Chapter 1 Rebirth
“It’s on fire! The marriage sedan is on fire!”
Qin Yunuan managed to open her eyes slightly. She was not totally conscious after being drugged.
The fire was burning from under the sedan chair, accompanied by the acrid white phosphorus smell. The fire was out of control as the wind helped it burn. It looked like a fire lantern from afar.
The last thing Qin Yunuan remembered was being fed a bowl of blood bird’s nest by her legal mother and carried into a ginkgo wood marriage sedan with relief sculptures covered in gold by the matchmaking woman. On the curtains of the sedan was an embroidery of a phoenix flying towards the sun. What a gorgeous sedan, or what a luxurious coffin in fact. All of this must be prepared for her by her legal mother and her sister.
All along, Qin Yunuan had never wanted to fight for anything. She knew that her status was low in the big mansion of the Grand Commandant. She was just a daughter of a mistress who had passed, with her face destroyed. In what position was her to fight for the favor of the commandant?
Qin Yunuan’s greatest wish was to see her younger brother grow up safely and live a bland and peaceful life in the mansion.
However, Qin Yunuan had become a tool of the others after compromising again and again.
This time, her legal mother asked her to marry the cruel, impertinent Iron General, replacing her sister, while her sister married the crown prince on the exact same day and became the princess.
What a cruel contrast it was. One was humble as an insect, while the other was glorious as a peony.
Right before the marriage sedan was lifted out of the Grand Commandant’s Mansion, her brother was having a high fever and left unattended. Her wet nurse was beaten to death by the house servants. Her two maids Tong and Maner were sold to the brothel. Even the third concubine of her father who knelt to beg for her mercy was fined three years of expenses.
After all these, her legal mother and her sister were not even willing to let her live.
The raging fire made the whole sedan crackling like popping corns.
Qin Yunuan looked at the deformed sedan frame. She could not move her body as she was intoxicated. She cried for help weakly, but her voice was drowned in the bustle fire.
Right then, a big hand reached in through the smoke, approaching her fearlessly through the fervent flame.
It was so close that Qin Yunuan could clearly see the Kylin tattoo on the muscular arm. His powerful arm hooped around Qin Yunuan’s wrist as if he had been trying to test the motion of the person inside. However, Qin Yunuan had no strength at all, just like a dead person.
“Master, the fire is too great. I’m afraid she won’t survive.” Outside the sedan, someone was carefully testing.
“Save her!” A cold voice that made people shivers said flatly, “She’s still alive.”
Qin Yunuan smiled bitterly, feeling the compassion and warmth the stranger gave her. The smoke was billowing, and the suffocation swept all over her senses, making it hard for her to breathe. At the moment, all the resentment and unwillingness appeared to be so powerless.
How longing she was to have everything going all over again. If she had another life, she would definitely refuse to compromise like she had. She must fight, for herself, for her brother, for her wet nurse. She must fight!
The fire was burning stronger and stronger in front of her. Qin Yunuan’s mind had gradually gone blank. She began to lose consciousness, and her breath. Vaguely, she saw the top of the sedan falling heavily on her, crushing Qin Yunuan along with her dreams for stability and her deep remorse.
It appeared to be a lifetime of torment and unconsciousness before Qin Yunuan suddenly felt her body lightened. It was so light as if only her soul and her spirit had remained, fluttering with the wind.
In the dark, it seemed that someone was calling her.
“Third Miss? Third Miss?”
Could dead people hear too?
“Third Miss? Wake up. Wake up! First Miss has already got off the carriage. Why are you asleep?”
Qin Yunuan was dragged by someone, and she yanked in her consciousness, as if she had been falling. In a panic, she opened her eyes hard.
It was dim with yellow curtains surrounding her. It seemed to be a confined space that was depressing.
“You’re finally awake, Third Miss. Hurry up. You don’t want to be late.”
“Nurse Liao?” Qin Yunuan rubbered her eyes with some effort. She was shocked looking at the middle-aged woman with yellowish sunken cheeks. It was her wet nurse Liao, who should have been killed by her legal mother before she got married.
Qin Yunuan seemed to be doubtful. After looking at her for a long time, she threw her arms around nurse Liao’s neck and cried like a child, “It’s you, Liao! It’s really you! I thought I’d never see you again.”
“Don’t say such unlucky words,” nurse Liao said, “You’re fourteen already but still coquettish with me. Besides, every one of the noble ladies in the capital hopes to participate in the Flower Fairy Festival in the palace, while you, my Third Miss, treat it as life and death. That’s not happening.”
What? Fourteen? The palace? Flower Fairy Festival?
“Isn’t… isn’t it the prefecture?” Qin Yunuan was stunned. “Wasn’t I burnt to death in the sedan?”
“What are you saying? Third Miss.” Nurse Liao whispered, “Even though the system is strict in the palace, you cannot compare it to the prefecture.”
Only then did Qin Yunuan realize that the enclosed space where she was in was a gorgeously decorated carriage. Raising the carriage curtain slightly, what she saw were girls dressed up in flowery outfits. They were entering a vermilion palace gate with maids carrying their arms. On the plaque on the top of the palace gate were the characters “Rosefinch Gate” plated with gold, which was strange and familiar.
And a dozen steps away stood a young girl who was about sixteen years old. She had a pair of phoenix eyes with warped corners, delicate red lips and fine skin: a beauty indeed. She was wearing a narrow coat patterned with butterflies in flowers, covered by a cassia green silver gown, and an emerald sprinkled crepe skirt. There was a special charm in her motions, while she was talking cheerfully with two other noble ladies.
