Sui Yan dazedly allowed the servants to dress him. He only woke up after stepping outside the door and into the cold wind.
Duan Zhisu held an umbrella and walked side by side with him to the front hall.
As the heavy snow roared, Sui Yan vaguely remembered that it had snowed just as heavily on Duan Zhisus birthday in his previous life. That youth had stood in the center of the crowded main hall, his lips pale and his eyes filled with disappointment.
And then he said…..
What had he said? Sui Yan suddenly couldnt recall.
While he was deep in thought, the two of them had crossed the veranda and entered the main hall, which was filled with guests.
Although Duan Zhisu wasnt favored by the emperor, he had good relationships with many princes and young masters. As a result, the room was filled with youths dressed in luxurious robes. Since there werent any adults present to rein them in, their behavior was unbridled.
When Sui Yan was led to his seat by a servant, Song Xian and Jiang Enhe kept winking at him. He ignored their gazes and sat down, only to find that he was seated next to Duan Mingchong.
When he saw Duan Mingchongs gentle face, Sui Yan recalled how embarrassing he had been just now, and his face immediately flushed. He had the urge to bury his head on the table.
It was just a birthday banquet, so there was no such thing as a seat of honor. Seated with a few youths, Duan Zhisu raised his glass and said, “Thank you all for coming to this banquet. This is only a small gathering, so dont be restrained. Ill start by toasting everyone.”
The youths in the room quickly raised their glasses and downed their contents.
Then, the revelry began.
In his previous life, Sui Yan still had the energy to play with them, but he no longer had that inclination. He held his glass and took a sip but was surprised to find that it had actually been filled with peach nectar.
Sui Yan looked up. Song Xian, who sat across from him, smiled and mouthed, “Dont tell anyone.”
Sui Yan laughed.
The hall was extremely lively with the group of youths playing together and Duan Zhisus permissiveness, but Sui Yan only yawned as he sat and watched.
Duan Mingchong, who sat by his side, saw that he was yawning so hard that he teared up. He chuckled, “I heard that you slept in Third Imperial Brothers room all day. Why are you still so tired?”
Sui Yan was so embarrassed when he saw Duan Mingchong that he had blushed, but when Sui Yan noticed that Duan Mingchong didnt intend to bring up the shameful things he had done, he gradually felt reassured.
“Maybe its because I need to hibernate,” Sui Yan seriously replied.
Duan Mingchong was so amused that he laughed, “Ah, I dont know where you get all these ideas from.”
Sui Yan smiled at him, his eyes curving as he glanced at Duan Mingchongs table.
For some reason, there wasnt a wine glass in front of Duan Zhisu. There was only a translucent porcelain bowl that seemed to be filled with ginseng soup.
Sui Yan tentatively asked, “Your Highness, arent you going to drink?”
Duan Mingchong said, “I hurt my right arm while practicing swordsmanship with the martial arts master this morning. The imperial physician applied medicine and instructed me not to drink any alcohol for three days.”
Sui Yan let out an “Oh,” but he was confused. In his previous life, he had also heard about this injury. So how had the crown prince been poisoned? Was the poison mixed into the ginseng soup?”
Just as Sui Yan was pondering, a servant standing outside the door suddenly reported that the Second Prince had arrived.
Duan Zhisu hurriedly stood up and instructed a servant to welcome the Second Prince.
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The Second Prince Duan Ruwang had a weird temperament. In the court, he was very shrewd. In the eyes of the emperor and officials, he showed a lot of promise. However, in the eyes of his peers, he was cold and disagreeable. Coupled with the rumor that he tortured and killed many people, he became even more frightening. Every time someone spoke of him, their faces would be full of terror.
Thus, when he arrived, even Jiang Enhe lowered his head and did not dare to speak.
Duan Ruwang swept his gaze over the crowd, and everyone hurriedly bowed.
He gave an insipid smile and said, “You dont need to be this polite. I originally wanted to come earlier to celebrate Third Imperial Brothers birthday, but Father Emperor wanted me to stay a bit longer at the cabinet. I hope Im not too late.”
Duan Zhisu laughed and replied, “Zhisu is already flattered that Second Imperial Brother is willing to come here today. How could there be any mention of lateness?”
