The little runt crept up towards Dong Haoyang when suddenly, his hand extended towards Dong Haoyang’s face, intending to scratch it. He bore a fierce stance at his hated enemy in a seemingly fierce confrontation.
However, as the little runt’s hand neared Dong Haoyang’s face, it was immediately captured. Unwilling to be outdone, the little runt instantly lifted his other hand with the same intent in yet another attempt. In the end, both his hands were snared together, leaving his whole body immobilised.
He fixed his malicious glare on Dong Haoyang.
The initial lethargy in Dong Haoyang’s body completely seeped away. His face no longer had its usual smile, in its stead was a look of confusion directed at the little cub.
Just now, he really did fall asleep.
His foggy dreams brought him back to his childhood days.
When Dong Haoyang was 6 years old, he lost his parents in an accident. Ever since then, the lives of Dong Haoyang and his 2-year-old brother Dong Qingzhan faced a dreadful change. A change from Heaven to Hell.
They had no money, food, and water. They did not even have a roof over their heads!
Back then, they were young and without the means of survival. They led a vagrant lifestyle, roaming around and scavenging for leftovers and scraps of food to eat. Their central place of activity was amongst the dustbins in the main street. They soon grew accustomed to the foul smell there that made most people nauseous. And they lived in satisfaction, as long as there were scraps of food to be found within the dustbins. Unfortunately, whatever food that they did not have, the nearby stray cats and dogs also did not have. Hence, they were forced to fend off stray cats and dogs for food. Unlike domestic pets, these strays were extremely wild and fierce, often leaving the two boys with many scars from their numerous scuffles. The first time they were scratched in a fight, they were both frightened. The two brothers quivered in fear and dared not step out to fight for food. But their extreme hunger brought on a desperation for food, which made them forget their fears.
Watching his little brother transition from being a crybaby to a child able to muster a smile while being bloodsoaked in the presence of food left Dong Haoyang with a pang of guilt and sadness.
Those days lasted for another two more years. After enduring this horrifying experience, they were sent to an orphanage. Even though their clothes were still shabby, at least they no longer stooped to scavenging in the dustbins for food.
Those two years were the darkest and most miserable moments of their lives. Even after leaving that place, Dong Haoyang could still sense the disgusting stench around him and he could not stand the tiniest speck of dirt around him.
He thought those dark memories were already lost within his mind. Who knew that they would surface in his dreams clearly as if it happened yesterday.
The little runt’s current expression looked exactly the same as that of Dong Qingzhan as he confronted the strays for scraps of food.
Dong Haoyang suddenly lost whatever thoughts he had about teasing the little wolf cub.
He let go of Heng Rui tiredly and left without uttering a single word.
There was puzzlement in Heng Rui’s fierce eyes. He thought that his actions would earn him an immediate beating. He had even prepared for it, so why did this person suddenly leave?
Dong Haoyang disappeared for a while. When he reappeared, he brought along some piping hot meals and Dim Sum. The Dim Sum was packaged from outside while the meals were taken from the imperial kitchens on his way there.
This time Dao Haoyang did not have the same smile that caused goosebumps to crawl across Heng Rui’s skin. He just leant against the chair lazily and watched the little runt eat.
Even though the little runt was jealous of him, in the end, he could not suppress his hunger. Seeing Dong Haoyang’s seated figure, he quickly rushed to the food container and gobbled it up ravenously.
The little runt soon cleaned the food container without leaving any morsels of food behind and was rubbing his stomach contentedly, the fear and suspicion in his eyes disappearing after a while.
Dong Haoyang looked up lazily. “If you want to eat in future, you have to learn some things from me in exchange.”
Dong Haoyang lost the patience he had previously and the little runt could sense this, so he didn’t rebut him. Thinking about the delicious food and Dim Sum, Heng Rui nodded without any hesitation.
Heng Rui was only 6 years old and his knowledge was limited. He lived reliantly on his instincts. He did not want to feel that burning pain he got from starving anymore and was willing to do anything to be fed enough food to stave off the hunger.
Seeing that the wolf cub was much better-behaved, Dong Haoyang lazily raised his eyebrows and tossed the pre-school books he brought onto the table.
He would come daily and spend time with the little runt. With each visit, he would first teach the cultural concepts, before passing on the martial arts skills. After all, how could an Emperor have such a weak constitution?
All the moves and skills Dong Haoyang taught him were learnt from the tutors around there, he studied them with the crown prince. Not only did the crown prince learn about philosophy and current affairs, but he also practised horsemanship and archery. So, Dong Haoyang observed and digested all this organised knowledge, and began to rearrange the curriculum to suit the little runt. Not only did he do that, but Dong Haoyang also prepared some stamina training based on what he had gone through his whole entire life.
