Chapter 1258: [YeXi] Going home
Baili Qiyu was taken aback by seeing the emperor and empress bringing the crown prince with them, but he also felt a twinge of guilty conscience. The reason he gave up those military orders and exchanged the Baili Clan’s future for Xiao An’s fall was because he listened to Baili Lixiang’s exhortations and the matter of the “Sea King seal.” When he recalled how his father had cried, Master, this old official was wrong! I was wrong! Baili Qiyu only felt immense regret. He was the son father favored most and could have convinced him to draw the horse before he reached the cliff. Yet he lacked self-assertion.
In his heart, he had always opposed allying with the Xiao Clan. He had once asked his father and big sister why generations of a noble family like the Baili had been reduced to colluding with mere seedlings like the Xiao.
Meanwhile, Baili Mingxiang sank to her knees. “This guilty woman greets Your Majesty, Esteemed Empress, and Your Highness Crown Prince.”
Baili Qiyu recovered his wits and quickly bowed as well. Long Feiye ignored them both and walked ahead to Baili Yuanlong’s tomb. After standing there for a long time in silence, he seemed on the verge of speaking but didn’t say a peep. Instead, he personally placed a handful of soil into Baili Yuanlong’s grave.
This was only something family would do!
Baili Qiyu and Baili Mingxiang both witnessed it as regret, guilt, sorrow, and helplessness filled their hearts in waves. Brother and sister remained silent as they gave three successive kowtows.
Long Feiye stood in silence before the grave. Baili Yuanlong would understand him now if he was alive—he had watched this same silence for 20 years, after all.
“Why is the tomb so high up?” Han Yunxi asked.
The living aimed for the skies while the dead burrowed into the ground. It wasn’t suitable to have graves in high places, yet Baili Yuanlong had been buried at the top of a tall mountain.
“To reply Esteemed Empress, father had always wished to return to the imperial capital when he was alive. With his tomb so high up, he can see the capital city from here,” Baili Mingxiang said in a choked voice.
Han Yunxi’s gaze shifted towards the east. Indeed, Baili Yuanlong’s grave was facing in that very same direction. She sighed and said, “We all want to go back. I’d like to return early as well. You two should rise.”
Baili Qiyu and Baili Mingxiang stood up and finally greeted Gu Beiyue, the Tang-Ning couple, and Tang Zijin who had just arrived. Tang Zijin seemed much older after his absence, his temples now completely white. He was covered in dust and his face filled with exhaustion. Standing at the rear of the crowd, he gazed at Baili Yuanlong’s tomb from a distance as his eyes grew misty. He and Baili Yuanlong had vied for years, but it was just to win favor. Baili Yuanlong vocally disapproved of the Tang Clan being in charge of weapons, but was made an imperial relative, while Tang Zijin despised Baili Yuanlong for throwing his royal status around. Still, they weren’t really at loggerheads to draw arms against each other!
Tang Zijin’s feelings were quite complex at the moment. His heart felt joy at the other’s disaster, but also regret. He was overjoyed by the fact that he’d never forgotten his roots in the power struggles of the palace or neglected his true status. Otherwise, the Tang Clan would be suffering the same fate as the Baili family today. Yet he also regret the fact that he only rejoiced after finding out Baili Yuanlong was colluding with the Jiangnan military instead of coaxing him otherwise. His own, selfish motivations made him keep it to himself.
Tang Zijin stood for a long while before he noticed the emperor stepping aside. He quickly went forward and also placed some dirt in Baili Yuanlong’s tomb before using his rolled-up sleeves to wipe the tombstone.
“This shouldn’t have happened, shouldn’t have happened! Brother Baili, you and me…both of us followed His Majesty for so long, so why… Why fall to the ambitions of those Jiangnan wolves?” he shook his head repeatedly, filled with compunctions.
Long Feiye and Han Yunxi stood on one side watching mutely. Ning Jing’s eyes were hooded, hiding her expression. Tang Li held little Tang Tang and regarded his father coldly. Even now, he was fuming at him. He would have long killed anyone else who drugged him to do something unforgivable against Ning Jing.
Little Tang Tang only gaped at her long-absent grandfather before suddenly bursting into tears. “Grandma…I want grandma…I want grandma!”
Tang Zijin was quite cool towards Tang Tang, but Lady Tang absolutely doted on her! She and Mu Linger had taken care of little Tang Tang before Tang Li and Ning Jing returned to the Tang Clan. Although it was easy for children to forget people and events, Lady Tang was family after all. Little Tang Tang would naturally remember her grandma after seeing her grandpa. It had been a long, long time since she’d seen her.
“Wahhh, I want grandma…grandma, I want grandma!” Tang Tang fussed and wailed.
“Tang Tang be good, little brother will laugh at you if you cry. Don’t cry, hm?” Tang Li tried to coax her, but Tang Tang only wept more miserably.
“Where’s grandma? I want grandma to pick me up, pick me up…”
Tang Zijin turned with some hesitation, but ultimately approached the couple. In a rare moment of gentleness he said, “Tang Tang, don’t cry. Grandpa will hold you, all right?”
Tang Tang gave a start before she was frightened. She clutched her father’s neck in fear, afraid that she’d be taken away as she looked guardedly at her grandfather. She didn’t dare to utter a single peep. Seeing this, even Han Yunxi felt pained, to say nothing of Ning Jing. Han Yunxi was about to help out when Tang Zijin said, “Tang Tang, don’t cry don’t cry. Grandpa will take you to see grandma. Let’s all go home as one family, all right?”
