Chapter 55: Refused Marriage
“Because Ren Fengyao defied a decree, he was locked up by Dongfang Chao.”
This gave Ye Yin slight pause. Then, he snorted. “Defied a decree? Ren Fengyao, that fellow, had the courage to defy a degree? Perhaps Dongfang Chao grew wary of Ren Fengyao’s talent and is using this as a pretext!”
“Little Qi, why do you think that?”
Ye Yin walked over to Du Luo and sat down. “Besides this, I cannot think of another reason that Ren Fengyao, that stupidly loyal person, would defy a decree. I remember when I left Dongling, the situation was unstable. Ren Fengyao worked as hard as he could, even fainting twice at court. Now, with his four years of hard work, Dongling’s dissidents have been weeded out by him. But now that Dongling is at peace, he is of no use. Perhaps Dongfang Chao was unable to sleep soundly without him around. Actually, killing someone after they have stopped being useful is a common practice of emperors. If anyone’s to blame, it’s Ren Fengyao for his senseless loyalty.”
Du Luo smiled peculiarly. Little Qi’s words were correct. However, it was not because of this that Ren Fengyao was imprisoned, but because…
Little Qi, it was because of you!
Just as he was about to Tell Ye Yin the truth, he heard a female voice.
“It’s already snowing, you two are still on the roof? I made a light midnight snack, come down and eat it!”
With a laugh, Ye Yin leapt off the roof. He looked up and said, “Brother Du, come down. Let’s go inside.”
In a neat, refined room, the flames of a few candles reflected a glow on a youth’s face. It was as if he had come out of a painting. The youth had signs of drunkenness, his face faintly flushed red, his lustrous eyes faintly glazed over, like wisps of clouds covering the moon. Although his gaze was slightly unfocused, his eyes darted around, twinkling, somehow faintly enticing.
So only when the youth was drunk would the youth’s feminine side would be exposed!
“Minister, I think you look very good when you’re drunk!” Lanzhi had never seen Ye Yin drunk before. This was the first time she had seen Ye Yin with flushed cheeks and alluring.
Although Ye Yin appeared drunk, his mind was clear, and he noticed the hidden delight in Lanzhi’s eyes. He supported his chin with one arm, blinking at Lanzhi in a lovely manner. “Wifey, if you want to see your husband drunk, then just send me alcohol as long as you’re not afraid of me going into a drunken frenzy.”
“Enough, you two fake phoenixes. Stop putting on a show.” Du Luo couldn’t stand their display of “deep love”.
“We’re not fake, Brother. Don’t you know my Lanzhi loves acting like this the most? I’m merely coordinating with her! Right, Lanzhi?”
Ye Yin’s eyes flashed with obvious craftiness. His smile that was not a smile made Lanzhi shiver inwardly. She turned to Du Luo hastily. “Brother Du, normally, you two can enjoy the moon from the roof, but today, it is pitch black outside. It’s even snowing. Don’t you feel cold being on the roof so long?”
Du Luo chuckled. “With the burn of alcohol, it is not cold. Also, because we were deep in discussion, we lost track of time.”
Du Luo intended for Lanzhi to ask him what they were talking about, but Lanzhi didn’t say a word. He could only turn to Ye Yin and say, “Little Qi, aren’t you curious what kind of decree he defied?”
Ye Yin curled his lip. “That’s his business, not mine. Why would you ask me that?”
Du Luo laughed again heartily. His laughter could move hearts and made his face appear even more lively, so Ye Yin normally liked when Du Luo laughed. But today, when he saw Du Luo’s smile, he felt an ominous sensation. Was it related to him?
Just as he suspected, Du Luo said, “Little Qi, it was because of you. He defied a marriage decree, saying he could never marry another wife until his last marriage ends!”
Ye Yin’s heart sunk at flying speeds. Why would Ren Fengyao say “unless his last marriage ends”? Was he merely making an excuse to defy Dongfang Chao’s decree, or… Or did he knew that he was alive? No, it couldn’t be…
“Ren Fengyao? The prime minister of Dongling? What does him defying a decree have to do with Little Qi?” Lanzhi asked curiously. She had noticed Ye Yin’s expression dim.
“As Little Qi’s wife, how can you not know who Ren Fengyao is?” Du Luo teased. Glancing at Ye Yin, he said, “Why don’t you ask Little Qi himself?”
