Seeing this, Xie Lian inexplicably found it both amusing and pitiful. He said, “Will this child’s injuries be able to heal?”

One of the imperial physicians rewrapped the layers of bandages around the young child’s head and said, “There shouldn’t be any issues.”

Only then did Xie Lian feel relieved. He nodded and said, “Thank you.”

At that moment, a palace servant reported that the Monarch and the Empress had arrived. The imperial physicians immediately stood up and went out to greet them. Xie Lian lifted the young child onto the bed and said, “Lie down and rest for now.” He realized that the child was shy, and with more people around, they might get scared. So he let down the curtain beside the bed and then stood up.

The attendants and palace servants ushered the Monarch and the Empress into the hall. The Empress had a pale complexion and asked, “Why did the Imperial Son return to the palace in such haste? Did something happen to you outside?”

Xie Lian replied, “Mother, please rest assured. I am unharmed. It is someone else who is injured.”

At that moment, Qi Rong shouted from the corner, “Aunt, save me!”

The Empress finally noticed that Qi Rong was being firmly held by Feng Xin, pressed against the side, and was startled. She had been solely concerned about her son’s well-being and hadn’t paid attention to anything else. Now, she asked, “What’s going on with Rong’er?”

The Monarch furrowed his brows and said, “Feng Xin, why are you holding the Little Mirror King like you’re apprehending a criminal?”

When the Monarch arrived, Feng Xin should have immediately paid his respects like Mu Qing and the others. However, since he was holding onto Qi Rong, he couldn’t free himself, making the situation slightly awkward. Xie Lian said, “I asked him to.”

Qi Rong cradled his broken arm and said, “Aunt, my arm is broken.”

Before the Empress could even show concern, Xie Lian sternly said, “You broke an arm, but what about the child inside?”

The Monarch asked, “What child?”

Xie Lian explained, “A ten-year-old child. They are weak and frail, with no strength in their hands. Qi Rong sent his subordinates to surround and beat him. If it weren’t for the child’s luck, they might have been left dead on the spot, beaten to death!”

Qi Rong seemed to hear a joke and opened his eyes, saying, “A ten-year-old child, weak and frail? Cousin, you don’t know. This little brat is vicious, wild, and formidable. They were only pretending to be pitiful in front of you. I sent five or six people, but we couldn’t catch this little devil. We punched and kicked them, tore at their flesh with our teeth, causing them to be covered in blood. If it weren’t for provoking me, I wouldn’t have dragged them behind the carriage!”

Upon hearing this, both the Monarch and the Empress’s faces changed. Xie Lian took a deep breath and said, “Stop! Are these deeds of yours honorable?”

Qi Rong was used to showing off, so how could the common people in the imperial city not see his arrogant behavior? And after seeing it, how could they not discuss it over tea?

The Monarch glanced at the Empress and said with a slightly greenish complexion, “Take the Little Mirror King down, and the imperial physicians should treat his broken arm. Take back the golden carriage and confine him to reflect on his actions. He shall not be allowed to leave for a month.”

The attendants immediately complied and went forward to take Qi Rong away. Feng Xin finally let go. Qi Rong, however, seemed indifferent and hummed, “Fine, take it back. I already knew that today would be my final escape.”

Hearing his lack of remorse, the Empress sighed. Xie Lian said, “It seems that a month of confinement and reflection will not be enough. He is likely to repeat his offenses in the future and requires stricter discipline.”

Qi Rong was taken aback and angrily said, “Cousin, you…” Then his eyes rolled, and he said, “Fine. I admit that I was wrong in this matter. Regardless of what punishment Your Majesty gives me, I will not shirk.”

In the next moment, his tone changed, and he said, “However, shouldn’t Your Highness’s subordinates also be punished? Uncle and Aunt, it was this Feng Xin who broke my arm!”

Upon hearing this, the Monarch immediately looked at Feng Xin with a face filled with shock and anger. Feng Xin lowered his head slightly, while Mu Qing subtly moved two steps to the side.

