Chapter 1033: The path of a sovereign lies with choice

Tang Li waited, but for a long time there was no answer. He knocked again. 

“Sister-in-law, I know you’re there. Don’t be angry at my big bro anymore. I just want to ask you one question--an important one.”

He waited a while longer, but Han Yunxi only answered him without opening the door. “It’s already this late. You can talk about anything tomorrow.”

“What if I have to ask it now? Sister-in-law, can you open the door?” Tang Li asked.

If Han Yunxi came out, she would definitely notice Tang Li’s abnormality. His expression was dull and it looked like he’d lost his soul. After another spell of silence, Han Yunxi intoned from behind closed doors, “Go ahead.”

Tang Li immediately grew serious. “Sister-in-law, is the end of spring, approaching summer, the best time to lead a punitive expedition north?”

The person inside seemed surprised, because she didn’t answer.

“Sister-in-law, is that true?” Tang Li persisted.

Silence greeted him. 

Tang Li didn’t speak, but remained standing quietly by the entrance to wait. Naturally, the person inside realized this too. 

“Tang Li, did someone from the Baili Army seek you out?” Han Yunxi asked.

That banished any doubts from Tang Li’s mind. Sister-in-law knows the Baili Army objects to an early spring expedition too. Otherwise, she’d never ask me such a question. Actually, he’d long guessed the answer, but for some reason he insisted on asking his question. It seemed like he was looking for a final excuse to convince himself. He rested his head against the door and didn’t say a word.

“Tang Li, your big brother and Myriad Merchant Hall agreed to start the expedition in spring. Don’t listen to the nonsense from those Baili Army people,” Han Yunxi grew anxious.

Tang Li remained mute while Han Yunxi stood waiting just inside the door. Before she could open it, Tang Li spoke up again. “Sister-in-law, I know now. I’m only here tonight to ask you for a favor.”

“What is it? Why are you being so formal?” Han Yunxi asked carefully.

“Sister-in-law, go coax my big bro. Tell him to delay the northern expedition until the end of spring, when summer’s here. That’s the best time to attack. Let him go with you to Celestial Mountain. When you guys come back, we’ll launch the rescue mission then.”

Although Tang Li was answering Han Yunxi, it felt like he was talking to himself as well. “I’ve thought it over. Ning Jing will have trouble moving with her stomach so big. If we risk rescuing her now, she’ll definitely get in the way. And if that affects the fetus, it’d be even worse. Why not...why not wait until the baby’s born before we save her?”

Han Yunxi abruptly cut him off. “Tang Li, have you lost it?! How could Jun Yixie allow the baby to stay with the mother after it’s born? They’ll definitely take the child away! Do you want your baby to be a hostage from birth? Can you guarantee that Bai Yuqiao can help us track down the child’s whereabouts? Or that we’ll even be able to rescue the baby? Tang Li, Jun Yixie isn’t a fool!” Although she couldn’t bear it, she still told him the facts. “Tang Li, you have to know that everything’s negotiable before we start a war. Once the fighting begins, the two armies won’t spare a single corner of Northern Li  just for the sake of a child!”

In other words, it was likely they’d have to abandon the baby by that point.

Tang Li didn’t speak. Between the two of them stood a single door, their shared silence rivaling the still night. Finally, Han Yunxi said, “Tang Li, everything’s already been set. Don’t go finding trouble for yourself! You big bro can take care of the Baili Army, so no one will dare to do anything against you. Don’t worry!”

“Sister-in-law, I can’t allow my big bro to make mistakes and take such a big risk just because of my own affairs!” 

Han Yunxi could clearly hear that Tang Li’s voice was hoarse in the quiet night. 

He added, “Sister-in-law, I know my big bro’s not there, so you definitely can’t let him know. Just help me convince him.

“‘When I was younger, my big bro doted on me. He’d helped me block even the biggest problems, but this time...it’s my turn to shoulder the burden.” Tang Li’s voice grew even hoarser. “Ever since we were kids...even now, he’d never let anyone else take the blow for him. He’s always been bearing it alone. From now on, I can’t let my own affairs--”

The doors suddenly opened to reveal Long Feiye standing next to Han Yunxi indoors. Alarmed, Tang Li backed away. He assumed that big brother and sister-in-law were still apart after their argument since Han Yunxi hadn’t returned to the main sleeping quarters. Long Feiye now walked out expressionlessly to stop in front of Tang Li.

Stricken and tense, Tang Li decided to make a run for it, but Long Feiye hollered, “Stop right there!”

Tang Li had always listened to Long Feiye’s words and screeched to a stop on pure instinct. But it was only for a second, and he was soon hurrying towards the gates again. In a flash, Long Feiye flickered to block him. Angry and resentful, Tang Li turned his head aside.

“Are you certain?” Long Feiye said coldly.

“I’m certain!” Tang Li replied without hesitation.

“Say that to my face!” Long Feiye demanded.

Tang Li only looked to the side, too afraid to turn back. 

“Go back and sleep!” Long Feiye ordered.

But Tang LI faced Long Feiye instead, his tone earnest. “Big bro, I’m certain. I thought it over for an entire day. I’m certain!”

Long Feiye clenched his fists so hard the knuckles cracked. He wasn’t angry at Tang Li, but the person who instigated him. This was his beloved little brother, the boy he’d protected for over 20 years. Within the East Qin camp, he was the relative with the least schemes, the pure boy he never had to worry about. He too, was the one who lived most freely.

