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Scent of Time – Zhou Ye, Wang Xingyue

Scent of Time is a historical romantic drama directed by Bai Yunmo and Guo Hao, led by Zhou Ye, Wang Xingyue, Peng Chuyue, Zhang Yijie, and Zhaoqing. co-starring Xu Fan, Li Yunrui, Chen Zihan, Sun Yi, Peng Xiaoran, Yang Xuwen, Zhang Ming'en, and Wang Xun.

The drama is adapted from the lengthy romantic novel "Xi Qian Hua / 洗铅华". It tells the story of Hua Qian, who once made a mistake due to a momentary lapse of judgment. With the help of Zhong Xiwu, the master of a fragrant medicine family deeply in love with her, Hua Qian gradually turns over a new leaf and achieves redemption.

Details

Scent of Time

English Title: Scent of Time
Chinese Title: 为有暗香来
Other Titles: The Scent Of Time, 洗铅华
Genre: Historical, Romance, Drama
Tag: Reverse-Harem, Fictional World, Smart Female Lead, Male Chases Female First, Time Travel, Calm Female Lead
Episodes: 30
Duration: 45 min.
Director: Bai Yunmo, Guo Hao
Writer: Ren Yanan
Producer: Yang Le, Quan Chuan, Luo Pan
Product Company: Huanyu Entertainment Co., Ltd
Released Date: 2023-10-13
Broadcast Website: 优酷

Cast

Synopsis

The daughter of the supervisor of the Fragrance Medicine Clan, Hua Qian, once committed a mistake due to her infatuation with Zhong Yelan, who did not love her, ultimately leading to the destruction of her family.

When destiny takes a turn, Hua Qian wakes up to find herself back on the night of her grand wedding with Zhong Yelan. After experiencing life and death, Hua Qian has a profound realization and is determined to rectify her past mistakes and start anew.

This time, she begins to value her family and friends, no longer entangled in the emotional conflicts with Zhong Yelan from the past. She chooses to support the relationship between Zhong Yelan and Mu Yao, working towards helping her family members who have gone astray to return to the right path.

In this process, mysteries from the past gradually surface, and Hua Qian discovers Zhong Xiwu, who has silently protected her all along. She also encounters Hua Rongzhou, who always prioritizes her safety.

Through twists and turns, she ultimately achieves a dual redemption of herself and her family and friends.

Recap

Hua Qian always believed that when fate turned her into someone else's supporting role, she could use her own strength and cunning to make herself the protagonist. The man she loved, she wanted to have, and the things she desired, she wanted to possess. Anyone who stood in her way, she would deal with and ensure their eternal suffering. However, fate did not favor her in this endeavor, perhaps as the ancients said, "Evil begets evil."

On a snowy night, Hua Qian, her clothes tattered, fled in a panic without knowing where to go. Behind her were a group of menacing soldiers. She darted into the tall grass like a frightened rabbit, disappearing into the night. But she was caught again when her clothing got caught on a branch. Back at the government office, her mother and brother had already died under the chaos. Everyone pointed at her, mocked her, and said she deserved her misfortune. She suddenly felt her vision blur, and the past was so clear yet distant. In the end, the pure white snow was stained with crimson blood. If life could start over, Hua Qian would surely make different choices.

Upon waking up again, Hua Qian saw her personal maidservant, Qian Zhi. But she distinctly remembered that Qian Zhi had long since died. Before she could fully grasp the situation, Qian Zhi told her it was her wedding day in the Zhong family. However, this day had occurred two years ago. She pinched her own face in disbelief and realized that she had indeed gone back in time two years. Eager to see her mother, she was stopped by a servant. Zhong Yelan had heard that the Mu family girl had met with misfortune and left the wedding chamber in a hurry, having the servant lie that he had already retired for the night. Hua Qian didn't mind, knowing that Zhong Yelan wouldn't return that night.

Various memories flashed before Hua Qian's eyes like a revolving lantern. Impersonating Mu Yao to get close to Zhong Yelan, drugging him for the wedding, then framing the entire Mu family and sending them to prison. After the truth came to light, Hua Qian was cast out, becoming a pariah. The Hua family died and were exiled, meeting a tragic end. Now, it seemed that fate was giving Hua Qian a chance to turn her life around. She silently swore not to repeat her mistakes.

The Zhong family controlled all the royal incense, and even the current Crown Princess had married into the Zhong family. Therefore, they had considerable prestige in this remote town. The Hua family, on the other hand, had control over the procurement rights, making them wealthy landowners in the region. With the two families now joining in marriage, the common people naturally gossiped about it. However, not everyone in the Zhong residence was happy. Early the next morning, Zhong Yelan finally returned home. In front of everyone, he appeared quite protective of Hua Qian. But once inside the carriage with no witnesses, he removed his facade and ignored her. Hua Qian didn't mind, knowing that Zhong Yelan was distressed about Mu Yao.

The carriage slowly arrived at the Zhong family's estate. Upon meeting the head of the Zhong family, Zhong Xiwu, Hua Qian couldn't help but fall into contemplation. She didn't understand why Mu Yao was so attractive that he had both Zhong brothers enchanted. Just as she was pondering, the two brothers left. Although Zhong Yelan shared the surname Zhong, he was not a blood relative of the Zhong family; he was the former head of the family and Zhong Xiwu's father's closed-door disciple.

For Hua Qian, the first step in her transformation was to change her image in front of the Crown Princess. Even though she felt a bit uncomfortable, this time, the Crown Princess didn't leave her alone in a side chamber. By the pond, Hua Qian inexplicably fell into the water. Everyone was surprised and curious about when she had learned to swim. Little did they know that during her year of exile, Hua Qian had learned many things. To avoid suspicion, she pretended to be weak and allowed her maidservant to assist her.

