An ancient temple deep in the mountains.

In the time it took to get from the city to Xiangguo Temple, it had already snowed heavily. The sound of the temples morning bell rang leisurely through the mountains. When they heard human voices approaching, the chickadees pecking at the snow on snow-laden branches fled into the forest. 

Sui Yan held an umbrella and followed Duan Mingchong up the mountain steps. They werent even halfway there when Sui Yan clutched his chest and cried in pain. The attendants behind him stared at one another, not knowing whether they should step forward to help.

Duan Mingchong waved his hands, motioning for them to step back and watch.

Sui Yan put a hand on his chest and looked at Duan Mingchong pitifully, “Your Highness, Im out of breath.”

Duan Mingchong held onto the red sandalwood case and calmly replied, “Stand firmly. Were almost there. The gods and Buddhas in Xiangguo Temple are watching. You must have the sincerity to achieve what you want and be safe and sound.” 

Sui Yan threw the umbrella aside, put his hands together, and prayed, “I beg the gods and Buddhas to directly bring me into the temple. Im praying sincerely that I wont ever have to climb the mountain again.”

Duan Mingchong was so angry that he nearly laughed. However, his heart softened, and he took a few steps down, handed the red sandalwood box to an attendant, and stretched a hand out towards Sui Yan.

“Come, Ill pull you up.”

Sui Yan froze, his face heating up——This young mans words had unintentionally caused the ears of an old demon like himself to redden.

His eyelashes fluttered as Sui Yan shakily reached out a hand.

Duan Mingchongs gaze was pure, and he didnt feel anything was wrong. He used a bit of force to pull Sui Yan under his umbrella, and Sui Yan nearly fell into Duan Mingchongs arms.

Duan Mingchong turned his head and said, “Hold on tight, dont let go——why are your hands so cold?”

Sui Yan unnaturally turned his face to the side and stopped complaining. He coughed, “Its no-nothing. Lets go up. This bell has already been tolling for so long.” 

Duan Mingchong thought, If you hadnt been making a fuss here, we wouldve gotten there a long time ago. However, he was used to being gentle and courteous and couldnt say something this harsh, so he smiled and half dragged, half hugged Sui Yan to Xiangguo Temple.

Once he had gotten up the mountain steps and seen that massive plaque embossed with the golden words, “Xiangguo Temple,” Sui Yan nearly fell limp.

Hugging Duan Mingchongs shoulders, he panted, “Im never coming here again. Coming up these mountain steps is deadly.”

Duan Mingchong resisted the urge to laugh as he teased, “You wont come even if theres sweet porridge?” 

Sui Yans brows furrowed as he thought, “Then Id have to think about it.”

Duan Mingchong laughed.

It was snowing heavily, and very few people had come to pay homage to the Buddha. Perhaps it was because Duan Mingchong was a frequent visitor, but the monk sweeping the snow in front of the main hall came over calmly and bowed once he saw the crown prince.

Duan Mingchong took the red sandalwood box back from the attendant and gently spoke with the monk before turning back to Sui Yan, “Little Young Master, wait here for a little bit. I will place the Heart Sutra in the Buddhist hall before returning.” 

Sui Yan said, “Okay.”

Duan Mingchong gave the attendants several instructions before leaving with the monk.

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The attendants wanted to persuade him to stop but didnt dare to, so they could only follow Sui Yan in case he got lost.

The small stone Buddha figures, blue bricks and red tiles, and the ice-covered eaves throughout the temple were shrouded in a layer of white snow.

Standing in this temple, Sui Yan felt the frustrations that had  haunted him since his rebirth had dissipated. Even his state of mind had improved.

The ancient temple was filled with the scent of sandalwood incense. Sui Yan took a deep breath and felt his heart calm. Suddenly, he understood why so many princes and nobility in the capital always came to Xiangguo Temple in their free time. 

If it werent for the shadows of his past life, he would have wanted to live here.

Sui Yan wandered around leisurely for another hour before Duan Mingchong found him. Even before he got close, Sui Yan could hear Duan Mingchongs disapproving tone, “Didnt I tell you to wait there? Now the road is covered with snow and is very slippery. What if you accidentally fell down the mountain?”

Sui Yan was in a good mood, and smilingly replied, “Its alright as long as I dont die. Im lucky.”

Duan Mingchong glared at him, grabbed his hand, and led Sui Yan to the front hall. 

Sui Yan had been walking just now, and the soles of his shoes were covered in frost. When Duan Mingchong pulled him away, he complained, “Your Highness! Hey, Your Highness! Please walk slower. I cant stand steadily……Ah——”

As he spoke, Sui Yan slipped and fell down.

Duan Mingchong was taken aback. Just as he was going to extend his hand and catch Sui Yan, Sui Yan smashed into him.

The two of them fell onto the snowy ground with a dull thud. 

Even though Sui Yan was a year older than Duan Mingchong, he was a little shorter than Duan Mingchong because of his frailty. After they fell, Sui Yans head was lying on Duan Mingchongs neck.

Duan Mingchong lightly sucked in a breath of air.

Sui Yan was mentally screaming about how sinful this was. He immediately supported himself, but as he was getting up, the side of his face brushed Duan Mingchongs. One was icy cold, and the other was warm. Even though it was a fleeting touch, the two of them instantly froze.

Something like this was way too intimate for two men. 

Sui Yan, “Your High……”

Duan Mingchong was stunned. When he finally came to his senses, he pushed Sui Yan aside and got up, the tips of his ears bright red.