The Monarch coldly said, “Feng Xin, you are the personal attendant of the Crown Prince. The Crown Prince has indeed treated you quite well. Have you forgotten your identity and become so arrogant? Your duty is to serve the Crown Prince. Is this how you serve him? Dare to lay hands on the Little Mirror King, who is the Crown Prince’s cousin.”

Upon hearing this, Feng Xin prepared to kneel down. However, Xie Lian said, “No need to kneel.”

Feng Xin was the first to obey Xie Lian. Even if the Monarch had spoken, he would prioritize the Crown Prince’s command. So he immediately stopped kneeling. Seeing this, the Monarch’s expression became even more unpleasant.

Xie Lian said, “While it’s true that Feng Xin broke Qi Rong’s arm, the reason behind it was to protect his master. Moreover, Qi Rong was the one who instigated the incident. Feng Xin did nothing wrong, so there’s no need to kneel.”

The Monarch said, “Regardless of his intentions, he offended the Little Mirror King. There is a distinction between master and servant, and there is a difference in status. Even if the solitary king were to immediately cane him a hundred times, it would not be inappropriate.”

The Monarch didn’t have the same fondness for Qi Rong as the Empress, but after all, Qi Rong was a member of the royal family and couldn’t be violated. Qi Rong was well aware of this and sneered, “There’s no need for caning. Since he is the Crown Prince’s relative, I don’t want to make things too difficult for him. I just want him to break his own arm and then kneel down to kowtow to me three times. I won’t pursue anything further.”

The Monarch nodded slowly, seemingly considering this as a viable option. However, Xie Lian interjected, “If Feng Xin is to be punished, then punish me first. He is my attendant, and firstly, he hasn’t done anything wrong. Secondly, even if he had, he would have done so under my orders. I will bear the consequences on his behalf.”

Upon hearing this, anger flashed on the Monarch’s face.

Most father-son relationships go through such changes. When the son is young, they view their father as the greatest hero in the world, their role model, and admire them greatly. But as the son grows older, they begin to gradually doubt everything about their father and even develop a sense of aversion, resulting in both sides refusing to acknowledge each other.

Xie Lian sought seclusion on Mount Tai Cang primarily for his martial cultivation and the pursuit of the Tao. However, he wasn’t fixated on where or how he sought it.

The term “Tao” literally means “the path taken by people.” As long as one wholeheartedly pursues the Tao, it is a cultivation regardless of the location. There is no need to adhere strictly to the form and be confined to going up the mountain and entering seclusion. The reason Xie Lian insisted on going up the mountain was also because he felt that he couldn’t communicate with his father.

As the beloved son of Xian Yue, Xie Lian’s life path had been carefully planned out by the Monarch of Xian Yue since his birth. When he was young, it was fine. Being a small child, he had no worries, and Xie Lian only needed his parents’ company to play and have fun. But as he grew older, Xie Lian increasingly realized that his father was not just a father but also a Monarch. Many of their thoughts and actions were incompatible. For example, the so-called dignity of the royal family was one of the things Xie Lian disliked the most.

Since they couldn’t reconcile, it was better to stay far away. Every time he returned to the palace, Xie Lian would chat happily with his mother but never confide in his father. They rarely initiated conversations with each other, and every time it was the Empress who mediated between them.

The father and son had been at odds for months. Now, with Xie Lian persistently refusing to back down, the Monarch said, “Fine then, you can bear it on his behalf. Let’s see if you can handle it!” Xie Lian replied, “Of course!” The Empress anxiously interjected, “Why go through all this trouble?”

At that moment, Feng Xin, who had been silent all along, suddenly raised his left hand and struck down on his right arm. With a crisp “crack,” everyone was startled. They turned to look and saw that his right arm, just like Qi Rong’s, hung limply. Xie Lian was both shocked and angry, saying, “Feng Xin!”

Cold sweat dripped from Feng Xin’s forehead, but without saying a word, he immediately knelt down in front of Qi Rong, kowtowing three times. Xie Lian didn’t stop him. Qi Rong appeared rather proud and laughed, “Alright, I will reluctantly forgive you. Wouldn’t it have been better if you had done this earlier?”

