“Yezun daren, everything is ready.” The young looking man stayed in his bowing position, waiting for his master to allow him to be at ease.
The noble man however, looked at himself in the vanity mirror once more before facing and smiling at his ward.
“I expect nothing less from you.”
Shen Mian, or most commonly known as Ye Zun, the 4th concubine of King Zhou Bao, joined the West King’s harem only 5 winters ago. He’s the only high ranking male concubine and known for his delicate beauty and snow white skin.
He used to be seen tending to his flowers in the imperial garden, plucking dried leaves from the plants.
But today, he’s plucking heads off of people’s heads.
Shen Mian, the North King’s youngest of the twin sons, was offered to be a tribute bride to retain peace between the three warring states. He was only 18 winters old, but the future of his kingdom was placed on his tiny shoulders.
The night before he was sent off, his brother promised to win the war and take him back. Mianmian could only smile and nod while hot tears grace his still plump cheeks, which his brother immediately wiped away.
His brother sent him off until they reached the border of two kingdoms. There, he was escorted by the West King’s envoy.
As a concubine, despite having a high societal ranking, he wasn’t given a wedding nor an imperial harem title promptly. But his title as a prince also ensured that he would not be at the bottom rank.
King Zhou Bao, the Leopard of the West, took one look at him and gave him the title of měi rén (beauty) and dismissed him for the next few months.
Shen Mian kept himself busy in his small courtyard and started his own garden. He’s thankful for the king for allowing him to continue his correspondence with his older brother, who promises to win the war in all of his letters.
On the first anniversary of his arrival to the West kingdom, the king took his purity.
But not in a way he’d always dreamt of.
Zhou Bao, despite being dubbed as the Leopard, had a warm and welcoming aura coupled with a young and handsome face.
Shen Mian had always imagined him to be a gentleman, someone who was only forced to fight because of the war instigated by the South kingdom.
But he was proven wrong.
On the night the Zhou Bao returned from defending the palace gates himself, he headed straight to Mianmian’s courtyard and screamed at all the servants to leave and never come back until he said so.
He found his concubine already asleep.
The king pulled hard Shen Mian by his legs and forcefully removed his inner robes. The shocked concubine wasn’t able to resist when the king pinned him down with his large hands.
“You whore! You were the one who told that halfwitted brother of yours about my palace’s architecture, aren’t you? Why else would those be able to reach this far in the capital!?”
“My king, I did not. You’ve read my letters yourself, I did no such thing.”
“Silence! You filthy whore! Who knows what kind of secret code you and your daft brother shared!”
A resounding slap made Shen Mian spit a mouthful of blood. Another slap and he’s sure that he lost a tooth or two.
The concubine can accept physical punishment and torture, he was still a prince after all. He’s a trained martial artist.
King probably knew of this as well so he took a different road in shaming his own concubine.
The older man ripped off his concubine’s robes and entered him without preparation. He drove hard and fast until he saw blood colouring the clean white sheet.
His smile widened and became more menacing as he heard his concubine cry and whine in pain.
The king left his concubine’s courtyard with a big smirk on his face, knowing how humiliated he made him look.
The servants ran to their master after seeing their king’s face and neck covered with scratches, some were too deep and started scabbing.
They found their master, half on and half off the bed. His mouth was still bleeding, but so was his lower body. They made quick work and soaked him in a medicinal bath.
But no amount of luxurious herbs can heal the wound that was inflicted in the young man’s soul.
An investigation was held and it was proven that the North Kingdom’s prince did not instigate the siege of the West King’s palace.
They were the South King’s men, dressed in the North kingdom’s military uniform. The South King knew he would not win against both the West and North, so he thought he’d put them against each other.
But he failed horribly.
Despite this, the West king forbade Shen Mian from contacting his brother as often as he does.
The king also started visiting his concubine more often and even gave him a new title. Ye Zun, night master. As poetic as it sounds, it’s reasoning was nothing close to what people would think it does.
The lecherous king named him this to further humiliate him and lower him into being nothing but the king’s bed warmer.
Shen Mian had no choice but to submit to this treatment if he wanted to keep his life. He’d often wake up finding himself unable to walk or even sit, but his loyal servants are always there to tend to his needs.
Soon, his misery was cut short when the King had to personally join the war.
