Chapter Twenty Three Old friends from the past
If one rode across the stone bridge and down to the end of the lane, there would be an old osmanthus tree laden with strings of golden pearls, the fragrance refreshing.
Half of the osmanthus branches stretched over the wall and half were hidden behind the wall. When Zhao Yuan dismounted and entered the courtyard, he saw Li Yi staring at his brush under the cover of the golden blossoms.
At this moment, the autumn breeze blew, and a few fallen osmanthus flowers floated in the air, touching the wangjin on Li Yi’s hair (1) and falling on his shoulders.
As usual, Zhao Yuan did not let the people next to him make a sound. He walked up quietly and whisked away the osmanthus flowers from Li Yi’s shoulders. Li Yi was startled. He hurriedly put aside his brush and turned around to bow. Zhao Yuan grabbed his hand and refused to let him move, then raised his hand to pick up two more flowers tangled in the gauze of Li Yi’s wangjin.
He slowly spread out the few osmanthus flowers gathered in his palm and handed them to Li Yi without saying a word. The intoxicating fragrance of osmanthus seemed to be everywhere, making his heart sway.
Li Yi looked at Zhao Yuan; Zhao Yuan remained silent and waited.
Li Yi had to take those golden osmanthus blossoms. Zhao Yuan wanted to see him do it. He watched Li Yi pick up the tea newly brought by a maidservant and put the osmanthus flowers into the tea. When he was about to drink it, Zhao Yuan stopped him.
“Serve this lord first.”
Zhao Yuan spoke with cold confidence. Li Yi looked at him in his scarlet imperial robe embroidered with golden dragons holding pearls in their teeth and claws. In the end, it was impossible to say that he was not the lord.
He turned his face slightly and handed over the tea that had been close to his mouth.
Zhao Yuan had teased Li Yi enough and stopped embarrassing him. He took the tea cup and drank it lightly. The sweet taste overflowed suddenly, making him happy, making him want to taste it again.
Coincidentally, using Guo Shen’s name to kill two birds with one stone to shelter Li Yi was an idea Zhao Yuan had early on. At that time, Li Yi was still recovering from his injuries.
As for the accident of arson and becoming a monk, he had to solve the immediate crisis first and then proceed with his plan further. Since he didn’t have time to spend coaxing Guo Shen, he simply forced him to agree and took advantage of this opportunity. He used Guo Shen in front of the emperor, concealing the true reason why he had prevented Li Yi from shaving his head.
Zhao Yuan’s plan was akin to his usage of his troops. Planning a thousand of miles ahead, he was able to capture the opportunity of the battle in a flash, both distance and speed in the palm of his hand.
Now that many of the problems had been resolved, Zhao Yuan couldn’t feel unhappy.
After teasing Li Yi, he looked at the nearly finished ink drawing on the
desk. It was actually a painting of Bodhiharma facing the wall (2). Although there was only the back of the man visible, one seemed to be able to clearly see one man facing thousands of demons, like the Buddha under the Bodhi tree, fighting the army of the demon king in the sea of his mind.
Was Zhao Yuan this kind of a great demon king in Li Yi’s heart?
Thinking of this, Zhao Yuan wanted to laugh, but when he looked at the painting, he couldn’t laugh anymore.
The man in the painting was trapped alone on a cliff thousand meters high, with tigers howling in the mountains and forests in the distance. In the narrow cave, with the cold and the evil pressing in, the wind raging outside and the demon king’s army inside, he relied on the unbreakable bones of vajra and the unquenchable light of prajna heart of wisdom as a guide. Although trapped in the lingering, endless darkness, he would never give in and never regret!
Since Zhao Yuan had abandoned him, he was abolished, subjugated, suffered, escaped… thousands of trials and tribulations, but there was one thing, one thing that was different with the man in this painting. He had been defeated long ago, body nowhere to be found.
Everyone knew that Li Yi was born in the emperor’s family and that he was as bright and magnificent as jade. When he was good, everyone thought he was just born with a good fate. When he was down, everyone thought he was simply a remnant willow leaf dancing in the wind.
When he was good, the previous emperor Guang Hua who could see beneath the surface said: “My grandson is as bright as the moon, his heart is as strong as jade, and he is fortunate to be born into the emperor’s family”. When he was down, he could be like him, Zhao Yuan, still preserving his heart despite ten years of great changes and being between life and death many times.
Li Yi’s paintings were good, but not in their technique. It was in the pride of his bones, in the clarity of his heart and in the fragrance that grew stronger from the bitter cold.
Zhao Yuan suddenly said, “Li Yi, come with me.”
Li Yi followed Zhao Yuan straight out of the courtyard. Bai Yucong stood in the shade of the osmanthus tree. When he saw Li Yi, he shuffled his hoof and snorted a few times.
Zhao Yuan took the reins and led the horse.
Li Yi had seen this image countless times in his dreams, only the Zhao Yuan in it was replaced with his younger version.
The uncertain, bizarre feeling in Li Yi’s heart bubbled to the surface again and he could not help but say, “This horse is his……”
He would never fail to recognize Bai Yucong.
Zhao Yuan spit out one word, “Bestowed.”
“Bai Yucong refuses to let others ride him.” Li Yi looked at Zhao Yuan blankly.
Zhao Yuan looked back at Li Yi, his eyes wandering, eager to break him open and dive deep.
The gaze finally stopped at Li Yi’s wrists.
“We both share the same blood.”
Li Yi stood frozen, without saying another word.
