"Live a life like that of a bird that soars between heaven and earth with nothing weighing its mind except for its own self."
Editor(s): Jelly, namio
Li Xiao supported his chin with one hand as he leaned on the couch for the Son of Heaven, lost in thought. Since he had difficulty sleeping last night, his mind couldn't help but become slightly muddled. Upon arriving, Xu Lingyun anxiously said, "Lord Ting!"
Ting Haisheng was at a loss. "Ah? Lord Xu?"
"The Empress has already dressed up in her phoenix gown! His Majesty still hasn't changed his armor?" Xu Lingyun urged. "It's already the wei period."
Ting Haisheng suddenly regained his senses and hurriedly said, "Your Majesty… Your Majesty is resting at the moment… From what Lord Xu can see right now, would it be fine if we wake His Majesty up?"
Xu Lingyun said, "May I trouble Lord Ting to bring the Empress? I will attend to His Majesty."
Ting Haisheng hastily nodded. Like a gust of wind, Xu Lingyun moved to shake Li Xiao awake.
"Quick, wake up!"
Xu Lingyun was in a flurry. Li Xiao had barely woken up and was still out of it when he was being tossed around. He angrily rebuked, "Impudent!"
Xu Lingyun said, "Your Majesty may punish this subject for this crime later. Now quick! We're wasting more time this way!"
Xu Lingyun quickly loosened Li Xiao's dragon helmet. When his fingers touched the Son of Heaven's bare waist and strong abdomen, both of them unconsciously looked away.
"Why didn’t Ting Haisheng call this king?!" Li Xiao realized that he was late. He then asked, "What did Mother Empress ask of you?"
Without much effort, Xu Lingyun threw away both the armor and helmet, smoothed out the thin inner clothes, and helped fix Li Xiao's collar. He smiled. "Her Majesty asked whether Your Majesty slept well last night."
Li Xiao smacked his lips. After waking up from his short sleep, his mouth tasted sour. Xu Lingyun casually picked a dried plum and stuffed it inside his mouth; Li Xiao didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at that. Rising to his feet, he said, "Enough."
Xu Lingyun attended to Li Xiao as he changed his unlined garment and white underpants. He then whistled, signaling to the outer room before retreating to one side. When the eunuchs swarmed inside while holding trays, Li Xiao calmly raised his head and examined the reflection on the mirror.
From the mirror, when the person behind him smiled, his two elegant eyebrows would slightly bend and form a familiar arc.
"Yingnu, your eyebrows," Li Xiao suddenly said, "they look like the Empress Dowager’s when she smiles."
Xu Lingyun's smile distorted and he changed the subject. "This subject saw the Empress just now. She is a beauty."
Li Xiao was still in a trance and just made a "hm" sound. A moment later, he said, "As far as this king remembers, Empress Dowager rarely smiles."
Xu Lingyun said in a soft voice, "It is this subject's behavior that is immature. He likes to smile all the time."
Coldly, Li Xiao said, "So you do realize your behavior is immature?"
Xu Lingyun laughed at himself. Once Li Xiao had changed into the dragon robe, his entire demeanor elevated, becoming imposing and seemingly hiding an oppressive momentum —— as if his entire person had changed. The eunuchs knelt in unison.
"His Majesty is setting out——"
Li Xiao turned around and strode towards Yangxin Hall, Ting Haisheng and Xu Lingyun keeping up behind him. A carriage had already been arranged in front of Yangxin Hall. The emperor entered the carriage with the left and right assistant ministers in tow, ceremonial artifacts in hand.
A moment later, the two carriages of the emperor and empress arrived in front of the main hall. The officials were information, while magnificent ancient music played.
Li Xiao was dressed in a dragon robe that featured two colors: black and gold. On his head was the Son of Heaven's heroic crown, and on his body a wide gown with fluttering sleeves. When he reached his hand out to Lin Wan, she imperceptibly withdrew.
Li Xiao turned his head to the side and stared at Lin Wan, his mouth chowing in a lax manner —— he hadn't finished the dried plum Xu Lingyun had fed him before, leaving the plum seed for him to hold in the mouth at this moment.
Timidly, Lin Wan met Li Xiao's gaze and put her small, pale, and delicate hand atop his palm. The bell and drum outside the palace hall sounded in unison, and the emperor and empress entered the hall, hand-in-hand.
