It was indeed Chu Zhaoyi who was holding him…
He found it somewhat unbelievable, watching Chu Zhaoyi’s anxious expression, seeing the way he rushed into a nearby pavilion.
Within the broad arms, he could hardly feel the jostling of the run.
In his previous life, Fu Nian had also yearned for such treatment, but he had never experienced it even at the point of death.
Now that he was experiencing it… Fu Nian didn’t think too much about it. After mustering some strength, he simply flipped over and rolled out of Chu Zhaoyi’s arms.
Upon landing, he inadvertently received a kick because Chu Zhaoyi was still in motion. The blow landed on his shoulder wound, making Fu Nian suppress the urge to grimace in pain.
After landing, the situation seemed even more awkward.
While lying prone on the ground, Fu Nian saw Chu Zhaoyi’s steps coming to a halt. Judging by his shadow, he seemed to be looking down at him, although he didn’t say anything.
However, just lying there, Fu Nian felt that it was inappropriate. After contemplating for a while, he tremulously spoke up, “Subordinate… pays respects to Your Majesty.”
After speaking, another silence ensued.
Fu Nian began to regret not remaining obedient and letting Chu Zhaoyi hold him. Things wouldn’t have been so awkward if he had.
After a prolonged standoff, Fu Nian finally remembered that he seemed to be covered by a dragon robe. He hastily removed his clothes, as carefully as he could manage due to the pain, and extended both hands with clothes in hand, “Your, Your—”
Before he could finish, Fu Nian felt the clothes in his hands being taken away. Immediately, his body tightened. Turning his head, he saw the man in front of him with a stern expression, using the dragon robe to conceal the torn parts of his clothing and then fastening the buttons.
“Wearing torn clothes in public is uncouth.”
After a brief silence, Fu Nian finally heard this person speak.
Indeed, appearing disheveled before the Emperor was rather impolite.
“Since you can walk, stand up and walk by yourself.”
Hearing the command, Fu Nian didn’t have a chance to retort. After getting up from the ground, he took slow steps forward.
Passing by a rockery, as expected, Fu Nian saw the imperial physician in the pavilion, setting up a mat and preparing medicine on the side.
“Why are you so severely injured? Sit down quickly.”
Upon hearing the physician’s voice, Fu Nian didn’t waste time and hurriedly knelt down on the mat.
“With such severe injuries, you shouldn’t have walked. There were clearly stretchers sent, but those clever fellows must have slacked off again.”
“He’s already taken the hemostatic powder.” Chu Zhaoyi stood by, watching the physicians scurrying about, and suddenly spoke in a cold tone.
“May Your Majesty be in good health.” The physician finally noticed Chu Zhaoyi was also present, “My eyesight isn’t good. I, I didn’t see that you were here, Your Majesty, your—”
“It’s all right. The dragon robe is on him. His clothes are all torn, which is uncouth.” After Chu Zhaoyi finished speaking, he glanced at the physician, whose face was drenched in sweat, “And Chu Yao?”
“Reporting to Your Majesty, Chu Yao just left.” The physician answered while hesitating, scissors in hand. Logically, with such injuries, they should have completely cut away the clothes, but who would have thought that Your Majesty would just drape the dragon robe like that? He was momentarily unsure whether he should continue cutting.
Seeing the physician in a dilemma, Chu Zhaoyi said, “Go ahead and cut, it’s just clothes.” After that, Chu Zhaoyi still had his hands behind his back, observing the physician’s actions in treating the wound.
Fu Nian had refrained from speaking and moving.
The clothes on his right shoulder had been completely cut away, including parts of the dragon robe stained with blood. It wasn’t cold with his arm exposed in the summer air, but Fu Nian was curious.
Chu Zhaoyi had mentioned being uncouth, but he had been scrutinizing the clothes associated with that.
Of course, Fu Nian naturally didn’t dare to ask aloud.
After cleaning the wound and applying medicine, Fu Nian watched as the physician immobilized his right arm. Besides the gauze, many wooden boards were placed on his shoulder.
