Li Ying’s face was pushed aside.
His scattered thick black hair hid his expression, and after a while, he slowly turned his head and looked at the boy on the bed.
At this time, Yun Qingci was only nineteen years old. It was precisely the period when he stuck to Li Ying like glue and was inseparable from him, repeating “Ah Ying” every two or three sentences.
It should have been like this.
Yun Qingci turned over, then turned again, thinking that the clothes were too decorous and he couldn’t sleep well. He had always been spoiled. When resting, he had to wear a soft undershirt to sleep comfortably.
Although he had lived with his mother when he was a child and had never had contact with the Prime Minister’s mansion, his mother, Qin Feiruo, was also a daughter of a marquis. Of course, she had later become strong and domineering, and extremely possessive of her youngest son, but she raised her child, dedicating her entire heart and mind to him. Thus, Yun Qingci had never suffered material hardships.
Li Ying picked him up, half coaxed and half persuaded him, and removed his brocade clothes.
Under the influence of the wine, Yun Qingci quickly fell asleep.
Half an hour later.
The front hall was silent. Li Ying walked out from behind the screen, came up to Ruan Lian’s side and stood still.
Ruan Lian was pressing his forehead against the backs of his hands, motionless. His long hair fell from his shoulders.
“Are you a qin player?”
The emperor’s voice was low, his emotions unreadable. Ruan Lian could only respond carefully: “Yes.”
“Your hands are really beautiful.”
He felt a premonition, as he heard the voice continue: “The Lord Empress likes them so much, do you mind if I take them and give them to him?”
Liu Ziru felt a chill in his heart, and Ruan Lian also held his breath. He tried to calm down and said, “If it can please the Lord Empress, this little one won’t mind. But is His Majesty sure that the Lord Empress would like this little one to lose his hands that earn his livelihood?”
Li Ying stared at him for a moment, his gaze so sharp as if trying to pierce him through.
But he didn’t do anything, and Ruan Lian remained unscathed.
Two breaths later, the high-toe dragon boot kicked him fiercely on the shoulder, and Ruan Lian knocked over the table and rolled away. Cakes and fruits fell on the floor, pots and pans scattered with a loud noise.
Ruan Lian picked himself up and knelt again. The dragon boots came up to him immediately. Ruan Lian’s eyebrows twitched. He knew that even if he didn’t die today, he would be seriously injured. He didn’t dare to say anything more. He tightened his body and waited in silence.
There was a sudden movement behind the screen, and Yun Qingci’s voice was very soft, somewhat vague: “Yinxi… what’s that sound?”
The dragon boots stopped still and did not move again.
Yinxi received a murderous stare and rushed back, saying, “It’s a cat. The cat was making trouble and accidentally overturned the fruit plate.”
“It’s the two toffee cats fighting for food again?” Yun Qingci said, “Chase them out.”
Yinxi said, “En.”
Behind the screen, it became quiet again.
Yinxi turned around and found that His Majesty was still looking at him, worried that he didn’t act well enough. So, he exhaled twice and said, “Go, go, go away, two stinky… stinky cats.”
He murmured the last two words, not daring to speak too loudly.
Li Ying calmly stepped away and turned around, saying, “No one is allowed to leave Chaoyang Palace before dawn.”
In Yun Qingci’s memory, at this time he was still the generous and benevolent monarch, and he could not let Yun Qingci know that he was an evil spirit from many years later.
When the sky finally revealed a glimmer of light, the people in the front hall, who had knelt all night, felt as if their legs were no longer their own as they struggled to get up.
Ruan Lian had offended the Son of Heaven and was obviously isolated as he walked out. The other musicians helped each other, and he alone stayed far behind, supporting himself on the door with one hand and holding his qin with the other.
Against the red wall, the qin player’s hair was scattered, his expression slightly distraught, and he turned around thoughtfully to look at the Chaoyang Palace gate behind him.