It was time for the empress's conferment. All officials made a customary salute.
Li Xiao was still chewing the plum seed inside his mouth; he had no chance to spit it out.
After the grand secretariat had finished reading the jade scroll, he stroked his beard with a smile. The officials bowed twice and Li Xiao personally put the phoenix crown on Lin Wan. Following that, the officials withdrew, and with Ting Haishang acting as the guide, the emperor and empress left for Minghuang Hall to pay homage to the ancestors' paintings.
Li Xiao's long fingers reached up to the corner of his mouth and made a wiping motion. Xu Lingyun extended his hand exactly at that time; the two people's fingers met and at once, the emperor's plum seed was stuffed into Xu Lingyun's hands which he then put inside his sleeve —— peace was restored.
Lin Wan glanced at Li Xiao.
"What?" Li Xiao halted his step. "Tired?"
They were only followed by two officials Ting and Xu, as well as a group of eunuchs.
Lin Wan lowered her eyebrows. "This lowly wife…"
Li Xiao said, "If you're tired, let's take a rest."
Lin Wan hesitantly shook her head. Li Xiao released her hand and without saying anything, went inside the palace and entered its long corridor. Inside the serene Minghuang Hall, the emperor walked all the way while Lin Wan slowly followed behind him.
"This is Chengzu." Li Xiao stopped in front of a painting.
Lin Wan said, "Does Your Majesty also admire him?"
Li Xiao nodded his head. "Do you also know about the story of Chengzu's life?"
Hesitantly, Lin Wan nodded. "Chengzu was resolute and did everything with heart. He also married Empress Sun in those years, but it wasn't a happy union."
Li Xiao couldn't stop thinking about the implications of Lin Wan's words. Xu Lingyun timely said, "Your Majesty has every skill under the sun. Today's grand wedding, compared to Chengzu, Your Majesty will definitely have no regrets."
Li Xiao slowly nodded and turned to leave Minghuang Hall. The royal carriage had already been waiting outside the hall. The two once again left for Yangxin Hall to offer tea to the empress dowager.
The empress dowager gave a command that, in short, just meant "settle down and be harmonious." Li Xiao left once again and returned to Yanhe Hall. This wedding ceremony was more or less done. At night, the Son of Heaven arranged a feast in the imperial garden to entertain the officials; the scene was undeniably bustling with excitement.
Thus, the imperial bodyguards could finally relieve themselves of their burdens. The arctic gyr was returned to the aviary, and Xu Lingyun was alone on the side of the imperial garden, drinking wine at the imperial guard table, his thoughts wandering off.
Shadows could be seen all over the pavilion, and the fragrance of osmanthus could be smelled even from ten li away. The bright moon in the sky made the eaves of Yanhe Hall glow all over in splendor. On this fine night, the dragon beams on the zenith of the imperial palace were facing the Mid-Autumn's full moon, giving off a rather hard-to-describe artistic mood.
Xu Lingyun had yet to sleep last night. At this moment, he was holding an empty cup as he looked, expressionless, at the reflection of the moon in Taiye Pond, lost in thought. Traditional music could frequently be heard from a distance. He was lost in wine, his red brocade in disarray.
Xu Lingyun turned around and bowed in courtesy at the grand secretariat.
The grand secretariat happily smiled. This old man had experienced the ups and downs of three generations. Back then, the sixteen-year-old gifted scholar Fu Feng from Jiangzhou went to the capital to take an imperial examination, earning the reputation as the most talented man in the capital. He received the golden inscription, even coming first in the triennial palace examination.
Fu Feng at that time was an outstanding intellectual. He had amazing skill in writing articles, the six ministries of the court as well as great schools all conceded defeat, gracefully stepping down. What was even rarer was his elegant appearance. In the past hundred of years, among the young officials of the Yu Country, nobody could even be his right.
After Fu Feng returned to Jiangzhou, he took up the position as an administrative assistant. His political achievements were remarkable. His official career shook over thousands of li, he rose straight up in a clear sky and was recommended to be the grand secretariat at the mere age of 27.
He kept this position for fifty years.
