Wang Jing was beyond horrified at Wen Jinkai's confession. He dropped his hands, faltered backward, shaking his head in disbelief.
Wang Jing glanced down at his friend, his lips parted out of shock. Wang Jing struggled to ignore the pressing reality that he had said too much.
"I don't believe you," Wang Jing loudly whispered. "You may be the cruelest person I know, but you're not that ruthless."
"You wanted me to play the villain, didn't you?" Wen Jinkai murmured, raising his head.
Wang Jing was surprised by the disheveled look on Wen Jinkai's face.
"I am but a tool that guarantees the safety of the Royal Family."
"No, you're not—"
"Tools have no need for emotions, for love." Wen Jinkai slowly rose to his feet, swaying and looking haggard. He was not the same man who walked in here a few minutes ago.
"I've always wondered why the Empress took me in." Wen Jinkai's sinister smile widened as he mused, "The Empress didn't do favors for just anyone, not even for her closest friend, my birth mother."
"Jinkai, enough, you're not in the clearest state of mind."
"The Empress had a purpose for me. It was to keep her family safe."
"You ARE her family," Wang Jing emphasized. "Please, stop this nonsense. We've escalated things too much—"
"No, the only family to her is the one she created." Wen Jinkai shook his head. "How foolish of me to chase for her acceptance and love. I wanted her to love me unconditionally. The only way she'd do so was giving her my obedience without questions."
"And when I disobeyed her, she took from me the only good thing in my life." Wen Jinkai let out a satanic laughter that bounced off the walls of the room.
"Of course, the biggest blame was on myself, isn't it?" he slammed his chest in agitation. "I listened to her lies. I obeyed her command to stay far away from my own wife! Like a dog, I obeyed every god-damn thing she wanted me to do!"
Wang Jing flinched. He squeezed his eyes shut and clenched his fist. He could not rebut, for it was the truth.
Everyone knew the Commander of Wuyi was nothing but the Royal Family's guard dog.
"I'm sorry," Wang Jing whispered, his brows drawing together. "I'm sorry it had to be like this, Jinkai, I really am."
"It is not your place to apologize," Wen Jinkai snapped. "It is the Empress's."
"She will admit her mistakes," Wang Jing said, his voice heavy with distress. "All you have to do is talk with her. She will apologize. Mother loves you so, so much, it is unfathomable how much she cares for you."
"How can someone love their tool of protection?"
"No! She used to think of you like that, I admit! But over the years, as she watched you grow into the man you are, she has come to love you without bounds!" Wang Jing shouted. "I would know, she told me this herself!"
"Mother is terrified of losing you," Wang Jing admitted. "That is why she did everything she did! You know she is a self-conscious woman who loves no one but her children. She does not even love herself!"
"I don't need your blubbering bullshit," Wen Jinkai snarled.
"No one loves Mother but her children. Our father has neglected her for decades. He loves no one but his concubines. You know how Mother is. She's jealous of every young and beautiful woman that crosses her path. She's envious of the future they still have, of their youth that will not die for a few decades."
"It's not my fault she wasted her youth chasing after a heartless man," Wen Jinkai seethed. "It's not our place to replace the love she was supposed to acquire from her husband."
"You're right, it's not, but she has no one else but us." Wang Jing pleaded, "Please, You must understand why she did what she did. You can't leave her, Jinkai."
"And why not?"
"She will kill herself!" Wang Jing wailed. "Do you not know? How much Mother loves you? How much she suffers daily at the thought that you, the only child she had raised, might leave her?!"
He gestured to the fancy room and the tea sets. "All of my luxury means nothing to her if she can't share it with her children! All of her sons and daughters are Princes and Princesses. The Emperor took us away from her the second we were born so that we could be raised by royal nannies and tutors!"
He pointed a finger at Wen Jinkai and said, "But you! You're different. She raised you all by herself! The attachment she felt for you was unlike any of the love she had for us."
Wang Jing dropped to his knees. "So please," he begged, "Don't leave Mother. Don't abandon her. If you do, she will never be the same."
Wen Jinkai did not respond. He simply opened the door and left, slamming it shut behind him.
But Wang Jing knew, or at least, he hoped he did, that Wen Jinkai would not turn his back on the hand that fed him. Wen Jinkai would not abandon his only family because if he did, he would have no one else in this world.
- - - - -
"He has finally left," the servant murmured. Her gaze swept over the messy floor, and she let out a sigh.
"You can't talk about a Commander like that," the Second Prince said. "Even if he's not here."
The servant did not respond. She merely walked towards a chair and plopped herself down, swinging her feet as she watched other maidservants walk in and out of the room, attempting to clean up the shattered teacups.
"Little One," Wang Jing huffed, "You're a servant. You shouldn't behave like this."
"I don't care about my current status," she mumbled whilst playing with the long strands of her hair. "It doesn't define me."
"Stubborn and naive as always," Wang Jing sighed. He leaned against his chair and grabbed his hair. "How frustrating it is to talk to him. I've known him for so long, yet he showed no remorse for choking me."
"It's your fault for letting him do it to you. You could have cried to your mother, you know. She would hurt anyone that tried to touch her children."
"She would never hurt Wen Jinkai."
"But she would hurt the things he cares about. I would know."
"Of course she would," Wang Jing said and let out another sigh. He loved his mother, but at times, she was unethical and cruel, very much like Wen Jinkai. Perhaps that was why he was so heartless and frightsome.
"She won't hurt her children, but will indirectly do so. It's in her nature," Wang Jing said.
"You should stop giving her excuses. Why do you defend bad people?" the servant mumbled as she picked up a shattered porcelain piece, handing it to the other servant close to her.
Originally, the Second Prince's other maidservants abhorred her, but after it was demonstrated how much he valued her, no one dared to cross her path.
"Because I always see the good in the bad."
"That's your biggest flaw."
"Or most redeeming character," Wang Jing muttered.
"You didn't play a part in harming me," the servant sneered, though he did not see it. "Why do you feel the need to redeem yourself?"
"Because I sat idly by and watched someone get hurt. Mother tells me everything. I could've advised her to not hurt—"
"The past is in the past. It should stay that way."
"That's not what the Li Family thinks."
"I'm leaving," the servant abruptly said, standing up. "I don't want to get in the way of the people cleaning up."
"No, don't go. I won't bring them up again. Sit, let's have a proper discussion."
"No, I don't want to."
He didn't finish his sentence. She left too quickly.
The Second Prince shook his head. "You never learn, do you?"
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