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TW for Helian Qi being a pedophile. He even got this chapter locked on jjwxc.
Helian Qi had been feeling unhappy recently. Ever since the scourge that was Prince Nan’ning ― Jing Beiyuan ― had come back from the Guangs, he had been unhappy.
In particular, whenever he bumped into him in Court on occasion, the way Jing Qi would peer at him with a fake smile while giving him respectful well-wishes painfully stuffed up his chest.
He hadn’t thought so before, but, thinking back after a reminder from Daoist Li, it seemed like all the very many events that had happened behind the scenes were the doings of this young Prince.
He had previously thought the guy to be decent-looking, which had faintly aroused his libertine heart. Upon seeing him now, though, he felt that there was an enormous shadow behind that pair of beaming, peach-blossom eyes, no matter what. Even his gaze being stuck upon him gave him a sense of unease from the staring.
Su Qingluan had been planted at the Crown Prince’s side, but that hadn’t born fruit ― the woman had apparently been neatly hidden away by his dear little brother, and getting her out for a trip was too difficult. In addition, the Crown Prince apparently only harbored a tiny, recreational inclination in being with her, and he did nothing but say uninspired words, drink alcohol, and listen to songs. Anything of utter importance wouldn’t be spoken of in her, a songstress’s, presence, either.
If Helian Zhao’s power was claimed to be in the South, and the Guangs were controlled by his hand, then Helian Qi’s power was in the Northwest. Beitun Field’s Zhao Zhenshu was someone who would come with a single look, completely unlike a tall tree that attracted wind like Liao Zhendong had been; he never slacked on giving things to his superior each year, and bribed on all levels appropriately.
For all these years, Jiang Zheng and that gang of not-yet-dead things had been steadily watching the northwest, but Zhao Zhenshu was a true talent, and they couldn’t grab a handle on him. For that reason, starting from the year the eldest procured that dancing, demonic cat out of nowhere, Helian Qi got an idea. The Northwest was considered a border area, and its landscape was naturally quite different from the capital’s. Since it also had a few unusual creatures there, he ordered Zhao Zhenshu to smuggle a lot of them over.
He granted them as they came to curry favor with Helian Pei. In those same intervals, he used the opportunity to color his eyes towards Jing Beiyuan.
Daoist Li and Helian Qi discussed that, prior to watching him, the Crown Prince was unremarkable, and their biggest enemy was Helian Zhao. These years, however, the former had grown, his wings looking to be getting more spread out; Lu Shen was young, but had entered the Military Privy Council, and at assembly that summer, He Yunxing, Marquis Jingjie’s son, had also been nominated into the Ministry of War by Helian Zhao.
Helian Zhao had seemingly joined up with the Crown Prince, suffocating Helian Qi a bit from the pressure, and making him always feel surrounded by enemies; his own territorial power was getting nibbled away bit by bit and swallowed down like a whale, too. Even so, Daoist Li claimed that despite those people looking like they had vast influence, it was nothing more than a meaningless pledge between Shu and Wu. In the meantime, though, there was one person that needed to be removed, and that was Prince Nan’ning.
Even the Eldest Scion could be grasped in his palm. For a moment, there was nothing to be done, as no one had made out a crumb of weakness in him for so many years. The depth of how low he lied was plainly visible.
“He’s a slick person, and his skill at scheming is terrifying. Nevertheless, he is not without weakness. You need only to say a set of words in the presence of the Emperor, Second Highness,” Daoist Li conspired with Helian Qi.
“What words?” the other asked.
Daoist Li beckoned him to lean his ear over, speaking lightly. “You need only say to him: ‘All we brothers have grown up. Even little Beiyuan, who had followed the Crown Prince back in the day while calling him big brother every time he opened his mouth, can act on his own. He smoothed such a terrible mess in the Guangs back out, and there was no objection to it all across the civil and military ranks when speaking of it.’ And so on. He will inevitably know what’s going on.”
Sure enough, Helian Pei actually did drift apart from Jing Beiyuan. Helian Qi was briefly unknowing of what he was feeling on the inside.
Luckily, Daoist Li had a genuinely accurate hold on the monarch’s designs ― Jing Beiyuan was a flunky that Helian Pei had set aside for Crown Prince Helian Yi. Now that this ‘chamberlain’ had gotten too precociously wise in his youth, there was a vague feeling that the Crown Prince could no longer steer him, so he inevitably became unsanctioned in the Emperor’s heart.
Sadly, he had excavated his thoughts like so to curry favor for his Father Emperor, yet the other was still single-mindedly plotting for the sake of that fame-angling Helian Yi.
Unpredictably, that Jing Beiyuan was quite intense. In order to pacify the Emperor’s heart, he deliberately labelled himself as a ‘cut-sleeve’, and had now admitted such before the Emperor; he would never take a wife nor sire children in the future, and if he didn’t say so, he would then be deceiving the monarch. Daoist Li couldn’t refrain from being stunned for a very long time, shaking his head and sighing once he was done. “This guy is really…”
When one could not tolerate tolerating someone anymore, they would then scheme against them in a way they hadn’t dared to scheme before. However, Helian Qi didn’t foresee that he would cut off his own family line, so what else could he even scheme?
