His highness's Allure - Chap 83
In the main hall of the Prime Minister’s Manor, the grand wedding ceremony was about to reach its highly anticipated climax; the customary wedding bows.
The old scholar overseeing the ceremony announced that everyone should stay put and wait for a bit: when the auspicious time came, they would begin the bows.
Everyone returned to their seats to wait, drinking and chatting cheerfully in groups of twos and threes.
Pei Zheng waited until the crowd dispersed, the corners of his mouth still carrying a cold smile. He was still holding that strip of red silk as he took Qi Bingzhi behind a screen in the inner room.
The busybodies in the hall who saw this little act merely laughed silently.
Just as they walked into the room, Pei Zheng tore off the red sash that was wrapped around his body, and stomped on it viciously. Then, he grabbed the veil on Qi Bingzhi’s head and threw it to the ground, before squeezing her neck with his cold fingers.
“Were you the one who begged His Majesty to make me let the Third Princess go?”
Qi Bingzhi trembled in fear, and answered in a weak voice, “Yes…”
Pei Zheng saw her darting gaze, and narrowed his eyes, “No need to construe it as a gesture of your deep, sisterly bond. This minister knows that the Second Princess is quite intelligent.”
Qi Yirou’s eyes immediately reddened, “My Lord, I-I don’t understand what you’re saying…”
Pei Zheng clenched his fingers slightly, and he stared coldly at Qi Bingzhi without saying a word.
At this moment, without announcing his arrival, Cheng Feng suddenly flashed inside with an anxious expression on his face.
“Master, something terrible has happened…”
Pei Zheng let go of Qi Bingzhi. She gave him a long look, before lifting her sleeve to wipe the corners of her eyes. Then, she silently picked up the red veil, turned around, and walked out.
Cheng Feng said, “Master, just now, the patrolling soldiers found the Third Princess injured and unconscious in the garden. Li Yu was the only one there. He was also injured, but he refused to say anything about what happened.”
Pei Zheng’s expression changed.
Cheng Feng continued, “This subordinate immediately sent someone to check inside the little pavilion, but His Highness wasn’t there.”
Pei Zheng’s gaze suddenly became gloomy. He turned around and walked out of the main hall, ignoring the guests’ astonished gazes, walking briskly to the back garden.
He had been feeling uneasy the entire evening, which was why he had gone to the little pavilion before performing the ceremony. Only when he held the small man against his chest did the unrest in his heart subside.
Upon entering, the lanterns filling the garden were still glowing, but the little pavilion was dark.
In the past, as long as he had wished to see the prince, that small man would always be waiting for him, day and night, throughout the four seasons, after many, many moons. In the blink of an eye, five years had already passed.
Five years. Almost two thousand days and nights.
Pei Zheng’s heart suddenly jumped, and a nameless agitation gushed into his heart. Something about tonight was different from every other night in the past. He had an extremely bad feeling about this.
His breaths became unsteady, and he called for Cheng Feng.
“Send someone to search for him, right now, immediately!”
Cheng Feng reminded him, “Master, then what about the people in the hall… Today is your wedding day, after all…”
Pei Zheng’s eyes were terrifyingly cold. The fingers under his sleeve clenched tightly, and the veins on the back of his hands bulged.
Cheng Feng immediately shut up, affirmed the order, and left quickly.
Pei Zheng stood alone under the red light of the back garden, facing the dark emptiness.
Wind blew viciously over the cliff, and the hazy moonlight was covered by dark clouds. The sky wasn’t clear; it looked like the weather was going to change soon.
Qi Changyi was freezing cold; his fingers were already numb. His cloak had also been torn by the stones on the ground.
He shifted his body with difficulty. His knee was hurting a little. He lowered his head to examine it, and found that the fall had dislocated his kneecap, but because his legs were so frozen, he didn’t feel much pain.
It may have also been because there were other places that hurt so much more.
Qi Changyi supported himself and slowly stood up, not daring to place too much pressure on his legs, and limped to the edge of the cliff.
The cold wind roared upward from the bottom of the cliff, blowing his ink-black hair all over the place.
Qi Changyi touched the corners of his eyes; they were a little wet. It was probably because of the wind; by this point, he really didn’t know how to cry anymore. He had shed so many tears up now, so they were all gone.
The last time he had come to this cliff, the wind hadn’t been this cold. Pei-gege had accompanied him, and had insisted he stand far away from the edge of the cliff.
What did they talk about?
He couldn’t remember clearly anymore. It had already been so long since the last time they had a proper conversation.
