“Resembles… resembles the vicious dog chained in His Majesty’s sleeping chamber…”
Before Xu Lingshan could finish, Gao Gonggong rushed in just in time, covering Xu Lingshan’s mouth.
Fu Nian didn’t react, quietly observing the spectacle before him.
He had initially thought that this child might reveal something about the Empress related to the Chengyuan Hall, but it seemed they were just comparing him to a dog by Chu Zhaoyi’s side. That was a relief.
After Gao Gonggong took the child out, Fu Nian regretfully glanced at the charcoal brazier. The prescriptions that had been ignited were now reduced to ashes, with no remnants left.
At least he knew now that someone was using frost-cold ginseng in the palace. Therefore, the person who had placed the gu on his body must have resided in the palace or had frequent interactions there. They were also deeply trusted by Chu Zhaoyi.
Yesterday, watching Chu Zhaoyi closely interacting with the royal uncle and handling state affairs together, it seemed that he held considerable trust in the royal uncle.
Moreover, in his previous life, when Fu Nian was still at the Wang Residence, Chu Zhaoyi had also interacted with this Little Royal Uncle.
Let’s start investigating this person.
Fu Nian began silently devising a plan in his mind.
Not long after, he heard the footsteps of Gao Gonggong returning.
“I’m back, I apologize for that. That young apprentice is usually quite clever; I didn’t expect him to suddenly say something like that. I’ve already reported it to his master. If you’re still upset, I’ll make sure he…”
“It was just a child’s careless words.” Seeing Gao Gonggong in a dilemma, Fu Nian quickly interrupted, “I’ve always liked dogs since I was young. Back when I was at the Xi Wang Residence, I had to practice martial arts and do tasks every day. I could only go to the courtyard gate in the afternoons to pat them and satisfy my craving. I had the honor of visiting the Chengyuan Hall last night, but unfortunately, I didn’t hear any barking or catch a glimpse of His Majesty’s beloved hound. It’s truly regrettable.” After finishing, Fu Nian looked at the carpet and fell into silence once again.
“The child’s eyesight is poor; he only followed his master to Chengyuan Hall once or twice. His Majesty has never kept a dog; it’s nonsense. If you like, I can catch a dog for you tomorrow to ease your boredom.”
Upon hearing this, Fu Nian quickly stopped him, “There’s no need for that.”
However, what exactly could make someone see something and remember it as a chained vicious dog? Fu Nian was genuinely curious.
Could it be a painting by Chu Zhaoyi?
For a moment, Fu Nian couldn’t recall any paintings by Chu Zhaoyi. He only knew that no matter what painting he saw, it was so praiseworthy that it would blind his eyes.
For several days, the rain outside continued incessantly.
During this time, only the physician came to check his injuries late at night. The rest of the time, Fu Nian was mostly changing his own bandages. The “strange dream” that had occurred when he moved into the Wenmei Hall on the first day hadn’t recurred.
He hadn’t even “dreamt” of Chu Zhaoyi’s shadow again.
After a few days, Fu Nian calculated that his injuries had slightly improved, so he dared to openly support himself against the wall or Gao Gonggong, feigning difficulty as he took small steps in the courtyard. In truth, he was memorizing the terrain, waiting for an opportunity.
Over these two days, Fu Nian had roughly planned the route from Wenmei Hall to the Chengyuan Hall. However, he was uncertain about the shifts and changes in the palace guards. Chu Zhaoyi was a suspicious character, especially when it came to the guards near the Chengyuan Hall. The guards there were rotated every seven days, making their schedule difficult to predict.
But Fu Nian still had no clue about how to approach this young prince.
In his previous life, he had been a pawn in others’ hands, completely ignorant of worldly affairs. At most, he was like a blank piece of paper, perhaps with a couple of drops of ink spilled on it.
The only way Fu Nian could think of was to boldly stand in front of him and awkwardly greet him.
As he sat at the table pondering, Fu Nian heard Gao Gonggong entering. He quickly raised his head, “Gao Gonggong.”
“Apologies for disturbing your rest. His Highness, Ze Wang, has come to visit you. He asked me to check if you’re available to receive him.”
