The greenhouse was hot and humid.
Li Ying seemed to be begging, but in an instant, the pain took away his emotions. He propped his forehead with his uninjured hand and pressed it tightly.
The breaths were coming one at a time.
Every breath was accompanied by a wheezing sound.
“Your Majesty’s body is precious as gold and jade, it is indeed a shame to use a maidservant.”
“I will believe you for the time being,” Yun Qingci said and smiled. “So you can’t do it with women and you went to raise eunuchs, huh?” ”
He was talking about the palace slave who combed Li Ying’s hair.
“You didn’t. If you didn’t, why would you believe him instead of me? He was talking nonsense in front of me and you wanted me to let him go? If a eunuch can ride on my head, what am I doing as the Lord Empress?!”
Li Ying’s voice was painful and weak: “In just one year, you killed six palace ladies and expelled a group of dancers. This matter was impeached by the ministers. They said you were lawless, cruel and tyrannical, snake-hearted… Countless people wanted to bring you down. At first your father asked me in court what happened, and I put the blame on the palace people every time. But gradually, he stopped defending you… I could only tell them that the Lord Empress had the right to punish the palace slaves. But there were too many impeachment memorials.”
Yun Qingci squeezed his fingers tightly: “What do you mean, put the blame on them? They were in the wrong! Not one of the people I killed was innocent!”
He and Li Ying had been married for two years, everything went well and the palace was in harmony. At that time, he didn’t need to interfere at all; Li Ying himself would push away any palace ladies. Then concubines entered the palace and everything changed. Each of the palace ladies felt that they could fly to the top. He put them down one after another, but there were provocations again and again.
Empress Dowager Zhang reminded him that if he did not make an example, he would not be able to sit on that throne at all.
Li Ying took a breath: “I know, but everyone knows that I am generous. In comparison, it seems that you are too cruel, as if I can’t control you…”
“I kept telling you to restrain yourself. I dared not use palace ladies anymore. I could only use eunuchs… But you couldn’t even tolerate eunuchs. He never showed the slightest attempt to ingratiate himself with me.”
“You still don’t believe me,” Yun Qingci said coldly: “Did he not, or did you not notice?”
Li Ying buried his head in his arms and said with difficulty: “It’s not that I didn’t believe you. I told you this matter was probably a fraud. Don’t you find it strange? You have killed so many people, your reputation is so bad, and there are still people who keep coming to die… I hurried there to keep you from killing him and to keep a living mouth to find out who is muddying the water. But you thought I was there for him, everything that I said was just to protect him…”
“Ah Ci, it was never that I didn’t believe you, but that you didn’t believe me.”
The greenhouse was silent. Yun Qingci looked down for a while and said, “You are the only sober one in the whole world, and I am the one being used. So what did you do when you were sober? You thought someone was muddying the water. But I didn’t see it. I only saw you ignoring me, scolding me, treating me superficially, coaxing me… You knew that my heart was full of you, why didn’t you tell me clearly?”
“I couldn’t say…” Li Ying said: “I could only remind you not to associate with the Empress Dowager. I couldn’t put all the sins on her head without conclusive evidence.”
Yun Qingci squatted down in front of him, “Li Ying, your mother used me and discredited me with the sole purpose of targeting the Prime Minister’s Mansion, and you condoned all this. No matter what you tell me, I will never forgive you.”
Li Ying’s face was buried between his wide sleeves. Yun Qingci couldn’t see his expression. He only heard him chuckle: “You are right. I can’t keep the powers in balance, neither the harem, nor the court. I can’t even balance the relationship between you and her… I’m surrounded by bad things, but I can’t deal with them. I’m too incompetent.”
“Do you think you can get sympathy and forgiveness by admitting that you are incompetent, as if nothing happened?!”
Yun Qingci said word by word: “As an emperor, your incompetence is your neglect! As a husband, your incompetence is your infidelity!!”
Yun Qingci was sharp and vengeful. Once Li Ying had the privilege to be his soft spot. When assassins came, Yun Qingci, who did not know martial arts, shielded him; and when the palace unexpectedly was flooded, Yun Qingci urged him to leave quickly.
But, in the end, Li Ying dealt with the assassin and he also left the palace carrying Yun Qingci on his back.
Yun Qingci was very afraid of hurting Li Ying. He tried his best to be well-behaved and sensible. The only thing he asked him for was a sense of security.
But he didn’t give it to him.
Li Ying whispered in agreement: “You are right.”
He wandered through the court, through the harem, between Yun Qingci and Empress Dowager Zhang. There were many state affairs and many family affairs, and there was no peace of mind.
His teenage sweetheart changed, and his royal mother showed her fangs.
