Why is it so cold…
Qiu Yutong was tightly curled up. Using all his strength, he finally managed to dazedly open his eyes. The scene he saw was hazy, and his mind was muddled, like a completely messy paste, completely unable to understand what happened.
After a while, his hazy view gradually sharpened. Qiu Yutong stared at his surroundings, stunned, trying his best to kickstart his sluggish mind.
What is this place?
What happened to him?
Why is he… inside a cage?
The cage in front of his eyes was an extremely delicate sandalwood cage, designed like a birdcage. It wasn’t too big, allowing only a person to curl up, without being able to stand up straight. Surrounding the cage was a very thin layer of white cloth. The scenery past the cloth was a bit hazy, but could be barely made out; it was a small courtyard.
Right now, it was late at night and the courtyard was very quiet, with not a single soul around. The sky was very dark, with no moonlight nor stars. Two dim lanterns hung from the eaves, reflecting the bluestone flooring, deserted.
Why was he in a cage? What kind of place was this courtyard?
Qiu Yutong was at a loss.
He supported himself up, wanted to turn over, but his limbs were jelly, and he was unable to muster up the strength. Suddenly, he felt something and stumbled.
Qiu Yutong stiffly looked down, looking at his hands.
He was stunned.
The hands in front of him weren’t deformed or anything, they could even be said to be a pair of very pretty hands.
The backs of his hands were snow-white and the light blue-green of his veins could faintly be seen; his fingers were long and slender, with no calluses, like the most delicate scallions.
Qiu Yutong stared rigidly at these incomparably beautiful hands, his mind buzzing.
These weren’t his hands!
His hands should be the extremely typical hands of a person who trained in swords, long and strong, neat and steady, palms covered in thin sword callouses, which were the symbols of absolute strength.
But the hands in front of him were too fine and pretty, and also too weak.
Qiu Yutong was dazed for a moment, then suddenly remembered, quickly looking down and looking at his body.
“…” In an instant, he wanted to curse.
Like these hands, this body was also very pretty, with snow-white skin and long slender limbs, it was impossible to nitpick.
Instead, this pretty body was only wearing an extremely small piece of cloth. Or it could be said that it wasn’t wearing much from the start, only a palm-sized dark green embroidered brocade bound at the waist, barely covering the important bits. The rest of his body and limbs were on display.
No wonder it was so cold just now!
Besides the small piece of brocade, there were intricate and gorgeous circular golden chains around his ankles, wrists and neck. On each of these chains was a large emerald.
This full body decoration was naturally very expensive. But, but… this was too frivolous!
Exactly who was this person who decided to wear this kind of outfit?!
Suddenly, Qiu Yutong remembered something again. He took a deep breath and tried to circulate the spiritual energy in his dantian.
It was as expected. The dantian was deserted, like a dried up spring, there was nothing.
Where was his spiritual energy?
Where was his spiritual core?
Where, where was his innate sword body?
Qiu Yutong’s brain was a mess, without even a single thought. He barely managed to compose himself, forcing himself to calm down.
Calm down, I must calm down.
The fifth commandment of North Snow City, guard against frivolity and impatience.
Calm down, then calmly and carefully think, what exactly is going on?
Qiu Yutong frowned deeply, striving to remember what happened before.
Before he woke up… what was he doing?
That’s right, ascending.
On the day of the celebration for Lu Xiao’s enthronement, he ascended.
That day, he stood outside the throne room, beside the white marble railing, watching Lu Xiao wear the ebony imperial robe lined with dragon in clouds as he walked unhurriedly and ascended the throne.
In that instance, his Lingtai* acupoint was cleared and his mind achieved the state of
[T/N: Cultivators are required to cleanse their meridians to become stronger]
After a split second, there were faint rumbles of thunder across the horizon, oppressive and stifling.
Qiu Yutong inwardly knew, he had to leave.
He looked up at the tribulation clouds that densely covered the sky, his heart filled with mixed feelings, yet he couldn’t help but look back, glancing at the throne room.
Lu Xiao sat high up on the throne, unknowing of what was about to happen. He smiled at Qiu Yutong, his pitch-black eyes were shining.
Their gazes met for a moment and Qiu Yutong was momentarily distracted.
How long has he known Lu Xiao?
10 years and 2 months? Or 3 months?
10 years ago, in order to train his state of mind, taking Zhangmen Shixiong’s* advice, he left the tranquil and boring cultivation world and entered the chaotic secular world.
[T/N: Zhangmen is usually a title to mean the representative of the sect, usually the sect leader. Shixiong is the title meaning senior martial brother.]
On a snowy night, he was in a desolate area of the capital and saved a prince who was being hunted down, Lu Xiao.
He accepted Lu Xiao as a disciple, and in these 10 years, had spared no effort to educate him, helping him to sweep away any obstacles, stabilise the country and in the end, ascend the throne.
