With just a glance at the gate, Yong Qi became so sad that he almost shed tears. His mother was like a fine Jade flower who used to live in a high position and with great wealth. Many people used to line up to fawn upon her, but now she was detained and locked up inside here.
Seeing his sullen face, Chang Defu also dared not speak too much. He first stepped forward to greet the head of the guard, did official business according to official principles, and showed him the note personally written by the current Crown Prince.
After the negotiation was completed, he came over to ask Yong Qi who was still in the sedan chair for instructions. “I’ve said everything, your Highness, would you like to go in now?”
Yong Qi was too afraid to open his mouth, after nodding his head and giving a sound of acknowledgement, he walked into the Cold Palace; the place where he only came for the first time.
There were many rules in the palace. Li Fei was the concubine who was sent to the Cold Palace while Chang Defu, a servant who didn’t have anything related to her even as her servant, so he couldn’t see her in person. He was stopped by the guards and had to wait outside the door after Yong Qi arrived at the gate of the palace.
The Cold Palace adopted the same guarding system as Tiren Palace, where the guards were divided into several groups, each group having their own duties, and not a single thread of confusion could be allowed to happen.
After going past the palace’s gate, there was another group of guards inside.
Probably because the personal letter written by the Crown Prince was seen by the guard beforehand that he didn’t make things too difficult. He asked Yong Qi to sign and leave his name on the big register book and explained, “This is the place where I’m most afraid of getting into trouble. No matter who enters or exits, he must sign his name. The rules are strict in and out, so I can’t lead the way. Your Highness, please go in by yourself.” With a hand forming a please gesture, he let Yong Qi go inside.
Yong Qi went in alone, and after passing the outermost corridor, he could vaguely see that the layout here was similar to that of an ordinary palace, but it was much more barren and desolate.
The further he went in, the more lifeless the place became, as if he wasn’t entering the Cold Palace but a ghost domain, both gloomy and sinister.
With the carved beams and buildings painting faded and dilapidated, it turned out to be even more horrible.
Yong Qi walked alone for a while. This was a huge palace but there was no one present in the room and he also didn’t know where Li Fei was.
Looking at the worn-out eave overlapping near and far, he felt sad in his heart. After hesitating for a while, he continued to search the room one by one. Then he saw something moving past in the corner of his eye, so he went over to take a look.
Outside the inconspicuous side door, a woman in a dress skirt was bending over the stove, coughing several times with a puff of black smoke coming out of the stove.
Yong Qi quietly walked over, tilting his head and carefully looking at her for a moment before calling out in a low voice, “Qingyi?”
The woman’s back flicked and stiffened for a while before turning around. After confirming the person, she said, “Your Highness has come.” After having said these four words, a tone that sounded suffocated and stuffy as a string tightly pulled in the air, slowly loosened becoming almost like a sobbing and weeping instead.
Qingyi was the most trusted person around Li Fei. When Li Fei entered the palace, she was the first to serve by her side. Watching Li Fei being favored, conceiving, giving birth to Yong Qi, and almost becoming the mother of the world, then she saw Li Fei rapidly taking a fall. After more than 20 years, there hadn’t been a single day she was away from Li Fei’s side.
She was also the one who had watched Yong Qi grow up, which was why it was natural that their relationship was more familiar and intimate than that of a master and servant relationship compared to others.
The two met each other, yet they didn’t know what to say. Thinking back to that year today, there was nothing but sorrow with thousands of melancholy aroused which just happened and ended in the twinkling of an eye.
After a while, Qingyi exhaled and asked in a low voice, “Did Your Highness come to pay a visit to Niangniang?”
Yong Qi nodded and asked, dejectedly, “How is mother?”
Qingyi squeezed out a wry smile, “With how things are….how is it possible for her to be any better? But Niangniang is still able to hold up for the time being.” Looking at Yong Qi lovingly, she suddenly lowered her voice and sighed, “The last time I saw Your Highness, Your Highness was still the Crown Prince…alas.”
On the day Yong Qi was abolished, Emperor Yan was exceptionally vigorous in carrying out his orders. If there weren’t movements, there weren’t movements but once he did, he would set off the whole situation in a stir. Within just a day, came several imperial decrees; abolished Yong Qi, contained Li Fei, and suppressed the Song family.
