When the hustle and bustle of footsteps sounded outside, Li Yuanmin rubbed his brows and sighed secretly. It was only three days, but she couldn’t sit still already.
He sighed lightly and stood up. Before he could go out to greet her, he saw Wang Guifei’s parade of palace maids, energetically coming to the Western Palace gate.
Li Yuanmin lowered his eyes and shook his hem. He bowed to the ground and said: “Greetings to Niang Niang’s arrival.”
“No need to be polite!” Wang Chaoluan had a pleasant smile on her face. She hurriedly stepped down to support him, “There are no outsiders, so you don’t need to keep up with the unnecessary courtesy.”
She held Li Yuanmin’s arm, her face showing concern. She looked him up and down,
“I have had people call you several times, but you have never come over. This truly made Ben Gong worried. Fortunately, looking at this complexion, it shouldn’t be anything extreme.”
Li Yuanmin showed a grateful expression, “Many thanks to Niang Niang’s concern, Yuanmin is already well.”
Before he could finish his words, Wang Chaoluan instantly rebuked: “This child, since you’re already well, why didn’t you come even when Ben Gong coaxed and pleaded with you several times. It’s fortunate that Ben Gong always thinks of you and seeing that there are some new snowy peak jade goods, I have saved you some. I even made this special trip here. You can ask around, even Li Yuanlang doesn’t get treated like this.”
Li Yuanlang bowed behind her, his face forced out a smile.
Satisfied to see Li Yuanmin’s flattered face, Wang Chaoluan’s mouth twitched and she lightly grabbed his elbow.
“Let’s go, we have to take advantage of the freshness.”
Li Yuanmin didn’t step forward. He drooped his head and hesitated. His face seemed to be twisted. Before Wang Chaoluan could ask a question, he suddenly knelt down,
“Niang Niang! Yuanmin is guilty!”
Wang Chaoluan’s loving parental drama hadn’t ended yet, when she was scared by him.
“What are you guilty of?”
Li Yuanmin leaned his weak body over, his head drooped even more: “Yuanmin covered up the truth from Niang Niang. Please punish me, Niang Niang.”
Wang Chaoluan, seeing him talk in a frightened tone, made her heart bewildered. She endured the impulse to yell at him. She only helped him up,
“How could Ben Gong punish you? You helped Ben Gong a lot already.”
Li Yuanmin shook his head, with a difficult tone: “…. I had a dream again.”
“What?!” Wang Chaoluan’s face changed drastically. Thinking of the time when he spoke about the Zhexi hungry ghosts, she was unable to keep her calm, “Say it quickly, don’t miss anything!”
In any case, she still had some rationality left. She paused, then her eyes swept over. She had a stern look in her eyes, “You all withdraw!”
“Yes!” Li Yuanlang looked at the other party opposite him. His eyes were filled with unclear undercurrents. He waved his hand behind him and everyone retreated back.
There were only two people left inside the deserted Western Palace. Wang Chaoluan suppressed the huge waves in her heart and took a deep breath: “Speak.”
Li Yuanmin showed a reluctant expression, and whispered: “To tell the truth, the hungry ghosts crisis concerning Niang Niang hasn’t been fully resolved yet….”
“What are you saying?!” Wang Chaoluan raised her voice abruptly. She staggered back a step. A layer of cold sweat broke out on her back. She grabbed his wrist, her fingertips almost pinched into his flesh.
“Didn’t you say that the purple magic clouds, that nuisance of red-crowned cranes, could help resolve Ben Gong’s distress?”
The stinging pain on his wrist made Li Yuanmin frown. He took a deep breath: “Actually, it’s because Yuanmin is wretched, that’s why it wasn’t effective.”
“Nonsense!” Wang Chaoluan’s voice sharpened, “The miracle appeared, how can it be no match for those hungry ghosts!”
Li Yuanmin shook his head and said: “If there were only a dozen hungry ghosts, then it would be no match for it. However, this time the hungry ghosts are numerous. It endlessly came from Zhexi. Despite it being the immortal land’s red-crowned cranes, it’s still difficult to go against these myriad of evil ghosts….. Niang Niang, it’s because Yuanmin is incompetent!”
