“What’s wrong with you?” Fu Nian frowned slightly, watching the person in front of him react so intensely. He leaned back slightly to avoid getting sprayed by the splatter of expelled liquid.
“It’s, it’s nothing…”
“Alright.” Fu Nian also thought it was nothing, and he continued to spoon-feed the porridge.
Once the bowl of porridge was empty, Fu Nian put down the utensils in his hand and said, “Young Master Pei, you should rest now. I won’t disturb you any longer.”
“Don’t you need to rest?”
“No need. Since I promised to safely escort you to the capital, it’s my duty to observe the surroundings during your rest to ensure your safety.” Fu Nian explained plainly.
Pei Zhou chuckled at this point, “Although I don’t know what you did before, I am just a humble scholar. I don’t need such meticulous protection; no one will target me. If you find it uncomfortable staying here, feel free to go out for a stroll or find a better room to rest, I can pay you generously…”
He hadn’t finished speaking when Pei Zhou suddenly felt a cool breeze. He pulled back the bed curtain and saw that the window was slightly open. Fu Nian was nowhere in sight. “Who is this person…” Pei Zhou muttered to himself.
Once he had jumped onto the rooftop, Fu Nian finally relaxed. He laid on the tiles, stretched his body with a lazy yawn, and let out a sigh of relief.
They were not far from the capital now.
Fu Nian remembered that the place where the poison erupted was on the outskirts of the capital.
Although he knew it was not appropriate to be negligent, since he was here, he couldn’t resist the urge to take a look.
He wanted to see the location where he had departed from the mortal realm, and he wanted to know what had happened after he left and ended up in the Northern Frontier.
With a rough estimation of the distance and time needed, Fu Nian concluded that it would take around four hours round trip.
Furthermore, there had been no troublemakers bothering Pei Zhou along the way…
After a brief period of indecision, Fu Nian decided to set off. However, before departing, he wanted to seek permission first and only set off after getting approval.
Pei Zhou was accommodating, and before Fu Nian could explain the reason, he was given permission.
The late spring day was not warm, especially on overcast and rainy days, where the wind remained bitterly cold. Fortunately, the journey out was with the wind, so once out of the city, Fu Nian used the wind’s force to run even faster than usual.
He remembered that the place where he had collapsed was near a town called Shangze on the outskirts of the capital.
As he approached the vicinity of Shangze, Fu Nian slowed his pace.
He recalled that he had collapsed in a desolate corner. At the time, there were a few stray dogs around, waiting for him to breathe his last breath so they could feast on his body.
Inquiring with local vendors and traders along the way, Fu Nian learned that it was currently the fifth year of the Deze era. Doing the math, he realized that almost a year had passed since he had left.
It was nearly instantaneous, from death to awakening, but so much time had already elapsed.
Following his memory, Fu Nian made his way to the area where he had collapsed. However, he discovered that several adjacent streets were cordoned off by Imperial Guards, and the vendors had been driven away.
Fu Nian was certain about recognizing the attire of the Imperial Guards. Finding it strange, he chose a low-roofed building and stealthily leapt onto the rooftop, bypassing the guards unnoticed, and began his specialty—observing and gathering information.
While hidden amidst the gaps between the rooftops, Fu Nian finally caught sight of the corner where he had fallen. The overgrown weeds had been cleared away, and the ground appeared spotless.
The only traces left… were a few shallow claw marks on the corner’s bricks and stones, along with some old bloodstains seeping into the cracks.
Fu Nian gazed expressionlessly at the marks in the corner.
Speaking of which… why were the Imperial Guards surrounding this area? Fu Nian was curious and remained hidden between the gaps, silently observing.
After a short while, the sound of a carriage drew nearer.
“Slow down, the road is slippery.”
Fu Nian’s body tensed suddenly, as if… he heard the voice of Li Gonggong, who had always been with Chu Zhaoyi.
Hearing this, Fu Nian elongated his neck a little, trying to get a clearer view.
As expected, a slightly more refined carriage’s compartment opened, revealing a tall and slender man. He was dressed in a simple dark gray robe, his hair casually tied back. If it weren’t for the group of Imperial Guards surrounding him, it would have been difficult to distinguish his status.
Although the distance was far and he couldn’t see the face clearly, Fu Nian had an intuitive feeling that this man was Chu Zhaoyi.
Compared to when they had parted ways, he seemed slightly taller and more robust.
The little emperor had grown up…
This was Fu Nian’s first thought.
Immediately after, a flood of emotions, both new and old, along with joy and pain, and many other memories rushed into his mind. For a moment, he didn’t even know how to respond to these memories with any emotion. All he could do was silently watch what was happening before him, unable to utter a single word.
Fu Nian was tempted to jump down, risking being shot by the Imperial Guards, grab Chu Zhaoyi by his collar, and question whether the rumors of the royal marriage were true or false. He also thought about directly approaching Chu Zhaoyi, asking how he had been during this time, whether he had taken good care of himself… However, soon, Fu Nian suppressed these impulses.
It was truly a conflicting and ironic situation.
