The news that Zhao Ji Dong was hacked to death, and the Gong Prince was slashed was quickly sent back to the capital. In order to make up for his inability, the Southwest Governor sent troops to chase down and annihilate the bandits, holding fast to the principle of ‘better to mistakenly kill 1000 innocents than let one criminal get away’, he also intended to wipe out all the villagers who lived near the bandit den. But just as the task began, a group of black-dressed men showed up and defeated the soldiers, making them flee in disgrace. The Southwest people suffered years of famine, but still had to pay high taxes, fattening the dog Southwest officials, but all they got in exchange was a ruthless massacre. Even a clay doll was still made from earth, not to mention, the Southwest citizens were very sturdy.
It’s unknown who incited it, but the people picked up their hoes and machetes, planning to overthrow Da Qi. From a few hundred people at first, it slowly grew into tens of thousands of people, they attacked cities every night, killing the local officials and local crime bosses, taking over the farmlands. The Southwest Governor wanted to extinguish the fire, but he unexpectedly poured gasoline over it, nonetheless, whatever the circumstances, he’d still be made to take responsibility. After dispatching an envoy to send word to the capital, he sliced his own throat that very night. After he died, the chaotic Southwest officialdom was even more disorganized, some officials followed the governor and suicided, some officials packed up their valuables and fled throughout the night, and other officials locked their doors and wrote resignation letters, not one person dared to stand up and contain the mass uprising.
By the time Zhou Yun Sheng received the reports, the Southwest people had already started a mutiny throughout the state, in a short time, they assembled hundreds of thousands of troops, and were stationing themselves on the Southwest’s border. Zhou Yun Sheng exploded into anger, almost smashing the imperial table, then he organized troops to go suppress the chaos, and announced that he would go to the Southwest to deal with the matter.
The noblemen didn’t stand a chance over there, let alone the Emperor of the country. If the Emperor met with any mishap, Da Qi would plunge into complete chaos. The courtiers knelt and beseeched, but they couldn’t stop the Emperor’s rage. Zhou Yun Sheng picked out Zhao Xuan, Luo Zhen and several other ministers to accompany him, ordered a few senior courtiers to stay behind and supervise the capital, then dismissed the imperial court.
The Empress Dowager quickly invited him to Ci Ning Palace, and entreated him with swollen red eyes, “Your Majesty, although I’m not your natural mother, search your heart, from since you were small, have I ever treated you unfairly? When the former Emperor died, I used all my strength to help you ascend the throne, if you have to remember anything, shouldn’t this kindness always be remembered? My Jin Yu is now suffering in the Southwest, you have to bring him back at all costs. I’m begging you!”
In just over a year, the Emperor completely wiped out all the power she’d accumulated over decades, even if she suspected that her son’s difficulties were the Emperor’s doing, she didn’t dare accuse him. If he took offense, she might never even get to see her son’s corpse.
“Be at ease Mother Empress, I will certainly bring him back safely.” Zhou Yun Sheng promised, inwardly sighing for Qi Jin Yu’s stubborn hold on life, even Zhao Xuan’s shadow guards couldn’t easily kill him, he truly proved himself to be the fate of the world’s son.
Zhao Bi Xuan received news of her brother’s death and the Gong Prince’s serious injury and immediately fainted. Her head maid risked her life to slip out of Ci Ning Palace’s temple and stopped the Emperor outside of Yang Xin palace, begging him to visit the Imperial Consort.
“It’s already done, but for the sake of Zhao Ji Dong’s self-sacrifice for the country, the Imperial Consort’s house arrest will be dissolved. Go, take your Imperial Consort back to Feng Yi Palace.” Zhou Yun Sheng nonchalantly flicked his sleeves. He didn’t express even the slightest pity, let alone show any intention to go comfort the Imperial Consort in Feng Yi Palace.
