The Regent’s Secret Chapter 68

Chapter 68

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On this day, daylight seemed as long as a year, and Li Yi finally waited for Zhao Yuan to return to his mansion, but he didn’t hear any news.

He sometimes wondered how the imperial guard’s investigation was going, sometimes hoping that Zhu Jing and the others would notice something, and sometimes speculating on how Zhao Yuan would act.

Li Yi was now completely under house arrest in the Prince Regent’s Mansion, and even Ping An was locked up by Zhao Xi. Even if there was chaos outside, he had no way of knowing.

He endured this suffering of not knowing anything about what was happening and couldn’t sleep at night.

He put on his clothes and stood by the window, with an unknown cold fragrance permeating through the gauze, gradually calming his restlessness.

There was no light in the room, only the moonlight spilled onto the ground like silver. Li Yi walked over the broken silver and entered the outer room, where he saw Zhao Yuan sitting inside.

He was startled. “Your Highness.”

Zhao Yuan didn’t respond, only raised his hand slightly, motioning for Li Yi to come closer.

Li Yi hesitated before approaching. As he moved, the moonlight shifted, gradually revealing the features of Su Wang.

Li Yi felt a strange sensation, as if he were back in the bedroom ten years ago, with someone standing guard outside, waiting for him to fall asleep.

“Can’t sleep?”

Su Wang’s voice, clear and cold as water, interrupted Li Yi’s reverie. He nodded in response.

Zhao Yuan sighed and reached out to pull the person in front of him into his arms.

His gaze fell on the bandaged fingertips of Li Yi and he said softly, “Those people are already dead people. You don’t have to… Just hold on for a few more days.”

Li Yi remained silent.

Zhao Yuan didn’t say anything more either. He held Li Yi tightly and carried him back to the bed. He put him down and took a few steps back before turning to leave. But as he did so, Li Yi reached out from behind and grabbed his sleeve.

Zhao Yuan turned back, confused. The moonlight was hazy like a veil, and Li Yi’s eyes were deep and dark, as if the night was obscure and unclear. He opened his mouth and tried to speak twice before finally finding his voice.

“Your Highness, since you’ve imprisoned me here, why don’t I just openly enter the mansion myself?”

Zhao Yuan stared at Li Yi, and everything around him seemed unreal. He couldn’t believe what he heard with his own ears.

This must be a spell cast from the middle of the night, he thought.

Huan An, why would you say such a thing?

In a frenzy of joy, desire suddenly overwhelmed reason, and Zhao Yuan could not control himself. He pressed down on Li Yi, and the person in front of him seemed like a dream.

Li Yi’s words still echoed in Zhao Yuan’s ears.

Why don’t I just openly enter the mansion myself?

I, openly, enter the mansion.

Zhao Yuan suddenly came to his senses, sat up, and said in a cold voice, “Do you want to use me to make these people lose all hope and flee? Why do you have to do this to yourself?”

Li Yi did not expect that Zhao Yuan could see through his true intentions at such a critical moment. He wanted to plead with Zhao Yuan, but now only the Regent Prince had a chance to save them. He had already made his request clear, and Zhao Yuan had refused him once.

If he didn’t do it this way, he would have no chance at all.

Zhao Yuan had tricked him into entering the palace, and had detained him with a thunderous force to prevent him from contacting the outside world.

Li Yi could not pass on any information.

The only way he could think of was to let everyone know that he had voluntarily surrendered to Su Wang, so that Zhu Jing and the others would lose the chance to establish a new leader. Once these people gave up on this idea, there would still be a glimmer of hope for them to leave the capital early.

“For the sake of these people, is it worth it?” Zhao Yuan asked Li Yi with a heartache.

As the Crown Grandson of Emperor Guanghua and the legitimate son of the Crown Prince Chongde, he was a flawless person who wore royal robes, jade and silk in the East Palace Wenhua Hall. He couldn’t bear the thought of him being tainted by anyone for the sake of these insignificant people, willing to destroy himself.

Li Yi also sat up, his eyes shining like stars, and he simply opened up to Zhao Yuan, “Your Highness and I have no chance of agreement on this matter.

In the end, I am still the former Crown Grandson of the Qing Dynasty. Back then, Zhu Jing and Lord Liao, the Grand Preceptor of the Crown Prince, protected me until the end, both civil and military.

After that incident, I was demoted to commoner. At that time, Guo Jijiu, had already lost all of his disciples and former subordinates and was forced to resign and retreat from society. When Lord Liao, the senior official, retired, Zhu Jing was the first to be exiled for his crimes.

Lu Sui was the eldest son of the Lu family, one of the four most influential families in Jiangnan. He was a child prodigy and had an extraordinary talent, but he was also careless and uninterested in pursuing an official career. My father had a close relationship with him and loved him for his free-spirited nature. When trouble arose, Lu Sui risked his life to contact the leaders of various clans in the south and traveled to the capital to petition on their behalf.