“You should return. Since you sent Lord Fu away…”
“Was it my decision to send him away? If it weren’t for Royal Uncle obstructing things, Ah Nian would still be with me now, accompanying me day and night, sharing the same bed and pillow… He even colluded with that old man sunamed Fu, saying that the disciple must return to the sect after death. Now, look, Ah Nian’s legs and hands were bought back from others. That old man surnamed Fu told me it was to become an immortal, leaving behind the prosthetics…”
Following this, Fu Nian heard a sneer.
Indeed, it was Chu Zhaoyi’s voice…
It might have been an illusion, but his voice sounded more hoarse than when they last met, and there was a heavier nasal tone.
In the midst of mixed emotions, Fu Nian suddenly remembered, the old man surnamed Fu… Could he be referring to his master?
Fu Nian’s surname followed the sect’s Fu, and his name as well, as he was the twentieth disciple to join the sect in this generation, his name was sequentially numbered.
His master, did he take away his body?
Fu Nian’s heart sank a bit.
The matter of the Gu poison, Fu Nian hadn’t mentioned it to anyone, including Chu Zhaoyi. It wasn’t about protecting anyone, he just felt that this matter had nothing to do with others.
After thinking for a while, Fu Nian couldn’t fathom why his master would take his body away.
Moreover, as he pondered, Chu Zhaoyi mentioned that if it weren’t for his Royal Uncle’s interference, they would still be sleeping together, sharing a bed… What did that mean?
Fu Nian contemplated for a long while. It seemed that his decision to leave Chu Zhaoyi and his exposure in the wilderness had nothing to do with this so-called Royal Uncle. Could it be… Chu Zhaoyi had gone mad?
“You… sigh, it’s time to go back.”
Fu Nian saw Chu Zhaoyi standing still in place, not moving and not speaking.
Is Chu Zhaoyi… mourning for him?
To be honest, Fu Nian was quite surprised. After all, the rumors circulating about Chu Zhaoyi marrying an extremely affectionate empress, who had never even left the palace, should be true. If it were just a rumor, Chu Zhaoyi wouldn’t have let it go unattended. Moreover, in his previous life, Fu Nian had always felt that Chu Zhaoyi was on guard against him at every turn. Even during the times when he was on the brink of death, he never saw Chu Zhaoyi show even a hint of emotion.
Even a stone can mourn, Fu Nian muttered to himself.
“The hour is late. You… your body is just slightly better, yet you ran here and got sentimental. It’s really not good for your health.”
Getting sentimental from a place… Chu Zhaoyi can also get sentimental? Fu Nian muttered to himself again.
“Cough cough cough…”
However, in the next moment, Fu Nian saw Chu Zhaoyi, who was just standing upright, suddenly start coughing violently. His body involuntarily curled up, and the next second, he was kneeling on the ground.
Chu Zhaoyi’s sudden cough made Li Gonggong, who was by his side, visibly flustered. Li Gonggong hurriedly whispered something to the nearby eunuch while kneeling down next to Chu Zhaoyi, who leaned on his back.
“!” Seeing Chu Zhaoyi suddenly like this, Fu Nian, who had been stable in the crevice, reflexively wanted to get closer.
But in his haste, combined with the fact that his new prosthetic limb wasn’t as comfortable, Fu Nian’s foot slipped, and the joint of the prosthetic limb made a “creak” sound.
Fu Nian quickly retracted his prosthetic limb.
“Who’s there?” Almost the instant his leg was retracted, Fu Nian heard someone reprimand from below.
Immediately after, Fu Nian heard someone step onto the roof, and light footsteps began to search around.
Fu Nian quickly moved back into the crevice.
Since he left the sect, he hadn’t made such a low-level mistake. When he used a wooden prosthetic limb before, he had applied some grease to lubricate the joints in order to avoid such situations.
However, ever since he switched to the flexible stone prosthetic limb, he hadn’t considered lubricating the joints anymore. Over time, he had ended up stumbling over this kind of basic error.
While hiding in the crevice, Fu Nian could still hear the severe coughing below.
He remembered that Chu Zhaoyi didn’t have any old ailments, and even if he occasionally caught a cold, he would at most cough a couple of times. He would definitely not be unable to stand like he was now.
Fu Nian felt that the shadow guards and the Imperial Guards had already searched to the edge of the roof he was on. As long as no one leaned over to peek down from the roof, they wouldn’t discover him. With this in mind, Fu Nian had no choice but to hold his breath as much as possible and not make any movements. He was afraid that the prosthetic limb would make an untimely noise again.
It would be over.
Fu Nian even contemplated how to handle the situation if he was discovered…
Should he just play out a resurrection using a borrowed body? After all, he died here, and Fu Nian was confident in portraying himself.
Just as he was thinking about how to deal with the situation, Fu Nian suddenly heard a voice from below.
“Report! We’ve searched everywhere, but we couldn’t find anything.”
After a moment of silence, Fu Nian heard Li Gonggong’s voice, “Return.”
Right after that, Fu Nian heard the footsteps gradually fading away.
Just as he was about to exhale a sigh of relief, before he could relax his tensed muscles, he heard Chu Zhaoyi’s voice again.
“Wait! Have you checked the blind spots under the eaves of each roof? Ah, Ah Nian used to love hiding in the little corners under the eaves…”
Fu Nian’s breath hitched.
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