“Lady Ying Yue,” Guan Shu kneeled to bow, followed by the other three maids. She was delighted and brightly beamed upon walking into my chamber. “His Majesty requests for your company in an hour.”
Hua Er and I both looked at each other with widened eyes. I blinked rapidly. “H-His Majesty?”
“Today is your lucky day!” my youngest maid gave me a big smile, who threw her arms up in cheers.
“We must hurry and give you a flower bath,” the maid who barely ever talks and only obeys my commands or compliments me, said with an exciting tone. “We’ve prepared the bath already, please come with me.”
I immediately sprang up to follow my four maids. Hua Er quickly gives me one last gleeful look before shutting the screen from my chamber behind me.
After a short walk, I stepped inside the bathhouse. There was only one bathtub... a really large one may I add. It was almost like a pool. All women in the harem had to bathe together. Baths were quite luxurious and expensive, so we never actually bathed daily.
It’s disgusting but I was used to it, though, it didn’t take long to not feel dirty every time I didn’t clean myself. Once I was promoted to ‘Noble Consort’, I’ve been getting more baths.
I dipped my foot slowly into the water. I then took my time to submerge my entire body in. The warm—but almost hot—water comforted me. My heartbeat slowly stabilised. I leaned my head against the side of the ‘pool’ and closed my eyes, feeling my skin absorb every heat of the water that surrounded me. The soothing aroma of rose petals and another scent of flowers that was unknown to me soon, filled my nostrils. I fiddled with a floating purple petal rubbing against my thigh.
“We added rose petals and lilac flowers to this bath, Lady Ying Yue,” the younger maid moved closer towards me. She thrust a basket of green medium-sized green leaves towards me. “These are willow leaves, milady. We haven’t added them yet.”
I waved my arm to separate the petals floating in the water and watched small ripples of the gesture. There were so many petals, I wonder if adding so much was necessary. “Is it really necessary? I don’t think I’m going to be sleeping with the Emperor.”
What I said caused an immediate shock to my maids. A unison of gasps came out of the maids’ lips while I aimlessly stared into the basket. They looked at me like I told them that I was from the future. They looked at me like I ripped off my skin and revealed myself as a reptilian. They looked at me like—well, anyone can get the memo.
“This is such a rare opportunity! The Emperor hasn’t laid with anyone for the past two weeks, Ying Yue,” Guan Shu nagged but paused when she had a sudden realisation. She kneeled and bowed. “Milady, please forgive me for being discourteous.”
“Get up,” I motioned Guan Shu to rise. The maids began to throw the willow leaves into the bathwater. As my body slightly lowered into the water, the sound of water moving as my legs kicked the leaves were heard. “I’m just... not ready.”
The quiet maid cleared her throat and hesitantly took a few steps back. “Lady Ying Yue, you’re here to serve His Majesty.”
“I know. And I will eventually,” I retorted, propping myself up. I took a deep breath before I sank down until the water reached my neck. “Right now, I would just like to spend time with him. Is there anything wrong with that?”
“No, milady. Pardon my rudeness.” the maid said as all four of them stepped away from me.
“You may all leave now.” I calmly said, while scrubbing my skin.
“Milady, we can’t leave you.” Guan Shu nervously threw more roses into the water.
The bathhouse was so large and empty right now, that it was starting to cause discomfort for me. My eyebrows furrowed as I stiffened my body. “What do you mean? I need my privacy.”
The maids looked at me with worry. Chen Xi was uneasily smiling at me.
She looked like she was about to say something but the youngest maid interrupted her. “Lady Ying Yue... I”—she paused—“I mean, we, have to accompany you...”
“Oh,” I firmly pressed my lips together and nodded. I bit my bottom lip before sitting up. “... You four must?”
They nodded simultaneously. “Yes, milady.”
The thought of me bathing myself and relaxing while four women silently watched me was unsettling. I wasn’t an exhibitionist. Even when I had my own leisure time in my room, I’m eighty per cent of the time accompanied by a maid or a eunuch. I was never in total isolation. In the harem, the biggest consequence might be the lack of privacy.
“I—” submerging my whole body back in the water, I was soon too lazy to argue. “Alright... Well, please don’t make any noises then. It makes things more awkward than it is.”
I closed my eyes and thought about Jaxon, about my family, about the Emperor, and about how I’m going to get out of here.
