Time was tight for the construction of the imperial capital. Long Feiye had already pressed Tang Zijin twice, so everyone assumed he’d spend the year at the capital instead of passing it in the Tang Clan. Unexpectedly, he suddenly appeared on the doorstep on the 15th day of the twelfth lunar month.
Ning Jing carried little Tang Tang with one hand while holding hands with Tang Li in the other. She saw Tang Zijin as soon as she stepped out the door and instantly noticed his severe expression. She was startled, but Tang Li hardly reacted. Little Tang Tang was delighted and cried, “Gran...gran’pa...grandpa…”
“Father, you’ve returned,” Ning Jing bowed.
Unfortunately, Tang Zijin ignored her and little Tang Tang. His gaze rested on his son. This was his first time seeing Tang Li since finding out he’d lost his mind because of Ning Jing. He had always hated his son as iron that couldn’t turn into steel!
He had endured when the boy ran away from his arranged marriage.
He had endured when Ning Jing drugged him, forcing him to marry her.
He was hoping that Tang Li could use Ning Jing to gain benefits from the Di Clan so as to help his “big brother” Long Feiye render meritorious service. At the very least, he could have earned a noble rank of “king” for them! Instead, the boy had turned into an idiot because of Ning Jing, tossing his parents and the Tang Clan aside! This was unbearable!
Tang Li didn’t react as Tang Zijin stared at him and started walking his way. That was no different from his old, sane state. He didn’t have the habit of butting heads with his father, preferring to take his lectures or hide far away.
“Grandpa, carry me...carry…” Little Tang Tang began to fuss. Children didn’t know any better, so she wanted her grandpa to hold her after not seeing him for ages.
“Ning Jing, why aren’t you taking the child away yet?” Tang Zijin didn’t spare little Tang Tang a single glance. Feeling pity for her daughter, Ning Jing prepared to leave. She wouldn’t get involved in matters between father and son. No matter what Tang Zijin did, he would never dare to try anything against Tang Li. Tang Li might be able to anger his father to death, but it didn’t work the other way around.
Yet as soon as Ning Jing released Tang Li’s hand, he grabbed hers again, wanting to leave together. Ning Jing only shook him off without a word. Tang Li didn’t grab her again, but began to follow after her. His eyes had never rested on Tang Zijin as he walked past the man like air.
Tang Zijin finally lost it. “Unfilial son, stop right there!”
Ning Jing continued to walk away while Tang Li kept following her, ignoring his father. Tang Zijin waited a while, but turned around after sensing no reaction. He saw that Tang Li had already followed Ning Jing clear to the other end of the courtyard.
“Unfilial son! You won’t even acknowledge your father!” his face turned green with rage as he chased after him, but Tang Li still didn’t react. At last, Tang Zijin couldn’t help but shout, “Ning Jing, stop right there!”
Ning Jing stopped and Tang Li instantly halted. Tang Zijin couldn’t help smiling coldly at the sight. Although he hadn’t been at the Tang Clan, he had been concerned with Tang Li’s wellbeing all this time. As expected, Tang Li still listens to Ning Jing even after losing his mind.
“Someone come, carry Tang Tang away. Today this old man will teach the unfilial son a lesson and beat him until he wakes!” Tang Zijin said loudly.
Little Tang Tang didn’t understand her grandpa, but she could tell he was yelling at her father. Frightened, she burst into tears, struggling out of her mother’s arms to throw herself at her daddy. Tang LI might have lost hs wits, but he still cherished his wife and daughter.
He held Tang Tang and began to coax her. “Don’t cry, don’t cry. Daddy will take you to play. Don’t cry, okay?”
“Okay,” Tang Tang’s childish voice had hints of a sob, tender enough to melt one’s heart.
Tang Li said to Ning Jing, “You, come too, okay?”
Tang Zijin was furious enough to let smoke come out of his nose. Ning Jing didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, but she asked loudly, “A’Li, your father wants to talk to you. You stay here, alright?”
Tang Li immediately shook his head. Tang Zijin was so angry he instantly charged at Tang Li with his sword, but Tang LI evaded him so well that Tang Zijin was left helpless. The father and son ended up chasing each other around the courtyard, causing the heavy-hearted Ning Jing to break into a sudden smile. Little Tang Tang was afraid at first, but when her father never got hit, she began to giggle instead. “Daddy, run faster, faster! Hurry!”
By the time Lady Tang rushed over, Tang Zijin was already tired out and panting for breath, leaning on his sword to rest. Tang Li stood far away, staring blankly at him. If Lady Tang could ignore Tang Li’s expression at this instant, she would find the scene overwhelmingly familiar! She wanted to laugh and cry. It had been ages since Tang Zijin had chased after his son.
“Old father, when did you come back? You didn’t tell me a thing,” Lady Tang said.
Tang Zijin turned to her and snapped, “It’s all thanks to you!” So speaking, he tossed his sleeves and stalked off, leaving Lady Tang at a loss. She hadn’t seen him in over half a year. Even if Tang Zijin didn’t miss her, how could he rear his ugly head this way? Feeling aggrieved, tears rose to Lady Tang’s eyes.
“Tang Zijin, you stop right there! What did you just say?” she huffed as she chased after him.
Ning Jing finally exhaled in relief. She knew that Tang Zijin was dominated by his wife, so as long as her secret was safe, Lady Tang would still stand by her side. With her protection, Tang Zijin shouldn’t be able to try anything against them. But soon enough, she realized she had been oversimplifying things.
That afternoon, Tang Zijin sent someone to invite Ning Jing into the study and instructed her to come alone. Little Tang Tang was still napping while Tang Li was working on his weapons in a corner. Ning Jing gave the servant girl a look before sneaking off. But she had hardly entered the study and sat down when Tang Li appeared at the door. He walked in front of Ning Jing and stared at her, unmoving.