The head maid watched his reaction, her hope of saving her master instantly disappearing. If it was the past, forget about the Imperial Consort fainting from grief, even if her eyes were just slightly red, the Emperor would fly into a worried panic. But now, he lightly talked about Zhao Ji Dong’s death like he was just another small courtier, rather than her master’s younger brother. While the head maid was still dazed, the Emperor returned to the inner hall, and a few sword toting, burly imperial guards halted at the doorway, watching her with chilling eyes.
This made her even more aware of the great difference of the present and from the past. In the past, when the Yang Xin Palace servants saw people from Feng Yi Palace, everyone was eager to welcome and fawn over them, because they all knew that sucking up to the Imperial Consort was even more effective than sucking up to the Emperor. Recalling this, the head maid felt a chill, aware that her master was standing on the edge of a bottomless abyss. Her power and glory in the palace had actually surpassed imperial power, as a palace imperial concubine, what did she rely on?
Naturally, she relied on the Emperor’s favor. However, once that love disappeared, her previous words and deeds would become a death sentence for her and everyone around her.
The head maid paled and ran back to Ci Ning Palace to bring Zhao Bi Xuan out. Because her son’s safety was in the Emperor’s hands, after she heard that letting out the Imperial Consort was the Emperor’s will, the Empress Dowager didn’t dare obstruct.
“Lady, drink some hot soup to warm your body.” Carrying over a bowl of hot soup, the head maid was just about to mollify her crying master when someone outside announced that Marquess Wen Yuan’s second wife was seeking an audience. Fang-shi’s purpose for coming was naturally her son. She thought that if her son went to the Southwest, he would come back with a higher rank, how could she predict that he’d go directly to the Yellow Springs? After all that struggling, he didn’t even get a chance to enjoy life as Marquess Wen Yuan. Fang-shi’s heart broke, after weeping at home, she urgently came to the palace to ask her daughter for help.
“Lady, you have to tell the Emperor, make him kill the bandits that dismembered poor Ji Dong, so Ji Dong’s spirit can have peace. Ji Dong’s death is an injustice ah! If the Gong Prince hadn’t dragged him to the Southwest, how could he meet such a disaster? I told him before, stay in the safe and peaceful Imperial Academy, don’t get involved with the Gong Prince. Everyone can see that the Emperor dislikes the Gong Prince and is intentionally suppressing him, if he stuck with the prince, his career would definitely suffer. But I never imagined he’ll be killed before his career even begun. He was foolish, but I’m even more foolish, if only I’d persuaded him a little more… oh, my poor child, this is my fault … …” Fang-shi sobbed, her facial features blurred under a wet and sticky mess, she resembled a mad woman.
Zhao Bi Xuan also felt uncomfortable. Her mother’s words were like a knife stabbing into her heart. Why did her younger brother stick with Qi Jin Yu? No one was more aware of the reason than her, but even so, the blame shouldn’t be put on Qi Jin Yu’s head, it was only the Will of Heaven toying with people. Zhao Bi Xuan pushed down her sorrow and comforted her mother, seeing it ineffective, she habitually ordered, “Someone, go to Yang Xin Palace and call the Emperor over.”
Not only did the chamberlains not move, even the loyal palace maid didn’t respond. Her expression was not conspicuous, but her heart was trembling in fear at the Imperial Consort’s phrasing. ‘Call the Emperor’, just three words, but they revealed such disrespect and contempt, as if the Emperor was her dog, once she called, he’d immediately wag his tail and run over. But he was not a dog, he was the Blue Dragon roaming the Ninth Heaven, he could wipe out an entire clan with a puff of his breathe, not to mention one small imperial consort.
“Master, the Emperor is now busy dealing with governmental affairs, please wait for dinner time to invite him over.”
“No, go now! I want to see the Emperor now!” Zhao Bi Xuan felt heartache for her brother, but she was even more worried about Qi Jin Yu’s safety. The dead had already departed, but the living still had to go on, she was more concerned about getting Qi Jin Yu back safely. The Emperor must certainly have a plan for that place, she must find out.
The head maid was helpless, and had no choice but to follow the order, a moment later, she returned, her expression hesitant.
