Zhou Yun Sheng’s expressionless face returned as soon as he left. He raised his hand and casually wiped the blood off his forehead, letting out a cold laugh. His personal servants were all already hypnotized, they were only loyal to him. Now, their heads were all lowered, pretending that they hadn’t seen this scene.
Li Jin Tian awkwardly fled back to the Yang Xin Palace and stared at the desk of memorials in a daze. At the top of the memorials was a petition presented by the Imperial Astronomer. Several titles were listed, all carefully selected for the first Duke of Jin, Gao Lang.
Among these was ‘Duke of Yu’, the three words were meticulously circled by the imperial pen, obviously Gao Min’s suggestion. Duke of Yu, in the dream about the second life, wasn’t Gao Lang granted the title of Duke of Yu? Does this mean that the dreams were real?
Li Jin Tian’s hands trembled as he clenched the memorial, then he angrily threw it away. But it was too late to back out now, Gao Lang’s imminent promotion to imperial duke was widely known among the civil and military officials in the imperial court. Plus, in order to please Gao Min, he’d bestowed the official imperial duke mansion in advance, the Gao family had already moved in.
The current Li Jin Tian felt like he’d swallowed hundreds of flies, neither swallowing them nor vomiting them, his chest was extremely uncomfortable. He poured several pots of herbal tea and finally managed to suppress his turbulent emotions, then he heard someone outside announce that Concubine Gao’s personal maidservant was requesting an audience.
“Come in.” Li Jin Tian felt increasingly agitated, but he still didn’t shoo the person away. He really couldn’t be ruthless to Gao Min.
“This servant girl sees the Emperor. The master sent this servant girl to relay some words, that is, Concubine Qi has entered the imperial study, unauthorized. He wants to take a prince back to his palace. How do you want to deal with him?” The maid’s expression showed faint indignation. Obviously, she felt that Qi Xiu Jie was not qualified to raise a prince.
“What ‘deal with’? Letting Concubine Qi adopt a prince was my idea, who among you dares to oppose it?” Even if he couldn’t rule over Gao Min, couldn’t he rule over an insignificant servant girl? Li Jin Tian’s tone was very cold.
The maidservant was very startled, seeing that the emperor’s eyes were already leaking fury, she quickly apologized and left.
In the imperial study’s doorway, Zhou Yun Sheng was facing off with Gao Min.
Even after suffering all kinds of torture in the prison, this person’s backbone was still so straight, always looking at others with that look of superiority. But what does he have to be so proud of? The Qi family was long gone, so all he had left was a broken body to live in.
Thinking of this, Gao Min smiled contemptuously, but before this smile could completely blossom, a palace maid whispered something into his ear which made his face pale.
Zhou Yun Sheng smiled slightly, cupping his hands as he indifferently said, “I’ll head in first.” With that, he leisurely strolled into the imperial study.
“I don’t know what sorcery you’ve cast to make His Majesty spare you, but I’ll never let you live freely!” Gao Min coldly threatened. Apparently feeling that his ruthless threat was eerily similar to the actions of the females competing for favor, his complexion turned even uglier.
Zhou Yun Sheng sneered and walked away. He certainly wouldn’t enter the imperial study during the teacher’s lesson time, it was now lunch break and the princes were all dining in the side chamber, so he didn’t need to stay away.
He spoke as if it was a random adoption, but in fact, he already had a target. It was the future emperor’s, Li Xu Yan’s, most powerful and loyal supporter, the Sixth Prince.
The Sixth Prince was named Li Xu Dong, his Concubine Mother was a dancer sent from a small border country, her status was very humble, and she died shortly after giving birth. After Li Jin Tian was reborn, he only had eyes for Gao Min and Gao Min’s son, the Fifth Prince. He had no affection for any of the other children, he didn’t even care about their life or death.
The Sixth Prince had humble origins and had no one to protect him, the life he lived in the palace was easily imaginable. Currently, he was still a pitiful bullied boy, in the future, he will snap because of the abuse and kill three palace servants, attracting Gao Min’s attention and sympathy. He’ll then adopt him and carefully cultivate him.
Li Xu Dong had a ruthless character, but he knew how to be grateful, and was loyal to the Gao Min father and son from then on. When he turned fourteen, he followed Gao Min to every military campaign and achieved illustrious military triumphs, so he was obviously an extremely talented person.
Since Zhou Yun Sheng wanted to raise a child, he’d naturally pick the strongest in the bunch. Although the boy was already thirteen years old and should have the ability to think independently, if Gao Min could raise him, Zhou Yun Sheng believed that he could too. Besides, even if the child failed to imprint, he had plenty of other ways to destroy Gao Min.
While pondering, Zhou Yun Sheng arrived at the side chamber, the scent of food wafting out of the window. Li Xu Yan was surrounded by study companions, all trying to flatter him, like the stars cupping themselves around the moon. Hiding in the corner, a thin and weak looking prince was hugging his lunch box, gulping down his food as if he was starving.
“Younger imperial brother, eat slowly, you might choke. Here, have these braised pork ribs.” Li Xu Yan was very intelligent and had good communication skills, he never offended or treated anyone coldly, so he was praised inside and outside the imperial court.
That emaciated prince, Li Xu Dong, quickly covered his food box, revealing an embarrassed expression, then he bowed his head and expressed his thanks to Li Xu Yan, but said he was already full.
In a corner where no one could see, his lips pulled up, revealing an extremely mocking smile. If Li Xu Yan was really considerate, how could he not notice his suffering? With his unique and unmatched status, he didn’t need to give him extra food every day, he just needed to speak to the servants and his situation would be greatly improved. But Li Xu Yan chose not to, instead choosing to look on as a bystander.
This hypocrisy made Li Xu Dong feel disgusted.