Just who was it that clued him in to all the harmful implications? 

Just who was it that taught it it was better to abandon his wife and sacrifice himself for the sake of state affairs?

Just who was it that gave him such a heavy weight to bear?

Hadn’t he, Long Feiye, shouldered enough burdens in this lifetime? Did Tang Li have to join him as well?

“Baili Yuanlong’s arrived?” Long Feiye asked coldly. He had already issued orders on the way back for Baili Yuanlong to come here personally for discussions with the Di Clan generals. The man and the other deputy generals should be arriving within these few days.

“Big bro, I’m certain. This is my own affair. I have the right to make my own choice!” Tang Li proclaimed loudly.

“What do you know?” Long Feiye said icily. He had already been angered by Han Yunxi today, but now Tang Li just infuriated him further.

Tang Li stared into Long Feiye’s eyes, his voice choked with sobs. “I know you! Big bro, I understand, I understand everything!”

Long Feiye gave a start before quickly pulling his eyes away. Over the past twenty years, his little brother had never looked at him with such an earnest gaze, or spoken in such sincere tones. Only now did Long Feiye realize that Tang Li was completely serious. Meanwhile, Tang Li seized the chance when they broke eye contact to flee out the gates.

“Big bro, General Baili’s already outside the city gates. I’ll go pick them up!” So speaking, he fled.

Then Long Feiye realized that it hadn’t been General Baili who taught the lesson to Tang Li. Who else would tell him that “the end of spring, approaching summer” was the best time to attack? Very quickly, he thought of someone and immediately walked out the courtyard. Han Yunxi followed after him with quick steps.

Long Feiye soon reached Gu Beiyue’s courtyard and pounded on the door. Han Yunxi watched from a distance, her gaze complex. 

“Your Highness, this one is here,” Gu Beiyue voice came from behind them. Actually, he had been waiting for Long Feiye at the tea table in his courtyard. After telling Tang Li so much, it’d be strange if Long Feiye didn’t come looking for him to settle accounts.

Long Feiye looked at him coldly. “What did you mean by this?”

Gu Beiyue rose to his feet, unruffled nor cowed by Long Feiye’s rage. He even rendered him silent with one statement.

“Your Highness, Tang Li isn’t the only person by your side, nor is he the sole man with a wife. The losses incurred by an early spring expedition will be increased; moreover, the matter of the Phoenix energy concerns both the princess and yourself. With the dual cultivation a failure, you are the one in greater danger. Your Highness, you should know that you and Ning Cheng are the same. Once you fall, both the Baili Army and south central regions--even the Tang Clan--will refuse to ally with West Qin. At that time, no one will be able to salvage the situation.”

Gu Beiyue was extremely calm. “Your Highness is a sagacious man and should understand that this northern expedition is crucial. No one can afford a loss! Without absolute preparations, it’s better to wait than to rush.”

Long Feiye broke into a bitter laugh. “Gu Beiyue, you’re even crueler than this crown prince.”

“Your Highness, this isn’t cruelty, but a choice.” Gu Beiyue said lightly. “A choice is only concerned with comparisons between right and wrong, not compassion and cruelty.”

By being cruel to Tang Li, Long Feiye’s decision to change the attack time would only seem merciful to his troops. Most of the generals from the south central regions, the Baili Army, and even the Ning Clan troops had never been to Northern Li before. They hadn’t experienced any of its chilly springs! Under these circumstances, it was all too normal for them to fall victims of frigid temperatures and disease and die. Compassion and cruelty had no set standards, but right and wrong did!

“Your Highness, the difficulty of a sovereign’s path lies in choice,” Gu Beiyue took a step back and made a deep, respectful bow. “As to the differences between right and wrong, this one only asks that you be prudent!”

The fire had long gone out from Long Feiye’s eyes as he stared at Gu Beiyue. In the end, he couldn’t help smiling and shaking his head. Han Yunxi too was grateful for the doctor’s speech. 

Who says gaining Perplexing Butterfly Illusion wins one the world? It’s gaining Gu Beiyue that wins one the world!

He was a true doctor who treated diseases, people, hearts, and the lands under Heaven! By embracing the coveted calm of a doctor’s heart, he possessed the rare gift of a doctor’s ability to differentiate and choose. Tonight, he had treated Long Feiye.

“Your Highness, it’s getting late. Please go back! This one only speaks as one person, but the choice lies with you,” Gu Beiyue said.

Long Feiye hung around for a while before leaving soundlessly. He saw Han Yunxi waiting by the gates. She too, was silent. Although she understood Gu Beiyue’s spiel on the path of a sovereign, she could admit that she wasn’t capable of making those choices. She couldn’t bear to abandon Tang Li or Ning Jing, much less the baby waiting to see its father.

Long Feiye intoned, “Let’s ask Bai Yuqiao if there’s a way to guarantee everyone’s safety.”

“Alright!” Han Yunxi nodded promptly.

She had no idea what kind of choice Long Feiye would make, but by asking for Bai Yuqiao’s input, it showed that he hadn’t given up on Tang Li and Ning Jing yet.

What kind of answer would Bai Yuqiao give them in return?

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Ruyi's Thoughts

Breaking for dinner, brb!