During the night, Fu Nian washed away the smell of cooking oil and took out the Fuguang Blade, carefully sharpening it with a whetstone.
This Fuguang Blade had been away from him for a long time. Today, Fu Nian had only used it for cutting vegetables, but the feel of it in his hand wasn’t as smooth as before. If he really encountered any trouble, a dull blade would undoubtedly be a deadlier assassin than the enemy.
“A loyal wife must not be abandoned,” Fu Nian muttered softly after sharpening the blade. He looked at the blade, now gleaming brightly, with satisfaction.
He twirled the blade in his hand and performed a few familiar moves.
Suddenly, there was a knock on the door from outside.
Fu Nian quickly put away the blade and got up to open the door.
The early winter night was cold, and Fu Nian shivered when he opened the door. He saw a young Gonggong holding a lantern, looking unfamiliar and somewhat hesitant.
“What is the matter Gonggong?”
“I serve under Li Gonggong,” the young eunuch paused deliberately and then continued with an embarrassed look, avoiding eye contact, “Last time, at the palace in Shuzhou, His Majesty had difficulty sleeping for several days. He noticed that when Li Gonggong called you over, it seemed to be more effective than the medicine. So, I wanted to ask you what remedy you used for His Majesty.
Fu Nian hesitated for a moment and asked, “Has he been having insomnia again?”
The Gonggong shook his head nervously, not giving a direct answer, but his tone clearly conveyed a sense of evasion. “I, I didn’t mean to disturb you. I just wanted to ask what remedy you gave to His Majesty. I had no other intentions.”
Fu Nian replied, “There is no remedy.”
Afterward, Fu Nian watched as the young eunuch repeatedly expressed gratitude and mentioned that he had other tasks to attend to before hastily running away.
Fu Nian leaned against the door, facing the biting cold wind, lost in thought.
The young eunuch didn’t mention any names and had an evasive demeanor, which meant that Chu Zhaoyi must have a problem.
After a moment of contemplation, Fu Nian closed the door and plunged into his covers.
What did Chu Zhaoyi’s situation have to do with him?
With the mindset of “Chu Zhaoyi’s situation has nothing to do with him,” Fu Nian sneaked out of his room, taking with him his concealed blade and hidden weapons. He pulled up the collar of his robe and put on a hood, then swiftly made his way towards the sleeping palace, scaling walls and leaping across rooftops.
When he reached the top of the palace hall, Fu Nian surveyed the situation below.
The security was not as tight as before, likely because the “fake empress” had probably been removed from the palace.
Taking advantage of the lowered vigilance of the palace guards, Fu Nian slipped into the room while a palace maid went inside to tend to the incense burner. Fu Nian made sure he made no sound. He climbed onto the roof beams and silently moved deeper into the room.
After a thorough search of the roof beams, Fu Nian breathed a sigh of relief.
There were no other shadow guards present. It seemed that when Chu Zhaoyi was asleep, Chu Yao and the other shadow guards, like everyone else, were waiting outside.
Reaching the roof beam above the dragon bed, Fu Nian finally stopped.
From the canopy curtains, he could discern the slender figure lying inside. The figure occasionally tossed and turned restlessly, emitting occasional sighs.
Indeed, the fake person was no longer there.
Fu Nian quietly stayed on the roof beam for a while, and when he saw that Chu Zhaoyi seemed to have calmed down somewhat, he gently descended to the ground.
“Didn’t I say not to come in when it’s time to replenish the incense? Leave.”
Upon hearing the word “leave,” Fu Nian hesitated for a moment, as if considering whether to stay or leave.
“This subordinate did not come to replenish the incense,” Fu Nian finally spoke cautiously in a low voice.
After he finished speaking, the canopy curtains suddenly lifted, revealing half of Chu Zhaoyi’s weary face.
Fu Nian lowered his head, avoiding direct eye contact.
“Why did you come?” Chu Zhaoyi, showing surprise after his earlier irritability, asked.
“…,” Fu Nian remained silent.
Before coming, he had anticipated the awkward situation of facing this man. However, in the end, he couldn’t help but worry and wanted to see for himself.
With this inner conflict, Fu Nian didn’t know how to start the conversation, so he remained silent.
Without warning, Fu Nian felt his wrist being forcefully grabbed.
Fu Nian didn’t dare to resist and could only kneel by the edge of the bed.
Although there was a canopy curtain between them, his wrist was firmly held. Fu Nian couldn’t see Chu Zhaoyi’s face, but he could feel the scorching body heat from Chu Zhaoyi’s left hand, which clung to his wrist.
“Subordinate… This subordinate happened to pass by the sleeping palace. I never intended to disturb your rest. I have no ulterior motives. I’ll just leave,” Fu Nian hesitated for a long time before cautiously speaking.
After speaking, he felt the grip on his wrist tighten even more, with no intention of letting go.
Fu Nian tried to pull his left hand away but to no avail.
Chu Zhaoyi asked directly, “Why did you come in the middle of the night, saying you passed by the sleeping palace?”
Fu Nian: …..
Seeing that Fu Nian remaining silent, Chu Zhaoyi straightforwardly asked, “Did you come because you heard about my insomnia?”
Fu Nian bowed his head.
Fortunately, the canopy curtains concealed Fu Nian’s conflicted expression and flushed face from Chu Zhaoyi’s view.
In the silence, Fu Nian felt the fingers on his left hand starting to forcefully interlace with his own.
In a panic, he tried to regain control of his left hand while hurriedly bringing his fingers together.
As he did so, Fu Nian felt an additional pair of hands in the gaps between his fingers.
The calloused fingertips gently brushed his hand back, their warmth radiating through, and their close proximity allowed him to faintly sense the other person’s pulse.
