Shen Ci gradually opened his eyes. Everything was a blank void, and he couldn’t see anything. An irrepressible urge rose in his throat, causing him to cough violently, and an intense pain filled his chest.
He remembered that he was in his room and that a fire had broken out in the house, but he wasn’t able to see it. He was unable to escape and subsequently passed out. So, whereabouts is he now?
It seemed like he wanted to ask something. Murong Heng observed this and answered right then. “This is the official residence of Prince Heng.” He permitted Lian Jin to enter and pour a cup of hot tea. Then he gently supported Shen Ci up and had him sit on the edge of the bed before conveying the cup to his lips.
Once he’d drank several sips of water, Shen Ci discerned that the discomfort in his throat had improved a little at last. He wanted to lift his hand to move the cup away, but discovered that his entire body couldn’t exert any strength.
After some time, Shen Ci opened his mouth slowly to speak, but the voice emitted from his throat was raspy: “Your Highness?” He blinked a couple of times and immediately detected pain in many places on his body. He couldn’t stop himself from reaching out to feel them.
“Don’t touch them; you’re injured.” Upon seeing this, Murong Heng hurriedly grasped Shen Ci’s wrist to prevent him from moving carelessly and tucking in the quilt that had been covering up to his waist.
Lian Jin, who was standing to one side, couldn’t help falling a little speechless. She increasingly discerned that her master had become somewhat different. As for the benefactor he spoke of, she’d never seen the young man on the bed before. How did this “benefactor” come about?
“Cough, cough…… Your Highness, why am I here?” Shen Ci leaned on the edge of the bed. He was in a foreign location, and inwardly, he felt somewhat unspeakably disoriented. He was desperately anxious to flee, but his body didn’t possess even an ounce of strength.
“There was a fire at your mansion. I passed by and saved you.” After concisely outlining the incident’s chain of events, Murong Heng threw a meaningful look at Lian Jin, who was behind him. The latter immediately understood and retreated out of the door to fetch the medicine.
“Thank you, Your Highness, for saving my life. I…… cough cough……” Before he could complete his sentence, an unbearable urge to cough emerged in his throat. He soothed his chest with his right hand and coughed grievously.
Upon seeing this, Murong Heng hurriedly brought over a cup of hot tea. As soon as the person on the bed acquired some relief, he said in a soft voice, “You’ve inhaled too much thick smoke and injured your throat. It’s better to speak less.”
Shen Ci gave a slight nod and ceased talking. It wasn’t long before Lian Jin delivered the medicine. By now, Shen Ci’s hands and legs had regained a little strength, so he held the bowl by himself and slowly drank the bitter medicine liquid inside it.
Owing to the nerve-soothing ingredients included in the medicine, Shen Ci automatically became sluggish after drinking it. He then drifted off to sleep with the side of his head resting on the bed’s edge.
This was the scene that greeted Murong Heng when he came back in through the door. He remained standing and observing in silence for a long time before walking over to the bedside. He helped Shen Ci lie down and tucked in the quilt properly for him.
As he sat at the side of the bed and stared at the peaceful sleeping visage of the person on it, Murong Heng steadily got lost in his musings. He recalled this person’s gentle words when he was at death’s door in his past life. Deep down, it made him even more resolute. He must definitely repay his kindness in this life. As it happens, this time that he’d come across him and saved him could also be deemed as having repaid the favour. However, he wouldn’t let him go so easily.
He had witnessed Shen Ci’s aptitude before. If he could get him to assist, the path of revenge would certainly be less challenging and become steadier! With these thoughts, Murong Heng conceived a plan in his heart.
Shen Ci had unknowingly slept for several hours. By the time he awoke again, it was evening. His body had recovered its strength at last, so he pushed himself into a sitting position. He wished to leave this place. It didn’t matter how anyone said it, the prince’s mansion isn’t somewhere he can remain for an extended time.
Since he resolved to leave, Shen Ci lifted the quilt and got off the bed. He supported himself on the bed’s edge to go outside. He moved very slowly; his knees often knocking into tables and chairs. Suddenly, he came across something solid, and assuming it was a door, he pushed firmly on it. There was no way he could have known that it was a screen divider. He then toppled together with it onto the floor.
When Murong Heng arrived outside the door, he instantly heard the sound of a heavy object falling to the ground. He hurriedly rushed in and happened to see Shen Ci, whose entire person had collapsed in a heap atop the screen divider, unable to stand up. The expression in his eyes changed briefly before he went over and assisted him to get up.
“Your Highness?” Shen Ci felt a pair of strong arms supporting him to stand and his cheeks became a little red. Once he could stand firmly, he slowly pushed the arms away and said softly, “Thank you, Your Highness, for your care. I should be heading back now.”
“Heading back? Where are you heading back to?” said Murong Heng in a deep voice, as he stretched out his hand to impede him.
Shen Ci didn’t understand what he meant when he said that. Where else could he head back to? Of course, he would head back to his own residence.
“You didn’t know? The place where you lived has been reduced to ashes.” Murong Heng couldn’t help but tell him the truth. He carefully surveyed his expression and saw shock gradually turn into reticence. Only after he calmed down did Murong Heng continue: “Your body needs rest, don’t go back at the moment. As for your attendant, This Prince has already sent someone to inform him.” Once he finished speaking, he countenanced no refusal and manoeuvred Shen Ci back to the bed.
After a long silence, Shen Ci said softly, “Your Highness, I’m merely a commoner. It’s not fitting for me to remain in the prince’s mansion. You should still allow me to leave.” His heart was in chaos. He closed his eyes and contemplated carefully.
“What if This Prince says no?” Murong Heng rejected it aloud, noticing that he still wanted to leave, “Where will you live if you return now? The world at present is unstable. If someone like you was to end up in the streets, you yourself should be aware of what will happen to you.”
