*10 years ago*
It wasn't strange that the Prince had affection for a particular lady since the two of them grew up together in the palace when the nanny of Qin Fuhua brought her daughter with her. With the King's approval of allowing her daughter, Meimei, to come to play with the Prince, the two grew close quickly.
Qin Fuhua had arrived at the city of Liaoping, the bustling city known for its festival and beautiful lanterns. Qin Fuhua had made time to try to see her whenever he had the time to visit her. It appeared as if he was looking for someone as he strolled down the busy street filled with various shops. He had leaned down to stare at the various bracelets made out of green jade.
"Looking for something important?" A voice called out to Qin Fuhua. He turned his head to see the face of a beautiful girl, who gently smiled as she used the sleeves to cover her face shyly.
"What is the dear Prince doing here in a little city of Liaoping?"
Qin Fuhua was relaxed, looking around to hide the existence of his true intentions of coming to the city.
"I happened to pass by the gates and wanted to visit the town since it has been a while."
The girl had her maid with her, slowly and carefully turning to her. "You can go give the baozi to the homeless. I will come by later."
The maid lowered her head, "I will be taking my leave now."
The lady was very obedient and reserved, calmly waiting for Qin Fuhua to say something to her.
"Would your Highness like it if I, Meimei, invite you to have tea together?"
Qin Fuhua lit a small smile to his face, nodding his head. "It would be my pleasure to be accompanied by a great friend like you."
*Five years ago*
"Meimei, you seem distressed. What is it?" Qin Fuhua questioned.
"My father... wants me to marry an older man who had promised a great future for me..." Meimei uttered.
"We promised that you would wait!"
"Being a lady in the palace is filled with stress!" Meimei cut Qin Fuhua off. "Being watched twenty-four hours.... having to uphold a name and reputation of being the Prince's wife...." Meimei lowered her head but boldly glanced up at Qin Fuhua, "I can not live that life."
[Literal flashbacks that Qin Fuhua could remember]
During the gathering for Meimei's wedding, Qin Fuhua had made a promise to see her.
"Your Highness, please meet my husband, Jianhong." Meimei shyly smiled, covering her face with happiness as an older man walked in proudly, wrapping his arms around her shoulder.
"It's nice to meet you, Your Highness! Haha. It is an honor to be able to meet the Prince of Qin in person!!"
It was a cloudy, cold morning. A burst of freezing air howled in the sky, causing people to shiver. Rows of soldiers were lined up to watch the execution of the rumored lady that Qin Fuhua had been in love with.
Tears rolled down the woman's cheeks. Her last request was to wear a beautiful red gown before dying in front of her beloved childhood friend. Sitting in front of Meimei was Qin Fuhua, who stared down at her from his golden chair.
"Meimei... why did you betray me?" Qin Fuhua's eyes never wavered in front of Meimei as he questioned himself in his head.
"I was the one who poisoned your general." Meimei's tear had rolled down from her face but had a blank expression on her face, ready to face the consequence. "If you want to kill someone, kill me. Not my husband. I was the one who protected him."
"Your Highness, this was true. Evidence shows that the tampering of the general's drink during the stay in Liaoping was from lady Mei." the soldier commented, interlacing his hands together. "Please execute the culprit and avenge for the general!"
One of the higher generals had stayed in Liaoping. Jianhong and his wife, lady Mei was captured because they were accused of poisoning the general because of a dispute between money possession. The general was cured back to health in time, but Jianhong was accused of attempted murder and was captured to stay in jail.
With no choice, lady Mei confessed her crimes to let her husband out of jail for being falsely accused.
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He turned his eyes away for a second, promising himself to never fall in love with another woman again. Qin Fuhua turned his head back to stare at Meimei, his expression growing as cold as the howling wind. Heartbroken, torn, and dead deep in the core of Qin Fuhua's heart, he raised his right arm, signaling the two guards to hold her.
Meimei's eyes looked up at Qin Fuhua, struggling to give him one last glance before she was killed but the eyes of the cold Prince were not the same as he did five years ago. The Prince's wrath had made him see no sympathy for betraying his people.
