On the arena, Fu Nian wiped away the bloodstains and stood quietly.
The judge had mentioned that, for the sake of fairness, the prize money must be awarded on the spot, so he had asked Fu Nian to stay on the platform a bit longer. Otherwise, given his nature, he would have vanished into the crowd.
After waiting for a while, Fu Nian finally heard the judge speak.
“Ladies and gentlemen, His Majesty has just conveyed his wishes. His Majesty first congratulates Guard Lian Nian on securing the first place and then additionally offers a hundred more gold coins as a reward. His Majesty hopes Guard Lian Nian will engage in one more match.”
Cheers erupted from the crowd below, but Fu Nian couldn’t share their excitement.
As expected, encountering Chu Zhaoyi never led to anything good.
“Guard Lian, please step forward.”
Fu Nian didn’t move. He quietly whispered something to the judge, “I decline.”
“His Majesty’s request is not something you can refuse. Come here quickly.” The judge hadn’t anticipated that this person would be uncooperative. He moved forward, intending to grab Fu Nian.
Fu Nian, of course, wouldn’t be easily pulled.
He stood his ground, looking at the judge with a cold expression.
In this stalemate, suddenly, a clear voice rang out from the other end of the arena.
“Guard Lian, please proceed!”
Upon hearing this voice, Fu Nian couldn’t help but frown and look up. He gazed at the person in front of him with an unfriendly expression.
During this tense confrontation, Fu Nian could already hear murmurs from the audience below.
“They’re actually sending Chu Yao to fight him…”
“No matter how much trouble you cause, you’re still a senior member of the Grand Shadow Guard by the Emperor’s side…”
“I’ve sparred with Lord Chu before, and it’s a deadly experience…”
Fu Nian had initially intended to avoid this, but when he saw it was Chu Yao, he instantly changed his demeanor to a resigned one.
In his previous life, before he left the palace, many of his duties were handed over to Chu Yao by Chu Zhaoyi.
Going further back, Chu Yao had grown up in the palace since childhood and had truly spent his early years alongside Chu Zhaoyi.
Later on, he created concealed weapons for the Shadow Guards within the palace. In order not to defy the royal command, Fu Nian had to tolerate the idea of teaching Chu Yao, step by step.
As expected, after his death, Chu Yao took over his position. No matter how much chaos he stirred up, he received tolerance.
Even if he set aside Chu Zhaoyi, Fu Nian had found Chu Yao disagreeable for many years.
“Rules?” Fu Nian gazed levelly at Chu Yao, coldly asking.
Chu Yao didn’t rush to speak; he signaled to someone beside him.
Immediately after, several officials brought over a heavy rack of weapons, displaying various kinds of swords and knives, along with small blades.
“Real blades and live ammunition, no attacks above the neck and heart. Continue until surrender.”
Fu Nian didn’t respond, simply giving a brief glance at the weapon rack.
Eventually, he picked a sword.
While the sword might not be his strongest weapon, defeating Chu Yao using his most proficient weapon would certainly give him face.
Plus, by not using a blade, Fu Nian was confident he wouldn’t reveal his attack patterns.
Sure enough, Chu Yao chose a blade.
Fu Nian couldn’t muster a smile.
Chu Yao was most skilled in using these agile short weapons, indicating that this time, the fight was a determined contest without holding back.
“Lord Chu, pardon my impoliteness.”
“Guard Lian, please.”
After exchanging greetings, as the drums sounded, Chu Yao charged towards him.
His approach was swift, nothing like that of an ordinary guardsman.
Fu Nian didn’t dare to go all out, only evading Chu Yao’s attacks.
However, it didn’t take long for his standard evasive maneuvers to become inadequate.
Even though he moved at high speed, his clothes had been cut in multiple places.
Moreover, this rapid, close-quarters style of attack didn’t favor Fu Nian’s long sword.
Fu Nian distanced himself, pondering whether to strike first and wound his opponent to slow down Chu Yao’s movements.
Just as he moved a couple of steps away, Fu Nian saw Chu Yao fiercely pursuing him. With his blade, Chu Yao aimed straight at Fu Nian’s right arm with the prosthetic.
