Zhang Wan Yi seemed to be startled by Yun Ke’s words. She took a step back, saying anxiously, “Cousin, I… I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. It’s just that I felt so uncomfortable in my heart, so I acted like this.”
Feeling uncomfortable in her heart led her to touch another man’s cheek? What kind of excuse was that?
Yun Ke’s gaze gradually became colder. He looked at Zhang Wan Yi, who seemed on the verge of tears, and a chilling feeling arose in his heart. In the previous life, was he really deceived by such a woman? Every word, every action of hers, seemed innocent but was nothing more than an attempt to seduce others.
How many of her actions in his last life had just been an act in front of him?
In the previous life, at this Xiao Jing Lake, she had also taken the initiative to touch his face. Just like now, she had also withdrawn her hand as if frightened. However, in the last life, he had taken a step forward, holding her delicate wrist in his agitation.
He vividly remembered her raised eyes were fill with tears, reluctance, and deep affection.
That was how he had been so easily deceived by her, foolishly embracing her and telling her to wait for him.
Now, whenever he thought of everything she had said and done that had all been revealed as lies, he felt disgusted from bottom of his heart.
“Uncomfortable? If you truly don’t want to marry Fifth Brother, it’s probably too late now,” Yun Ke said coldly.
If she genuinely did not want to marry Fifth Brother and, like Gu Yu Qi, was willing to ignore everything because she liked him and wanted to marry him, then she would have become his princess long ago. Why wait until now? Zhang Wan Yi, oh Zhang Wan Yi, you deceived me all of my previous life and you plan to continue doing so in this lifetime?
You are reluctant to give up the status and power that come with marrying Yun Yi and the Crown Prince, and you are reluctant to give up on me. There can be no such good thing in the world…
“Cousin Yun Ke, don’t you understand my feelings?” Hearing the implied meaning in Yun Ke’s words, Zhang Wan Yi raised her tear-filled eyes and looked at Yun Ke with a flickering gaze.
“Whether I understand or not, what does it matter?” Yun Ke suddenly smiled lightly, like a refreshing breeze but devoid of any warmth, just carrying a hint of coolness.
Watching Yun Ke before her, who seemed like an immortal being, Zhang Wan Yi felt a sharp pain in her heart. She raised her hand to cover her chest, looking like she was about to collapse.
“If you truly adore me, how about you go to your father right now and tell him that you want to marry me, not Fifth Brother?” Yun Ke suddenly lifted his hand and grabbed her wrist. A sinister smile appeared on his lips as he gazed at Zhang Wan Yi’s panicked expression, his heart growing colder.
“Cousin Yun Ke, how is that possible?” Zhang Wan Yi shook her head suddenly. The marriage between her and Yun Yi was decreed by the emperor. Going against the imperial decree would mean disobedience! “That would be going against the imperial decree.”
“You brought me out tonight to confess your feelings, didn’t you? What’s the matter? Afraid of defying the decree?” Yun Ke suddenly pulled her close to him, lowering his head to look at her.
She could clearly feel the cold aura emanating from Yun Ke. Although he was smiling, there was no warmth in his smile. His eyes reflected her distressed and panicked expression.
Suddenly, Zhang Wan Yi felt very afraid of Yun Ke. The Yun Ke before her was no longer the familiar cousin who, although not talkative, had always been kind to her. While he was still extraordinarily handsome, a chilling aura exuded from him that sent shivers down her spine.
“Cousin Yun Ke, you know very well that I can’t…” Zhang Wan Yi said in a panic. She lowered her head, unable to meet his eyes.
She truly felt like she had lost her senses, inviting Yun Ke out tonight. If something happened to her, how would she explain it to her family? No, she had to leave this place. She could not continue being alone with Yun Ke.
Thinking about this, she struggled to free herself. “Cousin Yun Ke, let go,” she said anxiously.
“Let go? Didn’t you bring me here tonight because you wanted me not to let go?” Yun Ke said coldly, the smile on his lips becoming even colder.
“No… Cousin Yun Ke, I was wrong. I shouldn’t have done this,” Zhang Wan Yi hurriedly begged for mercy. The Yun Ke before her felt like a stranger, and she was genuinely afraid. She struggled desperately. When the boatman saw the situation, he wanted to come over, however, Yun Ke flicked his finger and a force shot through the air. It hit his acupoint with a pop and he immediately stood motionless.
Zhang Wan Yi felt the force around her wrist get stronger and stronger, almost crushing her. She begged in pain, “Cousin Yun Ke, please let me go.”
“Alright.” Suddenly, Yun Ke released his grip. Zhang Wan Yi, who had been exerting backward force as she struggled, staggered as the pressure on her wrist suddenly lifted. In her unsteadiness, she twisted her ankle which made her to fall onto the deck. The small boat shook violently. Terrified, Zhang Wan Yi screamed while desperately clinging to the boat’s railing.
