Chapter Five The heart of the emperor
Zhao Yuan couldn’t find Li Yi anywhere. Just when he finally managed to suppress the fire in his heart, it started to rise up again and fry him inside.
One of his subordinates hurriedly came from the backyard, “Your Highness, someone buried food in the backyard. Judging by the traces, it was picked up and taken away.”
Zhao Yuan quickly went to check on the place of the temporary grain storage. After thinking for a while, he felt relieved. This relief was like a pot of freshwater on a hot summer day, and his whole body relaxed.
Li Yi was still holed up in the alley, waiting for the galloping horse to pass twice, and only when he saw that everything outside was calm again, did he dare to come out to probe.
He was about to turn his head to speak, only to hear an “ugh” sound behind him. Ping An opened his mouth and vomited.
For Ping An, killing someone for the first time and lasting until now was not easy. Sixteen years of age, he would have been just a high school student in the modern era; but in these troubled times he had to kill to save the lives of two people.
Li Yi had already done his share of vomiting. When the rebel army broke into the city, they were looking for a house to hide in the slums. During that time, they had seen many dead bodies, some of them killed brutally, some of them rotting. Li Yi vomited for several days and by the end there was only bile coming out.
The situation in the city was even worse this time. Many of the rebellious troops who had previously acted as kings were now in a state of collapse, thus they all headed for the slums in an attempt to hide as civilians.
When these people saw food, gold, silver and other belongings, as long as they could see it, they would grab everything and take it away. They came one after another, endlessly.
Seeing that he couldn’t stay in the slums anymore, Li Yi ordered Ping An to bring dry food and water. The two of them took some money and were about to leave, yet he didn’t expect to meet two rebel soldiers as soon as he went out. Fortunately, everything was resolved safely.
Li Yi approached Ping An who was bending over like a cat, stretched out his hand to pat his back and passed him water from a water sac. Ping An shook his head and avoided him, “Young master, don’t come over, it’s too dirty!”
There was blood all over the ground and a disgusting putrid smell.
Li Yi handed over a kerchief. Ping An, who finished retching, looked very pitiful with his face covered in tears and snot.
Seeing this, Li Yi felt a little relieved. Ping An had changed back to his original appearance and no longer had the murderous look in his eyes.
“Young master, you’re laughing at me.” Ping An wiped his face clean, his bunny-like red eyes were still a little watery.
Li Yi simply laughed and didn’t explain much. He pulled Ping An over and rubbed his head, saying, “It’s fine if you’re okay.”
Ping An didn’t resist but only peeked at his young master, feeling extremely happy in his heart.
For the time being, the crisis had passed and Li Yi’s first choice was still to get out of the city.
The two cleaned up and hurried to the nearest gate in the northern part of the city. When they arrived at the boundary, they saw from a distance that the army of Southern Yunnan, fully armored, was already guarding the city tower in an orderly manner.
As for the gates, there was a long queue of people who had been besieged for days and now wanted to leave the city. It was so long that they couldn’t even see the end of the queue when they turned down the main street.
Li Yi didn’t give up and went forward to take a look. The soldiers guarding the gate checked everyone for a long time before releasing them.
Now Li Yi’s heart went completely cold. The northern city gate was like this, so the other city gates must also be strictly guarded. In the end, he was still trapped in the city.
At this time, the Forbidden City, Dacheng Hall.
Inside and outside the huge palace, countless corpses had not been cleaned up in time. Now their blood washed with water merged into pale red streams and ran down the ditches.
In the air, horn bells chimed in the wind, making clear sounds.
The soldiers were scattered everywhere, ordered by the emperor to clean the square in front of Dacheng Hall.
Zhao Heng, who was only thirteen years old, stood on the white jade steps, looking frail and lonely in the midst of a lofty palace.
He had seen too many killings along the way. He was obviously a little scared, but he was able to keep his face calm without showing any timidity.
Zhao Shen looked at his beloved son with reluctance, showing a rare expression of sadness. He beckoned Zhao Heng to follow.
Seeing that his father was too sick, Zhao Heng walked over and pushed the door of Dacheng Hall open by himself. He was so happy that he ignored etiquette and ran to the emperor.
Zhao Shen hugged him and, holding each other, they stepped into Dacheng Hall together.
In the hall where the golden lacquered dragon chair was placed high above, Zhao Shen walked straight up to the throne and felt around slowly for a few moments before sitting down.