And now, he… was probably performing the wedding rites now.
They were a fated couple, a match made in heaven.
What about him? What did he mean to Pei Zheng?
Perhaps he meant nothing to him at all. Pei-gege had never cared about him, no?
He didn’t care about his feelings, he didn’t care about the things he liked, and now, he probably didn’t even care if he had Changyi by his side or not.
He was married now. Someone could call him her legitimate husband. His political career would be smooth sailing, and he could have all the power he wanted.
And then, he would be surrounded by children and grandchildren, his achievements recognized and celebrated by all.
But Qi Changyi? He had nothing. He had no support, and was surrounded by emptiness.
Qi Changyi slowly sat down, his calves dangling over the edge of the cliff. He wasn’t scared at all. He merely sat still, gazing up at the night sky. It was a pity that tonight, he couldn’t even see the stars.
He rubbed his eyes, but he still couldn’t see them. He stretched upward, as if he was trying to touch the hazy, faded moon, but it was too far out of reach.
His vision seemed to be getting a little blurry. How could it be that the joyous, bright, red hue was still lingering in his eyes?
Qi Changyi actually stretched out his hand and waved it in front of his eyes a few times, which exhausted him to the point that he was out of breath, and a thin layer of sweat appeared on his forehead. His clothes had also loosened a bit, causing the cold wind to squeeze past his robes and pour inside.
It seemed that he couldn’t even feel the cold anymore. His body had already been frozen to the bone. He suddenly felt the urge to cough. A bloody taste surged up into his throat, but Qi Changyi clutched his chest, and desperately suppressed it.
He had a feeling that this body of his wouldn’t last through the night.
Qi Changyi shouted.
Only in the lonely wilderness of the cliff did he dare to shout the deepest, truest thoughts in his mind.
How long had he been trapped in that little pavilion? His only consistent company was that bitter medicinal soup. Every day was so dull and boring, he wanted to leave that place, he wanted to escape.
But no one could untie the knot of attachment in his heart. He didn’t have the strength to resist Pei Zheng, and the days and nights accumulated and piled up…
You told me before, to always believe in you, stay by your side, and never leave you…
I did all of that, but this time, you’re the one who left me first. You were the one who chose someone else and became someone else’s husband. I’m nothing to you, so I’ll leave on my own.
This is the only time I didn’t listen to you, I didn’t obediently wait for you to come back…
If I left and didn’t bother you anymore, would you be happy…
I still remember the first time we met, amidst the white snow and red plums. It was such a beautiful scene, but it’s a shame that I’ll never be able to see such heavy snowfall again.
The snow has yet to fall this year, I don’t know if it’ll be heavier.
I also don’t know… if I’ll even have a chance to see it again…
For what happened with my mother, I blamed you, and I hated you, but, but…
I love you. It hurts so much.
My mother said that you shouldn’t hate others easily, because hate only makes people suffer. But why does love make me suffer just as much?
It hurts so much that I’m about to die…
It hurts so much that I want to die…
The small figure at the edge of the cliff curled up, and buried his head in his arms, looking terribly desolate and lonely. His breathing was so shallow; it seemed as though it could be scattered by the cold wind as it blew past.
He didn’t know how long he had been sitting; the night sky was getting darker and darker.
Qi Changyi shifted his body that had been frozen stiff, clutching his flame-red cloak tighter around himself.
There was an abrupt flash of firelight at the base of the mountain. At first, there were only a few scattered dots, but more and more began to appear, and the pinpricks of light began to rush up the mountain at an urgent pace.
Qi Changyi saw the torches that were fast approaching, and couldn’t help but get nervous. He tried in vain to stand up, but his legs wouldn’t obey him; it was a strange, unfamiliar feeling.
The thundering of hooves sounded from the forest behind him; it felt as though a set of shackles was gradually being wrapped around him, as they stormed toward the edge of the cliff.
A lone horse charged out of the forest first. Pei Zheng, who was mounted upon it, was still dressed in bright red robes; he hadn’t been able to change out of them yet.
Upon seeing the little prince sitting at the edge of the cliff, he turned his body and jumped off the horse.
The soldiers behind him had also caught up, the glow of their torches illuminating the cliff.
The crowd of guards didn’t dare to act rashly; they quietly surrounded the cliff, forming layers of people on all sides.
“Your Highness,” Pei Zheng took a step forward, “The wind is strong over there, come here.”
Qi Changyi heard Pei Zheng’s voice, and turned around. Upon seeing the red hue of his clothing, he was stunned, and shifted a little closer to the edge of the cliff.
