The Shadow Guard is also the White Moonlight [Rebirth] Chapter 83

Chapter 83

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On the way back to the palace, Fu Nian was constantly thinking about how to resolve this matter.

Should he try to probe Chu Zhaoyi’s thoughts about an imperial heir?

Even if Chu Zhaoyi despised the strange occurrence of male pregnancy, he wouldn’t reject the child. After all, ensuring the continuation of the dynasty was a significant matter, particularly since it seemed that Chu Zhaoyi had no intentions of taking a consort.

As the sun set, Fu Nian finally returned to Chengyuan Hall.

He stood before the mirror, carefully adjusting his clothing, attempting to disguise the slight change in his physique by cinching his clothes tightly.

He tightened the innermost layer of clothing until it was almost suffocating, then gradually put on the outer garments.

Fortunately, the winter attire was thick and sturdy. By cinching it, his altered figure was hardly noticeable.

Fu Nian took out a short knife and practiced a few of the common moves.

It didn’t significantly affect his movements. As long as it wasn’t an extended battle, he could manage.

“I didn’t see you in the palace today, and I asked the instructor. Your daily tasks have been postponed until tomorrow. Are you feeling unwell?” 

Fu Nian was in the middle of arranging the dishes when he heard Chu Zhaoyi’s inquiry.

“I went out of the palace to visit a benefactor from before,” Fu Nian calmly responded with the prepared excuse. “It’s someone I just met after returning to this life, before entering the palace, so you wouldn’t know.”

Chu Zhaoyi nodded without suspicion. “As long as you’re not feeling unwell, then eat.”

Fu Nian watched as Chu Zhaoyi pushed a bowl of soup towards him and didn’t refuse. He picked up the spoon and eagerly shoveled the food into his mouth, practically burying half his face in the bowl.

Although he had eaten something at the eatery on his way back, his hunger surpassed his expectations.

Before, even if he didn’t eat for three days, he could still maintain a certain level of energy. Now, although he wouldn’t get hungry within three minutes, it wasn’t far off.

After filling his stomach a bit, Fu Nian put down the spoon and cautiously broached the topic, “Your Majesty, have you ever considered the issue of lacking an heir to succeed the throne in the future?”

“Today, Little Royal Uncle also indirectly advised me to take a consort. What? Did he persuade you?” Chu Zhaoyi put down his chopsticks, his tone suddenly becoming serious. “If he tried to persuade you, just ignore him. He always meddles in things as if I won’t live long. He has been contacting one of our late emperor’s brothers who was relegated to commoner status, but he’s still an Royal Uncle. He inquired if there were any young children available for adoption. Recently, his wife’s reply arrived, saying they have a pair of twins in swaddling clothes and a girl who has just started speaking. The Royal Uncle is old and ailing, and he appreciates the palace’s concern.”

Fu Nian didn’t rush to speak.

It seemed that Chu Zhaoyi had long had a plan in mind.

“Adopting from a collateral line is not the same as having your own blood…”

“Why do they have to be my own? I may not even be the late emperor’s biological child.” Chu Zhaoyi responded calmly.

Fu Nian: ???

His hand, reaching for water, paused for a moment, almost knocking the cup over.

It seemed like he had heard something he shouldn’t have.

Seeing Fu Nian’s stunned expression, Chu Zhaoyi casually added, “The eunuchs in the Inner Palace mentioned that you had inquired about Royal Mother’s affairs. Was there no record of it?”

Fu Nian: …

So, him investigating his Royal Mother’s matter before, Chu Zhaoyi knew about it but had never exposed him.

“There was no record of it. It only mentioned that she passed away due to illness. Others describe her as a gentle and kind noblewoman.”

“It seems that the late emperor allowed her some dignity. She… had an affair with one of my royal uncles and was executed. That’s why, when I was young, she didn’t want me to meet anyone. Even when the late emperor came to visit, she locked me up, saying it was because of my frail health and inability to withstand drafts, the reason I couldn’t meet people,” Chu Zhaoyi said, his tone growing slightly heavier. “Indeed, she was the late emperor’s favorite, or else after her execution, the late emperor wouldn’t have spared my life.”

Fu Nian steadied the overturned cup. “How could it be like that?”

“When I was young, I looked almost identical to Royal Mother. She was very good to me back then, even allowing me to sleep by her side and singing for me. I would tug at her hair and her jewelry, but she never got angry. The late emperor also came often… sometimes when the late emperor visited, I would pretend to be asleep beside Royal Mother. She would make excuses to send the late emperor to stay in the chambers of other consorts. At that time, Royal Mother treated me really well. As I grew older and my features began to change, her attitude toward me changed as well, becoming capricious. There was one time, if it weren’t for Royal Sister intervening, I might have been strangled to death in the courtyard by her. From that moment on, I became ‘frail and sickly’ and ‘unsuitable to be seen.’ The late emperor still often stayed at Hengchang Palace, and many times, I could hear the late emperor outside asking Royal Mother if my health had improved. I wanted to answer first, but the eunuchs would cover my mouth, and afterward, I would receive a beating from my mother. As I grew older, I seized opportunities to escape when the eunuchs and maids guarding me were asleep… After that, I would hide in a cramped storeroom in the corner for the entire night. It was filled with tightly packed items, so even if I wanted to shout, it would be in vain. Later, that small storage room became the place where I spent most of my days.”

“And what happened next?”

