The rainfall has yet to cease, and the interior of the study gradually grew dimmer, as the flare on top of the candlestick became particularly sparse and bleak.
Zhu Yunxuan’s state of mind was not at ease as if he was currently sitting on pins and needles: “When has this solidary one ever treated Lord Zhao so harshly that you couldn’t bear to even light up two more candles for me?”
Liang Zhen chuckled softly: “I’ve grown accustomed to such a dark room ever since I was a kid, and have forgotten that your majesty is present. The neglectfulness is mine.”
After all the lights in the entire room had been illuminated, Liang Zhen’s beamful gaze evidently turned warmer behind the flickering candles, which caused Zhu Yunxuan to become even more baffled: “……What’s your indication behind saying that you’ve already grown accustomed to such a dark room ever since you were a kid?”
Liang Zhen shook his head softly: “That mother of mine has a malicious heart that is comparable to snakes and scorpions. At the age of two to three, she would often lock me up in an unlit room all by myself for at least an hour, so I am already used to it afterwards.”
Zhu Yunxuan frowned upon hearing this: “She is your mother afterall, why does she have to act this way?”
Liang Zhen offhandedly fiddled with a chess piece: “She naturally wouldn’t be distressed over somebody that’s not biologically her own.”
Zhu Yunxuan’s heart sank. For the first time ever, Liang Zhen has openly admitted to him that he actually isn’t Mademe AnLe’s offspring: “…… you aren’t their biological son?”
Liang Zhen looked up at him, and smiled suggestively: “Aren’t you already aware of it, your majesty? Aside from Mademe AnLe who isn’t my biological mother, AnLe Hou isn’t my biological father either.”
Zhu Yunxuan clenched his fist with great force.
Being aware of it is one thing, but personally hearing Liang Zhen admitting it is another. If he can hide the fact that he’s deceiving himself with his own lies, and is genuinely someone with royal blood, then the fraternal adultery act they committed in the past is the actually humiliation in which Zhu Yunxuan’s unwilling to face the most.
Liang Zhen didn’t seem to be a least bit flustered at all, and he still has that pair of cheekily grin on his face: “Your majesty, why don’t you inquire further about matters related to my past?”
Zhu Yunxuan nonchalantly spoke up: “What’s there to even ask about?”
“If I reveal even more to you, then perhaps I can at least receive your majesty’s concern.”
Zhu Yunxuan was almost enraged into smirking: “Why would I be concerned about you?”
“Your majesty has such an amiable nature, so you will of course be concerned about me even if you feel a little sorry on my behalf.”
Liang Zhen continued speaking to himself: “It was rare for me to have a full meal when I was young. My mother always thought that kids will easily suffer from indigestion if they consume too much food, so I am only allowed to have a single taste at each dish. These dishes cause my mouth to water everytime I look at it, yet I am not permitted to touch them, so that’s rather unfortunate for me. But now that I have my own estate, I am naturally able to discover renowned chefs everywhere that can satisfy my appetite.”
“The foster-nurses and attendants who served me understood my mother’s intentions, and utilized all kinds of methods to deal with me. Before the age of ten, there were all sorts of scars on my body that were not visible to outsiders from my foster nurses. Even if I inform my father about it, they will only say that it’s an accident caused by my carelessness, and later on, they will torment me even further.”
“When I didn’t finish my assignments, my mother would force me to copy the scripture by hand repeatedly under the pretext of teaching. I am not allowed to stop even if my hands are shaking to the extent where I cannot hold my pen up properly, or else I am not permitted to rest until I finish. She likewise assumed that I was stubborn to the point of not willing to make progress, and would whip my palm with a ruler till my flesh has torn open, so as to make sure that I am conscious of my ‘wrongdoings’.”
Liang Zhen carried sarcasm in his words.
Despite trying to receive sympathy, not a slight trace of resentment can be heard at all as if he is currently talking about matters that are irrelevant to him. While listening, Zhu Yunxuan also felt an explicit discomfort in his heart. It was perhaps a feeling of mutual struggle, since his childhood isn’t any better off either. But the imperial servants daren’t to offend him no matter how excess he is, and what’s more, he also had an elder brother who would keep him safe.
“…… Why would they have the guts to treat you as such while being fully aware of your identity?”
