The dark passage is so long, it sees no end, the air filled with a moist stench of rottenness, entering the nose in waves, making people feel nauseous. The prison warden holds a lantern as he leads the way in front, dim yellow lighting stretching and deforming his shadow, further casting an incomparably sinister and strange atmosphere in the prison.
I walk behind Meng Shao Jue, heart shrinking tighter and tighter with every step.
Yuwen Rui is held captive in a place like this?
Meng Shao Jue suddenly stops in his steps, lowering his head to shallowly smile at me, “Would you like to be in the light, or in the shadows?”
I satirically think, so I still have the right to make this decision? Meng Shao Jue indeed complies with human rights. I say: “In the shadows.”
“In the shadows, are you certain?” He reaches out to hook the loose hair by my temple behind my ear, phoenix eyes long and narrow, kindness held in his eyes, “I can arrange for you two to exchange a few words.”
“No need.” I turn my face away, continuing to walk forward, “In the shadows it is.”
He slightly narrows his phoenix eyes, attractive voice carrying pampering as he says: “All in accordance to your wishes.”
The prison warden takes us into a stone room, then opens a little window on the wall with a key, revealing a gap that seems to be used for monitoring, just big enough to reveal one’s eyes.
“Lord Prime Minister,” The prison warden bows and approaches Meng Shao Jue, “The prisoner is just next door, you can directly see from here.”
“En.” Meng Shao Jue slightly nods, calmly saying: “Tell them to act quicker.”
“As you command.” The prison warden sounds a “hei-hei” laugh, “This little one shall leave first then, should my lord have any matters, just call out for this little one.”
Once the prison warden had said this, he leaves, only Meng Shao Jue and I are left in the prison room. He extends his hand to me, phoenix eyes pointing at that little gap: “Ah-Lan, come over, didn’t you want to see him?”
I bite down on my bottom lip, passing by his outstretched hand as I directly head to the window. He is not annoyed by this, just saying with a smile behind me: “Ah-Lan, may you watch carefully.”
I no longer care about what he says, looking through the gap to see the rather big but empty prison room next door.
Prison has always represented bloodiness and death, the older the prison room, the more murder that has occurred in it, be it every trace of blood that cannot be wiped clean or the bumpy marked walls, nothing shows anything less than the pain and struggles of those people. I have never thought there will be a day I’d come to such a place, moreover, the person locked in here is Yuwen Rui.
I see him.
He is tied to the wooden cross, figure still upright like bamboo, but his long and slender limbs powerlessly hangs limp. He is still wearing that set of moon-white long robes, now already ragged, revealing a long-whip-like wound, shocking to the eyes. His face is still handsome, but his complexion is so pale, it’s practically transparent, as though it would shatter and disappear with one touch. His lips are still lined with a smile, shallow and cold, but it is not possible to see exactly what kind of expression is held in those tightly shut eyes.
I suddenly find it impossible to breathe, like an invisible hand has deadly gripped onto my throat, causing me incomparable pain, but I am incapable of releasing myself from the hold.
“Heart aching just from this?” Meng Shao Jue lowly laughs beside my ear, warm breath intimately coming in touch with my skin, “Ah-Lan, don’t be in a haste, there’s still more to come.”
My hands under my sleeves tightly clenches, trying to endure the intense pain and fury surging up my chest.
Isn’t this what I had already expected? He has just been injured a little, he is still very well, so I should not act impulsively, I need to calm down.
That’s right, An Ke Lan, you must calm down.
The door to the prison room next door is opened, a few burly figured prison guards walks in, two carrying a fire stove, one carrying all sorts of punishment tools, whilst another carries two buckets of water, the last to enter is a man in a body of official outfit, both hands held behind his back, arrogantly striding in.
The man in official clothing is approximately forty-years-old, with tanned skin and a study build, a meaty face and an air of viciousness, unlike someone who should be an official, but rather a butcher. He fiercely narrows his thick brows, shouting: “All act swiftly now, have you eaten lunch?!”
“Yes yes yes, please wait my lord, we are almost ready, almost ready!” The several prison guards fearfully say, acting more quickly as they put the fire stove and the punishment tools in place.
“En.” The man in official clothing sits on a chair at the side, accepting a cup of tea delivered by someone next to him and takes a sip, crossing his leg as he says: “Has this brat not said a word since yesterday?”
“Responding to my lord!” Prison Guard A who had given him the tea immediately answers, “He has said nothing since yesterday.”
