The Gilded Qifeng Tower was located in the northeast corner of the Forbidden City and could be seen from a thousand miles away. At night, one could have a panoramic view of the prosperous lights of Shangyang Four Cities from it.
Everyone in Shangyang knew that the tower was built by the Emperor for Empress Yun. Although the whole Yun family was currently seized and sentenced to death by execution, and Yun Qingci was thrown to the Cold Palace, the most promising Imperial Consort Ning could still only grit her teeth and watch the tower from below.
The night was as cold as a blade, and the guards of the Forbidden City carried windproof lanterns while patrolling in the snow. Suddenly someone exclaimed: “There’s someone in the tower!”
On the guardrail, a man dressed in white was standing against the wind.
“Insolent!” With the sound of armor clanking, the leader of the guards led his people forward: “Who is so bold to dare to climb the tower behind the monarch’s back…”
In the icy sky and snow lands, this man was wearing a sapphire hairpin and a thin shirt that had no use in keeping out the cold and a pair of mismatched shoes that didn’t fit his feet. He whizzed down from the top to bottom and hit the stone slabs of the Forbidden City covered with thin snow.
Blood like red plum blossoms splashed all around.
The unfinished words were stuck in the guard’s throat.
No one dared to touch the person on the ground.
Not only because he was the owner of this tower, but he was also the Lord Empress of the Son of Heaven.
Moreover, because his previous image of being arrogant, domineering and devoid of humanity was so deeply rooted in the people’s hearts, everyone felt incredulous and even creeped out that he would end himself in this way.
Some people believed that Yun Qingci had chosen the Gilded Qifeng Tower to jump to his death because his heart was broken by the Emperor. After all, although he was hated by his royal relatives and made outsiders fear him, he was devoted to the Son of Heaven beyond words.
Other people believed that Yun Qingci was bigoted and conceited. When he was alive, he often self-harmed in order to gain the attention of the emperor. This time, he was just defending his place in the mind of the Son of Heaven in an extreme way.
He didn’t care if the emperor wanted to destroy his whole clan, but he was heartbroken to be sent to the Cold Palace. He really dared to love, hate, and give up his life like a madman.
Never had he seemed to be quiet, he was always hysterical, arrogant and jealous, changeable like a wind, always with a lingering hostility between his eyebrows. No one dared to directly meet his sharp, cold, proud and sneering eyes – to the point that people ignored the fact that he was actually born very good-looking.
With his hair black and his skin as white as ice, he looked like an ink painting. Thick blood spread from under him, quickly engulfing the snow, dyeing his clothes and skin red, like a large stain of cinnabar splashed on a scroll.
When he closed his eyes and looked serene, the sky and the earth seemed to fade away with the sight of his bloodless lips.
The leader of the guard’s throat was throbbing, and he didn’t dare to look more.
Soon, no one in the palace was allowed to talk about the Lord Empress anymore. The Son of Heaven, who used to be kind-hearted and virtuous, started a big massacre and killed all the palace slaves who liked to gossip.
It was the fifteenth year of Xuanjing, and it was also the twelfth year since Yun Qingci married the Emperor.
The Gilded Qifeng Tower, which made countless concubines envious and jealous, still stood there brightly, but it was completely blocked from everyone’s sight and had become a forbidden place.
And everything about Yun Qingci, even his name, had become a taboo in the palace. No one dared to discuss it.
The heavy snow pattered on the window frame.
Yinxi and Jin Huan sat by the charcoal fire, both quietly observing the person who was leaning on the couch at the window, listening to the snow.
The man’s black hair was scattered, his demeanor was lazy, and white gauze was wrapped around his forehead and wrist. His thin white slender fingers tapped rhythmically on the armrests, looking leisurely and comfortable.
It was Lord Empress Yun, but it also didn’t seem to be Lord Empress Yun.
It was him, because no one could imitate his appearance, and not him, because he shouldn’t be so calm at the moment.
Yesterday early in the morning, before the Lord Empress was fully awake, His Majesty, full of anger, threw him off the bed, splitting the Lord Empress’s forehead causing him to shed a lot of blood.
His Majesty was furious and ordered someone to drive Yun Qingci back to his house. The Lord Empress rushed up to beg like crazy to no avail and then cut his wrist in an attempt to get His Majesty’s sympathy. Although the doctor came in time, the Lord Empress still fainted because of the excessive blood loss.
And His Majesty… not only did he not give Yun Qingci a look, but he ordered someone to send him back to the Prime Minister’s mansion while he was unconscious, disregarding the proper etiquette for returning to the parents’ house, without an advance notice. As a result, there was no one in the Prime Minister’s mansion to greet the Lord Empress, making Yun Qingci wait for a long time.
Although the decree had not been issued yet, His Majesty’s actions were no different from abolishing the Lord Empress.