“As you wish, I’ve let go,” Yun Ke said coldly, looking at Zhang Wan Yi who had fallen to the ground and could not get up, “I’ll pretend tonight’s events never happened. Since you’re going to marry Fifth Brother, stop having these wild thoughts. Conduct yourself well!” With that, he forcefully pushed against the boat’s deck and, like a soaring eagle, leaped onto the lake’s surface. Utilising the momentum from his flight, he executed a perfect skim over the water, and in the blink of an eye, he had left the small boat and landed on the shore.
Yun Ke snorted coldly and walked away without looking back.
Boarding his carriage and heading back, Yun Ke closed his eyes. He used his fingers to gently press on his aching temples.
Zhang Wan Yi’s behaviour just now was truly chilling. Thanks to his previous life, he had actually naively thought she was the woman who genuinely cared for him. Why did it have to be like this? He was just testing her with words and yet, her insincere intentions were easily exposed.
Sure, she might have some feelings for him, but not enough to defy an imperial decree for him. However, the previous life’s Gu Yu Qi willingly gave up her status as the legitimate wife of Prince Fu, lowering her status without regrets to become his concubine.
He had actually doubted Gu Yu Qi’s words and believed a liar who was full of lies.
His heart ached terribly, and there was a dull pain near his temples. Unable to control himself, Yun Ke pounded his fist against the carriage wall with a muffled thud.
“Your Highness?” came the voice of a secret guard from outside.
“It’s nothing,” Yun Ke replied in a low voice, calming his chaotic thoughts, “Send a letter to Fifth Brother anonymously, informing him that his bride for tomorrow is currently at Xiao Jing Lake.” A cruel glint flickered in his eyes, “Also, send a generous gift to the Crown Prince. Tell him that Princess Jing is having a secret rendezvous at Xiao Jing Lake, and Prince Jing caught them in the act tonight.”
If it were not for Zhang Wan Yi’s deliberate deception, he would not have treated Gu Yu Qi the way he did in his previous life. This time, it would be fine if she did not provoke him, but since she actively sought him out, well, he was not a saint either. It was impolite not to reciprocate.
He wanted to see what lies Zhang Wan Yi would give to deceive her future husband.
Thinking back, he shuddered. How much had he believed Zhang Wan Yi at that time, and how much had he misunderstood Gu Yu Qi?!
He clenched his fists tightly on his knees. Waves of sorrow surged through his heart, for Gu Yu Qi and for himself.
In the previous life, it was obvious that he had found a woman who genuinely loved him, willing to give up everything for him, who did not want him just for his identity and status but just because he was Yun Ke, a man she truly loved.
And what about him? Due to misunderstandings over and over again, he had pushed her far away from him.
He yearned to see Gu Yu Qi right now, even if it was just from a distance. It would bring peace to his heart, knowing that she, too, had been reborn and was here with him.
The more he learned, the more he felt unworthy to stand by her side. His heart ached deeply.
He had even feared that all of this was just a dream and that once he woke up, Gu Yu Qi would disappear. No, he could not endure decades of thinking about the same person again. He needed to take action. Only by marrying Gu Yu Qi could he feel at ease.
No, he still would not be at ease. He not only wanted to remarry Gu Yu Qi, but also to win back her heart.
What was lost did not represent the past, but what was won back would be the future.
Yun Yi had been trying on his wedding attire for tomorrow. He stood in front of the mirror with a joyful expression. In the mirror, his reflection looked more determined and spirited in the bright red wedding attire.
Having Zhang Wan Yi was equivalent to gaining the support behind Prime Minister Zhang. The power of the Crown Prince was not significant anymore, as both he and Yun Ke had taken away a considerable portion of it. As long as the Crown Prince made another mistake, his power would further diminish. At that time, he would emerge as a new force and when the old man realised that his power was gone, he would have no choice but to pass the throne to him.
After marrying Zhang Wan Yi, he could marry Gu Yu Qi. The beautiful woman and the country would both be in his hands.
The more he thought about it, the happier he became. However, what was up with the Ding Yuan Marquis? Father the Emperor wanted him to recognize Gu Yu Qi and let her return, but he had claimed to be ill, staying shut indoors with no action. Could it be that he had not understood Father the Emperor’s intentions? After getting married, he should also visit the Ding Yuan Marquis’ residence, and casually knock some sense into him. Father the Emperor’s patience was limited.
Just as Yun Yi had happily nodded at his reflection in the mirror, a feathered arrow shot past his ear with a whistling sound from outside the window.
Yun Yi dodged it alertly. He swiftly moved forward to catch up with the feathered arrow like a shooting star, pinching the arrow shaft between his two fingers.
Damn it, he had been too absorbed in his thoughts which had led to this negligence. He had not even noticed someone was outside!