Lanzhi massaged Ye Yin’s shoulders playfully. “Little Qi, who is Ren Fengyao?”
“Didn’t you say so yourself? The prime minister of Dongling.”
“Of course I know he is the prime minister of Dongling. He is the most revered man among the commoners. How could I know know? I’m just asking what you two’s relationship is.”
He had never told Lanzhi about it before, so she naturally did not know. He did not want Lanzhi to know because he knew she would use Ren Fengyao as leverage to make fun of him. He had specifically ordered Chun Ri and the others not to mention Ren Fengyao before Lanzhi, but today… meddlesome Du Luo!
From Du Luo’s expression, Ye Yin could teel Du Luo had intentionally mentioned Ren Fengyao before Lanzhi. He glared at him and said angrily, “A stranger!”
“A stranger? Haha, Little Qi, he’s really a stranger?”
Lanzhi had noticed a shift in Ye Yin’s expression, which made her even more curious.
“Brother Du, what is the relationship between Little Qi and Ren Fengyao?”
“Relationship, huh…” Du Luo said meaningfully, “Technically speaking, Ren Fengyao is your rival. Little Qi is his dead wife.”
“Dead wife? So Little Qi married Ren Fengyao before?” Lanzhi was baffled. “What, how can Little Qi be a dead wife?”
“If Little Qi didn’t become a dead wife, how could he become prime minister?” Du Luo laughed.
Lanzhi only half understood. She glanced at Ye Yin, giggling mischievously, “So Little Qi, you’ve married before!”
Perhaps due to the fact that Lanzhi’s teasing was so obvious, Ye Yin’s originally dark expression suddenly brightened. He slowly swayed the wine cup in hand, acting very indifferently as he said, “What, I can’t marry?”
“Yes, yes, of course!” After living with Ye Yin for four years, she gradually understood Ye Yin’s character better. She naturally knew that this was a sign that Ye Yin was about to get angry and hastily shot Du Luo a look while laughing awkwardly.
Du Luo understood immediately, drinking a swig of wine leisurely. “Don’t you want to know who Dongfang Chao tried to marry Ren Fengyao to?”
Who could it be besides princess Rongfei! It wasn’t as if she had only been chasing him for only a week.
“The princess! To be able to marry the princess is such a honor, how could he refuse? Ah, perhaps… he liked Little Qi? Little Qi, how did you separate from him? How did you become his dead wife? Does he know you’re alive?”
Ye Yin cast a glance at the curious Lanzhi. “Lanzhi, you shouldn’t be too curious. Have you ever heard that curiosity killed the cat?”
Lanzhi humphed, thinking to herself, whatever, she would just ask Chun Ri or the others later!
“Little Qi, he does not believe you are dead. He refused the conferment saying he could not marry ‘until his last marriage ends’.”
Ye Yin’s expression suddenly froze. He sat up straight, facing Du Luo with a raised brow. “Brother Du, there’s something I do not understand. How did you know that Ren Fengyao was imprisoned? You even know what excuse he used to refuse the conferment.”
Du Luo lowered his gaze. When he faced Ye Yin again, his expression was complex. Slowly, he said, “Little Qi, are you suspecting me? All of Dongling is talking about how Ren Fengyao was imprisoned. Do you know where he refused the marriage? He was at court, in the presence of multiple chancellors. He did not give Dongfang Chao any face at all. This was part of the reason why he was imprisoned.”
“Is that so!” Ye Yin fell silent. His gaze fell to his reflection in the wine cup. He frowned, his hand unconsciously tapping the table as he ruminated, deep in thought.
“Why aren’t you saying anything?”
“About what?” Ye Yin said subconsciously.
“What do you think?”
“I think it is a little strange.” Ye Yin looked at Du Luo. “Dongfang Chao knows that Ren Fengyao does not like his sister, so he would know that perhaps Ren Fengyao would refuse. He shouldn’t have conferred the marriage before everyone at court in the public eye, rather he should have sent the imperial edict directly to the minister’s residence. This way, there would still be leeway and Dongfang Chao would have not risked losing face. But…”
“Perhaps Dongfang Chao did this intentionally thinking Ren Fengyao would agree in order to give him face. Who would have thought… Didn’t you say he was a stupidly loyal person? Why would he dare to defy the edict?”