Duan Zhisu led Duan Ruwang to his seat, and the two seemed to have a lively conversation.
Sui Yan sat in his seat and drank his peach nectar absent-mindedly as he kept glancing at Duan Ruwang. Perhaps he was acting too blatantly, but the nearby Duan Mingchong chuckled, “After the New Year, you have to go to court and come into contact with the Second Prince. Did you want to take this opportunity to get acquainted with him?”
Sui Yan immediately shook his head, thinking, I dont want to deal with such a weird person. Im only looking at him to stop him from playing any dirty tricks.
Duan Zhisu and Duan Ruwang were still discussing something together. Sui Yan had already drunk several glasses of peach nectar. Even though he liked sweets, he couldnt help but be a little sick of the drink.
Just as Sui Yan was starting to feel impatient, Duan Ruwang stood up.
Out of those present, Duan Ruwangs position was the highest, so when he stood up, nobody dared to stay seated, and they all hurriedly followed.
Duan Ruwang raised a glass of wine and lightly said, “There are still some important matters that I need to deal with in the cabinet, so I wont stay any longer. Ill toast everyone and leave first.”
Everyone quickly raised their wine glasses.
Duan Mingchongs brows furrowed. If Duan Zhisu had raised the toast, he could calmly replace the wine with tea. However, Duan Ruwangs status in the court was extremely special, and they often clashed because of their opposing political views. Duan Mingchong couldnt allow Duan Ruwang to use this against himself in the future, so he quietly gave some instructions to the servant behind him.
Soon, the servant poured him a glass of wine.
Sui Yans pupils shrunk.
It seemed like Duan Mingchong would only be drinking a single glass of wine during the entire banquet, and it would be this glass. Thus, the Stigma should have been mixed inside.
Sui Yan coldly glanced at the servant, only to find that this was Duan Zhisus personal servant.
Sui Yan didnt know what he thought of, but his face suddenly paled.
Duan Ruwang had already downed his glass of wine. The nearby Duan Mingchong held the wine, frowning as he moved to drink it.
Sui Yan took a breath before he suddenly leaped towards Duan Mingchong.
Duan Mingchong was taken aback, and he immediately reached an arm out to support Sui Yan. However, even after he pulled Sui Yan into his arms, the hand holding the wine hadnt budged.
Sui Yan buried his head in Duan Mingchongs arms and secretly gritted his teeth. If the wine had spilled when he pounced, everything would have been fine. However, Duan Mingchong practiced martial arts, and unexpectedly, not a single drop of wine had been spilled.
Sui Yan mentally wailed, If your arm is injured, dont hold things so steadily, okay? Doesnt it hurt?
Sui Yan had been too loud, and everyone in the main hall was now looking over.
Duan Mingchongs face turned red, “Little Young Master?”
Sui Yan thought, Since Ive completely embarrassed myself, theres nothing left to lose. He whined and pressed down hard on Duan Mingchongs right arm.
Duan Mingchong let out a hiss. He was in so much pain that he shivered, yet his right hand still held onto the wine glass steadily.
Out of desperation, Sui Yan nearly knocked the glass down.
Duan Ruwang glanced over indifferently and asked, “Whats wrong with Little Young Master?”
Duan Mingchongs face flushed, and he whispered, “Perhaps hes drunk.”
The nearby Song Xians eyes widened. Drunk? Drunk from peach nectar?
Meanwhile, Sui Xuns face darkened. He lowered his voice, “Sui Wanggui!”
Sui Yan shivered, but he was already in too deep. With Duan Ruwangs personality, even if his toast was interrupted, he would definitely find another reason to make Duan Mingchong drink this glass of wine.
He didnt know how Duan Mingchong had grown up in the vicious court, but he wasnt wary of his siblings at all.
Sui Yan hated iron for not becoming steel and struggled to pounce on the wine again. Duan Mingchongs left hand wrapped around his shoulder, trapping Sui Yan in his arms.
Sui Yan, “……” Im going to chop your arm off!
Duan Mingchong whispered, “Dont make trouble. Were in front of the Second Prince. Arent you afraid that he will tell Father Emperor that you are rude and reckless?”