“Lady, the Emperor has ordered you to send the Second Prince to him.”
“Why does he want me to send Cheng-er? He can just come see Cheng-er in Feng Yi Palace.” Zhao Bi Xuan reflexively looked at the Second Prince’s side chamber. She never liked having the Emperor get too close to the Second Prince, in her heart, the Second Prince’s father was Qi Jin Yu. If he was too close to the Emperor, after Qi Jin Yu’s future ascent to the throne, her son might turn against him. She didn’t want her son to side with the enemy.
“His Majesty didn’t say, he only said for you to quickly send the Second Prince.”
“Perhaps the Emperor is very fond of the Second Prince, and would like to educate him at his side for a while. Lady, why don’t you send him?” Fang-shi wiped her tears and said in a hoarse voice. If she didn’t have her Imperial Consort daughter to rely on, she would’ve already fallen apart.
What ‘Lady, why don’t you send him?’ Even the people of Wen Yuan March have lost their minds! The Emperor himself ordered it, how could her Master have room to reject? It was as if her Master could dismiss any order she didn’t want to deal with, truly, all the previous pampering has made them lose their minds, such groundless frivolousness. The head maid’s heart was anxious and livid, but she dared not make things clear in front of Fang-shi, since Fang-shi was helping persuade her Master.
Zhao Bi Xuan wanted to personally send her son, and take the opportunity to discreetly inquire about her sweetheart’s condition from the Emperor, but before she could even walk out of the palace door, the chamberlain sent by the Emperor stopped her.
“Lady, it’s enough for the Second Prince to go over, there’s no need to inconvenience you to personally deliver him.” Although the words were polite, the hidden meaning was obvious: the Emperor simply doesn’t want to see you right now.
Zhao Bi Xuan reluctantly handed her son to the head maid and stood at the door, watching the two gradually disappear. Fang Shi could successfully suppress Li-shi and occupy all of Marquess Wen Yuan’s love, she was naturally very keen on the way men’s minds work. Because she was grieving a moment ago, her mind was somewhat muddled, but now that she’d calmed down, she could naturally notice the inconsistencies.
“Lady, our family suffered such a major loss, but the Emperor never came to see you?” Seeing her daughter stiffly shaking her head, she pushed down her frantic heartbeat and asked, “There were no words of comfort? He didn’t send you anything? He didn’t offer to handle Ji Dong’s funeral?” Because Zhao Ji Dong died outside the capital’s border, in the whole of Zhao Jia, only Zhao Xuan had the ability to run into the bandit ravaged and waring Southwest to receive Zhao Ji Dong’s body. However, when Fang-shi and family stole the title away, the main-family cut all ties with them, how could they dare go to them for help now? Fang-shi had all her hopes set on her Emperor son-in-law, so she rushed to the palace for an audience.
According to the Emperor’s previous doting, without her daughter asking him to, the Emperor should’ve immediately sent a reassuring imperial edict to the Wen Yuan March, but there was no such thing, and even worse, he was not even willing to see her daughter’s face. Has she fallen out of favor? Her daughter’s status directly affected Wen Yuan March’s future, and it also affected her own status. The more Fang-shi thought about it, the more dread she felt, she forcefully grabbed Zhao Bi Xuan’s wrist and asked in a low voice, “Lady, tell me the truth, have you done something to make the Emperor reject you? If not, he wouldn’t know how heartbroken you are right now and still refuse to see you. At present, it seems as if His Majesty doesn’t even care about you.”
Zhao Bi Xuan’s heart trembled in alarm at her questioning, after careful thought, she realized that the Emperor really hadn’t taken the initiative to come see her for a long time. She shook her head to deny it, but pressed down on her chest, afraid her mother would hear her frantic heartbeat. She didn’t want to lose the Emperor’s favor, at least not before her sweetheart took the throne. She was all too clear how imperial concubines who’ve lost the Emperor’s favor lived- they lived life jealous of the dead.