**"When the red phoenix is witnessed, the sun radiates its beautiful color but the moon cries to the Phoneix to remind him to come back home."
**Author's note: Red phoenix is symbolized as noble and majestic. It is important to be cautious of other people because of their wealth and fame. Be aware of your surroundings and people. **
Soldiers crowded up in a group with Jianhong walking in front of them, pacing back and forth. Qin Fuhua was watching from afar on top of the rooftop tiles, staring at the south courtyard. Piles of dark ashes could be seen with half of the room exposed to the exterior.
Qin Fuhua could barely listen to what they were saying, concentrating on the lips of Jianhong who grumbled to be able to read what he was saying.
"Did anyone find lady Suyin in the fire?!" (read from the lips of Jianhong)
Fire? Did something happen to Han Suyin? Qin Fuhua felt his heart sink for a second. He wanted to go down there and find her but he had to control himself. Did Jianhong do something to her? He held his scabbard so hard, it shook. His eyes were filled with disgust and hatred for the crazy man.
He needed to change his plan now.
Han Suyin and Shao Feng had to help carry Junli back to his home. Shao Feng had been to Junli's place once in the past a couple of months ago, but he had remembered where it was at. It was obvious why Junli's name sounded so familiar to Shao Feng.
Before speaking any further, Junli could barely speak, guiding them to the back of his home. There was a ladder left at the edge of the wall(since this was the way that Junli had left earlier).
"You go first, lady Suyin. I'll help hold sir Junli" Shao Feng stated. Suyin was worried that Shao Feng would not be able to hold Junli.
"Don't worry. I promise I can carry him. I've done massive work around the house worse than this." Shao Feng flashed a smile to Suyin so that she wouldn't worry. She nodded her head and headed up the bamboo ladder first, trying to stay low at the roof tiles so she wouldn't be detected.
"Okay. Can you carry yourself for a little bit?" Suyin questioned Junli. He could only nod, breathing heavily.
"Sir Junli, I will help push you up, okay?" Shao Feng clenched his teeth to help hold Junli, who tried his best to pull himself up over the ladder. After a couple of good minutes, Suyin was able to help Junli and Shao Feng was able to climb up the bamboo ladder.
Putting the ladder beside a large, pink blossom tree, the three of them headed to Junli's bedroom.
Junli breathed heavily on the bed with sweatdrops falling at the side of his temples. She wiped off his sweat with a clean towel near the bowl of warm water that was placed at the side of his bed table (assuming that the maid placed it there recently and found that Junli had disappeared again). Suyin watched carefully while Junli slept, wondering if she should go find the female servant of his for help.
"....Sir Feng Junli is the uncle of Jianhong." Shao Feng mentioned. Suyin darted her eyes straight up at Shao Feng.
"That makes them blood-related!" her mouth opened in shock. How could someone soft and gentle be related to someone who is a crazy, fickle old man?!
"Have you heard about the rumor about the Prince of Qin who executed the lady of Jianhong....?" Shao Feng tilted his head to Suyin who could only act as if she couldn't remember since she was nowhere near the Qin territory (since she was originally from the Long clan territory). She put her index on her hands to make it look as if she was thinking hard but shook her head.
"The Prince of Qin had executed his past lover because of Jianhong. The ruthless uncle's wife had poisoned the brother-in-law who was a high-rank general because of money issues." Shao Feng scratched his head. "I only heard it from the other servants here and there. They said it was the reason why he went mad."
Suyin looked at the child, her eyes uneasy. "Why did you work for the crazy, old man then?"
"My mother was very sick and I had no more jobs I could do. I begged for money to help save my mother and Jianhong decided to take me in.... only to barely pay to buy a single bread." The child's eyes were sunken, his tone barely keeping up with him. "It's only been almost a year but I barely managed to save enough for the cheaper herbs for my mother."
"Don't worry Shao Feng. I will help you as soon as I can, okay?" Suyin pats his head, smiling at him. Suyin glanced back at Junli, who calmly rested. Although his breathing wasn't intense as it was before, she needed to take a look at his wound.
Suyin sat down on the bed of Junli, gently waking him up.
