The Regent’s Secret Chapter 62

Chapter 62

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The winter plum was fragrant, and the Ningan Palace was warm with the ground dragon stove burning brightly.

Shen Zhi leaned against the beauty bed, and the palace maid was carefully trimming her orchid-like fingertips.

“Madam is here, madam is here!” The Golden-Eyed Green Parrot hanging in the corridor screamed crisply, and the eunuch in charge of the palace quickly appeased it.

Shen Zhi dismissed the palace maid and was led to a side hall.

Accompanying her were also two young girls. The taller one was already a young woman with a round face, and she was not particularly outstanding in appearance, but looked amiable.

Huoshi introduced first, “Madam, this is the eldest daughter of Wang Hanlin’s family, as I mentioned before.”

Another twelve or thirteen-year-old girl with big watery eyes and delicate features appeared. She greeted Shen Zhi and said in a sweet tone, “Aunt, I really like the red gem headpiece you gave me the other day.”

Wang Pingting, the eldest daughter of Wang Hanlin, stood with perfect posture, keeping her eyes fixed on her nose and her thoughts on her mind.

Just by seeing the empress dowager not being annoyed with the improper intimacy of the girl calling her, it was evident that Shen Miaohua held a high position in her heart.

She understood very well that she was just a supporting character on this visit to the palace, while the two girls were the main focus.

After the empress dowager asked about their ages, preferences, what books they had read, and rewarded them with some snacks, Lady Dingguo led the two girls out.

Within a month, Shen Zhi summoned Lady Dingguo several times, sent a nursemaid to the Wang Hanlin family, and often called for Shen Miaohua to enter the palace. She was so busy that she was happy.

Zhao Heng sneered from time to time in Zhonghe Palace, saying to Wei Che, “The empress dowager is just one step away from bringing her niece to live in the palace.”

Wei Che rolled his eyes but dared not speak.

Zhao Heng dismissed the attendants and gestured for Wei Che to speak freely.

“In my opinion, the empress dowager is planning to keep the Shen family girl in the palace for life, so she’s not in a hurry.”

Zhao Heng grunted, “As the emperor, I will have the final say about my empress. No one should dare to make decisions on my behalf when I start my reign. I am annoyed by all these women in the harem, and it would be better if it were quieter.”

Wei Che corrected the emperor, “Your Majesty, you are misunderstanding the situation. There are not many women in the harem like birds and swallows, and the Wang family girl is not intended for you. According to the information I have gathered, she is being prepared for the regent prince.”

“The Regent Prince?”

Zhao Heng laughed, “Well, that’s great. I don’t need to worry about it then. Let’s wait and see.”

Zhao Yuan was busy working on memorials in a small courtyard when he suddenly sneezed.

Li Yi put down his pen and raised his head. “The weather has been getting colder day by day recently. Your Highness should return home earlier. If it gets late, you may catch a cold.”

Zhao Xi saw that both of them had stopped talking and quickly brought in some hot tea.

Zhao Yuan took a sip before asking, “Are you trying to get rid of me earlier?”

Li Yi was half-guessed by him, but he didn’t show any surprise or anger. He continued to sincerely express the other half of his thoughts.

“If Your Highness is truly ill, national affairs cannot be delayed. Being sick is already uncomfortable, and being overworked one after another will only make things worse.”

Zhao Xi vigorously nodded on the side, hoping that someone could persuade him, this was the only hope.

Zhao Yuan put down his teacup, glanced at Zhao Xi who was eager to jump around, and then Zhao Xi, who had just shown some spirit, suddenly wilted and slunk away with his tail between his legs, wisely taking the other people in the room with him.

After everyone had left, Zhao Yuan pointed to the seats facing each other.

Li Yi did not resist unnecessarily and obediently went to sit down.

“Do you worry about me?” Zhao Yuan asked.

Li Yi hesitated for a moment, but still nodded.

Zhao Yuan immediately smiled, and Li Yi looked at him but couldn’t move his gaze away. Seeing that he was being looked at, Zhao Yuan became even more pleased and laughed more.

“I won’t come tomorrow. It’s the Empress Dowager’s birthday, and I have to stay in the palace for at least a day. If I can stay a little longer today, I will.”

Li Yi could only nod and agree.

