Li Ying had a kind father and a mother who was extremely harsh sometimes but still loved him.
At least, he had always felt this way before he knew that Zhang Shixue was not his biological mother.
He was not born the crown prince, even though he was the first son of the first wife. But because he ranked third among his brothers, everyone called him Third Royal Highness.
During his years as Third Prince, Zhang Shixue was quite strict with him. To what extent was she strict? When he was two years old, he was beaten on his palm with a ruler because he could not recite a poem, and when he was three years old, he was whipped a dozen times for not being able to hold a stable horse stance.
His father didn’t like Zhang Shixue, so he rarely set foot in her palace, and so he never found out about it.
So how did she love him?
She would personally administer medicine to him when he was bruised and scabbed, and told him with tears in her eyes: “Mother did it for your own good. If you don’t study hard and don’t let your father see your excellence, how can you become the crown prince?”
Little Li Ying trusted her and said cautiously: “But it hurts.”
Zhang Shixue blew on his palm in distress and told him in a gentle voice: “Mother will be lighter next time.”
At first, he did believe it.
But later he discovered that as he got older, her hand would only get heavier and heavier. The so-called ‘lighter next time’ was simply a lie to coax him.
So, he stopped crying in pain.
Li Ying was a very good-tempered child. In simple terms, he was very well-behaved at an early age, and his heart easily turned soft. No matter how many beatings he received, as long as Zhang Shixue cried, he would feel that his mother did it all for his own good.
When he was about five years old, on his father’s birthday, he, together with many children from the family, went to his father’s palace to celebrate. He memorized more poems than anyone else, the other children were no match for him. It was the first time he had gained vanity from among children of the same age. He was blank that night for a long time until Zhang Shixue sent someone to call him and he left in a hurry.
As soon as he entered the palace, he found that his mother stood with her back to him and said gracefully: “Ah Ying received a lot of limelight today.”
He was a little cautious, and his childish voice was a little tender, but his words were very clear: “They were not as good as me.”
He thought Zhang Shixue would be proud of him, but the other party laughed disdainfully, “Your aim is not to make a name for yourself but to please your father who is the only one who can decide your fate.”
Li Ying refuted logically and clearly: “As long as I am outstanding enough, my father will see…”
Zhang Shixue backhanded him.
For him, being beaten was commonplace, and he knelt down obediently.
Zhang Shixue said, “Li Ying, I force you to do your homework in hopes for you to become talented. It’s not to make you catch the limelight, not to make you well liked, and not to satisfy your vanity. I want you to be the crown prince, do you understand?”
Li Ying lowered his eyelashes and said, “Ah Ying was wrong.”
“Do you know that I was pregnant during the same time as Empress Wei? And because your father liked her, her child was made the crown prince before he was born. Even if the child died at birth, he will always be the second prince. You were born a quarter of an hour later than him, so you can only rank third.”
When Li Ying was a child, he heard her talk about how beloved Empress Wei was and how evil she was. He lowered his head and listened to her complain: “My Zhang family also worked hard for your father, and I also gave birth to a son for him, but what did I get? Ah Ying, what did I get? I can only bear the heartache to force my child to become a talented individual, and I can’t get even a bit of his attention no matter how hard I work!”
“It hurts your mother’s heart to hit your body,” Zhang Shixue said, “Ah Ying, you must fight for your mother’s sake. Don’t associate with those dubious children. Your goal is your father, understand?” ”
“But if I become the crown prince, I will have to work with them in the future. If I can get sincere friends, it will be advantageous to me with zero disadvantages later.“ Li Ying didn’t understand: “Why must mother prevent this child from socializing with them? Do you really want me to be the crown prince?”
His face was slapped again, and he shrank in pain. Zhang Shixue said, “You have to remember that all your talents was given to you by me. If it weren’t for me forcing you to study, if it weren’t for me being ruthless, would you be able to get into the limelight?”
