Imperial city, Qixiang Palace.
Dawn is gradually sinking as the chilly breeze outside the window unceasingly blow against the withered weeds. The accumulated snow resting on branches rustle downwards, soundlessly fused into snowy mist all over the sky.
It’s already mid-way through You1 period at this point, the eunuchs departed while carrying away the already cold yet untouched dishes. From the beginning, Zhu Yunxuan had stood before the wooden desk and stared persistently upon the map of Dayan laying out on it.
A dim yellow flickering candle was lit next to the desk, the flame of the candle is reflecting within his dark irises, along with constant flickers.
: Also referred as unitary time, the period between 5pm to 7pm
Abrupt echoing of footsteps sounded within the dimly lit palace without any warning, Zhu Yunxuan raise his gaze and directed a dull glance towards arriver. With clear showcase of estrangement between his eyebrows: “Why didn’t King Zhao2 ask someone to pass on a word beforehand upon entering?”
: Title granted to the royals and monarchies in the eastern part of Asia.
Liang Zhen chuckled without further commenting, then he waved his hand and gestured for the remainder of maids in the palace to withdraw. Zhu Yunxuan’s expression chilled, yet he did not object.
Liang Zhen walk beside his desk at a slow pace and swept a glance across it. He paused for awhile, saying: “Your highness seems to be in a rather good mood, actually examining the map as such.”
“Merely giving it a casual glance.” Zhu Yunxuan’s tone sounded indifferently as he uses his fingertips to slowly trace across the map from underneath. Starting from south to north then from east to west, the territory of Dayan is entirely displayed upon this small-sized map, yet it bears the weight of thousand burdens behind it.
“This is the capital city,” Liang Zhen move towards Zhu Yunxuan, standing shoulder to shoulder with him, and almost gluing himself beside Zhu Yunxuan’s ear and whispered. He used his figure tips to slightly tap on landmark which is especially tinted using red. After a pause, he traces towards the northwestern boarder once again and spoke in an even deeper tone, “and there’s the solitary confinement.”
Zhu Yunxuan’s gaze flickered, yet he also heard Liang Zhen spoke smilingly at a slow pace: “He Huailing is a capable individual and has finally put a thorough end to northern barbarians this time around. His majesty the emperor is pleased, and he even lessens the amount of medicine he took in the past two days.”
Zhu Yunxuan reply with an unfaltering tone: “If his majesty the emperor is in good health, then that’s naturally good news.”
“Your highness,” Liang Zhen softly called out to him, the warmth from his exhale cause Zhu Yunxuan to feel a bit uncomfortable, so he avoids it unnoticeably. The delightment on Liang Zhen’s lip intensified, “Aren’t you not gonna pay a visit to his majesty the emperor’s chamber? Imperial consort Chen together with the ninth prince has been remaining by his majesty the emperor’s sickbed day and night, yet you only pay your courtesies once in a couple of weeks. Aren’t you afraid that his majesty the emperor will blame you for your unfilial act?”
Zhu Yunxuan indifferently said: “You already know that imperial consort Chen and the ninth prince is remaining on a standby there. So there’s no room for me to barge in, further more, aren’t you present? Compared to me, his majesty the emperor should be more inclined for you to stay there instead.”
Paying no mind to the mockery in Zhu Yunxuan’s words, Liang Zhen kept the smile on his lip: “How can that be the same, you are his descendant, and I am merely a foreign official.”
“Heh.” How can he be bestowed with the status of nobility if he is just an ordinary foreign official, and how can he also walk around freely within the inner palace at a time like this. There’s a distinctive difference between him and others from the beginning.
“As the imperial physician mentioned, I am afraid that his majesty the emperor may not be able to endure through this winter.”
The hand which Zhu Yunxuan is using currently to tap the map paused a bit, a complex discoloration flash before his gaze. Liang Zhen move even closer towards him, then a tone containing some deep implications sounded beside Zhu Yunxuan’s ear: “A few days ago, Zhang Shoufu and two elders were summoned into the palace. Take a guess, what exactly are they intending to do?”
Zhu Yunxuan’s gaze deepen: “Why must you feign ignorance and purposefully ask?”
“Is your highness really not curious at all?”
“If that’s the case, I am afraid that his majesty the emperor already had a final foresight in mind which cannot be changed, so what’s the use of being curious?”
