Li Ying bathed without anyone serving him.
In fact, since he kicked Yun Qingci out back then and picked him up again, he didn’t let anyone serve him.
It was to the extent such that he would be left to sit alone after the attendants had brought in the hot water and there would not be even a single maidservant or eunuch in the entire Chaoyang Palace.
Everyone was shut out and he was the only one in the huge palace.
There was silence.
The arm resting on the wooden bathtub was covered in large scars, each of them shocking. Yun Qingci could hardly believe that this was Li Ying’s body.
“Why do you bother… people can’t come back from the dead.” He spoke again, his palms slowly moved away from Li Ying’s eyes, and the uncomfortable feeling in his heart became heavier and heavier.
He knew that Li Ying had loved him; even if he denied those feelings of love and labeled Li Ying with countless despicable, shameless and obscene labels, he still couldn’t erase the fact that he had loved him.
He always thought that Li Ying didn’t love him as much as he loved him, so he was annoyed, regretful and full of hatred.
If he had known, he would not have loved him.
Yun Qingci was a man who desired to get an equal reward for what he gave. He would be unhappy if he didn’t get it and he would be satisfied if he got it. But if he was not careful and the reward was greater than what he gave, he would feel frightened and uneasy.
He asked himself and knew, if Li Ying was gone, Yun Qingci wouldn’t go this far for him.
Of course, the most important thing was that when a person was dead, a dead person would not know anything. He would not understand what was done for him. Yun Qingci was most afraid of his ego being touched. If he did something for Li Ying, everyone had to know it, and most importantly, Li Ying had to know.
If he knew that Li Ying would no longer know, he would never do it.
Just like how he cut his wrist to make Li Ying’s heart ache and how he acted cute, gentle and childish to make Li Ying like him.
And the injuries on Li Ying’s body could almost be labelled as Lingchi. (death from a thousand cuts)
Cutting himself thousands of times, waiting for an almost impossible red light, Yun Qingci could hardly imagine the pain of such endless torture.
In addition, Li Ying still had some knife wounds on his back, as well as scars from being pierced by arrows, which should have been left by the expedition to Beichen in the past few years.
Yun Qingci rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand and reached out to check the water temperature. He realized that he couldn’t feel it.
“The water should be cold, come out quickly.”
A quarter of an hour later, Li Ying finally got up from the bathtub. Drops of water slid across his scarred body; he wiped himself dry as if nothing had happened and wrapped himself in his thin clothes.
Yun Qingci suddenly didn’t dare to look at the injuries on his body.
He blinked a few times and saw Li Ying walking towards the bed with his treasured lamp.
“You’re finally going to sleep? Do you know what time it is now, you don’t really……”
He wanted to say, you don’t really want to die, do you?
Thinking of it again, Li Ying did indeed want to die.
When Li Ying got on the bed, Yun Qingci threw himself on it and lay face to face with him. He saw his thin fingers search under the pillow, pull out a sapphire-colored hairpin and press its rounded tip against his chest.
He closed his eyes solemnly.
Yun Qingci recognized the hairpin that he wore when he committed suicide.
He watched Li Ying go to sleep and gradually let go of his heart.
He couldn’t sleep anymore, so he stared at Li Ying in a daze. He had really lost a lot of weight, but his silhouette was still the one Yun Qingci remembered. His long gray hair made him seem to be touched with wind and frost. Yun Qingci leaned closer to him and whispered, “Li Ying.”
“Li Ying… have a good life. I know, I know you didn’t mean to, I don’t want to see you like this.”
I would rather blame you and hate you than feel sorry for you, do you know.
In the middle of the night, Li Ying was awakened by a nightmare. His dark eyes slowly opened, and his pale face turned faintly bluish.
He whimpered and tightened his hand on the hairpin, then turned over and shielded his eyes with his arm.
After a while, he turned back and forth on the pillow again, curling up with his head in his arms.
Next, there was suffocating silence.
He finally drifted off to sleep covered in cold sweat.
Yun Qingci hoped that there would be no court session today and it would allow Li Ying to sleep a little longer. He used to look forward to the days without court sessions because he hoped that Li Ying would spend more time with him.
Now, he just hoped that Li Ying would get a good night’s sleep.
Unfortunately, fate was not that kind. Before dawn, there was movement outside: “Your Majesty, it’s time to go to court.”
Li Ying woke up in an instant.