Everyone knew Yun Qingci would go crazy when he woke up.
Sure enough, when he opened his eyes in the empty waiting room, the first thing he did was rush back to the Forbidden City to find His Majesty. He tried to run like a madman to the Forbidden City on foot with the blood from his slashed wrist dripping down his fingers, but he didn’t care. No one could persuade him to stop.
Fortunately, within a few steps, Yun Qingci was met by Prime Minister Yun heading back to the mansion. The Prime Minister thought his son was embarrassing, so he knocked him out and brought him back.
Everyone in the Yun family knew very well that Yun Qingci would definitely make trouble when he woke up again, so his father ordered people to guard the windows and doors of the house in advance to prevent him from sneaking out again.
But today, Yun Qingci woke up early in the morning and not only did he not make a noise, but he also obediently asked Yinxi to give him his medicine. He ate his breakfast quietly, and then he stayed in the house honestly. He didn’t go anywhere. He seemed to be taking care of his body seriously.
Yinxi and Jin Huan were both a little confused, not knowing if their master was cooking up another idea, or if he really was ready to calm down.
Forbidden City, Jiangshan Hall.
Liu Ziru, the emperor’s supervisor, looked at the decree slowly burning in the brazier, and he had almost the same doubts as the Lord Empress’s close attendants.
This was the decree of abolishment of the Lord Empress.
The emperor was really pissed off by Yun Qingci this time. Not only did he drag this person out of the bed and split his forehead before the other party woke up, but he also drew up a decree to abolish the Lord Empress immediately after returning to Jiangshan Hall.
The Yun family was powerful; of course, Yun Qingci’s relationship with his family was bad, but his honor and disgrace were still related to the face of the Yun family.
The Empress Dowager was worried that the emperor would anger the Yun family, so she tried her best to dissuade His Majesty from issuing the decree. However, the decree was not destroyed and stayed on the table, always ready to be sent out. Obviously, the emperor had already decided in his heart about the abolishment.
Before going to bed yesterday, he probably reviewed his thoughts clearly and drew up a letter of separation, declaring the split-up in a gentler manner. It likely was the final compromise he was going to make to Yun Qingci.
However, early this morning, when Liu Ziru dressed up and came to serve him, he saw the young emperor who was always gentle and generous, looking wild, with his hair disheveled and his eyes sharp as an eagle. His gaze was hiding madness and cruelty inside:
“Where is the hairpin that I put under my pillow?”
At that time, Liu Ziru wondered if he was getting older and if his mind was not working well. Why did he have no impression of the emperor putting a hairpin under his pillow?
He saluted tentatively: “Dare to ask Your Majesty… what kind of hairpin is it?”
Rich blackness surged in Li Ying’s eyes. He got up, and there was a strong sense of oppression coming from his tall figure, oozing a ghostly aura. No one around him had ever seen His Majesty look so terrifying. With his legs limp, Liu Ziru knelt down involuntarily, sweat slipping from his forehead.
His collar was grabbed by the Son of Heaven, and facing the Emperor’s handsome but gloomy face, Liu Ziru only felt that he was going to lose his life. He held his breath, trying his best to control the trembling of his face muscles. He used to think that although Li Ying’s heart was impenetrable, the Emperor had always acted sensibly. At least in front of others, he was always a decent monarch. The only thing where his decency failed him was probably dealing with Yun Qingci.
But at this moment, Li Ying seemed to be an evil spirit who had torn off his human skin and became ruthless. He didn’t seem to care about anything.
“Sir, Your Majesty…”
Liu Ziru clearly felt that Li Ying wanted to kill him.
It was the little eunuch in charge of notifications who rescued him:
“Informing Your Majesty, the guard has just come to report that the Empress Dowager sent someone to visit the Lord Empress.”
Li Ying didn’t like the Empress Dowager’s meddling in his and Yun Qingci’s affairs, so occurrences like this always made him pay special attention.
Liu Ziru didn’t know if it was his imagination, but the emperor seemed to be in a daze.
Liu Ziru said hurriedly: “The Empress Dowager must have learned that the Lord Empress made a fuss in the Prime Minister’s mansion yesterday, so she sent someone to appease the Yun family… I heard that after returning to the mansion, the Lord Empress was injured again. ”
Li Ying’s jaw suddenly tightened heavily. His eyelashes trembled, and his eyes clouded with mist. His voice became dumb for a moment:
“Lord Empress, my Lord Empress…”
He didn’t go on, so Liu Ziru didn’t know what it meant. He was glad his life was spared. He saw the Emperor stride over to the bookcase, stretch out his hand and pull out a memorial. His eyes focused on the date: “Xuanjing, the seventh year…”
Yun Qingci was still alive and loved him like crazy.
The emperor laughed lowly, tears raining down his face, frightening a group of people around him.