While Hua Qian was grooming herself, she suddenly saw a familiar face in the mirror, her sister, Hua Man, from her uncle's family. From Hua Man, Hua Qian instantly realized that the Crown Princess had already set her sights on her.

Hua Man is no longer the Hua family's eldest daughter, she has become a first-rank maidservant in the Zhong family. She mentioned Mu Yunping, who was thrown into prison, and hinted that Hua Qian should pass a message to the Hua family, suggesting they should take advantage of the situation and ensure the Mu family never has a chance to rise again. Hua Qian was furious at Hua Man for maligning the Mu family, as the Hua family had no connection to the matter. When she heard this, Hua Man was initially puzzled, but then it seemed like she understood something. She mockingly chuckled at Hua Qian's excessive caution and indicated that everything was already taken care of here.

Hua Qian had a headache and suddenly understood why the Hua family had suffered defeat. She directly exposed Hua Man, stating that Hua Man hadn't been sent by the Hua family to relay messages; she had chosen to infiltrate the Zhong family herself. Furious, Hua Man didn't care about the status difference and accused Hua Qian of being ungrateful. Hua Qian pretended to be innocent, then calmly continued, suggesting that Hua Man's true intention in entering the Zhong residence was to covet Zhong Xiwu. With that, she left.

As she returned to her room, Zhong Yelan hurriedly approached, taking Hua Qian's hand and asking if something was wrong. Hua Qian shook her head and remained silent. At that moment, the Crown Princess's personal maidservant leaned in to speak to her. The Crown Princess subsequently smiled and playfully teased the newlyweds. Hua Qian suddenly understood that the Crown Princess was already aware of the incident with Hua Man. She hadn't exposed Hua Man to test Hua Qian.

The Crown Princess called Hua Qian over and, in front of everyone, presented her with a jade bracelet that the late Emperor had bestowed upon her. Everyone, including Hua Qian herself, was surprised by this turn of events. After everyone left, the Crown Princess touched her empty wrist, sighing about how she, too, had moments of uncertainty. Hua Qian, lost in thought, caressed the jade bracelet, feeling a myriad of emotions.

When Hua Qian returned to the Zhong residence, it was already night, and she felt physically exhausted. She just wanted to shed the burdens on her body and get a good night's sleep. However, the wet nurse insisted that Hua Qian deliver the evening meal to Zhong Yelan. Hua Qian reluctantly complied. Zhong Yelan had a hint of apology on his face and explained that he was currently overwhelmed with official duties and might not be able to accompany her. Hua Qian didn't mind and promptly excused herself. This caught Zhong Yelan off guard, and he began to contemplate something. He called the house steward, Ji Dong, and instructed him to provide Hua Qian with the family's emblem and account book. Hua Qian initially wanted to decline, but Ji Dong's intent was clear, and she had no choice but to accept.

The day Hua Qian returned, night had fallen, and she felt like her body was aching all over. She just wanted to remove the weight on her shoulders and get a good night's rest. However, the wet nurse insisted that Hua Qian deliver the evening meal to Zhong Yelan. Hua Qian was annoyed but complied. Zhong Yelan, with a somewhat apologetic expression, mentioned that he was busy with official matters and might not be able to accompany her. Hua Qian didn't mind and quickly excused herself, leaving Zhong Yelan lost in thought. He called for the house steward, Ji Dong, instructing him to provide Hua Qian with the family's emblem and account book. Hua Qian initially wanted to refuse but realized that this was Zhong Yelan's decision, so she accepted.

On the day Hua Qian returned, it was already night, and she felt physically exhausted. She just wanted to shed the burdens on her body and get a good night's sleep. However, the wet nurse insisted that Hua Qian deliver the evening meal to Zhong Yelan. Hua Qian reluctantly complied. Zhong Yelan had a hint of apology on his face and explained that he was currently overwhelmed with official duties and might not be able to accompany her. Hua Qian didn't mind and promptly excused herself. This caught Zhong Yelan off guard, and he began to contemplate something. He called the house steward, Ji Dong, and instructed him to provide Hua Qian with the family's emblem and account book. Hua Qian initially wanted to decline, but Ji Dong's intent was clear, and she had no choice but to accept.

The next day, the guards at the Zhong residence reported that Mu Yao had escaped. Zhong Yelan's face turned pale, but he quickly controlled his inner turmoil, fearing that Hua Qian would notice his anxiety. Little did he know that Hua Qian had already learned what had happened. Rather than being left stranded on the road as before, she chose to release Zhong Yelan voluntarily. She thought that if she showed kindness to him today, he might remember this favor when he confessed later. With this in mind, Hua Qian calmly told Zhong Yelan that if there were urgent matters, he should go ahead and deal with them.

Beggar Hua Rongzhou was being chased by a merchant and stopped Hua Qian's carriage. In the past, Hua Qian wouldn't have intervened, but now she hoped that her act of kindness and charity today would provide her with protection in the future. She personally negotiated with the merchant and rescued Hua Rongzhou. Someone was watching her every move. When she showed kindness to a stranger, Zhong Xiwu on the upper floor couldn't help but reveal a teasing smile. Hua Qian noticed the intense gaze from above and turned around to bow before getting into her carriage.

Finally, she arrived at the Hua family estate, and Hua Qian suddenly felt her heart stop beating. She seemed to smell the scent of rust emanating from her father's neck. However, her parents were alive and well before her, and Hua Qian was overwhelmed with a mixture of emotions. To prevent history from repeating itself, Hua Qian quickly spoke up in defense of the Mu family to her father, hoping he wouldn't take drastic actions. Hua Wenang was surprised and reminded Hua Qian that to eradicate a problem, one must remove it at the root.

