Chu Xie shook his head vigorously, but he couldn’t dispel the succession of shattered images in his mind.
A thirteen-year-old boy was frantically smashing glass, the sound ringing loudly, a mix of panic and despair in his actions.
“Mom, mom… let Little Yin live on, I’ll accompany you. I’ll accompany you to die, okay?”
At the end of the dim corridor, a ten-year-old child stood as the wind rustled the willow trees. At one end of the corridor, a man in a purple robe spoke to him, word by word, saying, “Child, you are the only one who survived. You carry the burden of 147 lives. From now on, living is as good as being dead.”
Countless voices intermingled, rushing into his mind, washing over him in a torrent, causing his emotions to spiral out of control and his rationality to slip away.
These were memories from Chu Xie’s past life, intertwined with the original protagonist Chu Xie’s history from the book.
He covered his head, his strong empathy keeping him immersed in it, unable to break free.
“Warning, Chu Xie’s character alignment value is below 60%… 58%… 55%…”
Chu Xie seemed oblivious.
Blood stained his clothes, soaking his cuffs.
The overpowering smell of blood filled his nostrils, as if it were trying to drown him.
The host had actually missed the perfect moment for suicide. This was simply unimaginable!
Oh no. Now Chu Xie’s character value was below 60%, and it wasn’t easy to die anymore.
But the host had just killed Chen Lianzhou, and if anyone found out, he couldn’t escape the consequences. Everything was ruined.
“Host, we need to hide first… Host, host!”
The voice in his head gradually became distant, until it disappeared. Then, a deafening clap of thunder sounded in his ears, startling his soul.
Chu Xie seemed to regain some awareness.
He had to complete the mission; he had to be reborn.
Little Yin was still waiting for him at home.
He clumsily pulled the knife out, blood splattering onto his face.
But suddenly, his vision went black, and his body went limp, unable to muster the strength to hold himself up.
He fell backward, only to land in a strong embrace.
Jiang Yanchi’s breath caught in his throat. Rainwater from above soaked the person’s face in his arms. He vigorously wiped the blood from Chu Xie’s face, and just as the next lightning strike illuminated the pitch-black room once more, he saw clearly.
Chu Xie still tightly gripped the sharp blade in his hand, his eyes shut, and half of his face splattered with blood.
Lying in front of him was the lifeless body of Duke Rongguo.
The overpowering scent of blood made Jiang Yanchi’s throat go dry.
“Chu Xie!” Jiang Yanchi called out his name softly, only then realizing that Chu Xie’s body was burning hot, and there was an unusual flush on his face. “What happened to you?”
His hands trembling, he took the bloodied knife from Chu Xie’s grasp and, in the process, held the sticky hand.
Gently rubbing the fingers against the knuckles and the palm.
It was him.
It was really him!
It was too absurd. How could this be?
Chu Xie fell unconscious, but he held onto Jiang Yanchi’s sleeve tightly, trembling all over. Hearing the footsteps of Duke Rongguo’s men approaching the mansion, Jiang Yanchi didn’t have much time. He quickly covered Chu Xie with his outer garment and rushed into the rain. The hidden guards from the Chu mansion followed closely, remaining vigilant towards Jiang Yanchi.
It was evident that he was merely carefully wrapping the person and silently following the direction to the Chu Mansion.
Even through several layers of fabric, being soaked by the rain made him feel the searing heat coming from the person in his arms, as if he could melt him.
It was terrifying.
Tao Li was tidying up the bed when she felt a sudden cold breeze behind her. She turned to see the Crown Prince, completely drenched and holding a dark bundle in his arms.
Layer by layer, she peeled back the coverings to discover that the person curled up in her arms was actually their master. Tao Li let out a surprised “oh” and hurriedly helped Chu Xie lie down on the bed, tears streaming down her face before she could even do anything else. She sobbed, “What’s happened… what’s going on… sob…”
When she saw the diluted blood covering his body, her heart tightened. However, upon closer inspection, she realized that the blood on top was not from their master, and she breathed a sigh of relief.
Tao Li sniffled and silently began to undress Chu Xie.
Jiang Yanchi grabbed her arm. “What are you doing?”
“These clothes are wet and covered in blood. I need to remove them for our master…”
“I’ll do it. You can leave,” Jiang Yanchi refused to hand Chu Xie over to others and began to remove his clothes.
