Chapter 17

The Xianyun Hall was a very magnificent and stylish palace hall. The interior was lavishly decorated yet it didn’t lack in elegance. Apart from the crown prince’s residence, the rest of the princes had the same layout as well.

As the head of the six palaces, Empress Xiao wouldn’t be too obvious when making things difficult for others. Therefore, when Emperor Xi came to the Xianyun Hall, he didn’t feel any sense of ridicule. He also didn’t see Luo Huai Yuan being starved recently until his eyes turned dark. The higher a person’s status, the better they are at putting on appearances. This has always been the case since ancient times.

Concubine Ma saluted and then stood to the side sobbing quietly while trying her best to keep it down.

Upon a large four-poster bed carved with dragon patterns lay Luo Huai Yuan, his round face a mixture of green and purple. His face was described as round in the past, but now it could be called swollen. His entire person was one size bigger due to the swelling.

Emperor Xi recalled how the imperial physician said the fourth prince was injured all over, and seeing his tragic appearance he felt it was even harder to bear.

“Are you all right? We have already disciplined Qi’er. He had been scolded by the senior concubine these days and was in a bad mood. He didn’t mean to hurt you.”

Based on these words, Luo Huai Yuan knew that Senior Concubine Xu had gone to do some pillow talk. He himself was addressed as “you” whereas Luo Qi was called “Qi’er”. It was clear who was more favored. Luckily he had never pined for fatherly affection. In his past life, in this life, and no matter how many lifetimes, he had never pined for it. Therefore, he was naturally unaffected when hearing this.

Luo Huai Yuan laughed mockingly in his heart, but he chattered in agreement on the surface: “Royal father, your son, your son has no intention of blaming third brother….”

Emperor Xi nodded.

“Royal father, royal father. Your, your son has a request.”

Luo Huai Yuan appeared extremely nervous, as though he was about to make an incredibly large request of Emperor Xi. This was truly the case. He had barely met with Emperor Xi a few times in his life, let alone make a request of him. The only memories Emperor Xi ever gave him was neglect from his lofty position, and the occasional look of disgust.

Emperor Xi froze and said: “Speak.”

Luo Huai Yuan stammered timidly: “Your son wishes to leave the palace. Your son knows he is not likeable, and that his clumsiness disgraces royal father. Your son truly doesn’t have the face to remain within the palace…..”

Seeing Emperor Xi’s obscure expression, he cried silently: “….your son is afraid, third brother always beats me, your son is truly afraid……” as he spoke, he hugged his head with both arms and trembled.

Having been beaten two days in a row could be described as “always beating” right? He had also been beaten when he was young, so he really wasn’t lying!

Emperor Xi looked deeply at Luo Huai Yuan, “Alright, We permit it.”

After speaking, Emperor Xi left.

Luo Huai Yuan couldn’t quite react right away. Who knew that he just needed to let himself get beat up a little to achieve his goal?

Even Concubine Ma forgot to cry as she hurried over to the bed and asked quietly: “Yuan’er, your royal father really agreed?”

Luo Huai Yuan nodded heavily and grinned. Unfortunately, this pulled on his face’s injuries and he immediately grimaced in pain.

“That’s good, that’s good. At least mom can feel a little more at ease if you’re not in the palace. We don’t ask for much, we just want to live in peace….”

***

Before the Zhenguo Duke could leave after court, he was summoned by Emperor Xi to the imperial study.

“Uncle Mao Shan. We plan to have the fourth prince live outside the palace.”

The study was empty apart from the two of them, and the doors were guarded by Emperor Xi’s trusted aides. Only in such a place would Emperor Xi reveal a different face.

The Zhenguo Duke Shen Mao Shan had sworn fealty to the previous emperor, and was a close confidante. After the previous emperor passed away, he then swore fealty to the emperor’s appointed successor, Emperor Xi. He remained steadfastly loyal for several decades. This was especially the case since the previous emperor had passed away quite early, leaving behind an empress dowager with a lot of influence. It was completely due to the Zhenguo Duke alone that Emperor Xi was able to hold down the fort and prevent the dynasty from changing surnames.

Therefore, Emperor Xi called him “Uncle Mao Shan” wholeheartedly.

Those in power were afraid of their subordinates having too much strength, but the Zhenguo Duke had always stuck to his role and was truly loyal and devoted. That year when the previous emperor passed away and the young Emperor Xi ascended the throne, Shen Mao Shan had been leading his troops on an expedition to quell the northern barbarians. He never returned despite the empress dowager’s repeated edicts, but the moment Emperor Xi ordered it, the Zhenguo Duke had led his troops back to the capital and remained on standby.

Although that was the official explanation, people weren’t fools. They could clearly see the Zhenguo Duke had brought his troops to support the new emperor, and those without backing naturally didn’t dare make rash moves.