“Heng.” The man in official clothing coldly harrumphs, disdainfully saying: “A rather tight-lipped one.” He extends his hand to point at Prison Guard B who was holding the punishment tools just now, instructing: “You go wake him up.”
Prison Guard B nods in responds, walking up to call Yuwen Rui, but receives a fierce smack from Prison Guard A at the side, scolding: “Are you a pig ah? Our lord is telling you to use saltwater!”
Prison Guard B immediately reacts, throwing a few slaps to his own face as he says to the man in official clothing: “May my lord pardon this offense, this little one is new here, this little one is new here!”
The man in official clothing speaks with irritation: “Aren’t you going to hurry up?!”
“Yes!” Prison Guard B hurriedly carries a bucket of water to Yuwen Rui’s side, collecting a scoopful of water and throws it onto Yuwen Rui’s face. Just that, this one throw gained him another smack from Prison Guard A, he scolds: “Idiot! Our lord is telling you to throw it onto his body!”
“Ah?” Prison Guard B is still rather confused, then frantically says: “This little one shall throw it onto his body now!” Having said that, throwing one scoop onto Yuwen Rui’s body was not enough, he follows up with several more scoops, until Prison Guard A smacks him again, “Stop stop stop! Should you finish throwing it now, what are we to throw later?!”
Only then does Prison Guard B stops, submissively withdrawing to a side, “Yes.”
The man in official clothing has an expression of being unable to laugh nor cry, saying: “Where did this idiot come from?”
Prison Guard A hurriedly says: “May my lord calm your anger, this person has only just started working here, not very familiar with all this, this little one shall give him some good tuning up later!”
The man in official clothing sounds “en”, sipping some tea then says: “Rather interesting.”
Prison Guard B could not help but reveal a happy look upon hearing this, he points at Yuwen Rui and loudly yells: “My lord! He’s awake!”
All that can be seen is the originally unconscious Yuwen Rui’s brows almost unnoticeably furrow, lashes gently fluttering, then slowly half opens his long and fine fox eyes.
The pain in my chest miraculously softens upon seeing him open his eyes, just because his brown eyes are clear like placid waters.
Yuwen Rui will always be Yuwen Rui, no matter when, and no matter where.
“Gentleman Yuwen,” The man in official clothing speaks up, courteously saying: “Do you perhaps have anything to tell this official today?”
Yuwen Rui leisurely casts him a glance, voice hoarse as though dried up, “Don’t know what this lord wishes for me to say?”
The man in official clothing’s face darkens, speaking rather unhappily: “Official – I – am asking, do you perhaps have anything to tell this official?!”
“Oh.” Yuwen Rui lightly smiles, “Lord, you have already been asking this for several days.”
“Yes, this official has asked this for several days.” The man in official clothing endures his anger as he says: “So have you thought about it well today?”
Yuwen Rui lets out a soft chuckle, “What does Lord think?”
“Yuwen Rui, this official doesn’t have the time to be guessing back and forth with you!” The man in official clothing ferociously smacks the table, the shock causing the teacup to shake, “Who is the spy you planted in the imperial palace, are you saying it or not?”
Yuwen Rui lazily raises his eyes, “Say what?”
“You……” The man in official clothing is fuming, fiercely rounding his eyes as he says: “Yuwen Rui, don’t blame this official for not giving you face!” He turns to say to Prison Guard C who is guarding by the punishment tools: “Bring those several little fellows to me!”
Prison Guard C hurriedly replies: “Yes, my lord.” He digs out a little iron box and a pair of chopsticks from the punishment toolbox, respectfully walking up to the man in official clothing, “My lord, here they are.”
The man in official clothing says with his rough voice: “Yuwen Rui, this official shall ask you once more, are you saying it or not?”
Compared to the man in official clothing’s fury, Yuwen Rui appears in particularly calm, “What exactly those Lord wish for me to say?”
“You!” The man in official clothing is shaking in anger, with a wave of his big hand, he says: “Go up now! Feed these little fellows well!”
Prison Guard C follows the order, walking up to Yuwen Rui’s side and opens the box, then uses the chopstick to pick out a thumb-thick……leech.
Within an instant, I feel my entire body run cold, something in my stomach stirring without stop.
That person constantly picks up the transparent and slender leeches, placing them onto Yuwen Rui’s wounds, leaving them to crawl their wet and soft bodies in approach to the tender flesh, and then deeply drill in, greedily and impatiently……
I deadly bite down onto my bottom lip, stopping the sob from coming out of my mouth, but I could not stop the gradually reddening of my eyes and the sour feeling at my nose.