Tao Li suddenly burst into loud sobs, knelt down on the ground, and kowtowed, “Your Highness, Your Highness… please spare our master! He’s a good person, truly… truly a good person.” Tao Li was at a loss for words, sobbing and wiping her tears with one hand while weakly tugging at a corner of Chu Xie’s clothing with the other. “Please, give him back to me… Please…”
Jiang Yanchi’s brows furrowed deeply, and he stiffened his back without saying a word.
The candlelight flickered, casting dim shadows.
“He doesn’t like blood, Your Highness. If he wakes up and sees himself covered in blood, he’ll feel very uncomfortable. Please let me clean his wounds first and change his clothes…”
“Wounds?” Jiang Yanchi finally seemed to remember something, and his face turned pale.
He quickly untied Chu Xie’s waistband and removed the wet outer garment. The moon-white inner garment parted at the collarbone, revealing the fair skin beneath, as well as layers of bandages underneath.
As he looked down, he saw more and more bandages on Chu Xie’s back, which had been torn open by the recent turmoil. Rainwater mingled with blood covered his body.
Jiang Yanchi was completely bewildered, holding him like this, allowing his head to hang on his shoulder, and gazing at the blood-soaked back of the person, rendered utterly speechless.
A gnawing pain welled up deep in his heart.
Tao Li observed the prince’s expression and approached to start unwrapping the bandages from Chu Xie, but the wound was stuck to the cloth, and she couldn’t remove it. She promptly ordered someone to fetch Doctor Zhu.
Zhu Qi arrived with his medical kit, and without even looking at the person, he confidently placed a piece of ginseng in Chu Xie’s mouth and suspended it there. Then, he tied off the main artery on his wrist at several points.
Afterward, he instructed someone to bring a bucket of hot water. Chu Xie was carefully placed on the bed, and hot water infused with medicine was poured over the large wound on his back. As the medicinal water soaked in, Chu Xie, who had been unconscious, began to stir, apparently in pain.
His delicate brows furrowed, and although he was unconscious, he seemed to be unable to bear the pain as faint murmurs escaped his lips.
As the bandage on his back was slowly peeled away, it brought forth faint murmurs.
Tao Li sat at the bedside, letting Chu Xie rest his head on her lap. She gently stroked his head and comforted him, “It doesn’t hurt anymore, Master, it doesn’t hurt…”
Under Tao Li’s soothing touch, the deep frown on Chu Xie’s face eased somewhat.
It was as if he had become as docile as a cat being comforted.
After almost half an hour, when all the bandages were removed from him, Jiang Yanchi’s entire body was drenched in sweat, mixed with rainwater, leaving him thoroughly soaked.
Doctor Zhu began to prepare Chinese herbs, crushing them and extracting the medicinal juice, which he then dripped into water. He used a cloth to apply this medicated water gently to Chu Xie’s wounds on the back.
This was quite a sensitive process, and Chu Xie immediately started to struggle when they touched his wounds. The steward, as if anticipating this, moved forward to hold his legs down, but Jiang Yanchi took over instead.
Chu Xie’s ankles were also delicate.
He appeared tall and elegant on the outside, but once you held him in your arms, he felt as light as a cotton ball.
His body radiated heat, with even his ankles giving off a faint pink hue. Holding him in his hands felt like holding a piece of warm white jade.
Jiang Yanchi had just begun to entertain some improper thoughts when he suddenly heard Chu Xie’s breathing become heavier. His legs kicked out unconsciously, and Jiang Yanchi didn’t dare to hold too tightly for fear of hurting him. He was lightly kicked in the leg.
That kick felt like a playful scratch.
They were applying medicine, so it probably hurt.
Sweat started to bead on Chu Xie’s forehead, and his hair clung tightly to it. Although he didn’t wake up, his breathing became irregular.
Occasionally, he would let out painful gasps.
As the bandages were layered back on, Jiang Yanchi had not said a word throughout the entire process.
His jaw remained tightly clenched.
By the end of the hour of the Tiger, the rain still hadn’t ceased, and the day was starting to break.
The scorching heat had reached its peak half an hour ago, and Chu Xie had become delirious from the fever. This illness had come on swiftly, and Zhu Qi kept wiping him down with alcohol to try to lower his temperature.
“Not good, this doesn’t look good at all.”
Zhu Qi’s expression changed as he saw the person’s fever persisting. He couldn’t help but think it might be due to rainwater infection or perhaps some emotional shock. Whether it was an internal or external cause, it was clear that continuing with this fever was not an option.
Perhaps this person wouldn’t make it through this ordeal.
