Thank you so much Breeko and Inanari for the kofis! Merry Christmas! Wish you guys happy holidays!

Soon after, Sui Yan was rushed home by his servants. 

After Stigma is consumed, it usually takes two hours to take effect. However, in the forty-five minutes that it took to get back to the Sui Manor, Sui Yan had started to feel dizzy. When he jumped off the carriage, Sui Yan staggered and nearly fell into the snow.

Haitang was hanging new lanterns outside. When he saw Sui Yan, he quickly came over to greet him, surprised, “Young Master, why did you come back so early?”

Sui Yan was only wearing a wide-sleeved robe that made him seem even thinner. The cold wind carried the snow right into his sleeves. He did not know if it was because he was cold or something else, but he was trembling. He slowly shook his head and hoarsely answered, “There was nothing to do.”

Haitang saw that Sui Yans face was unnaturally pale and wanted to help him up, but Sui Yan waved his hand away. 

“Young Master?”

Sui Yan lowered his gaze and walked towards his own courtyard, “You dont need to follow me.”

Haitang was about to say something, but Sui Yan had already walked into the red plum forest that led to his courtyard. A gust of wind and snow blew by, obscuring his vision. When it cleared, Sui Yan had disappeared.

The snow in the red plum forest was already ankle-high. Sui Yan panted as he staggered through it.

While he was in a daze, his face was suddenly scratched by a plum blossom. As he tried to duck away, Sui Yan tripped and fell into the snow.

He had not put on a cloak, and his thinly clad figure was planted in a pile of snow. Sui Yan slowly sat up, placing his hands on the snow to support himself. He stared blankly as a jade pendant fell out of his sleeve.

—— He had planned to give this to Duan Zhisu as his birthday present.

In his previous life, Sui Yan had prepared an identical jade pendant but he had never been able to give it to Duan Zhisu because of Duan Mingchongs murder. In this life, he wanted to make up for this regret, but he could not have imagined that he would become the biggest joke. 

The more he looked at it, the more sad and ridiculous Sui Yan felt.

He had designed the jade pendant and commissioned someone to carve it before he was reborn. The owner of the jade shop told him that the engravings on jade pendants usually consisted of auspicious things like magpies, goldfish, sacred lilies, laurel trees, peonies, and the three companions of winter.

The previous Sui Wanggui had felt that these engravings were too generic, so he thought of adding several felicitous flowers into the design. He had ended up drawing an unrecognizable mess, but it had still been carved into the jade pendant.

However, the next time he visited that jade shop, the owner refused to serve him no matter what, making Sui Yan extremely confused. 

Sui Yan blankly stared at the jade pendant on the ground. As if possessed, he clenched his fist and slammed it into the pendant.

With a muffled bang, the jade pendant was smashed into the snow. It had not broken, so Sui Yan knelt on the floor and punched it twice.

Cracks formed in the pendant, and it shattered into several pieces. The broken jade shards cut into his frozen hands, and blood dripped down.

Sui Yans gaze was unfocused as he gazed at the shattered pendant, and he blankly wondered, How on earth did I……make myself into a living joke? 

When he drank the wine, he had seen Song Xian and Duan Zhisus expressions clearly. However, that view had chilled his heart.

Sui Yans first reaction was, “Ah, turns out they knew from the start.”

I was the only one that did not know.

After a moment of confusion, Sui Yans mentality collapsed. 

Sui Yan could not understand why Duan Zhisu would collude with Duan Ruwang to murder Duan Mingchong on an occasion like this. Even if he had many alibis, the fact that Duan Mingchong had died at his birthday banquet would have made him the primary suspect.

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But now, Sui Yan did not want to think about anything. He did not want to see the twos dignified expressions, and he definitely did not want to stay at that disgusting banquet for a moment longer. 

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There was no way he could pick himself back up.

Sui Yan felt desperate and aggrieved. He could not tell whether he wanted to laugh or cry. His lips curled up, but he could not bring himself to laugh. His eyes burned, but tears would not come out. There was a dull pain in his chest, and he trembled with pain.

In a daze, Sui Yan recalled how he had thrown away his dignity and honor to scheme for so many years in the court in his previous life. He had turned himself into a treacherous and murderous villain, so much so that he had hated himself at times, just to avenge Duan Zhisu. However, after he was reborn, he suddenly realized that all of his previous beliefs and efforts had been futile and that……he had just fallen into a scam. 

Utterly ridiculous.