Wang Chaoluan could no longer pretend to be aloof. She was pale and trembling. She pointed to Li Yuanmin and gnashed her teeth: “You dare to speak without thinking!? You dare!? If something happens to Ben Gong, I will have you buried with me!”
Li Yuanmin was silent. His forehead pressed tightly to the ground for a long while, then as if talking to himself:
“Everything has a cause and effect, but Yuanmin has not been able to understand why so many hungry ghosts come from Zhexi. It is said that Zhexi is a land of prosperity, so how can ghosts and demons run rampant… Yuanmin really truly failed to understand the reason…”
These words were earth-shattering, making Wang Chaoluan shake from head to toe: “That’s right, this son of a bi*ch had been inside the palace for a long time, and his eyes and ears had been blocked. How could he know that early summer this year Zhexi was devastated with flood, and the refugee affairs a thousand miles away? The origin of these hungry ghosts are unknown to him. Fortunately, I took a trip here today.”
She turned her eyes around, then secretly guessed: “Father was born from a painstaking scholar family, his scope was indeed narrow, and he was too careless in handling matters. I had persuaded him long ago, how can we have swallowed up all of the government disaster relief funds completely. Now the retribution is above me already!”
All kinds of thoughts passed through her heart. Now that she had a plan, she took a steady breath. She closed her eyes and when she opened her eyes her clarity was restored:
“This matter cannot be blamed on you, you can get up now.”
The corner of her mouth brought a pleasant smile: “Ben Gong was a bit emotional and desperate just now, I hope you don’t blame Ben Gong for that.”
Li Yuanmin said humbly: “Er Chen* doesn’t dare to. It’s because Yuanmin is incompetent, so Niang Niang is right in blaming me.”
(Er Chen: I, as speaking from a prince to his mother or father)
“It’s fine, this matter is now over at this point.” She looked around, and leaned a bit closer to him. She looked a bit cautious: “This dream matter is known by heavens, you and me. You don’t need to let a third person know of it. Remember this by all means.”
Wang Chaoluan smiled, and patted his hand: “Alright, today is cold. Don’t stand in the courtyard for too long and be cautious of the wind. Go back.”
After speaking, she didn’t wait any longer and walked directly outside in a hurry. Shortly after, Zhong Cui Palace hurriedly sent out someone to hand over the message to her Guo Zhang*, ordering him to enter the Palace to discuss important matters.
(Guo Zhang: father of favorite concubines/empress or father-in-law of the king.)
The snow covered ground gradually became bigger.
Li Yuanmin stood there for a while, watching her leave in a hurry. The corner of his mouth twitched lightly.
He brushed off a few snowflakes falling on his shoulders and walked back inside.
Two days later, it will be the Autumn Selection. The city was quiet, but the undercurrents were growing vigorously.
It was snowing on this day. Even though it hasn’t been that long since it entered winter, this was the fifth snowfall already.
In the night, the earth was engulfed with thick layers of white, coldly and silently. Outside the beast house, two imperial guards shrank their necks, drinking and chatting in boredom, passing the long night.
(Ciacia/N: It is good to warm up by drinking alcohol on a cold winter day!)
In the cold and dim beast house, most of the beasts had fallen asleep, and a few awoke ones just wagged their tails. They had no vigilance towards the people coming and going in front of them.
Li Yuanmin, dressed in a palace outfit, moved the slightly fresh hay from the haystack to the innermost place. After going back and forth a few times, thin sweat was coming out of his forehead. The time was limited, so he dared not delay. He panted lightly, and changed the hay below Ni Lie’s body.
The physique of the youngster inside the cage was comparable to an extraordinary person. These few days, his injuries had already become better. He was able to sit and stand up without worrying about anything. But, he didn’t say anything and only turned his back on him.
After bustling around for about a stick of incense, he finally replaced the hay in the cage with some new ones. Li Yuanmin wiped his sweat, then walked around to his side and sat down against the fence.
The clothes on Ni Lie’s body were thin and his limbs extended out. He seemingly was not afraid of the cold. Li Yuanmin was relieved.
“It really isn’t me going back on my words. It’s just that something suddenly delayed it.”
