The Hall of Nurturing the Heart was the place where the Chu Emperor worked.
On the desk was a golden, intricately carved pipe, with wisps of smoke curling up from within. The emperor sat at the desk, holding a red brush and reading a memorial. He seemed to be angered by its contents and stabbed at it with the end of the brush.
Eunuch Shen carried a cup of tea on a tray and presented it to the emperor. The emperor picked it up, took a sip, and then put it back down, scowling. “Why is this so hot?” he demanded.
“Useless thing, you can’t even do this well,” he continued, picking up the cup and hurling it at Eunuch Shen.
The cup, along with the tea it contained, flew towards Eunuch Shen and smashed against his forehead before falling to the ground and shattering. A bruise immediately appeared on Eunuch Shen’s forehead, but he remained in the same position, showing no sign of flinching or moving.
The Chu Emperor sneered and was about to say something when a young eunuch hurriedly walked in. “Your Majesty, the Prime Minister has arrived.”
“Let him in,” the Emperor ordered. He noticed that Eunuch Shen was still standing there and gestured for him to leave. “You can step down now.”
“Yes, Your Majesty,” Eunuch Shen replied before leaving with the tray.
The Prime Minister, Wei Yunping, entered the hall and passed by Eunuch Shen on his way out. Wei Yunping lifted his eyes briefly and glanced at Eunuch Shen’s bruised forehead. His eyes flickered strangely, revealing a complex expression that was both mocking and sympathetic but above all, full of pity.
Eunuch Shen lowered his sleeves and clenched his fists tightly, gritting his teeth. However, his face remained composed with a slight nod and lowered gaze as he respectfully left the room.
As he was leaving, a sharp-eyed eunuch asked with concern, “What happened to your forehead, Chief Eunuch?”
“It’s nothing, just accidentally bumped into something,” replied Eunuch Shen, lightly touching the bruise on his forehead. Despite the pain, he didn’t seem to mind and added, “You can go back to your duties now.”
The eunuch obeyed and left, while Eunuch Shen turned his head to look at the plaque with the words “Hall of Nurturing the Heart” and then shifted his gaze to the tightly drawn door curtain. It seemed as if he had delved deep into his thoughts.
Remembering his encounter with Wei Yunping and Emperor Chu just now, Eunuch Shen’s eyes dimmed, his expression unclear. He curled his lips into a mocking smile.
In the afternoon, Emperor Chu went to Guangju Palace to have lunch with Shen Fengyue.
On the table were delicacies, and Emperor Chu sat in front of it. Shen Fengyue was allowed to sit with the emperor for lunch because of special favor.
“Yan Yan, try this chicken and bean soup porridge. There’s a new chef in the palace, and I think his cooking is pretty good,” Emperor Chu said as he picked up a spoon to serve the porridge. Eunuch Shen reminded him in a low voice, “Your Majesty.”
Emperor Chu’s hand did not stop, and he obediently filled a bowl full of porridge and placed it in front of Shen Fengyue.
Shen Fengyue took a spoonful and just moistened his lips, saying, “Sanlang’s choices are naturally good.”
Emperor Chu raised his eyebrows and his heart was delighted. “Since Yan Yan likes it, I will let him come to your small kitchen tomorrow and cook food for you in the future.”
There was a gleam of joy in Shen Fengyue’s eyes, which successfully caught the attention of the self-proclaimed understanding Emperor. He was even happier without knowing he was being fooled.
For some reason, the old Emperor has recently been obsessed with health preservation and insists on eating warm stomach-nourishing porridge every meal. For Shen Fengyue, it was tasteless and coupled with the hot weather, it felt like torture.
Shen Fengyue picked at the rice with his spoon like a little chicken pecking at grains, and whenever the Emperor glanced his way, he immediately put on a graceful posture.
Ancient people advocated “not speaking while eating and not speaking while sleeping,” so it was extremely quiet for a while.
As he ate his meal, Shen Fengyue looked around and noticed that Eunuch Shen seemed to have a bit of bruising on his forehead. As he was standing to the side, he couldn’t see it clearly, so he softly called out, “Eunuch Shen?”
Upon hearing the words, Eunuch Shen’s body moved slightly, and the wound on his forehead was fully revealed.
Emperor Chu stopped his movements upon hearing the words, and Shen Fengyue asked, “What happened to your forehead, Eunuch Shen?”
However, Eunuch Shen just bowed and performed a courtesy. “I was clumsy and accidentally bumped into something a few days ago. Thank you, Concubine, for your concern.”
“Eunuch Shen is usually such a wise person, I never thought he would have moments of absent-mindedness.” Shen Fengyue muttered a few words and didn’t say anything else.
