Chapter 552.2: Parting Ways

Lu Heng nodded with a smile. “An aristocracy with a centuries-long history, especially one that continues to tower without falling, will always have a collection of rules that shift with the times. I’m not afraid to speak of them to Your Highness either: the Lus survived all of the different monarchs in Northern Ji and gained important positions after the establishment of Great Zhou is all due to our family’s core philosophy: to forever be imperialists.”

When Lu Heng mentioned ‘imperialists’, Pang Xiao immediately understood. Their clan’s notion of protecting the emperor didn’t mean supporting whoever was the emperor, but flocking to the banner of whoever had the best chances of becoming the emperor. 

“So basically, the Lus have a good eye for choosing people.” Pang Xiao smiled. 

Lu Heng nodded approvingly. “Of course Your Highness understands. Though there’s been all sorts of changes in the palace throughout the years, our clan has always been able to choose the right faction to support. We’ve continuously enjoyed imperial trust, allowing our family to take root and become a strong tree, growing ever stronger.” 

Listening to the two, Qin Yining couldn’t help but interject, “So what you mean is that the problem with your current situation is because of your family’s traditions, and not because you lack the ability to vie with your second uncle? 

“Since you’ve lost the emperor’s favor, the family has discarded you. As an abandoned son of the family, you have to know your place. Just like a gecko with a severed tail, you must keep silent and refrain from obstructing the other factions in the family?”

“That’s right.” Lu Heng sighed, “In face of the family’s interests, I’m not that important at all.”

Hearing that, Pang Xiao and Qin Yining both nodded in understanding. 

Lu Heng’s way of thinking was very proper. The Lus owed their current survival and prosperity to the presence of many who thought in the same manner as Lu Heng, generation after generation. 

“Since it’s like that, it’s actually better for you to stay here. If you return to Great Zhou, you’ll be faced with winds of violence and rain of gore. At that time, you’ll have to face not only pressure from court, but also pressure from your family and the emperor. Since your clan has such rules and you agree with them, wouldn’t staying here and starting a new, leisurely life be better?”

“I understand what Your Highness means, but I can’t shirk my responsibilities. If I remain here, it might haunt my conscience for the rest of my life.”  Lu Heng’s words resonated strongly with Pang Xiao and Qin Yining. 

Their circumstances were identical to Lu Heng’s. Even though they knew they could live free and leisurely lives by staying here, and would no longer have to wrack their brains in a dog eat dog world, they still wanted to return to Great Zhou. Despite all the dangers, they just couldn’t leave the terrible mess they’d made for their elders to deal with.

“What are you planning to do once you return?” asked Pang Xiao.

Lu Heng pursed his lips with thought, pondering for a long while before his reply. “Perhaps behind the downfall of every large clan is a person like me, one who causes trouble and refuses to look at the bigger picture.”

Qin Yining and Pang Xiao exchanged a glance, already understanding what Lu Heng was implying.  He wasn’t planning on giving up the patriarch’s seat to his second uncle. 

Seeing guilt and conflict war in his face, Qin Yining gave him a comforting smile. “Nobody is certain about the future. If one faction holds all the power in the family, who can guarantee that your second uncle’s choices are correct? With two forces checking each other, it doesn’t matter which faction chooses right. Either way, House Lu will have one surviving branch. This is a much more dependable strategy than throwing all your eggs into one basket.” 

Startled, Lu Heng’s eyes lit up. “You’re right. I was too short-sighted earlier and became muddle-headed.”

All of his pent up stress and anxiety had unexpectedly been dispelled by a single word from Qin Yining.  He’d always been confident in decision-making abilities, but after wandering around homeless in a dilapidated manner for so long, his confidence had been exhausted and there were no foundations to rebuild from.

However, when he thought of the situation in the capital and the grandfather who loved him so much, he pulled himself together. There were certain times when the situation wouldn’t allow him to shrink even the slightest step back. He had to press on forward. 

Although Lu Heng’s complexion was still a little wan, his smile was resolute. The boulder weighing him down finally seemed to have rolled away, allowing him to breathe freely. 

“Since you’ve made your decision, once we leave the desert and arrive at a safe area, I’ll ask Captain Cao to secretly take you into Great Zhou,” pondered Qin Yining. “If people see you traveling with us, they may grow suspicious of you.”

Lu Heng didn’t want to separate from the one he liked. However, Qin Yining had already reunited with Pang Xiao, so there was no point in always lingering by their side. Furthermore, he also wasn’t someone who couldn’t let things go. There were more important things waiting for him right now. The only way he could help Qin Yining and Pang Xiao was to get stronger himself.

When his thoughts traveled here, Lu Heng no longer hesitated and nodded instead. “It is indeed better to split up and move separately. Let me thank you for making you go to the trouble then.” 

You and I are companions who’ve gone through life and death together.” Qin Yining smiled. “Thanking me would be treating me as an outsider.” 

Qin Yining was aboveboard and forthright by nature, so her tone and smile were both very open. It actually made Lu Heng feel even worse that his thoughts were wandering in other directions, as if any deeper affections would only be blaspheme of her friendly regard. 

Thus, he nodded and conceded with a smile, “You’re right.”

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