yue Jiefei's face, after which he proceeded to act on her order. Chu Yu felt somewhat stupefied, then she turned around and walked a few more steps with Rong Zhi before coming to a realization. The expression on Yue Jiefei's face indicated his misunderstanding that she and Rong Zhu were planning to do something indecent in a place with no one around. It seemed like the shadow Princess Shanyin left behind was utterly consequential.
Passing through the blossoms and going into the forest, their movements occasionally caused the snow-white apricot blossoms to rustle and fall as they brushed past the stalks. The scenery that lay before them was beautifully picturesque. Chu Yu walked farther, already feeling rather frightened, so she forcefully eased her state of mind. She slowly forgot about Rong Zhi's existence alongside her and concentrated on the apricot blossoms before her.
A gentle voice reached her ears. The voice was so soft that it left her completely unwary and caused her to loosen up and relax. "What's your name?"
"Chu Yu," she responded instinctively without much thought. After a short moment, she felt terrible when she realized who had asked her the question and what his objective could be.
Princess Shanyin's name was Liu Chuyu while her name was Chu Yu. Both names only held the difference of a character. She was very lucky because if their names were not so similar, she feared she would have given herself away.
Chu Yu's heart was filled with apprehension as she gazed intently at Rong Zhi in a sharp-eyed manner.
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