Chapter 2: The Villain
“Lord Chu is not here right now,” the gatekeeper explained with a friendly demeanor.
It had been a long time since Duan Se had seen such a friendly smile, and she was on the verge of tears. She sniffled and asked, “When will he be back?”
“Uh, this humble one doesn’t know,” the gatekeeper opened the door wider. “How about Niang Niang and His Highness come inside for a while? Lord Chu ordered that if Niang Niang came looking for him, we must take good care of you.”
Duan Se burst into tears at once.
She had always been the daughter of a lowly criminal, and she had never been addressed as “Niang Niang” before.
Hastily, she led Jiang Yanchi inside the grand courtyard.
Jiang Yanchi hadn’t said much along the way. Everywhere they passed, there were meticulously trimmed flowers and plants, cobblestones beneath their feet were polished smooth, and the vermilion wooden pillars had been freshly lacquered last year, shining brightly.
Around a corner, there was an elegant artificial mountain, and behind the mountain, a winding stream flowed into a small bamboo forest.
This residence in the heart of the imperial city was surprisingly grand.
As Jiang Yanchi thought this, Duan Se voiced it, “What a huge mansion…”
“Oh, His Lordship didn’t receive this land from His Majesty. He bought it himself. Originally, it was a small piece of land, but over the years, others bought the adjacent land and presented it to him, so His Lordship had it renovated and incorporated into the estate… Unknowingly, the estate has become this large,” the gatekeeper respectfully guided them, “This way.”
In this prime real estate, who were the kind of people who could present such land?
Jiang Yanchi’s gaze landed on the koi swimming in the flowing water.
Their colors were extremely rare, and just one of them could be worth hundreds of taels.
Let alone the gatekeeper who was leading them, who was wearing a luxurious Muyun brocade outfit with golden-threaded patterns on his shoes.
Chu Mansion. Chu Xie.
Jiang Yanchi’s gaze subtly sharpened.
The servant pushed open the door and had someone bring a pot of hot tea, treating the two of them as honored guests.
Jiang Yanchi and Duan Se exchanged a glance.
After living for so long, it was the first time they had been cared for in such a considerate manner.
“Your Highness and Niang Niang, you can first take a bath and burn incense, and then have some lunch. I’ll go prepare for you,” the servant said respectfully before withdrawing and carefully closing the door.
Jiang Yanchi noticed that this house had windows on all four sides, which he found quite strange. Along the way, he had also noticed that all the rooms in Chu Mansion had a multitude of windows.
“It seems that the Crown Prince really can’t leave the Prison…” Duan Se looked at the exquisite and valuable decorations in the room, her eyes welling up with tears again. “I never expected that we, mother and son, would have a day like this…”
They were getting happy too early.
Jiang Yanchi scanned the room and furrowed his brows almost imperceptibly.
This place might be…
Much more terrifying than the Cold Palace.
In the cold and damp dungeon, there was a constant sound of painful screams from people being whipped.
The long whip lashed without mercy, and the cries gradually weakened until they disappeared.
The sound of footsteps approached, and around the corner, a jailer came in with small, quick steps, fawning on Chu Xie as he knelt down to massage Chu Xie’s legs. He chuckled while wiping the blood from his face and said, “Master, he’s fainted.”
With delicate fingers, Chu Xie picked up the elegantly carved white jade cup and took a sip of tea. Without looking up, he asked, “Is he close to death?”
“Well, not quite. He used to be treated like a precious guest, and he had never endured torture before. He couldn’t bear the pain,” the jailer observed Chu Xie’s reaction and raised both hands to accept the tea that Chu Xie offered, “The tea has cooled down. Let me get you another cup…”
Chu Xie glanced at the blood on the jailer’s hands and furrowed his brow slightly, not extending the cup.
The jailer quickly withdrew his hand and wiped the blood on his body, then bowed and suggested, “Why don’t you wait outside, so you don’t get your eyes dirty, Master.”
In the dimly lit Zhao Prison, Chu Xie’s refined silhouette was cast onto the damp stone wall. His already slim figure appeared even more slender, his phoenix eyes gleaming with a cold light.
Chu Xie smiled.
“No, I enjoy watching people cry.”
Gathering his ebony-colored fox-fur cloak, he slowly walked toward the corner. The deeper he went, the more suffocating the oppressive feeling became. His hand trembled slightly, and his steps faltered for a moment.
“Master!” The jailer exclaimed.
