The charcoal fire in the copper furnace was glowing bright red.
The emperor stood in silence, staring quietly at his Lord Empress.
Yun Qingci had just come out of the warm pavilion and entered the warm room with the dragon heater burning. His cheeks were faintly flushed by the heat, the blush spreading over his neck and collarbones like a thin layer of powder.
The whole person was clear and vibrant, like translucent fresh grapes placed in a glass cup, sweet and seductive.
Everything seemed so real.
But Yun Qingci, how could he so easily let his guard down against him, and how could he forgive him so easily.
Li Ying’s eyes were soft as he said, “Really?”
“Of course,” Yun Qingci said seriously: “I really just wanted to see you.”
As soon as his lips moved, all Li Ying’s thoughts scattered.
Li Ying unconsciously reached out his hand and came up closer, breathing lightly. Yun Qingci cooperated obediently, but then pulled away avoiding a touch. He walked behind the screen, tilted his head and asked, “Have you eaten before coming?”
Li Ying followed him with his eyes and said, “En.”
Yun Qingci stopped at the table. Li Ying walked over and touched his fingers. A moment later, their fingers separated, and Yun Qingci continued to retreat. His eyes shone like water, and his voice was shy: “Actually, it’s not completely fine.”
Li Ying slowly followed him, as if hooked. “What do you mean?”
Yun Qingci turned around and came up to the wooden desk in front of the window. His long hair was scattered on his thin shoulders. He lowered his eyelashes and looked at the tea set on the desk, continuing as if talking to himself: “I dare not say.”
Standing behind him, Li Ying could clearly see his slender neck and half of his delicate face, and every tremor of his long eyelashes seemed to touch the tip of his heart.
Li Ying couldn’t help but raise his arms, encircling him in a virtual hug, and said dumbly: “You can say it.”
Yun Qingci tilted his head and raised his face. His neck made a distinct and fragile line, and his expression was innocent: “I’m afraid you will be angry if I say it.”
Li Ying leaned closer, tightening his arms from a virtual hug to a real one around Yun Qingci’s thin waist. “I won’t be angry with you.”
He was breathing with restraint. Yun Qingci thought for a while, keeping a distance where they could feel each other’s breath, and asked, “Then can you accompany me out of the palace tomorrow?”
“Yes.” Li Ying’s throat seemed to be blocked by something. He stared at Yun Qingci’s lips intently, his Adam’s apple rolling.
Yun Qingci turned around in his embrace and put his arms around Li Ying’s neck, as if hugging back, but avoided the kiss that was about to land.
He said softly: “Then tonight, Your Majesty will stay with me.”
Li Ying closed his eyes and said, “Okay.”
He bent over, picked Yun Qingci up and strode towards the phoenix couch. Yun Qingci’s body sunk into the soft mattresses, and Li Ying pressed his knees at his sides, trapping him.
Yun Qingci laid down, overwhelmed. His eyes widened slightly, and he called, “Your Majesty…”
Li Ying stared at him for a long time. His knuckles whitened, and he finally reached out and pulled the quilt to cover Yun Qingci. His eyelashes were lowered solemnly, as he forced himself to turn aside and sit quietly on the bed.
Yun Qingci was calling him again.
He had always liked to call him like that. When they just got married, he had to shout ‘Ah Ying’ when he was busy or free. Li Ying asked him once if he liked to shout that much. Yun Qingci corrected him and said: It’s not that he likes to shout, but that he likes Ah Ying.
Li Ying could only look at him and respond again: “Yes?”
“Don’t you want to ask me why I want to go out of the palace?”
Li Ying stared at him for a moment and said, “I will always follow you.”
I will always follow you, so I won’t ask. The important thing was not why, but because he proposed it.
Yun Qingci smiled.
Better and better at pretending.
In the past, Li Ying always took care of him in such small details. Even if he rarely told him that he liked him, every sentence overflowed with his love.
At that time, Yun Qingci loved him to death, and he could taste a different sweetness from different words, but now he only felt that all of this was like a layer of grease from cooking meat, floating on the surface, hypocritical and nauseating.
He patted the bed at his side and said, “You’re going to stay overnight, so lie down.”
Leaning slightly, Li Ying opened the quilt and laid down beside him.
Yun Qingci turned to look at him sideways. Li Ying stared at the top of the bed without blinking, his thoughts unfathomable.
“Ah Ying,” he called again, deliberately reached his hand to pull on Li Ying’s cuffs, and asked when Li Ying looked over: “Do you really still love me?”
The corners of Li Ying’s eyes turned red unexpectedly. His lips curved, and he said, “Of course I love you.”
“Really.” His voice was sad and distorted: “I have never stopped loving you.”
“Is it really true?”
“It is really true.”
Yun Qingci’s eyes were curved, and he clearly didn’t believe a word: “Then are you willing to do anything for me?”
Li Ying tilted his head, and was pulled by him again. Yun Qingci asked persistently, “Are you?”
“Yes,” Li Ying said in a low voice, “I’ll do anything.”
Yun Qingci put his head on his shoulder, stretched out his hand and took Li Ying’s palm pressed to the quilt. He said slowly, “If someone bullies me, looks down on me, and robs me of my things, what will you do?”
“I’ll do whatever you say.”
“Will you kill him?”
The mockery in Yun Qingci’s eyes seemed to overflow. He closed his eyes and said expectantly: “I hope Ah Ying won’t lie to me again.”
Yun Qingci leaned on his shoulder and quickly fell asleep. After a long time, the hands clasped on the quilt finally moved. Li Ying, in turn, silently pressed their palms together, fingers intertwined.
Early in the morning the next day, Yun Qingci ordered a carriage. Li Ying sat there with him and found that he had also brought a bow and an arrow.
