Chapter 412: The Duke of Qin reveals his weak spot Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
Long Feiye and Han Yunxi hadn’t yet even reached the Duke of Qin’s estate when Emperor Tianhui had sent men to receive them at the capital and summon Long Feiye to court.
“Are you coming along?” Long Feiye asked Han Yunxi.
Han Yunxi gave a start, never expecting Long Feiye to ask her to join him. She wasn’t the clingy type, nor had he ever taken her along on his formal business trips.
Long Feiye knitted his brows and asked her again, “Are you coming?”
“I’m going!” Han Yunxi replied loudly. How could I ever miss such a good show?
By now, the skies were already dark. Despite that, a veritable throng of people stood outside Emperor Tianhui’s imperial study. There was the crown prince Long Tianmo, Great General Mu and his son, the Prime Minister of the Right, Su Shaokun, the high official of the Ministry of War, and the high official of the Ministry of Revenue. Naturally, all of these men were from Emperor Tianhui’s side.
“His Highness Duke of Qin arrives, esteemed wangfei arrives,” a eunuch proclaimed loudly.
All of the gathered men exchanged glances at the announcement before breaking out into whispers. Why did the Qin Wangfei, Han Yunxi come as well? The emperor had summoned the Duke of Qin to discuss serious military matters, so what was a mere woman like her doing in a place like this? After all, there were no other women present in this imperial study, aside from a few court ladies. Long Tianmo and Mu Qingwu’s expressions both looked complicated. They were the only people who hadn’t made any comments. Emperor Tianhui watched his people talk while remaining silent himself, knowing all too well what was coming.
Very soon, Long Feiye and Han Yunxi arrived in the imperial study. Both of them bowed and offered greetings to the emperor, while everyone else bowed and greeted them in turn. Han Yunxi’s gaze lingered on Emperor Tianhui for awhile and discovered that this man, who was only in his forties, had grown much older in appearance during their months-long absence. There were even a few strands of white hair growing from his temples. On one hand, he’d been battling with an illness, on the other, there were state affairs plaguing his heart. The worries over the upcoming battle were there to surely vex him as well. It really isn’t easy being an emperor.
“Qin Wangfei certainly hasn’t been to the palace in a long time. It’s about time you paid respects to the empress dowager,” Emperor Tianhui was obviously trying to drive Han Yunxi away.
Before Han Yunxi could speak, Long Feiye remarked, “Chendi1 hasn’t seen the empress dowager in awhile as well, so I shall accompany wangfei.”
His attitude silenced the entire crowd. Emperor Tianhui’s hands clenched into tight fists. Waiting for Long Feiye for so long had already fired up his temper, but now it was even harder to keep it in check. He slapped his table and stood up with a roar, “Duke of Qin, Zhen summoned you here today to discuss important military matters. What right does a woman like Han Yunxi have to stand in this room?”
Everyone was floored by Emperor Tianhui’s rage, but Han Yunxi was unperturbed. After all, I only came because Long Feiye invited me, not because I wanted to!
“Your Majesty, chendi thought you summoned chendi to the palace to confer rewards upon us. It looks like chendi has misunderstood.” Long Feiye’s tone was easy and light, yet it started a whirlwind in everyone’s hearts!
What does he mean by that? He clearly knew that Northern Li was preparing to go to war, and that the emperor that yielded a substantial step just to beg him back to discuss the problem! How could he say such things so easily?
Even Long Tianmo and Mu Qingwu had to shiver–not from cold, but from fear. It seemed that they’d only seen the Duke of Qin’s true heartlessness today. In the silent room, Emperor Tianhui was so angry that he was panting for breath. It took him awhile to calm down. “Duke of Qin, you and your consort indeed relieved the people of the disaster areas. For that, Zhen will naturally reward you at tomorrow’s morning court. But tonight’s summons was for the sake of the impending battle with Northern Li.”