There was a grand feast in the Ningan Palace. Zhao Yuan had to give face to the emperor and the empress dowager, and the Shen family came to toast. He welcomed all who came, including the princes and several important ministers. Even the alcohol-loving Zhao Yuan was a bit tipsy from all the drinking.

In the afternoon, there was a performance, and he used an excuse to slip out and find a place to take a nap and wake up from the alcohol.

The eunuch led the Regent Prince through the garden to a small pavilion behind the theater in the Ningan Palace. As soon as Zhao Yuan stepped into the corridor below the pavilion, he caught sight of a figure moving inside.

“Who’s there?”

Wang Pingting had been waiting for a long time. When she heard the deep male voice outside, her heart was about to jump out of her throat. The Empress Dowager had instructed her to stay in the pavilion and not make a sound until the Regent Prince entered, and then come out.

Her stepmother wanted to use her to seek wealth and status, but she didn’t want to bear such a shameful reputation. If Su Wang was a good person, then her actions were justified, but if he wasn’t, then she would have ruined her life.

Wang Pingting had made up her mind and took a risk by showing herself early, so as not to be misunderstood.

When the eunuch saw this situation, he wondered why she had shown herself so early, which ruined a good opportunity. However, he still had his own business to attend to. At least he needed to make sure that the two had met before he could report back.

Wang Pingting first reported her family background and only said that the Empress Dowager had arranged for her to take a rest here. Zhao Yuan understood what was going on.

Shen Zhi might have overheard something from outside, and was probably trying to conceal it.

Zhao Yuan was not in the mood to stay in the palace anymore. He turned to send someone to inform the Emperor and left Ningan Palace.

Zhao Heng had already received Wei Che’s report and was hiding on a distant artificial hill, watching the performance to his heart’s content. He managed to suppress his laughter and waved at Wei Che. The two then retreated along the original route.

After leaving the palace, Zhao Yuan rode straight to Li Yi’s place.

Shen Zhi couldn’t even manage her own son, yet she wanted to reach out to him. If the Empress Dowager was trying to test whether he would submit to her authority, he would make her understand that she couldn’t replace the Emperor as the one in charge.

Zhao Yuan rushed to Li Yi’s place like a bolt of lightning, but couldn’t find him. When he inquired, he was told that Li Yi had gone to see someone at Tongqing Troupe.

Feeling increasingly frustrated, Zhao Yuan went directly to Tongqing Troupe. At this time, the theater had not yet opened, and only acquaintances could enter the backyard.

Although Zhao Yuan had changed into ordinary clothes, his imposing manner was not that of an ordinary person. As soon as he threw some silver over, the gatekeeper respectfully led him in.

“What kind of person is the young master looking for in our troupe? I can go and call them,” the gatekeeper asked.

Zhao Yuan strode in and, having lost his patience long ago, was unrestrained in his speech, “Go and call out all the good-looking young actors and martial artists in your troupe for me.”

The gatekeeper realized that something was amiss upon hearing this request and seeing Zhao Yuan’s drunken appearance, he knew that this was someone who had come to cause trouble.

There had been plenty of wealthy young men who had caused a scene in the troupe while drunk, but no one had ever dared to pick out individuals like this before.

The troupe was not a brothel or a pleasure house. The troupe’s leader had been able to establish a foothold in the capital for many years with a group of people behind him, even nobles had two seats reserved for them.

Encountering such a situation, it goes without saying that they would try to persuade Zhao Yuan first. If that failed, the troupe had no shortage of skilled fighters who could easily subdue a spoiled young master like him.

Li Yi was in the room painting a portrait for Han Tingyue. He had already agreed to meet him before but had been busy ever since.

The troupe leader suddenly lifted the curtain and came in, saying angrily, “I don’t know where this hooligan came from. He’s a drunken wastrel with good martial arts skills, and he has already taken down several people. Tingyue, your father can’t handle him. Quickly go help out, otherwise he will destroy our troupe.”

Han Tingyue turned around and said to Li Yi, “Please leave through the back door. I’m sorry to have you come all this way only to encounter this kind of situation.”

Li Yi was not one to shy away from trouble, so he was curious to know who this hooligan was and why he dared to act so arrogantly to the Tongqing Troupe. He followed behind Han Tingyue and entered the courtyard where the play was staged.