Liang Zhen let out a soft chuckle: “It may not be true, since anything isn’t absolute till the end. Even if it escalates to that point, human effort is a decisive factor in this matter.
Zhu Yunxuan directed a cold gaze at him: “Why don’t Zhaowang get straight to the point?”
Liang Zhen beamingly looked at him: “Wouldn’t it be better if your highness take a guess at whether the name written on it3 is yours or is it the ninth prince’s?”
: The imperial decree acknowledging the ascension of the crowned prince.
Zhu Yunxuan fire a question back with an unfaltering tone as a reply: “Why does it must have to be between me and ninth brother? Don’t neglect the fact that his majesty the emperor still has six other heirs available.”
“Sigh, it’s such a pity that the former crowned prince in the past got wrongly sentenced to death and the second prince was executed for the crime of treason. If they are still here, I am afraid that there will be no opportunities for you. As of presently, the third prince is rather slow-witted, the fourth prince is born with physical disability and the sixth prince passed away at an early age. The rest are still young, the only capable heir his majesty the emperor has left is you, and those individuals who has good perception will all understand that this throne will be granted to either the fifth prince, you, who is an illegitimate child, or the Imperial consort Chen’s cherished ninth prince who is favoured by thousands. There’s no need to take a third party into consideration, furthermore, your highness, you are the son of the emperor’s first wife and has already involve in politics, while the ninth prince is still drinking breast milk. It seems to me that the probability your victory is way greater.”
Liang Zhen dragged his tone while speaking, even making eye contact with Zhu Yunxuan’s alerting gaze and winked as if he is currently talking about some amusing matter.
Zhu Yunxuan coldly sneered, with the intention of gnash his teeth in anger: “Liang, Zheng, get straight to the point, why bother with beating around the bush and being so secretive? There’s no need to take a third party into consideration? Assuming that the name written on it is yours, isn’t this regarded as a consideration for a third party?”
Liang Zhen shook his head in bemusement: “Could it be that your highness is confused, I am surnamed Liang and it’s only thanks to the courtesy of his majesty the emperor which has granted me a status of nobility, but I am still not apart of the Zhu clan after all, so how can I claim the territory owned by the Zhu clan?”
Zhu Yunxuan amusingly said: “Sure, if you say so, then I’ll assume that you don’t have the intention of obtaining of it. Isn’t your only purpose of showing up here today is to inform whose name exactly is written upon it? What is your implication behind human effort is a decisive factor in this matter and what is it that you wish to obtain from me this time around?”
Liang Zhen slightly squinted his eyes, stared deeply into Zhu Yunxuan as his gaze gradually darkens. His finger lightly tapped on the map, seemingly to be deep in thought. A moment later, he extended out his hand to wrap Zhu Yunxuan around the waist and pull him towards the front of his body.
Zhu Yunxuan’s complexion instantly changed, and due to his late reaction, he was thus restrained on top of the desk by Liang Zhen. The paperweight affix on top of the map was swept down to the floor, and with a crispy shattering sound, it was split apart into pieces.
Zhu Yunxuan furiously glared towards Liang Zhen: “What are you intending to do?!”
The other’s tall stature pressed down on him, and conveniently untied his waistband along the way. Warm exhales gushed downwards to the side of his pale neck, Zhu Yunxuan embarrassingly tilt his head to the side with his eyes redden instantaneously: “……Why must you once again humiliate me as such?”
Liang Zhen planted a soft kiss onto the side of his neck, with his moist lips sticking beside his ears, he stretch out his hand to grasp his lower jaw, refraining him from turning away: “Your highness, how can you consider this as humiliation? This is evidently a paradisiacal matter in the mortal realm, didn’t you enjoy it every single time?”
After a pause, he added: “Your highness, do you desire obtaining this territory? I can assist you, but you must trade yourself for it in return, deal?”
It was so quiet within the large palace that even a pin drop could be heard, after a long period of silence, Zhu Yunxuan closed his eyes and muffled: “Not here.”
Lustful kisses descended upon Zhu Yunxuan’s cheek and neck one after another. Liang Zhen did not take in his words, and unhurriedly extends out his hands to torn off the clothing he had on layer by layer.