“Don’t come over here…”
Pei Zheng stood in place, “All right, I won’t. Come over here, okay?”
Qi Changyi shook his head and stared forward.
“You should leave…”
Pei Zheng’s body stiffened, and his fingers clenched tightly, “What?”
Qi Changyi lowered his head, and found that his newly-healed nail had torn again at some point, but the blood had already coagulated.
“You should leave, I… don’t want to go back with you, I don’t want to go back with you again…”
Pei Zheng didn’t move. Firelight was reflected in his eyes, which were gloomy and even darker than the night surrounding them. He stared closely at the small figure shivering in the wind and suppressed the urge to charge over and pull him back.
Qi Changyi clenched his little fist, and that broken nail dug into his tender palm. A small stream of blood flowed out again; the warmth helped the small man regain some feeling in his hand.
Behind him was a pitch-dark, bottomless abyss, and in front of him was an impenetrable wall of torches that extended to every corner.
Qi Changyi’s flame-red cloak made a soft flapping sound in the wind as it spread and fluttered. Strands of his ink-black hair also parted loosely. His collar shifted, exposing part of his collarbone, and the vibrant scarlet petals of that enchanting red lotus.
That small man who was standing in the wind was just like a flame-red lotus blooming in the frozen winter.
But although this red lotus looked vivacious and captivating on the outside, inside, he was ruined, filled with nothing but ashes.
“Pei-gege, I wanted to tell you that… during those days of the past… I was very happy. Sometimes, you were mean to me, but I was still very happy… To be able to meet you was all thanks to my good fortune, but it looks like… I’ve used it all up…”
Qi Changyi’s body was slowly shifting further back. He recalled a certain moment of the past, and his eyes were full of pain.
“‘Changyi’… means ‘eternal memory’. If your love for me wears away to nothing, fill the hole in your heart with hate. No matter what, whether there is love or hate, you must… always remember me.”
Half of Qi Changyi’s foot was already hanging in the air, “Pei-gege, it’s really hard to hate someone, but it’s even harder to love them… I’m really stupid. I can’t hate or love properly… so, I don’t want to do any of it anymore…”
He sighed softly, before suddenly forcing a smile onto the corners of his mouth, “If there’s a next life, I must get smarter. We must also… never end up like this again…”
A sudden, chilly sensation touched his face. Qi Changyi wiped it with his hand, and there were traces of water on his skin.
A few more dots of coldness fell onto his hands, one by one, becoming denser and thicker.
Qi Changyi lifted his head. Transparent, crystalline pieces of white were falling, blowing in the wind, and dancing across the sky. They were like silver butterflies chasing and frolicking: an indescribably beautiful sight.
It was snowing.
After such a long period of cold, fruitless weather, the first snow finally fell tonight.
Qi Changyi’s withered, ashen eyes flickered, and he reached out to catch a few snowflakes in his hand. His palm was too cold, so it took quite a while for them to melt, forming little puddles of clear water.
The crowd of soldiers holding torches couldn’t help but be distracted, lifting their heads to look at the bits of white that fell from the sky. The more they fell, the more they accumulated, and the snowflakes were soon piled up around their feet.
Pei Zheng’s gaze had been fixed on the small man the entire time. Seeing the prince’s frail body hanging on by a thread as he stood at the edge of the cliff, it felt as though his own heart had been torn out and placed there beside him. There were so many words stuck in his throat, but he somehow couldn’t speak anymore, his chest heavy with pain.
Come back with me, I have so many things I want to say to you. I thought that it wouldn’t be too late to say these things later. I thought that the right time to say them hadn’t arrived yet.
But there wouldn’t be a ‘later’, nor would there be a ‘right time’.
Your Highness, please come here, come back with me, okay?
Suddenly, the person on the edge of the cliff locked eyes with Pei Zheng. His lips moved slightly, forming a few soundless words. Then, he closed his eyes, and his limp body collapsed over the edge.
Pei Zheng rushed to the edge of the cliff at almost the same moment. He stretched his hand into the abyss and scooped blindly in the darkness. He had wanted to grab a soft, warm little body, but all he caught was a torn cloak fluttering in the wind.
Before the guards holding torches had time to react, they saw two figures tumble off the edge of the cliff, one after the other.
Cheng Feng paled with fright, immediately rushing to the edge of the cliff, and shouted until his throat tore, “Master!”
But it was pitch black beneath the steep cliff. Besides the lingering, whistling wind, nothing else could be heard or seen.