Once the emperor overturned the palm of his hand, and the pressure was overwhelmingly powerful.
The mother was detained and locked up in the Cold Palace while the son was escorted to the faraway fief; they were separated even before they could see each other. Later, with just a letter of normal greetings turned into a corrupted secret letter, causing Yong Qi to be taken to the Inner Punishment Court to be negotiated.
Thinking of Emperor Yan’s ruthlessness, Yong Qi couldn’t help but tremble in fear.
He didn’t want to say anything more, sighed and asked, “Where is mother? I want to pay her respects.”
“Your Highness, please follow me.”
Qingyi led him into a wing room not far away, and when they reached the door, she pointed to the inside, “Niangniang is inside. Your Highness, please go in by yourself.” Then she turned back and continued working on her stove.
While crossing the short threshold, Yong Qi’s mood was both anxious and a little timid. He somewhat felt an unspeakable fear thinking about meeting his mother soon, as if he was afraid of seeing some unbearable tragedy.
This wing room was fairly large, and the gloomy air inside was heavy. He couldn’t make out the things hanging on the window, whether it were tapestries or thick blankets. Even if it was a sunny day, the light wouldn’t be able to get in.
Yong Qi walked while looking inward, his eyes couldn’t adapt for a while entering this dark and dull place. He stopped and stood in daze for a while, and the corner of his eyes jumped. Then he suddenly found a thin figure sitting on the soft chair on his right hand side.
That face with that appearance, that was his mother, Li Fei!
“Mother!” Yong Qi cried out and knelt on his knees.
When his Crown Prince title was abolished, he was sent to the internal penal institution and was separated from Li Fei, his life became ups and downs as if drifting along the storm wave. At this meeting, he had made up his mind not to be as useless as before and not like a child to cry in front of his mother.
But having seen the appearance of his mother living in a grave-like Cold Palace with her dignified and noble figure wearing only a semi-old thick coat in the winter, sitting alone in the dark wing, he was overwhelmed by a feeling of sorrow, how could he bear it?
“Mother…son has come to see you…” Yong Qi knelt down, hugged Li Fei’s legs, burst into tears, and sobbed intermittently, “…son is useless, I made you suffer…mother…”
He sobbed and choked while trying to suppress his voice but the pain in his lungs and throat made him become more uncomfortable. While crying, his back arched sharply, unable to stop the tremors.
A hand stretched out and gently stroked the top of his head, and said softly, “Silly child, this is the Cold Palace, it’s quieter than anywhere else. There’s no need for you to hold back, just cry out loud.”
“Mother!” Yong Qi raised his head.
Li Fei’s profile, which was as beautiful as before, jumped into his wet eyes, and only then did Yong Qi discover that there were tears quietly hanging on his mother’s face.
It was the first time that he saw his mother, who used to have a strong disposition, shed tears, and it made him even more sad. He hurriedly wiped her tears with his sleeves and sadly said, “I am no good. Even after I’m here, I’ve made my mother feel sad.”
Li Fei helped him up, let him sit by her side, and said with a smile, “It’s not easy to meet and what are you crying for? Never thought I would also have a day like today.”
After there was a change in the Palace, the first time the mother and son met, it was in this lifeless Cold Palace. It was cold outside, and it was even more cold here.
Everything was like a nightmare that was hard to wake up from.
Li Fei and Yong Qi sat in silence for a while, wiped away their tears, and then began to speak in a low voice.
It seemed that no one wanted to mention the past that was so full of losses, Li Fei, one sentence by one, only asked Yong Qi about his daily life and how he had eaten after parting. Hearing Yong Qi said that Emperor Yan made a decree and found him a princess at Nanlin to get married to, Li Fei fell silent. She sighed, and faintly said, “I, after all, also have a daughter-in-law who I don’t know when I can meet her.”
She also asked if Yong Qi had been wronged in the Inner Punishment.