The head maid carried the Second Prince to Yang Xin Palace, she thought that the Emperor would look over the Second Prince, she never imagined that he’d just command without even lifting his head, “Come, take the Second Prince away.”
Qi Li Cheng was Qi Jin Yu’s child, how could Zhou Yun Sheng be at ease leaving him in the palace? The news that Qi Jin Yu was crippled had not yet reached the Empress Dowager, but she’ll find out sooner or later, and when she did, she’ll inevitably think to abandon the chariot to protect the commander. Staking it all on one gamble, she’d start a coup d’état while he was away from the capital, pushing the Second Prince onto the throne. Although he had thousands of ways to restrain her, in order to avoid any unnecessary losses, he preferred nipping the problem in the bud.
The head maid handed the Second Prince over to a black-dressed man who suddenly appeared out of thin air, watching as he gripped the Second Prince’s collar in one hand and quickly disappeared. His disrespectful handling made it seem like he was not holding the Emperor’s favorite prince, but a kitten or puppy. She looked up at the Emperor’s expression, but he didn’t reveal even the slightest dismay. She wanted to ask him why the Second Prince was taken away, but she held back at the last minute. Thinking of when the Imperial Consort was favored, she was also quite favored by the Emperor, and could even speak her mind in front of him, now, she was likely to be flogged to death if she opened her mouth.
What was the phrase? Times have changed? This was the truest definition. The head maid suppressed her dread, and went back to Feng Yi Palace to find that Fang-shi had already left, then she truthfully relayed the news of the Second Prince being sent away. Zhao Bi Xuan thought that the Emperor took her son away to train him, how could he have sent him to some unknown place? Frantic, she ran out to question him, but the Feng Yi Palace guards pointed their swords at her, ordering her back.
How was her house arrest dissolved? The location was just changed! Her Phoenix Seal was gone, her son was gone, her freedom was gone, and even though her brother suffered such a cruel death, the Emperor didn’t show her the slightest concern. The Feng Yi Palace servants all came to a terrible realization – the Imperial Consort has fallen out of favor!
Zhao Bi Xuan sat on the couch, paralyzed, her arms wrapped around her shoulders, trying to drive away the bone marrow deep chill. Except for the gorgeous place she now sat in, what was the difference between her current situation and her past in the Cold Palace?
As Zhao Bi Xuan sank deeper into a whirlpool of fear, she finally came to understand her situation, and was planning to carefully wait upon the Emperor to regain his favor, but Zhou Yun Sheng was already on his way to the Southwest. Zhao Xuan originally thought that the Emperor was afraid of his power and would detain him in the capital, so he hadn’t expected to be entrusted with extremely important jobs multiple times- it looked like the Emperor had quite a bit of trust in him.
“General, do you think the Emperor guessed that we attacked the Gong Prince, and is planning to have shadow guards disguise as bandits and kill you here? Let this subordinate take care of this, you can take this opportunity to leave and secretly push the Southwest citizens further into chaos. Will have our men mix into the peasant army and strike down the Emperor, then raise up the rebel banner and make our way back to the capital. When you take the throne…”
Before the Deputy General could finish his words, Zhao Xian slapped him across the face and reprimanded, “Never say such things again.”
The Deputy General had repeatedly tried to feel him out, finally certain that the General wasn’t planning a rebellion, he didn’t dare say more. Whether the General wanted to be a courtier, or wanted to be the Emperor, they’d already pledged their lives to follow him.
Zhao Xuan dismissed the Deputy General and walked out of the tent, gazing into the distance. They had quickly entered the Southwest’s border, receiving constant reports of the peasant army besieging and taking over towns along the way. Seeing that man’s brow creasing deeper in worry day after day, his clothes more and more loose on his frame, he hated that he couldn’t kidnap him away and force him to drink a few bowls of soup. But because that man was always surrounded by hundreds of guards, Zhao Xuan didn’t dare act rashly, so he could only restrain his anxiety and impatient longing. Sometimes he’d wake up from a dream, his ears echoing with that man’s soft moaning.