Then he ordered someone to roll up his long hair and throw the prepared decree of abolishment into the brazier.
Another thing was thrown in, the letter of separation.
The evil spirit put his human skin back on again and said softly: “Prepare a carriage, a simple one, I am going to the Prime Minister’s mansion.” Then he looked at Liu Ziru: “I’ve just had a nightmare. I was a little rude, and I scared the elder.”
Liu Ziru said immediately: “Your Majesty, don’t worry, this minister didn’t see anything.”
Li Ying curled his lips in a kind smile, rubbed his fingers on the material of his clothes, and became gentle and decent again.
He again looked like the young Son of Heaven with a benevolent heart and rich, both in morals and talent.
Yun Qingci yawned, sitting on the soft couch, and listened to Jin Huan report: “The Empress Dowager sent someone to visit, he’s waiting in the front hall.”
“Okay.” Yun Qingci’s tone was calm, and he didn’t appear excited at all.
Jin Huan looked confused. The Empress Dowager always tried her best to reconcile the Lord Empress and His Majesty. She often came to comfort the Lord Empress because of the discord between the two of them. It stood to reason that since the Empress Dowager had the intention to intervene in this matter, Yun Qingci would definitely do his best to seize this opportunity.
He asked in bewilderment: “Your Majesty, do you want to see him?”
As soon as he said that, a chuckling voice came from the outside: “Your Majesty, the Empress Dowager has sent this slave to visit you.”
Yun Qingci pulled the corners of his mouth in a light smile, slowly got up from the couch, moved to the chair and said: “Since Zhou Gonggong is here, please come in.”
Zhou Zhao walked in and his gaze fell on the several injuries on Yun Qingci’s body, then he hurriedly stepped forward, looked eagerly and sighed: “Ah, if the Empress Dowager sees your injuries, I’m afraid she will feel distressed again.”
Yun Qingci smiled slightly.
If it hadn’t been for Zhou Zhao strangling Yinxi with his own hands in front of him later, Yun Qingci might have never known how terrifying that woman was. The woman who had always said that she regarded him as her own, had always praised him for chasing Li Ying, and had urged him to marry Li Ying.
From the beginning, Li Ying had approached him only to get close to the Prime Minister’s mansion through him, but Yun Qingci fell in love with Li Ying through the Empress Dowager’s guidance. When he was just in his teens and simply liked to be around Li Ying, it was this woman who pierced the paper window for him and asked him if he wanted to be with Li Ying forever, if he wanted to marry Li Ying.
And Yun Qingci, just like this, walked step by step, distancing himself further and further away from his relatives and closer and closer to his enemies.
“I appreciate the Empress Dowager’s attention,” he said softly. “Zhou Gonggong is here today, what advice does he have for me?”
Zhou Zhao was a little surprised with his calmness, but considering Yun Qingci’s attitude towards the Empress Dowager, he was quickly relieved. He motioned to Yun Qingci to make the guards step away, and said: “His Majesty does not allow the Empress Dowager to intervene in this matter. This slave doesn’t have much time, so let’s make a long story short. ”
Yun Qingci nodded.
“According to the Empress Dowager’s intention, if the Lord Empress wants to repair the relationship with His Majesty at this moment, there is only one way. That is… the Lord Empress will have to suffer.”
Yun Qingci was listening attentively.
Zhou Zhao felt a little puzzled. At this time Yun Qingci would have usually said: ‘As long as I can keep Ah Ying’s heart, I am willing to do anything.’
Without getting the expected reaction, Zhou Zhao could only continue: “You also know that the Empress Dowager has helped you a lot over the years and His Majesty hates her a lot, so this time… I’m afraid only Prime Minister Yun can save you. ”
“You know my relationship with him.”
“That is because you don’t want to be close to him, while he is eager to get along with you.”
Yun Qingci’s face was calm, but his fingers tightened silently. When he was a child, he grew up with his mother in the suburbs because of the discord between his parents. He only returned to the Prime Minister’s mansion when he was seven years old. That year, his father took him on a trip with the Emperor where an assassination attempt happened. When the tips of the swords pointed at Yun Qingci and the Emperor at the same time, Prime Minister Yun gave Yun Qingci a heavy glance, then rushed towards the Emperor.
The sharp sword penetrated Yun Qingci’s chest.
Their father-and-son relationship that had already been too late to cultivate became even worse.
Later, his mother and father completely broke up, and Yun Qingci never called Prime Minister Yun “father” again.
Yun Qingci picked up his tea and sipped it lightly, his long eyelashes hiding all the emotions in his eyes: “You mean I should beg him?”
“A father and son is connected by the heart, as long as Lord Empress is ruthless enough to hurt himself, Prime Minister Yun will definitely be soft-hearted.”
When Zhou Zhao said it, his face was not flushed and his heart was not speeding up; he felt no guilt for encouraging another person to self-harm.