The Emperor was not like the Emperor in the rumors, and the Lord Empress did not seem to be like the rumored Lord Empress.
Perhaps because of drinking wine yesterday, Yun Qingci slept until the sun was three poles high. Chaoyang Palace had been cleaned up. He squinted his eyes and was helped to freshen up. Suddenly, he smelled a familiar smell, cyan horn incense.
Yun Qingci waved his hand, ordered all his subordinates to leave, rubbed his forehead and sat down at the desk. A silent person quickly appeared beside him, “Lord Empress, this is the information for this month.”
At this time, Yun Qingci was the sole commander of the Qing Division, and first-hand information was handed over to Yun Qingci and then transferred from Yun Qingci to Li Ying.
He knocked on the desk, took out a few books from inside and threw them directly into the brazier, saying, “You don’t have to bother with the three families of Yun, Qin and Xiao anymore. Check the Zhang family more.”
Commander of the Qing Division glanced at him reflexively. The master and the Queen Mother had always been good friends, how come there seemed to be hostility between them now?
However, Yun Qingci’s intention to shelter his parental families made Commander Ling feel a little more relaxed. In the past six months, Yun Qingci’s actions had become more extreme and crazy. He had been worried that the Lord Empress would embark on the road of no return because of his feelings.
He lowered his head and said, “This subordinate will obey the orders.”
“What about Li Ying?”
“His Majesty has not visited other people’s palaces recently. He stays in Jiangshan Palace every day. I just heard that he seems to be sleeping badly, but I don’t know the details.”
Yun Qingci’s monitoring of Li Ying was completely different from that of others. As long as he knew that Li Ying was faithful to him physically and emotionally, he never cared about what else Li Ying wanted to do, so Commander Ling usually did not report anything else, because Yun Qingci didn’t care.
But today the Lord Empress seemed to have changed his mind: “There is no need to report such things in future. I want to know if he makes any attempts to undermine the Yun family.”
Commander Ling was stunned.
Yun Qingci glanced at him and said, “What?”
The commander lowered his head: “This subordinate understands.”
“And your little apprentice,” Yun Qingci said, “If it is convenient for you in future, you can hand him over to me.”
“Lord Empress, don’t you think he is too young?”
The apprentice was a little beggar that Yun Qingci had picked up from the street. Bringing him back, he had directly thrown him to Commander Ling and ignored him for more than two years. Once before, the boy had come to pass the information, and Yun Qingci had asked whether the Qing Division lacked the manpower, so the boy never appeared again.
If it hadn’t been for him becoming the new commander later, Yun Qingci might have never remembered the name of the little beggar he had picked up.
Now he remembered that the boy’s name was Gan Li.
Yun Qingci flipped through the information. His expression softened a little, and he said, “You have to give the young man some opportunities to exercise.”
After the commander had left, Yun Qingci recalled that he had forgotten to tell him about the replacement of the token, but he hadn’t thought of a suitable substitute. The name of the Qing Division itself was homophonic to ‘the thread of love’. Its purpose was to help Li Ying consolidate power, and it was also an embodiment of his affection for Li Ying.
If he wanted to change the token, he might as well change the name.
It was weird to call them that.
He needed to think more about it.
Yun Qingci read for a while, then yawned and laid down on the table. He actually didn’t like doing these things. If possible, he wanted to be an idle young master like Qiu Yang, look at handsome people every day, enjoying beautiful scenery, and then going to eat and drink.
The life of a fairy.
Blame Li Ying, that dog emperor.
Yun Qingci laid down for a while, then cleaned up and ordered someone to report to Li Ying, saying, “I’m going to the kiln factory.”
When the news reached Li Ying’s ears, he recalled that Yun Qingci had indeed learned a lot of things in his previous life, including porcelain-making. He did not stop him: “Let him go.”
In the next few days, Yun Qingci left early and returned late, and occasionally did not return overnight. Li Ying went to his palace every day, but no one was there. In the empty hall, he first checked the information Yun Qingci left him, and found that there was no news about the three families of Yun, Qin and Xiao.