“Imperial brother, after the late emperor passed away, chendi has never involved himself in military matters again. Hasn’t imperial brother always known this?” Long Feiye’s indifferent gaze flashed with thinly veiled contempt.
The silence in the room deepened further. Even Great General Mu’s expression became complicated. Han Yunxi was puzzled as well, because she had assumed that Long Feiye had also yielded on his side by agreeing to return to the capital. But here, he was still stubbornly persistent in his views. Did he bring me with him to the imperial study just as an excuse to aggravate Emperor Tianhui?
Emperor Tianhui gave Long Feiye a death glare, with the wrath in his heart raging but still falling short of what he wanted to do. He had ascended the throne when he was just 25 years old to rule over Tianning. In his youth, he had managed to control great swathes of power. There were no outside relatives or family to force his hand, nor was there pressure from great generals or ministers of merit. Even the imperial tutor was unnecessary to help him rule. One could say that all authority had fallen into his hands as soon as he ascended the throne.
But he never would have expected that the Duke of Qin would keep his powers in check now. After the late emperor passed away, Emperor Tianhui had first taken precautions against this very Duke of Qin and done his utmost to keep him away from governmental affairs. He never expected that the consequences would come to bite him back today! Right now, he still couldn’t believe that he’d lost control over half of Tianning’s imperial might, but he was forced to face the truth. The empress dowager’s birthday banquet was the Duke of Qin’s not so subtle reminder to everyone else that the struggle for power behind the peaceful court had long begun.
“Heheh!” Emperor Tianhui suddenly laughed startling everyone present. “Zhen really is muddle-headed! There is one thing Zhen still doesn’t understand. Since the Duke of Qin is here today, please give Zhen an explanation.”
“Please speak, Your Majesty,” Long Feiye was very even-tempered.
“You had General Baili mobilize the navy to transport the fish for the disaster regions, so how did they get involved with Jun Yixie?” Emperor Tianhui asked seriously.
“Jun Yixie originally planned to steal the fish and sell them back to the Tianning disaster regions. Besides competing with your lordship for the fisheyes, he even verbally humiliated Tianning. For the sake of preserving our Tianning’s honor, General Baili mobilized his forces to surround the island. Their full force was shown in order to awe Northern Li!” It was rare for Long Feiye to speak such pretentious, highfalutin’ words. When he was finished, he even added, “As your lordship sees it, General Baili has rendered great meritorious service for this deed and deserves commendation.”
Han Yunxi couldn’t help but feel like something was off as she listened from the side. Aside from Long Tianmo and Mu Qingwu, everyone else felt the same way. It was getting harder and harder to correctly guess His Highness Duke of Qin’s intentions. But Emperor Tianhui merely stroked his beard and smiled coldly in his heart. The last chip in his hand had finally come into effect.
The news of Jun Yixie assaulting Han Yunxi hadn’t been publicized, so very few people knew of the fact. Emperor Tianhui had only heard it from rumors flying on Northern Li’s side. Long Feiye had phrased the entire situation that way precisely because he didn’t want the incident exposed. Thus, he gave General Baili a perfectly justifiable and proper reason. Just then, he was claiming how he doesn’t interfere in state matters, but now he’s assessing General Baili’s deeds.
In other words, Long Feiye’s true terms are to keep the details of Han Yunxi’s assault a secret!
Emperor Tianhui suddenly found himself in a much better mood. At last, he had found a way to breakthrough in these matters. “The Duke of Qin’s words are sound. But how long is General Baili planning to uphold his threat? There are already movements being made from the Three-Way Battlefield. Has General Baili made any plans to fight?” Emperor Tianhui’s greatest fear was General Baili’s troops might not be available if they still chose to surround Fishery Island when war broke out. If General Baili could make a surprise attack on Northern Li from the coast with his principal force, then the bulk of the war would fall on Long Feiye’s forces instead of his own!
Now that Long Feiye had finally revealed his weakness—to protect Han Yunxi and his own reputation—he would have to pay the price!
