Fu Nian hadn’t had a proper rest for many days, and now, with this incident, he could finally have a peaceful sleep for the time being.
After his wounds were dressed, he sat half upright and drowsily fell into sleep.
However, just as he was about to doze off, Fu Nian was awakened by several unfamiliar court eunuchs. Without explanation, they carried him out of the Chengyuan Hall.
The cold wind blew, and Fu Nian immediately woke up.
He knew that it wasn’t convenient for outsiders to stay in the Chengyuan Hall. After all, it was where His Majesty resided and discussed state affairs. Being allowed to have his wounds dressed there was already a great favor. However, even with the wounds dressed, it was still painful to be carried around like this.
Sitting inside the carriage, Fu Nian’s brows furrowed in pain.
If he had known it would be so easy to be fooled, he would have put up less resistance earlier, saving himself from this suffering.
As the carriage came to a stop, Fu Nian hadn’t yet pulled back the curtain when he heard voices outside.
“We’ve arrived. His Majesty instructed you to temporarily reside in the Wenmei Hall. It’s close to the Imperial Hospital and quiet, which is suitable for recuperation.”
“By the way, my surname is Gao. During the time you stay in the palace, I’ll be taking care of you.”
In the palace, many quiet palace courtyards were unfamiliar to Fu Nian, but he did have some recollection of Wenmei Hall. Before Chu Zhaoyi was married, when there was a need for a relative and his family to stay overnight, they would be arranged in the Wenmei Hall or several nearby palace courtyards.
When Fu Nian entered the room, the charcoal brazier was already lit, making the bed warm, dry, and soft.
However, the cold wind had completely awakened him earlier, and now, sitting on the bed, he had no drowsiness left. He lowered his head and looked at the blood-stained bandages on his severed limb, still stained with a reddish hue.
As he contemplated what he could do during the night, Fu Nian heard a voice not too far away. “Young Master Lian, you should rest. I’ll be outside the screen, and if you need anything, just call for me.”
“No need to watch over. You can rest on your own,” Fu Nian said indifferently, then pretended to be tired and leaned against the bed.
He had wanted to wait until the latter half of the night, when the pain in his injuries would subside a bit, to find a way to get closer to the sleeping quarters of the Chengyuan Hall, to see if there was a chance to catch a glimpse of the rumored appearance of the Empress.
“You have injuries and limited mobility. In case something happens…”
“I’m fine.” Fu Nian interrupted when he noticed the hesitation, “You can rest, there’s no need for you to watch over here.”
“I can’t. His Majesty ordered that you shouldn’t be left alone.” Gao Gonggong replied seriously.
Fu Nian: …
Never mind, he thought to himself, if I don’t have prosthetics now, my mobility is limited. Coupled with my recent injury and the stringent guards at the Chengyuan Hall, going there tonight would only stir up trouble, Fu Nian concluded.
After a silent confrontation, Fu Nian ultimately decided to feign being someone who had just lost their limbs. “It’s up to you whether you stay or leave,” he said and then crawled into the covers, attempting to muster some sleepiness once more.
The cozy environment indeed sapped his resolve. Fu Nian had intended to take a brief nap, but he had underestimated the allure of the warm bedding. He woke again, this time due to the sound of thunder and rain outside as well as the pain in his injuries.
Sitting up on the bed, Fu Nian, illuminated by the faint candlelight, saw that the bandages covering his severed limb were soaked through with blood. When he lightly touched the bandages, his hand left a bloody mark.
He sighed with relief, glad that he had obtained some clean bandages from the physician a few hours ago, just in case.
By the candlelight, Fu Nian bit through the bandages on his right arm and carefully unwrapped them with his left hand, revealing the still oozing severed limb.
The wound wasn’t healing well, and combined with the dampness of the rainy season, there was a risk of infection. Fu Nian pondered the situation concerning his right arm.
After observing for a while, he took out a clean bandage and used his mouth to secure one end, while using his left hand to wrap it around the limb.
Once his right arm was rebandaged, Fu Nian’s gaze shifted to the bandages on his legs. Looking at the knots on them, he let out a sigh.