Shameless people indeed constantly thought that every person in the land was as shameless as them.
Even more unfortunately, Mount Tai had suddenly suffered an earthquake and landslide, putting every level of the Court and society into one mass of chaos. The Emperor’s anger was vanished and let go of once this critical event overtook them, and he released Prince Nan’ning from his house arrest. The day after Jing Beiyuan came to Court, an imperial censor’s manifest once again brought up an old matter, seizing the topic of the Northwest’s instability and insinuating that the Spring Market in Beitun Field was unclean.
Before Helian Qi had any time to rage out of shame, the disaster that was Jing Beiyuan tossed out some bad ideas again, saying crap like “why the Eastern Emperor toppled is unclear, Your Majesty should lead all the officials in fasting and praying for blessings” and such.
[T/N: Mt. Tai is in the East, icyww]
In guilty conscience, Helian Pei hastily agreed, proclaiming that there would be a three-month fast; no meat was to be eaten, no illness was to be inquired after, no marriage was to be had, no regard was to be given for criminal law, and no merrymaking was to be had.
Jing Qi was great at smacking a horse’s butt, and happened to jibe with Helian Pei being older, as compared to when the man was younger, he was more liable to respect the supernatural. The Mount Tai earthquake was baffling, and his imperial heart was unsettled; he wasn’t like Helian Qi, where he was obsessed with pills and Daoist techniques, but his health had been getting increasingly worse these years, and he feared old age and death. Had Jing Qi not said anything, Helian Pei would express something to that extent anyways, so, with his statement, the man merely felt that it honestly wasn’t easy for a young child to have this level of sincerity.
His previous spot of hard feelings also subsequently went away. Seeing how Jing Qi had gotten a lot noticeably thinner over this one month, both his cheeks looking like they were getting slightly concave, some compassion and affection was born within him, and he felt that the kid was like Mingzhe way back when: an infatuated and passionate person. It was said that the wise would inevitably be hurt, and deep feelings would not last, which Jing Lianyu had already set a precedent for. This child was of the same inclination, making him feel that his previous suspicion was somewhat excessive, as well as somewhat apologetic to him, and his mien was pleasant towards him.
Helian Qi observed at the side. Thinking about how this and that wasn’t being allowed for three months, and that all his days were going to be spent with no taste in his mouth, his mood got ever more worse. Following Court’s end, he didn’t return to his Estate, but directly brought a couple of attendants with him to an extremely remote location in the northwest of the capital. He entered the alleys, and after turning a couple of bends, he arrived at an ordinary little residence, after which he discarded his servants and walked in alone.
In a short time, an awfully beautiful youth came out from inside to welcome him, pouncing headfirst into his embrace and attaching to him coquettishly. “You haven’t come to see me in some days, Your Highness.”
Helian Qi gathered him in his arms, reaching into the other’s lapels. Snow fell from the sky, cold wind coming in bursts; his ice-cold hand extending into the boy’s clothes made the latter jolt from the chill, then giggle and shrink into his hold. “You really don’t know how to cherish treasures.”
Helian Qi chuckled, rubbing him up and down. Only after making the teen pant faintly over and over again did he release him, quite a bit proud of himself, and smacked him lightly on the ass. “Little slut, getting loose like this after not seeing men for a couple of days. Has the one I gave you a few days ago been trained properly for your Lord?”
The pretty boy gave a bit of a ‘pouty’ flavor as he glared at him, the look in his eyes no different than that of a girl’s. “You never think about us old ones and only keep your new flames in mind. What’s so great about that little mute?”
These good-looking kids that Helian Qi was fond of keeping would fight each other for his attention. Upon hearing him grumble in discontent, he didn’t get angry, and snatched the youth over, pinching him hard on the chest. The teen let out a soft cry. The moan coming out of his mouth got blocked off, and all he heard was Helian Qi laughing next to his ear. “Don’t get mad at me. Wash yourself up at night and wait in your room. It’ll be your perk.”
Only then did the boy get himself out of his arms, happily leading the way in front.
The weather was all the more overcast. The first blanket of snow began to fall.
Helian Qi was unaware that, at the mouth of a street two lanes away from him, there was a run-down carriage that had been parked there for ages. Someone inside it gave an order, and the coachman cracked his whip, driving it away.
There was a stove making tiny flames inside it, but it was still cold. Jing Qi stretched out his legs, relaxedly leaning against the cushions. Slightly lifting the carriage curtain, he peered at the dark sky and increasingly heavier snowfall, yet remained silent. The one sitting beside him was in the middle of warming wine, its fragrance suffusing outward, as if it were delving deep into one’s heart.
That was Zhou Zishu.
Noticing that he hadn’t said anything for a long while, he gently asked him, “What is it? Do you think I’ve made a mistake, Prince?”