In the past fifty years, this wise old man had witnessed the eras dispersing like clouds scattered by the wind. He had served the first two emperors throughout their reigns. Whether it was the eradication of Xiongnus, or just peace among the Four Seas, he had seen them both. The once-in-a-century drought, the common people waging war and surrounding the capital, the peace negotiation, the armed rebellion. The expansion of territory and the relievement of the land under heaven. The abolishment of the empress, the killing of imperial concubines. He’d witnessed even the decline of distinguished families who had supported the empress ten years ago, as well as the confiscation and extermination of Jiangzhou's wealthy merchant Xu family, until the point where Xu Lingyun narrowly escaped the great disaster of having his head beheaded and returned to the capital, now quietly guarding his corner.
Fu Feng had seen everything big and small; those recorded in history and those that were not, he had personally experienced them all.
In another decade, or perhaps more, this sort of legendary grand secretariat would also become a part of history. Two emperors of the Yu Country called him Teacher, and officials also regarded him as the Imperial Preceptor. Where he stood signified where the balance of power leaned towards.
However, when Fu Feng retired because of his old age and returned home, he only brought a carriage full of books and two old servants with him. That year, at the age of 16, he had entered the capital with nothing in his hands, carrying only a basket on his back. And now, the year he resigned, both his sleeves were still flowing free.
Many years ago, Fu Feng, strong and handsome as a jade tree facing the wind, became famous throughout the capital. All his life, he had never taken a wife. Now that he was old, his face still carried a confident and elegant bearing, although it bore wrinkles given to him by the unforgiving years.
"What has Lord Xu been doing these days?" Fu Feng put his hands on his back.
Xu Lingyun sat on the railing of Taiye Pond, casually throwing a stone that made a ripple on the surface. He replied in a soft voice, "I’ve had nothing to do, just reading some books. Are you leaving?"
Fu Feng sighed. "It's time to go."
In a low voice, Xu Lingyun said, "I heard… before the empress got married, she had a sweetheart?"
Fu Feng smiled. "This past sweetheart of the empress, hasn't Lord Xu met him today?"
Faintly, Xu Lingyun said, "It is not His Majesty. Her eyes cannot deceive anyone."
Fu Feng said, "I did not say it was His Majesty."
Xu Lingyun pondered over it, his eyebrows furrowing. Li Wan wasn't a virgin anymore. Sometimes during her time waiting to be betrothed, she secretly pledged herself to another without her parents' approval. Who is that person? It couldn't be an ordinary guard. If it wasn't the Yulin Army's commander, then Ting Haisheng...
Fu Feng smiled. "What are your thoughts after reading the historical records these past few days?"
Xu Lingyun smiled. "The only thing I can think of is… although people say they despise being born at the wrong time, ill-fated to the point even growing up takes a lot of effort, some people do live until a ripe old age."
Fu Feng said in a leisurely manner, "Although you weren't fated to be here, you are already here. That cup of 'Dream of a Life Departed,' have you ever regretted drinking it?"
Looking at the pool in a trance, Xu Lingyun replied, "That cup of 'Dream of a Life Departed,' have you ever regretted drinking it?"
Fu Feng smiled and turned around. After having a drink with the old minister, Xu Lingyun said, "Thank you."
Fu Feng's sleeves shook and he smiled. "What are you thanking me for? Live a life like that of a bird that soars between heaven and earth with nothing weighing its mind except for its own self. This word 'thank you' is both too heavy and also too frivolous."
Xu Lingyun titled his head and leaned on the railing, corners of his mouth slightly raised as he gazed at the white moonlight in the horizon. He closed his eyes and gradually fell asleep.
From a distance, the singing voice of the grand secretariat could be heard. Fu Feng beat the cup using a chopstick in his hand, free and unrestrained as he loudly sang. He and several old ministers were urging each other to drink more wine; his youthful spirit remained the same.
Li Xiao came out from one side of the hall. The eunuchs offered him a wine tray, and all of the officials went still.
"A goblet of clear, fine wine, everlastingly rich…" Fu Feng, carrying a smile, looked at Li Xiao. "Congratulations, Your Majesty."
Li Xiao sighed. "Tomorrow, Teacher is going to retire, how can this king be glad?"