“Ze Wang?” Fu Nian questioned.
Gao Gonggong quickly added, “The one you’ve met before. The one who tended to your wounds when you were carried into the Chengyuan Hall by Xi Wang. Do you remember?”
It was the same Little Royal Uncle!
It was like a déjà vu moment. Just as Fu Nian was wondering how to strike up a conversation with this person, he unexpectedly came to visit on his own. “Of course, I remember.”
Not long after, a man dressed in official attire, with gentle features, entered briskly.
Fu Nian was just about to stand up to greet him, but the man stopped him.
Fu Nian lowered his head, “Greetings to His Highness, Ze Wang.”
“No need to be so polite. I heard a few days ago that you can stand briefly, so I’ve come today to see you. I’m here to apologize on behalf of my nephew.” Pausing for a moment, the Little Royal Uncle continued, “A few days ago, he chose some fabric and had clothes made for you by the weaving workshop. He also gave you some gold and a land deed, along with other trinkets. I’ve had Gao Gonggong keep them for you.” Little Royal Uncle lowered his head as he spoke, “I’m truly sorry. If you stay in the palace to work in the future, I’ll try my best to take care of you. If you decide to leave, the compensation we’ve given you will be enough for you to live a comfortable life.”
Fu Nian hesitated for a moment.
Seeing the sincere apology from the other party, Fu Nian felt a bit guilty. After all, he had already lost his limbs, and now it seemed like he was deliberately seeking benefits from the royal family, especially since he was bumping into royal relatives.
If he were discovered, it would truly be a capital offense.
Furthermore, in the past, when Xi Wang wanted to settle matters involving Chu Zhaoyi, it usually involved compensating with some valuables. But the treatment he was receiving from the royal family, personally delivered by a royal relative, was unparalleled.
It made Fu Nian feel as if he were being treated to a sumptuous feast before his execution.
“No need for that. These items are too valuable, I cannot accept them. The accident happened when I was outside. Moreover, it was the day of Xi Wang’s wedding…”
“I know, my nephew took away the one you loved. These meager possessions can hardly compare…” Little Royal Uncle paused and glanced at Fu Nian’s missing limbs. “In any case, please accept them.”
Were these meager possessions, enough to sustain a comfortable life for generations, considered “meager”?
After contemplating for a moment, Fu Nian decided to see what Little Royal Uncle was up to, “Thank you, Your Highness.”
“Also, there’s another matter.”
“You may speak.” Fu Nian’s heart sank.
“His Majesty has been unwell recently. A few days ago, it was just a mild cough and fever. However, since yesterday, his condition suddenly worsened, and he’s bedridden. The physicians said that apart from a recurrence of old injuries, his heart condition has aggravated the illness.” At this point, Little Royal Uncle lowered his gaze, his eyes filled with concern. “I shouldn’t have disturbed your recovery, but it’s my duty to share the worries and alleviate difficulties for His Majesty. That’s why I’ve come to you.”
“To be able to share the worries and alleviate difficulties for His Majesty is my good fortune. However… what heart condition are you referring to? Is it necessary for me to get involved?” Fu Nian feigned confusion.
Although Chu Zhaoyi had his fair share of worries, both within the country and from external threats, which weren’t unlike heartaches, it was clear to even someone as naive as Fu Nian that this particular heartache must be related to his previous life, given that he was searching for someone who had lost their right arm and leg.
Fu Nian hadn’t thought that he would have the power to cause Chu Zhaoyi’s heart condition before his death in his previous life.
After a long silence, Little Royal Uncle continued, “We don’t know the exact nature of the heart condition. His Majesty hasn’t disclosed it, and both I and the physician have been trying to probe gently.”
He had jumped to conclusions. It seemed that Chu Zhaoyi had not personally revealed his condition.
Indeed, he was just an obedient mad dog. He was hardly worth lamenting over, and he was certainly not capable of causing his master a heart condition. Thinking of this, Fu Nian’s mood became even more despondent.