Turning the corner, Chu Xie’s eyes fell on the man who was covered in wounds and bound to a wooden frame.
Chu Xie quickly found the only window in this dark chamber, his eyes fixed on it as he took slow, deep breaths.
The jailer opened the wooden door, and Chu Xie entered with his head lowered.
As he closed the door behind him, Chu Xie immediately raised his hand and said, “Don’t close the door.”
“Ah,” he touched the bloody wounds on the man’s body, as if a wolf were showing pity for a lamb’s injuries, and scolded, “You guys were too ruthless.”
His gaze fell on the man’s unconscious face.
Then, he firmly grasped the man’s chin, lifting his lowered head high.
With a cold voice, he said, “Splash him awake.”
Half a bucket of cold water splashed down, and icy water splattered onto Chu Xie’s shoes.
“Do you understand the rules?” The jailer kicked the water bucket to the ground without mercy, quickly took off his own coat, and knelt down to carefully wipe Chu Xie’s shoes. “Master, the newcomer is clumsy. You see, he made a mess of it…”
Quite a bootlicker.
“It doesn’t matter.”
Fortunately, Chu Xie seemed to be in a good mood. Before the jailer could finish wiping the shoes, he stepped into a puddle of water and walked over to the man who was being tortured. He looked at the man’s initially hazy eyes, which had suddenly become as sharp as a hawk’s, that seemed to want to reduce himself to minced meat with his gaze.
“Chu Xie, you eunuch!”
“This subordinate didn’t understand the rules and was a bit heavy-handed,” he spoke lazily, a hint of amusement in the corner of his mouth. “Crown Prince Your Highness, please forgive us.”
“You beast! You b*stard! Sooner or later, I will have you dismembered! Let go of me, you… wait until I ascend the throne, you…”
The jailer burst into laughter, and with a snap, he whipped the man’s body, causing blood to splatter. “Just because Master called you ‘Your Highness’ once, you still think you’re the high and mighty Crown Prince. Even Sun Yanqin, that old man, has been exiled. Your uncle’s entire family has been implicated, and with no backing left, you still think you can ascend the throne? You’re having delusions!”
The deposed Crown Prince trembled all over like a sieve.
“How dare you touch me! I am the only Crown Prince of the country! I am the only son of my father!”
Chu Xie smiled faintly. “No, you’re not.”
“You’ve forgotten, you have a younger brother.”
The deposed Crown Prince’s face changed suddenly. “You mean that b*stard Jiang Yanchi? You want to support him as the Emperor? Ridiculous… It’s really ridiculous!”
Another whip strike caused fresh blood to appear, and he couldn’t laugh anymore.
He cursed fiercely, “You rootless beast! I will never spare you, even if I become a ghost!”
Chu Xie gave a cold smile, having watched enough of the show. He felt that the dungeon was still too dark and, without making a sound, loosened his collar a bit, but his head was already spinning uncontrollably. “You can continue the interrogation slowly. I’ll go back to the mansion and wait. Don’t disappoint me.”
Walking out of the chilling Zhao Prison, Chu Xie finally felt the warmth of the sunlight.
He took a long, deep breath.
His left hand, which had been trembling uncontrollably and hidden in his sleeve, finally calmed down.
Why did someone like him, who was prone to fainting at the sight of blood and had serious psychological issues, end up with such a twisted villain script?
This was truly f*cked up.
From a distance, this powerful official stood alone outside the gate of Zhao Prison. The sunlight was bright, but it couldn’t dispel the chill that clung to him.
His attendants looked from afar, bowed respectfully, and went to fetch the carriage, not daring to slack off.
After all, the person they now served was none other than Chu Xie, Chief Eunuch of the Ministry of Rites, who held unparalleled power in Great Wei.
Since Emperor Changping became sick half a year ago, Chu Xie, serving as the Chief Eunuch, had taken on the Emperor’s authority and ruled with an iron fist. In just six or seven months, he had stirred up a reign of terror in the previous dynasty.
He eliminated dissidents and formed factions for personal gain.
His methods were brutally ruthless, enough to make people’s skin crawl.
Chu Xie looked around and saw that only his personal guards remained hidden in the distance.
Finally, he was alone.
The semi-permanent cold smile on his face finally relaxed. He rubbed the muscles on his cheeks and loosened his expression.
A grand carriage, adorned with golden belts and jade, was carried over by his attendants. Chu Xie adjusted his expression, lifted his chin, and stepped into the carriage, pulling open both sides of the curtains, which were only partially drawn. Despite this, Chu Xie still resisted the idea of riding in a carriage.
