“How about you add my greetings to your message?” Qin Huaiyuan paused and thought about his idea. “Never mind that, I should not appear in your letter.”
Pang Xiao, Xie Yue, and Xu Weizhi snorted with laughter when they heard the idea. If Qin Huaiyuan and Pang Xiao sent a joint letter to inquire after the emperor’s health, they’d probably worsen his illness through sheer rage alone.
Although the situation had deteriorated into direct hostility, all parties involved still maintained the veneer of harmony between liege and subject. There was no need for Qin Huaiyuan to involve himself after he’d been dismissed from court. Pang Xiao’s letter was just a formality, a gesture as required by protocol.
Li Qitian’s illness finally took a turn for the better after a few days and the room stopped spinning around him.
“Present all of the reports that have come in during this time,” he commanded Li Guanwen.
The eunuch hesitated. “Your Majesty, you’ve only just slightly recovered. The dowager empress herself has expressed that you place your health as the top priority. She does not wish for you to overwork yourself.”
The emperor looked a bit wan and his cheekbones more prominent due to losing weight. Overall, however, he seemed more dignified and the look in his eyes was colder than before. He only needed to look silently at Li Guanwen for the eunuch to abandon all thought of persuading his emperor otherwise. The latter highly regretted his extraneous words. What was the point of displeasing a capricious master??
Li Guanwen retreated with a bow and directed servants to place several days worth of reports onto the emperor’s desk.
Li Qitian frowned with concentration and swiftly set aside all of the letters wishing him good health. Matters of court were the most important. However, his keen eyes and special attention for Pang Xiao somehow caught sight of a letter from the Faithful Prince of the First Rank in the pile. Though he hesitated, the emperor decided to open the letter.
His face darkened as he read the sincere words of greeting and concern from the prince. Rage built until he swept all of the papers to the ground with one grand gesture. Li Qitian’s chest heaved violently as he glared viciously at the letter. He seemed ready to kill a few people at random to appease his fury.
Li Guanwen’s knees knocked with dread; he pressed his forehead to the ground and didn’t dare make a sound.
After a very long time, just as the eunuch was trying to decide whether or not to placate his master, Li Qitian spoke.
“Deliver my decree to the Lus that We wish to see Lu Heng. If Lu Heng is not in the capital, have him swiftly return to present himself for an imperial audience.”
“This servant hears and obeys.” Li Guanwen trotted to the Lu Manor to deliver the decree.
It was four days later that Li Qitian saw Lu Heng. No one knew what they discussed, and Li Guanwen observed that the emperor wasn’t at all irate with the Lu patriarch who’d stopped transporting supplies. His master even seemed to be in good spirits?
After several days of fortifying medicine from Bingtang, Qin Yining felt much better than before, despite still being very weak. She watched Xianyun, Bingtang, and Liam Xiaozhou complete needlework around the eight-sided table.
“Your Highness,” Jiyun said hesitantly when she entered the house.
“What is it?” Reclining lazily on a cushion, Qin Yining tilted her head at the guard.
Jiyun paused before continuing, “People are saying that the current patriarch of the Lu Clan—their second master—has been summoned by the emperor. He has received great favor, but their previous patriarch is not doing too well.”
Qin Yining sat up with worry. “I’d heard about the elder being in poor health. How bad is he now?”
“Indeed, he is advanced in years to begin with and the family underwent tremendous changes when their second master was lost. The elder was worried about his grandson and was summoned by the emperor a few times. Not all of the audiences were pleasant, and neither were things running smoothly at home. He took ill given the stresses from all sides.” A puzzled expression crossed Jiyun’s face. “Except, I find it odd. Their second master has returned safely and assumed the position of clan patriarch. That should dovetail very well with the elder’s wishes. But for some reason, his sickness worsened after he received word. Maybe he’s too happy with everything that’s happened and an excess of emotion troubled his heart?”
While her guard didn’t understand, Qin Yining knew full well what the truth of the matter was. She remembered that Lu Heng had once spoken to her about the traditions of the Lu Clan. They had a particular set of rules to follow and each generation was to back the correct side. Those who were not selected for positions of power were to wholeheartedly give way. When Lu Heng had been trapped in Xiyue, he’d already planned on following his family’s traditions.
Since his uncle had stepped into the position of patriarch and was immensely valued by the emperor, that meant the clan had chosen the right side to support. Given the clan’s rules, the rest of the family should’ve acquiesced to the situation.
But when Lu Heng returned, he decisively upended the status quo and installed himself as patriarch, then terminated the partnership between the clan and emperor. His grandfather had likely gone into an apoplectic fit at the news. Already weakened by his illness, how could he endure another sharp shock such as this?
To be honest, from Qin Yining’s perspective, she would’ve thought that the elder would be delighted by Lu Heng’s actions if she hadn’t known of his family’s rules. His grandfather had raised him to be the next patriarch and he’d fulfilled the elder’s wishes upon his return.
Yet, reality was that he’d broken family tradition and his grandfather would likely not rest well in death.
Her thoughts were very accurate.
After ten days of struggle, the once steady hand at the Lu helm finally sought his eternal rest. He pulled Lu Heng to his side prior to drawing his final breath. Due to a weak and raspy voice, no one else knew what he said to his grandson.
Only Lu Heng knew that the last words from someone who’d always doted on him were a curse.
“Bastard, you utterly irredeemable little bastard.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Lu Heng must feel horribly alone.