But a frontal attack exposed vulnerabilities and offered rare opportunities.
After a brief moment of thought, Fu Nian didn’t evade.
In the instant the blade pierced his right shoulder, Fu Nian nearly simultaneously bent over and thrust his sword directly into the man’s abdomen, toppling Chu Yao to the ground.
While it was described as piercing the abdomen, it was actually the side, and Fu Nian deliberately held back his strength, avoiding a deep stab. After all, Chu Yao was one of Chu Zhaoyi’s most trusted guards. If he was gravely injured, Fu Nian would also face difficulties.
However, that blade had truly pierced his right shoulder.
While holding Chu Yao down on the ground, Fu Nian pulled out the sword and said, “A bit lower, and it would have pierced your lungs. It seems Lord Chu truly wants me to die on this arena.”
“How could that be? It’s just amusing to see you evading everywhere, not daring to strike, and when you do, not daring to go all out.”
Fu Nian frowned, suppressing the urge to continue attacking.
Just as he finished speaking, the sound of drums and gongs sounded again.
Reluctantly, Fu Nian released Chu Yao, who had been pinned down by him. He threw down the sword in his hand and glared at Chu Yao.
Chu Yao also managed to get up, clutching his bleeding side and bending over slightly.
“Who won between them?”
“I don’t know, but to wound a senior member of His Majesty’s guards…”
“Chu Yao only has a minor injury in his waist. But that ‘Lian Nian,’ didn’t he get his shoulder stabbed through? Isn’t he in pain?”
Listening to the discussions from below, Fu Nian felt pain.
But no matter how much it hurt, he couldn’t let a hint of pain show in front of Chu Yao.
“Thank you for your guidance, Lord Chu.” Gritting his teeth, Fu Nian tried to keep his voice steady as he saluted.
When he raised his hand, the blade on his shoulder felt like it was tearing him apart.
After Chu Yao wrapped a bandage around his wound and stopped the bleeding, he stood upright and spoke with a smile, “I also thank Guard Lian for the guidance. Chu has rarely encountered someone with such agile martial skills.”
Wasn’t he just saying that Fu Nian only knew how to evade…
These sorts of remarks, praising one thing while criticizing another in a sly manner, weren’t new for Fu Nian to hear from this person in front of him.
“Guard Lian, go and receive your reward from His Majesty’s seat on the high platform,” the judge reminded Fu Nian, who was still standing there.
Only then did Fu Nian realize that he should receive his reward.
Looking up, Chu Yao was no longer in sight. Scanning the area below the arena, Fu Nian realized that everyone’s attention was on him.
As he stepped down from the arena, Fu Nian saw Rendong moving to help him.
However, before he reached him, he was stopped.
Walking toward Chu Zhaoyi, Fu Nian tried his best to hold his head high and his chest out.
The Imperial Drill Ground was vast, and although the distance between the arena and the high platform wasn’t great, with a blade embedded in his body, every second felt like an eternity.
Besides the blade on his shoulder, Fu Nian didn’t notice that his clothes on his waist were also torn.
His waist, half-exposed and half-concealed, along with the taut lines of his body devoid of excess fat, were fully on display. Stained with blood and maintaining a composed demeanor while struggling to stand upright, a rare hint of pain flashed across his usually stern face. Yet, his breathing had become involuntary and labored…
Fu Nian couldn’t see what image he was projecting in front of others right now.
Before he even reached the front of the platform, Fu Nian was halted.
“You are not permitted to carry bladed weapons before the Emperor.”
Fu Nian’s hearing was dulled by the pain. He paused for a few seconds before asking in response, “There are no bladed weapons on my person.”
“Your shoulder.” The guard blocking his way glanced at the blade in Fu Nian’s shoulder.
Only then did Fu Nian remember that there was a blade embedded in his shoulder.
However, removing the blade would undoubtedly cause heavy bleeding, and it was a double-edged blade, which wouldn’t be easily controllable.
“Alright.” After Fu Nian finished speaking, he still left the blade on his shoulder. He was preparing himself to brace for the pain, to grit his teeth and remove the blade. Suddenly, he heard footsteps approaching him in a hurry.
Fu Nian instinctively raised his eyes.