Those disgusting things just desperately stick to his wounds like that, their bodies starting to gradually fill up, see through bodies slowly gaining colour, from light to dark, from pink to blood-red, then from blood-red to dark red. They suck up the fresh blood that does not belong to them with insatiable greed, despicable to the point it makes people want nothing more than to immediately stomp on them to death.
But Yuwen Rui’s expression is still so indifferent, as though his wounds aren’t covered in those disgusting things, also as though the blood being sucked away doesn’t even belong to him.
No wonder, no wonder why he is so pale, no wonder why he looks so fragile that he could disappear within any moment……
“Ah-Lan.” The person beside me reaches out to wipe away my tears, darkness hidden within his warm tone, “You’re crying.”
I blankly struggle to snap out of my daze, only when I feel the wet touch on my face, do I realise that I am really crying.
How……long has it been since I cried?
Seems like after the very distant wedding, seems like after I started a new life, I have never let a single tear drop.
But right now, I’m crying.
“Ah-Lan, did you know?” Meng Shao Jue intimately caresses my face, eyes showing the storm to come, “The more you worry about him, the more I want to torture him.” Having said that, he pulls at the rope hanging from the wall, the prison cell next door immediately sounds a subtle bell ring. And when that man in official clothing hears this bell sound, he furrows his thick brows, saying: “Are the little fellows full yet?”
Prison Guard C leans in to take a look, eye revealing disgust and horror, his words remain respectful as he says: “Responding to my lord, they are all full.”
“Alright then.” The man in official clothing waves his hand, eyes also containing disgust, “Take them all back.”
And so Prison Guard C once again uses the chopsticks to pick each and every one of those now fattened, dark red, squirming bodies back into the box, quickly throwing it into the punishment toolbox. The man in official clothing then looks toward Prison Guard D, who had been standing at the fire stove since entering, asking: “Is it ready yet?”
Prison Guard D turns the red-hot iron in hand, saying: “My lord, it’s pretty much ready.”
The man in official clothing walks up to the prison guard and takes the iron, the red iron reflects a red light on his face, making him appearing even more vicious. He walks up to Yuwen Rui, raising the iron in hand, asking: “Gentleman Yuwen, I shall ask you this final time, are you saying it or not?”
Yuwen Rui’s complexion has gotten paler than before, lips completely erased from colour, but he is still as calm and composed as ever, like the light clouds and gentle breeze, weakly saying: “What exactly does Lord wish to hear me say? Why not directly tell me this?”
The man in official clothing tightly furrows his brows, fine eyes filled with venomous intent as he says: “Only know to shed tears at the sight of the coffin!”
Having said that, the burning red iron is pressed against Yuwen Rui’s abdomen, the thin cloth is not enough to hold against the intensely heated iron, turning into ashes within an instant, the iron releases a slight “si-si” sound against the skin, and the entire skin area is practically emitting fine wisps of smoke……
Yuwen Rui widens his eyes in an instant, the vein at his temples fully surfaces, but those tightly gritted teeth still refuses to let out any sound.
I can only deadly bite down onto my bottom lip, until the strong taste of blood spreads intoo my mouth, yet I cannot feel any pain at all.
The tears in my eyes increasingly builds up, so much that my sight has been blurred, so much that I cannot see the subtle expression on his face clearly, so much that I can only squat down, covering my mouth as I quietly sob.
Yet Meng Shao Jue plays up in this moment, instantly pulling me into his chest, raising my chin without any warmth, long and narrow phoenix eyes filled with fury. He says: “An Ke Lan, do you still wish to continue watching? Do you still wish for me to continue the punishments?”
I desperately struggle in his arms with all my strength, yet I am incapable of stopping him from forcing me to continue facing the window, watching the man on that side continue to use the iron on Yuwen Rui’s abdomen, watching Yuwen Rui silently faint, watching his handsome and pale face covered in cold sweat, watching his lips drip with blood from biting it……
“You let go!” I can no longer hold back my resentment, using all my strength to kick and hit him, but he just easily seizes my hands, thin lips resolutely pressing down on me. He roughly sucks at my lips, not caring about my struggle and the taste of blood filling my mouth. The taste of tears and blood mixing together is a little strange, so strange that after I strongly bite him, he instead starts laughing.
He parts away from my lips, deeply laughing, his bleeding tongue licks his lip with romantic ambiguity.
He says: “Ah-Lan, you’re able to save him.”
Poor YWR, and some of you were still suspecting him… 😔