Even if they were blood relatives, convincing someone who hasn't experienced life and death to do good isn't an easy task. During the conversation with Hua Wenang, Hua Qian made every effort to appear as overbearing as she used to be, always talking from the perspective of the Hua family, explaining the benefits of speaking on behalf of the Mu family. However, the palms of her hands were already soaked with sweat, though luckily, Hua Wenang didn't notice anything, and he readily agreed with her ideas.

Compared to the shrewdness of the father and daughter, Hua Shen, the Hua family's son, seemed somewhat mediocre. On ordinary days, he enjoyed indulging in worldly pleasures and debauchery. When Hua Qian returned this time, she saw him flirting with a maidservant. She couldn't help but sigh, realizing that her brother had indeed slimmed down a lot in the year of her exile. She shook her head and pretended not to have seen anything, quietly leaving. However, Hua Shen, with sharp eyes, hurriedly followed her to give her a piece of silk specially selected for her. In the past, Hua Qian would have been thrilled, but today, she felt an inexplicable anger and decisively declined her brother's goodwill.

As night fell, the family gathered around the table, staring at the delicious dishes with rumbling stomachs, but they had to wait silently for Hua Shen, their cousin, who hadn't arrived yet. After a while, he finally arrived. Hua Wenang was not at all annoyed, and a smile quickly appeared on his face. Hua Shen immediately raised his glass, determined to offer a toast to Hua Yelan. After a few glasses, he draped his arm around Hua Yelan's shoulder, acting like a protective older brother. When the meal was over, Hua Wenang turned to say something to Hua Yelan, but before he could speak, Hua Qian dragged Hua Yelan away.

On the way, Hua Qian suddenly mentioned wanting to visit Mu Yao. Zhong Yelan clenched his fist tightly, hesitating and anxious. Hua Qian quickly explained that she only wanted to have a conversation with Mu Yao since they were once like sisters. This eased Zhong Yelan's concerns. He then explained to Hua Qian that his relationship with Mu Yao wasn't romantic; she had been his childhood friend. Hua Qian managed a forced smile, thinking that she wasn't the childhood friend he was referring to.

When she met Mu Yao, a thought suddenly crossed Hua Qian's mind: why not resolve a potential problem right now? She quickly shook her head, attempting to banish this thought entirely. To clear her mind, she slapped herself. This noise woke Mu Yao, and she glared at Hua Qian, angrily accusing her of being treacherous. Hua Qian couldn't refute it, so she explained to Mu Yao that no matter what she had done in the past, she genuinely wanted to help her now.

Seeing that Mu Yao was still very angry, Hua Qian poured a glass of water, hoping to calm her down. However, Mu Yao interpreted this as a pretense and, in a fit of anger, knocked the teacup to the ground. Zhong Yelan, outside the room, heard the commotion and rushed in to see what was happening. As soon as he entered, he saw the red mark on Hua Qian's face and became angry with Mu Yao. Hua Qian then realized the injury on her face and hurriedly explained that the injury had nothing to do with Mu Yao; it was her own clumsiness.

However, Zhong Yelan was unwilling to believe her and continued to scold Mu Yao, who appeared arrogant and self-righteous. Hua Qian had no choice but to raise her hand to cover his mouth, urging him to quickly apologize to Mu Yao. Afterward, she left in a hurry, closing the door behind her. Hua Qian was quite satisfied with this outcome. Her goal was to help this loving couple resolve their grievances and hopefully reduce the animosity she had caused when she separated them in the past.

On the other hand, Hua Wenang genuinely pleaded with Zhong Xiwu to intercede for the Mu family. In the end, the Mu family's sentence was changed to three years of exile, with the women having the lightest punishment. Before departing, thanks to Zhong Yelan's arrangement, Mu Yunping and his daughter were allowed to meet. Mu Yunping hoped his daughter would avoid trouble during these three years and wait patiently. However, Mu Yao wanted to clear the Mu family's name. She specifically asked Zhong Yelan for a female attendant position as a way to repay the favor. Zhong Yelan, with no other choice, brought her home and let her serve Hua Qian. Hua Qian quickly refused and, instead, asked Zhong Yelan to let Mu Yao stay.

Hua Shen spotted a young lady at the teahouse and insisted on bringing her home. The young lady cried and protested against going with him, but Hua Shen scolded her for not knowing her place. Upstairs, Zhong Xiwu heard the commotion and ordered his guards to rescue the young lady. However, Hua Shen remained unrepentant, even using his status as a cousin of the Zhong family, causing a headache for Zhong Xiwu.

The Zhong family's master and mistress happened to be out of the house that day, so the servants had no choice but to find Hua Qian for help. Hua Qian shook her head, sighed deeply, and rushed to the teahouse to clean up her brother's mess. Hua Shen rushed to her when he saw his sister arriving, pouring out his grievances and asking her for help to seek revenge. The guards by his side couldn't help but taunt Hua Qian, claiming that she had used dirty tricks to enter the Zhong family and that she and Hua Shen were birds of a feather.

Hua Qian was infuriated, but she quickly calmed down and carefully assessed the two righteous men who had appeared out of nowhere. Just as she was pondering, a young man suddenly rushed forward and attacked the two men. However, he was no match for them and ended up injured himself. Hua Qian promptly stepped forward to defend the young man, accusing the two men of speaking rudely and falsely maligning the Zhong and Hua families. She then pointed at Hua Shen and ordered that he be taken to the prison. Eventually, the two men offered an apology, and the young lady decided not to pursue the matter any further, resolving the issue.

As Hua Qian was contemplating the backgrounds of the two righteous men she had met that day, Zhong Xiwu came down from upstairs. To her surprise, Zhong Xiwu voluntarily offered her a ride. Hua Qian initially wanted to decline, but as the words were about to leave her mouth, she accepted. During the journey, there was an awkward silence in the carriage, making Hua Qian feel uncomfortable. She couldn't understand why Zhong Xiwu, who had always valued propriety and etiquette, would act so out of character.

