“What do you want to do?” His body almost going stiff from pain, Rong Zhi asked coldly.
Because of the pain, cold sweat rapidly beaded on his forehead, then slid down and dripped to the ground. But his expression was still so at ease, his gaze leisure and carefree, as if his body had nothing to do with him: “Manhandling is not your personality. Huan Yuan, do not lose your bearing.”
Huan Yuan gazed at Rong Zhi emotionlessly for a moment, then slowly let go. He sat back to his original position and picked up the flagon in front of him. Pouring himself some wine, he said, “The princess found out about the plan between me and Jiang Yan. Was it you that tattled on us?” He had prepared this wine for Jiang Yan as a farewell; although Jiang Yan forsook him, he still wanted to see him one last time. But he was stopped by the guards by his door, restricting his movements.
Although his movements weren’t free before, he had never been trapped indoors like this. Obviously, these guards had received special orders.
Rong Zhi chuckled, “You have underestimated the princess too much. The settlement at the banquet was comed up by the princess herself. That day when you and Jiang Yan were conspiring, after the princess pretended to leave, she returned. Even I wasn’t on guard enough. After that, the princess decided to send Jiang Yan out of the palace.” But the guards that held Huan Yuan in were ordered by Rong Zhi. Although Huan Yuan had already failed, he was unwilling to give up. He wanted to use the excuse of bidding farewell to hook up Jiang Yan’s guilt, which would make it convenient for him to carry out future plans. But Rong Zhi did not plan to give him the opportunity.
Huan Yuan fell silent. After a long pause, he said slowly, “Rong Zhi, things are already like this; it doesn’t matter how I am anymore. I ask you sincerely, are you really content with staying by the princess’ side?”
Rong Zhi just smiled, not answering.
Huan Yuan continued in a low voice: “Even though you never show your abilities besides helping the princess manage affairs in the inner court, I still think that you are capable of more than ten times of what you present to us. Your abilities stand out in the world; if you go outside, you could have power and control, and influence the whole empire. Are you really resigned to stay in this Princess’ Palace, and be the male concubine and toy of a pampered and luxurious woman?” His voice was very heavy, pressing on the gloomy atmosphere, “Are you really content with this?” Huan Yuan came to the princess two years ago, and knew Rong Zhi for two years. But throughout these two years, he could never see through Rong Zhi. At first, he thought he was gentle and easy to be bullied, but later he slowly understood, how deep and profound this seemingly harmless youth really was.
Still, Rong Zhi just smiled, not answering.
Gazing at him for a long time, Huan Yuan’s expression loosened, and suddenly laughed, “You are not content. Or else, why are you afraid to answer me? You cannot sincerely say you are content and willing.” His appearance was very graceful and handsome; once his expression loosened, it instantly seemed like large white petals blooming in a dark place; depressing yet ethereal beauty floating among purity.
After Huan Yuan said all these words, Rong Zhi finally reacted. He reached his hand out and slowly poured himself a cup of wine; he poured it very full, and only when the wine was going to spill out of the cup did he place the flagon down, and say quietly, “Huan Yuan, do not forget, that who gave you your chance to still be alive safely today. You are the son of a sinner; if not for the princess saving you, you would be dead under multiple knives long ago. Not only are you not grateful to her, but all you think about is revolting. Did the forefathers of the Huan family teach their descendents to be devoid of gratitude?”
Huan Yuan replied, “It is undeniable that she saved me and shielded me. But her saving me was purely out of her own desire; she confines me here as being exclusively hers, and plans to let me die in this Princess’ Palace. But Rong Zhi, I’m unwilling.” He spoke these words in a very calm tone, a tone of total acceptance. His brows were slender, and the glowing in his eyes were like the slight luster on jade; seemingly gentle, but in reality tough and firm, “As for the forefathers of the Huan family…… Weren’t they ruined at the hands of her Liu family?”
The once glorious nobility; many years ago, even their clothing shone with brilliance; but now, all was buried under some unknown piece of earth. At troubled times like this, the winner becomes the ruler and the loser dies. He couldn’t refute this.
“I’m unwilling.” He said firmly.
Even though his position was reduced to his current state, he still couldn’t resign to being a toy and decoration of a woman.
And he won’t commit suicide to fulfill his innocence either. Life is the best gift the world could ever give; giving up one’s life is the way of the cowards. There had once been a male concubine at the palace that couldn’t bear to be humiliated and threw himself into the lake. Looking at his cold body, although Huan Yuan lamented for him, he didn’t admire his doings at all.
Death was the easy way, so he chose life, the difficult path.
“Unwilling.” Rong Zhi chuckled lightly, “Good ambition, good strength of character. But Huan Yuan, you don’t have a choice.”
He raised up his cup and observed the clear liquid. A little wine spilled out due to his movements, dropping onto his snowy white garments, creating a greenish stain: “You just said that I am not content. You are not me, so how would you know my thoughts?”
Seeing that Rong Zhi was getting up to leave, Huan Yuan knew he couldn’t persuade him today, so he sighed, “Whatever. You are content, but I am not content. Even if I failed this time, as long as I am still alive, I will not give up. Even if I die, it would be better than suffering here.”
Rong Zhi chuckled, then slowly headed out. At the door he paused his steps, “Suffering?” He asked Huan Yuan, “Do you think, that staying here in silk clothes and the best food and no worries for your life, is suffering to you?”
Huan Yuan scoffed, “You mean I should think this as a heavenly grace?”
After that slight pause of his steps, Rong Zhi continued walking out. After a while, Huan Yuan seemed to hear a sentence sounding from outside his room, vague and indistinct; it seemed to be there, but it also seemed like an illusion he had in his absentmindedness. The sound was so distant, it had the vastness of the beginning of the world, the nostalgia of ancient prehistoric times:
“The world is a furnace; every creature and living being in it; who isn’t suffering bitterly?”
After Rong Zhi left, Chu Yu wandered around a bit more in the apricot woods, then decided to go back. When she passed the junction between the East Wing and the West Wing, she saw Jiang Yan and the other five youths that had received a new life heading to the outer court. Chu Yu nodded at them, then walked right past them.
With no concern and no looking back, once they walked out this door, they would become strangers. As a matter of fact, to Chu Yu, these people were strangers anyway, so it wasn’t hard for her to part with them at all.
From now on they would never meet again. Thinking this, the corner of Chu Yu’s lips curved upward slightly. She didn’t turn her head to look back at them.
From now on they would never meet again. Almost at the same time, Jiang Yan was also thinking this, but he couldn’t help but look back; before, all he ever thought about was to leave this hell as soon as possible, even in his dreams. But now that he was really leaving, he felt a little confused.
That woman’s figure, was free and easy; she didn’t have the superiority she used to have, making her so unfamiliar it seemed like this was the first time he ever saw her.