Jing Qi’s face was indifferent, but the color of his glass-like eyes appeared to deepen a bit, answering what he heard like he was sleeptalking. “Many acts of injustice will bring ruin to oneself… Zishu, are you not afraid of meeting with retribution?”
Zhou Zishu grinned. “Prince, you believe in that supernatural stuff?”
Feeling a bit cold, Jing Qi let the curtain down and gathered his hands into his sleeves. “In my life, I don’t believe in anything but the supernatural.”
Zhou Zishu poured the warmed wine into two small cups, passing one over to Jing Qi first. “Here you are, Prince.”
Jing Qi took it, placed it under his nose, and lightly sniffed. Eyes hooded, his handsome profile was encircled by dim light, like it was made of porcelain.
Zhou Zishu took a shallow sip like he was living it up, enjoyment all across his face. “Alcohol is banned during a fast. Today is our last drink. Tch, you flapping your lips in the throne room made us drunks of all sizes suffer.”
The smile on Zhou Zishu’s face paused. “Be at ease, Prince. I confiscated everything off of Young Lord Zhang, searched him over a good couple of times, switched out his clothes inside and out, and gave him a muting drug so that he can’t talk for three months,” he said, grave. “It was done in absolute secret, so even he himself is in a haze about it. No matter how one looks at it, this is Helian Qi drooling over another’s charms and being in a rush to snatch them back to his place, not bringing anyone else to mind at all…” He picked up the corner of his thin mouth. “Once this is all over, I’ll guarantee that Young Lord Zhang will cut his own life short, of course. When the time comes, the dead will give no testimony, and it’ll be all the better.”
Zhou Zishu privately came out to this meeting with Jing Qi wearing no mask, his original appearance exposed. The outline of his features was distinct and profound, and his nose was tall and straight; he could be described as handsome, despite those abnormally thin lips. There was a saying that people with thin lips had thin emotions; decent at origin, they were the utmost of clear-headed, and the utmost of unfeeling, in the world.
What a shame that Liang Jiuxiao, the fool boy, believed with all his heart that his eldest sect-brother was a figure of indomitable-esque will and noble-like character.
Jing Qi sighed. “Zhang Tingyu, son of Zhang Jin, Provincial Coordinator of Gansu. He’s isolated in the capital, and his family background is all the talent he has. I’m not acquainted with him, but I know that he’s a bit mediocre in other aspects, and his prospects for the future can’t be weighed. Is… is destroying him for no reason like this not moving your conscience in the least?”
Zhou Zishu smiled. “No reason? Those words can’t be used like that. What good deeds has Zhang Jin done with Zhao Zhenshu these years? With a father like that, Littlest Master Zhang dying isn’t an injustice. His old man is Helian Qi’s lackey, and I delivered him to Helian Qi’s rear courtyard. Isn’t that just a son continuing his father’s legacy? Besides…” He lowered his voice, looking at Jing Qi. “If I truly did handle this in a way that violated Heaven’s law, would you be able to look on blankly and only admonish me a bit in private like so, Prince?”
In just a few words, he specifically implicated Jing Qi in this, as well.
Jing Qi abruptly realized that he had nothing to say. He drew back the corner of his mouth with some weariness. At this moment, the carriage stopped, and the driver quietly spoke up from outside it. “Manor Lord, the Prince’s coach is up ahead.”
Jing Qi downed the wine in one gulp, setting the cup down. “Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. I can’t denounce you on anything, either. Zishu, as a friend, I’ll give you a bit of advice; perform less immoral acts, and take care to repent in the future.”
With that, he tunneled out of the carriage, and left without turning back.
“Immoral acts?” Zhou Zishu smiled and shook his head, then poured himself a glass. Once he drank it up on his own, he shortly knocked on the coach door and ordered, “The Prince is gone, so we’re going back, too.”
If one wanted to accomplish first-rate deeds, they had to be first-rate cruel — cruel towards others, and even crueler towards themself…
Immoral? How many people in the world were moral, really?
Jing Qi rode back to the Estate in the heavy snow. Unexpectedly, once he pushed open the gate, there was a snowperson presently waiting for him in the courtyard. Wu Xi was standing there, flanked by Ping An and several servants that were holding umbrellas for him. In the continuing wind and snow, however, they blocked nothing, making him quickly turn into a snowman.
Jing Qi was stunned.
Wu Xi nonetheless scrambled to speak first. “I… just noticed today that a shichen passed and you didn’t come back. I came to see you. I was scared something happened…”
Jing Qi’s heart warmed. “You’ve been waiting here, then?” he couldn’t help but ask.
“I came in from the side gate. I wouldn’t cause trouble for you,” Wu Xi said carefully.
Jing Qi pursed his lips, but didn’t know what he ought to say to him, so he had to go glare at Ping An. “Did you grow your eyes to breathe out of, or what? You hung the Shamanet out to dry on such a windy and snowy day? Is this how you treat guests? You’re getting more and more brainless, to have still not brought him to change out his clothes and get him ginger soup from the kitchen.”
The translator says: Ah, Zishu. You’re not a good guy.