Jin Xiu did not wait for that man to reply. Instead, she received a swift slap from one of the higher ranked concubines.
Her entire figure was thrown to the side with that slap. Slowly, a streak of blood dripped down from the corner of her lips.
Jin Xiu no longer spoke. She quietly allowed herself to be dragged away.
As it turned out, he hated her.
But thinking over it, it was probably well-deserved, right? Her father had destroyed his country and reduced him to become nothing but a hostage prince. He was humiliated a hundred times over; did he have any reason to love her at all?
She was handled roughly, both arms yanked backwards as she was tossed out.
One year back, on the 7th day of the 7th month , she had rushed over. Back then, she saw brightly lit red candles and auspicious couplets hung up everywhere. Now, it was yet another 7th month. She had been dragged out of his sleeping chambers, as though she was the filthiest and nastiest object there was.
Suddenly, Jin Xiu slowly broke into her grin. Her hair bun was dishevelled, her face a complete mess. She softly murmured a line, again and again.
To give her life to the one she loves. Even if there came a day of heartless abandonment, there would be no regrets.
She slowly shut her eyes.
Jin Xiu was thrown into the courtyard. The palace servants swaggered off without a care for what they left behind. Her cowardly palace maid did not dare to approach her. Jin Xiu softly instructed her to go to bed, and so the girl scampered off like a rabbit, burrowing herself into the room. After a long, long time had passed, Jin Xiu finally propped herself up with much difficulty. She slowly stood up and returned to her room, before tidying up after herself. She felt something sweet and fishy clogging her throat, and when she spat it out, she realised that it was fresh blood.
At this time, the watchman clanged a gong outside the palace walls. It was already past midnight.
She slowly walked out and arrived at the corner of the wall she was so familiar with. However, she could no longer prop herself upright. Slowly… slowly… She slumped onto the ground just like a little child, before curling herself into a ball.
“… I’m hated by Ah Ruo… I never imagined… But now that I think about it, his warmth and goodwill to me… was to make use of me…right?” She said in a soft voice. Then, an uncontrollable sense of anguish surged, almost breaking a hole in her chest.
As she repeated herself incessantly, she had no idea whether there was anyone standing before her. She only mumbled those words over and over again, and once she said the last line, she wasn’t even able to fathom what she was talking about. All she knew was that the moment she stopped, the crack in her chest would threaten to tear her entire being apart.
“…But, his hate for me is reasonable, right?” As she said this, she suddenly heard a soft rustle. Opposite, someone tipped her a stalk of flower.
Jin Xiu muttered a thanks, before reaching out to receive it. It was a fully bloomed magnolia, a flower she used to love. When she was still young, on the day the magnolias bloomed, Chen Ruo would always pick a huge bunch of magnolias for her, almost drowning her in them. Then, the youth would grin and help fasten her hair together with a stalk.
As it turned out, it was all just her wishful thinking.
Jin Xiu grasped the stalk in her hand tightly. She lowered her head, before she slowly began to whimper.
That person opposite her seemed to hesitate for a moment. Then, that person stretched out a hand and patted her on the shoulder. Jin Xiu finally burst into tears. She reached out to grab that person, only to catch the sleeves instead. A light rattle sounded and she appeared to have plucked off something from that person’s wrist.
A string of beads. Its surface still carried the warmth of a person.
When she grabbed the other party, she could tell that the other person was a man. Jin Xiu widened her boundless but sightless eyes. She felt inclined to return the string of beads to the other person and apologise. She wobbled up and walked towards the wall. She called out softly, only to realise that the other party had already walked off without a sound.
Gripping onto that string of beads, Jin Xiu carefully stuffed it into her clothes before slowly forcing out a dismal smile.
Not knowing if there would be another chance to return it to him…
That night, on the seventh day of the night, Jin Xiu’s sickness got worse. At the end of the seventh month, she wasn’t even able to leave the bed.
Before this, she was merely an unfavoured lady-in-waiting who was content living at the peripheries of the palace. All the people in the palace seemed to have had forgotten her existence, allowing her to live her own life. But now, it was different.
Many conjectures were made about her relationship with Chen Ruo and in the end, she was completely alienated. In Dayue, she had a short fling with Chen Ruo, but after taking her back to his country, looking at her would cause him to recall the humiliation he suffered in Dayue. But because Chen Ruo was kind-hearted, he allowed her to grow old at the desolate palace ground.
Such gossip reached the ears of Jin Xiu, who was bed ridden with illness. She only sighed with a smile without displaying any emotions.
The Empress accused her of currying for the Emperor’s favour, the Imperial Concubine hated her for ruining her matters. And with the addition of all the rumours, everyone despised her. When she was alone, they would intentionally humiliate her.
Jin Xiu was powerless against all these. The only thing she could do was to curl up on the bed, clutching on to the bead bracelet that belonged to that person.
The bracelet was made of ordinary wooden beads. It carried a faint fragrance which resembled that of sandalwood, though it wasn’t some kind of high grade sandalwood. Its surface was carved with auspicious intricacies – the workmanship was exquisite. The rounded edges of the beads were glossy and smooth, and just by feeling, Jin Xiu could tell that it was an accessory that had been worn all year round. But the carvings had not been scratched in the slightest, the owner of the bracelet must have really treasured and cared for it, right?
This should be an important object. I should return it to the other person…. Jin Xiu thought like this. She smiled wanly, before forcing herself to prop her body up. Her head tilted and she coughed. That familiar sweet and metallic taste slowly rose up her throat, before leaking out of her lips and dripping onto the bedding.
She did not even have the strength to get up and wipe it off.