At night, when Zhong Yelan returned home, he immediately inquired about Hua Qian's day, scolding her for not seeking his help to resolve the trouble earlier. Hua Qian quickly explained, trying to distance herself from Zhong Yelan both in words and thoughts. Zhong Yelan couldn't help but sigh, feeling that Hua Qian had become unusually distant since their marriage. He believed it was due to his recent neglect, which prompted him to promise to treat her better. Hua Qian was so startled that she nearly spat out her drink, avoiding Zhong Yelan's reassuring hand.

Mu Yao was very candid, stating that she stayed in the Zhong family to uncover the truth. Zhong Yelan was furious, feeling that Mu Yao was taking advantage of the situation, and he planned to kick her out. Mu Yao requested three months from Zhong Yelan; if, within three months, she hadn't found the truth or if Hua Qian was truly innocent of any wrongdoing, she would leave on her own, never returning to Chongcheng and never speaking of any Zhong or Hua family matters outside. Zhong Yelan, with no other option, accompanied her.

Presently, Zhong Yelan was troubled about how to placate Hua Qian. Therefore, he chose a fine zither and had his guard, Nan Feng, deliver it to Hua Qian. However, Hua Qian only glanced at it and instructed Nan Feng to store the zither in the warehouse. Later, Zhong Yelan had a pile of gifts sent to Hua Qian, but she gradually refused to even look at them, having Nan Feng store them in the warehouse directly.

These days, Hua Qian would visit the Zhong family's garden frequently to get closer to the Grand Princess. Through her unrelenting efforts, her relationship with the Grand Princess had indeed improved significantly, but it had also caused quite a commotion in the Zhong family's garden. The maidservant Yaxiang had an infatuation with Zhong Xiwu and tried to find ways to catch his attention. However, in the Zhong family's garden, Yaxiang wasn't the only one who admired Zhong Xiwu; there were even more influential people. Among them, the eldest daughter of the Qi family, who was staying in the Zhong family's garden, was one.

One day, the Empress Dowager sent lychees from afar. The Grand Princess, knowing that the Empress Dowager was thinking of her grandson Zhong Xiwu, decided to send the lychees to him. Yaxiang, eager to seize this opportunity, volunteered to undertake the task. The Qi family's eldest daughter couldn't stand Yaxiang's behavior and couldn't help but make snide remarks. The Grand Princess's expression gradually darkened, and she finally had Hua Qian deliver the lychees to Zhong Xiwu. However, when she arrived at his study, Zhong Xiwu paid her no attention. Hua Qian didn't mind, personally placing the food box on the desk. She was about to leave but was stopped by Zhong Xiwu. He handed her an account book that documented Hua Shen's financial transactions under Hua Wenang's name at a spice shop. He coldly asked if Hua Wenang knew about this.

Hua Qian understood the implication in Zhong Xiwu's words and quickly knelt down to apologize, claiming that her younger brother, Hua Shen, had intellectual impairments, and Hua Wenang was busy with his business, which resulted in neglecting Hua Shen's upbringing. This allowed him to take advantage of the situation. Zhong Xiwu persisted in questioning Hua Qian, asking how to punish Hua Shen for his audacious behavior. Hua Qian pinched her thigh hard, causing her to sit down suddenly, and a few tears welled up in her eyes. She pleaded for Zhong Xiwu's forgiveness, describing her life within the family estate and how she couldn't dare to offer unwarranted advice.

Zhong Xiwu finally stopped pressing her and helped Hua Qian to her feet using the account book. At that moment, Zhong Yelan arrived, and the two of them went to the main hall together. When Zhong Yelan saw Hua Qian's anxious look, he asked her what had happened. Hua Qian just lightly held onto his arm, shook her head, and remained silent. Zhong Yelan seemed to understand and quickly held Hua Qian's hand, his eyes showing a touch of annoyance. On their way back home, Zhong Yelan inquired about the day's events, but Hua Qian kept her head down and appeared unwilling to speak to him. Little did she know that her mind was in turmoil, filled with countless thoughts and confusion.

In the middle of the night, strong winds battered the partially open window. Hua Qian was awakened and, in a daze, got up to close the window. However, she seemed to suddenly think of something and opened the window further. As expected, the next day she fell ill with a cold and stayed in bed. She had achieved her goal of having a legitimate reason not to visit the Zhong family's garden. Content with her decision, she closed her eyes and continued to sleep. In the Zhong family's garden, the Grand Princess had been waiting in the main hall for a long time. Upon learning of Hua Qian's illness, her heart sank, and she quickly instructed a maidservant to deliver tonics to Hua Qian.

Zhong Yelan didn't want to disturb Hua Qian, so he sent word to the Hua family. Mrs. Hua, along with Hua Shen, rushed to the Zhong residence, bringing many medicinal herbs with them. As soon as Hua Shen entered, he was captivated by Mu Yao. Seeing Mu Yao's indifferent attitude, Hua Shen's curiosity grew. However, he wasn't at the Hua residence; he was at the Zhong residence, so he happily went to his sister's room. After exchanging a few pleasantries, Hua Shen remained persistent, inquiring about the female envoy he had met earlier. Hua Qian got so angry that she scolded her brother harshly, telling him to control his greedy and lustful nature, especially not to provoke people around Zhong Yelan.

Hua Qian also asked her mother to pass a message to her father, "A small issue can lead to a big disaster if left unattended." But when she returned home, Mrs. Hua did not relay Hua Qian's words exactly as they were. Instead, she did her best to conceal what had happened at the teahouse and today's incident. She also instructed Hua Wenang to find a suitable daughter-in-law who could manage the household for Hua Shen. However, she was concerned that the mistresses in Hua Shen's courtyard might discourage high-status young women from marrying into their family.