“Assassin!” Seeing Yun Yi holding the arrow with his fingers, the palace maids and guards serving in the room became alarmed, shouting in panic.
Chaotic footsteps approached outside and a group of patrolling guards ran over, “Where is the assassin?” They looked around bewildered. In the dark night, they could not find anything.
“Bunch of idiots!” Yun Yi’s good mood completely disappeared with the sudden appearance of the arrow and the sluggishness of the guards.
The person had only intended to give a warning. If they had wanted to take his life, it might have… Yun Yi broke into a cold sweat at the thought. He looked at the arrow in his hand. It was a common feathered arrow with no special features, with a piece of paper tied to its end.
He took off the paper and unfolded it, his handsome brows furrowing suddenly.
“Someone,” He shouted loudly, “Prepare the horses!”
The sound of hooves broke the night’s silence in the capital city, leaving a series of tapping sounds in the night wind. Yun Yi did not even have time to change out of his formal attire. He galloped directly towards the location described in the note.
At the same time, a similar scene unfolded in the Crown Prince’s palace. Crown Prince Yun Xuan was reading in his study when a feathered arrow shot through the window, landing squarely on his desk. Startled, he threw away the book in his hand and stood up from his chair. “Assassin! There’s an assassin!” he yelled in panic.
When numerous guards rushed in, there was no sign of any intruder.
The Crown Prince, still shaken, ordered someone to pull up the feathered arrow on his desk. Then he roared, “Search for the assassin! What are you all standing here for?”
“Crown Prince, there’s a message on the arrow,” the chief of the guards presented the arrow and Yun Xuan finally noticed the letter tied to its tail.
“Bring it here!” Yun Xuan regained his composure and pretended to be calm as he addressed the guards.
The guard took off the letter and handed it over. Yun Xuan carefully unfolded it and took a look. After a moment of surprise, he sat back in his chair and burst into laughter. The many guards in the room were all confused. What had happened to the Crown Prince? How did he go from being so distressed just a while ago to laughing like this?
“Someone, go check what Prince Jing is doing right now,” Yun Xuan laughed for a long time and suddenly thought, instructing, “But observe from a distance. Don’t alert them prematurely.”
“Yes,” the chief of the guards left, still confused about the situation.
Yun Xuan did not know who had sent the letter but regardless, if the guards found that Prince Jing was not in the palace right now, then the information was likely true. Thankful for this anonymous do-gooder, he considered this news a tremendous boon.
He was already fuming over Yun Yi’s marriage to Zhang Wan Yi. Now that he suddenly got such news, was it not like finding treasure? The heavens were helping him, he was truly destined to be the emperor. Thinking of this dispelled the gloom that had lingered for days and Yun Xuan actually felt like having a drink to celebrate.
Yun Yi galloped angrily to the shore of Xiao Jing Lake, not even daring to bring any bodyguards. He simply charged in alone.
Along the way, he hoped that what the letter said was false but at the same time, he felt like this matter was likely true.
When he arrived at the edge of Xiao Jing Lake, he abruptly pulled on the reins. In the distance from where he stood on the shore, he saw that there really was a small boat on the lake. The moonlight spilled like silver over the boat, the surrounding lake shimmering and serene, a picturesque scene. It was quiet and distant and full of artistic nature. However, when he clearly saw the face of the woman illuminated by the lamp at the bow, he was truly breathless.
Zhang Wan Yi! It really was her!
She had hurriedly picked up a bamboo pole, attempting to punt the boat. Unfortunately, as a delicate daughter of the prime minister, she had never done such a thing before. The boat, under her attempts, was just spinning in the lake, showing no sign of approaching the shore. Near the stern of the boat stood a person dressed like a boatman. He stood there motionless, like a wooden post.
With just one glance, Yun Yi knew that his acupoint had been tapped. The boat continued to spin in the lake, its hull swaying. The boatman finally lost his balance and with a splash, he fell into the lake. Anxiously, Zhang Wan Yi tried to reach out to grab him, but she could not stand steadily herself and fell back onto the deck.
Tears welled up in Zhang Wan Yi’s eyes. She was shocked and afraid. She had impulsively invited Yun Ke to come out, but she had not expected him to be so ruthless. Not only did he tap the boatman’s acupoints, but he also left her alone on the lake.
What to do? Zhang Wan Yi’s heart was about to shatter from anxiety. She wanted to call for help, but this place was the one she had chosen for its remoteness. How would anyone come here?
Even if someone came, how could she explain why a daughter of the prominent prime minister’s family who was about to get married tomorrow came alone to Xiao Jing Lake so late at night?
Yun Ke! A trace of resentment suddenly rose in Zhang Wan Yi’s heart. She had never been in such an embarrassed state before. If she could get through this, then he should wait for her revenge! If she easily let him off, then her name would not be Zhang Wan Yi!
