PRINCESS YANG LIU currently known as PRINCE KUAN HUI
IMPERIAL PRINCE'S CHAMBERS
"How do you think the general would react if he saw me?" the princess wondered aloud. She raised her arms then twirled around, making her her skirt flare.
One of the maids responded with flattering words, "Your Highness, the general would go blind because no one is worthy of seeing her grace's beauty."
"Her Highness is a goddess," another added; then the rest murmured some of their own sentiments and giggled excitedly.
The princess pursed her lips and stared at herself in the mirror, trying to make different faces. Her obsidian black hair was held up by extravagant gold pins that sparkled in the dimmed room, complimenting her flawless features. Although her sea-nymph ears still stood sharply, she felt beautiful with all the fancy things that girls wore: jewelry, makeup and colorful fabrics.
Feeling giddy, she started walking back and forth across the room, imagining herself walking towards General Feng.
She sighed, 'General Feng, if only you could feel this unconditional love of mine.'
At twelve summers, she had just started her menstrual cycle when she realized that she was not like the other boys. Although she was naive then, she had still not understood how a boy could bleed from down below. Her mother, although having come so far with all her lies to convince her that she was like the other boys, had then spilled the beans.
Confused, heartbroken and feeling betrayed, her life became unbearable. She began to think that if she died, maybe in her next life she would finally be able to live up to her true gender.
Her late father, still clueless about the web of lies, had one of his skilled men help improve her swordsmanship and archery. This was to help her not lose face as a prince since it was unacceptable for a prince to be lacking in gongfu.
Naturally, she had expected some old man to be her trainer, but surprisingly, it was a young man who had just come of age. Like a savior of her dwindling life, the young man shined light into her darkness. He defied her way of thinking, challenged her mindset, and changed her perception towards life.
At first, there was nothing out of the world about him. But then he gave her something that the rest of the world didn't: genuine love and friendship. He had no ulterior motives, no underlying intentions; nothing but genuineness. At that time it was enough for her, but as time passed, she grew up and changed and so did her desires.
"Your Highness! Your Highness!" A palace maid screamed into her sleeping chambers. "Your Highness! The General is here, and he insists on seeing you!" The assistant court lady tried to catch her breath.
Just like that, the mood in the room changed in an instant. Everyone gasped at the implication of the maid's words, panic taking hold of them. The princess was not wearing her men's clothing!
Princess Yang Liu was the most alarmed, as she immediately stopped pacing and started freaking out on the inside. 'General Feng, the man who makes my heart beat, my so-called trainer, the love of my life, is here to see me...while I'm dressed as a woman!'
It was frightening and strange, but at the same time, a little exhilarating. Her cheeks flushed at the thought. It was all the more special that he would be the first man she would see that morning.
Suddenly, she heard his voice. "Your Highness!" His hoarse voice sounded muffled from the outside. And like cold water on one who is sleeping, she was jolted back to reality; her heart wildly pounding in her chest. He was right outside, and there was no time for her to change into man's clothing!
From outside, a sound came.
Then a groan resounded.
The princess momentarily paused. Had he just hit one of her eunuchs? Then more sounds quickly followed, and the first being the sound of fists punching against flesh.
She decided to take the opportunity to quickly salvage the situation while she could.
"Quick," she hissed. She pushed her court lady, who reached for the red sheer curtain and pulled it down, creating a barrier between herself and the entrance.
She didn't even have time to sigh in relief before she heard slow footsteps tap the floor of her welcoming room. When he entered, he was breathing hard from the small struggle he had just had with her subjects.
"I'm dressing," she said as calmly as she could; she was surprised at how even her voice came out.
"Is his highness alright?" He sounded flustered and concerned.
Wings fluttered in her stomach at the idea of him being worried about her. Most likely, the servants not allowing him to see her had made him anxious. Besides, not much time had passed since her father's death. Her father's attendants had not allowed anyone to see him, with the excuse that he did not wish to see anyone since he needed his rest. Days later, the eunuch found her father sprawled on his bed and ... dead.
As expected, it was a heartbreaking moment that ignited severe consequences. Her elder brother immediately took over her father's throne and killed all the waiting servants left, right and center, not believing or trusting anyone.
The whole episode about her father's death was an outright conspiracy. It was clear as day that a person belonging to his entourage had stabbed his chested heart... but the matter was swept under the carpet to avoid having the nation riot out of anger. Words were twisted, and it was concluded that a measly servant accidentally fed him a meal that had food poisoning.
Of course her elder brother battled with that decision, because he more than anyone else wanted justice. He had been the most dotted on and also, he looked up to their father.
However, peace in Nevoria had to be restored and preserved.
She cleared her throat. "I am well."
He became silent at the words, and for a moment, she thought he had left. She uncomfortably shifted under the weight of her dress, not used to having so much fabric on her body.
"Then this subject of yours will take his leave," he said in a monotone voice. Princess Yang Liu saw his silhouette make his salutations, wishing her kind regards. The idea of him leaving made her feel empty and unwilling.
"General!" she called out before she could stop herself. She took a step towards the door then quickly stopped.
Not today, she could not reveal who she really was. Not today.
"At your service," he said dutifully.
'Tell him. Tell him not. Tell him.'
She was battling with herself.
"What if I was a woman?" Her voice shook. Not only that, withal what if she was a woman who was deeply in love with him?
He took his time before saying, "Pardon this servant your Highness, but this subject does not understand."
"What if … what if I was a woman and had a liking towards you?"
"Then this subject would pierce his own heart because courting a princess' heart when not worthy is high treason," he said without remorse.
And in a split second, her heart shattered, a lump forming in her throat.
"But…" She tried to speak, then changed her line of thinking.
Of course! Of course, his honor for the empire was of greater value than her feelings, that was typical of him. All the more reason why she loved him to begin with.
"Is that so?" She finally collected herself. What else could she say when her love was unrequited? "Then… then you may leave."
She saw his silhouette salute her again, then like he was never there at all, he disappeared.
Yang Liu harrowingly breathed out, at his departure. Her heart was beating painfully fast; it felt ponderous, and her chest hurt because of the pursiness.
'So this is how heartbreak feels like? Like being shredded into pieces?'
Her palms moistened with sweat, and her eyelids felt heavy. Her throat was drying up, making it hard for her to swallow.
'General, will you ever know that you give me my very breath?'
She started trembling, her legs shaking from beneath her.
'I have long loved you, and because of this, I shan't give up.'
Her knees gave way, and she plummeted onto the floor. She did not understand where the murkiness of her surroundings was coming from.
"I love you," she mumbled as a stray tear grazed her cheeks. Then darkness began to engulf her senses. It swallowed her up and numbed her aching heart.
Somewhere, in between, she heard some hysterical voices call out her name but it was already too late.
She was too far gone.
~ADDITIONAL AUTHOR'S NOTE:
Hi, so I have some bad news.
I will not be able to upload for the next week until 22 March as I am in the middle of my test week and really need to concentrate on my studies.
The good news is when I come back, I will do a trio upload. I will upload on the 22nd, 23rd and 24th to catch up with the supposed number of released chapters that I would have had out if not for the break.
Please go to https://www.novelupdates.cc/EMPEROR-AND-I/
to read the latest chapters for free