Chapter 6 – A So-Called Confession
Upon hearing this, the whole room was shocked. However, the emperor seemed to be in a good mood. Smiling, he gestured at Xian Fu with a wave of his hand.The latter understood immediately and put together a table of tea and refreshments at once
Yet, the young Chief Eunuch could not help but feel that something was not quite right. Weren’t the emperor and the prince here to visit Assistant Minister Zhuo because of his illness? Why did it seem as if they had come to a theatre to watch a play instead?
Deciding to focus on his duties instead, Xian Fu returned to stand at his spot behind Emperor Qing. Anyway, this was not something for him to bother about.
“Come in” Emperor Qing lightly clapped his hands twice, and the guards at the door entered on cue to present two boxes. One contained a hundred-year-old ginseng nestled in red satin, and the other was full of all kinds of snacks that Zhuo Fan loved.
“This ginseng is part of the tribute from the Kingdom of Gaobang, and there are only two of these amongst the offerings. Here are also your favorite snacks, which the imperial kitchen made just this morning on a special order from us. It makes our heart ache to see you so thin. Come, try some and see if they are to your taste?”
Zhuo Fan stiffened his neck and turned his head aside. “Your Majesty’s graciousness terrifies this lowly subject, who fears he may not be able to bear such kindness…”
Naturally, Xiao Han knew that Zhuo Fan was going to reject all of them. Before the man could even finish his sentence, Xiao Han cut in with a cheerful order to Xianfu, “Take the ginseng back, and leave the snacks here for us.”
Zhuo Fan: “…”
With a face full of worshipful admiration, Xian Fu nodded his head. What a thrifty emperor! If it had been some other noble, they would have rather thrown it on the ground than take it back!
Perhaps because his knees were in pain, Zhuo Fan failed to keep up his kneeling position. He toppled and fell to the side. Xiao Han, long-prepared for this moment, rushed forward and caught the man in his arms. Putting his arm around Zhuo Fan’s frail shoulders, Xiao Han gazed “tenderly” at the man in his embrace. “The ground is so cold, and the weather is freezing. How can you torment your body like this when you’re still unwell?”
Without waiting for Zhuo Fan’s reply, Xiao Han frowned and muttered in addition, “Look, you don’t even have a door for your room!”
Hearing this, the assistant minister — still struggling in the emperor’s arms — felt as if he was about to lose his mind. “… the door was removed on Your Majesty’s order, if I remember correctly!”
Choosing to ignore the outburst, Xiao Han continued affectionately, “We were wrong last night for abandoning you. Come back to the palace with us, and we will make it up to you.”
Recalling the painful words from the day before, Zhuo Fan mustered his strength and pushed the emperor away. “Forgive this subject’s impertinence, Your Majesty. Even your dogs and cats have tempers of their own — why would you expect any less of me, when I am a man? This subject has thoroughly understood your words from yesterday, and will never lose himself in foolish delusions ever again! My lowly abode offers little comfort in this freezing cold. Your Majesty ought to return to the palace as soon possible, lest the Empress reprimands this subject again for bewitching Your Majesty and bringing misfortune to the country. This subject cannot afford to bear such heinous crimes!”
The northern wind from beyond the room rushed by, howling and mussing Zhuo Fan’s hair into disarray. As a result of the rush of emotions within him, a light blush bloomed on his pale face.
He finished his speech with great difficulty, deeply agitated. His chest heaved and his eyes reddened a little as he glared stubbornly at Emperor Qing. Such a look of frailty and forced strength was a truly gut-wrenching sight that would drive anyone to tears and heartache.
Even Emperor Qing, who had always been austere and cold, now wore an expression of guilt upon hearing Zhuo Fan’s harsh, reprimanding words.
Since Xiao Han’s guilt was genuine, he replied with just as much sincerity, “There are doors in the palace.”
The room, initially filled with poetic melancholy, was suddenly plunged into an eerie silence.
An odd gurgle came from Zhuo Fan’s throat — perhaps he was choking on his saliva?
On the other hand, Prince Wen, who was sitting by the sidelines and drinking tea, suddenly spat his mouthful back into his cup. Fortunately, he managed to keep his actions under control and escaped Emperor Qing’s notice. The ever-attentive Xian Fu, however, came forth at once and changed the cup of tea for him.
“Ahem. What we meant was,” Xiao Han paused to let his emotions build up a little before continuing, “we are of course aware of what the empress has been doing in secret. Rest assured that we will definitely punish all those who have harmed you out of malice, and settle the score for you. As long as you are willing to return to the palace with us, we promise to favour you alone. How can any of those common, tasteless faces compare to you?”
Finally, the dialogue was brought back to the right track. Sighing, Zhuo Fan replied in a low, meaningful voice, “Forgive me for not being able to believe Your Majesty’s words. Please take your leave, Your Majesty.”