Yun Yi was filled with anger after just one glance. He initially thought of turning around and letting the woman continue spinning around in the water on her own. Who cared about this marriage?!
However, after taking a couple of steps, he turned back.
He stood in the shadows, watching Zhang Wan Yi from afar with a trace of hatred in his eyes.
She actually played him to such an extent. They were getting married tomorrow and today, she was having a secret meeting with her lover outside.
Well, it would have been fine if he had not known. However, since he knew, it could be good blackmail. As long as he knew who her lover was, he would not be afraid of not being able to control both of them in the future. After all, marrying Zhang Wan Yi was only for the influence of the Zhang family. Such a woman like this could just be married and ignored. His thoughts were only on Gu Yu Qi.
Thinking about this, he dismounted and leaped a few times, landing on the bow of the boat.
Feeling the bow sinking, Zhang Wan Yi, who had practically cried herself unconscious on the boat, immediately raised her head.
Under the moonlight, her future husband was dressed in a red robe, appearing like a celestial being, tall and majestic in front of her. His eyes, originally warm like a spring breeze, were now filled with endless anger and coldness which made Zhang Wan Yi, whose body was already cold, shiver even more.
How could he suddenly appear here? Zhang Wan Yi panicked. She opened her mouth but for a moment, she could not utter a word.
“Cousin, you have a good taste for elegance,” Yun Yi smiled coldly, glancing around. The boat was very small and it seemed like only Zhang Wan Yi was on it with no one else in sight. The boatman who’s acupoint had been tapped had fallen into the lake. He was half floating and half sinking in the water. It was unclear whether he was alive or dead.
“C… C… Cousin,” Zhang Wan Yi finally managed to speak, but she stuttered.
“We’re getting married tomorrow. You can’t sleep tonight either?” Yun Yi slowly squatted down, looking down at Zhang Wan Yi who was lying on the ground. He spoke with a faint smile, a superficial one that did not reach his eyes.
“Yes,” Zhang Wan Yi regained her composure, forcefully biting her lower lip to wake herself up from the pain.
“Oh, it just happens that I can’t sleep either,” Yun Yi reached out slowly to Zhang Wan Yi, who extended her hand as if bewitched, placing it in his palm. She felt her hand being firmly held by Yun Yi, then a force lifted her body.
“Who is Cousin waiting for here?” Yun Yi embraced Zhang Wan Yi, slowing down his tone, and asked seductively.
“I just couldn’t sleep, so I came out for a walk. But I didn’t expect the boatman to suddenly stop moving,” Zhang Wan Yi had calmed down. She leant on Yun Yi in an obedient and quiet manner. She raised her head, looking at him.
She knew that her several elder cousins were all exceptionally handsome. The Crown Prince was gentle, Yun Ke was aloof, and compared to them, this Yun Yi who always wore a smiling expression, seemed quite ordinary. Usually, her main focus was on the Crown Prince and she even harboured feelings for Yun Ke. She only regarded Yun Yi as an older brother. Besides his cheerful disposition, she did not think much of him.
Yet today, being so close, she felt an immense pressure emanating from him. Although he was smiling gently at her, that smile truly made her shiver with fear. Coupled with her guilty conscience, she dared not meet his eyes.
Zhang Wan Yi tried hard to stay calm, constantly cheering on herself because she knew that if she showed any signs of unease now, the rest of her life would be in jeopardy.
“Cousin, I’m getting married to you tomorrow. You don’t know how excited and happy Wan Yi is in her heart. I’m so happy that my thoughts are in chaos, and I just wanted to come out and calm down a bit,” Zhang Wan Yi forced herself to lie.
“Is that so?” Yun Yi smiled, embracing Zhang Wan Yi’s slender waist. He lifted a hand to gently touch her nose, seemingly affectionate, but his eyes were dark, “So good at pretending!” After saying this, he changed the subject and his hand gripped Zhang Wan Yi’s chin, “Don’t think this prince doesn’t know why you came here. Zhang Wan Yi, listen carefully. This prince will remember what happened tonight. You had better be a good princess for this prince and do whatever this prince asks you to do in the future. Otherwise, this prince could just leave you here right now. When my bridal sedan arrives at your residence tomorrow morning and can’t find you, we can see whether it is my reputation or the Zhang family’s reputation that gets tarnished”
Zhang Wan Yi was so frightened that she shivered and her face turned pale. Her breath became erratic, and her gaze could not settle. She did not dare to meet Yun Yi’s eyes.
“Did you hear?” Yun Yi exerted force, compelling Zhang Wan Yi to look at him, asking sharply.
“I heard…” Zhang Wan Yi’s mental defences finally collapsed. She nodded through tears and snot. Yun Yi let go with disgust.
“Speak up, whom were you waiting for?” Yun Yi asked ominously.