In the past, when injured, Fu Nian never allowed others to intervene as long as he was conscious. After all, wounds were the most vulnerable areas on the body, and exposing one’s vulnerabilities to the enemy would undoubtedly be seeking death.
Most importantly, the bandages that others applied were hard for Fu Nian to remove. He could easily bite through the bandages on his arms, but it was difficult to gain leverage on the ones on his legs, and mishandling them might easily cause secondary harm.
Struggling to bite through the knots with his mouth, Fu Nian suddenly felt that the surroundings had brightened considerably.
“What… what are you doing?” Fu Nian heard a shocked voice beside him, sounding quite startled.
Without lifting his head, he intended to bite through the bandage before addressing the person.
This time, Fu Nian felt the person beside him about to reach out to touch him. He suddenly lifted his head and sternly reprimanded, “Don’t move!”
After roaring, Fu Nian saw that the person’s expression froze in fear. He stiffly explained, “As you can see, I’m changing the bandages.”
After saying that, Fu Nian lowered his head again and continued to bite the rusty-red bandage.
“You woke up, why didn’t you call for me… I mean, I should have… I should go fetch the physician—”
“No need,” Fu Nian didn’t wait for the person to stand up, quickly interrupting, “It’s just changing the bandages, no need to make a fuss.”
After discarding the soiled bandages on the ground, he secured one end of the new bandage with his mouth and wrapped it around with his left hand.
While attending to the wound, Fu Nian glanced back, “Did I startle you?”
Only then did Fu Nian withdraw his gaze and no longer paid attention to the small eunuch beside him. He once again nestled back into the covers, lying quietly.
The dull ache continued to spread from the wound throughout his body. Fu Nian could only attempt to use deep breathing to alleviate the pain.
Having lain there for an unknown amount of time, Fu Nian heard a faint commotion outside the room. It seemed like people were speaking.
He perked up his ears, trying to listen more attentively. However, the sounds of spring thunder outside made it difficult to discern what was being said.
After a while, Fu Nian heard the door being gently pushed open. Separated by the curtains and the folding screen, he couldn’t see who had entered. Yet, from the measured and heavy footsteps, he could tell it wasn’t Gao Gonggong.
The footsteps drew closer bit by bit.
A tall silhouette moved around the folding screen, causing Fu Nian to freeze for a moment. Quickly, he closed his eyes.
The familiar sound of breathing reached the bedside. Fu Nian didn’t need to open his eyes to confirm—it was who he thought it was.
Why did he come…
Fu Nian couldn’t help but move his fingers, his previously calm mind now rippling like water.
With his eyes shut, he sensed the warm breath getting closer, to the point that he could almost feel the scent of herbs brushing against his face.
Fu Nian outwardly remained calm, but in reality, he was constantly adjusting his breath to avoid revealing any flaws.
What is Chu Zhaoyi doing…
He couldn’t figure it out. His current identity was that of a guard who had just lost his limbs, and he hadn’t even met Chu Zhaoyi properly. How could he make Chu Zhaoyi sacrifice his brief rest in the middle of the night and brave the thunderstorm to visit?
The herbal-scented breath continued to brush against his face. Fu Nian didn’t dare open his eyes, only aware that Chu Zhaoyi was most likely standing there quietly, doing nothing, saying nothing.
Fu Nian remained still, pretending the person in front of him didn’t exist, and focused on his own breathing exercises to heal his wounds.
After what felt like a long time, Fu Nian heard the sound of the door being pushed open again, followed by the subdued voice of Li Gonggong, “Your Majesty, it’s almost time for the morning court session.”
Then, Fu Nian heard Li Gonggong’s hurried steps as he left the room.
The room fell silent once again.
Curiosity getting the best of him, Fu Nian slightly squinted his eyes.
The candlelight was dim, and Fu Nian’s focus took a while to adjust before he could vaguely make out the objects before him.
Before him, the man had already donned his court attire, his crown meticulously placed on his head. He was now resting on his arm, half-lying on the edge of the bed. His under-eyes were heavily bruised, but his breathing was steady.
