The Regent’s Secret Chapter 73

Chapter 73

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After changing into his regular clothes and washing up simply, Zhao Yuan still had a faint smell of blood that could be sensed by anyone who came close. Perhaps because of the previous scene, anyone would have been suspicious of the smell.

Zhao Xi turned around and finally found a sachet for Su Wang to wear, which finally covered up the unsettling scent.

When Zhao Yuan entered the Qinpeng Palace, there was no one else by the emperor’s desk except Wei Che. He felt slightly disappointed but still paid his respects to the emperor and waited for Zhao Heng to speak.

The emperor remained silent, and Wei Che spoke beside him, “Li Yi is now safe, Your Highness need not worry.”

Su Wang was about to kowtow to express his gratitude, but Zhao Heng hurried over and personally supported Zhao Yuan, speaking in a very gentle tone, “It was the Empress Dowager who disobeyed my order first and falsely accused Li Yi. The imperial Guards have already investigated and found out the truth. Royal Uncle need not thank me.”

Zhao Yuan withdrew his hand from the emperor’s grip and still knelt down, “I have committed a breach of etiquette today in the Empress Dowager’s palace. Your Majesty, please punish me.”

Zhao Heng hurriedly helped him up and said he was not guilty.

This uncle and nephew both understood each other without words. The emperor saved Li Yi and tried his best to appease Zhao Yuan. As the regent, it was both reasonable and necessary for him to give face to the emperor.

Zhao Yuan himself had already had enough of killing and suppressed his anger. He did not hesitate to respond to the emperor’s goodwill.

However, all the words in the scene had been said, but the person Zhao Yuan was concerned about had not yet been seen.

“Your Majesty is generous and considerate, and always thinks for me. I am deeply grateful and will definitely repay Your Majesty’s kindness in the future. I don’t know where Li Yi is now. If there is no problem, I will go and take him back to the residence.”

Zhao Heng’s gaze became deeper, and he stepped back a few steps, saying, “Royal Uncle, Li Yi cannot go back with you for now.”

Zhao Yuan’s pupils contracted, and his expression changed suddenly. Wei Che took the lead and stepped forward to block in front of the emperor, his right hand already on his sword.

The sound of a needle dropping could be heard in the hall. Zhao Yuan remained still, just looking quietly at the emperor.

The two men stared at each other for only a few breaths, but it seemed like they had been in a standoff for several hours. Zhao Heng’s back shuddered, his palms sweating, but his gaze became more and more determined.

Zhao Yuan already understood the emperor’s determination and straightforwardly said, “What does Your Majesty want?”

Zhao Heng gestured for Wei Che to step back and walked a few steps forward, saying softly, “Uncle just said that you will repay me. What I want, Uncle should be clearer than I am.”

Upon hearing this, Zhao Yuan looked at the emperor with a smile that was not a smile. Although there was nothing on his face, his eyes were full of coldness.

He replied, “Alright.” and turned to leave.

Suddenly, Zhao Heng called out to him from behind, “Uncle,” his tone changing from the solemnity in the hall, revealing the pureness of a young man, with a hint of softness.

The emperor seemed apologetic and tried to hold him back.

Zhao Yuan stopped in his tracks, hesitated for a moment, and then turned back.

Zhao Heng looked worried and said to him, “Uncle, you promised me that you would be good.”

Zhao Yuan never thought that the emperor would bring this up to him, and was momentarily stunned. He realized what he had done today and was afraid that he had scared many people.

He remembered the night in the palace when he had indeed promised Zhao Heng. But now it was pointless to say these things. The affection between uncle and nephew could not withstand the pressure of the kingdom. He almost wanted to rebel, but the emperor had a backup plan and ultimately forced Li Yi into his own hands.

Zhao Yuan recalled many past experiences with Zhao Heng, and his eyes revealed a hint of nostalgia.

Moved by his expression, Zhao Heng turned to Wei Che and said, “There’s nothing more to discuss here. Leave us alone to talk.”