“This son doesn’t deny mother’s education, this son is just judging matters as it stands. If mother really wanted me to be the crown prince, you should have encouraged me to associate with the crown prince’s family. The court is not my father’s backyard. If I want to please father, it’s better to find another way. When I have good reputation, how can father not appoint me…”
“Someone come!” Zhang Shixue interrupted him: “Bring the ruler.”
She came up to him with a gloomy face, “Stick out your hand.”
Li Ying reflexively put his hands behind his back.
“Stick it out!”
He pursed his lips and said, “Ah Ying knows he was wrong.”
The ruler slapped him hard on the face as the woman shouted, “Hands!”
Li Ying stretched out his hand tremblingly.
That time, in order to correct his thoughts, Zhang Shixue hit him many times. He couldn’t remember how many times. He only remembered that the palm of his hand was bloody, and he finally fainted.
He had a high fever and burned for three days and three nights after that.
When he woke up, the father who usually didn’t even look at him was sitting next to him, with kind and gentle eyes.
“Awake?” The emperor said warmly: “How are you feeling, are you better?”
“En.” He moved carefully, only to find that his palm was tightly wrapped in gauze. His father said with a dark face: “This poisonous woman, to punish her own child with such a heavy hand. Ah Ying, don’t be afraid, father will obtain justice for you.”
Zhang Shixue was kept in closed confinement for three days, and when she came out, Li Ying discovered that she had been whipped. At that time, he thought that his father was doing it for him, but later Zhang Shixue explained that he did it because she mentioned Empress Wei in front of him. She did it deliberately, to use that incident to provoke the emperor’s anger, and then she came with scars all over his body to tell Li Ying: “Don’t worry about your mother, your mother is very happy, your father finally noticed you.”
She knew that Li Ying had been familiar with the scriptures of the sages since he was a child, and he had the most benevolent and filial character, but he was also very rational. As long as she told him that everything she did was for his future, Li Ying would see it as a bitter ploy to injure oneself to gain the enemy’s trust and would not distance himself from her.
Li Ying really did as thought.
It was a blessing in disguise that he caught the eyes of his father and gained his affection. Even though he, like his father, didn’t like Zhang Shixue very much, as a son, he still tried his best to do his duty and never sowed discord between his parents.
Every time his father asked about his situation because he was worried about him, Li Ying always said that everything was fine.
Indeed, he did not want his mother to be punished because of his provocations for something that was harmless enough to endure.
Later, Zhang Shixue became pregnant again. At first, Li Ying was really happy. He thought he was finally going to have brothers and sisters.
But he quickly discovered that Zhang Shixue’s attitude towards Li Yan was completely different from that towards him. He once thought that it was because Li Yan was young, so Zhang Shixue was reluctant to hurt him. Later, he thought that it was because he was the elder brother, so Li Yan could take it for granted to enjoy their mother’s favour. And then he thought that because he had already ascended the throne, Zhang Shixue had no reason to treat Li Yan harshly…
He had been deceiving himself, but he had to admit that Zhang Shixue had never loved him.
So gradually, he no longer indulged in expectations. In the end, he had his own little Bodhisattva. Although the little Bodhisattva later became extreme and paranoid, he was the only one in his heart.
This life was complete, he thought.
Li Ying and Yun Qingci first met on a trip. At that time, he had already been appointed the crown prince, and Qin Feiruo finally eased her relationship with Prime Minister Yun and promised to let Yun Qingci go back to the Prime Minister’s Mansion to meet his father.
Yun Qingci always looked younger than his age; he actually looked like he was five years old when he was seven. The night before, he was put by Qin Feiruo in a wooden basin to take a bath, and his whole body was soaked in water, like a white jade dumpling.
Qin Feiruo washed him while instructing: “When you go back, if someone bullies you, you must tell Mom, you know?”
“My father and brothers won’t bully me.”
“Mother means if someone else bullies you.” Qin Feiruo reminded him: “Don’t endure anything, just say it. Only children who make trouble will have candy to eat.”