His hair and clothes were covered in snow. The nearby attendants finally reacted and rushed forward to brush the snow off him.

Sui Yan didnt have anyone to wait on him, so he could only get up and stomp his feet to get the snow off his knees. 

The two felt very awkward, but Duan Mingchong finally opened his mouth.

“Does……does it hurt?”

Sui Yan didnt know why, but his heart suddenly hurt.

Duan Mingchong might be as indecisive as Jun Jingxing had said. However, Sui Yan had to admit that he was also one of the few princes who still had emotions in the royal family. 

Duan Mingchong, who grew up in the palace, hadnt been protected by the emperor, unlike what others had said. Since the Emperor of Beilan wanted to raise him as a successor, he naturally wouldnt have allowed Duan Mingchong to become a useless person unaware of worldly affairs. Since he had been forced to grow up in a palace full of tigers and wolves, Duan Mingchong must have experienced much more than other people.

Can a noble background lead to a successful life?

Can power and authority allow you to sit back and relax?

However, even though Sui Yan had seen so many intrigues, the gentleness and kindness on Duan Mingchongs face didnt seem to be part of a disguise. 

Duan Mingchong didnt use any insidious tricks, but such a noble and upright person had been the first to die in the fight for the crown in Sui Yans previous life.

Now, someone else had clearly caused him to fall onto the ground, but after getting up, the first thing Duan Mingchong did was gently ask the other person whether they were hurt.

Sui Yan lightly shook his head and silently bent down to pick up the fallen umbrella and shake the snow off it.

The two walked towards the front hall of Xiangguo Temple, one after the other. Duan Mingchong didnt think much of the previous episode and quickly returned to normal. However, Sui Yans mind was racing. For a while, he thought about how Duan Mingchong would get killed sooner or later if he continued to be like this. Then he thought about how the Crown Princes waist looked like it would be nice to the touch. Finally, his thoughts turned to how nice Duan Mingchong smelled, and he wondered what incense the Crown Prince used before deciding to ask about it another day. 

When they arrived at the front hall of Xiangguo Temple, it was snowing heavily. Duan Mingchong saw that Sui Yan was racked with shivers and rushed forward to raise his cloak and protect Sui Yan from the wind and snow as they walked up the steps and entered the main hall.

No one had treated him with this much care before, and the more Sui Yans thoughts flew, the worse he felt. He quickly suppressed the dangerous thoughts in his mind, feeling guilty.

In the middle of the front hall of Xiangguo Temple there was a massive golden statue of Buddha whose kind and benevolent eyes seemed lifelike. The incense table in front of it was filled with incense burners and red candles, and tendrils of rising smoke filled the air.

On the praying mat in front of the incense table, a monk in white robes sat cross-legged with Buddha beads in his hands, his eyes calm and peaceful. 

Duan Mingchong stepped forward, palms together as he greeted, “Master Gengxue.”

Sui Yan was closing his umbrella. He looked up as he heard this.

The monk had his back to them as his lips moved, and it seemed like he was reciting Buddhist scriptures. Hearing Duan Mingchongs voice, he abruptly quietened and stopped moving the Buddha beads in his hand.

Gengxue rose from the praying mat and turned to return the greeting to Duan Mingchong. 

Master Gengxue looked gentle. Perhaps it was because he spent much of the year cultivating outside, but he was thin, with a clear and quiet voice. He seemed filled with zen, so much so that people didnt dare to offend him.

His body thin from cultivation, he dresses in a hemp robe.

Gengxue replied, “This subject greets Your Highness.”

After greeting the Crown Prince, he straightened up and glanced at Sui Yan. Then, his eyes slightly curved, and his voice softened. 

“Little Young Master Sui, long time no see.”

Sui Yans pupils shrunk, and he took half a step back, looking at Gengxue strangely.

Duan Mingchong curiously asked, “Master Gengxue has met Little Young Master Sui before?”

Gengxues smile became even gentler, “Of course weve met, Little Young Master, isnt that……right?” 

Sui Yan looked at him absent-mindedly as the umbrella in his hand fell onto the ground. His lips slightly moved, “You……”

Gengxue looked at him warmly.

Sui Yan murmured, “When did we……meet?”

Gengxue smiled, “Little Young Master is so forgetful. A year ago, you asked this monk a question, but you were in such a hurry that I never had the chance to answer it.” 

Sui Yans eyes abruptly widened, and he stared at Gengxue in disbelief, his face pale.

Duan Mingchong noticed something was wrong and rushed to support Sui Yan as he asked, “What happened? You dont look very well.”

Sui Yan felt faint. Duan Mingchongs voice seemed to be coming from far away, and he couldnt hear it very clearly.

What-What did I ask him…… Sui Yan blankly thought. 

Gengxue gently held his Buddha beads and slowly turned them. A soft click sounded in the silence——this sound was weak, but it was like an invisible thread, pulling Sui Yan into his memories of the last year before his death.

That day, it seemed to also have been snowing heavily. A white-robed monk smiled at him from under the statue of Buddha, but his eyes were filled with compassion as he gazed at Sui Yan.

At that time, Sui Yan was already terminally ill and had no reverence for any gods or Buddhas. Upon seeing the monk, he didnt even bow before asking……

“Great Master, will the gods and Buddhas impose a heavy punishment on those who commit suicide?” 

With a string of Buddha beads around his wrist, Gengxue smiled.

“That depends on whether this prince believes in my Buddha.”

The author has something to say:

“His body thin from cultivation, he dresses in a hemp robe” comes from the poem “Praising Birds Nest Monk” by Bai Juyi.

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