As the servants filed in, Li Ying washed his face by himself, combed his hair by himself and put on his dragon robe by himself, while Liu Ziru got closer to help him adjust it and the palace servant knelt to help him straighten the hem.
Everything was in order, and the high-toe dragon boots stepped out of Chaoyang Palace.
Yun Qingci accompanied him to the sedan chair and reminded him: “You haven’t eaten yet.”
He went to call Liu Ziru: “Why didn’t you remind him to eat?”
No one cared for him.
Yun Qingci sat in the sedan chair with him; it was silent inside.
He saw his second brother, his official uniform changed and his expression more rigorous, but he did not see his father. He thought that the man was old and had already withdrawn from the officialdom. Even Grand Commander Qiu was not in court anymore.
Someone was saying: “The local officials did fail in their duties in this flooding, but…”
The man’s words halted and he went silent.
“Since you were neglectful of duty, you must be punished. Flooding is a natural disaster when it comes but failure to manage it in time is a man-made disaster. Hold them in custody while they wait.” In the past, at a time like this, Li Ying would have leaned over slightly in an oppressive gesture, but now, he just leaned back lazily with an unconcerned expression, “Do you have any objections, dear ministers?”
The court officials raised their hands in common salute and unanimously said, “These ministers have no objection.”
Dazed, Yun Qingci didn’t recognize Li Ying anymore.
Li Ying in the past was not like that. Although he was majestic, when he went up to the court sessions, he did not make decisions so arbitrarily. There was a kind of carelessness that radiated from his bones.
It was as if the court affairs to him were no different from eating and drinking water. Now the court was at his mercy, not him being the young emperor trapped by the court.
Judging from the reaction of the civil and military officials, he hardly needed to make any more moves, as their fear of him was already deeply rooted.
He wiped out the Zhang family and killed all the concubines. What else? What else did he do that made people so fearful?
When the court was dismissed, he did not stay.
The sedan chair carried him back to Chaoyang Palace, Yun Qingci chased after him and suddenly saw him stop and look up.
Yun Qingci followed his gaze and saw the gilded eaves of Qifeng Tower. Li Ying seemed to just glance up inadvertently; then he lowered his eyes and walked into the palace quickly.
Yun Qingci was still thinking about him not eating: “You hurry up and eat, how can your body bear it if you go on like this?”
Fortunately, the imperial dining room had done its duty and prepared a meal, including meat and vegetables.
Yun Qingci was very happy: “You eat more meat to replenish your body.”
Li Ying changed into his usual clothes and walked over to sit at the table. Liu Ziru first brought him a bowl of congee, which he ate casually.
Yun Qingci said again: “Don’t just eat vegetables, eat meat, eat meat.”
Perhaps there was a spiritual connection between them; Li Ying took a piece of roast pork and Liu Ziru looked at him with a subtle worry in his gaze.
Li Ying put a piece of meat in his mouth.
Under Yun Qingci’s expectant gaze, his face became very unsightly.
Liu Ziru hurriedly brought some water, and Li Ying swallowed with great difficulty, his face rippling with disgust.
Very pale, he took a sip of tea and then picked some meat again.
After a few mouthfuls, he closed his eyes heavily.
Liu Ziru skillfully brought the spittoon.
Li Ying gasped and vomited, unable to hold back.
Yun Qingci’s eyelashes trembled.
“Your Majesty…” Liu Ziru said softly: “If you can’t eat it, don’t eat it.”
Li Ying rinsed his mouth and did not answer. He just silently picked out a few bits that seemed acceptable and put them in his mouth again.
Yun Qingci suddenly understood that no one could calmly eat meat after cutting off his flesh and feeding snakes. But Li Ying wanted to eat, he wanted to maintain his body’s energy so that he could keep feeding the snake.
Was Li Ying the same after his rebirth, unable to eat?
Yun Qingci didn’t know; he hadn’t paid attention to him.
He had never seen anyone who could make eating look so difficult.
After the meal was finally finished, Li Ying, pale-faced, moved to the table, supported his forehead on his hand and did not move for a long time.
Yun Qingci squatted at his feet and raised his face to look at him.
He realized what Li Ying was going through for so many years in his previous life.
There was not a moment when he was not in pain.
After a while, Liu Ziru brought tea. Li Ying drank it and began to write notes, practicing calligraphy and paint.
He hardly let himself relax, only occasionally raised his eyes and looked at the glazed lamp that was always burning, and he would stay in a daze for a while.