He didn’t ask, he just looked quietly, and Yun Qingci explained sympathetically. “This is what Ah Ying used to take me hunting before, do you remember?”
“En.” Li Ying’s eyes became gentle, and he said, “I took you to shoot a rabbit with your hands in mine.”
“That’s right, that’s it.” Yun Qingci smiled happily and said, “Look, I’ve been maintaining it very well.”
The polished arrow reflected light sharply, and Li Ying’s eyes darkened a little.
The carriage drove all the way to Marquis Zhang’s Mansion and stopped at the corner of the alley. Yun Qingci gave Jin Huan a wink. The latter instructed a eunuch dressed in plain clothes. The man immediately nodded and ran to the Marquis’s Mansion.
Yun Qingci pushed the carriage door open and said softly, “Your Majesty, please watch.”
The eunuch sent by him was immediately pushed out of the way by the guards of the Marquis’s Mansion: “What do you want, scoundrel? Do you know what this place is?”
The eunuch cried: “Governor Zhang took the porcelain set that my master had just fired. He said master could take it back as long as he came to the Marquis’s Mansion and asked for it. This slave is just asking according to Governor Zhang’s instructions, how can I be a scoundrel?”
“What are you, and what is your master?” The guard sneered: “How can Governor Zhang fancy your stuff?”
“Yes, but it is true. Governor Zhang did take the porcelain that my master invited everyone to view in Bazhenju. Both Prime Minister Yun and Grand Commander Qiu can testify about it.”
“Who is it? What’s the noise early in the morning?”
The door of the mansion opened, and Zhang Siyong strode out. He glanced at the eunuch with a puzzled expression in his eyes: “What are you doing?”
The eunuch hurriedly explained the matter again.
“Oh.” Zhang Siyong remembered, and said, “The porcelain shown at Bazhenju, right? How about it? Will your master sell it? No matter the cost, I can pay you.”
“It was fired by the master himself to give to his father. Master said that this slave must bring the goods, not the money.”
“Not the money?” Zhang Siyong tutted and said, “But I have nothing for you.”
The eunuch’s expression changed slightly, and he immediately began to cry: “Master said if I can’t get the things back, he’ll drive this little one out of the door. I hope that the commander of the soldiers will return the things to this little one!”
He knelt in front of Zhang Siyong, and the latter’s expression became displeased. He stretched out his hand and ordered his people to bring a bag of silver and said, “Here, take this back and hand it in and say that the Marquis’s Mansion bought his things.”
“That porcelain is a priceless treasure for my master. Not to mention that it was not for sale, even if it really were for sale, how could it be possible to buy it for this little bit of silver? Governor Zhang, please stop denying things and return the item to this little one.”
“Priceless treasure…” Zhang Siyong thoughtfully looked back at his subordinates, extremely confused: “Can an ordinary person’s priceless treasure be called a priceless treasure?”
The people around him laughed.
Inside the carriage, Yun Qingci glanced at Li Ying’s face and said with a smile: “Your Majesty, what do you think of this matter?”
Li Ying’s eyes were heavy: “He robbed you of your things, you could have told me directly.”
“Your Majesty,” Yun Qingci’s eyes showed sarcasm, as he said, “If he just robbed me of my things, it would be fine. I am naturally not afraid because I have Your Majesty’s support. But if the person who came today was really just a commoner and the same thing happened, I dare to ask Your Majesty, could you be the master for everyone?”
Li Ying looked at him and said, “I’m not accusing you, I just don’t think it’s necessary to go to such great lengths.”
“I just want to show Your Majesty how your uncle, who is holding power, is bullying men and women under your nose.”
Li Ying had some concerns, and Yun Qingci knew it very well. After all, the Zhang family’s later power was almost greater than that of the Yun family. However, being considered as Li Ying’s right hand, for the sake of his throne, he would naturally not attack the Zhang family casually.
It didn’t matter whether Li Ying wanted to kill Zhang Siyong or not, no matter what, Yun Qingci wanted to kill him. Empress Dowager Zhang’s purpose was to get rid of the Prime Minister’s Mansion. Since Yun Qingci was reborn, of course he had to move first. He hated Li Ying personally, but even more, he hated the Empress Dowager. He wanted to destroy the Empress Dowager’s family, and he wanted Li Ying to live in fear of him and of the Yun family for the rest of his life.
Once he enjoyed Li Ying’s ugliness enough and was tired of it, he would kill him if he wanted to kill, and would cut him if he wanted to cut.
And the purpose of today’s trip was just to tear off Li Ying’s pseudo-affectionate face.
He hoped Li Ying would stop nauseating him.
Yun Qingci was ready to tear off his face and remove the soft and harmless illusion, turning his expression cold and mean, just like it used to be in the past.
In front of the Marquis’s Mansion, Zhang Siyong kicked the eunuch and said, “Suit yourself. If you don’t take the money and scram, I will make it difficult for your master.”
In the carriage, a pair of powerful arms suddenly encircled Yun Qingci’s waist. As soon as he was about to get angry, a shiny cold arrow was nocked on the bow in his hands.
Li Ying held his hands, as if he was teaching him to hunt rabbits, and the bowstring tightened.
The man pressed his chin on Yun Qingci’s shoulder, looked straight ahead and reminded him: “Concentrate.”
Yun Qing felt a chill in his heart. He held his breath and concentrated.
Li Ying held him hand in hand and pointed the gleaming arrow at Zhang Siyong.
The bowstring was pulled tighter and tighter, the bow bending inch by inch.
With a ‘whoosh’——
The sharp arrow tore through the air and pierced Zhang Siyong’s body fiercely.
“The prey you wanted,” Li Ying whispered, “Are you happy?”