Jin Xiu coughed continuously. She might die soon, she thought in her heart.
She slowly closed her eyes, and that empty and shattered cavity in her chest gradually flared up again.
She already had nothing.
Disordered footsteps could be heard outside, most likely belonging to the palace maids from other halls. They had come to her cold and chilly palace to slack off, mumbling about something among themselves. She could vaguely hear their conversation. Suddenly, she heard a line. The Emperor of Dayue had passed on.
Her eyes widened abruptly. She wanted to stand up, but her entire being collapsed onto the ground!
Father, father, father! Jin Xiu tried to stand up from that ice cold and dirty ground with all her strength. Yet, she fell back down again and again. Her field of vision had always been pitch black, but it had never been as dismal as it was that day.
Outside, the faint sound of conversation and laughter drifted through the doors. The palace maids mentioned that the moment His Majesty heard the news, he was exceptionally delighted and ordered that the entire palace be decorated extravagantly. When Jin Xiu heard this, she had the urge to cry. She widened her sightless eyes, but just like a pond that had been completely dried up, not a single drop of tear came out.
Ah, her father. She still remembered sitting upright on her father’s lap when she was young, allowing him to comb her long and black hair. Then, that ambitious and highly acclaimed man laughed as he spoke to her, recounting how he had heard her weak and feeble cries on the day she was born from the side-lines. He scrambled to flip through the books as he wrote down a few dozen names with a vermillion brush. Lovely and dignified, noble and honourable – He was dissatisfied with every single one of them. Finally, he chose this name. 
Was it tacky? Her father laughed as he asked her, before planting a kiss on her forehead.
But I really like this name. Jin Xiu, Jin Xiu, father only wants you to have a lifetime of beauty. Just like a bed of flowers and a colourful tapestry, without winter, only sunlight.
After that, she had abandoned such a father, bringing him shame.
She had hurt her father’s heart and did not even see him one last time. She still had to dwell in this palace that celebrated her father’s death.
At that moment, it wasn’t that she had no hate.
But who was she supposed to hate?
Chen Ruo? He had never told her that he wanted her to come. Never once said that. Chen Lan? He had only vocalised his desires.
The person she should hate, the only person, should be herself, right?
She no longer had the strength to struggle. That shattering pain in her chest suddenly intensified. At that exact moment, she felt that her entire lifetime building up to this point had simply crumbled into ashes.
Jin Xiu felt a sweet, metallic and boiling substance spray out of her mouth.
After that, someone seemed to walk in. A soft and piercing cry sounded in her already groggy consciousness, followed by the pattering of footsteps. In the midst of the void and desolate sorrow, she suddenly had an incomparably clear awareness. At this moment, whatever shattered would no longer exist.
Jin Xiu’s high fever did not subside and she was in an unconscious state. She could sense people walking in and out, but at the same time, there did not seem to be a single person. The distinctive and haughty voice of the Empress rang by her ear. She appeared to say something about her foul ailment. In fear of it being some sort of contagious disease, she was to be immediately thrown out of the palace.
After that, some people bound her up and dragged her out roughly. It was as though the person they were dragging was not a weak and sick girl, but rather, a trivial and disposable piece of trash.
Jin Xiu’s eyes had long been unable to open. She could only feel herself being dragged out of the courtyard. After a short journey, she was suddenly tossed down roughly. A cling sounded and that string of beads that had been kept carefully with her rolled onto the ground. She wanted to go and pick it up, but someone had stepped on her fingers.
Finally, even this meagre bit of comfort had left her behind, she thought.
The sound of chatter could be heard at the side. Laughter, sweet talk. After that, she propped herself up abruptly like the final radiance of a setting sun. She glanced in a certain direction. Just now, the footsteps that sounded were light, small paced, and perfectly straight.
Those were the footsteps that belonged to Chen Ruo.
Jin Xiu knew, she could tell. Even in her slipping consciousness, she could tell.
Then, those footsteps never approached in her direction. Instead, it circled around the chatting ladies, before continuing in the opposite direction. There was no hesitation at all.
The laughter of the concubines drifted over in short bursts. They all said she was a calamitous star. It was such a beautiful afternoon, and as they were accompanying the Emperor to admire the flowers, they just had to cross paths with a sickly ghost who had been tossed out of the palace. There was even someone who cooed daintily, requesting the Emperor to accompany her for a meal.
Jin Xiu widened her sightless eyes and stared fixedly in the direction of Chen Ruo. After that, the corner of her lips hooked upwards abruptly. That pale and ashen face suddenly displayed a sense of clarity that could only be seen in utmost hopelessness.
To give her life to the one she loves. Even if there came a day of heartless abandonment, there would be no regrets.
She had once held the hand of the man she was so deeply in love with, and had slowly written on his palm. Every word and every line she wrote was carved in her bones and etched in her heart.
As it turned out, it was all just her wishful thinking. A product of her imagination.
The expression of hopelessness suddenly disappeared from Jin Xiu’s face, concealed by a layer of fatigue. She shut her eyes but soon realised that in the end, she was unable to shed a single tear.
That man was the embodiment of her lifetime of warmth, but also the object of a thousand teardrops.
After being tossed into a damp and filthy field who knows where, she finally lost all remnants of her consciousness.
Before she lost her consciousness, she heard someone drag his footsteps over painfully. It felt familiar, but she was unable to recall who it belonged to – Whatever, there was no need to mull over this.
She knew, she was going to die soon.
After that, she seemed to hear someone call out her name anxiously.
However, it was not important anymore.
Every bit of her consciousness faded away at this moment.
: Chinese Valentine’s Day
: Her name Jin Xiu means beauty, alluding to the title of this novel.