When Zhou Yun Sheng was summoned to the East Palace, the Crown Prince was standing in front of a huge mirror, surveying his body with a gloomy, unpredictable gaze.
He had removed his robes and undergarments, and was only wearing thin underpants. His back and chest muscles were very robust, lines graceful and smooth. Two mermaid lines lead to his crotch and were concealed, setting off his neatly arranged, compact abdominal muscles, and his bronze skin shined under the sunlight. This was an explosive and seductive body, just a glance could deeply fascinate people.
The two palace maids who were holding his heir gowns had already been blushing shyly for a long time, but they couldn’t help but secretly cast over hot glances.
Zhou Yun Sheng stared blankly, then immediately bowed to salute, not daring to look. He liked strong handsome men, and the Crown Prince happened to be his favorite kind of man.
“Here you are,” The Crown Prince dismissed the attendants, and slowly asked while gently stroking his abdominal muscles, “Look at this physique, could it be considered perfect?”
Zhou Yun Sheng quickly glanced at him, then nodded.
The Crown Prince laughed coldly, “What a pity, the outside is perfect, but the inside is already corroded until nothing is left.”
Speaking here, the ruthlessness, hatred, despair, madness and other negative emotions hidden in the Crown Prince’s eyes were released, cascading, squeezing the air, making it tough to breathe.
Zhou Yun Sheng closed his eyes and warmly said, “If Your Highness could quit HanShi San and properly recuperate for a few years, your body still has the possibility of recovery.”
“Only a possibility?” The Crown Prince draped on his robe and slowly walked over. The full ten-centimeter height difference and innate strong oppression made Zhou Yun Sheng feel slightly out of sorts.
“If you don’t quit, it is equivalent to using poison to quench the thirst. After five years, Your Highness will certainly die.” Zhou Yun Sheng had no choice but to retreat two steps, leaving the scope of his hormonal radiation.
The Crown Prince was silent for a long time, then he finally waved his hand and said, “So be it, I will quit.”
Zhou Yun Sheng bowed and cupped his hands, earnestly requesting, “Then, please Your Highness, bestow a directive document, stating that during this period of rehabilitation, regardless of how this small official’s actions towards you may seem disrespectful, you will not punish this small official for this crime.”
The Crown Prince didn’t answer, only looking at him with deep and unpredictable eyes.
Zhou Yun Sheng continued, “If Your Highness has an accident, this small official will accompany Your Highness to the Yellow Springs.” After saying this, he raised his head, looking over with clear as water eyes.
The Crown Prince seemed to be touched by him, his frosty expression warmed slightly, after a while, he nodded, “Bring the ink-stone and paper.”
In the blink of an eye, half a year passed, this day, Zhou Yun Sheng untied the silk rope binding the Crown Prince’s limbs, and let out a murky breath.
“How does Your Highness feel?” He delicately smeared ointment on the man’s red and chafed wrists.
The Crown Prince put his hand on his knee, staring at his gentle movements, declining to comment. How did it feel? From strong, he once again became weak, it naturally felt very uncomfortable, not to mention the bone crushing, heart gouging pain he’d experienced for half a year. But compared to his heavy body, his mind was unprecedentedly sober. He’d reviewed all kinds of things from his past, and it was like waking up from a deep dream, falling back to earth.
“How many years can I live?” He knew that even if he quit the drug, he’d probably lost several years of his life-span.
“This small official doesn’t know, but it should be fine as long as you are well maintained.”
“Well maintained? In my position, how can my heart settle down for maintenance?” The Crown Prince chuckled, eyes full of ridicule.
Zhou Yun Sheng had no words, he bowed his head and retreated. The Sober Crown Prince was far more difficult to get along with than the Mad Crown Prince. In the past, although he was temperamental, his mood could be seen at a glance. Now, he was as deep as a dry well, no matter how his emotions fluctuated, he didn’t reveal the slightest clue.
Just like a peerless sword polished to completion, converging the edge but killing invisibly. In these six months, he’d secluded himself in the East Palace on the basis of illness, not only using the trick of injuring oneself to gain the enemy’s confidence in order to recapture Tian Chen Emperor’s favor, he also arranged for the second, third, and fourth princes to make successive mistakes, and frequently make impulsive decisions. Their prestige in the court was greatly reduced, and the rest of the princes were affected, also obediently playing their part.