Ning Jing knew what he meant and quickly explained herself. “I saw that you were busy, so I didn’t disturb you.”
Only then did Tang Li moved to stand behind Ning Jing. He didn’t sit down until she pulled him to a seat, but instantly bowed his head when he did, as if lost in his own world. It was obvious that he never left it except for Ning Jing and little Tang Tang.
Lady Tang had gotten used to this ages ago, but Tang Zijin only felt his temper flare at the sight! What had his son, the Tang Clan Head, been reduced to?
“Old father, didn’t you have things to ask?” Lady Tang spoke up.
Ning Jing was surpised. She thought Lady Tang would know what Tang Zijin wanted her to do, but it looked like she’d been summoned here too.
“Who was in charge of purchasing the latest batch of weapons due from outsider sellers?” Tang Zijin got straight to the point, his tone stern.
When spring came, the Tang Clan was required to hand over a large shipment of weapons to the royal court. Because there were problems with the raw materials last time, they had to repurchase the items and have them shipped to the Tang Clan, thus delaying the delivery by a month. Judging from past speeds, it would be an impossible task for the workers to finish them on time.
Lady Tang was left fretting until Ning Jing suggested the Tang Clan sell off their weapons and buy some others to fix up and re-make with the seal of the Tang Clan. These could be sent off to the royal court instead. By now, their purchases had already reached the storehouse. Ning Jing came up with another idea: to have Lady Tang raise the salaries of the workers so they could keep working until New Year’s Eve. According to her calculations, they should be able to make the deadline by then.
But what did Tang Zijin mean by coming back to pursue this matter?
Before Ning Jing could speak up, Lady Tang immediately said, “It was my idea!” As she spoke, she shot Ning Jing furious looks, hinting to her that this wasn’t as simple as it looked.
“You?” Tang Zijin smiled coldly. “Since when did my wife turn so clever? How could you purchase so many weapons at such a low price?”
Tang Zijin, what do you mean by this? Are you saying you’ve always thought I was stupid?” Lady Tang suddenly lost her temper and slappd the table.
Tang Zijin coughed a few times, then went on, “Wife, someone’s told the whole story to His Highness already. I was expressly sent here to investigate the matter, but you two still won’t tell me the truth! How am I supposed to help you out? Did you guys purchase secondhand weapons or not?”
Lady Tang and Ning Jing were both alarmed by his words.
The war had just ended, so the various military factions were in desperate need of more weapons. Ning Jing’s own arms trade had long ran out of goods, or else she wouldn’t need to buy weapons from other sellers. She had contacted an arms dealer with weapons in stock only after difficulty, but found out his goods were all secondhand. They had been picked up off the battlefields and re-polished.
Ning Jing and Lady Tang had discussed the matter and its pros and cons before decided to purchase the lot.
Growing uneasy, Ning Jing asked, “Who tattled before we even delivered the goods to court?”
“Let’s not talk about that now. Since the Tang Clan is in charge of manufacturing the Great Qin’s weapons, each and every one of its tools belongs to the imperial court!” Tang Zijin’s face was stern. “Ning Jing, the past cannot be compared with the present. You can say things like that here, but if word spreads, even the empress won’t be able to protect you!”
Although his words were unpleasant to hear, they were full of logic. The Tang Clan was in control of Great Qin’s weapons, including its manufacture, storage, and shipment to various military factions. After Han Yunxi gave her orders, the Ministry of Revenue had given the Tang Clan silver, making it part of the Ministry of War. If one followed Ning Jing’s logic and considered the weapons not part of the imperial court before they reached the palace, then who did they belong to otherwise? Privately amassing arms or providing others with weapons was a massive crime. Others could even accuse them of treason with such actions!
Ning Jing was an intelligent girl, so she understood the implications. In the past, Long Feiye and Han Yunxi could call the shots for everything. Now they called the shots for all of Great Qin, but they couldn’t declare dictatorship over all issues without reason. Their decisions had to earn the approval of the majority as well.
Ning Jing admitted faintly, “This matter isn’t mother’s fault. It was my idea. I was planning to wait until the New Year’s to report it to the empress. The country’s just been established and many aspects are still being developed. The empress has long emphasized increasing income while reducing expenditures. These secondhand weapons can be re-polished and used anew, so why should we waste them?”
“But the imperial court gave enough silver to create a set of weapons,” Tang Zijin reminded coldly.
“The cost of the secondhand weapons isn’t even a third of the allocated funds. I’ve already calculated the costs and kept accounts in my study. I will send up the account books at the same time we deliver the weapons,” Ning Jing said sincerely. She wasn’t lacking for silver and had plenty of money in her own private accounts. She would only help Han Yunxi save money, not waste it.
Tang Zijin only shook his head. “Ning Jing, your one moment of brilliance will lead to a lifetime to idiocy! The ones accusing us claim the Tang Clan was acting of its own accord and executing matters first before reporting them to the emperor. They say we deceived our superiors and deluded our subordinates, thus looking down on the might of the emperor! Tell me, should this old man hand you over to the court, or offer up my wife instead?”
Ning Jing and Lady Tang were both shocked. How can...this be?
Tang Zijin added, “Do you know who made the accusation to the emperor?”
“Who?” Lady Tang asked hastily.
Tang Zijin broke into an icy smile. “Someone from Cloud Realm Trade Consortium!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
DUNDUNDUN, AND THE PLOT THICKENS....
I have to say, I'm pleasantly surprised that Tang Zijin and Ning Jing are practically "on the same side" this time around, even if it might not last. Sigh, being all-powerful doesn't always mean you can protect your friends and allies. But hey! Why would Cloud Realm Trade Consortium suddenly do a 180 like that? Ning Nuo, have you been up to something?!