Ning Jing and Tang Li were stunned. Even Long Feiye looked over.
What did Tang Zijin mean? Was he giving in?
Long Feiye had already ordered men to send memorials to the Tang Clan for not delivering their weapons on time. Such letters were delivered directly to Tang Zijin with the envelopes still sealed. This was basically forcing the man to either get Tang Li and Ning Jing back or give up the Tang Clan’s right to produce arms.
Tang Zijin hadn’t written a single reply.
Little Tang Tang didn’t trust her grandpa. She buried her head against her father’s shoulders and refused to look at him. Children could be the most stubborn existences, but they were also the most honest. Anything in their hearts was written plainly on their faces. Tang Zijin could do nothing with Tang Tang and looked towards Ning Jing instead.
“Ning Jing, go back. Your mother-in-law spent the New Year’s at a Buddhist temple…” Tang Zijin hesitated before going on, “Her health isn’t so good, so I’m worried about her living outside alone. Let’s…let’s go pick her up together.”
Tang Zijin’s words were awkward, but on the surface he was merely considerate of Lady Tang’s health and finding Tang Li and Ning Jing because he had no other choice. His true motives were to plea for a truce.
Before Ning Jing could speak, Tang Li exploded. “Can’t you pick up my mother yourself? You know she’s never been that healthy but you still let her spent the New Year’s at a temple! Tang Zijin, what’s your heart made of?!”
Tang Zijin glared at him. “Stinkin’ rascal, what kind of manners are these?”
“What kind of manner? I’ll tell you now, I have no manners for the likes of you!” Tang Li held Tang Tang tightly with one hand as he tugged Ning Jing away with the other. Naturally, she knew his thoughts implicitly after being with him for so long.
Tang Li had been waiting for his father the entire time, but Tang Zijin’s words were so awkward and fleeting that it made him unhappy. He and his wife had suffered such grievances at the Tang Clan. Tang Zijin was clearly in the wrong, yet he refused to acknowledge his mistakes. Was he going to get them back with just a few sentences?
Tang Li not only wanted his father to admit his mistakes, but beg for them back. Ning Jing definitely felt more resentful than Tang Li, but she still held Tang Li back and refused to leave. After all, Tang Zijin was Tang Li’s father in the end! It was enough that Tang Li didn’t want her to suffer a white. There was no need to drag things on with Tang Zijin until he was labelled as an unfilial son.
Tang Li stopped to knit his brows at Ning Jing. She ignored him and took little Tang Tang instead. “Tang Tang be good, don’t cry. Let’s go find grandma and go home, okay?”
It was the exact same line as Tang Zijin, but Tang Tang nodded immediately. Seeing her teary face, Ning Jing felt pained. “Don’t cry, don’t cry. If you cry anymore, little brother will laugh at us.”
Little Rui’er was being held in his mother’s arms with his hands covering his ears. He blinked in clear confusion.
Ning Jing’s words made Tang Zijin both overjoyed and gratified. Actually, he knew exactly what kind of daughter-in-law Ning Jing was. It would be difficult for Tang Li to find a second Ning Jing. Sadly…
Tang Zijin grew annoyed as soon as he thought of that topic. He didn’t have strength to consider it any further. For now, it was more important to preserve the Tang Clan! He was too old to bother with the rest.
Since Ning Jing had said as much, Tang Li naturally yielded to her wishes. He lowered his head with no protest. Seeing this, Tang Zijin’s heart finally settled back into his chest. He walked towards Long Feiye and respectfully delivered up the two memorials in his hands. “Your Majesty, this subject is guilty of making the emperor worry. This subject vows that the Tang Clan will make its first delivery of weapons before the end of the month. The construction of the capital will also proceed on schedule. May Your Majesty forgive me.”
Long Feiye didn’t say a word. Instead, he took back the two still sealed memorials and tossed them off the edge of the mountain. Since they were thrown away without being opened, that meant Long Feiye would ignore the various officials pestering him about the Tang Clan.
“Many thanks to Your Majesty for your grace!” Tang Zijin quickly expressed his gratitude.
Tang Li and Ning Jing both went up to burn incense for Baili Yuanlong before leaving with Tang Zijin. Gu Beiyue burned incense as well, but Han Yunxi stopped him before he left. She whispered something to Rui’er, who reached out for the Grand Tutor to carry him. Gu Beiyue quietly left with the child without any questions.
After Han Yunxi made her own offerings of incense, she stood on the side to wait for Long Feiye. Knowing this, Long Feiye beckoned for her. She went to take his hand and murmured, “My condolences.”
Although it was only a single admission, Long Feiye had finally spoke. Baili Mingxiang and Baili Qiyu waited on the sidelines with their heads bowed. They could clearly hear every word. Baili Mingxiang couldn’t help but recall the silent youth by the lotus pond who had saved her in the past. Currently, the emperor’s lonely back resembled that boy very much, but something had changed.
What could have happened if he met Han Yunxi a little earlier?
“Big brother, as criminal subjects we shouldn’t linger long,” Baili Mingxiang reminded quietly.
Baili Qiyu thought his little sister would say something to the emperor and empress, but she never said a peep. He stepped forward and offered up two Teardrop Pearl Crystals. They were extraordinarily beautiful with a ghostly blue awn within their translucent bodies. Staring at it after a while would remind viewers of the sea, vast and endlessly azure.