Zhao Yuan helped Li Yi onto the horse, sat behind him, circled the man in front of him in his arms and the two rode slowly.
Beyond the house, there were hills and woods. As the scenery changed, Li Yi’s doubts grew bigger and bigger, until Bai Yucong walked to the southeast main road, with the star gate in sight in the distance.
With all kinds of memories in his heart, Li Yi said, “Are we going to Pan Palace?”
Zhao Yuan heard that his voice was sharp, and his hand holding the reins couldn’t help but tighten.
Instead of explaining now, it was better to talk when they got to the place.
When Li Yi dismounted and passed by the Pan Pond, he looked at the autumn water under the bridge. Zhao Yuan walked up to his side, and two silhouettes, one taller and one shorter, appeared in the deep blue.
Things remained the same but people changed.
On Yangsheng Bridge, Zhao Yuan said, “Pan Palace will reopen soon.”
The new dynasty had gradually stabilized, and Li Yi had expected that it would happen sooner or later.
“His Majesty wants to treat the scholars of the country with courtesy and recruit talent for the new dynasty, so I’m sure not only Pan Palace in the capital but also schools and academies everywhere will be reorganised and opened.”
Zhao Yuan nodded.
At this moment, in the middle of the desolate Pan Palace, standing on Baiyu Bridge, there were only him and Li Yi, with the autumn breeze blowing, not very cold.
The man before him had stood with him at the heights of this empire. As long as Zhao Yuan raised his head, the sound of strings could be heard.
“As the country is still in the process of achieving the state of stability and His Majesty is not yet in power, there is no hurry to open the examinations for the scholars. The first students at Pan palace should be mostly sons of various families.”
Li Yi didn’t need to think much, he knew what tune Zhao Yuan was singing, so he said: “The newly sealed families, mixed with the old families and the younger princes, cooped together to watch over and cultivate. In a few years, His Majesty will come to power, and fresh forces will be needed. They should be the first batch.
Instead of being in a hurry when the time comes, it is better to use this Pan Palace as a martial arts arena for them, like a small court. If there are any black sheeps who are unfit to be used, they need to be picked out early to save trouble. ”
Zhao Yuan laughed when he heard this. The autumn sun was slanting to the west. In this old place, Li Yi couldn’t tell the present from the past.
“His Majesty would like to appoint you to teach the three rites in Pan Palace.”
He said to Li Yi that it was the emperor’s wish; to the emperor, it was Guo Shen’s wish; and to Guo Shen, it was his own idea.
Li Yi finally couldn’t keep up with Zhao Yuan’s tune. He was suspicious, but he didn’t know whether there was something in the emperor’s decision that was proposed by the regent.
He also felt that it was inconvenient to ask a direct question. If he really asked whether the regent lent a hand in it, he would have to thank Zhao Yuan. He was afraid Zhao Yuan expected his embarrassment, so he couldn’t say anything.
When Li Yi considered this, he thought about how Zhao Yuan was treating him.
Before the shaving incident, Li Yi could have still justifiably said that Zhao Yuan’s interest in him was based on freshness. But now, on one hand, he didn’t allow him to become a monk and, on the other hand, he had found a comfortable place for him to settle down. Anyone knowing this could make the regent walk on blades and fall into the deep valley. This was not a matter of splitting hairs, it was clearly a matter of putting his whole life on the line.
This fire was a bit too bright.
He, Li Yi, was just the emperor’s grandson of the previous dynasty. If Zhao Yuan wanted to experience the taste of crushing him, what if he was unwilling? Like climbing the willow and breaking the branch, he could break him and get it all the same.
Li Yi couldn’t guess Zhao Yuan’s mind, he only felt that something seemed abnormal. Sure enough, anyone born with the same face was his nemesis, so Li Yi couldn’t help but be wary of him.
“His Majesty is generous, I am afraid that Li Yi cannot bear it and will only be a burden to His Majesty’s reputation.”
Zhao Yuan knew that Li Yi was talking about the arson. He was almost killed in the fire. Wouldn’t he die even faster if he went to Pan Palace to give public lectures?
Li Yi was pushing back. Zhao Yuan frowned. Now that he was protected by the regent of the dynasty, what was he afraid of?
Zhao Yuan looked at Li Yi intently, and when he saw his complicated expression, he suddenly knew that what Li Yi was afraid of was the regent himself.
“You told me you would believe me this time.” Zhao Yuan said in a deep voice and stretched out his hand to grab Li Yi.
Li Yi did not expect Zhao Yuan to be so perceptive that he would not allow him the slightest bit of avoidance. While he didn’t know how to answer, Zhao Yuan had already said, “Don’t worry, I am not Zhao Shen, I will not force you. I only hope you will keep your promise and trust me once.”
Did Zhao Shen force him? Li Yi didn’t remember.
But the word ‘trust’ was far better than being forced. It was the taste of willingly falling in, the true bottomless abyss.
Li Yi finally stopped hesitating.
Over Dacheng Hall at the edge of the Pan Pond, wild geese cried plaintively.
He said that he was not Zhao Shen, he rescued him from prison, kept him in the mortal world and settled him down. Li Yi was not an ungrateful person.
When Zhao Yuan saw that Li Yi was still slow to respond, his tone was no longer calm. “Guo Shen will serve as Jijiu in the future! What else are you worried about?”
Li Yi’s mind was electrified and he blurted out, “What did you promise him?”
“To protect you. ”
I will protect you, and you will be safe from now on for the rest of your life.