Long Feiye replied simply, “General Baili’s thoughts are unclear to chendi as well. Your Majesty, why don’t you ask him directly?”
Emperor Tianhui’s eyes turned shrewd at Long Feiye’s response. Duke of Qin, ah, Duke of Qin, you control everything from the palm of your hand, yet you’re still trying to avoid getting involved. But now that you’ve shown your weak point, Zhen won’t let you off so easily!
“Alright! Zhen will ask him thoroughly,” Emperor Tianhui answered coldly. What was supposed to be a tense military meeting ended just like that. A few of the officials were left at a loss as for what had happened.
Long Tianmo stayed behind to ask, “Imperial father, are you planning to fight for real?”
Emperor Tianhui waved a hand and didn’t reply, indicating that he should leave.
The next day, Emperor Tianhui proclaimed an imperial edict praising the Baili Navy for protecting Tianning’s honor. Immediately after that, General Baili promised that the navy would immediately face Northern Li forces at the coastline and force them to withdraw should battle break out at the Three-Way Battlefield. Emperor Tianhui rejoiced and granted him permission to do so. By now, Long Tianmo and Mu Qingwu had fully understood what was going on as well.
“Qingwu, who do you think has won this time, imperial father or Imperial Qin Uncle?” Long Tianmo asked.
Northern Li’s sea forces were extremely weak, thus showcasing the worth of Tianning’s own navy. As soon as the Tianning navy really made a move, Northern Li would either have to stop fighting or shift their main forces to the eastern coast to prevent a disastrous defeat. Of course, they wouldn’t gain any major advantages, either way.
“Perhaps His Majesty?” Mu Qingwu intoned. The incident at Fishery Island had offended Northern Li, but the Duke of Qin had the full power to throw the mess in Emperor Tianhui’s hands. Instead, he’d yielded a step for the sake of Han Yunxi’s honor.
Mu Qingwu shook his head with a smile. But what kind of yielding was that? Nobody could tell he was taking a step back at all! Unless they knew the truth behind his actions, those various ministers and officials of the court would probably remain lost.
“But wouldn’t Jun Yixie have been trapped for nothing once the fighting starts?” Mu Qingwu asked, somewhat unresigned.
“Judging from Northern Li’s attitude, a war is inevitable… Does Imperial Qin Uncle have no choice but to let him off?” Long Tianmo muttered to himself. Although he knew the ins and outs of the situation, he still felt some regrets about it.
When Han Yunxi got the latest updates, she ran into Long Feiye’s study and stood in front of his desk to stare at him. Long Feiye leisurely rolled up his volume of the Annals of the Seven Noble Families so that the title was covered from sight, then placed it to the side.
“Did something happen?” he asked her mildly.
Han Yunxi looked at him for a long time before she spoke. “Long Feiye, you’re far too black-bellied!”
Long Feiye immediately creased his brows. Nobody in the world dared to curse him to his face; this woman was probably the first one. Han Yunxi completely ignored his unhappy expression and continued, “You’re certain that Northern Li won’t go to war, so you let General Baili give his promise to Tianhui. You looked like you were yielding a step, but you’re just setting up to trick Tianhui again!”
Han Yunxi had been puzzling over Long Feiye’s motives ever since they had returned from the palace that night. Now, she finally understood what was going on. This man is simply an expert amongst experts. If he hadn’t been too young while Emperor Tianhui was fighting for the throne, he would’ve played the poor man to death long ago. Emperor Tianhui would never have gotten a chance for the throne at all. As long as Northern Li never went to war, the Baili Navy could keep surrounding Fishery Island with full justification.
Long Feiye saw Han Yunxi’s agitated expression and mistook it for fury. He gave a light sigh and said, “Your lordship is doing everything for your sake, after all.”
- Chendi (臣弟) – similar to chenqie, but a humble form of self-address for males equivalent to ‘your younger brother.’ ↩