The corner of Liang Zhen’s lip faintly twitched: “Identity? I am merely an illegitimate child that is not cherished by my own family and was secretly given birth by a bastard, and it’s unclear as to whether or not he still acknowledges his origins. There’s still a trace of lingering fear in AnLe Hou, but as for that mentally unsound woman, she firmly believes that it was me who caused her son’s premature death and seized his royal status, so she naturally wishes to retaliate.”
Zhu Yunxuan was momentary speechless, and Liang Zhen let out another laugh: “Right after I turned ten, that mother of mine filled my bedroom with seven to eight alluring young maidens in order educate me on sexual affairs, but how could I not be aware that she has the intention of rendering my body invalidated at an young age? These young maidens were also her eyes and ears, so I would naturally not set my fingers on them. But later on, a rumor of me possessing an unmentionable infection started to circulate around the estate, and this rumor soon spread so far to the point where even the emperor had heard of it.”
Zhu Yunxuan’s face went stiff, because no one knows better than him as to whether or not Liang Zhen has any unmentionable infections in that area. But it’s still rather absurd…… how he could have such guts to offhandedly state this aloud.
Liang Zhen continued in an unperturbed manner: “The former emperor was unsettled about this and had originally intended to request an imperial physician to give me treatment, but I turned him down. Even up to this day, there are still private discussions regarding this matter of mine, so I am afraid that I’ll have to trouble your majesty to clear up my name, because I am pretty sure that you know fairly well as to whether there’s something wrong with me or not……”
Zhu Yunxuan fiercely interrupted him: “Lord Zhao, aren’t you not afraid that your reputation will be tarnished if you were being heard speaking such absurdity?!”
The smile on the corner of Liang Zhen’s lip intensified: “There’s only me and you here, could it be that you will speak about this matter to outsiders?”
Zhu Yunxuan simply stopped speaking, and after Liang Zhen had his laugh, he become solemn at last as his gaze darkens: “Therefore your majesty, even though the Liang clan wanted my assistance in allowing their daughter to take up the position of Empress Dowager by ascending the ninth prince to the throne, and so they can later on soar towards a better future after becoming excess family of the emperor. But why would I fulfill their wish with the way they are treating me?”
Zhu Yunxuan was slightly bewildered, and chuckled to himself a moment later: “If we put it that way, then I should be thankful to your fortunate presence since it is me who has picked up a great bargain.”
“There’s no need for your majesty to overthink it. This position is already yours, and no one will be allowed to offer their opinion on anything.”
The sudden downpour came to a cease in the afternoon and light from the sky appeared once again.
Zhu Yunxuan placed down the chess piece in his hand, and after glancing out the window, he softly sighed: “The weather has cleared up, let’s return to the palace.”
Liang Zhen curved his lip slightly and requested someone to prepare for carriage before sending him out of the estate: “I’ll keep your majesty company for the returning trip to the palace.”
Zhu Yunxuan did not refuse and simply embarked onto the carriage, because after all, he couldn’t prevent Liang Zhen no matter what.
Liang Zhen mounted the horse and turned back to take a glance at the carriage behind him. The smile in his eyes deepened as he gave out the order to depart.
After returning to the palace, the two sat down, and while Feng Sheng politely offered them tea, Liang Zhen smiled upon witnessing this: “Since when does Eunuch Feng have to personally handle such tasks?”
Feng Shen flatteringly said: “It is an honor for me to serve your majesty and the lord.”
He remained on the sidelines and refused to leave, as if he was prepared to provide them service at any given moment. Zhu Yunxuan’s complexion chilled and gave him the cold shoulder, while Liang Zhen narrowed his eyes and suddenly asked Zhu Yunxuan: “I was told that your majesty has departed from the city this morning to personally visit the grand mentor of the former crowned prince, was it because you are intending to compensate him?”
Before Zhu Yunxuan could say anything, Feng Sheng’s complexion turned pale as a hint of panic was visible within his eyes. He probably didn’t expect Liang Zhen would reveal the matters in which he had reported to him right in front of Zhu Yunxuan.
Yet Liang Zhen feigned ignorance and merely looked at Zhu Yunxuan with a smile, waiting for his response.