Yong Qi suddenly felt guilty. He thought of when he was being tied up, wantonly played and assaulted by Yong Shan, as well as the self-induced scandal last night, he didn’t dare look at Li Fei’s face at all. He bowed his head and said, “Father Emperor is benevolent, son has been released, and he didn’t suffer much. Now I am ordered to reflect on it, live and study at the Prince’s Palace temporarily with Yong Shan.”
While talking, he quietly observed Li Fei’s face.
Li Fei, who was now in the Cold Palace, hadn’t had time to apply any rogue or power on her face, but her skin was still crystal clear. Her pair of phoenix eyes hung up high, retaining a bit of the dignity of the past.
The light was dim, and Yong Qi looked at his mother’s side face dimly, as usual, giving birth to a guilty conscience that seemed to be seen through for no reason. He had to ask, “I don’t know… how is mother these days…? I heard Qingyi say that mother is in good health…”
There was a faint smile on Li Fei’s face as she said faintly, “The days I am here are not bad compared to you.” Her gaze swept towards Yong Qi, and she sighed with pity, “You have suffered a lot, how can your mother not know?”
Yong Qi was startled, his thick eyelashes trembled.
Li Fei stretched out her hand, squeezed his hand tightly, and lowered her voice, “Yong Qi, last time your mother sent someone to the Prince’s Palace, did you meet him?”
Yong Qi’s hand shook violently, and after a long silence did he lightly nod.
“Fortunately, you met him.” Li Fei breathed a sigh of relief, and said with emotion, “This Cold Palace is really a place where flaws are hard to find. It is not easy to send a message. Your mother has been in the palace for more than 20 years and has trained a lot of people, but now there are only one or two that can be used at a critical moment.”
There was silence for a while.
Li Fei asked in a low voice, “Do you remember what he said?”
Yong Qi pursed his lips and nodded earnestly.
“Did you do what he said?” Li Fei added.
Her voice was very soft, but Yong Qi’s body still shook.
He hesitated for a while, raised his head and looked up at Li Fei, and said in shame, “The son is useless, there are so many people there, Yong Shan has hidden all the important things, and I…mother, I can’t find that thing.”
After he finished speaking, he lowered his eyes to look at his toes, quietly waiting for Li Fei to get angry.
But Li Fei was silent. It was unknown how long it took before she spoke with a little disappointment, and said slightly puzzled, “Hid it? That’s the Prince’s Palace where you used to live in the past. Where can things be hidden? You don’t know.”
“Are you unwilling? Or you can’t do it?”
Yong Qi evaded Li Fei’s gaze and opened his lips embarrassedly, “Mother, this…this matter…”
The hand that was holding him tightly was suddenly released, as if to throw him away. Yong Qi’s heart seemed to be pulled by something, and he suddenly grasped the retracted hand, and had no choice but to boldly say, “Now the thing has become like this. Mother should stop holding a grudge against him. Yong Shan is now the Crown Prince and he promised to let mother go, and Yong Lin also returned to the palace. Mother also knew that son had always had a good relationship with him. It may be assumed that these two brothers won’t make things difficult for us, maybe even uncle will be forgiven in the future. Mother, mother, you listen to me, when Yong Shan went out that day, this child didn’t know if he went to see Gong Wuhui. Besides, even if he had something written by Gong Wuhui, what use would it be after stealing it? It will only cause trouble for mother. You… listen to your son once…”
After listening to him, Li Fei didn’t know whether she was angry or regretful. Suddenly, tears came out again, sliding down her face like a broken thread.
Yong Qi was frightened and didn’t dare to sit anymore. He knelt down and said, “Mother, don’t be angry, listen to your son, mother, don’t hate your son…”
Li Fei’s mouth was pressed tightly, as if the misery and despair in her heart were about to break through the embankment, and she could only rely on this last resort to guard. Without saying a word, she stretched out her arms and hugged her kneeling son tightly.
The mother and child were cuddling each other like the only thing they could do under the sky was to depend on each other.
“Stupid child, mother can hate all the people in the world, but I will never hate you.” Li Fei’s hands trembled, but her tone was soft and reassuring, “I know you can’t figure it out, you are too kind to understand the vicious heart in these people in the palace now, and for a lifetime, you will not understand it. My poor child, God, have mercy on my son, why was he born as a prince?”