I still felt like I was being watched, which I was.
When it was time to come out, I stepped out to find an abnormal amount of flowers and leaves covering the water itself. “May I ask why there is so many... things?”
“Milady, you ask too many questions! You’re going to be late.” Guan Shu nudged my arm while Chen Xi placed a rhombus-shaped tank-top in front of my chest and tied the strings from the back.
“This is like a halter top?” I rubbed the fabric. It was brocade with little embroideries of golden flowers.
Chen Xi faced me and tilted her head slightly to the right. “What is that, milady? This is called a dudou. You refuse to wear it every time we suggest you to, so we didn’t push you anymore.”
“Why do I have to wear this now?” I asked as I put my arm through my hanfu sleeve. It was a sheer light pink hanfu, almost see-through.
When I looked at all four of them for an answer, Hua Er’s eyes met with mine but quickly darted away from me. She awkwardly figeted.
“Because,” Guan Shu clenched onto my light cardigan as she pulled me closer towards her. Her eyes looked up at me with a twink of solace. “The Emperor wants to see you in it. You must do as he says, milady.”
“Ying Yue, maybe... you should reconsider this... Maybe you should sleep with the Emperor. It’s such a big opportunity, I—” Hua Er began, still not looking directly at me.
My breathing became heavy. “Hua Er, stop... Please stop.”
“Sorry...” Hua Er responded, almost like she was whispering.
Guan Shu faked a smile to hide the tension, then patted my back. “Let’s go. Eunuch Lian Ying is already outside waiting.”
“Then I shall go,” I replied. My four maids bowed delicately, knowing they have done me well. Before I exited, I peered over my shoulder. “I thank you four for assisting me tonight. Have some rest.”
“Yes, Lady Ying Yue,” they exclaimed before I left to greet Lian Ying.
My heart was already beating right after the door slammed shut behind me. The cold air left me in shock but Lian Ying offered me his hand. “Milady, I shall take you to His Majesty.”
The Forbidden City was huge but we made our way into the inner court. The Emperor lived in the Palace of Heavenly Purity. I nonchalantly smoothed down the front of my hanfu. I had too many thoughts running around in my head that I couldn’t think straight. I didn’t want to lose my virginity to someone I barely even knew, let alone be pregnant at the age of eighteen with a stranger’s child.
The most logical thing I could be feeling here was anxiety. I could be forced to serve him tonight, but I felt like I was being protected. I felt a presence, from Buddha and the gods, ensuring me that everything was going to be fine.
When the large doors opened, I was about to step in until a familiar face revealed herself from the darkness. The bright moonlight illuminates her—still—youthful look. I immediately kneeled to greet the Emperor’s mother. “Peace and longevity to the Empress Dowager.”
“Get up,” the Emperor’s mother says, she stood firm. As I stood up to face her, she gave me a half-hearted smile. “Good luck... You may need it. There needs a heir to the throne.”
She blinks and looks away, accompanied by two of her maids at the back of her, she continues to walk away from me. I bowed and kept my head down. “Yes, Empress Dowager.”
The eunuch walked me in and I paused to eye the large throne. It screamed out royalty. The amount of gold was visible even in the dark. There were four red pillars, two on each side of the throne, with vertical writing. A big sign above in yellow was in Chinese symbols. It was along the lines of ‘built for the Emperor’. I was guessing. I barely could read due to the complexity of the symbol, truthfully. Behind the golden throne was a decorated screen, all five was shaped as the throne. The middle one was the largest.
“Lady Ying Yue?” Lian Ying spoke in a low tone. I took a longing look at the throne before walking next to him again.
I walked past a few rooms, taking short pauses to look into them. When we reached the Emperor’s room, I stalled for a little bit.
“Um, Brother Lian Ying?” I whispered. My body kept swaying to the side. I was almost about to pass out.
“Do you think he’ll like me?”
What was I even saying? Why was I even allowed to speak? I felt like rolling my eyes at myself. Lian Ying looked at me like I was stupid but tentatively masked his annoyance. He cleared his throat as he knocked on the wall to the side of the curtain. “You’re going to be fine, good luck.”
I gave him a half-smile before waving the curtains away from my face. I hesitated to step any closer but the Emperor had already looked up. “Ying Yue...”