While Qiu Yutong, through the experiences of these ten years, finally, on Lu Xiao’s ascension ceremony, cultivated his mind fully and ascended.
Everything was perfect.
They were a master and disciple pair, both getting what they wanted most in life – the throne, and ascension.
This was the best outcome, the most satisfying ending.
Yes, just like that.
The tribulation clouds were getting thicker, the rumbling sound of thunder was getting closer, like it was urging him on.
Qiu Yutong forcefully suppressed an inexplicable sense of melancholy at the bottom of his heart and slightly nodded at the distant and high-up Lu Xiao within the palace, saying softly, “I’m leaving.”
The distance between the two of them was too large; Lu Xiao’s face had some doubts, like he wasn’t able to hear clearly.
Qiu Yutong apologised in his mind.
A full ten years of companionship, with this kind of goodbye; it was excessively negligent. But the tribulation clouds rumbled above him, becoming more and more pressing. He already didn’t have extra time to do a more solemn goodbye.
“Sila-” A bright purple ray of light tore through the dark sky.
Heavenly Law was urging.
Qiu Yutong gave Lu Xiao one last deep glance and didn’t hesitate anymore. He turned, slowly rising into the sky. His snow-white robes rustled under the strong winds.
He needed to leave the crowd, go a bit farther, to avoid the tribulation lightning hurting innocent mortals.
Layer after layer of tribulation clouds, separating and merging all around him, merging then separating… The scenery below couldn’t be seen anymore, thunder unceasingly rumbled above him, gigantic blue-purple lightning criss-crossed, like they were about to tear him apart.
Qiu Yutong stood firm, drew out the sword he always carried around with him, “Heavenly Water Jade”, and pointed it at the sky, “Come.”
“Hah, it’ll be Bailu* in a few days, why is it that the days are still so stuffy?”
[T/N: The day that is the end of the first and start of the second month of autumn.]
A sharp, intense voice, dragged Qiu Yutong’s wandering consciousness back.
He looked up, and only saw two eunuchs dressed in round-necked green robes muttering as they walked into the courtyard.
It was not very late at night and the cage had another layer of cloth hung over it. Even though the roof hung two dim lanterns, but Qiu Yutong still couldn’t make out the eunuchs’ features; he could only see that one was taller than the other.
He blinked, puzzled.
Didn’t he ascend?
Why were there eunuchs?
Was he still in Daning Palace?
The taller eunuch said, “The day was so stuffy, in my opinion, there will be a heavy rain tonight. Speaking of, it is unknown why, but my heart feels anxious, like something is about to happen… right, do you still remember, five years ago when His Majesty ascended the throne, that torrential downpour?”
“How can I not remember? The rain was so heavy, it caused a whole street of shops in the capital to flood… It’s the fifth year of Yuande and there hasn’t been such a heavy rain in the capital again,” the shorter eunuch exclaimed.
“I heard that when a cultivator ascends or descends, there will be an anomaly in nature, but it’s not confirmed,” the taller eunuch lowered his voice and said.
Qiu Yutong was even more puzzled after hearing their conversation.
What were they saying?
The fifth year of Yuande?
“Yuande” was the title of his reign that Lu Xiao personally chose. Since Lu Xiao just ascended the throne, it should obviously be the first year of Yuande.
The two eunuchs stood in the middle of the courtyard, whispering into each others’ ears.
“Hah, why are you anxious, being anxious is useless,” the shorter eunuch unhurriedly replied, “Zhang-gonggong* said already, that His Majesty is still doing the accounts and needs at least another two hours before we can go inside Jingxin Palace. There isn’t anything to do so let’s just wait in this courtyard.”
[T/N: gongong is a term added to the name of eunuchs when calling them or can be used to by itself to mean eunuchs as well.]
“Ai, it’s also unknown how long we have to wait…”
Qiu Yutong did his best to hear their conversation and finally managed to get some information.
Could it be… that he didn’t ascend, but came to the Daning palace of five years later?
But, what’s going on with this fragile mortal body and frivolous dressing? Why was he in a cage?
What identity did this body have?
Was he a prisoner of war? A barbarian slave?
Both don’t feel right.
Qiu Yutong’s head was full of messy thoughts that confused him further.
“Cough, excuse me…” He wanted to ask something, but this body had not drunk water in quite a while, so his throat felt like it was being cut by knives. He could only force out an indistinct sound.
The cage was at the corner of the courtyard and the two eunuchs did not hear his voice at all from the start. The taller eunuch sighed again, “Ai, it’s almost 9 pm. I heard that His Majesty only sleeps at most four hours every night… The body is not made of steel, the days are long, so how does he manage to eat up all the time?”
“The word is, even Head Eunuch Zhang-gonggong and Grand Secretariat Lord Chen were unable to advise His Majesty. What can anyone else do? His Majesty doesn’t have any beauties beside him, if not he could be coaxed a bit.” The shorter eunuch shook his head.
