Love in Another Life: My Gentle Tyrant - lightnovelgate.com
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Her Last Wish.
'Nian Xuanji, apart from mercy, if I were to grant you one last request, what do you wish for?'
The man's voice, soft like snow, fell gently in the winds.
Abruptly, her eyes opened.
Standing before her was a pair of boots, embroidered with the elaborate designs of a dragon. She did not know when he had walked over.
The axe, which had been half-raised, did not fall, remaining suspended in mid-air.
In a daze, she slowly lifted her head to look at him.
He stood in front of her, his expression calm.
Everyone was shocked. On the execution stage, Lin Sizheng faltered in disbelief. Within the grounds, the Empress' lips quivered and she made a small step forward, before hesitating to a stop.
A pair of trembling hands supported her up. Turning her head, Xuanji saw that it was Jingying, whose face glistened with tears. She smiled and clasped at Jingying’s hands in a silent gesture of comfort.
Slowly, she walked towards that man.
One step… two steps. She stopped.
She stared at him. His aristocratic face was a picture of dignity, austere as always. What about her? Her clothes were shabby and her hair was in a mess. Standing next to him, she must look pathetic to the extreme.
'Could we go in there, for a moment?' She pointed in the direction of the imperial palanquin.
A line appeared between Long Fei-li's brows. The Empress narrowed her eyes. Her hands, which had been hanging by her sides, jerked, an aborted attempt at protesting, the clattering of her jade bracelets ringing in the air.
At another corner, Qingfeng, whose face had turned ashen, swiftly strode over to Xuanji. Coldly, he said, 'What are you trying to achieve?'
'That seems to have nothing to do with you. It is my brother who agreed to Consort Nian's request,' said a new voice. The newcomer shoved aside the guards surrounding the execution stage and hurried forward.
It was Long Zijin, who had only just arrived. His upper arm was bandaged with a white cloth which was stained with blood.
'Zijin?' Xuanji's brows furrowed.
Zijin smiled at her. 'It's only a small wound.' As he said these words, his eyes slanted towards Qingfeng.
'Xu Xi,' Long Fei-li said, his gaze falling on the eunuch.
A flicker of apprehension washed over Xu Xi, yet his hands quickly lifted the curtains hanging at the front of the imperial carriage.
No one knew what had happened. The common people only saw the execution axe being raised, its sharp blade reflecting sunlight in the cold wintry air, yet the axe never fell. No one knew why Xuanji wanted to speak privately to the Emperor, just like how no one knew why the Emperor soundlessly followed her into the carriage.
The astonished eyes of all the common people were transfixed upon the curtains which hung before the carriage, blocking everything from view.
Though the carriage was big, when the two of them sat within it, the slightest gap separated them.
Last night, in his violent rage, he had lost all sense of calm.
More than once, she had wondered what mask he would wear if he should come today.
Staring at his side profile, quietly indifferent, she was seized with a sudden desire to know exactly what he was thinking at the moment.
Then, she shifted, moving to sit beside him, the sleeves of her robes brushing against his.
Finally, he turned, his gaze meeting hers.
His eyes were deep and unfathomable.
'You're very cruel, did you know?' she smiled. Within her cloak, her hand was pressed against her abdomen, which was an icy cold.
The faint glimmer of a smile reached his eyes. He said, 'If you died twice, perhaps you would be a little more afraid.'
'Yes, I would be more afraid, and less willing to die,' she replied in a serious tone.
'You're unwilling to die? Yet you've never pleaded for mercy.' His tone was light, a contradiction to his eyes, filled with derision.
'Would that make a difference?'
'It appears not.' Long Fei-li's smile vanished. His voice deepened, 'Say it - what is it you wish for.'
'Nothing can be of use to a dead man.' Her other hand reached over, gently enveloping his. She said, 'Why did you still grant me a last wish?'
His palm was warm and dry, unlike hers, which were already cold with perspiration.
She thought that he would shove her hand off, but he did not. Yet he did not respond to her touch. Her fingers curled, intertwining their palms together.
His fingers twitched, the faintest movement.
'You don't need to know why.'
Disappointment washed over her, but his words were faultless. Exactly what did she want to hear from him? Even she could not say.
'You didn't set a time limit for my wish. If I never said what I wanted -' A faint laugh escaped her, but she suddenly stilled, realisation dawning upon her. Eyes widening, she stared at him.