At this moment, the steward came to report that people from Duke Rongguo’s residence had gone to Dali Temple to kneel, crying for justice, and their accusations were directly pointed at Zhangyin Chu Xie.
The situation wasn’t looking good.
Chu Xie was still unconscious, but they decided to move him to Dali Temple for interrogation first.
After a brief contemplation, Jiang Yanchi decided to take Chu Xie to the Eastern Palace. The morning breeze felt damp and chilly, sending shivers down his spine.
This time, they wrapped Chu Xie in thick blankets, layering him carefully before placing him in the carriage. Jiang Yanchi made sure not to touch his wounds.
The news was being kept secret, and even Xu Chunmu, who had only heard of the commotion in the early hours of the morning, was now informed. He overheard the maids talking about burning those bloody clothes and immediately stumbled a couple of steps.
The carriage started moving, but suddenly, the horse refused to budge.
Jiang Yanchi heard Xu Chunmu’s voice outside the carriage, “Your Highness, who will you hand him over to, the Ministry of Punishment or the Dali Temple?”
Xu Chunmu firmly held onto the carriage’s wheel, despite his hands getting muddy. “Your Highness, by using this incident, you can strip Chu Xie of his official position, but please don’t execute him. I, I can take him to the northern border, I can look over him for Your Highness.. In the rest of his life, he will never enter the Western Capital, he will be considered exiled. Isn’t that acceptable?”
“The Xu family words have always carried weight. Your Highness, I won’t deceive you. I…”
Jiang Yanchi’s long lashes twitched slightly, and his lips were tightly pursed.
The rain intensified, and daylight slowly broke through the sky.
A servant outside the mansion gate held an umbrella over Xu Chunmu and suggested, “Young Marquis, His Highness is taking Chu Zhangyin to the palace for treatment.”
Xu Chunmu couldn’t resist, and he couldn’t force the issue either, so he said, “Your Highness… It’s not me who saved you, it’s him. Your Highness… He may have harmed you, but he also saved your life! You can’t kill him.”
Jiang Yanchi’s eyes shifted slightly, as if he could see Xu Chunmu outside through the layers of curtains.
His throat tightened, but he couldn’t bring himself to say anything.
Xu Chunmu seemed to know everything.
In the end, he was the one who knew nothing.
If he didn’t answer, this young marquis might not let go. Jiang Yanchi let out a sigh and said softly, “Rest assured, I won’t kill him.”
“I will save him.”
The carriage gradually moved forward, leaving a trace of water on the cobblestone road.
When Chu Xie woke up again, he felt as if his entire body had been dismantled and reassembled, leaving him in excruciating pain.
As soon as he regained some consciousness, the first thing he did was open the system.
“Whew, Host, you’ve finally awakened… I almost thought you were going to die of illness…”
Memories of his fainting episode came back to him, and Chu Xie’s mind cleared. He immediately asked, “Is Chen Lianzhou dead? What’s the completion rate of the plot?”
“He’s dead, and the plot completion rate is 80%…”
Chu Xie was overjoyed. He scanned the room, then, ignoring the pain, pushed himself up from the bed and reached for the small knife used to cut fruit on the table, intending to plunge it into his chest.
“Ah, ah, Host, wait! Don’t die, don’t die! Chu… Chu Xie’s character compatibility has dropped to 43%…”
His hand froze in mid-air.
“When did it drop?!” Chu Xie was shocked.
“Just last night… I don’t know what happened. Host, please don’t die now. You can’t die… I have a feeling that the Little Crown Prince is acting strangely. Does he suspect that the person who saved him knows you…? If he solidifies that suspicion, both of your character profiles will plummet. What do we do? Whimper…”
Crying again, it was crying once more.
Chu Xie massaged his temples; he was close to tears as well.
“Host, what happened to you last night? Your emotional state fluctuated dramatically. It suddenly became so empathetic towards the original host… Host, we missed the best opportunity for suicide. It’s such a pity…”
I don’t know what happened either.
Suddenly, it just… well, now it’s better. That suffocating feeling from last night had disappeared, and Chu Xie couldn’t even remember the pain of his heart being squeezed.
With things as they were, thinking further was futile.
He needed to address the immediate problem.
Chu, emotionless manipulating plot machine, said, “Don’t bother me; I need to rethink my strategy.”
Chu Xie severed the connection with the system and calmly contemplated the current situation. Ever since Jiang Yanchi noticed the stained nail on his little finger, he had never fully dispelled his doubts about himself.
