When Li Chengjing woke up again, he was still petrified. Ninth Uncle — although it had been years since someone last called him that, he still remembered this title well, especially because he had been Cheng Yuanjing for longer than Li Chengjing.
He actually married his Cheng niece? He, who had always adhered to the strict moral standard demanded from a crown prince, actually committed something as ridiculous as marrying his own former niece?
Based on his observation so far, he even vaguely guessed that the marriage was not only initiated by him, but he had also forcefully made it happen.
For the first time ever, Li Chengjing greatly doubted himself. He also couldn’t help but despise his other self. Maybe the rejection in his heart was too great, but since that night, he stopped seeing the details of his life with Cheng Yujin in that world.
Yes, Li Chengjing now suspected that his dream was something that happened for real, but in a world different from his own. Was it his past life? Or his next life? He had no way of knowing. But in any case, it was a world that was very similar, but also very different, from his own.
The next few days passed as usual. But on the fifth day, Li Chengjing finally couldn’t help himself and put on a casual tone as he asked, “How are the people of Yichun Marquis Manor?”
The eunuch did not understand why his liege suddenly wanted to know about Yichun Marquis Manor. Those who served Li Chengjing closely knew that although the man named Cheng Yuanjing was long dead, he was actually the cover identity for His Majesty, who once lived as the ninth son of the Yichun Marquis Cheng family and obtained the title of Jinshi on the nineteenth year of Jianwu.
Although both His Majesty and the late Emperor did not recognize the Cheng family, they were now living very comfortably following His Majesty’s ascension. None of the family members held an important position in court, sure, but they were very prosperous in terms of material wealth. Holding back his puzzlement, the eunuch started to rattle about the latest situation of the Yichun Marquis couple. After he finished, he saw that His Majesty hadn’t told him to stop, so he could only continue with other family members, then down to more gossipy news. Li Chengjing endured listening in boredom for a long time. After the eunuch finished reporting Cheng Yuanxian’s latest amorous adventures, he finally reached the topic that Li Chengjing actually wanted to know the most: the whereabouts of the Cheng family’s two young misses.
No, they were actually no longer young misses, for they were already married off. The two daughters of the Cheng family were both married to the same man — Marquis of Jingyong Huo Changyuan.
So she was married… Li Chengjing’s heart skipped a beat, and unnamed desolation akin to desperation suddenly shrouded his entire being. He was silent for a long time, but finally forced himself to ask, “How is Eldest Miss Cheng recently?”
He insisted on calling her ‘Eldest Miss,’ as if she was still a boudoir lady waiting to be married and not the wife of another man.
“Eldest Miss Cheng? Your Majesty, do you mean the late Marchioness Jingyong? Marquis Jingyong’s first wife has passed away, and now the Marchioness is his second wife, who is also Eldest Miss Cheng’s younger sister.”
She was dead.
Fate was so cruel to him, and let him learn about her only after it was too late. He and she had once lived in the same manor for a short time, but he mainly lived outside for most time while she cherished her reputation as an unmarried girl and rarely ventured out of the second gate. As a result, they had never met each other, save for superficial greetings at rare family gatherings. After that, their life trajectories were like two straight lines: each heading toward its own future and never cross paths again.
She was dead. This realization became a nightmare that haunted Li Chengjing. He ordered someone to secretly investigate Cheng Yujin’s death and learned that her mood had been affected during pregnancy because of Huo Changyuan and Cheng Yumo’s secret tryst. Then, during the delivery, Huo Xue-shi chose to save the child over the mother, finally resulting in Cheng Yujin’s death. Li Chengjing was furious, but he was the type of person who looked calmer the angrier he was. Instead of exploding with fury, he simply took back all the preferential treatment he gave to the Huo family and simultaneously cut off any possibility of Huo Changyuan’s promotion.
He had quietly treated the Huo family so well because of their relationship with the Cheng family. As a result, they treated her like this.
He was able to stop himself from directly giving Huo Changyuan and Huo Xue-shi death, but only after exercising the greatest self-control he had cultivated for a lifetime.
Li Chengjing didn’t stop investigating, however, and gradually realized that the Huo family couple, who was envied by many for their so-called true love, might actually be a fake. At the very least, Huo Changyuan must not love Cheng Yumo.
As a fellow man, or rather, as a man who loved Cheng Yujin, Li Chengjing could easily discover Huo Changyuan’s inner thoughts. Huo Changyuan thought he was in love with his savior, but in fact, he merely transferred his feelings for Cheng Yujin to Cheng Yumo. Huo Changyuan deceived himself, but Cheng Yumo was no better. Cheng Yumo firmly believed that Huo Changyuan loved her deeply, but was this really the case? Outsiders might be fooled, but over the days and nights Cheng Yumo spent together with Huo Changyuan as a couple, she must have found out how different reality was from her imagination.
This truth was so cruel that Cheng Yumo dared not think about it and would rather deceive herself. But love couldn’t be deceived. Living in such a situation, it was no wonder that Cheng Yumo fell into depression, and it seemed that her health was deteriorating recently.
But what’s the use of this? In hindsight, Li Chengjing found himself even more pitiful than Cheng Yumo. Cheng Yumo was at least married to Huo Changyuan as she wished, while Li Chengjing never had a chance from the beginning.
For a moment, Li Chengjing hated his other self. Since it was impossible, why let him know? Why should ‘he’ show him a part of that beautiful world only to mercilessly shatter it again?
Two years later, Li Chengjing was still alone. One day, he went out incognito and met a Taoist priest. The priest looked pretty much like a swindler and claimed they were predestined to meet by a past.
Li Chengjing humored the swindler and asked with a smile, “What kind of past?”
“This humble self was originally from Qingxuan Temple, but during the eighth year of Jianwu, one just happened to be away on a journey, thus avoiding the disaster. Is this not mean that we were predestined?”
In an instant, Li Chengjing’s bodyguards silently clenched their hands on the handles of their swords. Li Chengjing raised his hand, signaling them to stay put. Still with a smile on his face, he asked again, “For the sake of Qingxuan Temple, Zhen will put up with your nonsense. What do you actually want to convey?”
“Your Majesty is an illustrious monarch whose name will reverberate throughout the ages, but you are destined for a lonely life. Cultivation is inherently against the natural order mandated by heaven, so this humble self just wants to make some good karma to assist one’s cultivation.”
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