Chapter 499: The Duke of Qin's instigation Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
The carriage gradually rolled to a stop, but neither Long Feiye nor Han Yunxi moved from their seats. One sat with her head bowed, her expression hidden. The other stared expressionlessly out the window. Finally, Han Yunxi got up first, only for Baili Mingxiang to hasten to her side.
“Esteemed wangfei, let Mingxiang support you.”
Han Yunxi didn’t reply and simply jumped off the carriage herself. She wasn’t some weak and pampered flower, much less an invalid. Who needs to help me off a carriage? Even the driver felt helpless at the sight. In the past, it was always His Highness who helped esteemed wangfei on and off the carriage. This time, Long Feiye broke out of his daze before quietly descending the steps. He cast Han Yunxi a glance before heading towards the imperial study with her following behind him. Baili Mingxiang didn’t go after them, she instead waited outside with the driver.
Han Yunxi was clearly very restless and never realized that Baili Mingxiang wasn’t coming with them. As she walked, she began to have trouble keeping up with Long Feiye and his long strides. He was so tall that one step by him equated to two steps for her. In that moment, she realized that he had always slowed down for her sake in the past. Thinking up to here, she gave up on chasing him and walked at her usual pace. But Long Feiye didn’t slow down; he merely walked faster and faster until the distance between them grew even more.
Upon seeing this, Han Yunxi’s expression turned dark. She nearly turned on her heel and left. With his current attitude, he probably won’t even notice if I suddenly disappear. That damned Emperor Tianhui, summoning Long Feiye is more than enough. Why bother to call for me as well?
Sulking and unhappy, Han Yunxi inwardly cursed Emperor Tianhui the whole way in. By the time she reached the imperial study, Long Feiye had already been waiting for a long time, his face a solid block of ice. She sped up for the last few steps, but had hardly reached him when he stepped inside the room and left her behind.
Han Yuni was so angry that she glared at him, but his back didn’t have any eyes to notice her angry look. She stepped in with a long stride and quickly caught up as if they weren’t strangers, but her expression looked even worse than Long Feiye’s. Emperor Tianhui disliked Long Feiye’s icy face to begin with, but grew even more depressed when he saw Han Yunxi’s dark expression. Neither husband nor wife were giving him any face today. I had absolutely nothing to do with the assassination attempt, so what do they mean by their attitudes?
“Come and have a seat. Yunxi ah, were you frightened during this time?” Emperor Tianhui asked in concern as he moved to the tea table. He had summoned them both simply for a chat.
“No,” Han Yunxi replied brusquely. How could she admit she was afraid here? Could she tell him that she’d long be shot to death if it wasn’t for Gu Qishao? Could she say that she had truly felt scared after seeing Gu Qishao’s back riddled with wounds and injuries? No, she couldn’t!
She wasn’t here to complain to Emperor Tianhui and make a laughingstock out of herself!
If Long Tianmo and Mu Qingwu hadn’t painted the incident as a threat against the capital, Emperor Tianhui might even have been thanking those archers for targeting her in the first place!
“Were you injured?” Emperor Tianhui asked next.
“I wasn’t!” Han Yunxi replied quickly.
Emperor Tianhui had intended to express his care, but Han Yunxi’s terse replies made it impossible for him to carry a conversation with her. He sat down and made a motion with his hands before Long Feiye settled in the seat across from him. There were only two seats total in the study, leaving Han Yunxi to stand by herself. Emperor Tianhui should’ve motioned her to sit as well, but he simply went on to slowly steep his tea. Long Feiye refused to speak as well, leaving Han Yunxi to stand behind him like some sort of servant girl. Her head hung as her eyes drooped, but her back was still ramrod straight.
Emperor Tianhui was about to pour Long Feiye some tea when he said, “Chendi doesn’t dare. I’ll do it myself.”
His movements while pouring tea were 100 times more elegant than Emperor Tianhui. “Imperial brother didn’t find chendi only to drink tea, I take it?” He had changed the topic without acknowledging Han Yunxi once.
Emperor Tianhui gazed at Han Yunxi’s despondent form, feeling flabbergasted. Did the Duke of Qin get fed up with this woman? Wasn’t he doting on her constantly in the past? Why is he leaving her out to dry today without a single word about her welfare?
“Hehe, Zhen really did just summon you for tea. Ever since the black market explosion, Zhen’s had no peace,” Emperor Tianhui sighed with feeling.
“Imperial brother surely has exhausted yourself with affairs of state, Long Feiye expounded.
Emperor Tianhui only sighed and asked, “Any new clues regarding the crossbow archers?”
“Only the imperial guards would know. Chendi is waiting for news as well,” Long Feiye had cleanly absolved himself of all responsibilities.
Emperor Tianhui suddenly lost his temper slapping the table as he spoke. “Those imperial guards are nothing but rice buckets! They’ve trapped the turtle in a jar, but still can’t catch him! Zhen gave Mu Qingwu three days’ time to find the culprits; otherwise, Zhen will depose him!”
Long Feiye fell silent before he remarked, “The Young General can’t be blamed for such things. Chendi searched for an entire day myself and found nothing.”
Now Emperor Tianhui was astonished. Aside from overturning events at the empress dowager’s banquet, the Duke of Qin had never expressed his partiality to any party in front of the emperor. Why is he standing up for Mu Qingwu today? Long Feiye’s been doing nothing but staying at the Duke of Qin’s estate for the past few days, so when did he search an entire day by himself? Moreover, the imperial guards under Mu Qingwu’s command turned traitor and nearly killed Han Yunxi. Isn’t he holding a grudge against them?
