Sui Yan looked at Duan Zhisu impatiently but couldnt chase him away because of Duan Mingchongs status. He could only wait for the prince to speak.

Duan Zhisu also knew it wasnt appropriate for him to keep someone here for so long in the middle of the night. A while later, he lowered his gaze and softly said, “In the future, if I join the fight for succession, will you help the Crown Prince or me?” 

Sui Yan froze and suddenly felt sorrowful.

If Duan Zhisu had told him everything in his previous life, there wouldnt have been any question that he would have helped Duan Zhisu gain the throne.

But Duan Zhisu hadnt.

In his previous life, Sui Yan had willingly spent half of his life fighting with others because of one of Duan Zhisus lies. In the end, he even lost his own life. In this life, now that he knew everything, he couldnt make the same mistake again. 

Sui Yan took a deep breath, sucking the cold wind blowing in from the gap in the door into his lungs, making him shiver from the cold.

“Your Highness, do you know what happened to me after I drank that glass of Stigma?” Sui Yan suddenly asked.

Duan Zhisu blankly stared at him.

Sui Yan stretched out his wrist. Blue veins could clearly be seen on his thin wrist as he whispered, “I will be weak and sickly for the rest of my life. I dont even know if I can live until I am twenty-five. In the winter, even if Im in the cold for a moment, my life will be in danger……”

Duan Zhisus pupils shrunk. He gazed at Sui Yan like he was in pain. His lips trembled, but he didnt know what to say.

Sui Yan murmured, “Do you expect me to get involved in the struggle for succession with this broken body?”

Sui Yan quietly stepped forward, stood on tiptoes, and lowered his voice as he spoke in Duan Zhisus ear, “Do you want me to die?”

Duan Zhisu abruptly stepped back and looked at Sui Yan in astonishment. 

When he saw that he had scared Duan Zhisu, Sui Yan wanted to laugh, but as his lips curled, Sui Yan found that he couldnt force a laugh out.

Hmm, there really wasnt anything funny about it.

This night was nothing more than the point of divergence between the two. They would take completely different paths in the future.

Duan Zhisu looked flustered, and his eyes were filled with pain, “I……I never wanted to hurt you……” 

Sui Yan lowered his gaze, his long lashes casting a shadow beneath his eyes, “En, but you didnt trust me.”

Duan Zhisu immediately replied, “I trust you. I didnt want to involve you in this matter only because I wanted to protect you.”

Sui Yan stayed silent.

Duan Zhisu had always valued actions over words. While he regularly brought gifts for Sui Yan, he had never bragged about how precious the gifts were or how difficult they were to obtain. He always said he just wanted to give Sui Yan a small present. Sui Yan knew this, so he couldnt bear to break off their friendship in an ugly manner. 

However, their relationship couldnt return to the way it was before.

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Duan Zhisu was born in the royal family and became mature at an early age. He never wanted Sui Yan to know about his shrewd calculations, lest it made Sui Yan feel that he was scheming.

Duan Zhisu held Sui Yans icy hand and gently enclosed it in his warm palms as he quietly continued, “Although the Sui Manor seems prosperous and powerful, you alone will be left to support the large manor once General Sui Xun returns to the frontiers. You can do so now by relying on Imperial Fathers favor, but if Imperial Father thinks you are as manipulative as me, how will he treat you? Have you ever thought about that?” 

Sui Yan had naturally considered that. If the emperor ever became wary of him, he would throw Sui Yan onto the battlefield to fend for himself, much like he had done to the rest of the Sui Family. With his licentious temperament, Sui Yan couldnt possibly survive on the battlefield. Sui Yan knew that if he somehow died in battle, it would be all the better for the emperor.

Sui Yan lightly replied, “Isnt it my familys duty to protect the nation?”

When Sui Yan refused to listen to his persuasion, Duan Zhisus voice shook, “Sui Wanggui! Im being serious, dont treat this with your usual joking manner!”

Sui Yan was unmoved, “I am also being serious.” 

Duan Zhisu was so angry that he panted, “How long can you live on the frontiers? Are you……throwing away your life like this?”

Sui Yan stayed silent as he struggled to pull his hand back.

Duan Zhisu rubbed his temples, not knowing what to say to Sui Yan. He watched as Sui Yan shivered under the wind, and suddenly, he couldnt bear to drag Sui Yan along as he made a fool of himself in the middle of the night.

Duan Zhisu quietly sighed, and after a long pause, he finally said with difficulty, “Will the Crown Prince……protect you?” 

Sui Yan stared at him in shock.

Duan Zhisu smiled reluctantly, “I know that nothing that I say can fix things. If the Crown Prince can really protect you one day, then……”

He suddenly didnt know what to say.

Sui Yan was stunned. 

Duan Zhisu closed his mouth and didnt say anything else. He only stepped forward to lightly hug Sui Yan and pat him on the back before pushing the door open and walking out into the snow.

Sui Yan watched that ink-colored figure slowly melt into the darkness as pain surged in his heart.

He knew that he would part ways or even break off relations with Duan Zhisu in this life, but he had never imagined that it would have happened so peacefully.

Sui Yan stood there, frozen until Jun Jingxing found him and dragged him back to his room. 