The little runt really enjoyed the martial arts training, but he hated to exert mental effort in the likes of learning, memorising, and calligraphy.
Many a time, the little runt would refuse to study by haphazardly tearing apart the infuriating curricular books.
Dong Haoyang observed the wolf cub’s angry behaviour but did not say anything. The next day, he would give the little runt a single steamed bun instead of the usual meals.
After three times, the little runt learnt from his experiences. Even if he was extremely irritated with the books, he would gnash his teeth and read them begrudgingly.
In fact, if the little runt met Dong Haoyang’s expectations, the next day, his meals would be served with a scrumptious piece of chicken drumstick.
In order to eat the food that he wanted, Heng Rui forced himself to memorise the more information from the books.
Dong Haoyang was rather satisfied with these results. Even though the little runt lacked the passion for learning, his learning potential was really shocking with the temptation of food. With some hard work, a retentive memory was achievable. Still, many spoke in praise of the crown prince. A comparison between the two drove the little runt back into the dirt.
Time flew by quickly. In the blink of an eye, a year had come and left.
During this year, Dong Haoyang taught the little runt to recognise all the characters he learned and made him memorise all the pre-school books. Regarding the martial art skills area, Dong Haoyang mainly taught him Chinese boxing. The little runt gradually developed his own routine and method in his boxing style, and his whole person also seemed to gain composure.
After one year of recuperation, Heng Rui’s originally skinny and malnourished body gradually became stronger, his sallow skin complexion improved and his cheeks took on a rosy hue. His training laid the foundation for his body to develop a steady vigour. Adding in the expensive clothes that Dong Haoyang brought, Heng Rui bore a striking resemblance to the majestic little highness.
A noteworthy incident occurred on the second day Dong Haoyang officially started teaching. He cut off a sharp nail on his finger. Languidly, Dong Haoyang originally wanted to let Heng Rui do it himself, but the little runt refused to do it no matter what he said. Once he heard of this from Dong Haoyang, he covered his hands and ran away. Dong Haoyang lifted those peach eyes that never seemed to open, stopping the little runt in one swift motion and straightaway taking care of his sharp nails. In his anguish, the little runt bit Dong Haoyang’s arm. Dong Haoyang had no extreme reaction, he merely raised an eyebrow in interest. The next day, the little runt’s meals for the day were all changed to steamed buns, and the amount of food was reduced by half.
For Heng Rui, there was no punishment more effective than reducing the amount of food he got for his meals.
Later on, even though the little runt became more honest, he never learnt how to cut his own nails for some odd reason. A rather disgusted Dong Haoyang only raised his eyebrow lazily and later on helped to cut the little runt’s nails once in a while.
In the course of this year, there was another incident that raised Dong Haoyang’s concerns. When Madame Dong’s body was weakening, she would have occasional dizzy spells. The physician tended to it before but dismissed it as a symptom of overworking. Although Dong Haoyang’s gut feeling told him there was more to the story, he could not tell what was going on.
That was until he himself began to feel his own body weakening.
Dong Haoyang had an A level physical fitness and he held the utmost confidence in his physique. Plus, his extreme vitality allowed him a clear understanding of his body’s changes. If a normal person were to have this weak feeling, they would have attributed it to being tired and worn out, but Dong Haoyang clearly felt something was wrong. He felt like there was a slow poison crippling his body bit by bit.
Dong Haoyang’s gleaming peach eyes were full of interest.
He suddenly remembered something the wall of light had told him. The reason why the Yuan Jing Emperor was able to think about Heng Rui, was because of that one family feast. All his male offspring were either dead or injured and his own body was weakening. However, before he had all his meals, all the eunuchs had specially tested his meals for poison. After the affair blew up, the imperial physicians could not sense any problem. The only difference between the Yuan Jing Emperor and his sons was that he did not drink a bowl of soup, but that bowl of soup was a great tonic. The imperial physicians checked it afterwards and found no problem. The Yuan Jing Emperor was enraged and ordered a thorough investigation of this incident, but after the implication of countless innocents, the truth was still a mystery. In fact, long before this, the Yuan Jing Emperor and his sons had already begun to develop symptoms of their bodies weakening.
The interest deepened in Dong Haoyang’s eyes.
The wall of light did not explain what the truth of the matter was, but he suspected that it was a slow-acting poison. Only slow-acting poisons could gradually destroy a person’s body. Eating foods in conflict with the medicinal effects of the tonics would lead to what happened to the Yuan Jing Emperor and his sons. Ironically, people who drank the tonics died as a result, but those who did not were merely left with weakened bodies.
Now that he and Madame Dong were in a similar condition, his suspicions told him that they were both poisoned.
The corners of Dong Haoyang’s mouth curved upwards slowly. Things were getting more and more interesting.