Yong Qi didn’t really understand and felt uncomfortable for a while, and couldn’t help saying, “Mother, don’t be like this… what Gong Wuhui wrote is nothing important, why do you have to get it?”
“It’s nothing important? Have you seen it?”
Yong Qi was at a loss for words, and fled Li Fei’s sight in embarrassment.
Li Fei looked at him for a while, and said helplessly, “Yong Qi, mother is here now, do you think she still thinks about fighting with Shu Fei? You don’t understand the heart of being a mother, being a mother under the world, only her own children are in her eyes, and she mustn’t allow a single sand rub in her eyes. Yong Qi, you are the sand in Shu Fei’s eyes, and she won’t spare you, do you understand?”
Yong Qi was slightly surprised.
He wasn’t a fool either, what Li Fei said, he understood somehow.
It didn’t need to mention his status as the former Crown Prince or other things else, only the relationship between Yong Shan and him, Shu Fei wouldn’t let him go.
Being a mother, who could tolerate such a thing?
“Mother, Yong Shan, he said…”
“Don’t mention what Yong Shan said! Even if he said it, would you believe it?”
“I…” Yong Qi swallowed back the words on the tip of his tongue.
There seemed to be many fingers bit by bit pinching the flesh and twisted it fiercely in his hearts, both painful and fearful, as if a feeling of danger lingered in his internal organs, and it was as cold as poison.
He didn’t know who the danger would ultimately fall on, and he didn’t want to harm any of these people in the palace.
First of all, his mother must be safe, and Yong Lin shouldn’t have an accident either.
But what about Yong Shan?
Although Yong Shan had some points that made people unable to find him pleasant, he treated him really differently. Yong Qi was shocked to find that he was a little bit reluctant. Falling asleep in Yong Shan’s arms last night was the most reassuring place to stay in the palace.
That kind of cherishment was completely different from what his mother Li Fei gave in the past.
It wasn’t the same thing.
Since he was a child, he has respected, loved and feared Li Fei. Now that they had met misfortune, he was more intimate than before. After all, mother and child were connected to a wretched situation. If there was a need to deceive each other, wouldn’t there be a word for intimate?
Yong Qi thought and thought, raised his head, lowered his eyes, repeated a few times, and finally gently groped Li Fei’s hand, like a child, eagerly begging while stammering, “Mother, I… I have a little faith.”
After thinking and saying that, even if Li Fei had a good temper, she would definitely be furious next.
He lowered his head and waited while trembling.
Unexpectedly, Li Fei was only taken aback, her eyes dropped and cast on his face, which was softer than before.
Li Fei asked softly, “You don’t want Yong Shan to have an accident like you, be abolished, and suffer the same crime as you, right?”
Yong Qi was both cowardly and weak, at this time, there was no escape from being exposed.
He trembled all over, knelt in front of Li Fei, flustered for a moment, feeling as if betraying Li Fei’s expectations and nodded guiltily.
Li Fei who had expected it earlier only sighed, and asked quietly, “If there is a death between mother and Yong Shan, who do you choose to die?”
Yong Qi seemed to be stabbed by someone, suddenly raised his head and looked at Li Fei heartbrokenly, “Mother, you…why are you trying to force me like this?”
The soft face that resembled Li Fei was twisted in pain.
“Mother doesn’t force you, not force you.” Li Fei couldn’t bear it, caressing his face, softly coaxing, “My child, you are so kind in your heart, how can your mother push you so cruelly. This question is not for you, but for Yong Shan.”
Yong Qi was shocked.
Li Fei slowly said, “Yong Shan is already the Crown Prince, and the emperor’s health is no longer good. If he dies, Yong Shan will ascend the throne. As soon as he ascends the throne, Shu Fei will be the Empress Dowager. At that time, the Empress Dowager would not let me live, nor will she let you live. If Yong Shan wants to save your life, he has to confront Shu Fei. You have to let Yong Shan choose, and ask him who to choose, you die, or his mother dies.”
“No, no, no…” Yong Qi shook his head flusteredly, “It won’t be like this, mother, you…”
“At that time, I can’t live long either.” Li Fei smiled sadly, “But it’s nothing, as long as you can live, I can close my eyes in death and die contentedly.”