“Is there anyone in this world who is more stupid than me?” Sui Yan murmured, before answering his own question, “No, there must be none.”

Sui Yan knelt in the snow as the frenzied emotions in his eyes gradually dissipated.

“I can not die yet,” He staggered to his feet, supporting himself on a nearby plum tree. His eyes were glazed as he muttered, “I did not get reborn just to let myself die in such a cowardly way.” 

Jun Jingxing had taken a bath, and he was now reading medical books under a lamp. In the silence of the snowy night, a faint knock suddenly sounded on the door. He frowned and put on his coat to open the door.

As he opened the door, a person barrelled into him before he could react. Jun Jingxing instinctively reached out to help the person up before he noticed that it was a snow-covered Sui Yan.

Sui Yan blearily clutched onto Jun Jingxings sleeves, forced his eyes open, and said brokenly, “Poison……You know how to cure……”

Before he could finish, he spat out a mouthful of blood. 

Jun Jingxing was taken aback, and he hurriedly carried Sui Yan into the room.

The whole time, Sui Yan gripped onto Jun Jingxings arm. He was already delirious, “Yue, Yuejian……”

Jun Jingxing was scared senseless when he saw that Sui Yan wouldnt stop vomiting blood. He stripped off Sui Yans snow-covered clothes, stuffed him into a warm quilt, and anxiously asked, “What happened? Did you get poisoned?”

Jun Jingxing was about to call servants over, but Sui Yan grabbed him. Even though the pain in his throat was unbearable, Sui Yan weakly urged, “Dont tell, other people…..” 

After struggling to say this sentence, Sui Yan felt that he must be very cheap. He was even trying to protect Duan Zhisu at a time like this.

Sui Wanggui, serves you right to die! Sui Yan thought.

Soon, the Stigma began to take effect. A chill and a blazing heat swept through Sui Yans body, making him feel completely muddleheaded. He was in so much pain that he wanted to roll off the bed.

Ah, right. 

Before he lost consciousness, Sui Yan suddenly thought of something that Duan Zhisu had said to him in the past.

He had asked, “Wanggui, are you willing to believe in me?”

That year, Duan Zhisu had looked lost as he blankly gazed at Sui Yan. His frightened appearance had made him seem frail and desperate.

The young Sui Wanggui had never seen Duan Zhisu like this, and without any hesitation, he nodded. 

“Of course I believe in you.”

Of course….

I believe in you.

But what have you done with my trust? 

It snowed heavily for many days, and by New Years Eve, icicles were hanging off the buildings eaves. Under the bright sunlight, the sparkling snow that had collected on the roof started to melt, and it slowly dripped down the crystal-clear icicles.

Early in the morning, Sui Xun tied his cloak around his shoulders, adjusted his collar, frowned, and turned his head to ask, “He still is not awake?”

Haitangs face was full of worry, “Yes, Genius Doctor Jun said that Little Young Master caught a cold when he came back that night and that it will take a while for him to get better. Little Young Master also needs to be taken care of for a few days before he wakes up.”

After Duan Zhisus birthday banquet, Sui Xun had been busy handling the end-of-year affairs in the military. He had come home to take Sui Yan into the palace but was surprised to find that Sui Yan was still sick. 

Sui Xun waved away the hand Haitang stretched out to adjust his girdle and said, “Why didnt anyone tell me that he was this sick? Let the carriage wait for a bit. Ill go take a look.”

Haitang hurriedly acquiesced.

Sui Xun quickly walked towards Sui Yans eastern courtyard. Before entering the door, he could already smell a bloody medicinal scent. He pushed open the door and entered, only to crash into someone.

Jun Jingxing took a few steps back. When he saw that it was Sui Xun, he hurriedly bowed. 

Sui Xun knew that Sui Yan had found a traveling doctor to stay with him, and he did not mind Jun Jingxings presence. However, once he looked down at the blood-stained handkerchief in Jun Jingxings hand, Sui Xuns gaze turned cold, and he asked, “Didnt you say that hes just sick? Why is he bleeding?”

Jun Jingxing hurriedly explained, “This is just the clotted blood that was spat out. It is not a big problem.”

Sui Xun glared at this quack doctor.

Jun Jingxing rushed to carry a water basin out of the room to draw some fresh water. 

Sui Xun ignored him, thinking that he would invite an imperial physician to take a look at Sui Yan later today. As he thought about this, he walked towards the bed in the inner room and was taken aback when he saw Sui Yans pale face.