There was no one among the ministers who could support him.
Everyone was putting pressure on him, and everyone was trying to drive him crazy. He could only devote himself to one thing with all his heart. He thought, since they wanted to make trouble, let them do it. He can’t have both things. He could only grasp the state affairs and deal with family affairs in a perfunctory way.
He did have an inescapable responsibility for this matter.
“In fact, I have thought about it many times, separating with you… no longer compromising with each other…” He changed his wording: “No longer letting my incompetence hurt you. Every time, I wanted to neglect you and stay away from you, but as soon as you took the initiative to approach, I would start missing you and couldn’t bear…”
“You are really infatuated,” Yun Qingci said, “When I’m aggressive, you want me to stay away. As soon as I get gentle, you are reluctant to part. Do you like me or do you like the way I please you?”
Li Ying’s lips trembled.
He couldn’t win against Yun Qingci, he could never speak against him.
Even if he didn’t mean it, he couldn’t argue with him.
In the past, Yun Qingci used to have sharp teeth and a sharp mouth. But after stabbing him, he would still come to coax him.
Now Yun Qingci still had sharp teeth and a sharp mouth, and he stabbed him all over, but he wouldn’t care to coax him again.
Yun Qingci’s hand rested on his arm as he gazed at the man in front of him, who looked extremely vulnerable, and got to the bottom of things, asking: “Tell me when you discovered that you couldn’t do it with women?”
Li Ying didn’t speak for a long time.
Yun Qingci continued: “You went behind my back and tried a few women before you discovered this?”
Li Ying’s tone was weak: “Do you have to think of me so nastily?”
“I am now giving you the opportunity to confess, and I am giving you the opportunity to take all that filth of yours to see the light of day again and avoid decay.”
Every word he said pierced Li Ying’s heart like an awl.
Li Ying raised his hand, grabbed the roots of his hair and pulled it hard a few times to relieve his headache.
“Not after marriage,” he said, “It was before marriage.”
His fingers were pale and his joints were as slender as bamboo shoots. He seemed to recall some extremely bad memories, and his breathing became a bit heavier.
“Father died suddenly, and I was dressed in a dragon robe and put on the throne.”
He said slowly: “That woman said that the first thing in state affairs is inheritance. She found eight female officials to wake me from my ignorance…”
It happened very suddenly. On that day, he had made an appointment to go out to swim in the lake with Yun Qingci, but he was temporarily called by the Empress Dowager. He wanted to leave, but the woman told him that it wouldn’t take long, she would not delay him and Yun Qingci from going out to play.
That came out of nowhere. In addition to the female officers, there were dozens of men and women, acting out as instructors in front of him. Red candles flickered, the floor was covered with soft cushions, and the whole chamber was dim and gloomy, filled with sickening smells and sounds.
Thirteen-year-old Li Ying had never experienced anything like that. He thought that everyone’s initiation was like that.
Until they came to his side diligently, writhing like water-snakes at his feet, and a dozen hands pressed him to the wide couch together, and before his clothes were removed, fear gripped his throat like a ghostly hand.
He frantically kicked everyone away with his feet and rushed out wrapped in his dragon robe, embarrassed to the extreme.
Li Ying’s expression was still hidden. Yun Qingci only saw the blue veins pulsing on the backs of his hands, and the hand gripped his hair with such force that it pulled out several strands.
The roots of his hair were completely soaked in cold sweat.
“That day, you found me in a rockery cave…”
It was that day he discovered that he only loved Yun Qingci.
Yun Qingci remembered that day.
At that time, Li Ying had just been enthroned. Because they had made an appointment to go out and swim in the lake together, Yun Qingci arrived early.
Liu Ziru said that the emperor was called by the Empress Dowager and would come back soon.
But he waited from morning to night, in the sun and under the clouds. There was heavy rain, but Li Ying still didn’t come back.
Liu Ziru opened his umbrella and said to him, “Let’s go find him.”
Yun Qingci also opened an umbrella. He went to the Empress Dowager’s palace first. At that time, the Empress Dowager seemed kind-hearted to him. She was a little surprised to see him coming and told him gently: “The emperor left a long time ago. Didn’t he go back to Jiangshan Palace?”
Yun Qingci shook his head.
The Empress Dowager came over, gently touched his head and said softly, “Don’t worry, he will be fine.”
After they left Taici Palace, Liu Ziru’s face became solemn. He glanced back at Taici Palace and then told Yun Qingci: “Why don’t the young master come back tomorrow?”
Yun Qingci was very worried: “Mr. Liu, let’s look for him separately to find him quickly.”