Zhou Yun Sheng, who was standing outside the window secretly observing, couldn’t help but chuckle. He’d thought that the Gao Min father and son had already won over Li Xu Dong, but it seemed to not be the case. Also, the current Li Xu Dong had no value, why was Gao Min paying attention to him? He had no choice but to admit that Gao Min had a good eye for people. Li Xu Dong was only a wolf cub that’ll bite people, but if he was cultivated, he would loyally protect his master.
Zhou Yun Sheng walked in, and all the study companions saluted him, except for Li Xu Yan. But he didn’t care, he went straight to Li Xu Dong and forcefully flicked open his tightly covered food box.
“Old brown rice and boiled cabbage, this is what you had for lunch?” The lunch box was already eaten clean, but Zhou Yun Sheng could tell exactly what was in it with a single sniff.
Li Xu Dong looked up at him dumbfoundedly, not knowing how to reply. He didn’t understand why this Concubine Qi was paying attention to him.
“Where is your attendant? Call him in.” Seeing that the Sixth Prince didn’t answer him for a long time, Zhou Yun Sheng pulled his ears.
Only then did Li Xu Dong come back to reality, his ears slowly reddened as he mumbled, “The attendant is eating outside in the bamboo grove, he’ll come in later to clean up.”
Zhou Yun Sheng waved and his personal servant immediately ran out to bring in the Sixth Prince’s attendant, he also brought back the unfinished food box.
Zhou Yun Sheng glanced at the food box and sneered, “Large grains of white rice, chicken stew, seasonal seafood soup, what a rich lunch you’ve eaten. This Concubine asks, are you the prince or is he the prince?”
The attendant’s legs trembled in fear, he quickly kneeled and kowtowed for mercy, but Zhou Yun Sheng ignored him and directly took Li Xu Dong away. In the eyes of outsiders, he was still a pardoned criminal, disposing of slaves would inevitably attract all kinds of gossip. It was better to leave the slave for Li Jin Tian to deal with, it would also conveniently help him establish his status.
“Concubine Qi, I, I still have to attend a class later, if I leave now, the teacher will be angry.” Li Xu Dong said as he rubbed his hot ears. He’d never experienced such a gesture of intimacy since the day he was born.
“What class, we have to move into the Zi Chen Palace. From today on, you are my son.” Zhou Yun Sheng stroked the Sixth Prince’s head.
Because of malnutrition, the Sixth Prince was much thinner and shorter than the Fifth Prince, he looked, at most, ten years old. But in fact, the two were the same age, thirteen years old, their birthdays were only separated by a month or two.
“I’ll be your son?” Li Xu Dong was very surprised, he unconsciously gripped the hand placed on his head.
“Yes. Although my Qi family is already destroyed, I’m still more than strong enough to protect you. I’m alone in this world, and you’ve also lost your parents, let’s depend solely on each other from now on, okay?” He bent over slightly and earnestly looked into the boy’s eyes.
His eyes were very clear, bright, no false concern, only a sincere invitation. Depend solely on each other, these should be slightly bleak words, but when he said it, it carried a feeling of warmth. Li Xu Dong had always dreamed about having a family member to depend on. His eyes reddened, but he stubbornly refused to cry, fiercely nodding his head.
Zhou Yun Sheng raised his head and laughed cheerfully, his face, which was already an amalgamation of the world’s most beautiful features, was simply dazzling under the sunlight. Li Xu Dong gawked at him, then also foolishly laughed along.
Inside the Yang Xin Palace, the head eunuch came over to report the news as soon as he heard it, “Informing Your Majesty, Concubine Qi has picked the Sixth Prince.”
“The Sixth Prince? Why not the Twelfth Prince?” Li Jin Tian found it very strange. In the previous life, the Qi family had hidden away the Twelfth Prince then supported him onto the throne. He’d thought that Qi Xiu Jie would make the same choice in this life.
After all, the Twelfth Prince was only six years old, the youngest prince. He had not yet formed an independent personality and thoughts. In every way, he seemed much easier to cultivate than the Sixth Prince.
The head eunuch’s breathing hitched, then he cautiously replied, “Your Majesty, have you forgotten? The Twelfth Prince has already passed away.”
“He passed away? How can it be?” Li Jin Tian was suddenly alarmed.
The head eunuch bowed deeply, trembling as he explained, “Three years ago, the Fifth Prince fell into a coma from poisoning, and you called all the imperial physicians to the Tian Chen Palace to treat him. At the same time, the Twelfth Prince had a serious fever…… so he, so he passed away.”
Although the head eunuch didn’t say it out loud, Li Jin Tian already understood. Because the imperial physicians were only focused on treating the Fifth Prince, the Twelfth Prince’s care was delayed. The only child who’d continued his bloodline and dynasty in the last life was actually dead? The child who was painstakingly hidden by the Qi family for five years, pouring all of the clan’s strength into saving him, died just like that?
A great sense of panic struck Li Jin Tian’s heart, as if his throne was also in jeopardy. He thought that in this life, everything was developing in a good direction, but it seems that he thought wrong. He thought that everything was under control, but in fact, everything was spiraling out of control.
Li Jin Tian couldn’t help but tremble, but he didn’t know that this was exactly the reason why Zhou Yun Sheng had implanted the memory of the Twelfth Prince. What Zhou Yun Sheng wanted was this panic and doubt. When Li Jin Tian didn’t pay attention, he was naturally able to share the world shoulder to shoulder with Gao Min, but when he paid attention, everything Gao Min did was wrong.
Human nature is such a fragile thing.
study companions- similar aged children, usually children of nobility and relatives of the princes, chosen to take classes with imperial children
depend solely on each other- mutually dependent for life (idiom); to rely upon one another for survival / interdependent