The longest time he would stay motionless was for half an hour.
Then, he dismissed everyone and walked to the bookshelf at the wall.
When he pushed a mechanism, Yun Qingci discovered for the first time that there was a secret room in Chaoyang Palace.
Li Ying locked himself in.
Yun Qingci saw that the entire wall was covered with memories of them two, all painted by Li Ying. From the time when they were young, sitting opposite each other under the peach blossom tree in the courtyard, to when they were chasing and fighting each other in the palace, then there was the wedding, and the Gilded Qifeng Tower, and Yun Qingci who climbed up the stairs and turned around to look.……
Every scene was deja vu.
Li Ying finally shed tears.
In this secret room full of memories, he laid down on the black table, pressed his forehead against his overlapping arms, and large drops of tears fell on the ground.
Yun Qingci walked over and squatted down beside him.
He always felt that he had reason to hate Li Ying.
But now, he was suddenly at a loss.
He thought that when Li Ying had just been reborn and put on that arrogant look, it was because he was not taking him seriously. But now that he thought about it, he probably didn’t want Yun Qingci to see his humble appearance.
He paid a great cost, and finally returned to the past. He firmly believed that Yun Qingci loved the gentle, proud and noble young emperor.
He thought he really went back.
Unexpectedly, Yun Qingci was also reborn.
Reality slapped him hard.
Li Ying gathered himself and left the secret room again with his lamp.
Yun Qingci followed him and watched him clean Chaoyang Palace again, then bathe and go to bed.
This was Li Ying’s day.
Next, Yun Qingci followed him for some more days, and each day of Li Ying went by almost like this, but he didn’t go to the secret room every day. Yun Qingci found that he only went there when he couldn’t hold back his emotions. .
But even when he was alone, he was almost always silent; whether he was angry or sad, even when he was venting, he was silent.
He seemed to be accustomed to such days, including regularly using blood as wax to keep the flame and regularly cutting his flesh to feed the snake, and then dealing with his wounds alone.
The injuries on his body were often not healed yet when new ones were immediately added. The scars superimposed on the scars, and his whole body looked wretched.
He often went to the underground palace and took care of the sarcophagus carefully. At the longest, he could sleep with Yun Qingci for two days and two nights, without eating or drinking, and when he came out, he would eat and vomit more than a half of what he’d eaten.
Sometimes, Yun Qingci felt that it was better for him to die than to live like that.
When he attended court sessions, he would take Li Heng with him. Li Heng seemed to be very obedient, but Yun Qingci’s attention was not on him.
Li Ying became more and more like an elder. He was gentle with Li Heng; perhaps because he himself had ascended the throne at a young age, he did not deliberately put pressure on Li Heng. But of course he did not relent when it was time to be harsh.
Yun Qingci thought, when he wakes up, he will take Li Heng to the palace and take care of him with Li Ying to watch him grow up.
But he never woke up.
He realized that it might be because he was nostalgic about this Li Ying. After leaving the underground palace, he was with Li Ying day and night, and he couldn’t wake up.
It went on like this for a year, maybe two years.
One day, Li Ying woke up from a nightmare. Yun Qingci was awakened by him. Opening his eyes, he suddenly saw a red light in the room.
Li Ying got up, and Yun Qingci followed to look, only to see that the dim light at the head of the bed turned red, and the heart of the fire was even more dazzling scarlet.
His eyes lit up: “Ah Ying, Ah Ying, look, the light is red! We can meet now!”
Li Ying stared motionlessly.
Then he slowly got up, came to the door and opened it to look out.
Under the bright moon, in the distance, the eaves of Qifeng Tower were glowing. The night view was beautiful and compelling.
Li Ying took a step back and closed the door, his face pale.
As if experiencing rebirth and old age in a flash, he turned and walked back slowly. His fingers clenched the screen, staining its corner with thick blood.
Blue veins appeared on his forehead, and he sat down limply.
Yun Qingci rushed over to help him: “Ah Ying, Ah Ying… what’s wrong with you? You can go back, aren’t you happy, you…”
He turned his head to look at the lamp, suddenly realizing something.
Li Ying grabbed his long hair, his expression becoming hideous, and the bloodshot parts of his white eyeball trembled frantically.
His voice was hoarse, like a beast wailing.
“I can’t go back… the one who goes back isn’t me.”
I will never see you again, Ah Ci.