“He can’t be blamed? Traitors showing up amongst the imperial guards is a serious matter. And yet Zhen shouldn’t blame him?” Emperor Tianhui slammed the table in his rage.
Long Feiye simply remained noncommittal. “There are so many soldiers in his hands that it’s impossible for him to hold every person accountable for their actions. If imperial brother wishes to do away with him, it should be after this incident passes over. Now is the time to utilize useful men.”
Emperor Tianhui’s eyes flickered with complex emotions. The Duke of Qin appeared aloof from everything and maintained a moderate stance, but his current words were doing nothing but supporting Mu Qingwu. Is there some sort of unspoken secret between the Duke of Qin’s and General Mu’s estate? He finished his cup of tea and said, “Did you hear about the explosion at the military depot last night?”
“Is it that easy to get gunpowder in the first place? As chendi see it, this incident and the black market case…...are almost identical.”
Emperor Tianhui was highly interested in such details, and quickly asked, “What do you mean by that?”
“Anyone who can get their hands on gunpowder must belong to the various military factions. Mu Qingwu wouldn’t be stupid enough to set his own property on fire, would he?” Long Feiye chuckled lightly. His words were undoubtedly pushing the blame on the Chu Clan.
Emperor Tianhui’s lips drew into a cold smile. “Suppose it was secretly stored and only lit up by accident?”
“This....” Long Feiye gave him a considering glance and stopped favoring the Mu Clan. “Then it’s hard to say. Chendi was simply making conjectures, it will be up to Your Majesty to decide the truth.”
Despite that, all of his previous words had already laid a seed of doubt in Emperor Tianhui’s heart. General Mu’s estate was one of Tianning’s three great military powers and oversaw the 100,000 strong imperial guards stationed around the capital. It was only natural that he was loyal to Tianning, but his fealties to its individual members varied. Allying with the Duke of Qin would give them a good foothold against Emperor Tianhui’s faction, so that was the highest possibility.
Although the Duke of Qin claims a moderate stance, he alone makes me the most uneasy.
When Emperor Tianhui had started using the crown prince again against the Duke of Qin’s estate, Mu Liuyue had married into the Eastern Palace. Only then had General Mu made his position clear. With the Duke of Qin present, Emperor Tianhui was too preoccupied to guard against his own son and had drawn General Mu’s forces into his own sphere of influence. But now the imperial guards had turned traitor while the crown prince was insinuating charges against other parties. Noble Consort Chu had started vying for favor, while the military depot had exploded. Now there was the Duke of Qin’s current attitude...all of it together really made Emperor Tianhui ill at ease.
Meanwhile, Long Feiye’s goal was to precisely sow the seeds of suspicion in Emperor Tianhui’s heart against the Mu Clan and the crown prince!
After the crown prince came back into favor, he’d been secretly plotting to seize the throne for himself. What he was missing was the chance to make his move---but here was a perfect one! Of course, the crown prince was still young and inexperienced, so he couldn’t accomplish anything on his own. But things were different if he had General Mu’s support. As long as General Mu’s faction could dedicate themselves to aiding the crown prince’s rebellion, the Chu Clan wouldn’t reap any benefits from the results. Though Long Feiye looked like he hadn’t done a thing, he was controlling all the elements from the shadows the entire time.
By this time, Emperor Tianhui found no point in continuing the conversation. He moved on to some idle small talk, Long Feiye replying in rare snatches of conversation. Most of the time, he had just nodded without bothering to speak at all. The two men ended up chatting for two whole hours. The entire time, Han Yunxi stood as her legs grew sore, shooting multiple looks at Long Feiye in the process. Unfortunately, Long Feiye seemed to have forgotten all about her existence and left her aside.
Emperor Tianhui didn’t, but he only shot her a considering look before suddenly calling for Eunuch Luo. “Duke of Qin, it’s been a while since you’ve paired off with Zhen in chess. If you don’t lose today, Zhen won’t let you go.”
Who would dare to win a chess game against the emperor?
As it turned out, Long Feiye did. He had played multiple rounds of chess in his life, but never lost a single game. Now, he wordlessly watched as the the black and white stones were set up on the board. His attitude clearly showed that he wasn’t willing to lose. But if that was the case, were they never going to leave?
Han Yunxi’s eyes drooped as she watched the game board, her world completely silent. The matches dragged on for another four hours. In fact, the skies began to grow dark, yet there was still no definite winner. Add that to the previous chatting, and Han Yunxi had been left standing there for a full six hours. Her calves had long turned numb. Finally, an emergency message forced Emperor Tianhui to abandon his game.
“Heheh, it looks like Zhen has no choice but to let you go today.”
“It’s about time for chendi to depart as well,” Long Feiye rose languidly to his feet. His steps were light and soft, but Han Yunxi nearly collapsed on her first step due to her tingling legs. She still held on enough to keep walking while pins and needles attacked her calves. Her back was straight and her chest high as she followed him out the door.
Emperor Tianhui watched them leave filled with doubt. He figured that something must have happened between Long Feiye and Han Yunxi, but he didn’t have time to worry about them now. As before, Long Feiye took the lead while Han Yunxi trailed behind him. But she had long lost track of his retreating back because she was staring at the ground. She didn’t know how long she’d walked for before finally looking up. Actually, she hated looking at his retreating back most of all, because to her it felt distant and aloof.
Still, she didn’t expect Long Feiye to disappear altogether, because he had already reached the carriage and was sitting inside….
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