It was already the sixth by the time Han Yunxi’s group returned to Yunning Palace. They arrived at night, but Long Feiye didn’t even have time to rest as he headed straight for the imperial study. There were plenty of memorials to the emperor awaiting his decision there. Neither Han Yunxi nor Rui’er knew when he went to bed, but when mother and son woke the next day, Long Feiye was still absent.
Han Yunxi had long grown used to his busy schedule. This wasn’t even his most frenetic days. When that happened, she and Rui’er could go without seeing him for two to three days. She walked out the doors and gazed at the palace before her. She couldn’t help thinking back to their days at the Duke of Qin’s estate. Long Feiye would be absent for days as well and only found her for troublesome things while wearing a cold face.
Yunning was a temporary capital but currently the liveliest place in Cloud Realm Continent. All sorts of dukes, civil officials, and powerful houses lived within the city, while ordinary citizens stayed beyond its walls. The noble wives and ladies of the city had held multiple banquets where they recited poems, wrote prose, and admired the flowers. Something interesting seemed to happen at every gathering, with so-and-so’s embarrassing flukes spreading to be the gossip of the moment. If every banquet required invitations, there were only two types of guests: the coveted and the shunned.
Back in Tianning Country, Han Yunxi was Unpopoular Guest #1 because everyone wanted to laugh at her. Now she was someone that nobody dared to invite. Because of this, she was blissfully free and stayed in the palace to play with her son. This was a great joy of her life!
Meanwhile, Tang Li spent his first day in Yunning taking Ning Jing and little Tang Tang to a temple fair outside the city. Han Yunxi didn’t join them as she was waiting for the ten old madams to cause her trouble. Before she returned to the palace, she had already determined that all ten empty red envelopes had reached their intended targets. She even asked the servant girl and eunuch in charge to verify it. After the servant girl sent the red envelopes to the palace, the eunuchs had taken charge of distributing them to their recipients.
Both the servant girl and eunuch had noticed the empty envelopes, but neither of them dared to say a peep! They assumed that the empress was doing it on purpose. How could Han Yunxi blame them for that?
She assumed the old madams would come knocking on her door as soon as she returned, but days passed without a murmur. If anyone else received such empty gifts, they’d be furious but too afraid to speak up. They would only anxiously ponder over the empress’s intentions and wonder whether they’d offended her. But these ten old madams were different!
It was strange that they wouldn’t seize this chance to give Han Yunxi a piece of their minds! Two days passed without a word, leaving Han Yunxi puzzled and more cautious than before. She didn’t bring up the matter herself and simply waited and observed.
Soon came the 9th day of the Lunar New Year and Rui’er’s first ever birthday. Long Feiye had originally planned to hold a grand celebration and even sent out invitations, but bad news had come from Northern Li as soon as he returned.
Northern Li was beset by avalanches!
The region was still reeling from the effects of disasters, so as the weather warmed with spring, a few minor avalanches had occurred. Many herders had died in the process, but someone spread rumors that such natural disasters was a sign that the emperor would forsake Northern Li, leaving the region in a pessimistic mood.
On the night of the 8th, Tang Li and Ning Jing hurried back from the outskirts of the capital. Tang Li headed directly for the imperial study and perched over the table. “Big bro, tomorrow is Rui’er’s first birthday. What are your plans?”
With avalanches in Northern Li, the country experiencing difficulties, and its people suffering, holding a grand banquet would only incite gossip. Besides Long Feiye and Han Yunxi, even the young and ignorant Rui’er would become a target of censure.
Long Feiye looked up from a pile of reports and asked seriously, “Did you invite your father?”
“Big bro, I’m serious! All the people outside the city are talking about how the Northern Li herders can’t even eat a square meal while you’re planning a grand banquet for the crown prince’s first birthday. Big bro, those people are just looking for a chance to point out the crown prince’s flaws. Don’t hurt Rui’er over this!” Tang Li said.
Tang Li knew Baili Yuanlong and his father were silently competing against each other, but he didn’t understand the situation well enough to know its ins and outs. He wasn’t planning to worry about this and even prepared a very special gift for Rui’er. Still, his time at the temple fair exposed him to such hearsey and angered him enough to run straight back without thoughts for anything else. .
Ning Jing led Tang Tang in with her and wanted to speak up at Tang Li’s provocative actions, but Han Yunxi pulled her back from the sidelines. It was Long Feiye’s good fortune to have a little brother that dared to barge right in and bang on his desk!
While fighting for the kingdom, everyone was loyal and sincere, but after establishing a nation, they shifted their sincerity to vying for power and fame instead. The past was different from the present; otherwise it wouldn’t be so difficult to write about fighting for the kingdom. As the Tang Clan Head, Tang Li was certainly one of the interested parties, but Han Yunxi knew his nature would never change!
“What kind of good ideas do you have?” Long Feiye asked.
After thinking for awhile, Tang Li replied, “Cancel the one-year birthday banquet and we’ll hold a private party for Rui’er instead!”