Wei Che was reluctant to leave, but how could he disobey the emperor? After Wei Che left, Zhao Heng walked up to Zhao Yuan and sighed softly, “When my father was establishing the country, everyone tried to curry favor and test me. They all hoped that I would be made the crown prince the next day. Only my uncle taught me to read and ride a horse every day, without asking for anything else.”

“When my father was seriously ill, many people worried that I couldn’t shoulder the great responsibility. Some hoped that I could become a dragon and usher in an era of prosperity, while others had their own selfish motivations. In short, there were all kinds of advice. At that time, only my uncle was willing to risk everything to ask me if I wanted to take that position, if I had made up my mind.”

Zhao Yuan smiled. He had long known that he wouldn’t have a future. But Zhao Heng, he was a capable nephew. Even if Zhao Shen claimed the throne, as long as Zhao Heng hadn’t truly taken that position, he would want him to live freely. 

“If I had said no at the time, would you have taken it upon yourself, Uncle?”

This was a direct question, and it cut like a knife, piercing straight to the heart.

Zhao Yuan sighed. When the Emperor spoke of the past, he instinctively used “I”.

Zhao Heng was still young and had many tender feelings in his heart. In order to preserve these rare soft spots of an emperor and allow them to linger in Zhao Heng’s heart for a little longer, Zhao Yuan was willing to reveal his own vulnerability in front of this dangerous young beast. 

“At that time, Your Majesty didn’t respond to me, indicating your desire for that position. You were simply afraid that you wouldn’t do well.” 

He finished speaking and chuckled self-deprecatingly. “Your Majesty has always been clever and wise beyond your years, and your courage surpasses others. It is evident that you are doing an excellent job now. Given time, you will undoubtedly become a wise ruler of your generation.”

Zhao Heng only heard Zhao Yuan’s evasion and constant praise. He thought the Regent Prince was unwilling to give him a straightforward answer, and a hint of disappointment appeared on his face. 

However, Zhao Yuan suddenly spoke again, saying, “If Your Majesty had expressed unwillingness back then, although I couldn’t have helped you escape this quagmire, I would have been willing to devote myself entirely and bear your burdens until death.”

He spoke with such sincerity, looking at Zhao Heng, meaning that as long as Zhao Heng sat on that throne, he would take care of everything he didn’t want to handle.

Zhao Heng was momentarily confused by his words. He had never had an elder ask for his opinion unconditionally. He was afraid that he would fall into this long-awaited family affection. But at this juncture, he could not afford to get bogged down in it. He had already chosen the path of an emperor and had no regrets. He could only say to Zhao Yuan, “Uncle, I have to keep Li Yi for now. You can rest assured that once you have taken care of everything, I will return him to you intact, not even a single hair missing.”

Zhao Yuan looked at the emperor and said, “Your Majesty’s words are as heavy as gold.”

Zhao Heng nodded, “I will not go back on my word.”

After seeing off the Regent Prince, Zhao Heng immediately went to the side hall of the Ningan Palace. After this incident, no one could live in the Ningan Palace anymore.

Changing the palace quarters was not something that could be done overnight. For the time being, they could only let the Empress Dowager live in the side hall and wait until the new palace quarters were cleaned and arranged properly. They had to block the passage leading to the main hall and walk around the front and back of the palace quarters.

As soon as the emperor entered, Shen Zhi swept the tea cup to the ground, and the porcelain cup fell apart and the water spilled all over the place. She did it in front of the emperor on purpose.

After going through what happened that day, she was not only frustrated but also scared. She couldn’t take it out on her own son, and she was about to go crazy.

Zhao Heng calmly walked around the broken porcelain and asked Shen Zhi how she was doing. The Empress Dowager didn’t even turn her face, and the emperor felt doubly tired. His mother had caused a huge mess, but she was unable to reflect on her actions and he had to comfort her.

Zhao Heng sighed inwardly, feeling that the little bit of fondness he had for the Empress Dowager had been eroded away. He took out the prepared words and said to Shen Zhi, “It’s not that I can’t bear to see my mother being bullied. The Regent Prince is currently powerful, and we need to be careful in dealing with him. Mother is too anxious.”