After that, he walked from the beauty couch to the window, from the window to the flower room, from the flower room to the courtyard, and from the courtyard to the gate of Chaoyang Palace.
Liu Ziru put a cloak on him and said, “I heard that the Lord Empress stayed in the kiln factory last night and had a great chat with the old masters there.”
“Okay.” Li Ying knew that Yun Qingci would fire a beautiful porcelain set and would relax after a few days.
What’s more, this porcelain would be given to him.
Although that was all in the previous life, but what if?
“It’s almost New Year,” Liu Ziru said: “It’s snowing again, and I’m sure there will be a big harvest next year.”
“…” Liu Ziru looked up at the snowflakes floating in the sky, and said, “Why don’t we go back to Jiangshan Palace first?”
“When did he say he would be back?”
Li Ying took two steps, then returned to the palace. He ordered someone to bring some memorials to review them, while looking at the candle clock from time to time.
At last, he put on his cloak again and walked out of Chaoyang Palace.
The snow was still falling, and Liu Ziru followed him with an umbrella, asking, “Where is Your Majesty going? Should I prepare a carriage?”
“How long does it take to walk from here to the East Gate?”
“About a quarter of an hour.”
“Then let’s go.”
Liu Ziru understood. In other words, if Lord Empress returned on time, the two would meet when His Majesty reached the East Gate.
Liu Ziru glanced quietly and sighed.
He didn’t know what happened. The two of them had suddenly changed together. It would be great if His Majesty changed alone or the Lord Empress transformed alone.
In that case they would hit it off and become harmonious, or part ways and have nothing to do with each other; and the people below would not have to suffer.
Snowflakes hit the paper umbrella and made a patting sound. Li Ying walked very slowly, as if just to kill time.
Two quarters of an hour later, they came to the East Gate.
There was a layer of silver frost on the paper umbrella, and the guard at the gate asked tentatively, “Your Majesty, do you want to go inside and sit down?”
The guard quietly retreated, looking at the emperor’s figure with a strange expression.
In the past, the Lord Empress often came over to wait for His Majesty. His Majesty… was he waiting for the Lord Empress?
No, no, no, this was His Majesty, it was probably just a whim, in order to enjoy the snow…
The guard glanced at the empty gate: …right?
“What time is it?”
Not long after.
“What time is it now?”
“The midnight has just passed.”
“What about now?”
“… midnight has just passed.”
Next time Li Ying glanced at him, Liu Zirui bit the bullet and continued: “Midnight has just passed.”
Li Ying’s face became cold.
He stood for a long time. Even though there was an umbrella over his head, snow still fell on his shoulders, quickly leaving a thin layer of white.
Liu Ziru said, “It’s snowing, do you want to send someone to ask?”
Liu Ziru called someone casually, and as soon as he was about to give an order, he heard: “Go prepare a fast horse.”
At this time Yun Qingci had already fallen asleep. Although the conditions of the kiln factory were simple, he was the Lord Empress, after all. Since he had the intention to rest here, the palace attendants would naturally prepare the best possible conveniences for him.
The bed was not big enough and the window was a bit broken, but after experiencing the treatment of the Cold Palace, Yun Qingci was quite satisfied with this short-lived habitat that could shelter him from the wind and rain.
He unconsciously touched the wooden box next to the pillow and thought of his father’s surprise when receiving the gift, and he couldn’t help but feel happy.
In fact, the porcelain set had been fired out in the afternoon, but the old master didn’t let him go and was determined to let him stay for one more night. In the evening, he found a few old friends to come over to look at the quality of porcelain. Yun Qingci felt complimented and full of accomplishment.
When he was about to fall asleep, there was a sound of horses’ hooves from outside, not one, but several.
Yun Qingci was awakened by the noise and vaguely heard the movement.
“Greetings to His Majesty!”