Zhao Heng stood next to the throne and looked at his father. There was not much admiration in his eyes but quite a lot of reverence.
Zhao Shen was a little sad. He treated Heng Er too harshly, wanting him to take on Southern Yunnan and even the world in future. Now his beloved son really looked like a promising monarch but was no longer close to him.
He suddenly wanted to say something nice that the child might like to hear but he realised that he didn’t know Heng Er’s preferences. The emperor couldn’t help sighing. He was indeed a very unqualified father.
His time was running out. The doctor’s face had already revealed the secret this morning. Zhao Shen knew that his current strength was just the last flicker of light before darkness.
He still had a few important things to explain to his eldest son.
“I have something to tell you.”
Hearing his father’s solemn tone, Zhao Heng hurriedly knelt down in front of him and listened respectfully.
In the empty hall, only the emperor’s deep voice echoed.
“I know that you eavesdropped outside the tent that day.”
Zhao Heng was startled, “Father…”
Zhao Shen waved his hand, indicating that he didn’t need to explain. There was no anger on the emperor’s face as he continued: “This way, it will save me a lot of words.”
Zhao Heng could only listen with his heart in his mouth.
“You will not be able to ascend the throne until your wedding when you are sixteen. In the next three years, Su Wang will be the regent. Don’t think that now that he used the power of his bloodline, he will no longer be able to fight with you. The Zhao family gained the world by military force. All the talents in the army and in the court are in the hands of Su Wang. If he refuses to hand over power obediently, it will be useless for you to ascend the throne.”
Zhao Heng was humbly taught and sought to keep every word of the emperor’s in mind.
“The person that Su Wang rescued, you have to find him as soon as possible. Don’t forget that the bloodline power can be recovered. Once that person is dead, Su Wang can still regain the bloodline power. You must protect that person so that later you can use him to contain Su Wang. A human heart is an extremely changeable thing. Su Wang didn’t hesitate to use the power of his bloodline to save that person in the past. Who knows if he regrets it today. If he is poisoned by blood, he surely suffers once a month. After suffering for so many years, his mind might have changed unknowingly. You must find that person. Only when they are in your grasp is it the safest.”
Zhao Heng nodded respectfully.
After Zhao Shen said these words, he couldn’t help coughing again. Zhao Heng hurriedly raised his head and looked up. The emperor took out a handkerchief and covered his mouth, his face flushed and strained.
He suddenly said sharply: “Put the world first and remember who you are at all times! Your father will watch over you from heaven!”
Without warning, Zhao Shen turned from earnest instructions to ruthless blackmail.
Zhao Heng’s heart sank. He had known that it was the true face of the emperor, but he still had a few illusions, thinking that the emperor was also his father and even wanted to treat him as a loving father just now.
However, the emperor was the emperor after all.
Zhao Heng was already thirteen, and he secretly reminded himself that he could no longer expect unrealistic things and act like a child.
He expressed his wholehearted respect, kowtowed and accepted the emperor’s teachings.
The emperor was satisfied and said softly: “Remember what I said and what to do with the regent in the future. You must know it in your heart and never be soft-hearted!”
Zhao Heng said, “This child will remember and won’t be soft-hearted.”
The emperor suddenly chuckled a little, “Heng Er eavesdropping outside the tent, wasn’t it because he was soft-hearted and worried about the safety of Su Wang? Afraid that he would say the wrong thing and make me take him down on the spot?”
Zhao Heng blushed suddenly. He was thoroughly guessed by the emperor and felt deeply humiliated. Even before the young heir sat on the throne, he already knew instinctively what was the most vital thing for the emperor.
The emperor’s heart was unpredictable to anyone. Even if the emperor was his father.
After Zhao Shen said so many words, he felt a little tired and waved Zhao Heng out of the hall.
Dacheng Hall was finally silent. The emperor was left alone to sit and meditate, watching the last sunset of the empire gradually sink down.
Zhao Heng slowly stepped down the jade steps and couldn’t help but glance back at the golden hall with its flying eaves. He was still young but he was no longer afraid of the burden of the country’s fortune weighing on him. As for what he was afraid of, he was a little hazy and he couldn’t tell.
Far away, Zhao Heng saw the familiar white horse galloping towards the crimson palace wall, and the man also saw him and raised the whip in his hand.
Zhao Heng had no scruples and hurried down the jade steps. The thought flashed in his mind that his father was so wary of Zhao Yuan, he probably didn’t know his uncle as well as he did.