Chapter 411: Guess your lordship's thoughts Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
Long Tianmo and Mu Qingwu rose to their feet as Han Yunxi entered. It had been ages since Long Tianmo had seen this woman, so he naturally missed her. A single glance told him that she had...gotten a little fatter.
Going to the disaster regions was a tasking job on her mind and body, but it was Imperial Qin Uncle who had brought her here. How could he ever allow her to suffer?
Despite the great reluctance in his heart, Long Tianmo still greeted, “Imperial aunt.”
Han Yunxi simply nodded and gestured to Long Tianmo to sit.
“Blessings for esteemed wangfei,” Mu Qingwu greeted with his head bowed.
“Young General, please rise,” Han Yunxi’s polite tone only served to emphasize the distance between them.
“Thank you, esteemed wangfei!” Mu Qingwu’s attitude was the same as before. After straightening up, he went to kneel down behind and to the right of Long Tianmo.
Han Yunxi sat by Long Feiye’s side and said nothing, her entire being was very quiet. Long Tianmo was planning to talk about the Northern Li affairs, but he forgot all his lines at the sight of her. Although he didn’t like fighting, his stomach was full of hot air at the thought of Jun Yixie, that swine, lusting after Han Yunxi. If there was a chance for him to express his views, he’d definitely support what the Duke of Qin did. Even if they couldn’t kill Jun Yixie, they could at least trap him until he died on Fishery Island!
Unfortunately, he was here under the trust of the emperor once again. As the crown prince of a country, he had a responsibility to the citizens of Tianning. If war really broke out, their people would suffer the most. Compared to Long Tianmo, Mu Qingwu was more straightforward. He hid away all his feelings and rose to a kneeling position with one knee planted on the floor.
Cupping his hands before his chest, he intoned, “Your Highness Duke of Qin, His Highness and this soldier were entrusted by His Majesty and the millions of people living near the Three-Way Battlefield to invite you and General Baili back to the capital. Please join His Majesty for a military conference!”
Mu Qingwu’s words awakened Long Tianmo from his hesitation. He couldn’t help but to feel abashed at the fact that the other man had spoken first. Quickly, he added on, “Imperial Qin Uncle, imperial father had me prepare an excellent carriage drawn by eight horses just to invite you and imperial aunt back. Jun Yixie really was a beastly bully, but everyone is still waiting for input from you and imperial aunt on battling Northern Li.”
“What’s there to discuss?” Long Feiye asked coldly.
“War tactics!” Long Tianmo said hurriedly.
But Long Feiye only replied, “Your lordship has never involved myself in affairs of state, much less meddle in military affairs. His Majesty can decide everything on his own for this matter.”
Han Yunxi sat silently on the side, secretly chuckling inside her heart. Forget about those two, even she was often left speechless by Long Feiye’s passing remarks. Emperor Tianhui really should’ve invited a professional speaker here to persuade him!
Long Tianmo fell silent for a long time before he said, “Imperial Qin Uncle, then General Baili…”
Long Feiye retorted mid-sentence, “Does the crown prince mean to say that it was your lordship who instigated General Baili to surround Fishery Island?”
Now Long Tianmo wasn’t just tongue-tied, but stifled in his heart as well! That was the truth, because General Baili would never have dared to move without the Duke of Qin’s orders. But under the circumstances, he had no choice but to deny it. “No, Tianmo doesn’t mean it that way! I simply want to consult Imperial Qin Uncle about the matter regarding General Baili and how we should take care of it.”
“Your lordship already said that I don’t involve myself in military matters. Go back and ask your imperial father instead,” Long Feiye said mildly as he waved them off.
Long Tianmo was faced with an insurmountable wall! Fortunately, he was even-tempered, or else he would have blown his top like his father before such words. By his side, Mu Qingwu was much more impulsive and said directly, “Your Highness, the citizens on the borders are innocent, and so are the Tianning soldiers stationed there! The soldiers’ pay and provisions are in a critical state, especially with weather so cold at the Three-Way Battlefield. Once war breaks out, the casualties will be unthinkable! I ask that Your Highness thinks thrice!”
Long Feiye allowed Mu Qingwu to get agitated before he gave him a warning glance. “Young General should say these words to General Baili instead.”
“Your Highness!” Even Mu Qingwu was a little angry now. “Your Highness, this soldier doesn’t advocate for letting Jun Yixie off. A swine like him is too cheap for a death by the blade. I only hope that Your Highness can return to join in the discussions for the countermeasures!”
At the very least, they’d get some compromise out of the talk so that neither Jun Yixie would be freed, nor have war break out! This was the true motive for him and the crown prince. As Mu Qingwu spoke, he stole a glance at Han Yunxi. Unfortunately, she kept quiet. Agitated and angry, Mu Qingwu’s chest heaved, but Long Feiye only replied with a question of his own.
“Your lordship doesn’t involve myself in military affairs. Didn’t you understand what I said?”
Han Yunxi was keeping a quiet tally on the side. Long Feiye had already said this line three times, a sign of his patience towards the duo before them.
Mu Qingwu gave a start, before he said, disheartened, “This soldier understands.”
It wasn’t until the two of them left that Han Yunxi spoke up. “Your Highness, just then the Young General reminded chenqie of something else. It’s still frozen over at the Three-Way Battlefield, so fighting a battle there would be detrimental to our forces. But it’s not like Northern Li could claim any advantages, either!”
In this season, Northern Li was still covered in ice and snow. Their weather was cold, and they’d still get occasional bits of snowfall. Northern Li relied on animal husbandry and hunting to survive, and their battle horses and domestic animals ate last year’s surplus of grain to survive through the winter. It wasn’t guaranteed that they’d have ample stores of provisions to outfit a war. Moreover, fighting a battle now would disrupt one of their most important events of the year, their spring hunt!