“Warm blessings to Your Majesty.” my voice squeaked. I kept my head down and grimaced at my annoyingly shy aura I was giving him. I can’t believe I had got myself into this situation. The situation of ‘might-be-pressured-to-have-intercourse-with-the-Emperor’.
While my head was kept down, I could feel the Emperor getting closer. His soft footsteps were all I heard until he was at least a few centimetres in front of me. I almost lost my balance simply by kneeling.
His clothing shuffled a bit and my heart was racing. He squatted, eye level with me, and lifted my chin up with his index finger. I bit my tongue.
“You may get up,” the Emperor breathed ravishingly, then standing up slowly with me. “I’ve missed you.”
“Likewise, Your Majesty,” I felt his eyes preying on me while I looked away. We both settled onto his bed. As I shifted around to get comfortable, his hand was stroking my hand. “E-Erm, Your Majesty, I have to tell you that...”
His hand softly travelled down to my leg and I shivered under his touch. The Emperor cocked an eyebrow before rubbing my inner thigh. “What is it, Ying Yue?”
I chewed my bottom lip as I slowly inhaled through my nose. I was quivering so much, I think I had goosebumps. I don’t know what this feeling was but I was aroused and angsty at the very moment. I could feel my wetness already but I shifted further away to hide my thrill of his touch.
“I don’t think I’m ready...” I mumbled, still refusing to look him in the eye. I didn’t want to hurt him, but I also didn’t want him to hurt me.
He gently removed his hand from mine and cupped my face. I widened my eyes. The Emperor, surprisingly, had a soft expression on his face. He was so incredibly good-looking, that I almost considered laying with him tonight. I only focused on his eyes but couldn’t help but scan the rest of his face. The Emperor proceeded to place his hand on my shoulder. “I understand, I wouldn’t force myself onto you.”
So we made out.
His lips placed firmly onto mine, asserting his dominance. I kept my eyes closed as our bodies pressed vehemently together. I couldn’t imagine one day I’ll be locking lips with the most powerful man in this country; he was someone with high importance and I was playing Twister with his tongue.
It was weird... really weird. Almost as if I was waiting for this moment ever since I ran into him. He put me in a dark dungeon where the only thing around me was the toxic thoughts of death. He suspected me of trying to assassinate him. He said that I deserved extreme punishments. But at this very moment, as his pelvis was grinding against mine through the light fabric of my underwear, I forgave him.
′Maybe you should sleep with the Emperor.′
Hua Er’s voice rang in my head. I tried my best to ignore it.
What the hell was that even about?
A soft moan emerges from my lips as soon as he leaves delicate kisses on my neck. His lips travelled up to mine again. I was nervous. So nervous. I was afraid that one wrong move could kick me out. My hand stroked his hair messily while our lips were shaking at each other’s touch. I pulled away. I could feel my mouth swelling.
“Goodnight, Your Majesty,” I said, gawking at his face as I cupped it. With his long tangled hair and earthy brown eyes, I bit my lip in awe.
He wrapped his arm around my waist and pulled me down with him. I laid carefully on the left side of the bed, closer to the wall. The Emperor attempted to spoon but I shifted away to keep my distance. It was an instinct, I had to. I shouldn’t lead him on. He didn’t deserve that.
I came here because I had to. I came here because I needed to. I laid on my back and he turned to face me.
The Emperor took the hint. I turned my head to have a view of him. He seemed to be giving me an amused look while reaching his hand to touch the back of mine. “Ying Yue... When you first came into the palace, I already knew you would be a character.”
“Really, Your Majesty?” I whispered.
“Mhm,” he breathes. I watched as he threw his arm over my stomach, inching towards me slowly. “You were... gorgeous. But beauty isn’t everything to me... It’s charisma. It’s your personality... You are...”
The Emperor blinks a few times to stay awake. “Intelligent.”
I held my breath. The Emperor’s eyelids dropped slowly into a trance of exhaustion. I froze while being in an odd position but I couldn’t move even if I wanted to. I’d feel bad. His head was resting a few centimetres beside me. If I moved my head or my body, he’d wake up.
Just scanning his emotionless face made me realise how tired he must’ve been every single day of his life. Burdened by state affairs and politics were always stressful for emperors. I breathed in the scent of osmanthus in his chamber and soon dozed off, embracing the warmth of his body heat and bed.