“A beauty?” The taller eunuch blinked before suddenly remembering, and glancing furtively at the cage in the corner. “Cough, today, didn’t Prince Jin send a beauty over?”
“Oh, you’re talking about Yong Master Xue Rong… I took a look just now and he seemed asleep. The shorter eunuch glanced at the cage, completely unconcerned. “This Yong Master Xue Rong, I think will either be rejected or directly sent to the Cold Palace. Think, over the years, was the number of beauties sent as tributes small? For these beauties, besides the above two outcomes, was there a third?”
“Be that as it may, but I feel that this Yong Master Xue Rong is not the same as those previous beauties,” the taller eunuch lowered his voice and mysteriously exaggerated.
“How is he different?”
“At noon, when he was being brought in, the cage was not covered by a cloth yet. You also saw his appearance right? Cough, my meaning is… do you still remember that person?”
“That, that person. Newcomers will definitely not know, but for us oldies, quite a few of us have seen him.” The taller eunuch squinted, “Do you really not remember? 6 years ago, when His Majesty was still Prince Yan and had just finished fighting the barbarians and returned to the palace, it was winter solstice. Us brothers were at the Vermillion Bird gate cleaning snow, distantly staring at the person by his side… at that time, weren’t you stunned? En? Have you remembered?”
“… Oh heavens, are you crazy?! Do you not want your life? Do you think you have multiple heads?” The shorter eunuch reacted, turning pale with fright and scolding quietly. “Have you forgotten Xiao Anzi’s* outcome? He had just mentioned that person’s name and was unfortunately overheard by His Majesty, so he was dragged into the Division of Punishment and given 80 flogs, losing his life…”
[T/N: Eunuch’s usually have the start of their name renamed to “xiao” which means small.]
The taller eunuch quickly covered his mouth, and nodded his head like a chick pecking rice, speaking in a muffled voice, “Yes, yes, yes, luckily you reminded me.”
The shorter eunuch carefully surveyed the area and after making sure that there was nobody in the courtyard, glanced thoughtfully at the cage.
“Huu, luckily only us two are here.” He paused, then said softly, “Actually, since you mentioned it, there really is a resemblance, it’s just that they don’t feel the same. It’s also unknown what Prince Jin is thinking, sending such a person into the palace. Does he not know that towards that person, His Majesty hates him to the point of wanting his life. Ever since… His Majesty has sealed Pure Frosted Jade Garden, no one is allowed inside…”
“… Yes, yes, who knows. Maybe Prince Jin just never thought so much from the start, treating him as just a tribute… After all, you look, that look and that body, tch,” the taller eunuch couldn’t help but click his tongue.
“That’s right, this Prince Jin…”
“Yes, yes, right, do you know that person…”
The two eunuchs whispered and gossiped for half a day, their voices kept low so Qiu Yutong could only hear a bit and was confused.
Who was “that person”?
Why did Lu Xiao seal Pure Frosted Jade Garden?
He also quite liked that garden…
Of course, these were all small matters. As for the Prince Jin the eunuchs mentioned, he was a troublesome character.
This Prince Jin, was Lu Xiao’s blood-related fourth uncle, the only remaining Prince of Dachen Dynasty, who was originally also a restless cruel and headstrong prince. But after being taught a ruthless lesson twice, he became a lot more obedient.
Listening to the meaning of the two eunuchs, Prince Jin had sent a beauty into the palace, called “Yong Master Xue Rong”? This “Young Master Xue Rong”, looked like “that person”? And Lu Xiao really hated “that person”?
What a messy situation.
What’s more, “Young Master Xue Rong”… hearing it, sounds like a man. But, Lu Xiao’s mind was very clean and didn’t like homosexuals. Prince Jin actually sent a male pet over, exactly what were his intentions?
As Qiu Yutong has his doubts, a high-pitched voice penetrated into the courtyard, “Zhang-gongong already said, you people can lift him in.”
The two eunuchs quickly replied, “Yes, this servant will immediately lift him in!”
Qiu Yutong blinked.
“Lift him in? Lift what?”
He hadn’t reacted when the two eunuchs walked over, one in front and one behind, lifting the cage, wobbling across to the outside.
“…” Qiu Yutong was speechless, so it turned out that it was him.
He gave a light cough, enduring the pain in his dry throat and tried to sound out, “These two gongongs, may I ask where we’re headed to?”
The shorter eunuch in front was slightly stunned, “Young Master Xue Rong, did your sleep make you muddled? Obviously, we’re headed to Jingxin Palace.
“What Xue Rong…” Qiu Yutong was not done speaking when he suddenly realised.
Instantly, he only felt like he was struck by lightning. From his head all the way down to his toes, his entire body was struck dumb.
Young, Young Master Xue Rong?
He was… He was that damn Young Master Xue Rong?!
The male pet Prince Jin gave to Lu Xiao?!