He had managed to get by, but in reality, there were many loopholes in his story. Chu Xie was well aware that it wouldn’t stand up to scrutiny.
But the young crown prince’s reaction had been unexpectedly swift.
Regardless, Chu Xie was now certain that the decrease in his character compatibility value was related to that white lotus persona.
However, if the system’s explanation was accurate, why hadn’t Xu Chunmu’s character profile plummeted along with Chu Xie’s?
It was because Jiang Yanchi had initially determined that the white lotus who saved him wasn’t Xu Chunmu, and only later realized that the person might be himself!
Chu Xie suddenly understood.
Without the interference of the white lotus character, Xu Chunmu’s character alignment value had a natural fit of 80%, and it hadn’t crumbled.
In other words, if he hadn’t followed the plot from the beginning, Xu Chunmu’s character alignment would have remained stable all along, without any issues. The white lotus character had caused Jiang Yanchi to develop an undeserved affection for Xu Chunmu, lowering his character value.
“Oh my God!” Chu Xie hastily opened the system. “I understand now. The change in the character alignment value indeed depends on Jiang Yanchi’s subjective judgment… but the one thing I miscalculated is this little guy, Jiang Yanchi. He seems to be…”
“Seems to be someone with a love-struck brain!”
“His subjective judgment is different from that of normal people, so I always have trouble grasping the pattern of character alignment value changes. Who knows what’s going on in his head every day? His character value behaves like a roller coaster… Well, I can’t blame him. He grew up in the Cold Palace from a young age and didn’t have much interaction with others. Initially, he was just hoping for a chance to survive with someone like Duan Se. Now that Duan Se can’t come back, and he’s finally found someone who treats him kindly, he’s probably overly fixated on it…”
The current white lotus character had become a hot potato. Whoever gets involved with it sees their character value plummet.
What should be done?
Is there any explanation that could smooth things over with this character, align it more with Chu Xie’s original character, and overall improve the character alignment value?
Chu Xie was going insane.
How could he possibly explain this?
There was no way to explain it this time. He couldn’t even bluff his way through this.
I’m the main villain, so why would I want to sabotage myself by supporting the puppet I created? Why would I copy books while simultaneously forcing him to do it, and then eagerly send them over? Why would I let the case be almost closed and then willingly hand over the imperial seal? And the weirdest part is that I poison him here, then after he’s poisoned, I say, ‘Your Highness, it’s poisoned, don’t eat it.’
This, this… Isn’t this a case of having a screw loose in the head?
Don’t panic, stay calm.
Let me think carefully about how someone with a screw loose in their head could rise to a position of power and wield influence over the court.
The door was lightly tapped, and a servant heard some movement inside. He cautiously pushed the door open a crack and asked, “Is the lord awake?” Seeing Chu Xie sitting there looking perfectly composed, he felt relieved and quickly sent for the royal physician again. Then, he hurriedly went to report to the sleepless Crown Prince.
During this moment of calm, a message from Duke Yue’s residence, Zhao Xuan, arrived, asking if he would be willing to meet.
“Ding, unlocking a new plotline, ‘Zhao Xuan’s Heart.'”
Do I really need a new plotline now?
What I need is character alignment value, aaargh!
“Host, go ahead and unlock it. If the plot unlocking value is above 85%, it means your ability to follow the plot is extremely high, and you can gain a privilege. Even if the mission fails and you can’t be reborn, you can immediately be prioritized for entering the next world with a death shield to continue missions and tasks. There’s no need to wait for decades for the system to allocate them automatically…”
“You just want to complete the mission and go home faster. This world is too difficult to salvage. Let’s switch to another world.”
Chu Xie was tempted.
“Please come in.”
Zhao Xuan’s complexion was noticeably off when he entered, but Chu Xie, seeing his troubled demeanor, decided to speak first. “What’s wrong, Shizi?”
As Zhao Xuan took a seat beside him, Chu Xie noticed a wooden tray behind him, on which rested a silver wine jug. The jug was adorned with two jade beads, one red and one green, making it particularly attractive.
Chu Xie’s eyes briefly scanned the wine jug, and he calmly said, “Shizi, are you suggesting we have a drink today? Don’t you know that I’ve always preferred tea?”
“Host, this wine…”
“I know,” Chu Xie replied in his mind, “This seems like poisoned wine.”
“As long as you’re aware, Host…”
“You… You… You might as well have a drink with me,” Zhao Xuan stammered. Chu Xie could see that he was not good at lying. He looked extremely flustered and nervous, and anyone could see through his act.