Li Ying, if he was traveling at this time, he would definitely be followed by a group of guards, no wonder it was so noisy.
Yun Qingci touched the wooden box beside him again and suddenly remembered something.
Li Ying had previously ordered him to learn more and to be less clingy. After he had finally been allowed to return to the palace, Yun Qingci did not stick to him for a while, not because he didn’t want to, but because he didn’t dare.
Only after he’d made achievements in his studies, he finally found a reason and couldn’t wait to run over to Li Ying to offer his treasure.
Holding a wooden box, his face shone and his eyes glowed. He walked quickly into Jiangshan Palace and was stopped there. “Lord Empress.”
Liu Ziru told him: “His Majesty is having a council.”
Yun Qingci knew that Li Ying didn’t like to be disturbed when having a council, so he stopped and waited in the outer hall honestly, holding the box.
But he hadn’t seen Li Ying for too long and missed him very much. He was so anxious that he inquired frequently. Liu Ziru couldn’t help but ask him, “Is there anything important Lord Empress wants? If you are in a hurry, this servant will go and announce that you are here?”
Yun Qingci heard it, and a cold expression appeared on his face.
At that time, he didn’t like anyone. He only loved Li Ying. Except for Li Ying, he cared about no one. No matter how excited he was, he didn’t want to share his surprise with anyone but Li Ying.
What’s more, Li Ying had never taken his affairs seriously. If he knew that he was just bringing a gift, he would definitely not care.
However, he missed Li Ying, and he was afraid that if he didn’t find a chance to talk to him, Li Ying would forget him.
Liu Ziru sighed and asked no more questions.
When Li Ying finally came out, Yun Qingci straightened immediately, and the cold expression on his face melted into a warm spring. He called humbly and eagerly: “Ah Ying…”
He longed for Li Ying to ask him how he was doing, what happened to him, and if he missed him. But Li Ying’s face was gloomy, and he passed by like wind, without giving him much of a glance.
Yun Qingci’s heart constricted, and he panicked uncontrollably. He hurriedly took the porcelain set from the wooden box. The lid of the box fell to the ground and there was no time to pick it up. He hastily followed: “Ah Ying, Ah Ying, I went out to learn how to make porcelain, take a look…”
“I am very busy right now.”
“Just take a look. The masters say that I am very talented and lucky. They wanted to keep it for a few more glances but I didn’t let them.” He grabbed the corner of Li Ying’s clothes, presenting the thing he was holding, restlessly, cautiously and expectantly: “Ah Ying, I will give you all my luck, don’t be unhappy…”
Li Ying was so annoyed that he suddenly flung his sleeves.
Yun Qingci was caught off guard and his hand slipped.
The porcelain set fell to the ground, breaking into pieces.
Yun Qingci rushed after it.
Liu Ziru exclaimed: “Lord Empress!”
Yun Qingci opened his eyes suddenly.
Li Ying was squatting in front of him, with his fingers on the wooden box next to his pillow. Yun Qingci glanced at him, then at his hand and his face became cold. He directly picked up Li Ying’s sleeve and threw his hand away.
The back of Li Ying’s hand hit against the bedpost, and his fingers twitched in pain.
Yun Qingci had already sat up and hugged the wooden box carefully, looking suspiciously: “Why are you here?”
“Let me see what you… fired.” Li Ying got up and sat on the small bamboo bed. The bamboo bed suddenly creaked. Yun Qingci followed him with his gaze, his eyes alert: “What do you want to do with my things?”
Li Ying kept watching the wooden box, and Yun Qingci opened the quilt and hid the box under it.
Li Ying: “…just to take a look.”
“I won’t show it to you.”
“I won’t touch it.”
“I won’t show it to you anyway.”
Li Ying frowned and continued to look at the quilt covering the box.
Yun Qingci’s brows drew together, and he stretched out his hand to push Li Ying away, “You go.”
“I’ve just arrived…”
Yun Qingci didn’t care, and kicked him farther away with his feet: “Go away.”