Sui Yan was so angry that his chest hurt, and he internally howled, Laozi is saving you!
Duan Mingchong seemed to want to carry Sui Yan back to his seat. Just as Duan Mingchong was about to put the wine glass down, Sui Yan suddenly felt hot, and there was a humming in his ears.
In a daze, he watched himself struggle and throw himself on Duan Mingchongs arm.
His vision flashed, dancing with dots that spiraled like snowflakes. The ghostly voice rang in his ears again.
At the lake outside the imperial banquet on Little New Year, that voice had crooned, Come over. You wont be afraid anymore once youve come.
And only a few days later, at this birthday banquet full of people, that voice sounded again, Snatch it over, snatch it over. Once you drink it, you wont feel any more pain.
Sui Yan stared at the wine glass in Duan Mingchongs hand, possessed. Duan Mingchongs voice sounded unintelligible, like it was coming from far away.
In a daze, he listened to that sound that echoed in his ears. He didnt know how much time had passed – maybe it was a day, or maybe it was a moment – before he came to a sudden realization.
——Ever since his rebirth, the voice in his ears that had told him to seek his death had actually been his own.
No, that voice had existed even earlier, in his previous life when he was alone and unattached.
As if in a dream, he watched himself snatch the wine glass from Duan Mingchongs hand, hold it up to his lips, and down the entire glass.
Duan Mingchong was taken aback, and he immediately moved to help Sui Yan up, asking, “Youre……youre really drunk?”
Meanwhile, Song Xian, who was standing nearby, suddenly paled. Duan Zhisus hand shook, and he spilled his wine all over himself. Even Duan Ruwangs brows suddenly furrowed.
Sui Yans body didnt seem to obey his commands, and he stared at the wine glass in his hand.
Seeing his pale face, Duan Mingchong hurriedly helped Sui Yan back onto his seat.
The wine glass in Sui Yans hand fell onto the ground, and he felt limp. He fell onto the table, motionless.
Everyone present saw Sui Yan making trouble, and they were ready to see him make a fool of himself. Jiang Enhes eyes shone, and he felt that he had something he could use against Sui Yan. In the future, Jiang Enhe would definitely use this to make fun of Sui Yan.
Since Sui Yan had already drunk that glass of wine, Duan Mingchong sighed and ordered a servant to bring another glass of wine. He toasted the distant Duan Ruwang and downed it to return the toast from earlier.
Sui Yan buried his head in his arms and closed his eyes. Upon a closer inspection, his whole body was trembling.
Have I gone crazy? What am I doing? Sui Yan shuddered, My brother is still alive, my brother is still alive. I dont want to die anymore. Since I want to live, why did I drink that glass of wine in his place? Wasnt that years lesson enough?
He didnt know if it was his misperception, but when he swallowed the wine, his throat suddenly started hurting and itching. He even had the urge to rip his throat open.
Sui Wanggui Sui Wanggui!
He silently recited his own name. His mind felt hazy. He couldnt even tell whether he had willingly drunk that glass of poisoned wine because he didnt want the disastrous events of his previous life to reoccur or because he didnt want Duan Mingchong to be murdered.
Absent-mindedly, he thought of what he had told Duan Mingchong a few days ago.
“Your highness is kind and generous, so please help me this time. I will definitely repay you in the future.”
Sui Yan thought about it and suddenly gave a muffled laugh. He thought, It seems like you really cant casually owe others favors. If youre not careful, youll end up repaying it with your life.
Its such a loss, he commented.
Sui Yan didnt pay attention to anything after that. He forced himself to stay there until Duan Ruwang left. Then, he staggered to his feet and turned to leave without saying a single word.
Sui Xun frowned and grabbed him, asking, “Whats wrong with you today?”
Sui Yans face was pale as he whimpered, “I, I want to go home.”
Sui Xun replied, “If you want to go back, you should let the Third Prince know. If you leave without saying a word, thats too disrespectful…..”
Sui Yans lips quivered, and he mumbled, “Elder brother can go tell him. Ill leave first.”
As he spoke, he walked into the heavy snow outside without even bothering to put on his cloak.
The author has something to say:
Sui Yan: Nobody is better than me when it comes to tasting poisoned wine.
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