Jiang Yanchi probably had Chu Xie under tight surveillance right now, and only Zhao Xuan, who had befriended him, had a chance to see him. Otherwise, why would he send Zhao Xuan to do this?
What was the matter with Chu Xie’s character?
In the beginning, wasn’t it Duke Yue’s residence that saved him from palace punishment and placed him within the palace? All along the way, Duke Yue’s residence had been secretly protecting him and supporting him.
So how did it come to this, where they suddenly wanted to kill him?
Could it be that they saw him losing influence and decided to distance themselves before the situation worsened?
Chu Xie muttered to himself inwardly, “I’m currently seriously injured, and it’s not appropriate to drink.”
Zhao Xuan looked troubled.
Chu Xie added, casually, “But if it’s something you’ve offered, I’ll have a drink.”
Zhao Xuan hesitated for a moment, then poured two cups, offering one to Chu Xie and holding the other himself.
Chu Xie fixed his gaze on Zhao Xuan’s eyes as he took the cup of wine and said with a smirk, “I’d like the one you’re holding.”
Before the words even left his mouth, Zhao Xuan’s face turned extremely ugly. He dropped the cup in his hand with a loud clang, then abruptly stood up, knocking over all the cups and dishes behind him, spilling the wine everywhere.
Well, the Shizi’s mental fortitude clearly wasn’t up to par.
But people like him were easy to manipulate.
Zhao Xuan knew that Chu Xie had already seen through what was in his hand. At this moment, his face was deathly pale, and his hands were trembling. He stammered, “You, don’t blame me… I… I wanted you to die without suffering, but you…”
“I’ve never owed anything to Duke Yue’s mansion, and we’ve known each other for so long without any wrongdoing on my part. Now that you see me losing power, you’re in a rush to come and kill me. What kind of logic is that? Shizi also once studied with me and recited, ‘A nobleman values righteousness, while a small person values profit.’ I never thought that Young Master Zhao Gongzi would one day act as a small person instead of a nobleman.”
Chu Xie’s bitter smile was perfectly timed.
“I misjudged you.”
Zhao Xuan furrowed his brow tightly, as if he were trying to convince himself. “You… though you haven’t wronged me, the sins you’ve committed in the past are by no means few… Chu Xie, you…”
“Do you really want me to drink this?”
With his fingertips pinching the cup, Chu Xie waited for an answer. When no reply came, he asked, “What’s your reason? Even if you want me dead, you should at least explain it clearly.”
“Anyway, you’ve… you’ve gotten what you wanted.”
Chu Xie’s eyes suddenly sharpened.
“What do you mean by ‘what I wanted’?”
“Chen Lianzhou, you killed him, didn’t you?” Zhao Xuan’s hands trembled as he spoke. “My grandfather knows who you are now. You’ve avenged your great grudge, and your life will end in Duke Yue’s mansion. This poisoned wine is extremely potent, and once you drink it, you won’t last long. It won’t be too painful.”
When Chu Xie didn’t respond, Zhao Xuan took a few steps closer.
“Chu Xie, if you don’t die, Great Wei will in your hands sooner or later… Both you and your father have the same…”
So that’s it.
“Zhao Xuan, I may have avenged my great grudge and can die now, but don’t think for a moment that your grandfather, Zhao Yu, is a good person…”
“In the capital city, there are hardly any clean individuals. If we have to calculate carefully, everyone has to die.”
He spoke a bit urgently, then coughed a couple of times, appearing extremely weak.
In truth, even if he didn’t kill this person, he probably wouldn’t live much longer himself.
“Now, get out.”
Zhao Xuan’s face turned pale.
After a moment of hesitation, he stammered, “Ah Xie, I’m sorry…”
A mocking smile still lingered at the corner of Chu Xie’s mouth.
So, the hidden line placed in the capital city by Ningyuan Wang was not Duke Rongguo’s mansion, which had a marital relationship, but rather the Zhao family of Duke Yue.
With Chen Lianzhou’s death, while he had achieved his goal, his identity had been exposed.
Ningyuan Wang couldn’t hold back any longer and had come to root out the source.
“Ding, storyline completion rate: 85%.”
Chu Xie stared at the poisoned wine in his hand, contemplating whether he should jump to the next world. Zhao Xuan had a point; this death was already the most painless way to go.
Regardless of who he died from, death couldn’t be this comfortable.
He shook the wine glass once more.
The wine glass reflected his slightly pink peach blossom eyes.
Mainly because of that character value, it couldn’t be salvaged, really.