Fu Nian attempted to move his arm a bit, but apart from excruciating pain, his arm could hardly budge.
“You’ve injured your bone; you must refrain from moving for a while. If the bone heals crooked, it will need to be broken again.” Seeing his intention to move, the physician timely warned, “The wooden boards are to prevent you from moving.”
Indeed, with his shoulder pierced, it would be strange if the bone wasn’t injured.
“Is there any other injury?”
“No. Thank you.” Fu Nian finished speaking and attempted to get up from the mat.
However, his right shoulder was entirely immobile, severely restricting his movement.
When standing up, Fu Nian clenched his teeth, using his left hand to support himself against a pillar to barely stand upright.
As he turned around, Fu Nian suddenly realized.
Why was Chu Zhaoyi still here…
Fu Nian hadn’t even taken a step when he heard Chu Zhaoyi command.
Fu Nian could only turn around, facing away from Chu Zhaoyi.
Senior Brother had also mentioned that his back looked almost the same as in the previous life. Of course, it was only the back that resembled it. The appearance and voice had no connection to the past life.
Before he could finish thinking, Fu Nian suddenly felt his clothes being slashed from behind.
Immediately after, a strong force tore off the upper half of his clothes.
If he wasn’t wearing a waistband, this situation might have been even more embarrassing.
Without looking back, Fu Nian knew who it was.
“I didn’t permit you to speak.”
As the words fell, Fu Nian felt his belt being forcefully removed as well.
Right after, Fu Nian heard a sigh.
“Help him put on his clothes.” Chu Zhaoyi ordered without a ripple in his expression.
Fu Nian still didn’t move.
Hearing the physicians’ salutations, he dared to turn around, feeling a bit more at ease as he leaned against the wall.
“Actually, this old man doesn’t know why Your Majesty suddenly tore your clothes… Miss, would you please help the imperial guard put on his clothes.”
Fu Nian quietly allowed the palace maid to help him change his upper garments.
He knew what Chu Zhaoyi was sighing about.
In the previous life, there had been a brand below the small of his back, and all the Shadow Guards bore such marks. The designs were uniform, differing only in position. They served to identify bodies, just in case.
His brand was an exception.
It served as evidence of a past intimate connection with that man. The design was also distinct from the other Shadow Guards’. It was placed in a more private spot due to its excessively suggestive pattern.
After leaving the palace, Fu Nian hadn’t paid much attention to the hidden brand, and alone, he couldn’t see his back anyway.
However, this time when he had his body checked upon entering the palace, he found that the brand had disappeared. In its place were scars that hadn’t faded, and not a trace of the brand could be seen.
Undoubtedly, when his body was brought back to the palace, this brand was used for identification.
So, that’s why Chu Zhaoyi had acted that way just now and left disappointed.
After dressing, Fu Nian finally dared to speak, “Has Your Majesty already left?”
“Yes, Your servant is a maid by Your Majesty’s side. His Majesty entrusted me with the message that if you have something to say, I can pass it on.”
Fu Nian heard the gentle voice of the maid who had helped him dress.
Though her appearance seemed unfamiliar, Fu Nian glanced at her before turning away.
“If you have a request, please speak, and Your servant will definitely deliver it.”
After thinking for a while, Fu Nian spoke up, “Could you please remind His Majesty about the reward for winning the competition?”
After saying this, Fu Nian heard the girl’s voice choke.
After a long pause, she replied, “Your, Your servant understands.”
Only then did Fu Nian relent.
He had thought that since Chu Zhaoyi had been standing here for so long, he might give him the reward all at once. Fu Nian even dared to hope that Chu Zhaoyi might be in a good mood and give him a bit more.
Now, it seemed that all his hopes were indeed far-fetched, just as much a pipedream as hoping for Chu Zhaoyi to show the slightest hint of affection in the previous life.
After his right shoulder became immobile, Fu Nian’s walking speed slowed considerably.
Finally returning to his residence, before he even reached the doorstep of the courtyard, Fu Nian realized that it seemed like everyone was looking at him.
Fu Nian knew he had lost face, so he could only press against the wall and walk with his head down.