“Then if I want to eat iced lotus seeds, can I make trouble?”
Qin Feiruo’s face was blank: “You can’t eat ice.”
“Oh.” Yun Qingci looked disappointed, lowered his head to pick his belly button and Qin Feiruo slapped his paws: “Don’t pick carelessly, or your stomach will hurt.”
Yun Qingci obediently shrank his hands. Qin Feiruo finished washing him, so she wrapped him in a towel and carried him to the bed to wipe him dry.
Yun Qingci raised his thin white arm and wrinkled his nose to smell it. Qin Feiruo was not happy: “What are you smelling?”
“I want to smell good when I go to see Dad.”
“I’ll give you the fragrance tomorrow.” Qin Feiruo tucked him into the bed, and little Yun Qingci’s eyes rolled around, refusing to close. She couldn’t help laughing and asked, “That happy?”
Yun Qingci wanted to say that he was happy because he hadn’t seen his father much since he was a child, and he admired children with fathers, but when he met his mother’s eyes, he swallowed his words. He placed his arms around her neck and rubbed against her, saying: “Because I can’t bear to leave Mom.”
“Your mouth is so sweet.” Qin Feiruo kissed his tender face and sighed, “Why is Xiao Ci so nice… it’s not allowed for you to have a sweet mouth in front of little girls, do you understand?”
“I know, I know,” Yun Qingci said, “You must be dignified, reserved and graceful.”
Qin Feiruo smooched his little face again.
Next day, Yun Qingci put on his fragrant new clothes and was picked up by Uncle Ding to go to the Prime Minister’s Mansion. Although he was outspoken in front of his mom, he was really very shy. When he saw his father, he immediately hid behind Uncle Ding. Prime Minister Yun coaxed him for a long time before he quietly poked out his head, walked over hesitantly and was hugged by his father.
Yun Qingci blushed a little, but was also a little scared.
In the days when he returned to the Prime Minister’s Mansion, he liked to stick to people. He either stuck to his brothers or to his father. He was teased as a little tail that no one could shake off.
Because he was the youngest child in the family, Prime Minister Yun also doted on him very much, giving him almost everything he wanted. Yun Qingci tasted all the food that was strictly forbidden in the other courtyard which made him like his father even more. As long as his father came back from court, he would immediately stick onto him refusing to leave.
Prime Minister Yun carried him while handling official duties and also carried him while meeting guests, but Yun Qingci had seen too few people in the other courtyard. Whenever there were too many people, he would still hide behind his father and dare not show his face.
With Yun Qingci’s clinginess and the fact that Prime Minister Yun couldn’t let him go, he decided to take Yun Qingci with him on that trip.
As soon as Yun Qingci heard that he was going out to Shangyang City, and he would be going out by boat, his eyes lit up instantly.
He ran back to the other courtyard to tell his mother the news. Qin Feiruo couldn’t bear to disappoint him. She also felt that this was a good opportunity for Yun Qingci to integrate into the Prime Minister’s Mansion and cultivate feelings with Yun Yu, so she agreed.
On the day of the trip, they met at the pier. Yun Qingci had never seen such a big and beautiful boat before, and he almost couldn’t wait to rush in.——
But by accident, he plunged into someone’s chest.
He raised his face, and his first impression was that this person had a tall nose, deep eyes, white skin, pale lips and elegant bearing.
Where did this fairy brother come from?
The second reaction was, it’s over, I’ve ran into someone.
He turned his head and ran away in a hurry, stretching out his paws to grab the corners of Prime Minister Yun’s clothes.
Li Ying’s first reaction when he was hit was similar to that of Yun Qingci. Where did this child come from, so beautiful as if he was the son of Guanyin?
The second reaction was that this ship belonged to the emperor, which minister was so bold to bring such a daring child on board.
Until he lifted the ship curtain and saw Prime Minister Yun.
…Oh, it turned out to be the little son of the teacher’s family…