With so much gossip flying around, this was the primary reason Long Feiye had released no news of the banquet even though the 9th was tomorrow. Ning Jing couldn’t help herself and stepped forward with a bow.
“Your Majesty, this wife of your subject suggests cancelling the birthday banquet and donating all expenses to victims of the Northern Li disasters in the name of the crown prince. In this way, the ministers will have to follow suit with similar actions.”
To cancel a birthday banquet so close to the date appeared both 1) insincere and 2) showed that the monarchs feared the rumor mongering gossips. But that was the only choice now, so Ning Jing’s suggestion amended the situation somewhat.
Long Feiye arched his brow at Tang Li and remarked, “I see I’ll only worry less in the future if your wife takes over as Tang Clan Head in your place.” Before these people, he could speak freely without referring to himself as Zhen.
Tang Li was naturally proud of Ning Jing for her idea. As long as she was willing, he didn’t mind letting her take charge of the Tang Clan either. Unfortunately, he didn’t call all the shots in the clan yet. His father was still in control of the Council of Elders! He sat to one side and muttered, “She and I fled to live outside the clan. How can she look after the Tang?”
Long Feiye tossed him two memorials. When Tang Li caught and read them, joy bloomed on his face. One of them came from the army, while the other hailed from public works. The first missive complained how the Tang Clan had yet to deliver their first shipment of promised weapons, while the second accused Tang Zijin of failing to return to the capital after returning to the Tang Clan in the twelfth lunar month. Thanks to that, construction had been delayed for days.
With the military and public works spearheading the complaints for the Tang Clan, it was impossible to predict how many more missives would follow in their wake or how many people would covet their rights. Just these two memorials were enough for Long Feiye to start pressuring Tang Zijin.
Tang Zijin must be dealing with the weapons delivery now. Originally, Ning Jing was in charge of them. Because they were made secondhand, there were many factors at play that Tang Zijin was unaware of, thus making it difficult for him to take over the enterprise smoothly. Meanwhile, construction of the new capital city required his direct supervision. Without him there, there would be no progress.
Tang Zijin was currently stuck between a rock and a hard place, unable to split himself in two!
After carefully reviewing both complaints, Tang Li declared, “Big brother, it’s time to test my father!”
If Tang Zijin could hear his son now, he’d probably disown him on the spot. But reality proved that the time of reckoning had come. Currently, Tang Zijin faced two paths. One was to compromise with the Tang Ning couple and summon them back. Ning Jing could then take over the weapons work while he rushed to continue construction of the capital. Two was to find someone else to deal with the Tang Clan weapons job.
Tang Zijin naturally knew there were plenty of people in court eyeing the job, thus creating multiple enemies t the Tang Clan. If he was willing to let someone into the deal, then the Tang Clan would absorb many collaborators and allies, enough to form a powerful faction in its own right. In fact, if Tang Zijin extended an olive branch to the southern generals, many of them might even toss Baili Yuanlong aside and cooperate with him on the spot.
But how could Tang Zijin do that?
On the one hand, he could accept Ning Jing and end all possibility of male heirs for the Tang Clan; on the other, he could reach out to outsiders and form an alliance. To him, both were extremely difficult choices! But only under such dire straits could they test his true heart.
Ning Jing’s expression turned severe, but the heartless Tang Li was actually cheerful and chuckling.
Han Yunxi opened her mouth. “Tang Li, whether you and Ning Jing return to the Tang Clan or not, that’s your own family matters. But the issue of weapons concerns the entire court. Now both worlds have melded together, so you can come up with your own ideas to use these two memorials!”
“We’ll do whatever has to be done!” Tang Li didn’t hesitate. He withdrew his smile and turned serious. “Sister-in-law, I want to know too. My father...will he turn into a second Baili Yuanlong?”
Long Feiye was waiting for those exact words. He didn’t deal with this matter publicly, but ordered someone to deliver the missives to Tang Zijin personally in the Tang Clan. The Tang patriarch was a smart man who would know his choices as soon as he read them.
Han Yunxi only teased, “Tang Li, Ning Jing, since the birthday banquet’s been cancelled, are you two still giving Rui’er a gift?”
“Of course! I’ve prepared it ages ago! We’ll celebrate Rui’er’s birthday tomorrow,” Tang Li went to the boy, who was flipping through a book in the corner, and grinned. “Respected crown prince, you’ll definitely like tomorrow’s present!”
Rui’er glanced at him and didn’t react before burying his face into the book. He didn’t know how to read, but he liked looking at the words.
“We won’t cancel tomorrow’s birthday banquet and proceed as usual, accepting all presents too!” Han Yunxi smiled. “This is my son’s first birthday and I want to make it a big deal. Let’s see what those people can do to us mother and son!”
Both Tang Li and Ning Jing were stunned by her proclamation.
Is it fine for an empress to be this capricious?Previous Chapter Next Chapter
welcome to the beginning of the YeXi Chronicles! one chapter in and already HYX's set to cause drama. did you expect anything less? ^-^;;