Back in the courtyard, he saw Rendong waiting for him. Fu Nian thought to himself that he finally saw someone he recognized, so he hurriedly supported himself against Rendong and walked faster back inside.
Shutting the door, Fu Nian let out a sigh of relief as he sat on the bed, gesturing for Rendong to find a stool as well.
Though the room wasn’t spacious, it was much more private than the shared quarters of the new guards. Rendong looked around but hesitated to sit, so he leaned against the wall, standing. “Congratulations, Big Brother! They say you’re practically guaranteed to serve in front of the Emperor after this competition! They said there was a palace maid before who the Emperor personally saved, and later the Emperor arranged a marriage for her with a powerful official, giving her a surname and a full name. According to the standards of a princess, she was married out of Ze Wang’s residence and recognized Ze Wang as her godfather.”
Fu Nian was aware of this matter. Originally, Chu Zhaoyi had planted an informant among the palace maids, and she was carrying some important documents on her person. Unexpectedly, she “accidentally” fell into the water, and Chu Zhaoyi even jumped in to save her for the sake of those documents.
“…I’m different,” Fu Nian didn’t explain anything.
One reason was that there was no need to explain to outsiders. Another reason was that Fu Nian was still pondering the events from just now.
Chu Zhaoyi had intentionally checked the brand on his back and sighed when he found it empty.
—But even before confirming, Chu Zhaoyi had unhesitatingly embraced him and treated his wounds, even using his own dragon robe to cover him, soothing and medicating him with gentle words.
Fu Nian wasn’t quite sure of Chu Zhaoyi’s mindset at the time.
Was he confusing him with his previous self, the lapdog?
…Or was it that even though he was kind to people, cared for them, and had various emotions, he simply wasn’t deserving of it in his previous life?
“Why are you different? Well, you don’t look happy at all. Is the wound too painful?”
“Probably.” He had just drunk the pain-relieving soup, and as long as he didn’t move his right shoulder, it wouldn’t be particularly painful. “I’ll rest for a while.”
“Okay, then I’ll leave—”
Before Rendong could finish, Fu Nian heard the loud voice of the eunuch from inside the courtyard.
“By the command of the Emperor, the imperial decree states, ‘Imperial Guard, Lian Nian, listen to the order—'”
Hearing that Li Gonggong had arrived, Fu Nian hastily stumbled to his feet, opened the door, and went outside. He knelt down on the ground. “Today, due to the outstanding performance of Imperial Guard Lian Nian in the martial arts competition, you are rewarded with 200 taels of gold—”
Fu Nian felt a little happy; he finally got the money he was owed.
He was about to accept the decree when he realized that Li Gonggong wasn’t finished.
“Furthermore, you are granted a jade waist pendant representing your service at the front hall. We hope that Imperial Guard Lian Nian will continue to achieve success in the front hall in the future—”
Fu Nian’s heart sank.
As expected, this kind of high-profile attention meant trouble, not fortune.
“Imperial Guard Lian Nian, accept the decree,” Li Gonggong saw that he didn’t react and reminded him.
Fu Nian didn’t respond and didn’t accept the decree.
A decree with a derogatory meaning had to be accepted, but if it was a reward or promotion, refusing not only wouldn’t result in harm, but could even strengthen the bond between monarch and subject. At least, that’s what was written in the history books. He hadn’t seen anyone who refused a reward being executed.
“Lian Nian, accept the decree,” Rendong couldn’t hold back and softly reminded him.
Fu Nian remained silent, quietly organizing his words in his mind.
After a long pause, he spoke with a calm and composed tone, “This subordinate is naturally dull-witted and incapable of fulfilling tasks at the front hall. I am unable to bear Your Majesty’s kindness, and therefore, I cannot accept the decree. I hope Your Majesty will understand.”
Can’t wait until next week to see more? Want to show your support? Come to my Patreon where you can get up to 5 more chapters of The Shadow Guard is also the White Moonlight [Rebirth] right away ! Or go donate at Paypal or Ko-fi to show your appreciation! :)