He seemed to have returned to the past wise and brilliant heir, but only Zhou Yun Sheng knew that his heart had transformed. All his kindness had dissipated like dust in the wind, and only resentment remained.
The Crown Prince saw that he was distancing himself from him more and more, and his expression was somewhat gloomy. He didn’t order him to get up, slowly saying, “You and your father chose to serve me wholeheartedly, but you didn’t expect that I was already a half dead man. I fear I cannot guarantee Shen Jia a hundred years of glory.”
“Your Highness is DaZhou’s rightful heir, to serve Your Highness wholeheartedly is expected.” Zhou Yun Sheng lowered his head and cupped his hands. At this time, even he couldn’t guess the Crown Prince’s thoughts, he had no choice but to follow the principle of ‘less talk, less mistakes’, so as not to be killed by the Crown Prince before his task was completed. Although his soul was immortal, this shell Shen Yi Bin was mortal.
The Crown Prince also didn’t know what he wanted the other man to say. Did he want him to show loyalty? Or swear by heaven that his assistance was not out of selfishness, but completely from the heart? No matter who you are, or what position you are in, I will always stand by you?
On what grounds? And why must he obtain his sincerity?
The Crown Prince didn’t understand, staring at him for a long while, then he finally waved to dismiss him.
“In the future, you can call me Si Nian.”
Zhou Yun Sheng had already walked to the entryway when a deep and hoarse voice sounded behind him. Si Nian– these two words startled him fiercely, abruptly turning back to look.
“Scorching bright history, for billions of years. This is my courtesy name, do you have one?” The Crown Prince raised his chin.
“Yun Sheng, this small official’s courtesy name is Yun Sheng.” He stared intensely at the pale and haggard man.
“Yun Sheng, this sounds familiar.” The Crown Prince stared blankly.
Zhou Yun Sheng almost wanted to rush over and grab his lapel, demanding where he’d heard that name, but he promptly suppressed this impulse. That man was just a string of data, death meant disappearing forever, how could he follow him? Moreover, how could Si Nian know the name Zhou Yun Sheng?
He forcefully pushed down his throbbing heart and cautiously said, “Don’t worry Your Highness, your body will surely get better, this small official will certainly think of a way.” Although this world had no panacea, there was a heroine with a spiritual spring, of which one mouthful could wash the marrow and boast the meridian channels, a total rebirth. He would think of a way to get it for the Crown Prince sooner or later.
The boy’s eyes were clear, his tone firm, as if he resolutely believed this sentence and would use his life force to fulfill it. The Crown Prince suddenly felt that even if he served him for selfish motives, so what? As long as he stayed by his side, it was enough.
“Your words, I will remember them. As long as I live, Shen Jia will live.”
What Zhou Yun Sheng wanted was an unshakable Shen Jia, he gave the Crown Prince a grateful smile, then bowed and retreated.
Three years later.
The Crown Prince was sickly, but one day, he finally completely recovered from his illness, however, his body was much thinner. His skin was pale as paper, his eyes were so deep they seemed bottomless, and his thin lips were scarlet like blood. Just watching him silently stand still would make people feel depressed for no reason.
Since he seemed to have lost his past temperamentality, he received a few errands sent by Tian Chen Emperor. His performance was very beautiful, even if a perceptive person stared at him, they couldn’t grab a weak point. Tian Chen Emperor assessed him for a few months, then was finally completely relieved.
One day, continuous torrential rain in the Liang Jiang district formed a disastrous flood, drowning out numerous large and small towns, causing the common people to be displaced, living from hand to mouth. The courtiers successively presented memorials to the Emperor reporting the matter, requesting Tian Chen Emperor to make a decision. Tian Chen Emperor pondered, then handpicked the Crown Prince and the Seventh Prince to jointly visit Liang Jiang to deal with this matter.
Because of the Crown Prince’s ruthless manipulations, the other princes were all deemed failures, only the filial, respectful and humble Seventh Prince escaped the calamity. If this assignment could be completed beautifully, he could gain great face in front of Tian Chen Emperor.