“Also, thank you, Ah Nian, for borrowing the kitchen today to cook for me. The taste was quite good,” Chu Zhaoyi said as he held Fu Nian’s hand firmly, his voice calm. “Otherwise, I might have thought that you find even my touch repulsive.”
Hearing this, Fu Nian instinctively tensed his body. “Your Majesty, you worry too much. I have never thought of it that way.”
After speaking, Fu Nian awkwardly averted his gaze.
If he had known that Chu Zhaoyi would really eat the food… he wouldn’t have added so many seasonings with trembling hands.
“Earlier today, it seems that the imperial library was infiltrated. However, after an inventory check, it was found that valuable ancient texts were not missing…” At this point, Chu Zhaoyi felt the hand he was holding tremble involuntarily. “But the biographies and personal records of past empresses were disturbed. Back when you were still the Chief Shadow Guard, there was never a thief who could successfully escape from the palace.”
He wanted to ask Chu Zhaoyi how he knew about this.
However, upon further thought, the palace was the Emperor’s residence after all. Asking the head of the household how he knew about household matters would be ridiculous.
“Also, empresses and consorts have a tradition of sending dishes and desserts to the Chengyuan Hall, claiming to have made them themselves. In reality, very few of them personally supervise the kitchen, let alone touch the stoves. Most of them just have the intention and say it casually.”
Fu Nian unconsciously furrowed his brow.
He had just been thinking about how these noble ladies excelled in various arts and crafts, including cooking.
“Why did Your Majesty suddenly mention all this?” he couldn’t help but ask softly.
“Suddenly thought of it, just mentioning it casually, no other meaning,” Chu Zhaoyi said nonchalantly. “Also, in the future, feel free to come in openly instead of sneaking in.”
Fu Nian still looked at the ground, his facial expression complex and rich.
Originally, he just wanted to come in and take a look.
He didn’t expect Chu Zhaoyi to recount one by one the “glorious deeds” he had done.
Sitting in silence, Fu Nian didn’t notice when the curtains were quietly drawn back.
Feeling someone circling around him from behind, Fu Nian quickly came to his senses.
He hadn’t asked Chu Zhaoyi what he intended to do, but his entire body had been lifted up as if he were a radish being pulled from the ground.
His body was already somewhat impaired, and even with the prosthetic limbs, he was much lighter than an ordinary person.
“Do you… want to rest?” Fu Nian asked carefully after being placed on the bed, his voice soft.
When they were at the Shuzhou Palace, before they recognized each other, he remembered Chu Zhaoyi leaning against his neck before falling asleep.
Now that he was lifted onto the bed again, Fu Nian cautiously asked.
“Yeah. Don’t worry; I just want to lean against your back. I won’t force you to do anything,” Chu Zhaoyi said as he yawned.
After saying that, he felt that Fu Nian had relaxed a bit.
There’s plenty of time ahead. Deceiving someone into coming and showing concern marks a significant step in easing the situation, Chu Zhaoyi thought to himself.
Fu Nian didn’t respond and instead turned his face away, keeping silent.
Last time, Chu Zhaoyi had said that he didn’t want to see his face and didn’t want to hear his voice, and he had to leave before Chu Zhaoyi woke up. Fu Nian remembered it all.
After lying down for a while, Fu Nian felt a breath coming from behind him.
He thought that Chu Zhaoyi would hold him like he did before.
However, he didn’t expect that this time Chu Zhaoyi would be more cautious, just gently touching his nape, and his posture was even more unfamiliar than it was before they had recognized each other.
Fu Nian felt a little strange but chose not to ask.
This time, after a long while, the breathing behind him showed no signs of calming down; in fact, it seemed even more restless.
He could feel that Chu Zhaoyi’s head was continuously nuzzling his nape, but he refused to get any closer.
In the end, Chu Zhaoyi didn’t even touch his nape, maintaining a distance between them where two people, even Chu Yao and Li Gonggong, could lie down.
“Your Majesty?” Fu Nian heard Chu Zhaoyi’s restlessness and cautiously asked.
“Afraid of making you uncomfortable by holding you.” Chu Zhaoyi, with the blanket covering his head, said despondently. “Forget it, you can just lie there. As long as you’re beside me, I’ll fall asleep eventually.”
Fu Nian remained silent.
Last time, Chu Zhaoyi had never given him the chance to argue and wouldn’t let go once he hugged him. Fu Nian could only comply.
This time… Chu Zhaoyi was cautious in his actions, and he kept saying that he was afraid of making Fu Nian uncomfortable.
Fu Nian felt even more guilty.
After lying down for a while, Fu Nian cautiously turned over and faced the man who was frowning and seemed to be having a nightmare.
He could tell that Chu Zhaoyi was in a shallow sleep and even having a nightmare. The dark circles under his eyes were heavy.
Fu Nian felt a slightly bitter sensation in his chest and couldn’t quite identify his emotions.
Regardless, it was uncomfortable to see Chu Zhaoyi suffering.
After thinking for a moment, Fu Nian decided to get closer and tried to embrace the restless man.
Anyway, once Chu Zhaoyi fell asleep, he would have to leave, Fu Nian thought.
But as soon as he got closer, Fu Nian felt something touch his prosthetic leg on the right.
The prosthetic limb couldn’t sense temperature like a real leg.
Fu Nian could only feel something like a blade touching his leg, and he thought it might be the Fuguang Blade he carried with him, so he quickly reached out to grab it.
He felt a temperature slightly higher than body temperature coming from his left hand.
Fu Nian was momentarily stunned, then he realized… the Fuguang Blade was probably still on him.
He hurriedly tried to retract his left hand.
In an instant, he saw the man in front of him, who had just had his eyes closed, suddenly open his eyes. His gaze was as sharp as a hunting beast, and he stared at him intently.