When Sui Yan took off his clothes and was stuffed into the warm blankets by Jun Jingxing, his lashes fluttered as he whispered, “Dont go yet.”

Jun Jingxing could only yawn as he dragged a chair over to sit by the bed. He sounded mentally prepared as he asked, “Alright, what do you want to talk about?”

Sui Yan answered, “Do you think someone like the Crown Prince can live until the end?”

Both of them knew what “the end” meant. 

Jun Jingxing was very straightforward, “The Crown Prince is indecisive, and too gentle and kind when dealing with others. He can become a loyal minister but not a wise monarch.

In other words, someone with a gentle temperament cant accomplish anything.

Sui Yan pulled his blanket over his chin, “What about me? Do you think I can live to the end?”

Jun Jingxing calmly replied, “Who are you going to support?” 

Sui Yan didnt answer, “Just tell me if someone like me can live until the end.”

Jun Jingxing said, “Its difficult. Youd be very fortunate just to live until adulthood.”

Sui Yan, “……”

Jun Jingxing looked at Sui Yans speechless expression and wondered, “Did I say anything wrong? You will become a nobleman upon reaching adulthood. Do you really think the emperor will let you smoothly inherit your fathers position?” 

Sui Yan had already been in a bad mood and had wanted to talk things through with Jun Jingxing. However, he hadnt imagined that the more they talked things through, the worse he would feel.

Sui Yan shooed Jun Jingxing away, “Hurry up and leave. Dont stay here and annoy me.”

Jun Jingxing was furious, “You were the one who kept me here!”

Sui Yan replied, “I dont want to keep you here anymore. Go back. Im going to bed. Remember to wake me up tomorrow morning.” 

Jun Jingxing was so angry that he wanted to drag Sui Yan outside and beat him up, but he held back his anger and walked away.

Sui Yan had thought it would take a long time for him to fall asleep, but not too long after Jun Jingxing left, he felt exhausted and fell asleep a moment later.

The next morning, it started to snow again.

Sui Yan woke up early and stood under the veranda, dressed in a cloak and holding an umbrella. Soon after, the Crown Princes carriage arrived. 

Duan Mingchong lifted the curtains and saw Sui Yan standing outside. He gently smiled.

The carriage quickly stopped, and Duan Mingchong stepped off, dressed in a dark green cloak. When he saw Sui Yan bowing, he hurriedly said, “Theres no need.”

Sui Yan straightened up. Holding onto his small hand warmer, he eagerly asked, “Then, Your Highness, lets go?”

Duan Mingchong replied, “Its too disrespectful if we just go. Is General Sui here? We wont be late even if I go and tell him that were leaving.” 

Sui Yan said, “Elder Brother has been so busy these past few days that he hasnt even stopped to rest. He didnt even come back last night. He probably wont be back until tonight, so Your Highness wont be able to see him.”

Duan Mingchong could only change his mind and say, “Then get on.”

Sui Yan rushed to follow Duan Mingchong onto the carriage.

It wasnt until the carriage left the long street leading to the Sui Manor that Sui Yan seemed to sigh in relief and open the intricate hand warmer in his hands. 

Duan Mingchong glanced over and realized that the hand warmer was filled with candy wrapped in glazed paper instead of coal.

Duan Mingchong didnt know whether to laugh or cry, “General Sui still wont let you have candy?”

Sui Yan carefully took out the candy before stuffing the hand warmer into his sleeve. He smiled, “No, its the wandering physician staying with me. He said its not good for me if I eat candy while Im sick. Ridiculous.”

Duan Mingchong smiled, his eyes curving, “Oh? How come?” 

Sui Yans response was filled with conviction, “When I eat candy, Ill be in a better mood; if Im in a good mood, then Ill get better even quickly. Isnt this killing two birds with one stone? How is candy bad for my health?”

Duan Mingchong listened to his nonsense before smiling and lifting the lid of the cup that was being kept warm by the charcoal basin under the table. A sweet smell instantly spread out.

Sui Yan looked over, his eyes brightening.

Duan Mingchong explained, “I woke you up so early this morning. I thought you probably didnt have the appetite for breakfast earlier, so I had someone bring sweet porridge and keep it warm. Do you want to have a taste? 

Sui Yan nodded rapidly, nearly throwing himself into Duan Mingchongs arms.

A short while later, Sui Yan finished all of the sweet porridge in the small cup. He sat in front of the small table, filled with satisfaction. He eagerly gazed at Duan Mingchong and whispered, “Your Highness, lets visit Xiangguo Temple again tomorrow.”

Duan Mingchong held back his laugh, “Just to drink sweet porridge?”

Sui Yan nodded, “Okay?” 

Duan Mingchong stuffed his own hand warmer into Sui Yans arms as he replied, “Nonsense, arent you worried that youll get sick after going back and forth like this?”

Sui Yan pouted and had no choice but to stop talking about this matter.

Filled with boredom, Sui Yan inspected the entire carriage. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Buddhist scriptures in a red sandalwood case on the small table. He leaned over curiously and asked, “Is this Heart Sutra an offering for the temple?”

Duan Mingchong nodded and answered, “En, if Little Young Master is bored, you can copy it and calm down.” 

Sui Yan refused, “No, I think I already am very calm. If I calm down any more, I might become a monk.”

Raw word count: 3407

English word count: 2101

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