His body’s spasms hadn’t stopped, and Fu Nian used one hand to support himself while he continued to breathe heavily.
He felt someone gently stroking his back.
“Don’t… don’t look,” Fu Nian knew he must look extremely disheveled right now. He instinctively avoided the hand that was trying to comfort him and attempted to shield his front from view, using his body to block the embarrassing sight.
“I’ve already sent for the imperial Doctor. If you’re feeling unwell, why didn’t you say anything?”
Fu Nian didn’t respond and continued to catch his breath.
Whether it was because the discomfort had eased or because someone was stroking his back, his body gradually calmed down.
After a long while, Fu Nian finally spoke softly, “I just caught a little chill. There’s no need to call for the Doctor. I apologize for my rudeness…”
Chu Zhaoyi remained silent but reached out and gently touched Fu Nian’s forehead.
His body temperature was normal.
As soon as Chu Zhaoyi touched him, the sensation that had subsided earlier came crashing back like a tidal wave.
This time, in addition to the spasms and bending forward, there were only tears flowing due to physiological reactions.
Amidst the dizziness, he felt that Chu Zhaoyi’s hand against his forehead was quickly removed, and he instinctively took a step back, increasing the distance between them.
“I won’t touch you, won’t touch you. Gao, Gao Gonggong!”
Fu Nian knew that Chu Zhaoyi had misunderstood something.
However, at this moment, he didn’t have the energy to explain.
After recovering, Fu Nian didn’t wait for the imperial Doctor to arrive. He stood up and prepared to return to the courtyard where he rested.
“Imperial Guard Lian, His Majesty said that if you’re not feeling well, you can go… go to the sleeping palace to rest. The Doctor will bring you medicine later. His Majesty knows you prefer peace and said no one will disturb you.” Gao Gonggong thought he had misunderstood something earlier, but Chu Zhaoyi emphasized the word “sleeping palace” several times, making him realize he hadn’t misheard.
Fu Nian shook his head.
Chu Zhaoyi couldn’t rest for long, and he had a bit of bed recognition syndrome so him occupying the space as if it were his own wasn’t right.
“Your Majesty also mentioned that since you are not feeling well, he hopes you will rest well tomorrow. If you must leave the palace for urgent matters, someone will accompany you.”
With a guard accompanying him, how could he investigate and ask questions?
But after some thought, Fu Nian decided it was better to rest and then investigate.
In normal circumstances, when his body was functioning properly, he could outrun that old man, Fu Zhen, if he encountered him in a wide area.
Now, with his current condition, which occasionally caused dizziness and nausea for no reason, it would be troublesome if he encountered any problems.
“Please inform His Majesty that I will continue with my duties in the palace tomorrow, and there’s no urgent need for me to leave the palace.”
The next day, Fu Nian woke up early, completed his morning training as usual, and then headed to the library.
He remembered that he had never experienced prolonged physical discomfort before. If he went to the imperial Doctor now, he might end up being overreacted to and confined in the Doctor’s quarters for several days. He felt uncomfortable being confined there, and the Doctors would be annoyed as well. After thinking it over, Fu Nian decided to check the medical books himself.
He also needed to examine the responsibilities of the previous empresses. He felt that Chu Zhaoyi’s meaning was clear: even if their feelings couldn’t return to what they once were, he shouldn’t forget his primary duty.
Entering the library through a familiar secret passage, Fu Nian stood up boldly and leisurely looked at each volume on the bookshelves.
Fu Nian selected some basic medical books and leaned against the wall to read them one by one.
After flipping through several books, Fu Nian didn’t find any recorded cases related to his symptoms, so he reluctantly returned the books to their shelves.
As he continued walking, he found that most of the books were miscellaneous works collected by emperors throughout the ages, including records of strange occurrences, legends, myths, and even some lowbrow literature.
Fu Nian randomly picked up a relatively new-looking book and opened it. The first half of the book contained a common story about a scholar who saved a fox spirit while studying for the imperial examination. However, as he read the second half, Fu Nian’s eyebrows furrowed.
[The fox spirit spoke up after seeing him insist on leaving, “Do you know why you’ve been feeling fatigued and weak recently Young Master? Since you saved the little fox, the Young Master’s life has been destined for hardship. Today, I’ll tell you the truth. Please don’t be surprised.” … After hearing this, the scholar wanted to cry but had no tears. He looked frightened and said, “I’m a man, how can I be pregnant like a woman?”]
“Men getting pregnant… What nonsense is this? It’s incredible that someone even came up with this idea,” Fu Nian muttered to himself, looking at the ridiculous content in the book with a disdainful expression. He quickly closed it and returned it to the shelf.
Just as he was putting the “lowbrow literature” back, Fu Nian started to have some doubts.
It was the first time he had read such an absurd work, and apart from being shocked, he couldn’t help but feel a bit curious.
Seeing that there was no one around, Fu Nian took the book out again and continued reading.
The further he read, the more his brows furrowed.
The scholar’s reaction during his “pregnancy” period seemed to resemble his symptoms during this time – fatigue, loss of appetite, and so on.
The story concluded with the scholar and the fox both becoming ghosts due to violating ethical and heavenly rules, wandering in the same mountain stream, but they could never meet again.
The vivid description of a man experiencing pregnancy-like changes in his body, the alteration of his internal structure, and the scorn and insults from bystanders lingered in Fu Nian’s mind for a long time.
After reading about the empresses of past dynasties and their life stories, there weren’t as many records of mythical creatures and supernatural beings.
After finishing his reading, Fu Nian felt somewhat relieved.