The Seventh Prince was very happy, on the surface, he submitted to the Crown Prince, but after returning back, he discussed with several advisers about how to stand out.
Zhou Yun Sheng, who had already been promoted to assistant minister to the Ministry of Works, accompanied them.
They travelled to Liang Jiang; the flood was still wreaking havoc. The inspector-general of Liang Jiang, Yu BaoTian, personally went to the disaster area to appease the people and inspect the situation, when he heard that the Crown Prince was gracing them with his presence, he promptly set up a banquet at the official residence to entertain them.
Calling it a banquet was a bit exaggerated. It was spread out on a ragged round table, with several missing dishes, cold steamed buns and a few pickled vegetables. If there was no cheap tea to wash it down the throat, it was indeed a choking hazard.
When the Crown Prince saw this banquet, his expression turned gloomy, but the Seventh Prince was tranquil.
Yu BaoTian pretended not to notice, respectfully serving the Crown Prince cold and hard steamed buns and a few Zha Cai, saying, “Due to the rampaging flood obstructing the roads, the rations in this town are exhausted. This minister really couldn’t find good wine to accompany Your Highness’ meal, this minister begs Your Highness’ forgiveness.”
Due to quitting HanShi San, the Crown Prince had long given up heavy drinking, but in the eyes of the world, he was still the former licentious heir who only found joy in wine. Yu BaoTian was an upright and plainspoken man, he was quite critical of the Crown Prince’s wanton and unrestrained behavior, so he’d presented several memorials to the emperor requesting abolishment of the Crown Prince. He could be considered a thorn in the Crown Prince’s side.
The two men disliked each other, and confronted each other in secret upon arrival.
The Crown Prince was expressionless, but his eyes exposed a thread of hostility.
The Seventh Prince was silent, waiting for the Crown Prince to launch an attack. Yu BaoTian was a first class talented official in DaZhou, he was also Tian Chen Emperor’s confidant, of great importance to this disaster relief. If the Crown Prince punished the most capable assistant as soon as they arrived, this assignment would surely be ruined. This would give him a chance to come out ahead.
The Crown Prince slapped down his chopsticks and was preparing to speak when a warm and delicate palm held his hand under the table. His mind slightly stumbled, but his face didn’t leak his thoughts, merely glancing quickly at Zhou Yun Sheng sitting beside him.
After three years, the youth was just over twenty years old, his facial features had opened up, and he looked more and more like precious jade, incomparably beautiful, with a pair of sparkling eyes, quietly casting over a calming look. This look caused the Crown Prince’s heart to tremble, and also feel an unbearable itchiness.
The Crown Prince turned over his hand to return his hold, and gently squeezed, slowly saying, “Yu Official is not stationed in Beijing, so he surely doesn’t know that I have been sober for several years. Now, the people are suffering, and I feel their pain. Even if I hadn’t quit alcohol, I would still feel as if a fish bone was stuck in my throat, and wouldn’t be able to taste my food. I can still eat a few cold steamed buns now, but don’t you know that the common people have long reached the point of starvation? Put away this banquet, first let us distribute the rations I brought to each and every county. Aiding the people is like putting out a fire, it cannot be delayed.”
Yu BaoTian was stunned, he couldn’t believe that these words were coming from the extravagant Crown Prince’s mouth. The Seventh Prince was also stunned, staring at his older brother.
While the two stared foolishly, the Crown Prince picked up two steamed buns, handed one to Zhou Yun Sheng, and ate the other one while walking, hastily leaving.
Yellow Springs– to the afterlife
Scorching bright history, for billions of years-炎炎景历，亿万斯年, line from a poem by Su Song, Britannica “Chinese scholar and administrative and financial expert in the imperial bureaucracy.” The first part is probably grossly mistranslated, but the point is these two characters, 斯年, is Si Nian.
courtesy name- Wikipedia “A courtesy name, also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one’s given name.”
Zha Cai –Wikipedia “a type of pickled mustard plant stem originating from Sichuan, China.”
feel as if a fish bone was stuck in my throat, wouldn’t be able to taste my food- these two sentences are idioms meaning “very upset and needing to express one’s displeasure” and “worried or downhearted”, respectively. Basically, he’s too worried to sit still.