I Regret It
Yan Yuan's eyes were stinging with blood, staring at the man on the torture rack, and he spoke softly, "Tell me how you treated him, and I will spare your wife and daughter from death."
The jailer had no idea that violating a prisoner would bring about his own demise, not to mention that it didn't even happen.
He begged for mercy as he hung on his deathbed.
"I will never dare to do it again...
Your Majesty spare my life..."
"Spare your life..."
Yan Yuan took the fire poker handed to him by the prison officer and pressed the red-hot triangular head against the jailer's chest, the poker scalding through the prisoner's clothes and sticking to the flesh, making a ‘zi zi' sound in exchange for the jailer's heart-rending screams.
The smell of burnt flesh filled the air.
"What did you do to him"
Yan Yuan was surprisingly calm.
The poker sizzled three or four times, and the jailer's chest was almost cooked, he passed out several times and was awakened by cool water each time.
Perhaps knowing that he would not escape, he finally agreed to speak.
"I wanted to make love to him...
and he did not comply, so I pulled his nail and kicked him in the abdomen..."
His heart seemed to be pinched by an invisible giant palm, slowly tightening and pinching until it was deformed.
The more Yan Yuan listened the more red the corners of his eyes became, blood dripped out from under his sleeve and landed on the dusty ground.
Your Majesty spare my life."
spare my life..." The half-dead jailer was still begging for mercy.
The prison officer beside him saw the blood dripping out from under Yan Yuan's sleeve and said in a panic, "Your Majesty, you are injured..."
Yan Yuan did not feel the pain.
He did not want to stay in this place any longer, so he turned around and said hoarsely, "Pull out his nails, chop them up and feed them to the dogs."
Passing by the cell where Xuan Long had been held, Yan Yuan stopped.
He turned sideways and looked in, it was empty and dark, nothing was left.
The straw that Xuan Long had once slept on, the bedding, had all been packed away.
A human being cannot come back to life from the dead.
The same was true of demons.
Even if Yan Yuan could not accept this fact, he had to accept it.
He lingered for a moment before continuing down the dimly lit tunnel, the cold wind burrowing through his pores and into his bare neck, causing a shiver to run down his spine.
Yan Yuan remembered that Xuan Long was afraid of the cold.
He had always thought that because he liked water, he was not too afraid of the cold.
It turned out that there were many things he did not know.
It wasn't that the dragon wouldn't tell him, it was that he had never given him the chance to speak freely.
Xuan Long didn't say anything when he suffered, and he wouldn't tell him when he suffered at the hands of others, because the one who caused that situation, who put him in a situation where he would never recover, was him, was Yan Yuan himself.
When he came out of the iron gate of the Heavenly Prison, the warm light outside made Yan Yuan's eyes sway, and he stumbled and was about to fall down.
Yan Yuan allowed Chen Yan to support him and walked blankly into the daylight, wondering how the sun could be so strong in the middle of winter, and even more so, why his heart was so cold when the sun was clearly so strong.
"Ei, Your Majesty, this servant is here." Chen Yan answered in a soft voice.
Yan Yuan's pale lips moved slightly: "I am the most stingy..."
"I am the most stingy..."
I was so stingy, I refused to give him the slightest bit of kindness, I refused to give him the slightest bit of comfort, and when he was tired, he left..."
"Never coming back..."
Since Xuan Long's departure, Yan Yuan became even more ill.
When the headaches flared up, he would roll over and over in bed, and when the pain became extreme, he would knock his forehead against something hard, and the palace staff could not stop him.
After he had calmed down and fallen asleep, he would dream, calling Xuan Long's name over and over again, sometimes giggling, sometimes crying bitterly and begging him not to leave.
The wine could no longer suppress Yan Yuan's headaches, and after just ten days, he had lost a lot of weight.
Chen Yan looked at Yan Yuan and found that there were a few strands of silver hair at his temples.
New Year's Eve was approaching, and Yan Yuan would only be 20 years old after New Year's Eve.
Chen Yan did not understand why his remorse was born.
Was it because of guilt If there was any guilt, then when Xuan Long was alive, he shouldn't have been in such a miserable state.
It was because he loved but didn't know, and was so used to being arrogant and willful that he thought everyone in the world would always be around him.
"He won't come back."
"Your Majesty, there are some things, some things, that cannot be reversed." Chen Yan looked into the distant sky, the cage built by the high vermilion walls blocking the world outside.
Perhaps Xuan Long's departure would be good for him instead.
At least he was free.
"But Chen Yan, I regret it..." Yan Yuan's words were already tinged with tears, and his absolutely handsome face was covered with tears.
"I regret it..."
Chen Yan sighed: "The deceased is gone, Your Majesty, look at the people around you."
"Since the Empress woke up, you have not met him, would you like to go have dinner with him today"
All of this was for Ning Zhiyu.
Without regard for his safety, he dove into the thousand-year-old pond, tricked that simple-minded stupid dragon back into the palace, coaxed him into pulling out the inverse scale, and forced him to hand over his inner elixir, all for the sake of Ning Zhiyu and to save his beloved's life.
Now his purpose has finally been achieved, Ning Zhiyu has won the dragon's heart and can live a long life afterwards and grow old with him.
Hua Niang was right, what could he not be satisfied with
He should have pardoned the whole world and rejoiced with the whole nation, asking the people of Darong to experience this joy together, but in fact, the longer Xuan Long was gone, the emptier Yan Yuan became.
It was as if his soul had left with him.