“Get down there and search!”
The guards all quickly moved back into the forest in formation, heading down the mountain as fast as they could.
The thick snow was illuminated by the hazy, gray moonlight.
They searched at the foot of the mountain all night, but came up empty-handed.
It wasn’t until dawn that someone discovered Pei Zheng’s jade token at the side of a stream, and quickly reported it to Cheng Feng.
The bodyguard immediately led a group of guards up the stream to continue searching, and came across a large pool.
The weather had gotten this cold, but the water in the pool hadn’t frozen yet. But Pei Zheng was lying at the bank of the pool, covered in blood.
Cheng Feng went over to check if he was still breathing; he was, but his breaths were extremely weak. It looked like he had fallen unconscious due to his serious injuries, so Cheng Feng immediately had someone take Pei Zheng back, while he stayed behind to continue looking for the prince.
He knew that if his master had been awake, he would have ordered him to continue searching.
After Pei Zheng was sent away, the group of guards circled the pool many times, but they still hadn’t found any signs of the prince.
They didn’t even find a trace of anyone else’s blood.
Could it be that His Highness had fallen somewhere else?
They searched for another day, but there was just too much ground to cover at the foot of the mountain. At this rate, it was uncertain how long it would take to search the entire area.
Cheng Feng returned to the Prime Minister’s Manor; the officials who had come to attend the wedding had long since been sent away.
With Pei Zheng’s token in hand, he made the decision to mobilize the imperial guards, and along with the guards of the manor, they would be able to search the mountain much faster.
When he arrived at the Imperial Hospital, Jiang Yubai had just finished taking the Emperor’s pulse. He hadn’t even set down his medicine case yet, when he was suddenly lugged away by Cheng Feng.
Upon arriving at the Prime Minister’s Manor, Jiang Yubai still didn’t have a clue what had happened. He only saw Pei Zheng lying motionless on the bed, his breathing faint and uncertain; he looked to be on the verge of death.
He immediately understood how serious the situation was, and hurried over to check Pei Zheng’s pulse.
“His pulse is weak, his body has been severely injured. His internal energy is extremely disordered. His five viscera have been displaced, and the internal bleeding is quite serious…”
He took out his silver needle and had Cheng Feng take off Pei Zheng’s clothes so it would be easier to insert the needle.
That red robe had already been shredded to pieces by countless willow branches, and strips of fabric had mixed with the blood and flesh on his wounds. Because of the cold weather, the blood had already coagulated and dried.
“Hurry up and take it off!”
Cheng Feng hurriedly stripped the torn robe away by force. The flesh and cloth matted in the wounds immediately tore apart. Blood gushed out and soaked the mattress beneath Pei Zheng.
But those wounds were hardly the main concern; the biggest issue was with his displaced internal organs.
Jiang Yubai quickly pricked with the needle, and the weak, illusory breathing of the person on the bed became momentarily stabilized.
“Heat the furnace up more. He caught a chill. If we don’t warm him up, he’ll be frozen to the bone.”
Jiang Yubai quickly wrote out a prescription, and ordered someone to gather the herbs and prepare the medicine. He continued to monitor the condition of the person on the bed.
At this time, a guard in black hurried in from outside, covered in fluffy, white snowflakes.
“Reporting to the Chief, we’ve exhausted all our efforts and have searched the area thrice, but there was still no sign of the prince. If the mountain is covered in snow, the tracks will all be erased, and it will be even more difficult to search…”
The hand Jiang Yubai was using to prick with the needle suddenly froze.
Cheng Feng strode over and grabbed the guard’s collar, “What do you mean?!”
That guard’s voice was extremely quiet, “This subordinate means, this matter is really too odd. The prince, it seems as though he’s disappeared into thin air, and somehow can’t be found no matter what we do…”
“Continue to search! Find him, dead or alive! If Master wakes up and you still haven’t found him, all of you will be buried together!”
The guard answered “yes, sir” in a flustered manner, hurriedly pushed open the door, and rushed out into the heavy snow.
Cheng Feng turned around and saw Jiang Yubai standing right in front of him.
“What did he just say? The prince… disappeared?” Jiang Yubai’s eyes were pinned on Cheng Feng, “What the hell is going on?! How did Pei Zheng get so badly injured?! Where has His Highness gone?!”
Cheng Feng lowered his eyes, “I’ll tell you once Master wakes up.”
Jiang Yubai glared at him with indignance, clenched his fists tightly, and tried hard to clear his mind and regain his sanity.
