"I'm sure you'll enjoy it."
Suddenly, a loud knocking came from the door. Ye Jin straightened up. He did not appreciate being interrupted but he kept his temper in check, as a "kind" king should. "Enter."
The door opened and a soldier came in. He knelt down and greeted them. "Your majesty. Your Highness."
"Speak." He commanded coldly, his displeasure evident in his tone.
The soldier answered after a pause. "Your majesty, there is something that demands your immediate attention."
"Speak." Ye Jin repeated as he reached over and held Gu Qingyu's hand.
"This..." The soldier stole a hesitant glance at Gu Qingyu.
"Speak. I would not repeat that again." The emperor stared at the soldier with narrowed eyes.
She frowned at his tone. Ye Jin was a lot colder and harsher, perhaps this was how he actually presented himself as a monarch.
Sensing her change, Ye Jin massaged her hand gently. His thumb ran over her knuckles reassuringly. “Don’t be afraid.” He whispered.
Gu Qingyu shook her head. "I’m not scared, in fact, I quite like this side of you as well."
"Really." Ye Jin smiled, looking very happy.
"Your majesty, Xiqian has sent General Leng to negotiate for a ceasefire." The soldier finally told them the issue.
Ye Jin snorted coldly. "Send him away." On the other hand, Gu Qingyu leaned in at the mention of General Leng. That person was said to look exactly like Murong Zuoyu.
"But..." The soldier gritted his teeth, "General Leng has brought about 3000 elite troops with him, they have already reached the edge of the city!"
"Oh?" That piqued Ye Jin's interest, he squeezed Gu Qingyu's hand reassuringly. "Alright, Xiao Yu'er, go ahead and walk around the palace for a while, go anywhere you like. I'll be right back."
"Okay." She waved and watched Ye Jin and the soldier take their leave. It looked like if the negotiations for the ceasefire did not go according to Xiqian's plans, General Leng may attack the city instead.
Soon after Ye Jin had left, a maidservant walked up to Gu Qingyu and greeted her with a bow. "Your highness, his majesty has sent Momo to serve you."
Gu Qingyu nodded and stood up. "I'm just gonna go for a walk, you can come along if you want."
Momo followed her dutifully as she wandered through the palace grounds. Then she spotted a large garden. Winter was turning to spring, so there should not be anything in the garden. Yet, it was teeming with life, flowers were in full bloom. Her eyes lit up at the scene and she turned to walk into the garden, but Momo called out to her. "Your highness!"
"What's wrong?" Gu Qingyu turned around to look at the maidservant.
She explained with a stutter. "T-this place is f-f-forbidden."
"A forbidden garden. Was that by the emperor's decree?" Gu Qingyu clarified, Ye Jin had not mentioned anything like this.
Momo nodded. "Yes."
"Why?" Gu Qingyu questioned further, and when Momo went silent with worry, reassured her with a smile. "It's okay, I won't tell anyone."
"Alright then... According to rumours, the emperor built this garden for a particular lady. The garden has been enchanted to remain in an eternal spring, all for the sake of that special someone."
"I...I don't know..." Momo looked down at the floor.
"Okay, very well." Gu Qingyu then stepped into the garden.
"Your highness! Please, this place..." Momo panicked.
"Yeah, it's forbidden." Gu Qingyu nodded. "If the emperor finds out, just say that I barged in on my own and you could not stop me. Alright?"
"But still..." Momo froze in her steps.
Right then, someone shouted from a distance, "Who dares to enter these forbidden grounds!" Gu Qingyu turned around to see a girl in a blue dress rushing towards her.
Momo dropped to her knees immediately. "Princess!"
"Who are you?" The princess walked straight to Gu Qingyu.
"Me? I'm the empress." Gu Qingyu looked at the girl with a smile that did not reach her eyes.
"Oh? Empress? Why don't I know that?" That girl pressed her. "You're just another vixen that's trying to seduce my brother, aren't you! Do you even know what happens to the people who call themselves the empress? I just sent a vixen like you to the dogs a few months ago, and my brother did not even bat an eye."
She reminded Gu Qingyu of Ye Ya, who tried to sabotage her as well. But at least this princess was upfront about her intentions. "And you are?" Gu Qingyu asked.
The princess choked on her words and took a while to recover her haughty demeanor. "I'm Princess Ye Mu, the emperor's younger sister. Who exactly are you?" She flipped her hair and introduced herself.
Momo was sweating profusely as she remained on her knees. She couldn't believe that the new empress had run into the princess. She could not offend either of them. If only his majesty would get here soon, or things would take a terrible turn for the empress!