“Oh, alright.” Xiao Han shrugged, tossed the man aside without any reluctance, and stood up to return to his seat.
Zhuo Fan was stunned and could not react. Luckily, Prince Wen interjected in a natural and timely fashion, “Assistant Minister Zhuo has yet to recover from the cold, and he should be resting. Since he is unwilling to enter the palace, it is just as well for him to rest in his residence. Now that Your Majesty have made this visit, it would be best to return early to the palace. A myriad of state affairs awaits Your Majesty’s attention from day to day; matters of governance must take precedence, Your Majesty.”
Although Xiao Han had begun longing for the warm fire and furry plush covers in Evergreen Palace a while ago, he still needed to finish delivering his lines. Fortunately, he only had one sentence left. Everything else after that would be drivel such as “burning with jealousy at the sight of Prince Wen and Zhuo Fan getting close,” “fuming inwardly with bitter resentment,” “thinking of forcibly bringing Zhuo Fan into the palace,” and the likes.
Thus, thinking that he would have to leave sooner or later anyway, Xiao Han strode out of the room without further delay. “Prince Wen,” he said as he walked towards the doorway, “Zhuo Fan belongs to us. You’d better keep your hands to yourself and stay away if you know what’s good for you. Zhuo Fan, we promised that we’ll make it up to you. We will definitely keep our word.”
By the time Xiao Han finished speaking, he had already gone a long way from the room; it was unclear whether the other two could even hear him. He might as well have been speaking to the air.
He walked along the corridor to a corner, where there was a papered window on the wall. Xiao Han heaved a sorrowful sigh inwardly. Yesterday, the script had Zhuo Fan eavesdropping in the cold for a long time, and it was now his turn to be eavesdropping on the other two.
Would there be live gay porn next?
Would there be an emotionally battered bottom shouting “No, don’t” as the devoted cannon fodder top affectionately comforted him and forced him down into the sheets? Would the little bottom “give in half-acquiescently out of helplessness” under such “loving tyranny” and do the horizontal tango with the canon fodder top?
Then, after doing the deed, would the bottom be filled with despair, to the point of losing his will to live? Would he earn the pity of the cannon fodder top with his vacant, dead eyes? Would the cannon fodder top “be filled with guilt without regretting forcing himself on the little bottom,” and “become even more devout while vowing to snatch him away from the main scum top”?
After that, the little bottom would probably yearn for the scum top in secret while his body “had no choice but to give in” to the cannon fodder top. He might even develop bizarre lines of reasoning such as “this man is pitiful because he can’t have my heart despite his devotion, so I don’t blame him even though I don’t love him at all.”
So on and so forth, Xiao Han speculated somewhat maliciously. After all, that was how scripts like these usually go.
What the fuck. If I bang you once, I become the bad guy who plays with your feelings and wounds your pride. You get the right to give me the cold shoulder and ignore me after that. But if the cannon fodder screws you, he’s pitiful and excusable?!
It’s really hard being a scummy top!
Xiao Han dismissed his guards. With a darkened expression on his face, he poked a hole in the papered window; he might as well help himself to the free live porn.
Of course, the two in the room knew nothing of Emperor Qing’s rather crass behaviour. Right now, Zhuo Fan was sitting on the bed with his back to the emperor. His head drooped low. Prince Wen stood at his bedside, slowly consoling him. “I shouldn’t be disturbing your rest, but my heart cannot rest easy at the sight of your pain and sorrow.”
“Such concern from Your Highness fills me with fear and unease. What have I done to deserve such care from Your Highness?” Zhuo Fan lifted his head to peer at the other man, only to see the flickering expression on the prince’s face. He could not help asking, “What’s the matter, Your Highness?”
“Oh, I… I was just remembering the first time I met you.”
Zhuo Fan was stunned. “Was it not at court?”
Shaking his head, Prince Wen sighed and replied in a forlorn voice, “Alas, it seems that you have indeed forgotten it. That’s alright. I have remembered it in my heart, and that is good enough.”
Seeing the incomprehension in Zhuo Fan’s face, Wen Muyan paused for a long time. The long pause was followed by another prolonged moment of hesitancy. Finally, the prince began narrating lightly in a wistful tone, “I am not my father’s only son. I used to have a younger half-brother, born to my father concubine. Although he was neither the eldest nor the legitimate successor, his mother was the daughter of a powerful official at court. On the other hand, despite being the Princess Consort, my mother came from a family had far less influence because it had fallen into decline. Hence, the concubine and her son both saw me as a thorn in their flesh. In order to have my half-brother inherit the title of Prince Wen, they plotted in secret to take my life.”
