Zhu Junyang currently had a position at court that didn’t have much required of him . Thus, on most days, when there wasn’t anything special going on, he didn’t have to go to court . In order to compensate his mother for making her worry for more than a year, he decided to stay in Tanggu Town for now . Other than practicing his martial arts, he mostly spent his days playing chess with his mother and amusing her in the garden with flowers .
In the garden, there were a few rare and famous camellia plants currently blooming . The brilliant red camellia had just opened a few buds, and the flowers resembled tiny little bells at court . The dark red flowers had sparkling drops of dew clinging to the edges of the petals, and, under the sun, the buds seemed much more lovely and charming . The one that amazed people the most was the scarlet red camellia that was especially bred and called ‘auspicious crowned phoenix’ . Its flowers were beautiful and plump, dignified and elegant, soft and flexible, and had layers of blush red petals surrounding the center . This flower resembled the red halo of clouds around the sun as it set in the horizon . Although it wasn’t very showy, it looked very noble and gorgeous .
When Princess Consort Jing saw that her son’s attention had been taken up by her favorite camellias, she revealed a joyful expression, “Aren’t my camellias beautiful? Hmph! Lady Feng only recently got a brilliant red camellia recently, but she had to invite people over to a flower fair to flaunt it . Any one of my camellias would be able to outshow her camellias on any day!”
Zhu Junyang could clearly perceive that his mother was feeling proud and arrogant . He felt a bit helpless at his mother’s childish actions . Lady Feng was the wife of the current imperial tutor at court, and was also someone obsessed with flowers . Lady Feng and Princess Consort Jing both loved camellias since they were young . Occasionally they would even have a falling-out over a famous and valuable variety of camellia .
When Princess Consort Jing found out that Lady Feng had incidentally obtained a brilliant red variety, she bothered the other lady to give it to her several times . However, how could Lady Feng, a camellia addict, bear to give it to her? Thus, Princess Consort Jing could only return to the residence downcast and feeling somewhat depressed . From time to time, she would bring up this topic again to complain . This time, she had recently gotten a few rare and valuable varieties into her hands . How could she not take them out and brag a bit?
Although Princess Consort Jing would occasionally squabble with Lady Feng over these flowers, they had never become true enemies . Every time one of them had a banquet or flower fair at her residence, she would never forget to send an invitation to the over . Even though they both compared and bragged about their camellias, they never had a true falling out . Zhu Junyang could tell that his mother had a rather complicated feeling towards Lady Feng, so he resisted the urge to give her advice . Perhaps these two noblewomen had finally found something that gave them both pleasure in their normally dull and boring lives .
“Yang’er, has your ability reached a more stable state?” After Princess Consort Jing watered her beloved camellias, she suddenly asked her son this question .
Zhu Junyang’s eyes dimmed and he lightly shook his head, “Sometimes I still get influenced by another person’s emotions . However, I have gotten better at controlling my feelings to avoid being influenced too much . ”
The princess consort looked at her son with a gaze full of pity . When her son hadn’t reached the age of five, he was so cute and adorable that people couldn’t help but draw him into their arms and hug him . Ever since he fell into the water at five and was in a coma for ten days, he had the ability to perceive other people’s thoughts and feelings .
At the time, Prince Jing had just been given the title of imperial prince and the emperor had given him weighty responsibilities . She, on the other hand, didn’t have good health either, so she had relaxed her hold on the residence a bit . Many spies had entered their residence and she suspected that her son’s accidental fall into the water wasn’t an actual accident .
Her five year old son felt bewildered and afraid by his new ability . Over time, he became more and more taciturn and antisocial . At the time, Prince Jing had just taken office and was busy with court issues . Sometimes, the family wasn’t able to see him for many days in a row . As for herself, she was bedridden from illness and wasn’t able to sense the changes in Zhu Junyang . By the time she recovered, her youngest son had thrown himself into his martial arts training and he had acquired a high-strung and temperamental personality . It was as if he was a balloon that was inflated to its maximum state . At any time, he could explode .
She had once thought that her son became warped because she had fallen ill and was unable to take care of him . After she recovered, she spent all of her time and energy on her youngest son . However, all her efforts were for naught . He didn’t change much . Instead, her second son started to believe that she was impartial . Jealousy invaded his heart and he drifted away from his youngest brother . Consequently, her youngest son’s temperament became even more unstable and volatile .
On the year that her youngest son turned nine, one of the higher-ranking concubines in the residence decided to meddle with her . Princess Consort Jing’s personal maidservant was bribed and started to poison her with a slow-acting substance . Her body’s condition slipped with every passing day . Her youngest son, who was already living in his own courtyard, visited her when she was ill one day . As he passed her personal maidservant with a medicine bowl in her hands, he suddenly pulled out the dagger from his waist and chopped off her hands in a rage . He continuously interrogated the hapless servant, demanding to know who sent her .
The handmaiden passed out from extreme pain yet continuously howled her innocence . All of the people around her misunderstood her youngest son . None of them sensed that something was wrong and they accused him of being brutal, vicious and merciless . From then on, her Yang’er transformed into his current temperament——an icy-cold personality that emitted apathy at all times . It was as if he had sealed himself within a giant frozen glacier .
Finally, Prince Jing investigated this situation after he heard about what happened . Only then did they find out what ‘good deeds’ that personal maidservant had done . By following the trail of clues, they finally found and caught the villain behind the scenes . The concubine had been punished with death by poison while the rest of the world only knew that she had passed away suddenly from a fast-acting illness . At this time, Princess Consort Jing realized she had misunderstood her son this entire time . However, it was too late to try to fix her mistakes .