“When I reached the age for studying and martial arts, she claimed I was frail and sickly, unsuitable for studying with other princes. The tutor the late emperor sent was often sent away by her as well. At that time, I didn’t want to fall behind others. As I grew older, I could dismantle the house… After nightfall, I would often sneak out to find my tutor for lessons or go to General Dou to learn martial arts. The more she confined me, the more I tried to escape. The more she cursed and wished for my death, even pushing me into a well, saying that if I understood and died, it would be even better. But I became even more determined to live and surpass all my brothers. In the end, this appearance… couldn’t avoid being noticed by sharp-eyed people. Coupled with her favoritism, it stirred up rumors and gossip. As the rumors grew, the late emperor couldn’t help but hear of them. With a little investigation… Afterward, Royal Mother passed away due to illness.”

Fu Nian fell into silence.

No wonder Chu Zhaoyi had never mentioned his Royal Mother before.

“In the end, it was discovered that she had affairs with several Royal Uncles, and some of those uncles held significant power in the capital. For the sake of the royal family’s reputation, her death was reported as due to illness. Sadly, she left behind Royal Sister and me. But after her death, the late emperor didn’t verify whether Royal Sister and I were his biological children. He sent Royal Sister to marry a barbarian and offered her as a goodwill marriage gift. When I reached the right age, he hastily granted me a fief and residence, sending me away from the capital,” Chu Zhaoyi continued, picking up his chopsticks and serving some food to Fu Nian. “I used to feel guilty about Royal Mother when I was young, always thinking that if I had been more obedient back then, maybe she wouldn’t have died. Even if she had relations with others, at least when I was very young, she loved me. I also feel guilty about Royal Sister. If Royal Mother’s affairs hadn’t been exposed, she would have been the most favored princess in the palace, and in the future, she would have had the best man in the world as her husband, willingly serving her for the rest of his life. She would never have been married off to the barbarians at such a young age, and news of her death wouldn’t have arrived within a year without the return of her body… Added to that, I felt embarrassed, so I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it. It wasn’t a matter of not trusting you.”

He was glad that Chu Zhaoyi could be honest with him.

However, when it came to consoling people, Fu Nian had always been more prone to offering reverse comfort, and if luck wasn’t on his side, it could even lead to an argument.

After finishing the meal, Fu Nian hadn’t figured out how to subtly broach the topic of the child.

Chu Zhaoyi was the first to sense Fu Nian’s hesitation and asked, “Do you have something to say?”

Fu Nian had already put down his spoon, but being asked like this made him feel uneasy.

After a moment of hesitation, Fu Nian continued, “If Your Majesty were to have biological children in the future…” He didn’t know how to phrase the second half of the sentence.

“That won’t happen,” Chu Zhaoyi thought someone must have said something to Fu Nian, perhaps advising him to urge Chu Zhaoyi to take a consort to secure the succession of the throne, which had made Fu Nian so anxious.

“I don’t like children, and I have no interest in raising them. Even if it’s an adopted child, most of their education comes from Ze Wang and the tutor,” Chu Zhaoyi said, his gaze narrowing. 

Usually, it was Ze Wang who advised him to take a concubine and secure the succession of the throne. Other courtiers didn’t dare to bring up such matters. Chu Zhaoyi figured out he should probably speak with his uncle later. 

Fu Nian: …

He doesn’t like children, doesn’t want to raise them, and finds the idea of a man being pregnant repulsive.

“I see. I’ve been overly concerned,” Fu Nian replied.

“No need to worry. If anyone in the palace tells you that I should take a consort or that I have an illegitimate son, just report it to the steward Gonggong, and they will be punished according to palace rules.”

Fu Nian mumbled an acknowledgment in a gloomy tone.

“What’s wrong?” Chu Zhaoyi noticed that Fu Nian still seemed downcast.

“Nothing,” Fu Nian sat up straight.

He had always had this expressionless demeanor. Sitting up straight now, he resumed his usual appearance, showing no signs of abnormality.

Later in the evening, Fu Nian received a message from the Ministry of Punishments, stating that he was needed to identify whether a corpse was Fu Zhen’s and to provide some details about Fu Nineteen.

Fu Nian had no choice but to put down the plans he had been writing halfway and stash them in his sleeve. Even the towering palace walls couldn’t shield him from the biting winter wind.

He hurriedly made his way to the Ministry of Punishments, with a palace eunuch trailing behind him.

Upon reaching the Ministry of Punishments, Fu Nian glanced up at the grim doorplate in the dim moonlight before striding inside.

“Master… Master…”

“How could he possibly have been burned to death by flames! Don’t make up baseless stories! Fu Bie said he couldn’t identify whether it was Master, so how can you be so sure?”

Even before entering the prison room with the jailer, Fu Nian heard the familiar voice shouting loudly. After each outburst, the voice would wheeze for a long time, accompanied by the clanking of chains and irons.

“…” The interrogating jailers seemed to have said something.

“I have never done anything against the imperial authority to this day. Even when I lived by assassination, I never harmed the current royals. I should be tried by the underworld…,” 

Fu Nian heard this and paused for a moment, then asked the jailer beside him, “What’s going on? What are they asking him?” 

He remembered Fu Nineteen rarely gets so emotional over a few words from outsiders. Even when he’s tied up, he usually stays quiet, giving the impression of being submissive to make escape easier.”

The leading jailer explained to Fu Nian, “During the interrogation, it seemed like they were asking Fu Nineteen about some illness on His Majesty’s body, asking if he had a way to cure it. He said there was no cure. After that, they brought out the body of his master… From the previous interrogations, it’s clear that he has very deep feelings for both his master and his junior brother. They wanted to use his master’s body to pressure him into talking, but when he saw the body, he started causing a commotion. I heard that only you can recognize whether the body is his master’s, so that’s why we secretly called you here to identify the body…”

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