Zhu Yunxuan directed a glance at him as his gaze slowly darkened: “So what? The case of voodooism in the eastern palace has long been justified and my master is persecuted with groundless charges. He is a capable official, and considering that the imperial court is presently in need of hands, what’s wrong with me summoning him back?”
Liang Zhen smiled as he shook his head: “There’s no way that I can refuse your majesty if you are so insistent on accepting him. But is your majesty intending to have this elder Zeng Huai join the council of ministers?”
“Based on his qualifications, it is more than enough for him to enter the council of ministers. Apart from that, I am also intending to have him become the leading member of the council,” After a pause, Zhu Yunxuan spoke up with indifference: “But asides from this, I am actually more curious as to why Lord Zhao is aware of my whereabouts like the back of your hand? Just who has informed you about my temporary decision to depart from the palace this morning?”
Cold sweat slid down from Feng Sheng’s forehand, and even the muscles in his legs started trembling. Liang Zhen glanced at him and feigned surprise: “Eunuch Feng has especially sent someone out to pass the word onto me and I even assume that it was your majesty who allowed him to do as such.”
Zhu Yunxuan coldly swept a glance at Feng Sheng: “Since when did I instruct you to inform Lord Zhao of this matter?”
Feng Sheng’s knee shakingly fell onto the floor as Zhu Yunxuan inquired him with a deep voice: “Just who exactly has instructed you to do this? Or are you acting on your own initiative?”
“This servant is wrongly accused, this servant did not ah, this servant……”
Once Feng Sheng started speaking, all he did was complain, and so Zhu Yunxuan impatiently interrupted him: “Wrongfully accused? Am I the one who has misunderstood or is Lord Zhao the one?”
“This servant……this servant……” Feng Sheng fiercely raised his head and crawled in front of Liang Zhen on his knees : “Please save me Lord Zhao! This servant has been nothing but loyal to you, and I am doing this all for your sake!”
Zhu Yunxuan narrowed his eyes at Liang Zhen while waiting for his explanation.
Liang Zhen shoved away the person who was about to leap onto him and said with distaste: “Eunuch Feng, let’s just say that the one who you should be loyal to is your majesty, so why must you implicate this lord? Your motive is indeed quite execrable.”
Then he turned towards Zhu Yunxuan: “Your majesty is wise and should be aware that I have no connections with him whatsoever, so please don’t misunderstand me.”
“Really?” Zhu Yunxuan softly replied, “Does that mean he is cunning enough to sell you out together with him, Lord Zhao?”
Liang Zhen objected: “I daren’t answer your majesty, but no matter what Eunuch Feng is plotting, it has nothing to do with me.”
Feng Sheng shouted in panic: “Why must you treat me as such Lord Zhao! This servant has done a great deal for you on your behalf……”
“Drag him away.” Zhu Yunxuan coldly instructed.
Imperial guards have already entered with swords in their grip. After seeing that Liang Zhen remained completely indifferent to this, Feng Sheng became utter terror-stricken at last as he cried out incoherently: “Your majesty mustn’t treat this servant like this! This servant is the former emperor’s attendant! And he has entrusted me to pass on the imperial decree…… mmmmhhh……”
The latter portion of his sentence was forced back in. While Feng Sheng was still attempting to put up a fight, the imperial guards chopped off his arms, making his eyeballs bulge out. He couldn’t speak a single word this entire time because his mouth was muffled as he was later dragged away in this predicament.
Once the palace has quieted down, Liang Zhen casually smooths out the portion of his clothing which has been wrinkled by that eunuch, and lets out a soft laugh: “Are you satisfied now your majesty?”
Zhu Yunxuan hesitantly glanced towards him: “He is putting his life on the line for your sake yet you didn’t even bat an eyelid when agreeing with me to dispose of him. Aren’t you afraid that the hearts of your fellow trusted followers will falter because of this?”
Liang Zhen was unfazed as he spoke up: “Then so be it, he is the cause of your majesty’s displeasure after all, just blame it on him for having too much of a cunning mindset. Besides, his death is well deserved considering that he has totally no respect towards your majesty”
Zhu Yunxuan’s gaze slightly flickered as his words came to a pause.
Liang Zhen smiled and raised his teacup again without further commentating.