Gu Qingyu turned away in disdain, she did not even want to bother with the princess.
"Hey, what do you mean?" Ye Mu immediately conjured a sword and held it against her neck. "Let me tell, I can kill you right now and my brother would not even lift a finger for you!"
"Okay," She wriggled her brows in response. "Do it, kill me."
"You! Don't think I won't dare to do this!"
Gu Qingyu combed her hair lazily and checked her cuticles. "Fine, fine, you're amazing, you're a badass, you have the guts. So hurry up, kill me."
"You...we are in the forbidden grounds, blood must not shed here!" Ye Mu vanished her sword, slightly disappointed. "Still, you cannot just barge into this place. This garden was set aside for my brother's most beloved!"
"Oh, do you know who your brother's most beloved is?" Gu Qingyu asked.
"How would I know? Whatever, just get out of here already!" Ye Mu shoved her and said, "I am doing this for your own good. Lord knows what my brother would do to you once he gets here."
At that moment, a devilish voice joined the conversation. "Xiao Yu'er?" Gu Qingyu whipped around, Ye Jin was walking towards them.
"Your majesty!" Momo knelt down once again, breathing a sigh of relief.
The empress was a difficult character as well, who would the emperor side with?
Ye Mu smirked mockingly when she noticed Ye Jin. She knelt down and greeted her brother. "Your majesty."
Ye Jin walked past Ye Mu and went straight to Gu Qingyu. He held her hand and said, "Aw, this was the surprise I had for you and you've already found it on your own. Why didn't you go inside?"
"Well..." She glanced at Ye Mu, who was still kneeling on the ground. This turn of events has made things quite awkward, even though she was touched to find out that the garden was for her. Ye Mu's eyes widened in disbelief, while Momo opened and closed her mouth like a goldfish.
Gu Qingyu rubbed her nose sheepishly. "Well, I didn't know if I could go in. I heard this place was forbidden."
"Didn't I tell you you could go wherever you please in this palace?" His narrowed eyes turned sharply to the two individuals that were still on their knees. "Were they in your way?"
"No, no..." Gu Qingyu answered quickly, Ye Mu was only thinking of her when she tried to stop her. She did not have unrealistic fantasies about Ye Jin like Ye Ya and Nightingale, she genuinely wanted happiness for Ye Jin. Ye Mu could have attacked her, but she chose to protect the sanctity of the garden instead, she knew just how important this garden was to her brother.
"Well, that's good." Ye Jin stroked the top of her head. "Both of you may rise."
"Yes." Ye Mu and Momo stood up.
"Ye Mu, this is your sister-in-law." Ye Jin formally introduced Gu Qingyu to Ye Mu.
"Sister-in-law." Ye Mu called her softly, still reeling in shock.
"Yeah." Gu Qingyu smiled at her warmly, from the bottom of her heart. Ye Mu was trying to protect her old brother and ensure his happiness. And as her sister-in-law, Gu Qingyu would protect Ye Jin's happiness.
"Let's go, Xiao Yu'er." Ye Jin took Gu Qingyu's hand and they walked into the large garden. In the garden, spring was in full swing. Birds chirped cheerily as they flew past, butterflies danced from bloom to bloom. The scenery reminded her of the sunrise she saw with Qi Wan in the mountains. Everything is beautiful, they were all still here.
"Xiao Yu'er, I have always wanted to give you a garden. I built this place when I had lost my memories, but even then you were still on my mind. And I tried to remember you as I tended to each and every part of this garden."
Gu Qingyu felt her eyes prickle.
"Xiao Yu'er..." His arms were so warm. "I missed you so much."
"Yeah." She returned his hug, holding on to her dearest. "I love it, Xiao Zhezhe. Thank you."
"Anything for you." His blue eyes sparkled under the sunlight.
"By the way...how did things go?" She asked cautiously.
She didn't want to spoil his mood, but she was just so curious. The legendary, prideful General Leng had come to negotiate for a ceasefire, how did Ye Jin reply?
"I haven't decided yet." Ye Jin pondered as he rested his head on her shoulder. "What do you think, Xiao Yu'er?"
Gu Qingyu felt the corner of her mouth twitch. He was letting her decide? This meant that she held Xiqian's lifeline in her hands, it was far too much responsibility for her.
"You have to decide this for yourself. Agree if you're in a good mood. You can also renegotiate the terms or just call it off." Gu QIngyu answered to the best of her ability.
"Alright, we'll do just that. That's a really good suggestion, Xiao Yu'er." He grinned and praised her.Previous Chapter Next Chapter