In another half month, it would be Zhong Yelan's birthday. Hua Qian remembered that she had met Mu Yao on her own birthday. Zhong Yelan's parents had passed away, and in his childhood, he would kneel before their memorial tablets on his birthday. Once, a veiled young girl walked in and asked why he was there, wondering if he was being punished by his parents. When she learned that the little boy was kneeling to honor his parents, the girl gently patted his shoulder and consoled him with a sweet voice. They spent the whole day playing together, and Zhong Yelan finally regained his smile, emerging from the shadow of losing his parents. When they parted ways, Zhong Yelan still didn't know the girl's name or what she looked like, so he gave her a piece of jade as a gift.

Hua Qian seemed to have an idea and quickly began thinking about how to prepare for Zhong Yelan's birthday banquet. She speculated that Zhong Xiwu would accompany him, so she deliberately got Zhong Yelan's favorite food wrong and had Mu Yao play a tune on a musical instrument. Hua Qian remembered that in the past, she had played a tune first, provoking Mu Yao, who grew up on the border, and it ended with her suffering. This time, Hua Qian decided to help Mu Yao rise to fame deliberately, so she wouldn't become a stepping stone for her. As expected, Zhong Xiwu requested to take Mu Yao with him.

Hua Qian thought about the upcoming events and couldn't help but laugh. In the past, the two senior brothers would have competed for Mu Yao. But now, the story was deviating from the script as Zhong Xiwu didn't actively pursue Mu Yao. Instead, he invited Hua Qian to play a tune as well. Hua Qian vehemently refused, narrowly avoiding this situation. However, Zhong Xiwu persisted, curious about the birthday gift she had prepared for Zhong Yelan. In front of everyone's eyes, Hua Qian couldn't admit she had no gift, so she had to cook a bowl of longevity noodles herself.

Later in the night, Zhong Xiwu hadn't left yet and was having a conversation with Zhong Yelan in the courtyard. Zhong Xiwu mentioned that recently, there were people trying to gather information about the secrets of the Jia Yin Dream-Returning Elixir and the techniques used to make it. It made him uneasy. The Jia Yin Dream-Returning Elixir was always personally made by the two senior brothers and had never been seen by outsiders. It was a secret formula passed down in the Zhong family, so it was normal for people to be curious. Moreover, even the talented people from the Ge family, known for their forgery skills, couldn't replicate it.

Hua Qian sighed nearby, and Zhong Xiwu's expression changed, darkening suddenly. Then, he put on a smile again, asking Zhong Yelan to bring a map to study. Once Zhong Yelan left, Zhong Xiwu questioned Hua Qian about her true identity. Hua Qian pinched her hand and calmly explained that she was indeed Hua Qian. She gave a convincing explanation of the changes before and after her marriage, leaving no room for doubts. To make her explanation more persuasive, Hua Qian even talked quite affectionately about her relationship with Zhong Yelan.

Simultaneously, Zhong Yelan warned Mu Yao to be careful, suggesting she should hide her true intentions. If Zhong Xiwu found out her real identity, there would only be one outcome – expulsion from the city. Mu Yao was taken aback by this, not expecting that in Zhong Yelan's eyes, she was seen as someone who was attaching herself so casually. Zhong Yelan also seemed surprised and walked away without looking back.

When Zhong Yelan returned, he heard Hua Qian's confession. In the serene moonlight, his delighted expression was evident. Hua Qian turned to look at Zhong Yelan, blushing, and hurriedly went into the room, asking Qian Zhi to close the door. Early the next morning, Hua Qian quickly packed her things and returned to her parents' home. However, her sudden return caused a commotion as it was considered unfavorable for both the Zhong and Hua families. So, Hua Wenang insisted on her eating dinner and then returning immediately.

Hua Qian sat in front of the mirror, lost in thought about recent events. She couldn't understand why her parents were so concerned about her relationship with Zhong Yelan and why they were so afraid of discord between them. After this experience, she understood one thing: no matter what happened, it was better to rely on herself rather than on others. Sitting there all night, she decided to take charge of managing the household by looking into account books the next morning.

In another part of the story, Wu Shuomou, the young master of the Wu family, sneaked into Mu Yao's room with the intention of taking her away. They had met coincidentally in the past, and Wu Shuomou had sought refuge in Mu Yao's room to escape his pursuers. When he learned about the situation with the Mu family, Wu Shuomou decided to take her with him. However, before Mu Yao returned home, an arrow shot directly into his arm, causing him to lose consciousness, and he escaped through the window.

After settling Mu Yao, Zhong Yelan hurried to Hua Qian's room to check on her. The two of them hadn't seen each other for several days since the previous birthday banquet. Zhong Yelan had to express his thoughts. He first apologized for his earlier coldness and promised to treat her better in the future. After all, he had tarnished her reputation when he was drunk that time. Hua Qian wasn't sure how to explain the situation, as she was the one who had masterminded it in the first place, and it wasn't Zhong Yelan's fault. However, she couldn't reveal the truth at this moment.

Through a series of fortunate events, Hua Rongzhou ended up in the Zhong household, serving as a guard. Thanks to his handsome appearance, many young maids in the Zhong family found him quite charming. Cui Zhu, a maid in Hua Qian's courtyard, was particularly taken with him and repeatedly requested Hua Qian to bring Hua Rongzhou into their courtyard. Hua Qian had no choice but to agree.

Zhong Xiwu inquired with Magistrate Wang about the escapees from the Ge family, concerned that they might seek revenge as the Ge family's downfall was connected to the Zhong family. Magistrate Wang explained that there had been very little information regarding the Ge family recently, suggesting that they might have been too frightened to make any moves.