Liu Ziru knew that he and Li Ying got along well, so he agreed. Yun Qingci took two eunuchs, searched for more than half an hour, and then found Li Ying who was sitting in a daze in a narrow cave of the rockery.
The small boy stopped at the entrance of the cave, looking at the black-robed Son of Heaven. Their eyes met, and Li Ying’s expression was slightly stunned.
Perhaps sensing his embarrassment, Yun Qingci instructed the two people who followed him to look elsewhere. He stood outside and looked at him, calling, “Ah Ying?”
He didn’t know that for Li Ying at that time, his clear voice, his delicate face, his small fairy-like figure and the exquisite palace lantern in his hand all molded in his heart into an image of a little bodhisattva.
The rain was torrential, and the umbrella in Yun Qingci’s hand was constantly washed away by the rain. He tilted his head and stretched the lantern inside.
That little light approached Li Ying and at the same time lit up the entire dark cave.
“Do you want to go back with me, or should I come in and sit with you?”
Yun Qingci asked him.
He was one year younger than Li Ying, and his voice was still a bit childish.
Li Ying was silent for a while, then moved inside.
Yun Qingci put away his umbrella, held a lantern, and walked into the darkness with him.
The two of them sat in a narrow cave with their knees pressed together.
Yun Qingci touched his temples with his fingers and asked him, “Why are you unhappy?”
Li Ying concealed everything and said to him, “Because it’s so hard to be the emperor.”
At that time, Li Ying could never imagine that letting Yun Qingci stay by his side out of selfishness would eventually get him killed.
For many years after Yun Qingci’s death, Li Ying wondered whether the ending would be different if he refused Yun Qingci that day and asked him to leave, or if he walked out of the cave and confessed what happened.
But Yun Qingci was already dead.
His selfishness dragged his little bodhisattva to death.
After the little bodhisattva had died, he became a devil.
The devil watched him faint from a headache.
He ordered someone to lift Li Ying onto the bed, and at the same time invited the chief doctor to come to see him. Li Ying never told him these things. He was a very proud person. He said it today because he was forced to.
Liu Ziru looked a little worried: “Lord Empress, His Majesty’s hand…”
“He dislocated it accidentally, it’s okay.” Yun Qingci stared at the night outside the window and said, “Just set it back.”
He looked cold and a little cruel.
Liu Ziru wanted to say something else, but in the end he held back.
The doctor applied the needles and set Li Ying’s wrist bone. Liu Ziru came up to the bed, looked at the white emperor lying there and sighed slightly.
Is it worth the trouble?
The next day, the fifth day of the New Year.
When Li Ying woke up, Yun Qingci was wiping his forehead with a piece of cloth. His eyes flashed, and for a moment, he seemed to see the shadow of the past Yun Qingci.
“Awake?” Yun Qingci dropped the cloth back into the basin and said, “You have a severe headache. The chief doctor said you should rest.”
Li Ying’s Adam’s apple moved: “Qingci…”
Yun Qingci raised the corners of his mouth slightly and said, “I get it, it was hard on you.”
Yun Qingci, have you forgiven me?
Li Ying subconsciously propped up and tried to sit. His lips were pale and chapped, but his eyes lit up: “I…”
“Do you hate her?”
Li Ying paused.
Yun Qingci lowered his eyes, took his hand, and said seriously: “How can there be such an initiation? She did it on purpose, Ah Ying, don’t you hate her?”
The moment of brightness turned into silence.
Li Ying said, “What do you want to do?”
“She abused you and me like this, how can you leave her alone without making her pay?”
Yun Qingci turned around and took a long sword that was specially prepared. His eyes were clear: “I know she can’t die yet, so let her life be worse than death.”
“She is your mother, it’s up to you to do it.”
Li Ying’s gaze moved to the sword, and a tragic smile spread across his pale lips: “There is no evidence to convict her, this would be discgraceful.”
Yun Qingci slowly pulled away his sword and whispered, “I have been wronged for so many years. Even if you are not angry for yourself, you should be angry for me.”
“If you don’t go, I’ll go.” Yun Qingci’s eyes looked softly at him as he said in a warm voice, “You are used to it long ago anyway.”
“If I am not malicious, how can it offset your kindness?”
He smiled sarcastically, clenched the sword, stood up and turned, walking to the screen.
A figure stopped in front of him.
Li Ying was angry, and his face was as pale as paper.
He gasped, a sickly flush spreading across his cheeks.
He knew that Yun Qingci was punishing him. Knowing they were mother and son, he forced him to attack that woman.
It was vicious.
There was a mixture of tenderness and affection in Li Ying’s dark eyes.
Slender fingers grasped the sword, and the Son of Heaven whispered softly.
“As the Lord Empress wishes.”