“Mother, it won’t be like this…”
“It has always been like this.” Li Fei paused and said, “Cut weeds and eliminate the roots. If she fails to cut the weed and remove the roots, it is because the force is evenly matched, and she can’t do it. When she has this power, she will naturally do it.”
She suddenly showed a weird smile and asked in a low voice, “Yong Qi, did you know that Shu Fei was here yesterday?”
Yong Qi shook his head blankly, “What was she doing? She… did she do something to mother…”
“She’s not an Empress. How dare she act rashly if she hasn’t obtained it yet?” Li Fei smiled indifferently. “After fighting for 20 years, she still doesn’t have the courage to do it herself. This woman is here to negotiate conditions with me.”
“What are the conditions?”
“She gave me a promise.”
Yong Qi faintly felt wrong, and asked, “What promise?”
“She promised me,” Li Fei curled her lips meaningfully, “As long as I end my life on my own within three days, when she becomes the Empress in the future, she will spare you a life, let you return to Nanlin’s fiefdom and live on your own.”
Yong Qi was shocked, both angry and hateful, “What kind of condition is this? Mother, I’ll go report to my father, she actually…”
“Of course even if it’s a condition, it’s still a good deal. If she really keeps it to the end, I will hang the rope without saying a word.” Li Fei was calm, her eyes slowly became sharper, and she smiled coldly, “But I know exactly what she is like. Hmph, it’s okay if she doesn’t come, but once she showed her foot here, I finally understood.”
Yong Qi was puzzled, “What did mother understand?”
Li Fei smiled actually a little pleasant, as she smiled at Yong Qi, saying, “Naturally understand that her capable and smart prince is guarding and protecting my Yong Qi. Otherwise, how could she rush me to die? If I die, you will have conflict with Yong Shan. If you have a conflict with Yong Shan and are causing trouble, she will have an excuse to get rid of you.”
When Yong Qi heard “Guarding and protecting my Yong Qi”, he was already stunned and ashamed.
The things he did with Yong Shan, if it was known to other people even if they were unrelated to him, he wouldn’t know where to put his face, not to mention Li Fei’s expression and tone, it was clear that she knew something.
He lowered his head, gritted his teeth and said nothing.
Li Fei was surprisingly gentle and comforted him. “Yong Qi, don’t lower your head. Others don’t know, but how can your mother not understand her child? There are things in the palace that are even worse than you two brothers. As long as you can live well, no matter what you do, your mother won’t blame you. But……”
The slender and cold fingertips lightly touched Yong Qi’s chin, raising his face a little.
“But you have to listen to your mother and steal the things Gong Wuhui wrote to Yong Shan.”
“Mother is not to harm others, but to protect herself.” Li Fei looked at him eagerly, “This is the evidence of Yong Shan trespassing into the Imperial Prison and Gong Wuhui’s private meeting, although it can’t really harm Yong Shan, but it is a handle after all. Yong Shan’s position isn’t stable yet, even if Shu Fei has thicker courage, and she did not dare to leak this matter to the emperor’s ears. With it in hand, mother can use this to threaten Shu Fei, so that she will not dare to touch us mother and son for the time being. She used my son to blackmail me, and I also want to use her son to counter her.”
Yong Qi’s heart moved slightly, and asked half believe and half doubt, “Really?”
Li Fei proudly said, “In this palace, the two of us have been fighting for almost 20 years. Each one can’t really do anything about it. We rely on the two words of checks and balances. Don’t you want all of us to be safe? This is the only way.”
Yong Qi pondered for a while, then shook his head and said, “Although this method seems to be useful right now, didn’t mother say that if Yong Shan ascends the throne in the future, Shu Fei will be the Empress Dowager? At that time, the emperor would be gone, and she would no longer be afraid of this piece of evidence.”
“You child, it’s hard to live right now, what are you still thinking about in the future?” Li Fei said helplessly.
“The harem is a dark road full of sharp knives. Who dares to expect not to be cut by a knife for a lifetime? It will be fine if you can survive this period. The future will be discussed in the future, understand?”
“Yes… son understands…”