Long Fei-li turned away, leaning against the carriage. He did not reply.
Xuanji closed her eyes, tears falling, her abdomen clenching in pain.
His heart - suddenly, she did not understand it.
Except, there was no longer any time left.
'Your Majesty, my last wish is to tie your hair for you once more. Can I?'
Abruptly, Long Fei-li's body straightened. Fingers clenching on her jaw, he scoffed, 'You are so desperate to die?'
'Can I?' she repeated, lifting her head, her voice thick with suppressed emotions, threatening to spill.
'As you wish.' Coldly, he flung her hand off him. His strength was without restrain. Caught off-guard, her head knocked against the panels of the carriage, blood flowing from the new wound.
She smiled bitterly, raising her sleeves to wipe the bloody mess on her forehead.
He had already turned away, his back coldly presented towards her.
She thought that this was an image she must remember.
Standing, her left hand brushed across his hair, tightly coiled. Clutched tightly within her right palm was that item. She undid the jade band coiling around his hair, her movements clumsy, fingers trembling from exhaustion. A sudden wave of darkness fractured her vision and she forcefully bit down on her lower lip, struggling to maintain her focus.
Untied, his hair was let loose to scatter across her outstretched palm.
The object held protectively within her fist can finally be put to use.
She smiled, and her fingers uncurled.
It was a wooden comb, simple and commonplace. There were some pictures carved onto it, seeming to be flowers or something similar. She had tried many times to decipher them, but she could never tell what they were.
Taking hold of his hair, she combed it for him. A relentless pain continued pounding at her, a suffocating pressure. Hurriedly, she brushed his hair, winding them into a coil.***
Her hands seemed to still for a long moment; the coil of his hair was twisted into an extremely tight knot.
A crease appeared between Long Fei-li's brows.
He had always been an unperturbed person. Yet, at this moment, a foreign anxiousness welled within him, surging fiercely against the anger which had been tormenting him.
Unconsciously, he shifted his body. At this sudden movement, her hand abruptly relaxed and loosened. Something fell from over his shoulders to land on his knees.
He picked it up, his gaze darkening.
This comb was a gift from him, to her.
Once, they had spent many days together among the common folk, the memory of those days becoming an experience they held dearly within their hearts. From the moment he had entered the execution grounds, he had noticed her hands were clutched tightly around some object, and this thought had occupied his mind.
He wanted to know what that was.
She asked, why did he still grant her a last wish?
Deep inside his heart, even he did not know.
At the sight of her body tightly restrained on the execution table, the involuntary trembling of her fingers and the tears glistening on her eyelashes, the burning hatred and bitterness which had been tormenting his heart released their suffocating hold over him by a minute fraction.
Perhaps, he just wanted to see what exactly it was that she held so protectively within her grasp even in the moments before her death.
Perhaps, it was just so simple.
It must have been that simple.
Unthinkingly, he turned.
Something fell, hitting the seat in a muted thump.
A few flecks of snow drifted in. Outside, the common folk seemed to be impatient with curiosity, their loud voices rising in a rabble from all directions.
It seemed even Xu Xi was saying something from beyond the curtains.
Exactly what they said, he did not know.
Neither did he wish to know.
His gaze landed on his own hands. His fingers, long and elegant, were resting on a corpse.
She was devoid of warmth.
The coldness was just like that small palm which had, only moments before, been tightly intertwined with his own fingers.
Why hadn't he grasped those hands earlier?
She had curled her fingers tighter against his, just to press closer to him.
Yet he did not even deign to hold her hand.
She had spent a night with another man, and now bore that man's child. The body which he had adored had been wantonly possessed by another.
Once, she had sweetly called him 'Ah Li'. So what name had she given to that other man?
How dare she? The devoted love of an Emperor, meant to be given to the three thousand women in his harem, he had showered onto her alone, only to receive betrayal in return? She was his; only his. How could she have another man in her heart?
His blinding rage had erupted, as though having been released after being suppressed for a thousand years.
He wanted to kill her.
Using the shackles around her ankles, he had callously jerked those chains restraining her, carving new wounds on her flesh. Using the cruellest sentence, he wanted to severe her body and tear her apart.
Only then could he appease the hate in his heart.
And now, she was dead.
Finally, she was dead.