"Junli. Feng Junli." She uttered.
Shao Feng took a step but froze. He knew that it was wrong for a maiden to look at a man's body-- even little Shao Feng would have known that.
"Can you help me?" Suyin asked Shao Feng, who nodded in return. Shao Feng helped Suyin so that Junli could sit up. She untied the knot to the male's robes as the bloodstain seeped through his inner robe. She lifted his robes down, only revealing the back of his skin to her while Shao Feng was in the front of Junli.
"Junli. I'm going to clean your wound, okay?" Suyin stated, her voice lowered. Junli was weak but was able to speak to her,
"Pardon for being too much of a burden for you two." He softly answered, facing in front of Shao Feng as he shook his head.
"No, don't worry about it, Sir Junli." Shao Feng answered.
There was a sound of footsteps heading their way, but Suyin, Shao Feng, and Junli were too occupied with what had occurred to not notice.
"Young master, is that you?" A voice called outside of the room. She was in a hurry, sliding the door open. Right before her eyes were Shao Feng and Suyin who froze in place, staring at the servant of Junli, Jiayi.
She frowned as her face began to quickly turn red. Jiayi scurried to Suyin and slapped her across her face, causing Suyin to make an unpleasant expression towards Jiayi.
"What the hell are you doing to the Young Master?!" Jiayi screamed at Suyin. Suyin's face was red from the impact.
Damn it! If Suyin wasn't occupied with her hands, she would be swinging a slap back at Jiayi. The audacity of this girl!
"Jiayi! What are your manners?!!" Junli raised his voice, something that Suyin had never seen before. He managed to use up his energy to yell at the little maid.
"But this person! I... I thought he was trying to hurt you!"
Suyin did not want to get her nose in any problems or get stuck in between one, so she began cleaning his wound with the white towel at the side, washing off the blood. Besides that, she had forgotten that she was wearing a male servant's outfit and she was currently a "male" right now.
"These two are trying to clean my wound and save me. You did not do a proper job of wrapping my wounds! Now apologize to this savior!"
Suyin's face was stinging because of the slap but couldn't bear to be distracted by the little chaos. Jiayi's face was as red as a tomato because she was embarrassed due to her rash actions.
"I...Jiayi wishes for an apology from the savior" Jiayi kneeled immediately, not daring to glance at Suyin.
"Go get me more water, towels, and wraps if you have them," Suyin demanded from Jiayi, not caring about her apology at all. Although she could feel the sting on her face, it was more important to make sure Junli's wound wouldn't get infected any further.
It took about two to three hours to wrap up everything with Junli. Jiayi had brought Junli his daily medication as well as his medicine (that was approved by Suyin) to help relieve his fever and pain. Junli had the maids prepare the guest rooms for Shao Feng and Suyin in Junli's courtyard.
Suyin could be seen sitting outside in the courtyard, sitting down at the edge of the stairs. She stared up in the sky, staring at the clear moon that reflected on the little pond next to the stairs.
"Jiayi apologize for what I have done." Jiayi's voice was behind Suyin, who turned around. "I really thought that you guys were trying to kill him."
Damn it. If Jiayi wasn't so sincere in her apology, Suyin would have slammed one back at her, but it seemed like she repented for what she had done so Suyin.
"It's... fine." Suyin regrettably said, turning to look at Jiayi in the face. She had to roll her eyes deep down in her own thoughts for letting Jiayi get a freebie slap from her, but decided to be a good person and brush it aside.
Jiayi bowed, ready to leave until she saw the face of Suyin (*Mind you, she is in a MALE servant outfit with a hair bun tied up with a white string very similar to Shao Feng's outfit). Jiayi paused for a second, staring at Suyin for a couple of minutes.
Suyin gave her a confused expression, touching her face. "Is...Is there something wrong with my face?" She asked. Suyin had forgotten that a couple of months ago, she had saved Jiayi and a couple of other female prisoners in a basement at a brothel.