Although his arm was also broken, Qi Rong left with a clear and refreshed expression, as if he had won a victorious battle. Feng Xin remained kneeling on the ground, while Mu Qing watched the scene with a faintly gloomy expression, his thoughts unclear. Xie Lian suddenly turned towards his father in anger and said, “You…!”

Feng Xin immediately grabbed his left hand and said, “Your Highness!”

The Empress also took hold of his hand. Xie Lian understood that Feng Xin had followed him since he was fourteen and was favored by the Empress. He didn’t want to see a conflict between him and his father, which would upset the Empress. That’s why he acted this way. If he were to act out now, it would only be in vain and disregard Feng Xin’s intentions. He had to force himself to endure the anger burning inside him. Finally, the Monarch’s expression eased slightly, and he calmly left the scene.

The Empress, who had always liked Feng Xin, sighed, “Ah, poor child, you’ve been wronged.”

Feng Xin said, “Please don’t say that, Empress. It’s my duty.”

Upon hearing this, Mu Qing’s gaze flickered, and he seemed to silently sneer. Xie Lian closed his eyes and said, “Mother, if you can’t control Qi Rong, then imprison him.”

The Empress sighed, nodded, shook her head, and left as well.

Xie Lian called for a physician and asked him to treat Feng Xin’s right hand, saying, “Feng Xin, I’m sorry.”

Once the others left, Feng Xin immediately changed his demeanor and sneered, “There’s nothing to apologize for. I dared to strike him, so why would I be afraid of his retaliation?” Pausing for a moment, he advised, “Your Highness, you’re right to discipline Qi Rong, but it’s better not to quarrel with the Monarch. The Monarch is the ruler and an elder. His thoughts and perspectives differ from ours. When you and your father argue, it depresses the Empress. She also has her own difficulties.”

Xie Lian knew well enough that his mother had her own difficulties.

Qi Rong’s mother was the younger sister of the Empress. They had a deep sisterly bond. In her youth, she was naive and pursued freedom wholeheartedly. She believed sweet words and ruined her prearranged marriage to elope with a palace guard. Little did she know that her husband was not a decent person. After half a year of living in a squalid house, he revealed his true nature and engaged in debauchery and drunkenness. He even resorted to physical abuse towards his wife when Qi Rong was born. In the end, the mother and son couldn’t endure it any longer, and when Qi Rong turned five, she took the child back home in a dejected manner. As she had become a scandal of the aristocracy, she secluded herself and lived a melancholic life, pouring all her love onto her only son.

During a disturbance, Qi Rong’s mother was struck by an arrow while trying to save the Empress. Before her death, she entrusted Qi Rong to Xie Lian’s mother.

The Empress did her best to care for Qi Rong, but other people’s children were always challenging. It was difficult to discipline them; being too strict felt like mistreatment, and due to the bond of affection, it was hard to bear. On the other hand, not disciplining them enough led to the current situation, where the behavior would only worsen if left unchecked. The Empress often couldn’t understand why her methods of raising Xie Lian and Qi Rong were nearly identical, yet the two children had such different personalities.

At that moment, Xie Lian suddenly remembered that there was another child lying on the bed in the room. He lifted the curtain and saw that the young child had sat up again, peering out through the crack. When Xie Lian pulled back the curtain, the child obediently laid back down. Xie Lian said, “Were you scared by the fight outside? Don’t mind it, it has nothing to do with you.”

A physician said, “Your Highness, this little friend’s injuries have been treated and only require rest.”

Xie Lian nodded and said, “Thank you.”

Then he bent down and asked the young child, “Where is your home? Shall I take you back?”

The child shook his head and said, “I don’t have a home.”

Feng Xin, holding his suspended arm, came over and said, “No home? Could it be that you’re truly a little beggar?”

Looking at the thin and dirty child, it wasn’t impossible. If he had nowhere to go, they couldn’t leave him in the palace or throw him on the streets. After a moment of contemplation, Xie Lian said, “In that case, let me bring him with me to Mount Tai Cang.”

Unexpectedly, Mu Qing suddenly spoke up, “He’s lying.”