Although Tang Li had regained his sanity, he’d forgotten everything that had happened while he was still insane. His memories stopped at the moment Ning Jing fell into the abyss. He muttered her name now, not madly, but caught in the throes of pain.
Xiao Lan was now certain Tang Li had recovered, but she had no idea about his current mental state. She didn’t even know what to do as she stared at him. While the room remained silent, intermittent cries and arguing came from outdoors. Tang Li and Xiao Lan instantly recognized the voice as Lady Tang. As Xiao Lan hastily rose to her feet with the covers wrapped around her, Tang Li said coldly, “Don’t move!”
Xiao Lan ignored her. Now that Tang Li was sane, she had to tell the old clan head and Old Madame! But she’d hardly reached the door when a hidden dart whizzed past her ear to bury itself soundlessly in the door.
Behind her, Tang Li’s icy voice spoke. “Xiao Lan, do you want to see what’s faster, your voice or my dart piercing through your throat?”
Stunned, Xiao Lan turned to look at Tang Li. His expression was absolutely frigid. It was no impossible for her to accept him as anything other than sane in that moment!
“I, I was only…” She wanted to explain, but he shushed her with a shh. Xiao Lan immediately shut up. She could tell that Tang Li’s kindling rage was going to burst at any second. She couldn’t say much to the scheme today, but she would have to push all blame onto the old clan head. Otherwise, Tang Li would only disdain her.
Xiao Lan wrapped the covers tighter around herself as she sat down looking pitiful. Tang Li then went to lean against the door and listen to the sounds outside. Although he didn’t remember what happened in the interim, he was curious to know how he returned to the Tang Clan. Why had he been drugged and locked up with Xiao Lan?
Just what was his father planning?
Outside, Lady Tang and Tang Zijin drew closer to the door as their arguments increased in volume. Tang Li was expressionless as he listened on quietly.
“Tang Zijin, are you opening that door or not?” Lady Tang was crying.
“Wife, it’s already come to this. What’s the use even if I open up?” Tang Zijin asked helplessly.
“Don’t tell me anything. I said I want you to open the door, now are you doing it or not?” Lady Tang hollered.
The whole way here, Tang Zijin remained helpless and yielding to Lady Tang’s rants. She knew he was buying for time! Tang Zijin wanted Tang Li and Xiao Lan to cook the rice together! She shoved him aside and dashed to the door, preparing to break through the lock. But Tang Zijin grabbed her hand and pushed her away. Although it was too light to injure her, it did get her out of the way.
“Wife, it’s been so long. Even if they didn’t...do anything, Xiao Lan’s a virgin and long been seen naked by Tang Li. No matter what, he has to take responsibility for her sake! Otherwise, how am I supposed to explain myself to Fifth Elder?” Tang Zijin reasoned.
Lady Tang was quick to retort. “Tang Zijin, do you have any shame? All you do is use the Council of Elders as an excuse everyday! If they won’t listen to A’Li, can’t they at least listen to you?
“I’m telling you now, only Ning Jing can bear Tang Li a son! I know my son best of all. If you anger Ning Jing away, sobsob...what will happen to A’Li? He only recognizes Ning Jing. What do you want him to do?” Lady Tang began to sob.
“I didn’t force Ning Jing away, but she cannot be the mother of Tang Li’s son! Definitely not! Our Tang Clan heir cannot be her son, a nephew of the Ning Clan!” Tang Zijin rested one hand on the door as he grew solemn. “Wife, you should know the royal court’s curently divided between two factions. The western frontier generals, Jin Zi, and the Di Clan form the West Faction, while Baili Yuanlong allied with the southern generals for the East Faction. The Di CLan holds deep prejudice against the Tang Clan, while Baili Yuanlong keeps using Ning Jing’s status to speak of matters that alienate us from the East Faction. The Tang Clan is in charge of all military weapons, putting us in a hard place between both sides just to survive! Do you think the Council of Elders and I have been doing nothing but construction work in the capital all these months without paying attention to current affairs?!”
“When did it became a matter of survival?” Lady Tang grew ferocious as she disagreed. “Esteemed Empress gave the rights of weapons manufacture to the Tang Clan, but the emperor must have agreed to it first! The emperor and empress want the Tang Clan to stand between the East and West Faction without favoring either side. An invincible party can also restrain them both! Without any weapons, I don’t see Jin Zi or Baili Yuanlong capable of raising any rows!”
Although Lady Tang was a matron, she had pinpointed Han Yunxi’s key strategy with the weapons manufacturing rights. The Tang Clan were old cohorts of Log Feiye, while Ning Jing was part of Han Yunxi’s old faction. The marriage between the Tang and Ning Clans was a perfect union of East and West Faction members. Moreover, Han Yunxi believed that Ning Jing could use these weapons to make the Tang Clan invincible.
“Tang Zijin, you were smart for a lifetime, but why are you so stupid right now? The past isn’t the present and there’s no such thing as East and West Qin anymore. There is only one dynasty and the Great Qin imperial clan! That old thing Baili Yuanlong colluded with the southern generals to form an alliance, not for the sake of gaining profits for East Qin or the emperor, but to get benefits for his Baili Clan! Why are you so blindly mixing in with him? If he attacks you, can’t you deal with him youself? There’s no such thing as the Seven Noble Clans anymore. In terms of status and rank, we’re much nobler than their Baili Clan. At most he’s a Great General, but you’re the imperial uncle of the emperor. Why are you afraid of him? If you’re well and full, why bother running into the East Faction camp?”