Now that he has become a guest of Zhong Cui Palace, Wang Chaoluan was already a bird startled by the release of the bow*. She would call him to ask questions from time to time, lest he have any dream signs. Originally, he said that he would come at noon (to the beast house), but as soon as he left the palace, Qing He came to invite him over. After that, he remained for dinner, and got away only when it was deep into the night.
(A bird startled by the release of the bow: become panic easily)
He looked at his slightly outdated palace costume and sighed. Who made Qiu Chan and Dong Yue the only two palace maids inside the Western Palace. It would be good if there was a taishi (higher ranked servant) as well, so he didn’t have to dress up in such an old palace maid dress like this.
Ni Lie ignored him, with an indifferent expression. He sat cross-legged, holding hay in his hand and rubbing it between his fingers.
Li Yuanmin knew that he was sulking, but couldn’t tell him the reason why he had broken the appointment, thus he stretched out his hand, sighed, and gently patted him on the back like he did in his previous life, as if he were treating a child.
Ni Lie breathed sluggishly, his eyes were somewhat resentful. Suddenly, his expression changed. He vigilantly looked back. He pulled the person in front of him and pushed him to the thick hay pile on the side of the cage. Li Yuanmin immediately realized that someone was coming to this side. He shrank his body and lifted the hay to hide inside.
The people who came in were servants carrying water. The two filled the tank in the beast house with water, then retreated.
When the footsteps faded away, Li Yuanmin promptly got up. His blood circulation was not good at all. When he immediately got up in a hurry, it made him somewhat unable to stand. So, he almost bumped into the fence. Fortunately, Ni Lie grabbed his wrist.
The slender and thin wrist on his hand was cold, it didn’t seem like a living person’s hand.
Ni Lie’s eyes became deep. Seeing her drained of blood, pale face, he thought of the appearance of her gasping for breath while moving the hay just now. That pile was merely a few stones, but it made her tired like this. It may be assumed that her foundation was not good. Seeing her outfit, it was also no more than a low-ranked palace maid. Staying inside this oppressive palace, she should be similar to him, suffering from all kinds of things.
His eyes turned a bit gloomy, letting go of her hand.
Li Yuanmin didn’t mind it. He patted the dust on his body, then suddenly remembered something. He fumbled with a medicine box from his sleeve. He took out a pill, and placed it on Ni Lie’s lips.
Ni Lie felt the coldness of her fingertips again. There was a faint fragrance in her sleeves.
He couldn’t help but open his mouth to swallow the slightly bitter pill.
Li Yuanmin felt a faint compromise from this quiet and grim youngster. The corner of his mouth couldn’t help showing a light smile when he put away the medicine box.
In the dark, the corner of his eyes caught sight of the other party taking out a greasy paper from within the hay and giving it to him. With a harsh tone.
Li Yuanmin was taken aback, this was the food he brought him.
Everyone said he was a monster that would interact with other beasts, so the servants of the beast house naturally played with him and fed him entrails or even mixed them together with other slop. He had never been treated as a human. Li Yuanmin looked at him holding the raw torn meat and felt sad in his heart, so he secretly brought some dried food for him.
These were dried buns and other things. Although they were not tasty, they could satisfy the stomach and was easy to store. He can only come every few days, naturally, he can only bring these foods. Li Yuanmin originally thought he didn’t like it and was ready to explain when he realized something. His heart ached. He forced out a smile and said: “I’m already full, these are all for you.”
He squatted down and hid the oil-paper bag under the haystack again, feeling more sorrowful in his heart. How could such a child become the ‘killing human like flies’ demon king on earth?
While pushing the hay, he opened his mouth to talk:
Ni Lie raised his head and looked at him, his pupils were pitch black.
Li Yuanmin’s mouth twitched: “It’s nothing.”
He sorted out the messy hay on the ground: “I have to go.”
Actually, there was no need for him to ask anything. He can’t let him leave the palace alone and cause disaster to the world like he did in his previous life. Presently, there is also another way. Li Yuanmin drooped down his crow feather like eyelids concealing all the fluctuations in his heart.
Everything will have to wait until the Autumn Selection day.