Emperor Chu heard it with sharp ears and sarcastically said without raising his head, “Yan Yan, all these servants are stupid things, even if they get hurt, it’s their own fault. How can they be worthy of your concern?” Then he turned the conversation around, “Eunuch Shen, go and check if the ice bowl for the imperial concubine made in the small kitchen is ready. If it’s not, then hurry up and urge them.”
Eunuch Shen followed the order, left, and soon brought the ice bowl. Emperor Chu had to handle political affairs in the room, and Shen Fengyue didn’t want to stay in the room any longer to embroider with his needle, so he finished the ice bowl and made an excuse to go out to tour the Imperial Garden.
The Imperial Garden was full of beautiful flowers, as beautiful as a dream, but after seeing it so many times, it was no longer surprising. There was a swing in the peony flower area, which was said to be specially made for Emperor Chu, and not far away was a pavilion. Shen Fengyue decisively chose the place between the swing and the pavilion.
He was about to take a big step towards the pavilion when he saw three or two palace maids carrying flower baskets passing by, so he immediately changed his pace to light steps and walked gracefully towards the swing.
Under the gaze of a palace maid, he walked to the swing like walking on a red carpet.
Performing the whole act of a real favored concubine who cannot be seen lying lazily in the pavilion.
“The servant pays respects to the imperial concubine.”
Shen Fengyue slightly nodded in response and elegantly and slowly sat on the swing. He gathered his legs and gave a forceful push, causing the swing to sway back and forth.
The palace maids took out scissors from their baskets to trim the branches and leaves of the flowers and plants, feeling nervous and not daring to make a sound.
Both sides acted their parts well, with the palace maids pretending to be diligent and Shen Fengyue pretending to be graceful. After hurting each other for a while, they finally stopped, and the palace maids took back their scissors, bowed to Shen Fengyue, and left.
As his feet touched the ground, a sudden brake stopped the swing. Shen Fengyue suddenly felt dizzy, and the dizziness came inexplicably, followed by a familiar scent.
Using his brain to sense and sniff the scent, Shen Fengyue hesitated and said, “System?”
The system didn’t make a sound, but it smelled heavily of alcohol.
“Crack,” the sound of a bottle shattering on the ground came as the system opened another bottle and guzzled it down.
Every sound was amplified in Shen Fengyue’s mind, sounding crystal clear.
Shen Fengyue knew that the system was feeling bitter, and advised, “System, listen to my advice. A drop of alcohol for you means two tears for the host. Drinking a little can be refreshing, but drinking too much can harm your body.”
This time, the system finally responded, letting out a long and loud burp, “No! Hiccup~”
The system put down the bottle and patted its chest hard, saying, “Little Shen, you have wronged me.”
“Yes, yes, yes, it’s all my fault. I know you’re in pain, but you can’t drown your sorrows and hurt the data chain with alcohol.”
The system snorted coldly and said, “If I’m not happy, do you think I’ll let you be happy? Heh.”
Finally, it delivered a fatal blow: “Yan Yan San Lang is just the beginning!” After saying that, it disappeared without a trace, leaving only the sound of drinking.
Shen Fengyue’s breath stagnated, realizing that this damn artificial idiot was trying to harm him. So he made another move, and the swing swayed slowly.
As the swing rose high, the person on it held onto the ropes tightly and drew a beautiful arc in the air. A faint ray of sunlight shone in, and golden light fell on his face. Shen Fengyue closed his eyes and enjoyed this moment.
He cleared his throat, elongated his voice, and sighed, “This is the palace with three thousand beauties, among the three thousand only one is loved.”
The system’s eyes turned red at that moment, “Bah!”
Shen Fengyue smiled lightly, revealing the appearance of a peaceful and prosperous age, “A smile from her will bring forth a hundred charms, all the beauties in the palace are colorless in comparison.”
The system was so angry that it drank another bottle of alcohol, but couldn’t help choking out, “You swing so high, aren’t you afraid of falling!”
Perhaps the system’s curse was too effective, or maybe its mouth was too sharp, but as soon as it finished speaking, Shen Fengyue’s buttocks slipped and the swing immediately lost control, with him flying downwards.
Shen Fengyue smoothly slid down and landed in a steady horse stance, with the swing seat hitting his waist. Although it was a bit painful, he rubbed his waist and immediately resumed his noble and elegant demeanor. He looked around and breathed a sigh of relief confirming that no one was around.
He couldn’t help feeling embarrassed about the situation.
However, not far away, Eunuch Shen, who witnessed everything was left speechless.
He had been sent by Emperor Chu to find the Imperial Concubine who had been missing for a long time. When he entered the imperial garden, he overheard the Imperial Concubine’s brave words and was shocked. He didn’t know how to react for a moment and ended up hiding and peeking. As a result, he witnessed the whole scene of the Shen Fengyue landing steadily in a horse stance.