The moment these words were uttered, Shen Ci’s whole body shook, and he instantly remembered that he wasn’t able to see. He fell silent. After a while, he found his voice again, “Then what should I do?”
Murong Heng gave a light laugh and replied in a deep voice: “Remain here. This Prince will help you find a new home.” This lifesaving kindness needed to be repaid. Yet, the aim of this move was to coax and bribe someone over, starting from the heart.
When he heard the words, Shen Ci opened his mouth but ended up not saying anything. It was a good while later before he let out a laugh. He glanced up as if he were looking in Murong Heng’s direction and said humorously: “Your Highness’s insistence for me to stay is inconsistent with the rumours from outside.”
If these words had been uttered by someone else, that person would certainly have been put to death. However, Murong Heng didn’t mind, because he no longer wished to withhold anything from this person—he required his assistance!
It was a lengthy wait, but there was no response from Murong Heng. Shen Ci had already ascertained deep in his heart that he was an intelligent man. It was blatantly obvious what should and shouldn’t be said, but the person before him held it in so deeply that he feared that the world would become chaotic. When the thought came to mind, he unwittingly retracted his fingers. Recalling that night, he didn’t know whether he should or shouldn’t have done that so many years ago.
“Ah Ci, live well. Don’t let hatred shroud your entire life.” The words his parents had said before their deaths still reverberated in his ears. A bitter smile emerged from Shen Ci’s lips when he regained his senses. Why wouldn’t he want a more carefree life?
Upon noticing that he’d stopped talking, Murong Heng was satisfied and left through the door. He then instructed Lian Jin to hurry and locate a clean house not far from his residence. This would enable him to be aware of what Shen Ci was up to at all times.
Shen Ci sat on the bed. The plush bedding was completely different from the one in his own house. Still, it was a shame that the splendid guqin had been burned and could never be recovered. While he was in a daze, he suddenly detected the sounds of someone entering. This was followed by Feng Nan’s anxious questioning.
“Young Master, are you alright? You scared me to death!” Feng Nan hastened to the bedside and observed that there were traces of bandages on Shen Ci’s body. His despair prompted him to grasp his hand. He wanted to hug him but didn’t dare cross the line.
His tangled thoughts caused his brows to knit. Finally, he released his hand and cautiously examined the wounds on his young master’s body. He only calmed down after confirming that there were no major issues. He berated himself for being too negligent and leaving his young master all alone in the mansion. Thank heavens he was alright. If not, there was no way he’d be able to redeem himself before his late master and madam.
The candles were put out, and the room plunged into darkness. Murong Heng walked out contentedly from beneath a tree, turned around, and left.
A couple of days later, Murong Heng led Shen Ci to the new house he had identified. He brought him into the house himself, outlining for him the positions and placements of the tables and chairs. He described them as meticulously as he could while attentively watching over the person next to him in case he knocked or bumped into anything.
Murong Heng guided Shen Ci over to a divan and assisted him to sit down. He then had Lian Jin make a cup of tea and deliver it over. After chatting a while, he stood up and departed, leaving Shen Ci and Feng Nan in the room.
Once the door was shut, Feng Nan walked a few steps over to Shen Ci and squatted down. He said uneasily, “Young Master, how did this come about? Why would Prince Heng gift us a house?”
“I likewise do not know.” Shen Ci didn’t wish to answer this question and angled his head away.
“You don’t know, Young Master?” Feng Nan became worked up hearing him respond like that: “If you accept this house, it is tantamount to dipping into the imperial family’s ruddy waters. It hasn’t been easy for us to remain secure until now, Young Master, you…”
“That’s enough.” Shen Ci cut him off before he could finish speaking, “I’ve got my own sense of propriety.”
When Feng Nan heard this, he was filled with anxiety but could no longer continue speaking.
Meanwhile, after leaving, Murong Heng and Lian Jin took a leisurely stroll in the garden. Upon arriving at a place devoid of people, he stopped in his tracks and turned to look at Lian Jin, whose expression was filled with uncertainty. He said, “What do you wish to ask? Just say it.”
Lian Jin was bewildered, not knowing if she should or shouldn’t ask. She wavered for a long time before expressing all the misgivings she’d been holding in.
“Having not met in three days, to look at you with new eyes*. No one is willing to be a bird awaiting death, and This Prince is no different.” Murong Heng laughed, his response filled with profound bearing. He could tell by looking at Lian Jin’s face that she was capable of comprehending what he meant.
(*TN : This is a proverb that means one has made progress in a short time and should be treated differently.)
He can’t waste his life since he is able to relive it. First, he needed to settle accounts with the two guards who betrayed him in his previous life. Those two weren’t his personal bodyguards, so how did they come to join his ranks? But if he needs to kill them, he has plenty of means to do so.
At that same instant, there was a person who had concealed himself in the darkness. He was no fool and had easily realised that the prince wasn’t the same as he had been previously. Then there’s also that gentleman. Based on how attentively he was treated by the prince, he gathered that his background should be rather significant, even if he wasn’t aware of his identity. Therefore, he needs to be eliminated!
With this regard, he crept out from behind the tree and sought a way to inform the crown prince. If he prevails once, he’d definitely be able to move up a few levels and emerge as a person favourably viewed by the crown prince’s side. He would no longer have to worry for the rest of his life.
The more he thought, the more beautiful his vision became; to the extent that he completely missed the chilly gaze from nearby. He’d just finished penning the secret letter and was about to convey it to the crown prince when Murong Heng’s icy-cold voice sounded from behind him, “Hold it right there!”
His entire body became paralysed,…… and he turned around very, very slowly.