“Who knows? Perhaps it is because it was his bottom line! Frankly speaking, princess Rongfei will never be accomplished.” Ye Yin sighed regretfully. “Accompanying one’s sovereign can be like accompanying a tiger. This idiom is simply too true. If Ren Fengyao continues on to stubbornly refuse the princess, he’ll have a rough life!”
Du Luo secretly glanced at the clearly indifferent Ye Yin, thinking to himself, you can be uninvolved now, but in the future? The reason that Ren Fengyao refused this marriage is obvious: he will only be your husband his entire life. Little Qi, if you aren’t careful, you’ll fall into the hunter’s trap. Now, it seems that Ren Fengyao is not as loyal as you say. In fact, he is not loyal at all. Otherwise, he would not secretly help you.
A thousand miles away, Dongling prison.
A handsome male in black clothes sat alone in a relatively clean prison cell. He did not appear angry nor sad, but calm. It was as if being in a cramped, dim cell wasn’t anything much.
Outside the cell came the sound of footsteps. Sitting calming with his eyes closed as he relaxed in the cell, Ren Fengyao suddenly opened his eyes. His pitch black eyes were like an empty void that sucked in all light. Those same eyes glanced over at the prison door calmly to watch as a man in yellow* entered.
*In Chinese culture, only the emperor, empress, and the crown prince could wear yellow clothing. It’s a sign of royalty and succession to the throne. If you wore yellow, you could get your head chopped off
Dongfang Chao entered. He did not speak immediately, instead attentively evaluating Ren Fengyao. Ren Fengyao did not shy away either, calmly meeting Dong Fangchao’s gaze, his gaze devoid of emotion, completely tranquil like the cloud and winds.
Five days in prison had left Ren Fengyao sallow and thin. He had faint dark circles under his eyes. However, he appeared alert.
Dongfang Chao felt the sensation of guilt wash over him for a moment, but… He stared at the silent Ren Fengyao. “Jing Xun, you still won’t accept Rongfei?”
Ren Fengyao smiled. “You already know my answer. Why do you ask me every day?”
Dongfang Chao flushed with anger for a moment, but he suppressed his rage. “Jing Xuan, you know Rongfei is strong willed, but she isn’t a bad girl. She genuinely likes you. She has many faults, but shouldn’t you at least give her the chance to better herself? Jing Xuan, tell me, what exactly is so bad about Rongfei? What are you unsatisfied with.”
“Nothing, there’s nothing I’m unsatisfied with her about.” Ren Fengyao regarded Dongfang Chao calmly.
“If there’s nothing you’re unsatisfied with, then why would you refuse the marriage? Why did you make me* lose face before so many people?” Dongfang Chao’s voice rose. Evidently, Ren Fengyao’s indifferent response had enraged him.
“Your majesty, it is not whether or not I’m satisfied with her, but if I like her or not. The princess is your highness’s younger sister. I consider her my little sister as well and have never treated her as a woman. Feelings must be mutual, one person cannot be happy by themself. I cannot waste her happiness.” Ren Fengyao was now speaking deferentially in response to Dongfang Chao’s anger, his words sincere and honest.
*He called Dongfang Chao by his title and regarded himself as 臣, which means I, your servant. It creates a sense of distance
Because Ren Fengyao had changed his way of speaking, anger brewed in Dongfang Chao. Exceptionally callously, he said, “You dare to use ‘mutual feelings’ as an excuse? What about you? Can a person who has already died for four years give you mutual feelings? Four years ago, you sent away the two beautiful Beiqi women I conferred you to live elsewhere. For four years, you’ve ignored everyone’s advice to remarry. Is that dead person really so important to you? Jing Xuan, did you really think I didn’t know how you and her were during that half year period? You never stayed overnight in her room before! But now you pretend to be the romantic husband, do you think I’m a fool? If you’re going to find an excuse, at least find a believable one.”
“Chao, do you know what I regret?” Ren Fengyao changed his address again. Dongfang Chao relaxed, his taut face easing, but he did not speak. He only waited for Ren Fengyao to finish speaking.
Ren Fengyao sighed. “I regret that I did not grab her that day*. Only after much thought have I realized I had missed many opportunities.”
*could also mean “did not capture her at the time”
Ren Fengyao’s genuine regret shocked Dongfang Chao. He said exasperatedly, “Jing Xuan, don’t forget, she’s already dead. She’s been dead for four years.”
But Ren Fengyao smiled faintly. “Who said she died?”