Eunuch Shen’s corner of mouth couldn’t help but crazily curl up, unable to suppress it. He coughed lightly and composed himself before going out.
“Imperial concubine, the Emperor hasn’t seen you return for a while, so he sent this servant to find you,” said Eunuch Shen as he approached Shen Fengyue.
Shen Fengyue turned his head at the sound and saw Eunuch Shen. He brushed his hair away from his face and lightly gestured, “I will return to the palace now.”
Eunuch Shen bowed and followed behind the imperial concubine with proper etiquette. As he watched her playfully flicking away the dust, a smile appeared at the corner of his lips.
The Lady is truly interesting.
That night, Emperor Chu had some important matters to attend to and didn’t spend time with Shen Fengyue. It was rare for Shen Fengyue to have some peace and quiet, so he was delighted, even his appetite improved.
After a while, a young eunuch carrying a food box entered the palace.
“Your majesty, there is a big, plump fish in the kitchen that the Emperor has instructed the chefs to prepare and send to you,” said the eunuch, opening the lid of the food box to reveal the fish.
The fish had been carefully cooked by the palace chefs and emitted a strong aroma, characteristic of well-prepared food. Even the attendant, Hong Mei, and Luo Xue nodded in approval upon seeing it.
However, Shen Fengyue furrowed his brow and made a clinking noise with his chopsticks in the bowl, saying, “Fish? I detest fish the most. Do not serve it to me again in the future.”
For some reason, Shen Fengyue had an intense aversion to fish, likely a lingering aftereffect from the previous world.
Hong Mei was taken aback by Shen Fengyue’s blunt remark and leaned in to whisper, “Your majesty, you misspoke. How can you refuse the fish that the Emperor has graciously sent you? If you really dislike it, just take a small bite to show your attitude.”
Shen Fengyue thought about it and decided to follow his maid’s advice. He relaxed his expression and looked down at the young eunuch, who was trembling with fear and anxiety. He gestured to let them leave, saying, “Forget it. You can go now. There’s no need for anyone to serve me here. Take this maid with you as well. Running errands is hard work, so here are some gold nuggets as a reward for your efforts.”
The young eunuch gratefully accepted the reward and followed Hong Mei, Luo Xue, and the other palace servants out of the room.
Although the fish was in front of him, Shen Fengyue still needed to make a show of eating it.
He pierced the fish’s belly with his chopsticks and selected the most tender and boneless part, which he buried in the other dishes on the plate. But when he lifted his gaze, he noticed something hidden inside the fish’s belly.
It was a small rolled-up piece of paper.
Shen Fengyue used his chopsticks to pick out the paper note, unfolded it, and saw only one line of small characters, succinctly written:
-Today, at midnight, outside the east wall, on the thirteenth brick, three calls of the cuckoo bird will be heard.
A kind of mysterious and exciting feeling swept over him, and he remembered his identity as a spy disguised as a woman in the palace.
So he secretly burned the paper note, rubbed his hands, and waited for midnight to arrive.
When it was almost midnight, Shen Fengyue wore a simple black dress with his hair loose, and went to the east wall on time, waiting silently.
Suddenly, a call from the cuckoo bird came from outside the wall.
Shen Fengyue crouched down and counted along the wall, one, two, three, four… thirteen. He tentatively called out, “Cuckoo?”
Outside the wall, there was no movement.
After three calls of the cuckoo, the thirteenth brick outside the eastern wall was loosened and pulled from the outside. A hand reached out from the hole, holding a piece of paper.
Shen Fengyue took the paper and the hand retreated back into the hole. The brick was pushed back in and tightly sealed, without any trace of being loosened.
Shen Fengyue unfolded the paper and read the content in a low voice, “Chaos in Yan Kingdom.”
“Imperial Concubine, what are you trying to stir up?” The flat and sharp voice rang out in the midnight, sounding like a vengeful ghost, eerie and chilling.
Shen Fengyue’s body couldn’t stop shaking, his hand almost unable to hold the paper while his hair was standing on end and goosebumps covered his entire body.
“Imperial Concubine?” The voice continued.
Trembling under his black skirt, Shen Fengyue reluctantly turned around and saw that it was indeed an old acquaintance, Eunuch Shen.
Eunuch Shen’s narrow eyes slightly lifted, and at this moment he smirked and stared straight at Shen Fengyue, like a fierce beast locking onto its weak prey, leaving no chance for escape.
Shen Fengyue remained silent as he looked at him.
Eunuch Shen arched his eyebrows, his demeanor arrogant.
Being caught by the pigtail, the Imperial Concubine Shen felt extremely anxious, his mind racing with the thought of “this is bad,” but he tried his best to maintain his composure on the surface, not letting the other party see his panicked inner self.