Turns out he fell asleep…
Fu Nian had been pondering how Chu Zhaoyi could stare at someone face to face for so long without moving. But it seemed like… he hadn’t slept the entire night?
When they met last night, aside from an initial reaction, Chu Zhaoyi barely spared him a glance and even seemed unwilling to look at him or engage in any conversation. Fu Nian had thought Chu Zhaoyi had already forgotten about him.
However, in the middle of the night, Chu Zhaoyi had sneaked in and silently rested by his bedside.
Seeing this scene, Fu Nian’s initial response wasn’t pity or sentiment, but rather a peculiar sense of satisfaction.
When he realized he was involuntarily curling up a smile, Fu Nian didn’t look any further. He closed his eyes again, turned his head away, and pulled the covers over himself, pretending to continue sleeping.
After a while, Fu Nian heard a suppressed cough behind him, accompanied by some rustling noises.
It seemed that Chu Zhaoyi had woken up.
Fu Nian didn’t turn around, quietly waiting for Chu Zhaoyi to leave.
However, after a while, he still hadn’t heard footsteps or the sound of the door closing.
As he was becoming puzzled, Fu Nian suddenly felt a gentle touch on the intact part of his amputated leg.
To prevent blood from staining the bedding, Fu Nian had intentionally left the wound outside the covers when sleeping.
Through the fabric, he could feel the warmth of a hand, and above that, the calloused texture. The hand was gently lifting the bandaged right leg from underneath.
Fu Nian was momentarily taken aback and subconsciously clenched his fist.
Being cradled in such a manner, Fu Nian couldn’t help but feel an indescribable sense of shame about his severed limb. Even standing naked in front of someone wouldn’t bring about this level of embarrassment, let alone before this man.
Especially before this man.
Just as Fu Nian was contemplating whether to end his pretense of sleeping, he suddenly felt a soft, warm sensation against the bandaged wound on his severed limb. The sensation remained still.
Through the bandages, his senses weren’t entirely clear. However, on a person’s body, aside from the lips, he couldn’t think of any other place that would feel so warm and soft.
When he finally realized what Chu Zhaoyi was doing, Fu Nian felt torn between annoyance and embarrassment. He disregarded the complexities of propriety and directly threw off the covers, sitting up on the bed.
The window was slightly ajar, and he couldn’t discern whether it had been deliberately opened or if the night rain had pushed it open.
Gasping for breath, he looked at the empty edge of the bed, momentarily stunned.
“What’s wrong with you?”
Before he could remain in a daze for long, Fu Nian heard Gao Gonggong’s voice from behind the folding screen.
Then, several lamps in the room were lit, and Fu Nian warily surveyed his surroundings.
Apart from him and Gao Gonggong, there was no one else.
“Has anyone come in just now?” Fu Nian’s voice remained steady, devoid of any ripples.
“Who could have come in? Rest assured, I’m here, and no one else would be allowed in,” seeing Fu Nian’s bewildered expression, Gao Gonggong consoled, “Perhaps the window wasn’t securely closed, and the leaking rain disturbed you.” After saying that, Gao Gonggong hurriedly closed the creaking window.
“Mmm. Probably just a dream,” Fu Nian murmured softly.
“It must have been a dream. Tonight, I’ll go get some calming incense for you,” the little eunuch said.
“Mmm,” Fu Nian replied dully.
Indeed, how could someone so busy and bored?
Just as he relaxed, Fu Nian unintentionally caught sight of the bloody bandages on the floor.
It was the bloodied cloth he had removed last night. He had casually discarded them on the floor, not bothering to have someone clean up.
The humid weather hadn’t allowed the cloth to completely dry, and there were obvious marks as if something heavy had been placed on it.
The bloodstains on the carpet varied in intensity, clearly indicating they had been intentionally pressed upon.
Instantly, the suspicions that had just subsided surged up again.
Before Fu Nian could speak, he heard Gao Gonggong beating him to it, quickly kneeling down and picking up the bloodied bandages. “The room was dimly lit at night, and I didn’t have a chance to clean it up. I’ll take care of it now…”