There was also Jiang Heng, my cousin. We grew up together, and I treated him like a younger brother. When the Duke of Jin passed away, he was not yet sixteen and was spared from execution. He and Lu Sui were both sent to a cold and harsh place of exile.”

Zhao Yuan did not think that these deeds were worthy of recognition and interrupted Li Yi, saying, “That was Zhu Jing’s duty as an official of the Eastern Palace! Lu Sui was famous even before he entered the court because of his family background as a companion of the Crown Prince. He had the Crown Prince’s favor and there is no need to repay a favor with another. As for Jiang Heng, you saved him. When did he ever help you?”

Li Yi knew that he could not persuade Zhao Yuan and shook his head, saying, “A duty should be… During the Eastern Palace’s prime, most of the courtiers would have followed orders. It is not uncommon for people to become estranged and turn against each other overnight. It is not easy to be truly loyal to one’s cause.”

Zhao Yuan sneered, silent. Those who became estranged and turned against each other back then, unless they died before he arrived in the capital, had already been accounted for and sent to the underworld.

Today, those who were still alive and had served the Eastern Palace should thank themselves for being loyal to the end.

Li Yi could not control whether Zhao Yuan thought their actions were worthy or not, but he could reveal his own feelings. “An official serves one as they would serve their father, and one should treat them as their son. Your Highness, I have my responsibilities to bear, how can I watch these people die? How can I not do everything in my power?”

The more Li Yi spoke, the more he remembered past events, and he barely managed to suppress his emotions before continuing, “I know that I am not as resolute and unyielding as Your Highness, who has seen life and death on the battlefield. I really do not want to see anyone die anymore, to see more orphans and widows…”

Li Yi’s face was as white as frost, and his long eyelashes covered his eyes slightly, revealing that he could not continue speaking. Zhao Yuan no longer had the heart to argue at this point and wanted nothing more than to hold Li Yi in his arms and comfort him.

He thought it, and he did it, holding the fragile man and sighing deeply, using the gentlest words to comfort Li Yi.

“It’s my fault that I’ve caused you so much trouble. If you want to give them a chance, very well, I will comply. Let’s see how things unfold for them.” 

In just two days, a rumor spread throughout the capital, from the palace to the streets and alleys, about the current Regent Prince coercing the former dethroned Crown Grandson into his residence. 

This scandalous and provocative incident stimulated everyone’s senses. Once Zhou Yi let slip a few words, within moments, there were seventeen or eighteen different versions circulating. Some versions were short but vividly described, taking only the time to finish a meal, while others could fill a whole book and be told for ten days or half a month. 

The stories ranged from how the two individuals met, their interactions throughout the seasons, to the confinement of the prince within the residence. They were narrated with such detail as if witnessed firsthand. The most popular versions were those portraying the regent as a tyrant forcibly seizing a fallen noble, evoking the deepest sympathies from the common people.

Zhou Yi only heard about it again at a teahouse two days later. In the story, Li Yi was already depicted as a weeping, helpless cabbage, while his lord was portrayed as a butcher and a local tyrant.

The first piece of news about this incident was definitely not released by Zhou Yi. He refused to acknowledge himself as the originator of such a crappy story.

Zhao Xi caught Zhou Yi in the mansion and asked him about the situation in secret. Zhou Yi was so angry that he rolled his eyes and said, “Don’t you know how badly His Highness’s reputation has been damaged outside?”

Zhao Xi understood better than him, but he just sighed and said, “His Highness can’t bear to let go.”

If His Highness didn’t want Li Yi to be publicly shamed, he would have to bear the burden himself.

Zhou Yi thought for a moment and said, “But for now, it’s His Highness who tricked the person into coming here and locking him up. If this were to come out…”

Zhou Yi only got halfway through his sentence when he felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. Without Zhao Xi’s reminder, he turned around and knelt down.

Zhao Yuan stood there without anger, but instead smiled and said to Zhou Yi, “What about the remaining fifty lashes? Add ten more.”

Zhou Yi’s face fell, and Su Wang continued to counsel him, “My reputation might be tarnished a bit, but it might not necessarily be a bad thing.”

Zhao Xi followed behind Zhao Yuan and disappeared, leaving Zhou Yi to ponder Su Wang’s words.

Behind his back, people called him “Nine Thousand Years Old.” What did he want with such a good reputation? Even Zhu Jing and his two companions in the shabby courtyard had heard about it.

What Li Yi did not expect was that his active willingness to offer himself was changed by Zhao Yuan to forcing him to enter the mansion. Instead of extinguishing the three’s intention to rebel, it actually aroused the determination of the three to save Li Yi.

They were filled with righteous indignation and prepared to sneak into the Regent’s mansion to rescue Li Yi.

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