After decades of hardships wherein all sorts of things occurred, the Zhenguo Duke remained unwavering behind Emperor Xi the whole time. Emperor Xi understood this old official’s loyalty, and at the same time, the Zhenguo Duke understood Emperor Xi’s troubles.

An emperor who was truly in control of everything wouldn’t have so few descendants. Similarly, if he didn’t fear his in-laws from getting too powerful, he wouldn’t have raised a senior concubine to become the empress’s rival. But he had no choice. The empress dowager was too powerful in the early days and there was still some threat left over. After finally outlasting the elderly empress dowager, he had turned around and realized his own empress had grown powerful. He feared she might be the second coming of the empress dowager. She came from a deeply influential family, and had a lot of influence both inside and out. He was under a lot of pressure.

As for why Emperor Xi was sending the fourth prince out of the palace, the Zhenguo Duke didn’t have any doubts. He merely recalled rapidly the information he had on the fourth prince, and then remembered the event that just occurred with the third and fourth princes, and immediately understood.

“He is a savvy one. In the end, We have let the child down….”

 Emperor Xi let out a long sigh, his expression obscure.

He only spoke again after a long time: “Since he isn’t willing to remain in the palace, then he doesn’t have to. He can take this chance to leave. It’s just that the prince’s estate can’t be completed right away, so We wish to have him live at your estate.”

The Zhenguo Duke showed some hesitation. “This, is this alright?”

The Zhenguo Duke wasn’t afraid of being swept up in things. Based on his status and position, people had to think twice if they wanted to try anything. What he meant was that if outsiders found out the fourth prince was taken into his estate, the child’s previous efforts might have been for naught.

“There won’t be any problems. A prince who’s over ten years old yet still timid as a mouse. Who would be paying attention to him? We will arrange things properly. Uncle Mao Shan can rest assured.”

The Zhenguo Duke nodded and didn’t say anything else.

“We will send someone to bring him to your place in a bit. He’s injured. Let him recuperate there properly. Alright, you may take your leave.”

…….

As Emperor Xi said, no one paid attention when the prince who was as timid and useless as a mouse moved out of the palace.

Others would only think that his majesty truly hated the fourth prince after all. This was because after Emperor Xi went to visit the fourth prince that day, he had left the Xianyun Hall with an extremely ugly expression. It was clear he had been enraged.

As for why it was the Zhenguo Duke Estate, there was also an explanation. The prince’s estate wasn’t completed yet. Emperor Xi was truly disgusted with the fourth prince’s personality, and someone had overheard him discuss this with the Zhenguo Duke. Emperor Xi had asked with a fed up expression for him to properly whip the fourth prince into shape, and see if he could be changed.

Because the third prince was being punished, Senior Concubine Xu had been very low-key recently and didn’t bother with this matter. As for the empress, she merely wondered if the arrangements were due to that Xu bitch’s scheme to get rid of obstacles. She merely jeered at the pettiness of the act, and seeing that Emperor Xi had made up his mind, she didn’t think too much about it.

The rest doesn’t need to be mentioned. Luo Huai Yuan was sent to the Zhenguo Duke Estate the next day.

At this time, he still didn’t know that the person he was missing in his heart was also at the Zhenguo Duke Estate.

***

The mood in the estate hadn’t been good these past few days. Shen Qi had also sensed it. Therefore he had changed his mischievous nature and became well-behaved for several days. He was deeply afraid of being grabbed and spanked by his dad.

On this day, he was stuffy and bored, and wandered over to the Tranquil Garden.

Shen Qi had gotten into mischief everywhere within the Zhenguo Duke Estate when he was younger. The Tranquil Garden was the courtyard where honored guests were received. Although it was part of the Zhenguo Duke Estate, it was its own courtyard. The courtyard was rather large, filled with towering trees and peculiar rocks. There was a lake, a bridge and a small boat. It could even be called Shen Qi’s favorite place to play. Therefore, he fumbled his way over with great familiarity, even sneaking by the servant guarding the doors.

An honored guest had arrived at the household. Shen Qi also knew this, but figured that since he wasn’t going to the front, they wouldn’t run into each other.

Walking along the walkway, Shen Qi planned to go to the place where he often stole bird eggs, and after grabbing some eggs he planned on coaxing little Ah Yan. Right as he rounded the flowerbeds, he saw in the near distance a small fatty standing under a tree. His clothes were lavish and he himself was plump. He was giving orders to someone in the tree doing who knows what.

Shen Qi immediately grew excited and ran over.

“Hey, what are you guys doing?” People of similar age held great attraction towards each other. Especially towards a brat who had been cooped up in the estate without anyone to play with.

That little fatty turned and looked at him. Only then did Shen Qi see that his face was full of vivid colors. He pointed with his finger, and after being dumbstruck for a moment held his stomach in laughter.

“Hahaha, how did your face become this way? Who beat you up? Did you beat them up in return?”