“In no more than two years, I will take the throne myself. The period before my accession to the throne is the most dangerous time, and we cannot afford to be careless.”

Shen Zhi followed the Emperor’s words, thinking about their status as orphans and widows, and how she had tried her best to plan for the Emperor’s sake, nearly sacrificing her life in the process. She felt deeply wronged.

In the hall, she had impulsively shouted to kill the Regent King, but after all, the Emperor was her own flesh and blood, and he could witness her humiliation without intervening. Everything was done correctly, but Shen Zhi’s heart felt utterly cold.

The Empress Dowager was weary and dejected, too sad to even scold the Emperor. She just silently shed tears.

Zhao Heng knew that Shen Zhi was still not receptive to advice, and he feared that she would become even more unbearable. He was reluctant to speak, but he had to say something to dispel the Empress Dowager’s thoughts. The Emperor knew that Shen Zhi was stubborn and vengeful. If he did not persuade her to calm down soon, she would seek revenge in some other way. Rather than waiting for Wei Che to become too busy to handle it, it was better to be proactive and prevent her from causing trouble.

The Emperor suppressed his emotions and continued, “Mother, there is something you didn’t know, something that the late Emperor entrusted to me alone. The Regent Prince has awakened the bloodline of the Zhao clan.”

Before Zhao Heng could say more, Shen Zhi jumped up and interrupted him, not even calling him “Your Majesty,” and asked, “What did you say? Is he, is he the chosen one…?” As she spoke, she stopped crying and her face showed fear.

Zhao Heng knew that she had misunderstood and was afraid that Zhao Yuan was qualified to replace him as the Emperor. He quickly explained, “Su Wang has already used the power of the bloodline. The person he saved was Li Yi. Mother, because of this, you cannot provoke Li Yi anymore. If he dies, Su Wang can regain the power of the bloodline. Then, if he turns against us, more than half of the courtiers will support him.”

Shen Zhi was indeed frightened, and after a while, she recovered her senses and asked, “When did Your Majesty find out? Why didn’t you tell me earlier?”

“I also learned about it because of Duke Dingguo,” replied the Emperor.

Shen Zhi suddenly realized and looked at the Emperor. The Emperor nodded to her, and she immediately understood that the Emperor knew about the poisoning incident from the Shen family.

Li Yi did not die from poisoning, and it was because of this.

Zhao Heng continued, “I had not yet taken action when my mother had already stirred up trouble and even directly forced the Regent Prince’s hand. If it were not for Wei Che’s alertness and Zhao Xi’s report, taking Li Yi out while rushing to save you, I would have almost lost my mother.”

Shen Zhi felt heartbroken when the Emperor spoke of her in such a way, but was relieved when her son came to rescue her. She hugged Zhao Heng and cried.

Zhao Heng patted the Empress Dowager’s back and said softly, “Mother, don’t tell the other princes about this. Today they may ally with us, but tomorrow they may turn on us. Just like what happened to Su Wang before. Whoever holds Li Yi, holds the Regent Prince. I just need to hold out until my own reign.”

He continued to console Shen Zhi.

Shen Zhi had gone through so much in a day that she became emotionally fragile. The Emperor, on the other hand, seemed to have matured overnight. He already knew how to manipulate and sow discord among his uncles, and was willing to show her his cards.

She looked up at her 14-year-old son and realized that he looked nothing like the person in her memory. The Emperor was now lean and tall, his shoulders broad, and his childishness was gone.

Shen Zhi couldn’t help but murmur, “Your Majesty already has a plan…”

Zhao Heng carefully observed Shen Zhi’s emotions and knew that she had been persuaded. He breathed a sigh of relief and added, “I will always be your son, mother. How can we trust the uncles who are just our uncles? If you have any plans in the future, please discuss them with me.”

Shen Zhi nodded slowly. After all, the Emperor was her son, and she had to rely on him.

Zhao Heng had completely calmed down Shen Zhi and, seeing that the Empress had gradually calmed down, he left Zhonghe Palace.

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