“It’s not a difficult task for you. You only need to spend some time by His Majesty’s side. However, remember that no matter what happens or what is said, you must not speak. You must not remove the covering over your face. In the past, you were the most outstanding guard at Xi Wang’s residence. This should be a simple matter for you, right?”
It was indeed a straightforward task, but Fu Nian couldn’t help but be curious, “Forgive my obtuseness. According to Your Highness, if I’m not allowed to speak or show my face, wouldn’t anyone else be able to do the same?”
Fu Nian knew that he had a great opportunity to get a glimpse into Chu Zhaoyi’s palace, but he was simply curious.
Little Royal Uncle: “…”
Seeing the silence, Fu Nian also fell into silence.
“It seems to make sense. How did I not think of this earlier…” Fu Nian saw a look of realization on Little Royal Uncle’s face, so before he fully grasped the idea, Fu Nian quickly added, “I am willing to go.”
He realized he should have kept his mouth shut. He almost dropped the opportunity that fell right into his hands.
If he missed this chance, who knew when the next one would come.
“Just an idle remark, please make sure to let me go,” Fu Nian quickly followed up.
After he finished speaking, Fu Nian noticed Little Royal Uncle still sitting there without moving, seemingly lost in thought. So he spoke again, “Your Highness?”
“Seeing you hesitate and unwilling to agree, I was just trying to scare you. Others have already tried it, or else they wouldn’t have come to you. If you get anxious and agree, that’s fine.” The Little Royal Uncle finished speaking and glanced up at the hint of urgency on Fu Nian’s face, chuckling. Although it was teasing, the gentle demeanor made it hard to feel angry.
Fu Nian frowned slightly, feeling somewhat displeased.
Indeed, it seemed that the surname Chu was synonymous with ancient foxes.
“Later, the gonggong will come to inform you. At that time, he will explain the specific etiquette you need to follow.” Little Royal Uncle sat for a while longer before suddenly standing up and striding toward the door.
“Take care, Your Highness.” Fu Nian said this, but his expression did not convey a genuine desire for the other party’s well-being.
While the Emperor was also a human being, Fu Nian had never thought that Chu Zhaoyi would become seriously ill.
As the sky darkened, Fu Nian was tending to the potted plants on the table when he heard Gao Gonggong entering and saying that Ze Wang had summoned him to the Chengyuan Hall.
On the way there, Fu Nian couldn’t help but keep wondering about the identity of the empress in Chu Zhaoyi’s palace.
Who was it that had captured Chu Zhaoyi’s heart so deeply, to the extent that he hadn’t even left his palace since her arrival?
However, upon arriving at Chengyuan Hall and meeting Ze Wang in the side hall, Fu Nian realized that the physicians had been going in and out of the main hall, which was where the Emperor usually met his ministers.
“Greetings, Your Highness Ze Wang.”
“No need for formalities. Later, a Gonggong will assist you in changing clothes and covering your face. To prevent you from speaking… before you enter the main hall to see His Majesty, the physician will give you a potion that will temporarily silence you for two hours. But don’t worry, it has no side effects, and once the effects wear off, you’ll be able to speak normally again.” Little Royal Uncle was currently dealing with official documents. Upon seeing Fu Nian, he put down his brush and looked up. “I’ve taken this type of potion many times. It’s sweet, so there’s nothing to worry about.”
“Understood.” Fu Nian wasn’t surprised by the idea of such a potion. He had carried powdered medicine with him in the past to prevent himself from revealing too much during interrogations using torture methods. “But… why is His Majesty resting in the main hall? Isn’t that where he usually…”
“I assume you’ve heard the rumors circulating in the city. Since the empress entered the palace, she has been residing in His Majesty’s palace and has continuously received his favor. Throughout this period, whenever His Majesty fell ill, he would leave his palace and stay in the main hall or the side hall. He only returns to the palace to reside with the empress after his health has recovered.”
Upon hearing this, Fu Nian couldn’t help but feel a sense of disappointment, although he tried to mask it with a calm nod.
However, his curiosity about the identity of the empress in the palace grew stronger.
Who exactly was this person that had gained such favor from Chu Zhaoyi, to the point of even taking over his palace…
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