Half asleep and half awake, Yi Yin was carried back to the Northern Courtyard by Wei Zhao. In his daze, it suddenly occurred to him that this was the first time in his two lifetimes that he could remember Wei Zhao holding him.
Helian Zhuo was not really interested in men. There were no male pets in the palace except Wei Zhao. The Great Yan-zhi didn’t like Wei Zhao and wanted to separate him from Helian Zhuo’s concubines, so she arranged his residence in a particularly remote place in the northmost part of the palace. Several surrounding courtyards were empty and uninhabited. Fuyu didn’t even have a written language, so naturally they wouldn’t have given each palace a name, as in the case of the Great Yan. The so-called Northern Courtyard was merely a name for the orientation, similar to the Central Courtyard of the Great Yan-zhi and the Western Courtyard of Lady Zuo.
Although the location of the Northern Courtyard was remote, it was not a small place. The courtyard was composed of two sections, the front hall and the back yard. In the front, there were three main rooms, two ear rooms, two wing rooms to the east and west, and three less important back rooms.
Although the courtyard was large, the house was a bit old and looked shabby. However, the furniture and furnishings were all half new. There were not many people living there, about a dozen in total, so the courtyard was quite barren and deserted.
Wei Zhao carried Yi Yin into the house and ordered hot water and ginger soup as soon as he entered. The nanny took the other servants out to find Yi Yin. Only one maid was left to look after the house. She quickly turned around and went to the kitchen.
Wei Zhao put Yi Yin, who was shivering with cold, on the kang bed, tore off his drenched clothes in a few movements, then stuffed him under the covers and wrapped him tightly in a warm quilt.
Fuyu was located in a cold place in the north, and the winter was long and cold. Therefore, the construction of the house was very different from the Great Yan’s houses, both the palace ones and the ones of the common folk. The rooms were built in the style of pockets, that is, the door was not in the middle of the room, but in the east. The stove was located just inside the pocket room, so there was no delay in cooking or burning the kang. The inner room had a large north-south kang, with a narrow kang along the western wall of the room, linked to the north-south kang, commonly known as the “curved kang”.
Of course, the palace was different from the outside. The stove in the noble houses only boiled water and was not used for cooking. In the Northern Courtyard where Wei Zhao lived, the kitchen was located in the ear room in the front courtyard.
The fire was burning all day long and hot water was always available. Wei Zhao had just warmed up Yi Yin’s body when the maid prepared the bath. At that very moment, the nanny returned with two maids, and Wei Zhao handed Yi Yin over to her.
Yi Yin’s memory was correct: it was the first time Wei Zhao had hugged him since he was born, so he was definitely not up to the difficult task of bathing.
The nanny took Yi Yin, who was wrapped in a quilt, and carried him to the bath. As soon as she unwrapped the quilt, she exclaimed in fright. The two maids next to her were also clutching their mouths and unable to speak. Who was so cruel that they could beat a three-year-old child, bruising him all over!
Yi Yin’s face was swollen, his cheeks puffy, his eyes were black and blue, and there was dried blood on his brow, under his nose and at the corners of his mouth. His body was even more appalling, with bruises everywhere, and almost no intact place could be found.
Yi Yin’s nanny and the maids in the Northern Courtyard were all arranged by Helian Zhuo and only listened to his orders, not to the Great Yan-zhi. Wei Zhao had a cold temperament and was not easy to serve, so they were just doing their duties. But Yi Yin had grown up with them, so how could they not feel distressed for him?
“What a sin!” The nanny sighed and gently put Yi Yin into the bath. Who else but the First Prince would dare to do such a thing to Yi Yin? It was just that the previous times there were only some skin injuries. This time it was too cruel. She didn’t know if the king would care if he knew about it.
The hot water stung his wounds and Yi Yin soon regained consciousness, but when he found himself stripped naked and being washed in the bath, he chose to pretend to be asleep. He couldn’t really face having someone help him in the bath.
Yi Yin soaked in the bath for a quarter of an hour, during which time the maid came in twice to add hot water, and only after he was warmed up inside and out was he picked up by his nanny, wrapped in a warm quilt and carried back to the bed, where she wiped his hair with a dry towel.
Immediately afterwards, a large bowl of steaming ginger soup was brought to Yi Yin. Yi Yin, who had never liked the taste of ginger, refused to drink it and hid under the quilt, crawling under it to the other side of the kang.
The nanny laughed helplessly at this and was about to pull him out when she saw Wei Zhao reach out his hand and get Yi Yin from under the quilt, holding him in his arms so tightly that Yi Yin was unable to move. The nanny seized the opportunity, pressed Yi Yin down and poured the ginger soup in.
After pouring the ginger soup, the nanny suddenly realised that something was wrong. Didn’t Wei Zhao always dislike Yi Yin? Why did he change his temper today and went out to find him personally without saying anything, and even hugged him several times? It was like the sun coming out from the west!
The nanny didn’t know about the old affairs between Helian Zhuo and Wei Zhao, but she saw with her own eyes that Wei Zhao didn’t like Yi Yin.
Yi Yin had been growing up well since he was little. He was white and tender. He liked to laugh and was very cute. She sometimes thought that Wei Zhao was still Yi Yin’s biological father, so she hugged Yi Yin in front of him. But Wei Zhao never looked at Yi Yin, let alone reached out to hold him.
When Yi Yin grew up, perhaps because of the natural love of a son to his father, he was very affectionate towards Wei Zhao, calling him “Daddy” this and “Daddy” that all day long. But Wei Zhao still ignored him, and even when Yi Yin rushed over to hug him, he would brush him away.
