Chapter 2 Reborn

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The two figures walking the gardens at Ning's Royal Palace sweltered in the morning sun. It was one of the hottest days of that summer. They stopped under an eave for respite.

The maid in a simple black dress frowned in worry and said, "What's happening to the Princess? She has been quite shaken ever since she woke up. She barely talks and always sits in front of her mirror, staring blankly. She's been having nightmares almost every night. Is she still afraid after her accident?"

The eunuch looked around carefully and leaned forward to whisper in the maid's ear, "Lian Xin, I'd say the Princess is bewitched. I've seen something like this before I came to the Royal Palace. It was my sister's child. He found himself drawn to the river. After they pulled him out of the water, he started behaving strangely. They sent for a Taoist priest. He said something filthy was following my nephew. So the Taoist priest performed an exorcism to ward off the evil. My nephew recovered shortly after. Now what do you think... Should we send for a Taoist priest?"

Lian Xin frowned, "Really? Her Majesty took the blame for what happened to the Princess. She asked His Majesty for punishment and was in turn, grounded in the Qifeng Palace for three whole days. If what you say is true, the exorcism will be of great importance. Let's report to Her Majesty and ask for permission."

The eunuch grunted his approval. He paused for a second before continuing, "Her Majesty has taken great care of the Princess. Her Majesty is not the Princess' mother, and yet she has been quite benevolent. The Princess was being naughty and got injured as a result. Despite that, Her Majesty took the blame. Her Majesty is such a virtuous woman."

The eunuch and Lian Xin were still discussing these events when they felt someone approach. They turned around and saw a little girl in pink, walking the gardens barefoot.

Princess Yun Shang.

The eunuch hurried to greet the little girl, "Your Highness."

Yun Shang simply nodded and glanced at the other eunuchs in the yard casually. Then she turned and headed back to the palace. She had heard every word spoken by the two people. Virtuous? Yun Shang's lips curled into a sneer. The grim smile was not befitting her pretty and innocent face.

Yun Shang sat in front of the mirror once again. She studied her reflection. The delicate face of a young girl about eight or nine years old looked back at her.

Yun Shang raised her hand and gently touched her right cheek. She remembered the deep gash her favorite sister, Princess Hua Jing, had made. She was the Empress's daughter, who was famous for both, her beauty and talents.

Hua Jing had married a General. Unfortunately, he died in the war. Out of pity for her sister, Yun Shang brought Hua Jing to her house for company. Never once had Yun Shang thought that Hua Jing would have an affair with her husband. She remembered how her beloved sister and husband had tied her to the chair and forced her to witness their lovemaking.

And her husband, the man Yun Shang had loved and trusted with all her life, had thrown their child out of the window in her presence.

The little child. Her only darling child... Thinking of the innocent child, Yun Shang felt her heart being torn apart again.

Despite how her sister and husband had treated her cruelly and unjustly, the most challenging part was accepting that the Empress, the woman whom Yun Shang had always respected and considered as her mother, had deceived her as well.

Yun Shang closed her eyes as the painful memories overwhelmed her and tried to collect herself. She knew she had to hide all her feelings.

No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't stop thinking of how she swore vengeance as the life left her body on that cold and rainy night. Poisoned by her mother, hurt by her sister, betrayed by her husband and servants. It had all been overwhelming for Yun Shang. And yet, she had never imagined that she would return as her younger self to exact her revenge. Everything seemed so unreal that she believed it to be a dream. Ever since the moment she opened her eyes, she had done nothing but wait for death to wake her from this dream. However, as time went by, Yun Shang couldn't help noticing that everything she was experiencing was the same as when she was a child.

Did she truly get a second chance?

Yun Shang still remembered clearly that her younger self had fallen and blacked out for a few days. When she finally woke up, she heard that the Empress was so virtuous that she had taken the blame for her in front of the Emperor and asked to be punished. She was not Yun Shang's birth mother, yet she had protected her in more ways than Yun Shang could ever have dreamed of. After that accident, Yun Shang had become so grateful and grown a bond with the Empress. She accepted the Empress as her mother and did whatever she was told.

Now that Yun Shang had the opportunity to review all the events from her previous life, she accepted that the Empress had been in control of almost everything since the very beginning. Yun Shang's real mother had grown up with the Emperor and had later been conferred the title of Lady Jin. But she had somehow offended the Emperor and had been banished to the Cold Palace. It was then that Yun Shang had been taken in by the Empress as her ward.

The Empress had adored Yun Shang. She spoiled Yun Shang and pandered to her every need. Yun Shang, on the other hand, was becoming proud and arrogant, always making trouble. In the end, even the Emperor ran out of patience and at the first opportunity, married her to the man she had chosen soon after her Coming-of-age Ceremony. Yun Shang thought she would live happily ever after with the man she loved. But her mother-in-law didn't like her at all even though she was a Royal Princess. Given the fact that her mother-in-law always picked on her, Yun Shang had learnt to be very discreet.

Yun Shang sneered again. Even if it was only a dream, she would never allow herself to make the same mistakes. And everything they owed her, she swore to herself that she would take it back, bit by bit.

"Yun Shang, Yun Shang..." A melodious voice called to the young princess from outside. Shortly after, Yun Shang heard the servant's greeting, "Good day, Princess Hua Jing."

Startled, Yun Shang rose from her chair so abruptly that she accidentally bumped her dresser. As a trinket fell to the ground, Yun Shang realized that she had probably overreacted. Though it had been a few days since she had figured things out, Yun Shang still couldn't calm herself when she saw Princess Hua Jing.

"Sister..." A girl in purple soon ran into the room and stopped before Yun Shang. She took Yun Shang's hands and looked her up and down carefully before asking, "Are you feeling better? You are not fully recovered. How can you stand barefoot like this? Though it's pretty hot today, being barefoot will not help your health." Then she turned and ordered the maid standing behind, "Lian Xin, is this how you take care of your mistress? Quickly, go get my sister some shoes."

Yun Shang had been observing Hua Jing from the minute she walked into her room. Though she was just a little girl, Hua Jing looked exactly the way Yun Shang remembered her to be at that age. She looked adorable. One could hardly imagine that she would be capable of cruelty. Yun Shang then understood that it was impossible to really know other people only from their appearance.

Lian Xin was about to fetch shoes when Yun Shang disengaged Hua Jing's hands and went directly toward her bedchamber. She lay down on her bed with her eyes wide open.

Vaguely, she could hear Hua Jing's puzzled voice coming from outside, "What's going on? Is she still not feeling well?"

Then she heard Lian Xin's reply, "I'm not sure. Princess Yun Shang had been acting like this since she woke up. She's just been sitting there alone, motionlessly and she has hardly spoken. I was just talking to An, and he said that perhaps the Princess is possessed. We were discussing whether we should report to Her Majesty and find a good Taoist priest to expel the evil."

There was a moment of silence before Hua Jing agreed, "I'll talk to my mother at once..."

Then the world fell silent again. It seemed Hua Jing had left. Yun Shang closed her eyes and tried to pull herself together. She thought to herself, 'I must be strong enough if I want to take my revenge, starting with facing them calmly.'

The only problem was all the servants in Yun Shang's palace had been selected by the Empress. And she could trust none of them. Yun Shang knew clearly that she wouldn't survive if she was on her own, with not a single person by her side.

Who would help her?

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