Eunuch Shen could tell that the imperial concubine was at her wit’s end and was just trying to hold on, so he tentatively stretched out a foot. As expected, he saw the other person’s face turn pale and her body tremble slightly. Seeing this, he chuckled lightly and retracted his foot.
Both sides remained silent, locked in a stalemate.
The stalemate was broken by the call of a cuckoo bird outside the wall. As soon as he heard the call, the expression on Eunuch Shen’s face turned black. Shen Fengyue saw him stride to the wall, stop at the thirteenth brick on the middle layer, tap it, and then angrily call out three cuckoo bird cries.
After three cries, similar to Shen Fengyue’s previous operation, the brick was pulled away, and a note was handed over. Eunuch Shen took the note, moved his hand away, and the brick was also placed in its position again.
History is strikingly similar.
After receiving the note, without even looking at it, Eunuch Shen held it in his hand and smiled at Shen Fengyue.
“Why is he looking at me?!” Shen Fengyue thought to himself, feeling nervous and uncomfortable under Eunuch Shen’s intense gaze.
Struggling to maintain his composure, Shen Fengyue cleared his throat and spoke first, trying to seize the initiative. “Eunuch Shen, now that we both have each other’s weaknesses, you have power, and I also have power. It seems like no one can do anything to the other.”
Eunuch Shen nodded in agreement.
“Very well, then I have a good suggestion,” said Imperial Concubine Shen.
“What is it, Your Majesty?” asked Eunuch Shen.
“I don’t know what your note says, but I have one question. Does it conflict with my mission?”, asked Shen Fengyue.
“There’s no conflict between this slave and the imperial concubine’s mission,” replied Eunuch Shen.
“In that case, why don’t we put aside our hostility and work together?” proposed Imperial Concubine Shen. “Fighting against each other is not productive. Let’s join forces.”
“Is Your Majesty sure about this?” asked Eunuch Shen, as he opened his hand to reveal the note. He read it slowly in front of Shen Fengyue, then crumpled the note and swallowed it, saying innocently, “You see, there’s no evidence now.”
Shen Fengyue, “……” He looked at the paper in his hand, lacking the courage to swallow it directly like the bold person on the opposite side.
Eunuch Shen seemed to like the expression of Concubine Yan’s frustration very much. After enjoying it enough, he spoke with a joyful mood, “The noble concubine is willing to put down her dignity and join hands with this humble servant. This servant is grateful and willing to do anything.”
Eunuch Shen continued, “The concubine is responsible for walking in the harem, and this servant is responsible for stirring up trouble in the court. We are a perfect match.”
“Now that we have decided to join forces, why not shake our hands as a formal ceremony to seal the alliance?” Eunuch Shen lifted his eyebrows and raised one hand, waiting for Shen Fengyue.
“…” Why does this eunuch have to meddle in everything!
Shen Fengyue walked over reluctantly and shook hands with him. After it ended, he asked, “How can this palace help you?”
Eunuch Shen naturally replied, “Isn’t the harem the women’s expertise?”
Shen Fengyue was choked by this sentence, feeling complicated and indescribable. It was torture to stay with this person for even one more second. He wanted to leave, “If there is nothing else, this palace will go back first. It’s cold at night, so please go back soon, be careful not to catch a cold.”
Eunuch Shen thanked him with a smile, “Thank you, Your Majesty, for your concern.”
Shen Fengyue walked away and forcibly awakened the system along the way.
“What’s the background of this Eunuch Shen?”
The system was drunk and in a daze, first laughing wildly and then slowly looking up information to answer Shen Fengyue’s question.
“Oh, this Eunuch… Eunuch Shen has quite a background.”
“Thirteen years ago, there was a scandal that shocked the entire country. The Shen family, who had been guarding the border for generations, was accused of colluding with the enemy state Yan and was reported by the current Prime Minister Wei Yunping. The Emperor of Chu was furious and ordered the beheading of all male adults in the Shen family, with the women becoming courtesans and the underage males being castrated.”
“After being castrated at the age of 15, Eunuch Shen was sent to the palace and climbed up step by step with his talent, eventually becoming the chief eunuch in front of the emperor and being highly regarded.”
After listening to a long string of palace secrets, Shen Fengyue couldn’t help muttering, “Such a big grudge and enmity, I understand, I understand.” He quickly walked back to Guangju Palace and went to bed with the covers on because he had been frightened tonight.
Meanwhile, when Eunuch Shen arrived at a particular location, he waved his hand and a black-clad shadow guard knelt in front of him.
“There’s been a change of plans, Imperial Concubine Yan cannot stay.”
The shadow guard asked, “When should we make a move?”
Eunuch Shen thought for a moment and pointed toward Guangju Palace, “At Autumn Hunt.”