It’s much simpler than being a Shadow Guard.
There’s no need to constantly speculate about the Emperor’s thoughts, no need to guard the Emperor’s side seamlessly for twelve hours, and no need to be at the Emperor’s beck and call at all times. Even if you serve in the bedchamber, you can rest afterward, unlike in his previous life when he couldn’t even finish a night of intimacy without having to get up and continue guarding to prevent assassins.
After looking through the records of the behavior of past empresses for a few more glances, Fu Nian finally left the library.
When he returned to the Chengyuan Hall, it was still early in the day.
Thinking about their argument last night, Fu Nian couldn’t help but feel that Chu Zhaoyi had probably misunderstood something.
He genuinely wasn’t feeling well, and it wasn’t to the extent that he felt disgusted by physical contact with Chu Zhaoyi…
With that in mind, Fu Nian sighed as he looked at the continuous flow of courtiers entering and leaving the imperial study.
Thinking about what he had read in the book earlier, where the relationship between the Emperor and the Empress was complicated but not to the extent of mutual hatred, he remembered that the empresses usually sent some food to the Chengyuan Hall, offering polite condolences.
The book didn’t explain how these noble ladies became proficient in every aspect of culinary arts, but Fu Nian thought for a moment and decided to bring some money and borrow the kitchen and ingredients from the Weaving Bureau, to begin to cook on his own.
Fu Nian held a recipe in one hand and a ladle in the other, occasionally frowning as he inspected the unappealing food in the pot.
Strange, he followed the recipe exactly.
The smell of the cooking fumes was irritating Fu Nian’s throat, but he persevered until the food was cooked before daring to step outside to get some fresh air.
When packing the food into a container, Fu Nian tasted it slightly and involuntarily shrank his neck.
However, he quickly adapted to the taste, and his expression gradually returned to normal.
Satisfied, Fu Nian covered the container.
He handed the food box to a eunuch and then went to the practice field for the evening training.
After the evening meal was delivered, Chu Zhaoyi, as usual, continued to read a book while absentmindedly eating.
When he scooped up a spoonful of soup, Chu Zhaoyi felt that the consistency seemed off. However, he was engrossed in the military theories of a famous general from a previous dynasty, so he didn’t look away from the book.
Cough, cough, cough, cough! When he tasted it, Chu Zhaoyi spat out the soup and even threw the spoon away.
Li Gonggong immediately sensed that something was wrong and his expression changed.
“It’s not poisoned…” Chu Zhaoyi hurriedly explained as he reached for a cup of tea.
After taking a sip of tea, Chu Zhaoyi finally sat up straight and asked in a displeased tone, “Who was in charge of the kitchen today?”
“Your Majesty, it was the same chef as usual, but the vegetable and noodle soup you just had was delivered by the Imperial Guard Lian.”
Upon hearing this, Chu Zhaoyi immediately relaxed his furrowed brows. “Who?”
“It’s Imperial Guard Lian, the one by your side…” Li Gonggong hesitated for a moment but didn’t dare to mention that name that had been avoided. “He said he made it himself, and I tested it for poison before bringing it up. I’ll take it away now, please don’t be angry, Your Majesty.”
“No need,” Chu Zhaoyi said in a much lighter tone, pouring the half-cup of tea that he hadn’t finished into the soup, and taking another spoonful into his mouth.
This time, Chu Zhaoyi suppressed the urge to frown. “It tastes good.”
Li Gonggong smiled and accompanied him with a few more laughs.
Seeing Chu Zhaoyi’s complexion change and his mouth involuntarily droop, still praising the craftsmanship… Li Gonggong wanted to say something, but in the end, he hesitated and kept quiet.
Setting aside his chopsticks, Chu Zhaoyi asked again, “Did he really make it himself?”
“Yes. According to our sources, it was delivered by the Imperial Guard Lian. He bribed one of the palace maids in the kitchen to use the facilities and ingredients.”
Chu Zhaoyi questioned, “Did he say anything?”
Li Gonggong replied, “No, he just left after delivering it, and there was no note or letter left in the food container. At this hour, Imperial Guard Lian should be training in the practice field. If Your Majesty wishes to contact him, I can go.”
“No need,” Chu Zhaoyi hurriedly intervened and continued to gaze at the “Strategies for Training Generals” that he had put down earlier.
After finishing the book, Chu Zhaoyi, for once, didn’t immediately immerse himself in official documents.
He sat quietly, contemplating, looking at the incense burner on the table. After a long period of contemplation, Chu Zhaoyi suddenly chuckled, and then he spoke to Li Gonggong, “Li Gonggong.”
“I’m here, Your Majesty.”
“Tonight, when I retire to bed, tell Imperial Guard Lian that my insomnia has recurred, and it’s late, so I don’t want to disturb the imperial physician. Therefore, I drank a lot of calming medicine and lit some strong incense, but unexpectedly, I’m still tossing and turning, unable to sleep. Look anxious and worried, sigh several times, and observe his reaction closely.” After Chu Zhaoyi finished speaking, he thought for a moment and added, “After you’re done conveying the message, inform him that I am in the sleeping palace. Pretend to have some urgent matter and leave quickly, without asking him to come, and don’t bother showing him the way.”
Li Gonggong paused for a moment before saying, “Your Majesty, if insomnia recurs, it would be more appropriate to notify the imperial physician to seek alternative treatments. Last time, at the Shuzhou Palace as you instructed, I conveyed your message to Imperial Guard Lian, but the result was that you became even more restless, making it difficult to fall asleep, and you had to pretend to be asleep. Why go through with this?”