All of Lady Tang’s words were full of sense.
“Tang Zijin, I’m telling you now, I want Ning JIng as my daughter-in-law! She also promised to birth us a son by Tang Li! If Baili Yuanlong tries to target you again, go join the West Faction. I’d like to see if he’d panic after that! Right now everyone’s tight on weapons. When we finish making ours, we’ll send a batch to the West Faction first. Then I’d like to see whether he comes personally knocking on our door to beg for his! Let’s back up and take a good look at the big picture. Even if you don’t like the West Faction members, you can make a faction of your own. You can use the Ning Clan’s name to take advantage of the West Faction, or bring out the majesty an imperial uncle should have to stand your ground. Why are you afraid of Baili Yuanlong?”
Tang Zijin looked at her in disbelief. “Who told you all this?” he finally asked after a while.
“Ning Jing!” Lady Tang said unhappily.
Tang Zijin’s eyes flickered with a complex look. He knew Ning Jing was a genius at business and witnessed her talent at management, but when did she get so familiar with the complicated relationships of the chessboard of politics? Did she figure it out all on her own, or was someone guiding her along?
Tang Zijin could hardly overlook such important implications.
Since they’d gotten this far, Tang Zijin stopped hiding anything and explained, “Wife, if the Tang Clan ever gets into trouble, we need a daughter-in-law like Ning Jing! But the Tang Clan’s future heir cannot be her son!”
Lady Tang froze. She stared at her own husband, never expecting his subtlely to run so deep.
So he understood everything from the start!
He’s no different from Baili Yuanlong after all. He’s just using East Qin as an excuse to suppress Ning Jing. He wants Ning Jing around, but is afraid of her overwhelming strength in the future! Lady Tang now thoroughly understood why Tang Zijin was so insistent on choosing a candidate to birth Tang Li’s son.
“You certainly schemed well!” Lady Tang smiled coldly. “Tang Zijin, you don’t understand your son a bit! And you know Ning Jing even less! I’ll tell you now, don’t mention Tang Li having children with someone else. If he so much as touches another woman, Ning Jing will definitely leave! You can’t make her stay! And once she leaves, the empress might not even let the Tang Clan oversee weapons manufacture anymore.”
“She won’t go. She didn’t leave months ago, so she definitely wouldn’t leave now. I forced A’Li to do this, so she’ll only blame me, not him!” Tang Zijin explained instantly. “Moreover, A’Li lost his wits all because of her. If she left, then she can just wait for the world’s people to curse her out!”
He had wracked his brains over this matter and personally made a trip back to trick Ning Jing away for his plot. Unless he was absolutely certain of success, he never would have risked it.
“Tang Zijin, it seems I’ve gained a whole new understanding of you today,” Lady Tang shook her head in disappointment.
Tang Zijin suddenly realized he’d revealed too much and didn’t know how to explain himself. “Wife, I’m doing all this for the sake of the Tang Clan--for A’Li! Do you want the day to come when A’Li becomes Ning Jing’s puppet? Or for our grandson to be the puppet of the Ning Clan?” Tang Zijin asked heavily.
“Ning Jing wouldn’t do that!” Lady Tang raised her voice.
“Why should you trust her?” Tang Zijin retorted. His wife once had no end of complaints for Ning Jing. How did a few months made her believe in the woman so much?
“Because Ning Jing loves A’Li, just like how I loved you in the past!” Lady Tang cried while tears streamed down her cheeks. “Tang Zijin, wasn’t it hard enough when we were being pressured in the past? Why are you repeating the same mistakes with your son?”
She shoved him aside and ordered the guards to open the door. When the guards saw the old clan head remain silent, they had no choice but to obey. But as soon as the door was unlocked, they saw Tang Li standing gloomily in the doorway, his rage surging like waves in his glare. Both Tang Zijin and Lady Tang were startled by the sight.
“Where’s Ning Jing?” Tang Li asked coldly.
“A’Li, you…” Lady Tang was both shocked and thilled. She gripped Tang Li’s hand and grew too moved to speak. In the past, all he did was call Ning Jing “Jing Jing,” but he had never said her full name so clearly.
Tang Li’s furious gaze rested on Tang Zijin before he demanded, “Mother, where’s Ning Jing? Tell me, where is she? Is she still alive?”
Lady Tang was every more delighted. Tang LI had called her mother at last! He must have recovered his wits, definitely!
“Ning Jing…” Lady Tang couldn’t bother with too many details as she cried, “Quickly! Ning Jing just left the mountain! She couldn’t have gone far, so hurry! Let’s get her back!”
Tang Li’s glare finally shifted from Tang Zijin’s face as he ran out of the house, his top still bare. Lady Tang chased after her as she called, “She was heading for Cloud Realm Trade Consortium! A’Li, bring her back! Mother will vouch for you! Mother will help you explain everything!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Lol this arc ended up being more thrilling than I thought. It's going to be fun from here on folks, so hang tight and enjoy the roller coaster!
Lady Tang is just too awesome!