In this split second, even if it’s not his first time, Zhu Yunxuan’s face is drain of blood in agony. He tightly bite is lower lip so as to prevent himself from crying out involuntarily.
The flame of the candle flickered, as Zhu Yunxuan quivered all over with his tears descending like a rainfall. Broken strings of teardrops continuously fall onto his loosen jet-black hair, dripping upon the map of the nation beneath him.
This is the territory of Dayan, a power within his reach, yet it’s also seems unattainable.
Liang Zhen lean forward and use his lips to sweep across his tightly sealed pair of eyes. The quivering eyelashes dampen with tears fall upon his bloodstained red lip from his bite marks.
He uses the tip of his tongue to haughtily pry open Zhu Yunxuan’s firmly bitten lip, and dive straight in, stirring about in the lithe cavity of his mouth, unyieldingly entangling with him.
Liang Zhen could taste the bloodstained aroma between Zhu Yunxuan’s lip which aroused his suppressed sadism even more.
It’s already deep into the night, the final flame of the candle has already been extinguished within the large palace. Zhu Yunxuan’s legs lost all its strength and slumped down weakly. A bloody-like blossom is adorned on top of his snow-white body, with his silky hair largely covering over half of his features. He just lay there motionlessly on top of the desk, appearing as if lifeless.
Liang Zhen adjusted his own attire which he hasn’t taken off, and after seeing Zhu Yunxuan’s current appearance, his pupil shrank slightly.
Leaning forward once again, he spread apart the strands of his hair, then he picked him up, settling him on the lounge, and help him drape on his outer layer coat. Later, he finally grasps his hands slightly, and said slowly, “Your highness, request someone to bring along a set of spare clothing as well as preparation for a bath, then have an early rest ba.”
Zhu Yunxuan never once open his eyelid during the process, with the crimson rim of his eyes complete dampen.
The gate of palace is once again opened and closed, bring along a wave of chilling breeze. As the sound of footsteps gradually faded away, Zhu Yunxuan slide down onto the floor, settling the palm of his hand on the fragmented paperweight, causing large gushes of blood to ooze out. Yet he seems to be unaware of it, and just lay there in a absent minded manner.
The palace gate is once again opened in a small gap, then the hunched back eunuch Gao-An enter tremblingly. After witnessing Zhu Yunxuan’s disorderly clothes piled up on the floor without a care, and his palms which is still bleeding. He knelt down all the sudden and supported him up. With a whimpering tone he cries out: “Your highness……”
Zhu Yunxuan open his eyelids slowly, there’s only a void of indescribable hostility displayed within his crimson red eyes. After witnessing his personal eunuch who is endlessly weeping at a loss before him, he raised his bloodstained hands and forcefully grasp the other party’s neck.
“Your, your highness……”
“If you dare to say anything about the matter regarding today,” Zhu Yunxuan gritted his teeth and paused between each word, “I held the most hostility towards subordinates who back stab their master, you better remember it clearly for me.”
“This servant dares not……cough, this servant truly…… won’t dare…… cough……”
Back in the days, both Zhu Yunxuan’s blood related elder brother Zhu Yunjing the abolished prince was betrayed by an internal official and was sentenced to death in prison. Everyone within Qixiang palace knows that this matter is Zhu Yunxuan’s deepest taboo.
After a long moment has pasted did Zhu Yunxuan closed his eye and finally loosen his grasp.
Gao-An wipe away his tears and got up to help Zhu Yunxuan settle down within the inner palace, then he request someone to fetch some hot water in. Without asking others to handle his own affairs, he carries backet of water into the inner palace himself, pouring it into the bathtub and wait upon Zhu Yunxuan to have a bath.
Seeing irregular patches of bite marks on Zhu Yunxuan’s body, Gao-An whimpered once again: “Your highness, you are the prince of emperor’s first wife after all4, why must you bother as such……”
: 嫡 means the legal wife or the son of the first wife
Zhu Yunxuan closed his eyes while leaning against the bathtub, with a frown is display on his eye-browns.
Why must bother as such, why must bother as such…… He knew from very beginning that his exchange with Liang Zhen will be equivalent to requesting a tiger for its pelt5, yet he had no other choice. Since he has already embark upon this path, he can only continue forward, cause there’s no turning back anymore
: A common idiom used to describe someone who is requesting another to do something out of their own interest/willingness