He never even thought of Ning Zhiyu in his spare time, because he always had a headache, and the more he thought of Xuan Long, the more it hurt, so much so that he had to numb himself with liquor, and the vicious cycle persisted.
He repeatedly had that dream of Xuan Long lying in his arms with a smile on his lips, dying and saying:
The scars left by the burning of karma will be engraved on my soul and carried with me in reincarnation...
When I fall into reincarnation, you will come to find me..."
"When you see me, you will be able to recognize me at once..."
Yan Yuan gradually became certain that he probably recognized the wrong person.
Otherwise, how could he and Xuan Long have been so in love in the dream, even the details were clear, otherwise how could the pain of losing his lover be so engraved in his bones, causing his heart to break every time he tasted it...
And he never dreamed of Ning Zhiyu.
He knew that Ning Zhiyu was innocent, and that he had blocked Xuan Long's escape and sent him into the abyss with his own hands.
But that did not stop him from remembering how he had bullied, coaxed and tortured Xuan Long along the way more vividly when he saw Ning Zhiyu.
He was deliberately avoiding that.
For a very long time, Yan Yuan did not even dare to enter the side hall where Xuan Long had lived, there were too many memories there, most of them bad ones.
Xuan Long had given him everything, but he had never given him even a little warmth, so it was no wonder that in his final moments, he lay in his arms crying out incessantly that he was cold.
Hua Niang was released from the palace by Yan Yuan, and the child was left behind.
That child, whom he had once called a sinful child, was the only memory Xuan Long had left for him.
It was Xuan Long who fought to the death to give birth to him.
Yan Yuan didn't understand why he had felt so repulsed and disgusted by his former self, when it was clear that their child had been born so lovingly, with the same beautiful turquoise pupils and dragon horns as Xuan Long, and his fair little face was so soft and lovely.
His character was really like Xuan Long's in infancy; he hardly cried, only when he was hungry did he cry out in anguish.
Yan Yuan kept him in his palace and had yet to give him a name.
He had promised Xuan Long that he would look through the books and think of the most appropriate name, but every time he saw the child's eyes, which resembled Xuan Long's, he would cry.
When he cried, he couldn't think of anything else.
Notices were posted in the streets and alleys which were ordered by the Emperor himself to search for monks throughout the country, whose role would not be to subdue demons, but to save them.
Whoever could bring back the disembodied Xuan Long would be promoted to a higher rank and rewarded with a million taels of gold, or, if any competent person asked, the Emperor would meet any request.
As long as Xuan Long could be brought back.
Everyone said that Yan Yuan was crazy.
Only Yan Yuan himself knew that he was not crazy, he was sober and doing what he should be doing, and he would only be crazy if the dragon did not return.
On the 20th day after the departure of Xuan Long, he could no longer resist and stepped into the side hall of Qiankun Palace.
He missed him so much, missed his scent, missed his embrace, missed the way he clumsily followed his orders in a vain attempt to please him, missed the way he pursed his lips when he was angry, but all of that was gone.
There was no trace of Xuan Long's scent left in the air, the only thing that gave Yan Yuan any comfort was that the side hall was still furnished as it was, and the mattress that Xuan Long had slept on was still there.
The brocade blue bedding and soft pillows of the same colour were neatly laid out on the bed.
He didn't like to be too far away from Xuan Long, even in bed, and had to sleep close to that dragon all the time, sharing a pillow between them.
Yan Yuan buried himself between the soft bedding, grabbing the quilt Xuan Long had once used and sniffing hard under his nose.
It seemed that he could vaguely smell a clear, cold fragrance, so faint and indistinct that he could not tell if it was an illusion or real.
He inhaled the pleasurable scent as if he were a drug addict who had taken opium, but there was only bitterness and pain in his heart as he bit his hand and wept, calling out obsessively.
After a drowsy night's sleep, Yan Yuan woke up with a headache.
After he came here, he did not want to leave and asked someone to bring breakfast.
There were few fond memories between him and Xuan Long, they had never even eaten a peaceful meal together, they always seemed to be arguing.
No, no, to be precise, it was Yan Yuan's unilateral tantrum, he would flip out if Xuan Long did not hand over the inner elixir.
That dragon spoke very little, he would not quarrel with him, and even if his words were harsh, he would not say a word when he heard them.
As the palace staff came in and put the exquisite breakfast on the table.
Yan Yuan froze when a soft peach cake appeared in his sight; he had used this pastry to coax Xuan Long into handing over his inner elixir.
Yan Yuan sat at the table, his hands hanging in his lap tightened.
"I'm suddenly not hungry anymore...
Next to him, Chen Yan stepped forward, "Your Majesty, this… eat as much as you can."
Yan Yuan refused.
Chen Yan waved his hand and told the palace staff to remove the breakfast that had just been brought up, and retreated along with the palace staff, leaving Yan Yuan alone in the room.
When it was quiet, the bone-thirsty thoughts became more and more frequent.
Yan Yuan got up and walked to the inner room, his palm caressing the bronze mirror Xuan Long had used, the dressing table, and on it the silver hairpin he had given Xuan Long, which Xuan Long did not want, but he had insisted on keeping.
In the wardrobe were Xuan Long's clothes.
Everything was in good condition.
Only the owner of these things was no longer there.
Just as he was about to close the door behind him, he suddenly realised that there seemed to be something hidden underneath the folded black robes.
Yan Yuan lifted the robes to reveal a brown wooden box.
When he opened it, he found more than ten wooden figures, similar in size, all carved to look like the same person, wearing dragon robes and an imperial crown.
Some of them were rough, others were delicate and carefully painted.