Long Feiye looked with interest at Han Yunxi. “Keep talking.”
“Chenqie is simply making conjectures,” Han Yunxi wasn’t being modest; she really didn’t know anything about Northern Li. For all she knew, they had plenty of provisions in store!
“Then just guess as you’d like,” Long Feiye said, still extremely interested.
With that, Han Yunxi decided to say whatever was on her mind. “Your Highness, the young general’s fought a few times with Northern Li as well, so he should understand their situation clearer than anyone else present. He didn’t even consider whether Northern Li would lack for provisions, so it’s likely they have plenty of stores at hand.” After a pause, she continued, “But Your Highness is also certain that Northern Li won’t wage war at all. So chenqie makes so bold to guess that Your Highness must have some way to sabotage the fodder of the Northern Li’s army horses!”
How easy it’d be to sabotage others during a war! It was hard to track down where the supplies even came from, much less the meddling interlopers. Han Yunxi felt that she’d over thought the issue, so she waited for Long Feiye to reply. But Long Feiye only patted her on the shoulder and said, “It’s getting late, go rest.”
So...I guessed the wrong thing?
Han Yunxi shrugged and dropped the issue. Even if she knew the facts, he probably wouldn’t tell her just to whet her appetite. Who told her to win their gamble?
Just wait, I’ll get my answer soon enough.
She knew that Long Feiye would return to the capital eventually. Now that Emperor Tianhui had failed over and over again to invite them back, he was probably going to resort to begging next. If that was the cause, he’d have to act in all sincerity. Although Han Yunxi wasn’t the person who understood Long Feiye best in this world, she felt could guess things fairly accurately.
A few days later, Northern Li really did reinforce their southern boundary with more troops. Emperor Tianhui was sent into a panic before sending Long Feiye petitions to the throne from the Ministry of Civil Personnel and other recommendations from various bigshot ministers of the court. All of these letters were offering people to fill in the vacancies of the South Ning senior provincial official’s position. Some of them recommended people from Long Feiye’s side, while others urged for men on Emperor Tianhui’s side. Two or three straddled a moderate stance.
Emperor Tianhui had said that the Duke of Qin had personally gone to the disaster regions, so he would be clearest on the situation at South Ning Prefecture. The Duke of Qin would be the one to decide who filled in the vacant post. Though the situation looked perfectly justifiable as a matter of course, those in the know knew that Emperor Tianhui was actually taking a step back! To put it plainly, he was begging Long Feiye back to the capital with this show of good faith.
The various memorials and petitions were all spread out on the study desk as Han Yunxi paced around them, examining each candidate. Some of the names she recognized, while others were strangers to her. She inquired into them until she understood them all, before dividing the documents into three piles. One was for the Duke of Qin’s faction, the other for the royalists, and the last for the moderate side.
“Your Highness, please choose one that’s pleasing to your eye,” Han Yunxi assumed the attitude of a servant as she spoke respectfully. She couldn’t help but feel like this was asking Long Feiye to choose a new concubine instead.
But Long Feiye simply reached for one of the names in the royalist faction pile. Seeing this, both Han Yunxi and Chu Xifeng gave a start.
“Master, it’s the wrong pile!” Chu Xifeng blurted out.
Yet Long Feiye only glanced at the name before tossing it over. “He’s the one, report it back to the palace!”
What did His Highness Duke of Qin mean by this? He didn’t want an easy advantage? Chu Xifeng stood rooted in place until, out of a custom that had long turned into habit, he glanced at Han Yunxi with questioning eyes.
Han Yunxi burst out into silent laughter. “Your Highness, I heard that His Majesty’s fallen ill and can’t take any form of provocation. Is it alright for you to do something like this?”
She had been intelligent to realize at once that anyone Long Feiye chose would surrender to him immediately. The Duke of Qin had spent months in South Ning Prefecture living in the senior provincial official’s estate. He’d long had time to spread his influence here, so anyone sent to take his place would have no choice but to fear his prestige. Even if the candidate selected was one of Emperor Tianhui’s men, he’d definitely have to defer to the Duke of Qin.
It had taken Han Yunxi a bit to draw this conclusion, but she rejoiced at the thought while looking at Long Feiye. Thank goodness I didn’t make an enemy out of him. Otherwise, I might die without even realizing why or how!
But there was one thing she still didn’t understand. If Long Feiye wasn’t here to claim the senior provincial official’s post for his side, then what for? Why did he delay things here so long? It was getting past time to go back.
“Chu Xifeng, deliver the missive back. Just say that esteemed wangfei’s in a bad mood and needs your lordship to accompany her for a few more days,” Long Feiye replied mildly.
Chu Xifeng had no idea what was going on, but only went with his orders. Han Yunxi’s heart filled with warmth at the words, because she knew perfectly well. A few days later, the empress dowager’s letter arrived. This time, she made no mention of kindness or favors, but comforted Han Yunxi and clarified that anything with the gecko cinnabar mark was something between husband and wife, so there was no need to pry into the matter. Verbal claims meant nothing, but a piece of evidence like this was a guarantee against the empress dowager in case she changed her mind in the future. Han Yunxi knew that now, she was completely safe.
She had discovered for the first time that this man could even take mind of the smallest details when accomplishing a task, until everything had been successfully resolved. After repeated requests and pleading, His Highness Duke of Qin and esteemed wangfei were finally leaving back for the capital!
The battle with Northern Li, the soldiers at Fishery Island, and the upcoming wedding date of the emperor were all looming on the horizon. Tianning’s capital was about to turn lively once again!
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