“Congratulations to the host for successfully completing the ‘Persecution of the Former Crown Prince’ plot.”
He loosened his collar further and took a deep breath of fresh air with great force.
“What’s the next plot?”
“Let me unlock it… Ah, it’s loaded. It’s the ‘First Encounter with the Protagonist’ plot. This one is simple, with no bloodshed and no secret chambers!” The system said cheerfully.
Finally, he would meet the little protagonist.
As soon as Chu Xie stopped the sedan chair, he heard a report from the house guards that Duan Se had arrived with her child.
From the tall building in the distance, Chu Xie saw the mother and son inside through the wide-open windows.
Thirteen-year-old Jiang Yanchi.
With his rosy lips and white teeth, he had quite a gentle appearance.
Chu Xie squinted slightly.
Was this the little dog b*stard who would pin him down in the marketplace four years later and stab him a hundred and eight times while he was alive?
The boy’s pupils were as dark as night, and his features were somewhat exquisite, resembling his mother’s youthful grace.
The young man seemed to sense something and suddenly turned his head, making eye contact with Chu Xie.
It felt like being caught peeking.
Chu Xie was actually taken aback. Could he really be noticed from such a distance?
Well, let’s get to work.
Continue with the plot.
As soon as Jiang Yanchi spoke, he heard footsteps approaching from outside. First, the servants pushed the door open, and two servants carrying charcoal braziers entered and placed them down.
Then they opened all the windows, letting in the breeze, and Jiang Yanchi smelled a scent of cypress.
When he looked up, he saw the man had already entered.
Draped in a dark fox fur coat, holding a golden silk hand warmer wrapped in brocade, his black boots concealed his slender legs beneath his long robe.
The cape was adorned with fine red velvet, covering half of his face like red plum blossoms in the snow, accentuating his fair complexion like white jade.
This Chief Eunuch was younger than Jiang Yanchi had imagined.
Unexpectedly, he turned out to be such a dazzlingly handsome man.
Jiang Yanchi followed behind Duan Se. Before the two could fully stand up, Chu Xie politely said, “Please, take a seat. You don’t need to be so formal, Your Highness and Niang Niang.”
Chu Xie sat on a chair padded with fur, cradled the hand warmer in his hands, and said with concern and regret, “Over these many years, Your Highness and Niang Niang have suffered greatly.”
Upon hearing this, Duan Se’s nose tingled, and tears involuntarily rolled down her cheeks.
“It’s not exactly suffering… it’s just Ah Yu, following me, he has had a tough time…”
Chu Xie’s eyebrows furrowed slightly, and with a subtle gesture, one of his attendants handed a clean handkerchief to Duan Se.
“Lord Chu, you are truly a kind person. In this world, there are hardly any who would show compassion to us mother and child… Thank you for taking us out of the Cold Palace…”
While silently sipping his tea, Chu Xie kept an eye on the young prince by her side.
In his heart, he thought, “I don’t know if they’re suffering or not, but this protagonist and his mother seem to have been raised in the Cold Palace, making them exceptionally innocent.”
Chu Xie replied with a faint smile, as if he could empathize with her hardships. “Niang Niang, you’ve endured a lot over these years….”
Knock, knock, knock.
Someone knocked on the door, and Chu Xie turned to see the steward presenting a sealed document, “It’s from the Zhao Prison.”
The document was thick, covered in specks of bloodstains.
Chu Xie’s pale fingers took the documents, and his fingertips were stained with a hint of crimson from the still-drying blood. He carefully flipped through the pages, his expression unchanged, as if he were elegantly reading a poetry collection.
However, Duan Se was startled by the sight of the blood.
“Where is he?” After reading through the documents, Chu Xie asked in a calm voice.
“He broke a leg, and the messenger said it’s a matter of life or death tonight; it depends on fate,” the steward replied in a hushed tone. Duan Se probably didn’t hear, but every word entered Jiang Yanchi’s ears.
Chu Xie smiled faintly, neatly returned the documents, and used the handkerchief to wipe the blood from his hands.
With a smile, he said, “In my opinion, he doesn’t have such good fate.”
Having received the hint, the steward glanced at the two people in front of Chu Xie, bowed respectfully, and hastily left the room.
Jiang Yanchi remained composed on the surface, but his heart suddenly sank.
He looked at Duan Se, who was unaware of the situation, and said gently, “Mother, I don’t want to stay here.”