He saw that man in the dragon robe, hurrying down from the high platform. The attending officials behind him couldn’t keep up with his pace.
“Why did you come down…”
Fu Nian saw the familiar face and was momentarily puzzled.
Was the other person… running towards him? Fu Nian didn’t dare to think too deeply, but he still bit his teeth and directly pulled out the blade embedded in his shoulder.
Pain instantly flooded through his limbs. Fu Nian instinctively knelt on the ground, his mind going blank.
After a brief moment of daze, Fu Nian regained his senses. He inclined his body forward slightly, intending to kneel and bow to cover up the situation.
Before he could speak, Fu Nian suddenly felt warmth on his shoulder.
It took him several seconds to react, and he finally saw the man squatting in front of him. He couldn’t see the man’s face because the dragon robe was draped over him, but he could hear the anxious voice.
“Is your brain made of water? You let someone who’s been stabbed remove the blade themselves? If the injury is serious, one should go find a doctor. Yet you let him come and receive his reward? You don’t understand any flexibility with so many rules? Even Chu Yao, that blockhead, knows to stop the bleeding and dress the wound first!”
Chu Yao, that blockhead.
Fu Nian enjoyed hearing these words.
Then, Fu Nian suddenly felt a pair of large hands anxiously pressing on his front and back shoulders, attempting to stem the flowing blood.
“Hey, are you still conscious?”
Chu Zhaoyi’s voice sounded full of anxiety…
At least in Fu Nian’s previous life, he had never been cared for in such a manner. If it weren’t for the fact that he couldn’t meet the Emperor’s gaze, Fu Nian really wanted to look up and see Chu Zhaoyi’s worried expression. He even knelt down to help someone dress their wound in front of everyone…
Fu Nian had never witnessed such behavior.
He really wanted to mock this sight.
“Hemostatic powder, hemostatic powder… I brought it with me…”
Fu Nian laid on the ground, listening to the man in front of him anxiously murmuring.
The pain wasn’t enough to make him lose consciousness. He just felt that it would be extremely awkward to lift his head now.
Even without looking, Fu Nian could guess he was wearing the dragon robe that man had draped over him. Surrounded by people, everyone must have seen it. Although it was an imperial favor, it didn’t prevent Fu Nian from feeling extremely embarrassed…
And the thought of facing Chu Zhaoyi directly… Fu Nian would rather be injured a bit more seriously and just faint right there.
Suddenly, Fu Nian felt a sharp pang on his shoulder.
It was the sensation of the medicinal powder…
The pain was too intense for him to move recklessly, but he couldn’t help coughing.
“The hemostatic powder will work. It will be okay soon. Just endure it a bit longer, it will be alright soon.”
Was this… Chu Zhaoyi’s voice?
Since when did he sound so gentle and soothing?
Fu Nian didn’t move.
Suddenly, Fu Nian felt that he had really miscalculated in his previous life. He had thought that Chu Zhaoyi was as rigid as a stone, incapable of speaking tender words.
He hadn’t expected that the gentle words were only too disdainful to be said to a “Fu Nian” like himself.
“Your Majesty, the imperial physician has arrived, and the stretcher—”
Chu Zhaoyi glanced at the bamboo stretcher, preemptively rejecting, “Not needed.”
Not needed a stretcher?
Fu Nian had a very bad premonition.
In the past, when he wasn’t heavily injured, he would do his best to stand and walk, avoiding the use of a stretcher. Over time, Chu Zhaoyi had developed the habit of letting him walk if he was still conscious.
Should he go over there?
Fu Nian knew that his gait was probably very unsteady now.
It wasn’t due to pain; it was just that facing everyone twice and exposing himself… he felt somewhat embarrassed.
In the next second, before Fu Nian could react, he suddenly felt a strong force against the back of his knees.
Immediately afterward, an arm was placed behind his back.
Simultaneously, the sensation of being weightless also arrived.
He was… being lifted up?
For a moment, Fu Nian dared not even breathe, astonishment rendering his mind blank.
In his peripheral vision, he glanced at the arms that were holding him horizontally, noticing the faint patterns of auspicious clouds and dragons embroidered on the clothing.