Only with this slight aftertaste, Zhao Xuan’s swollen member was already unbearable.
“My apologies Master Duke Yu Gou, the Emperor has invited Master Duke Yu Gou to his imperial tent for a meeting.” Lin Ann rode over through the dim light of encroaching night to pass a message.
Zhao Xuan inwardly smiled with satisfaction, but his expression didn’t reveal anything, as soon as Lin Ann made his report, he strode over to the imperial tent and half kneeled in salute. He glanced up slightly and caught sight of the Emperor’s jade white feet hanging off the couch. Because of the candles, it was bathed in a layer of soft orange light, truly beautiful. Zhao Xuan’s heart suddenly trembled in restlessness. Damn it, if there was no Southwest rebellion, he should now be back in the palace, thoroughly worshipping this person’s slender feet. Why should he be constantly rushing about, with no chance to touch him even though he was so close?
“Stand up.” Zhou Yun Sheng quite liked having Zhao Xuan kneel in front of him, but seeing his eyes always glancing over to his bare feet, he immediately knew what kind of thoughts were running through his mind. He was itching to step on the other man’s face, but even if he stepped on him, knowing this animal, he wouldn’t feel humiliated, he would just take the opportunity to lick him. Truly, a leopard can’t change its spots.
Thinking of this, Zhou Yun Sheng supported his forehead on his palm and sighed.
Zhao Xuan thought he was worried about the Southwest rebellion, so he cupped his hands and said, “Your Majesty, this small official is willing to settle this rebellion for you.” He had several troops ready to move into the Southwest, stationed at the shared Northwest border, they could be dispatched in half a day.
“I don’t intend to use an army to stop this rebellion, I have my own way.” Zhou Yun Sheng unhurriedly polished a smooth copper mirror and placed it into a 10cm in diameter tube-shared apparatus. Was the Southwest not in drought? Were the people’s thirst for rain not as strong as their thirst for life? Then he would give them heavy rain.
Zhao Xuan nodded in acknowledgement, but didn’t question.
“I called you over to help me shave these logs into the shapes on the blueprint.” Zhou Yun Sheng tossed over a knife, and pointed his chin to the logs and papers arranged on the table.
Zhao Xuan liked his casual attitude, he picked up the foot stool and sat down, then started earnestly shaving the wood. Seeing some wood shavings fall on top of the Emperor’s feet, he apologized and gently brushed it away, his fingertips seemingly unintentionally caressing the Emperor’s cute, round toes. Zhou Yun Sheng glanced at him, seeing him sitting upright and still, his expression solemn, as if he hadn’t done anything suspicious, Zhou Yun Sheng couldn’t help but curse him in his heart.
After this grope, there was always some wood shavings falling onto the Emperor’s foot, and as soon as a thick layer accumulated, Zhao Xuan would pretend to be terrified and brush the Emperor’s jade carved, exquisite feet clean, his eyes occasionally glinting, he seemed to be very thirsty. This shave-brush happened three times before Zhou Yun Sheng finally lost his patience and stomped on the other man’s face, threatening, “Go cut over there before I cut you!” Before his words faded, he felt a warm moistness on the sole of his foot. He quickly pulled his foot back, and didn’t know whether to laugh or rage.
This animal really has no bottom line!
“Beg the Emperor to forgive this small official’s recklessness, this small official will take a seat over there.” Zhao Xuan bowed his head and obeyed the order, sitting far away from the Emperor’s couch. He turned his tongue around in his mouth, pondering on the aftertaste.
Zhou Yun Sheng had called Zhao Xuan over to shave wood, but his real intention was to torment him, however, he didn’t expect the other man to be perfectly happy with his task, his cutting speed growing slower and slower, even taking advantage of the times Zhou Yung Sheng needed to bend over to assemble the parts to grope him with his scorching hot gaze. Over time, Zhou Yun Sheng’s fire was also ignited, and he felt anxious to drag the other man onto the couch.