He had only been sick for a few days, but Sui Yan was already emaciated. His eyebrows were furrowed as he rested on a soft pillow. His face was deathly pale, yet his lips were an unnatural shade of dark red.

Sui Xun quietly sat at the edge of the bed, used his hand to feel Sui Yans forehead, and called, “Wanggui?”

Sui Yan whined. His lips moved as he said something in his sleep. 

Just then, Jun Jingxing entered the room with the hot water he had drawn and looked at Sui Xun in embarrassment.

Sui Xun frowned and soaked his handkerchief in the water before using it to gently wipe off Sui Yans sweat. He asked, “When will he wake up?”

Jun Jingxing thought about it and answered, “In two more days.”

“Two days……” Sui Xun rubbed his forehead, agitated, “Can it be any faster?” 

Jun Jingxing had the urge to roll his eyes, thinking, Your brother did not get an ordinary disease. He was poisoned, and he is blessed just to survive. Do you still want it to be faster? If you want him to die faster, I can definitely do that.

But Sui Yan had urged him not to tell others before losing consciousness. Jun Jingxing had uncharacteristically listened, and he had told everyone that came to visit Sui Yan that it was just a cold.

It was getting late, and Sui Xun was in a rush to enter the palace. He couldnt stay for much longer, so he spoke to Jun Jingxing before he left, his heart full of worry.

It was New Years Eve and the Heaven Worship Ceremony. 

Traditionally, this ceremony was held on New Years Eve. A ceremonial altar would be constructed in the palace, upon which red candles would be placed. Sky lanterns would be hung over the southwest part of the altar. In the late morning, the emperor and the crown prince would climb onto the altar to burn wooden tablets carved with auspicious sayings and pray for timely snow and bountiful harvests in the coming year.

Along with hundreds of civil and military officials, Sui Xun watched the emperor burn incense and worship his ancestors. However, his mind was full of thoughts about how Sui Yans illness was much more severe than he had imagined.

As he moved to kowtow towards the emperor, Sui Xun absentmindedly misstepped. Duan Mingchong, who had just stepped down from the altar, looked at him weirdly before whispering, “General, return to your position.”

Sui Xun finally came back to his senses and frowned as he returned to his ceremonial position and knelt. 

He seemed so preoccupied that even Duan Zhisu, who knelt far away, noticed. When the Taihe Bell rang, Duan Zhisu couldnt resist the urge to ask Song Xian, “Is Wanggui still sick?”

Song Xian lowered his voice, “Your Highness, you have to be silent during the ceremony.”

Duan Zhisu could only sit back down.

The tedious ceremony lasted for most of the day and only ended at noon. 

Sui Xun was in a rush to visit Sui Yan, and after speaking with a few colleagues, he briskly walked out of the palace.

As he exited Chengan Palace Gate, Duan Zhisu suddenly stopped him.

Sui Xun turned around and saw Duan Zhisu, so he bowed.

Duan Zhisu seemed awkward as he spoke, “Is Wanggui sick? He didnt even come to the ceremony today.” 

Sui Xun answered, “Yes, he caught a cold because he forgot to put on his cloak when he left the banquet that day. The doctor said it is not serious and that he will wake up in a couple of days.”

Duan Zhisu let out a sigh of relief and forced a smile, “That is good. I will visit him in a few days.”

Sui Xun acquiesced, bid his farewell, and left.

Song Xian walked out from behind, looked at Sui Xuns hurried steps, and frowned, “What happened?” 

Duan Zhisu said, “He just got a cold.”

Song Xian hesitated.

The two walked side by side back to Duan Zhisus manor. Halfway along, Song Xian could not resist the urge to comment, “Your Highness, why do you think Sui Wanggui drank that glass of wine for the crown prince? As far as I know, he and the crown prince do not know each other that well. Do you think he knew something?”

Duan Zhisu froze. 

Song Xian continued, “You and I both know what was mixed into that wine. Although we dont know which deadly poison it was, but according to Sui Wangguis intentions……”

Duan Zhisu lowered his voice, “Shut up.”

Song Xian fell into silence, but the anger in his eyes did not fade.

Duan Zhisu took a deep breath and said, “This matter was caused by my poor consideration. I will visit him in a few days and explain everything to him. Dont tell him any nonsense. Sui Wanggui seems clever and transparent, but his thoughts are deep. If you say something that you should not, he might end up hating us.”

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