That fatty looked to be around ten years old. His face was round and his body was round. What caught the eye most wasn’t his fat appearance, but rather his colorful face, especially his blackened eye. It looked truly amusing.

Therefore, Shen Qi couldn’t even stand straight from laughing. No matter how he looked, he felt that person looked like the little stray dog they raised by the estate’s back door, who was white all over except for a black patch around its eye.

This fatty was precisely Luo Huai Yuan.

Anyone would be furious if someone randomly came up and started laughing while pointing. Luo Huai Yuan’s colorful face turned dark. However, he was also someone who was discerning. Seeing the person was rather young and also lavishly dressed, and thinking of how he lived in the Zhenguo Duke Estate, he guessed that this was one of the estate’s young masters.

He rolled his eyes and said unpleasantly: “That goes without saying. He’s much worse off than I am.”

This wasn’t false. It was said that although the third prince looked fine that day, he wasn’t able to eat properly for several days after. He threw up whatever he ate. The imperial physician wasn’t able to find any injuries, and in the end could only say it was due to his stomach feeling unwell after being crushed by the fourth prince. No one realized that the petty Luo Huai Yuan who nursed a grudge had actually used a vicious move on Luo Qi’s stomach area despite appearing to be tragically beaten.

After speaking, Luo Huai Yuan called to the person in the tree: “Since there aren’t any, hurry and come down.”

The person in the tree was precisely the loyal Xiao An Zi. As for why he was up there, it was because fourth prince had noticed a birds nest in the tree and was suddenly curious whether there were any eggs.

Luo Huai Yuan had moved out of the palace in one morning and moved into the Zhenguo Duke Estate. The first two days he had maintained a low profile. Only when Xiao An Zi secretly investigated this Tranquil Garden courtyard where they stayed, and realized that the exceedingly few servants here never took the initiative to approach them did Luo Huai Yuan relax.

At first Luo Huai Yuan planned on going up himself, but seeing the anxiously waiting Xiao An Zi, he decided such a physical endeavor was best left to him.

Xiao An Zi hadn’t actually been anxiously waiting. He had merely revealed a worried expression at seeing Luo Huai Yuan ignore his “injuries” as he prepared to climb the tree. Who knew it would end up being misunderstood? Xiao An Zi felt extremely bitter at being forcibly conscripted. He hadn’t noticed it on the way up, but as he was planning to come down, he realized that while going up was easy, getting back down was not.

Xiao An Zi crouched on the tree, his voice containing a sob, “This servant doesn’t know how to get down…..”

“You idiot!”

Luo Huai Yuan was very embarrassed by his useless servant. Especially in front of a brat who had just been pointing and laughing at him.

Shen Qi chuckled on the side and said: “Don’t be scared, don’t be scared. I’ll come save you.” After speaking, he swiftly climbed the tree and arrived by Xiao An Zi’s side. He tugged on his shirt collar a few times, and seeing that it was sturdy enough, climbed down with him while holding his collar.

Throughout this process, Luo Huai Yuan was stunned, and Xiao An Zi was even more frozen with fear. He was already back on solid ground, but remained in place with his neck tucked in, not daring to move.

“Hero, you’re so amazing…..” This was squeezed out from Xiao An Zi’s throat, and it also included a worshipful gaze.

Shen Qi laughed complacently towards the sky, saying: “Of course I am!”

This was the first time someone called him a hero! Therefore, he felt that Xiao An Zi was extremely pleasing to the eye, and his master also became quite a bit more pleasing to the eye as well.

“I’m called Shen Qi. What about you guys? You wouldn’t happen to be the honored guest grandfather was talking about, right?”

Honored guest? Fine, he could be counted as such. Grandfather? This was the Zhenguo Duke’s grandson?!

Luo Huai Yuan stroked his own chin and gave an insincere smile, saying: “I’m called Luo Huai Yuan. I’m probably the honored guest you’re talking about. That one is Xiao An Zi.”

“What were you guys doing just now?” Shen Qi glanced at that tree.

Luo Huai Yuan merely had a moment of amusement. He didn’t have the face to say he wanted to play with bird eggs.

“That, Xiao An Zi was too mischievous. He wanted to see if there were birds inside the nest….” Embarrassing things were better pushed onto servants.

“Master wanted to play with bird eggs and ordered me to go up…..” On the other hand, Xiao An Zi was pretty honest.

They had spoken at the same time. Luo Huai Yuan’s face immediately turned even more interesting.

Author’s words:

Haha, this doesn’t count as clearing Emperor Xi’s name. It’s just adding some depth to the Emperor Xi in Xiao Hua’s novel who pampered his senior concubine so much. To sit on the throne stably for so many years, and even knowing to clear out obstacles for Repressed Jing prior to his death, and also screwing the empress over, how could he be a fool? He at most didn’t have enough power, or was compelled by circumstance.

Actually it’s also good to be lowborn. Men like those without a strong background as well as sons. This way the in-laws aren’t a threat….

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