One benefit of being a young king is that he can join war but being young is coupled with the disadvantage of not having an old enough son to take his place in the battlefield.
With the king away, there’s no one to supervise his otherwise chaotic harem. The queen is a young and vengeful woman, merely 16 winters old. Her age made her too green to rule even the harem, but that doesn’t mean she will not try.
She does, and fails. So she resorts to bullying.
Any concubine who spends more than 2 nights a month with the emperor would be subjected to the queen and the guifei’s bullying.
This includes having their monthly salary deducted, their servants being punished for no reason, and their food constantly being tampered with.
Being the king’s favourite male concubine made Shen Mian the target of this bullying.
But he endured.
He endured the 14 attempts of poisoning, 5 attempts of assassination, and 3 attempts of kidnapping whenever he’d go on a pilgrimage to the temple in the capital.
He kept hoping that this nightmare would end soon and his brother would reunite the kingdoms. He kept hoping that he will be able to go back home soon.
His hopes went crashing down when he received a letter the same day the West king came back from the battlefield.
It was a report on the war casualties.
On the top of the list was the name of the South king’s crown prince followed by the name Shen Mian had known since the day he was born.
In red ink, Shen Wei’s name was written in messy calligraphy.
Shen Mian felt his soul leave his body and his heart audibly broke, he could hear each crack forming.
His tears continuously fell as the West king rambled on and on about how he’d won the war. How he’s now the emperor. How he slashed the south kingdom’s crown prince chest. How he cut Shen Wei’s head clean off.
“Surely Ye Zun wouldn’t mind right? After all, that twin brother of yours is nothing but a dimwit. He can’t even win a fight against me, how will he take you back to that burnt down kingdom of yours?”
The king’s tone was menacing, as if he’s trying to taunt Shen Mian into insanity.
But instead, the concubine only agreed.
The reaction surprised the king but didn’t question it. He hauled his concubine in his strong arms and took him many times that night.
That night, Shen Mian made up his mind.
His brother is not dumb, but he is too trusting. He trusted the wrong man and it cost him his head. As his younger twin, it’s Shen Mian’s job to exact vengeance.
“Who is the bitch now!?” Shen Mian yelled as he drove his dagger multiple times into Zhou Bao’s chest and neck.
He never stopped until he was satisfied.
Shen Mian stood up and wiped the deceased king’s blood off his face. His face devoid of his usual innocent smile. It was replaced with a maniacal grin as he called for the queen and her retinue to be brought to the throne room.
It took him a year and a half of planning and colluding with the ministers and soldiers to get to this point. And he will enjoy every second of it.
The queen was forced to kneel in front of him along with the other women in the harem. Not all of them are guilty of bullying him, but they’re all guilty of ignoring him when he asked for help.
They all deserve what’s coming to them.
“Huanghou likes her poisons very much, doesn’t she? How about you try this one I concocted myself. I used all the most potent venoms I could find. Would you be so kind as to fulfil this meiren’s wish of you dying?”
Shen Mian forced the queen’s mouth to open and poured the jar full of venom. His servants followed suit and did the same to all the 20 other women in the throne room.
The scorned concubine watched as the women fell one by one, writhing in pain as their mouths foam and life leaves their lithe bodies.
He sat on the king’s throne and continued watching the women suffer.
He also took the king’s head and removed it from his lifeless body. Shen Mian stared at the dull lifeless eyes and grinned.
This was how the ministers found him when the sun came up.
Dead bodies across the hall, a male concubine on the throne holding the king’s decapitated head.
The ministers knew better and some of them were already aware of Shen Mian’s plan. So they did what they thought would help them keep their heads.
“Long live the new emperor!” They all said as they kowtowed in unison. The servants and soldiers followed suit.
“Tomorrow, I will head to the capital of the Northern Kingdom. I will name my dynasty, Gui dynasty and the capital Gui Wang will be where my hometown once was.”
“Bixia is wise.” The ministers kept their heads low. Still afraid that the crazed new emperor would have their heads for breakfast.
“Ge, I’m home.” Shen Mian gently caressed his brother’s memorial tablet.
It took him 5 years to establish a more harmonious empire with no war and rebels. No families being separated and children sold off for a bag of rice.
The rumours of him being the West King’s concubine didn’t stop spreading across the empire, but Shen Mian doesn’t care.
He’s home now.
He can forget about that part of his life now.