On the rehearsal field, the person had their back turned towards Li Yi and Han Tingyue, but just seeing their silhouette was enough to leave Li Yi stunned and completely speechless.

The dissipated man, who was drunk and ignorant of the world, had caused a ruckus in the theater…

Han Tingyue, being an insider, could tell from just a few moves that if they were to fight together with their classmates, they would probably end up being defeated as well.

The people in the field had shown some restraint in their actions, and so Han Tingyue hastily spoke up, “Please have mercy, my lord. If there is anything wrong, I, Han Tingyue, will apologize on behalf of everyone here.”

Before the chaos of war, Han Tingyue had already made a name for himself, and now that the world was at peace, the various theater troupes in the capital had risen up once again. He was now so popular that even Ning Wang was willing to show him some favor, and he was more than happy to accept it.

When Zhao Yuan turned around, both he and Han Tingyue were stunned when they saw each other.

Han Tingyue’s facial features were very similar to Zhao Yuan’s, about sixty or seventy percent alike.

Zhao Yuan had particularly distinctive features, and so it was easy to recognize someone who was sixty or seventy percent similar to him.

Before they arrived, the troupe leader had mentioned the rumors about him looking for handsome young actors and martial artists, so if this person wasn’t here to cause trouble, then they must be looking for someone.

Han Tingyue realized that he was probably the trouble that this person was looking for.

Zhao Yuan’s gaze was sharp as a knife as he looked at Han Tingyue before shifting to Li Yi and then back to Han Tingyue. Since the two of them had come out together and were standing so close, it was obvious that they had a close relationship.

Zhao Yuan had heard of Han Tingyue’s name and even wanted to pay his respects to him, but he had never really looked at him closely before. Now he understood why the rumors said that Ning Wang was favoring a theater actor. When he saw Han Tingyue, he also understood Ning Wang’s intentions.

If Ning Wang was looking for trouble with him, that was one thing, but Li Yi had been avoiding him, and yet here he was, showing up right after Zhao Yuan had arrived.

Han Tingyue saw Zhao Yuan walking towards him like the demon king on stage, but then Zhao Yuan went straight towards Li Yi instead.

Han Tingyue broke out in a cold sweat on the spot. It didn’t matter what happened to him, as he was just a third-rate actor, but who was Li Yi? Now that the times had changed, he had fallen into the hands of these ruffians, isn’t this like a sheep entering a tiger’s mouth?

Han Tingyue was so anxious that smoke seemed to be coming out of his head. He had urged Li Yi to leave the place where trouble was brewing, but Li Yi had refused to listen. Seeing Li Yi’s extraordinary character, even the most handsome member of the Tongqing troupe was nothing in comparison.

Han Tingyue closed his eyes and stepped in front of Li Yi, trembling as he said, “Young Master, please leave quickly.”

Zhao Yuan muttered two words through his teeth, “Too late.”

Han Tingyue felt like his life was over when he heard this. He didn’t expect Li Yi to slowly come out from behind him and shake his head, saying, “This incident was caused by me. I will send compensation money later. You go and check on the injured for now.”

Han Tingyue was still stunned by what he heard, but he saw Li Yi walking towards the Demon King. When he arrived in front of him, Li Yi knelt down on one knee to fix the hem of his robe, then stood up and wiped away the bloodstains on his snow-white collar.

His every move was more graceful than ten years of training on stage. He was truly a person who had come down from the golden palace. The entire troupe watched Li Yi, who in turn looked at Zhao Yuan and sighed lightly, “Your Highness has had too much to drink.”

After hearing this, Zhao Yuan’s complexion improved somewhat.

When the words “Your Highness” were uttered, everyone was alarmed and fell to their knees on the ground.

There were no ruffians, only a nobleman had come to their humble abode. They were waiting for the nobleman’s thunderous anger, but he left instead.

Han Tingyue watched the nobleman and Li Yi leave, feeling as though this was the last time he would ever see Li Yi.

Author’s note:

Han Tingyue: Hurry up and send it back, our temple can’t accommodate a great god like you.

Li Yi: Don’t, I can’t sing or act for you.

Zhao Yuan: Uh, you think you haven’t seen enough of the drama, so you want to use your hands and feet? Come, I’ll show you the full martial arts routine when we go back~

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