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It was clear that she was the Emperor's favorite. Ever since she entered the Palace, he has showered her with countless gifts and visited her bedchamber many times, so much so that the other girls could only grit their teeth in envy.

To others in his court, he was cold and calculating. To her, only he would smile and shower with love. Everyone else didn't matter.

This pleased her family immensely, as her father also rose in ranks, and their family name carried more prestige, as she was greatly favored by the Heavens themselves.

She had captured the Emperor's heart. All of her hard work had not gone to waste. She was truly blessed.

This was not the end, however, as the Heavens decided to gift her a child. She was pregnant. This would be the firstborn of the Emperor.

She was elated. Her child carried the dragon seed.

From then on, she moved from a concubine to a consort, lived in a more enormous palace, and had more servants pampering her and watching her every move. The Emperor visited more often to take care of his pregnant wife. Every day, they would walk around the courtyard, her hands wrapped around his arm, as they watched the cherry blossoms starting to bloom in time for spring.

She was living the life she always wanted. The one that many young girls could only dream of. She had a caring husband, a loving family, a child who would be the heir to the throne, and she was a queen by all those terms—a woman among girls.

She couldn't be any happier.

One night, her husband had stumbled into her quarters, dazed and smelling of alcohol. There was a great party at the Palace earlier that night to celebrate another one of the Emperor's achievements, and she had opted to stay inside as to not stress her baby.

She was caressing her belly and singing a soft lullaby to her unborn child when he barged in. He took a look at her at the bed before marching towards her and half-falling into her arms.

"My husband, what..." her voice trailed off when she felt his nose softly graze her neck while leaving a trail of kisses on her collarbone. She shivered.

She didn't know what to do. So she sat still. Though he always treated her with care, a drunk man was a different matter. She clenched the sheets to hide her anxiety.

Not tonight. Something might happen to her baby. He might not be careful.

Thankfully, he stepped back, a loose smile on his face, as she stared into his deep dark depths, sucking her in. He tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and her breath caught in her throat.

She was gathered in his arms as they nestled in the bed, their chests slowly falling into the same rhythm. The Emperor was still stroking her hair, lulling her to sleep.

Just as they were to fall into a deep slumber, she heard him utter a name.

"Li Hua..." Before finally succumbing to the darkness.

Her blood ran cold.

That wasn't her name.

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