PRINCESS YANG LIU KNOWN AS PRINCE KUAN HUI
GRAND DOWAGER EMPRESS' PALACE
"Prince Kuan Hui of the Bai clan arrives!" the eunuch announced as the princess paraded into the courtyard, her attendants closely behind. She walked with her head raised, arms crossed on her back which depicted masculinity.
"Princess!" The Grand Dowager Empress beamed at the sight of her.
"Greetings and blessings to her Royal Highness, the Grand Dowager Empress." She bowed with a fist on her chest.
"Don't stand on ceremony," Grand Dowager Empress excused her. "My granddaughter is growing into a beautiful woman, isn't she?" Grand Dowager looked at her ladies-in-waiting who cackled in agreement.
The princess blushed shyly before saying, "Her Royal Highness flatters me too much."
"Now that my son has passed on, may his soul rest in peace, why don't we ask the emperor to bestow you the title 'royal princess'? It's not a secret anymore that you are a princess."
The princess fidgeted. "But... not everyone knows that."
"What is bothering the princess so much? Is this about the great General Feng?" her grandmother teased.
"Her Royal Highness does not have to be so direct." She avoided the Grand Dowager's stare and eyed the pond, her face flushing.
"Your mother burdened your life by lying about who you really are." Dowager Empress Wang, the mother of the princess, had born and raised her as a prince to not lose face that she, the empress at the time had bore princesses only.
It was because of the selfishness of her mother that her life was nothing but a charade but there was no use crying over spilt milk, was there? Now that her Royal Father had passed on, it would be easier to reveal her real identity without the officials or royal scholars asking for a death penalty decree to be issued to her mother. Lying to the emperor meant death and her mother had deceived her father, the previous emperor, when he was alive. Her father died thinking she was a prince, an unworthy prince for that matter because unlike Elder Brother, she was not good in archery or martial arts or any other physical activities. She never went to war like Elder Brother and so she was unworthy.
No matter how much easier the truth coming out had now become since Royal Father was gone, Yang Liu was still not ready.
It was obvious that General Feng would not see her in the same way if she revealed the hatch in the hat. She could not bear the thought of having to live with unrequited love. It was better for them to stay close friends with him being under the impression that she was a man.
Undeserving Dowager Empress Wang, she was the reason why her life was nothing but a lie.
"Princess has no mother but Virtuous Consort Shu," she corrected.
"Virtuous Consort Shu is the mother of the emperor, not yours," her grandmother said sounding sympathetic. "Sooner or later you will have to make amends with your real mother."
"Mother stole Elder Brother through forced adoption," she accused. "Since mother stole Virtuous Consort Shu's son, I will bring joy to Consort Shu's heart by being the filial child in place of Elder Brother. Life has been unfair on her, grandmother."
Her grandmother sighed and threw some pellets into the water for the fish.
"I have come so that grandmother will join me in embroidery," the princess changed the subject. "One day I would like to make something for the General," she said dreamily.
Prince Kuan Hui was a princess. Like her sisters, she would be wed off to a noble clan or to another nation as a way to maintain peace. She knew that things were better off if she stayed a prince, and that way, she could live to protect General Feng with no constraints, loving him from afar. There was no harm growing a flower and not being able to touch or smell it, as long as she was at a good enough distance to watch over it.