Hua Qian was dealing with her own problems at this time. Unexpected incidents kept piling up, and with her current physical condition, she wasn't sure she could handle the ancestral ceremony. So, she decided to exercise regularly in the courtyard, sometimes skipping rope, sometimes playing shuttlecock with the maids. She enjoyed it like a child. The wet nurse was exasperated but couldn't say much, only shouting that it was inappropriate. In the end, Hua Qian remained unapologetic. Hua Rongzhou, watching her antics from outside, enjoyed seeing her in this lively state. When he saw her scolding the wet nurse, he couldn't help but laugh quietly.

On the day of the ancestral ceremony, Hua Qian couldn't help but look forward to what would happen next. According to her past memories, Wu Shuomou would disguise himself as a member of the Ge family and lead a group of people in black to create chaos. Mu Yao would risk her life to save Zhong Yelan and would be hit by an arrow. This time, she was determined to snatch Mu Yao's favor as she owed her life to her. However, the ceremony was almost over, and she kept waiting for the arrow to strike Zhong Yelan but it didn't happen. Just when she was thinking about it, an arrow came flying from somewhere and hit a table in front of Zhong Xiwu. A group of masked men in black descended from the eaves, demanding that the Zhong family hand over the Ge family's secret recipe for fragrant herbs.

Chaos erupted at the scene, and Hua Qian quickly moved to a safe distance to observe everything. She waited for the arrow aimed at Zhong Yelan. But a person with a knife started heading towards Hua Qian. Fortunately, Hua Rongzhou arrived in time and saved her. Hua Qian intended to ask for the name of the guard so that she could thank him properly later. However, before he could finish speaking, the arrow was already heading straight for Zhong Yelan.

In a hurry, Hua Qian rushed forward, pushing Mu Yao out of the way. She thought that if she pushed Mu Yao away, the person could be saved, and there was no need to shield her with her own body. In this moment, she was unexpectedly hit by the arrow. Luckily, it didn't damage any vital organs, so her life wasn't in danger.

After lying unconscious for an unknown period of time, Hua Qian finally woke up. She felt parched and quickly called for Qian Zhi. Hearing the commotion, Zhong Yelan hurried in and urged Hua Qian to rest. However, Hua Qian felt that she couldn't postpone revealing the truth any longer. So, with her dry mouth, she managed to say a few words. She admitted that the young girl in the ancestral hall that day was not herself but Mu Yao, and the mistake was not made by Zhong Yelan but by her intention. She hoped that the blame would not fall on her family. After hearing this, Zhong Yelan felt a mixture of emotions and walked out of the room, visibly upset. Qian Zhi, seeing this, was concerned that Hua Qian would face more neglect in the future, but Hua Qian felt a sense of relief.

Ever since she returned to two years ago, Hua Qian had been smelling an unusual fragrance. However, she couldn't find anyone who knew about this scent or smelled it the way she did. Due to her weakened physical condition, the fragrance was even more unpleasant to her, leading to nightmares. In her dreams, the events of those two years played out vividly, but there was always a familiar yet unfamiliar voice calling her name. In a daze, Hua Qian saw Zhong Xiwu's face in the dream and couldn't help but express her annoyance with a comment, "Can't even have peace in my dreams." To her surprise, the Zhong Xiwu in front of her was indeed a living person, and he couldn't help but jest, realizing he was such a bother. Zhong Xiwu asked about the ancestral ceremony and why she seemed so calm. Hua Qian thought Zhong Xiwu was doubting her and, ignoring her weakness, she got up and knelt, explaining that if she had truly intended to plot something, she wouldn't have put her own life in danger. Furthermore, his arrival with the physician had confirmed that her injuries were genuine. Hearing this, Zhong Xiwu's eyes revealed a hint of confusion.

Seeing Hua Qian's hurt yet determined look, Zhong Xiwu regretted the words he had just spoken and quickly got up to assist her. However, at the moment his hand reached out, Hua Qian had already stood up with the support of Qian Zhi. A touch of disappointment crossed Zhong Xiwu's eyes, and he hastily withdrew his hand, leaving it hanging in mid-air. Then, Mu Yao arrived, asking Zhong Xiwu to join her in the front hall for a discussion.

Hua Qian couldn't understand why some people effortlessly gained others' favor and trust. Just one glance could lead to love at first sight. In contrast, some people, no matter how hard they tried, were met with hostility and suspicion, and their efforts to change others' perceptions were futile. She held her hand firmly against her injured heart and gently closed her eyes. Those slender hands rose and fell with each breath, reminding everyone that the frail woman lying on the bed was indeed alive.

The people in the courtyard were merely opportunists who deserted them upon learning that Zhong Yelan and Hua Qian were not on good terms. Hua Qian observed the chaotic courtyard while leaning lightly against the door, lost in thought. However, she had received many valuable gifts from her brother, Hua Shen, these days - gold and silver jewelry. She was puzzled as to why her brother sent these items daily but never appeared in person. It wasn't until her personal maid informed her that she realized she had completely lost her name in Zhong Yelan's heart.

Hua Shen and Mrs. Hua had visited the Zhong residence, but they were turned away by Zhong Yelan, and Hua Qian was frustrated by this. She immediately went to look for Zhong Yelan but was stopped at the door by Mu Yao. Hua Qian approached Mu Yao, held his hand, and frankly explained that she dared not go in, but she had no ill intentions towards him. Mu Yao hesitated, but from inside came Zhong Yelan's cold voice, thanking the guest. Hua Qian gently touched her heart and solemnly declared to the person inside that she would leave of her own accord.

On her way back, Hua Qian caught a glimpse of a familiar face. Upon closer inspection, she realized it was the young man who had saved her during the ancestral ceremony. This time, she finally heard his name - Hua Rongzhou. Faced with her lifesaver, Hua Qian felt a warm feeling in her heart. She gently patted Hua Rongzhou's shoulder, encouraging him to work hard in the future. Hua Rongzhou was pleasantly surprised and felt like he was on cloud nine for a moment.