Once, perhaps because Wei Zhao was too heavy-handed, Yi Yin fell to the ground and couldn’t get up, but he was still screaming for his daddy. The nanny thought that Wei Zhao’s heart could soften, but he just cast a cold look, turned his head and left Yi Yin crying on the ground.
In the end, it was the nanny who picked up Yi Yin in distress. From that day onwards, Yi Yin was less persistent with Wei Zhao, and when he was bullied by Pei Di, he would secretly hide in another room and cry, not letting Wei Zhao see him.
Thinking of this, the nanny respectfully stepped forward and said, “Master, Second Prince is seriously injured. He needs to get medicine quickly, this slave…”
Without waiting for the nanny to finish her sentence, Wei Zhao waved his hand and said, “You go, I will take care of him myself.” Seeing the various medicine bottles already on the kang table, the nanny withdrew, still doubtful.
In the face of Wei Zhao’s unusual actions, the nanny was not the only one to be puzzled. So was Yi Yin. Could it be that Wei Zhao wanted to give him medicine himself?
Yi Yin guessed correctly. Wei Zhao was going to apply medicine to his broken skin and bruises. Everything, including the bandages where necessary, was properly taken care of. But Wei Zhao didn’t say anything; neither did he ask Yi Yin how he got injured, nor did he ask him if the wounds hurt. They both were silent.
For no apparent reason, Yi Yin suddenly thought of his time in the imperial palace in Yujing. At that time, Wei Zhao was dead, the whole families of the Crown Prince and Princess Yuankang were dead. From two sons and three daughters born to Wei Su and Empress Ji only one descendent was left, Yi Yin, but Wei Su didn’t want to see him. The people in the palace worshipped the high and stepped on the low, and naturally they didn’t look up to him. Being bullied and fighting with others could be described as commonplace. Every time he was injured, Yi Yin licked his wounds silently, and no one would care about his life or death.
Only once did Wei Yang somehow think of him and give him a bottle of medicine for his injuries. Although the medicine was wrong, Yi Yin was still deeply moved. No one had ever treated him well, so when Wei Yang treated him a little better, he fell into the trap stupidly.
In the past, Yi Yin would not shed tears no matter how badly he was beaten. What was the use of crying, apart from being a laughing stock? It was better to practise to get stronger and get back to his bullies one by one. Tears were the most useless thing in the world.
However, perhaps because a child’s skin was too sensitive and his tolerance for pain had decreased, or perhaps because Wei Zhao’s actions were too gentle, making him somehow feel aggrieved, when Yi Yin came back to his senses, his face was already wet.
Wei Zhao hadn’t finished treating his wounds when he noticed that Yi Yin was crying. He thought that he was too heavy-handed, so he lightened his movements and reached out to wipe away Yi Yin’s tears. Who knew that Yi Yin would cry even more fiercely. Wei Zhao was suddenly a little at a loss.
In fact, Yi Yin didn’t want to be so embarrassed, but in his two lifetimes, it was the first time someone had treated him like this and wiped his tears. He really couldn’t help it. The tears were like opening a floodgate, and he couldn’t close it at all.
Then he thought about it; his body was only three years old, it was normal to cry when he was uncomfortable, so why pretend to be strong? It would be just weird. After thinking about this, Yi Yin simply hugged Wei Zhao and cried to his heart’s content.
Wei Zhao was completely confused. Yi Yin had hugged him before, but he didn’t want to care about him because he thought it was Helian Zhuo’s son. He even ruthlessly pushed Yi Yin away, and after many times, Yi Yin stopped pestering him. Wei Zhao didn’t feel relieved, but his heart was empty.
Now that he was being hugged by Yi Yin again, Wei Zhao’s whole body was stiff and he didn’t dare to push away. He could only watch Yi Yin wipe his tears and snot on him.
Yi Yin was tired of crying and regained his senses, so he covered his face with his hands in embarrassment and looked at Wei Zhao’s cloudy face through the gaps between his fingers. In any case, the fact that Wei Zhao had not pushed him away just now meant that he was not totally repulsed with him.
Glaring at Yi Yin, Wei Zhao ignored him and continued to apply medicine. He was about to tuck him in when Yi Yin suddenly put his arms around his neck and called out softly, “Daddy!”
Wei Zhao hesitated and didn’t reply. He pushed Yi Yin’s hands away and told him to lie down on the bed, then got up and went out.
Yi Yin curled his lips mockingly, wrapped himself in the quilt and went to sleep. Was it what they meant when saying “the more you live, the more you go back”? His body became smaller, and his mind also became smaller? It was really embarrassing to be coquettish with Wei Zhao, who was actually younger than him.
The saddest thing was that Wei Zhao still refused to respond to him. It seemed that he shouldn’t make a fool of himself in the future. Wei Zhao was just soft-hearted and couldn’t see him dying in front of his eyes. He could never accept him because he was Helian Zhuo’s son.
Yi Yin slept on the kang for the rest of the day, solving both meals while still lying down. Wei Zhao didn’t even enter the house again. The nanny cooked Yi Yin’s favourite meal and brought it in to feed him bite by bite.
When it was almost dark, Wei Zhao finally came back. The nanny was ready to take Yi Yin back to his room, but his body hurt so much that he grunted when he was touched. Wei Zhao waved his hand, saying that she didn’t need to carry him away and that Yi Yin would sleep with him tonight.
When she heard what Wei Zhao said, the nanny’s eyes widened. Did she hear it wrong? Wei Zhao, who had never cared about the child before, was allowing Yi Yin to sleep with him? What if anything went wrong at night? Could he handle it?
Doubt is suspicion. Since Wei Zhao ordered, the nanny could only obey the order. Fortunately, she slept in the east wing. If something happened in the middle of the night, she wouldn’t be far away.