“Today…Is today February 12th of Qianyuan 13th year?” Qin Yunuan clenched her fists tightly, trying hard to hold back the emotions in her heart.
“Yes, it is, Flower Fairy Festival is on February 12th. Did you sleep too much to make you dumb? Anyways, get out of the carriage now. Don’t be late.” Nurse Liao eagerly said.
Quanyuan 13th year, Qianyuan 13th year… Qin Yunuan thought to herself. It all came so suddenly that she couldn’t believe it, but she secretly pinched the back of her hand. “Ouch, it hurts!”
“That’s right. I am dead… but, I am alive again!”
More than that, I went back to three years ago, when I went to the palace for the banquet. In the previous life, I was like an ugly duckling, contrasting my sister who was like an extremely glorious flower. And it was the very banquet that a mad cat scratched my face and ruined it. From then on, I was controlled by my legal mother and became a tool of her and my sister.
But now, everything was all over again. The heavenly arrangement was so wonderful, as always, that it had me rebirthed at the key moment when my destiny started changing.
Before she died, Qin Yunuan had told herself that if there had been one more chance for her, she would not have been as weak and avoiding as in her previous life. She would not smoothen her edges and pride again and again just for a moment of peace. She would not hide her glamor and colors just for a moment of safety.
Now that she had the opportunity to change everything, Qin Yunuan would only believe in one principle: If no one offends me, I shall not offend; if any one offends me, I shall pay back two-fold!
Having made up her mind, Qin Yunuan bit her lip secretly until she tasted blood. It drove her slightly excited, for it did not only prove that she really went back to the past, but also that a completely different life was about to begin.
Qin Yunuan set her sights on the girl again. It was someone she couldn’t be more familiar with.
She was her own sister, Qin Yunzhuang.
Qin Yunuan got off the carriage, raised her eyes that had passed two lives and patted out her slightly wrinkled clothes. Before she even started talking, the two noble ladies who were chatting with Qin Yunzhuang in the distance spoke first.
“Oh, it’s the third girl of the Qin’s. I thought that some prince was in the carriage who let sister Qin wait for so long.” A woman with round face and apricot eyes rushed to speak.
“Right. You’re just a mistress’ daughter. Sister Qin, with such kind heart, brings you to the Flower Fairy Festival, and yet you let her wait for you.”
Huh, look. Before she even started talking, these girls had already got nasty. The sarcasm to her status of a commoner’s daughter was unobstructed.
Qin Yunuan recognized the girl in white, the daughter of the Shangguan’s family, Shangguan Yee. She was secretly close to her elder brother, the eldest son of the Grand Commandant, which was the reason why she deliberately approached Qin Yunzhuang. At this moment, especially, she was trying hard to prove her privilege.
How poor she was to try pleasing a man so humbly.
Qin Yunuan bowed slightly and slowly walked towards them, with a faint smile on her face. “What sister Shangguan said just now was really strange. This was apparently the carriage of the Grand Commandant’s Mansion sending the female relatives to the banquet. How would there be princes? Did you suspect that my sister has secret relationships with some man?”
Shangguan Yee was shocked for a moment. That’s totally not what she meant. She would never dare to say something like that to the first girl of the Grand Commandant, the sister of whom she loved.
Qin Yunzhuang pursed her lips and laughed,” Oh, sister, sister Shangguan was just joking with you. Why so serious?”
Shangguan Yee quickly answered, “Yeah, yeah, it’s nothing but a joke. I didn’t expect you to be offended by such a small joke.”
Qin Yunuan did not reply upon hearing it. Her clear and elegant smile was like a hook, making Qin Yunzhuang feel a bit uneasy.
“Sister, it’s time to go.” Qin Yunuan boldly faced Qin Yunzhuang’s curiosity. She looked calm and decent with her slightly curved eyebrows.
Qin Yunzhuang caressed her chest secretly and thought that she must have lost her mind just now that she saw a trace of hatred and fierceness in Qin Yunuan’s eyes. “How ridiculous is that? She’s no more than a commoner’s daughter. What hate could she have?”
The nannies in front of the palace was already urging them. Qin Yunzhuang who was in front handed over her name post and identified herself.
“Oh, it’s the elder girl of Grand Commandant Qin,” A fat nanny who was in the front immediately burst into a sunflower-like smile, as she looked up and down Qin Yunzhuang, “What a beauty indeed!” She couldn’t help but exclaimed, “You are even more beautiful than that rumored. Go in there and wear a flower sachet,” then she whispered, “Remember, girl, pick the red one. It’s Hibiscus inside, which the queen likes the most.”
“My father is Qin Zhi, and my name is Yunuan.” Qin Yunuan was the next, and she identified herself politely.
The fat nanny screened through several pages in the list, only to see the words “Qin Yunuan” added last minute to the bottom of it. She knew that she was only a commoner’s daughter, so she was a bit disdainful. She replied lazily, “Go in there and get a flower sachet.”
“Thank you so much for your troubles. Yunuan wishes you good health.” Qin Yunuan did not leave immediately like the other noble girls, but she showed courtesy to the nanny. Her eyes were filled with gentleness, with a hint of clarity and coldness from understanding the adult world. Even the fat nanny who had seen countless people was shocked.
Just as Qin Yunuan was passing by, the fat nanny said, seemingly inadvertently, “Oh, which one of you is careless enough to put the purple flower sachet in there? Don’t you know that the Imperial Concubine Yun hates purple the most?”