Pei Zheng’s circumstances were quite terrible at the moment. Now was not the time to let his emotions get the better of him; he should be focused on treating his patient.
“I have to go back to the Imperial Hospital.”
Upon hearing this, Cheng Feng gripped his wrist and held him back, “You can’t.”
Jiang Yubai was so enraged that he roared loudly, “What do you mean ‘I can’t?! I’m going back to get medicine so I can save your master! Do you want to watch him die instead?!”
Cheng Feng was stunned. He slowly let go, and moved aside, without saying a word.
Jiang Yubai simply shoved open the door and walked out. A gust of wind blew inside, leaving snowflakes that swirled behind in his wake.
After retrieving a life-saving pill, he fed it to Pei Zheng.
Jiang Yubai was only doing his duty as a doctor: curing illnesses and saving lives. He didn’t spare Cheng Feng a single glance.
Earlier, The Emperor had sent someone to inquire about Pei Zheng’s condition. He knew that Pei Zheng had fallen off the cliff while trying to save the prince. He didn’t admonish or blame him for anything, merely sending a few precious medicinal herbs.
After the chief eunuch returned to the palace, he reported to the Emperor that the prince’s whereabouts were still unknown.
The esteemed, supreme1 Emperor’s eyes suddenly reddened. He stood at the window and gazed at the heavy snow outside.
After a long while, he raised his hand to wipe the corners of his eyes, and the chief eunuch behind him immediately presented him with a golden silk handkerchief.
“Your Majesty, please don’t be too sad, you must take care of your body…”
“Tell me, do you think I went too far?” The Emperor didn’t take the handkerchief.
“He’s my son, but I can’t treat him well. Only by neglecting him, ignoring him, or even being cruel to him… Can I keep him safe… I’m… not a good father… I can’t face Ning-er…”
The chief eunuch consoled him, “Your Majesty, you are not to blame for this. When that matter concerning Noble Consort Ning first surfaced, the Fourth Prince was smart, and knew to distance himself from the situation. But the court officials all asked for the Ninth Prince to be executed along with the Noble Consort. If you hadn’t exerted your efforts to stop them, the Ninth Prince would have… ai…”
The Emperor walked out of the palace gate by himself, “I know that he and Pei Zheng… But the world will never accept something so unorthodox. I entrusted him to Pei Zheng because I thought he would be happier living outside the palace. Yet thanks to the unrest within the court, I had no choice but to issue those orders…”
The Emperor reached out to catch a snowflake, and the corners of his eyes became wet again, “That child… must have been heartbroken from the very beginning…”
Everyone thought that there wouldn’t be any snow this year. No one expected it to be this heavy; it wouldn’t stop falling for several days.
Everything was covered in a layer of pure white that seemingly stretched as far as the eye could see, and beyond.
The plum garden in the Prime Minister’s Manor’s manor was a sea of fiery red. The blossoms bloomed with a charming scarlet as white flakes fluttered downward. There were also a few worn, tattered lanterns hanging in the garden, all of which had been blown to pieces by the freezing wind, yet no one had taken them off the trees yet.
Pei Zheng was in a coma for five days.
He was in and out of consciousness. His eyes were so heavy that he couldn’t open them. Every part of his body seemed to be chained up; he couldn’t move at all.
He could only remain trapped in a deep, chaotic darkness, sinking and struggling, unable to see even a shred of light.
He was holding a soft, warm little ball. It was so bright and beautiful, and it had planted the strangest feelings inside him; just what was it?
But it also felt like he had nothing at all.
No, before closing his eyes, as they were falling through the air, he had clearly hugged him. The small man’s entire body was ice-cold, and had been tightly gathered into his arms and held tightly.
How could he have lost him…
Just how much despair did it take to render him too tired to even live? He couldn’t see another path in front of him, and he couldn’t turn back, only then was he forced into that cliff’s deep chasm.
That warm, flame-red little ball of light once crashed into his cold, hard heart and cracked it. But suddenly, that light had vanished, leaving him alone in an endless field of darkness.
Don’t think about it.
Don’t think about it.
Don’t think about that!
Don’t even think about leaving!
The man on the bed suddenly opened his eyes, which were veiled in blood red.
Man. That was a long one. There are going to be long ones for the rest of this week, and into the next!
Thank you all for reading~
1.九五至尊 ( jiǔ wǔ zhì zūn): This a title for the Emperor: The 九 and the 五 are nine and five, and together symbolize the Emperor’s authority. 至 is ‘very’ and 尊 is ‘respect’, so you get the picture