“The time is late, you can go back.” Zhou Yun Sheng still didn’t want to let him off so lightly, he flicked his sleeve and kicked him out.
Zhao Xuan respectfully saluted goodbye and went back to his tent, immediately removing his internal force, he released thinking of that man’s noble face and voice.
The Southwest was in chaos and the peasant rebel army was roving everywhere, but in the end, the state’s elite troops were still of use, and had managed to block off the rebel army outside the city gates. Zhou Yun Sheng ordered Zhao Xuan to clear the path, breaking up the chaos wherever he passed, however, he didn’t hunt them down, and he didn’t indiscriminately kill the innocent. At long last, travel worn, they arrived at the Southwest Governor’s residence, and went to see the seriously injured and bedridden Qi Jin Yu.
Half a month had already passed, so Qi Jin Yu’s stab wounds had closed, and as long as they paid attention to infection, his life was out of danger.
Zhou Yun Sheng had numerous officials at his side, in order to keep up his reputation, he still needed to be the ‘caring older brother’. Grumbling in his heart, he opened the door and glanced at the bed, but when he saw Qi Jin Yu’s face, he couldn’t help but gawk.
A scarlet red wound started from Qi Jin Yu’s left eye corner and traveled down to his lower jaw, his high, straight nose bridge and fine lips were sliced in half, and because the person who sowed him up lacked skill, the wound was not neat, making half his face look normal, and the other half look crooked, resembling a hideous apparition. This was the handsome, confident, and graceful Gong Prince? Even with this title, Zhou Yun Sheng feared he would frighten all the children in the city to tears if he went out for a stroll, and who knew how Zhao Bi Xuan would react…..
Grinning gleefully in his heart, Zhou Yun Sheng gripped Qi Jin Yu’s hand, his eyes gradually reddening, he choked out, “My Imperial Brother, oh how you’ve suffered.”
After the event, Qi Jin Yu spent his days recalling the incident, and was more and more convinced that those bandits were not local rebels. How could rebels seriously wound Zhenbei General’s shadow guards? They were clearly well-trained private soldiers. In this world, the one who most wanted to take his life, if it wasn’t Qi Yi Ning, he couldn’t think of the second.
Seeing Qi Yi Ning’s crocodile tears and fake compassion, he wanted to vomit blood, but his face didn’t reflect it in the slightest, using all his will power to cooperate with the other man’s acting. His face was destroyed, and he was crippled, so his hope of seizing the throne was over. Currently, he could only take it lying down, because if he could preserve his life, he could still plan for the road ahead. He still had his son, and his son was being raised in the palace, and would soon be canonized as Crown Prince, if he relied on this, he still had something to look forward to. Qi Yi Ning was now proud, thinking he’s untouchable, Qi Jin Yu couldn’t wait for the day he found out that his son wasn’t his own, and his woman has slept with his younger brother countless amounts of times. Maybe he would burst into tears.
Because of this morbid planning for his revenge on Qi Yi Ning, Qi Jin Yu found that he still had many important chess pieces in hands, and that allowed him to gradually break away from his suffering.
Zhou Yun Sheng never imagined that Zhao Xuan would treat Qi Jin Yu so tragically, better than killing him directly, this added a little fun to mix. His dragon heart greatly satisfied, seeing Zhao Xuan following behind him with Luo Zhen, Zhou Yun Sheng hooked a finger to call him over.
Zhao Xuan bowed in salute, waiting for the Emperor to give him orders, but unexpectedly, the other man just reached out and patted his cheek in what seemed to be a caress, then turned away without saying anything.
“What does the Emperor mean?” Luo Zhen asked, shocked.
“I don’t know.” Zhao Xuan covered his ‘patted by the sweetheart’ cheek, it felt like it was on fire. He never knew that he was so susceptible to pure emotions, but just now, he clearly felt gentle love from the Emperor’s actions. Not wanting to admit that it was his own misconception, he hurried back, ecstatic.
His subordinates glanced at him with strange eyes, bewildered, they wondered: Is the General blushing? Are our eyes going bad?