Ever since Hua Qian proposed their separation, Zhong Yelan had been restless. He suddenly couldn't discern his own feelings for Hua Qian. On the other hand, Hua Qian enjoyed her days, leisurely taking baths, drinking tea, and feeling content. She often thought of Hua Rongzhou, pondering why he was so handsome and shared the same surname. When her wet nurse came in, she inquired if her father had an illegitimate child outside. The wet nurse was so startled that she almost spilled her medicinal soup, explaining that Master Hua was always an upstanding gentleman. Hua Qian found the conversation uninteresting and lay down to rest. But no matter how she tossed and turned, she couldn't fall asleep. Eventually, she got up to pack her jewelry, intending to pawn them for some money the next day. Just as she was enthusiastically searching for her items, she noticed that Zhong Yelan had entered the room.

Zhong Yelan questioned Hua Qian about whether her motive for saving him at the ancestral ceremony was just to even the score and then leave the Zhong residence. Hua Qian was momentarily at a loss for words but then covered her chest, explaining that her feelings ran deep. She had realized her past mistakes and was now trying to make amends. However, Zhong Yelan seemed to have missed the point. He mentioned that since Hua Qian claimed to have deep feelings, he had no intentions of being ungrateful and decided to continue accommodating her as a "useless person." Before Hua Qian could reject his offer, Zhong Yelan extinguished the candle and left the room. However, Zhong Yelan was quite stingy, and when he got back, he cited a lack of manpower and the need to economize, leading to a reduction in personnel, monthly expenses, and supplies in Hua Qian's courtyard. Fortunately, Hua Qian had a rich natal family who loved her.

After resting for several days, Hua Qian's health improved significantly, so she hurriedly went to pay her respects to the Grand Princess at the Zhong residence. As she was leaving, Hua Rongzhou intercepted her and took out a bracelet from his pocket. This bracelet was personally crafted by Hua Rongzhou, appearing as a regular one from the outside, but it concealed a hidden mechanism. Hua Qian played with this magical bracelet, her face showing a satisfied smile.

As soon as she entered the Zhong residence, Hua Qian came face to face with Zhong Xiwu. Zhong Xiwu had intended to apologize to Hua Qian, promising not to make hasty judgments about her in the future. However, for some reason, the words that came out changed their tone, infuriating Hua Qian. The Grand Princess greeted Hua Qian warmly, holding her hand and sharing many personal words. As the evening drew near, Hua Qian got up to take her leave. Seeing Hua Qian leaving, Zhong Xiwu also hastily excused himself and followed her.

Hua Qian was unwilling to engage with him and walked quickly. Zhong Xiwu had no choice but to step in front of Hua Qian. Hua Qian was so angry she almost exploded, fiercely pushing away Zhong Xiwu's hand, accusing him of overstepping. Zhong Xiwu realized that he had indeed lost his temper and quickly ordered his servants to stand aside. He wanted to apologize for his earlier thoughtless words, but Hua Qian was unwilling to listen to his explanations. She was even afraid to be around him and knelt down, begging him to maintain his dignity. Seeing Hua Qian like this, Zhong Xiwu's eyes filled with disappointment, and he left dejectedly.

Learning that Hua Qian had voluntarily asked for separation, naturally, her parents wanted to bring her home and find out the truth. Hua Qian knew that this day would come sooner or later and calmly returned home. Hearing the confirmation from Hua Qian's own mouth, Hua Wenang felt a bit annoyed and scolded her for her unreasonable behavior. Hua Qian's mother intervened, speaking softly and trying to persuade Hua Qian to reconsider. Only Hua Shen stood up in support of Hua Qian's decision.

At this point, Hua Qian no longer concealed her thoughts and directly stated her intentions. She explained that she had never completely understood her father's thoughts but could only guess that he wanted to keep his position as the Head of the Hua family. In his eyes, she was only valuable as the wife of the Zhong family. Hearing this, Hua Wenang couldn't help but laugh. After all, it was Hua Qian herself who had desperately wanted to marry into the Zhong family. Hua Qian openly admitted that it was her own desire to marry into the Zhong residence, and she had even pretended to be Zhong Yelan's love interest and plotted against him with the drugging incident. However, her father always turned a blind eye to her mistakes and never considered right from wrong. Thinking about this, Hua Qian couldn't help but smirk. Perhaps her father had never really cared about her and only cared about securing his position as the head of the family.

Hua Wenang was infuriated and blamed Hua Qian for not understanding him. If it weren't for her single-minded pursuit of becoming the Head of the Hua family, Hua Qian wouldn't be where she was today. Hua Qian also stood up, speaking frankly about her desire for a peaceful family. If her father was truly concerned about the Hua family, then she would resign. Their family could open a small perfume shop and lead a peaceful, worry-free life. Hua Wenang would not accept Hua Qian's words. In his view, only power could protect the Hua family.

Realizing she couldn't persuade her father, Hua Qian laid down the ultimatum and warned that if her father remained obstinate, disaster would soon befall the Hua family. Hua Wenang was so angry he slapped Hua Qian across the face, angrily driving her out of the house. Hua Shen went after her, urging Hua Qian to apologize to her father. Hua Qian spoke to Hua Shen, pleading for her freedom as an ordinary person. However, for Hua Shen, he had grown accustomed to the life of luxury and extravagance and was used to Hua Wenang's protection. How could he willingly become an ordinary person? Hua Qian suddenly realized something and withdrew her hand. She looked at the Hua family's door and let out a bitter laugh.