“That year, my father received an imperial order to go on a diplomatic mission beyond the border. My mother followed him, but I did not. I had fallen sick and was unfit for travel. The concubine and her son used this opportunity to attack me. I owe my escape to the guards my mother left for me, all of whom protected me with their very lives. It was raining heavily when I finally made my way out, seriously injured. After running away for three days and three nights, I fled into a ruined temple. Starving, thirsty, and without hope, I met someone who was seeking shelter in that temple…”
“Ah! That man was —” At this point, Zhuo Fan recalled that he had indeed saved a dying man in a ruined temple several years ago. However, the man had been covered in blood, while the mud and wet hair on his face had made it impossible to recognise him at all. Little did Zhuo Fan expect that the man would turn out to be the elegant and charming Prince Wen before him.
Wen Muyan nodded with a smile and continued, “Just when I thought I was near death, you gave me all the food and water you had, and even found a doctor for me. If not for you, I would most likely have died before my loyal guards could find me. You saved my life, so you’ve been in my heart ever since.
“I’ve been looking for you all these years, but I didn’t find you until I saw you at court that day. Do you have any idea how surprised and happy I was then?”
As he spoke, Prince Wen lifted his hand to Zhuo Fan’s cheek and cupped it with a gentle touch. In a moving voice filled with with emotion, he declared, “You appeared in my life when I was most helpless, desperate and anguished. You gave me the will and hope to live on. At that time, I knew that I had already…”
Wen Muyan stopped all of a sudden, like a cassette tape that had gotten stuck. His face paled. After pressing a palm to his chest, he finished his sentence, “… Fallen deeply in love with you.”
Zhuo Fan stared at him with widened eyes. He blushed, not knowing what to say.
Eavesdropping outside the window, Xiao Han felt his mouth twitch as he sneered inwardly. A little casual charity is enough to leave an imprint on your heart? What about those guards who lost their lives for you, you twat?
The pretentious, flowery clichés were really getting too much for him to bear. He had broken into goosebumps all over, and his stomach was now churning in discomfort. The feeling of an acid reflux made him regret snacking so much just now.
Meanwhile, Wen Muyan’s heartfelt confession was still going on. “I once thought that I was destined to pass you by in this life, fated to live in regret till the day I die. Who knew that the Heavens would let us reunite once more? This time, I will not watch you disappear from my life again…”
Was Xiao Han mistaken? For some reason, Wen Muyan’s face was becoming even paler, and his expression was starting to look rather stiff.
“… Without you, my life would be dark and bland. Even if the whole world was placed before me, it would be incomparable to your…
“Incomparable to your every smile…
“Every smile and every…”
It seemed harder and harder for Wen Muyan to talk — and then he vomited.
“What’s wrong? Are you alright, Your Highness?” Zhuo Fan was shocked. He stared in panic as the man who had been pouring his heart out just moments ago start to foam at the mouth. The sight was so frightening Zhuo Fan almost lost his wits.
Xiao Han was just as shocked. Was this guy so disgusted by what he was saying that he threw up for real?
But Wen Muyan recovered very quickly. Swiftly, he rinsed his mouth with tea, wiped his face, and straightened his appearance before turning flash an embarrassed smile at Zhuo Fan. “I’m sorry. I must have eaten something bad and gotten a little nauseated. I feel better already, after throwing up.”
“I see. I’m glad that you are alright, Your Highness.” Zhuo Fan relaxed, and the look of self-mocking sorrow returned to his face. Lowering his eyes, he said quietly, “… It’s not that I don’t understand what Your Highness feels for me, but my heart is so broken that I no longer have the strength to think about such upsetting and disappointing matters anymore…”
From Xiao Han’s vantage point, he could see Wen Muyan from the front and — he swore his eyes were not playing tricks on him — he clearly saw the dude rolling his eyes when Zhuo Fan was not looking!
Yet, the words from his lips could not be any gentler: “If you don’t have the strength to think, it’s okay to ignore everything. Don’t worry. I will never let you down like that man has.”
Thus speaking, wearing a most distorted expression on his face, Wen Muyan caressed Zhuo Fan’s black hair. The latter was spooked. He tried to escape the touch, but Wen Muyan forcibly held him down by the shoulders and leaned in for a kiss.
“No, don’t! Y-Your Highness, please let me go — nghh… no…”
Despite the rejection falling from his lips, Zhuo Fan’s struggling hands were as weak and delicate as if he were working on some fine embroidery. They were easily overpowered and pinned down by Wen Muyan. Meanwhile, propping himself on the window sill and pressing his eye to the hole in the paper, the great Emperor Qing was having a great time watching the two of them. He also kept up a steady stream of taunting commentary in his mind: Wasn’t this Wen Muyan weak as hell? How did he become as strong as King Kong Jr? Come on, little comrade Zhuo, you can totally crush the dude and tire him out with your weight alone! What you playing at, getting all weak and frail?
In no time at all, Zhuo Fan’s clothes were torn apart by Prince Wen. Pinned onto the bed, he could do nothing else except panting in despair.