She used an entire year’s worth of time to carefully attend to her youngest son . Only then was she able to slowly crack open his outer shell and sneak through a tiny little hole to his inner thoughts and heart . That was when she finally had a hint of the secret that he had concealed for five years .
She was truly quite frightened when she first found out his secret! However, when she saw the hurt and pain within her youngest son’s eyes, she knew right then that if she pushed him away again, she would lose her son forever .
Because she was afraid that people would regard him as a monster, she didn’t even mention this to her husband, Prince Jing . Despite her weak and frail body, she gave all of her maternal love and selflessness to her youngest son . She did her best to convince her son that this ability of his wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it took years to let the idea settle into his head .
Everyone always said that a person’s heart was inscrutable . With this ability, a person’s inner thoughts and feelings were on the table for Zhu Junyang . Those who treated him well, he could remember for a lifetime and allow them to become his most faithful and loyal companions . As for those who didn’t have good intentions, he would be able to understand their every movement and be able to prepare against them or strike when necessary .
When Zhu Junyang was younger, it was easy for him to be influenced by the strong feelings of other people . As his ability got stronger, his personality became more and more odd, and he reacted by becoming even colder than before . . . as he slowly grew up, he became more adept at handling and controlling his own feelings to weaken other people’s influence on himself as much as possible . However, his frosty nature had already been ingrained in him, and this type of personality made him lose many friends . Therefore, he became even more antisocial and icy .
Regardless, she was glad that her son was well and in front of her . Even though he was less talkative, his eyes now carried a bit of warmth .
“Mother, the garden in the West Mountain residence . . . eh? Younger Brother, you’re here . ” Princess Consort Jing’s second son, Zhu Junxi, walked through the flowering garden and billowing willows in the direction of the pavilion . When he saw the unfamiliar figure, he hesitated a moment before he called out a greeting .
Deeply hidden within Zhu Junyang’s dark eyes was a hint of loss . It seemed like his Second Older Brother would never treat him as he did when he was five years old…
Zhu Junxi arrived at the pavilion and stayed quiet for a bit before he finally smiled, “Younger Brother, when did you arrive? How come you didn’t let us know beforehand?”
“I got here yesterday morning . I wanted to give Mother a nice surprise…” Zhu Junyang had always been taciturn . The conversation between the two brothers revealed an unfamiliar feeling of awkwardness .
Princess Consort Jing felt a bit helpless inside . She gently smiled, “Yang’er, your second brother has done a lot of work in making sure the West Mountain residence gets completed . He almost spends all of his time there and he’s working quite hard! Xi’er, your younger brother brought over some presents from you that he got from the western hemisphere . They are all things that we’ve never seen before——Yang’er, why don’t you take them out now?”
Zhu Junyang took out a carved pocket watch that was painted a bright copper color from his chest pocket and placed it into his older brother’s hands . He dryly explained how the pocket watch worked and how it could tell the time .
Zhu Junxi saw that the pocket watch was small and exquisite, yet had the ability to keep the time accurately . He immediately liked the item . Previously, he had a heart-to-heart conversation with his lady mother and he had decided on leaving once the construction on the new residence was finished . He was planning on enlisting in the army and using his own strength and abilities to see how far he could go . With the world in front of him, he naturally wouldn’t brood on past injustices anymore . Thus, all of his jealousy and petty thoughts had evaporated into smoke .
Zhu Junyang could distinctly tell that his second brother’s mood had changed for the better . A current of warmth traveled through his ice-cold heart . He had many memories with his older brother that were tinged with many different feelings . In his youth, his father had been busy with court and his mother’s body was weak . His eldest brother, as the heir, had been busy at his own lessons, so Zhu Junyang only had his second brother, who was five years older than him, to accompany and love him . At that time, he had wholeheartedly relied on Second Brother . . . but for some reason, and, he didn’t know when, his second brother changed . He drifted apart, became hostile, and avoided him . . .
Later on, he gained his ability to spy on other people’s thoughts and understood why his second brother had changed . However, it was something he had no control over . His mother, at that time, was his only grasp on life . Without her, he would always be stuck in a deep abyss . Thus, he selfishly plundered his mother’s attention that should have been on his second brother . Although guilt plagued his heart, he couldn’t bear to let go .
Although he didn’t know the reason, he could tell that Second Brother had finally let things go . As for him, he was no longer that vulnerable little boy that thirsted for affection . Perhaps, and he knew it was an extravagant hope, his relationship with his second brother could return to normal?
Zhu Junxi revealed a smile that was as warm as the spring sun and gently patted his younger brother’s shoulder . He sincerely said, “Thank you for this gift, I really like it!”
The corners of Zhu Junyang’s mouth curved up and exposed a tiny smile that could barely be seen . Princess Jing witnessed this entire scene and felt gratified as well as a bit disconsolate at the same time——Her youngest son had smiled; after not smiling for eleven years, she could finally see Yang’er’s smile again!
The three family members warmly chatted amongst themselves under the luminous and bright spring sun . Naturally, Princess Consort Jing and Zhu Junxi did most of the talking while Zhu Junyang quietly listened to them . However, the icy cold atmosphere around Zhu Junyang seemed to be slowly melting under this type of environment…
In the Fang Estate, on the other hand, chaos was reigning .
Lady Fang had been strolling around the garden when she suddenly felt a sharp pain throb in her belly . Her face immediately became white, and she covered her belly and let out a cry . Linglong, who was supporting her, panicked upon seeing this . She supported her mistress on one hand while she screamed, “Someone come! Our mistress is about to give birth!!”
Immediately, the entire courtyard full of maids bustled into frenetic activity . Some went to call the midwife, while others ran to find a doctor . There were even some who ran around like headless flies . . . The maids scrambled around in a panic and a few even crashed into each other!