Three days later, the Fragrance Appreciation Banquet was scheduled, and supervisors from various regions, long-time medicinal herb suppliers like the Wu family, and others were to arrive at the Zhong residence. It was during this event that Hua Qian finally saw Wu Shuomo again.

The annual Fragrance Appreciation Banquet was exceptionally lively, with everyone agreeing it was the most luxurious in recent years. However, no one knew that beneath the hazy atmosphere of this grand event, there were hidden undercurrents. Wu Shuomo discovered that the incense used at the banquet was indeed Zenjoy Fragrance, and he planned to take Mu Yao and leave during the event. Hua Qian watched the two of them with knowing looks, and her gaze made Wu Shuomo feel uneasy and lower his head.

After having their fill of food and drinks, it was time for the traditional incense guessing game. The person who could correctly guess the ingredients of the incense would win the grand prize of the banquet. A female servant presented a box of spices, containing a fragrance called "Barlasa Wood Incense," personally crafted by Zhong Xiwu. This incense was known to help prevent plagues, refresh the mind, and treat external injuries and swelling. Wu Shuomo took the opportunity to ask whether, since it was the main event, they should use the ancestral "Jiayin Dream-Returning Elixir" to give the guests from afar a unique experience. Hearing this suggestion, the crowd began whispering to one another.

Zhong Xiwu explained that the "Jiayin Dream-Returning Elixir" contained a rare ingredient, blood amber, which was extremely hard to find. Besides, this elixir was originally meant for treating the condition of soul separation and should be reserved for those who needed it, rather than given as the main prize at a banquet. Since Zhong Xiwu had already spoken, Wu Shuomo had no choice but to back down. With the intervention of a few elders, the banquet resumed. People found the scent quite familiar and couldn't help but comment that the Zhong family had chosen an unusually common fragrance this year. In response to their remarks, Zhong Xiwu did not answer, only smiling.

Hua Qian found it boring and used the excuse of needing to use the restroom to step out for some fresh air. However, Wu Shuomo followed her. Hua Qian had no intention of interacting with him, but he initiated a proposal for cooperation. Hua Qian couldn't help but sigh, thinking that before she had shamelessly begged for cooperation, but now it was Wu Shuomo who was being insistent. After exchanging a few words casually, Hua Qian made her exit, citing not feeling well. However, Wu Shuomo still refused to give up and tried to catch up with her.

Just then, Zhong Xiwu appeared out of nowhere. Wu Shuomo left without further ado. Faced with Zhong Xiwu, Hua Qian didn't want to say much. She only hinted to Zhong Xiwu that he could pursue Mu Yao boldly without worries. Zhong Xiwu was perplexed and hadn't reacted when Hua Qian had already walked away. Just after dealing with Zhong Xiwu, Hua Qian encountered Hua Man. Believing that Hua Qian had fallen out of favor, Hua Man no longer cared about her status and taunted Hua Qian for being ignored.

Hua Qian asked Hua Man if she dared to insult her like this because Hua Qian had a strained relationship with Zhong Yelan. Seeing Hua Man's despicable behavior, Hua Qian couldn't help but roll her eyes. At that moment, she noticed a figure behind the rockery, so she decided to provoke Hua Man intentionally. Hua Man couldn't argue with Hua Qian and could only leave in anger. Hua Qian continued to harass her, even extending her foot to trip Hua Man and keep provoking her.

Hua Man retorted casually, claiming that she would become the Zhong family's mistress in the future, and the entire Hua family would kneel down to beg her. Just as she finished speaking, Zhong Xiwu emerged from behind the rockery and scolded Hua Man sternly. Hua Qian pretended to be wronged and sarcastically mocked Hua Man while Zhong Xiwu was present. Hua Man couldn't stand it any longer and picked up a teapot, throwing it. In her panic, Zhong Xiwu turned and shielded Hua Qian with his body, inadvertently scalding himself with the boiling water. Hua Qian was terrified and stood still, not noticing when Zhong Xiwu quietly took Hua Man away.

Subsequently, Zhong Xiwu led Hua Qian to a nearby room. He seemed to have deliberately sent away the guards to allow Hua Qian to prepare a medicine for him. Even before Hua Qian could refuse, he had already removed his outer clothing, revealing his strong and youthful physique. At this point, Hua Qian couldn't care less about decorum and had no choice but to prepare the medicine for him.

Zhong Xiwu took the opportunity to ask Hua Qian what she meant when she was speaking behind the rockery. Hua Qian explained that she knew he admired Mu Yao and was aware that Wu Shuomo had improper intentions towards Mu Yao, so she wanted to warn him. Hearing this, Zhong Xiwu didn't know what to think and suddenly burst into laughter, getting up and slowly approaching Hua Qian. Hua Qian wanted to escape but was blocked by him at the door, making her crash into the door frame. As they returned to the main hall, many pairs of eyes were quietly fixed on them.

Not long after, the incense-guessing game concluded, and Wu Shuomo emerged as the winner. He stood up and stated that he wanted no prizes, only Mu Yao, who was the female servant next to Zhong Yelan. Unexpectedly, Zhong Yelan publicly declared that Mu Yao was already his woman. Hua Qian, who was watching the familiar yet melodramatic scene unfold, did not anticipate that Wu Shuomo's anger would suddenly be directed at her. Hua Wenang was furious but managed to restrain his inner anger, uttering only one word, asking Zhong Yelan what he meant. Zhong Yelan seemed to forget his son-in-law status and, speaking in the manner of a Zhong family member, claimed that it was entirely acceptable for a man to have multiple wives and mistresses. This incident caused a big commotion, with people gossiping, and as the person involved, Hua Qian had no choice but to shed a few tears, pretending to be wronged. On their way back, Mu Yao told Zhong Yelan that she was willing to do anything to repay him, except for offering herself. Zhong Yelan turned to her and asked what would happen if he didn't have a legitimate wife.

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