"Thank you, Mr. Hero. I shall never forget this." (Author's note: Chapter 12, page 12)
"You...You're Mr.Hero!" Jiayi hurried in front of Suyin, shocked at what she had done to her. "Oh my... how dare I slap the hero who saved my life!" Jiayi had now bowed in front of Suyin when her knees on the ground.
The lights had lit a bulb in her head when Jiayi had mentioned, Mr.Hero. Suyin laughed, shaking her hands. "I... I think you are mistaken!" Suyin had mentioned.
"No. I know it IS you! YOU were the one that saved us."
"I think you have mistaken... I uh... am just a low servant who has no money and found Junli--- er YOUNG MASTER Junli at the side of the shop." Suyin answered, trying to reject Jiayi.
"I could never forget your face...."
"You uh..." Suyin had to think for a second. Qin Fuhua's mission here was to retrieve the key. If she had someone who LIVES here to help her, that would be perfect for her! It was a set stone then! She was going to play this role as the "Mr.Hero" with her male servant outfits so that she could acquire more information about the location of the key someone in the city.
It would be easier for her to move around dressed up as a man since Jianhong wouldn't figure her out anyway.
"Please keep it a secret that I saved you from the brothel. I just couldn't handle it with the thought of all of the helpless women stuck in there like that." Suyin went along with the story.
"Jiayi is pleased to help as much as she can for her savior. Without you, Mr.Hero, I wouldn't have been here." Jiayi paused for a second, "May I have your name... Mr.Hero?"
Damn it. She needed a name to go with the hero play now. "It is my pleasure to help. You can call me Shu"
It was a lame attempt for making a Mr.Hero name, but it was her nickname back in her days anyway.
"Jiayi is pleased to meet you. Jiayi will be taking her leave now." She carefully bowed, walking off in the distance.
Suyin watched her disappear from her sight before letting out a loud sigh. Great! At least she would have someone on her side now at the moment. It was perfect for her to start somewhere to look for the key while she hid. All that was important right now was to let Qin Fuhua know that she is doing fine now.
"Welcome my friend Tienzheng!" Jianhong let out a big smile, opening his arms, boasting about his manor to Tienzheng, who was also known as Qin Fuhua.
Yi Tienzheng was his 'other' name, given with a fictional background. Qin Fuhua's master had given him a special mask fit for him to be able to hide his identity, which he uses to investigate in areas where he wouldn't be in too much danger as he would with the identity of the Prince of Qin. Changing this plan was like walking in a tiger's den, but doing so would lead him to more answers to find where Han Suyin had disappeared off to.
Tienzheng walked down the corridors and into a room that had a table for the two to sit down and have tea. Jianhong began to pour rice wine in both of the cups, handing one to Tienzheng as Jianhong held one too. Tienzheng could smell the alcohol from the man's breath and knew that the crazy bastard was barely there.
"Remember our alliance with our brotherhood?" Jianhong mentioned. Tienzheng nodded his head, smiling as the two lifted their teacups to finish the drink in one go.
"Tienzheng. I wanted to tell you about your wife." Jianhong then stated, in a serious tone. He paused for a second, as Tienzheng calmly listened. He knew that Jianhong was testing him, so he lit up his expression.
"It seems to me that my beloved wife has gone missing for a while. Have you seen her by chance?" Tienzheng stated, his eyes perking up at the man's gaze.
"That's what I wanted to talk about." He shook his head, sighing in regret. "I know that you two were only married for a short period, but... your wife has betrayed you."
Tienzheng slammed the table with his right palm, "Nonsense!!" He cried out, "She would never do that!"
"Your wife... did you know she was the spy for the Prince of Qin?"
The man was plain stupid. Tienzheng continued to play along with Jianhong, to acquire more information.
"There were some men that followed her back and tried to attack her. They were aiming for you in reality instead of that lady... Suyin. I know that you've lived your whole life here secluded, but I'm sure your marriage was just a set up to keep an eye on things around in this town... especially after my wife..."
Tienzheng laughed it off, shaking his head. "How wild can a little woman be? That's why you can not trust women at all and have them as your toy... correct?" Tienzheng poured another cup of glass to Jianhong.
"Tomorrow, we set off to the brothel! I will treat my brother and myself well to the ladies there!"
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