Fu Feng exclaimed, "This subject is already old. The court is, after all, a battlefield for young people. Your Majesty is still young and promising, he will certainly become my Great Yu's virtuous ruler known throughout the world."
Li Xiao said in a low voice, "This king will remember Teacher's words, and will never forget Teacher's instructions. Mother Empress asked me to propose a toast for Teacher."
Fu Feng and Li Xiao had a toast. Li Xiao once again sighed, indicating that he really took the matter of Fu Feng leaving to heart. The eunuchs rearranged the banquet once more, and Li Xiao said, "Please enjoy yourselves, dear ministers."
The old ministers cupped their hands one after another. Li Xiao passed through the imperial garden towards the eastern corridor. With one hand on the railing, he stood at the side of Taiye Pond. The autumn breeze carried the sweet smell of osmanthus, brushing away both the silver light of the pond as well as the dragon lapel.
There was a low sound of snoring coming from below the railing. Li Xiao looked down and saw it was Xu Lingyun who was sleeping soundly.
Li Xiao thought, Why is he sleeping here? But then he remembered that Xu Lingyun didn't sleep last night, most likely accompanying him all night long. Raising his hand, he motioned to the eunuch to call an imperial bodyguard before pointing once again to Xu Lingyun. He then casually took off his robe and covered the guard's body before turning around and going to his resting palace.
Late at night, Lin Wan sat as several maids removed her hairpins and took off her robes. When they saw Li Xiao in his light, yellow robe enters the hall, they bowed one after another before retreating once they had removed the hairpins.
Lin Wan fixed her eyes on the bronze mirror; from it she saw Li Xiao heading to the dragon bed and sitting down. His left hand began to loosen his right sleeve, and when a eunuch came over to serve him, Li Xiao said, "Everybody get out."
The eunuchs saluted and retreated outside the hall. Lin Wan took off her golden phoenix cloak. She was only wearing an unlined garment and was covered in a subtle fragrance that added to her elegant, tender face; it was beautiful and alluring under the red candle.
Lin Wan also sat by the bed and undressed Li Xiao.
Li Xiao lowered his eyes and gazed at Lin Wan. She raised her eyes and looked at Li Xiao's left face. The two people's sight met and Lin Wan once again humbly lowered her eyes, saying nothing.
Li Xiao had never been good at talking and was somewhat impatient, but Lin Wan was a woman who couldn't be neglected. She was the mother of the country, and also the daughter of the Lin family; her father was a person the Li clan was trying to rope in. The empress dowager had warned him over and over not to leave the empress out in the cold.
Li Xiao extended his hands and tried to hold Lin Wan's delicate one, only to see her afraid. She flinched, albeit subtly.
She concealed it well, but Li Xiao already felt dull.
"Dear wife, go to bed early," Li Xiao said, tone cold.
Lin Wan pursed her lips before nodding. The emperor and empress entered the canopy, and two eunuchs came forward to draw the curtains.
Li Xiao didn't touch her. He was very tired, and in his heart, he was also rather opposed to it. Lin Wan was on edge as she waited for a long time, holding her breath in anxiety, only to find that Li Xiao had gone to sleep. His breathing had evened out.
She tucked in the chicken comb under the mattress and went to sleep, full of panic and concern.
The next day, Xu Lingyun woke up in his secluded courtyard covered in a dragon robe that still had a faint, masculine scent of Li Xiao.
Realizing something was wrong, Xu Lingyun sprang to his feet and called a guard. "His Majesty came over?"
That guard laughed. "Chief, His Majesty had people send you back last night. You are favored, please spoil your family's brother ah."
Xu Lingyun gave a bitter laugh. "Did you see the Empress?"
The imperial guard was at a loss. "No."
Xu Lingyun said, "How many people saw this robe yesterday night?"
The guard replied, "It was pitch black, who could possibly see?"
Breathing a sigh of relief, Xu Lingyun instructed, "Take His Majesty's robe to the washing room. Say that His Majesty and a high official had a drink. He accidentally spilled some wine, so he simply untied it and left it on the railing. People didn't pay attention and it was accidentally brought back because it got mixed up together with some guard robes."
The guard nodded and accepted the order. "Chief, you are to wait for orders outside the imperial study."
Xu Lingyun nodded his head. He saw that the sun had risen as high as three-pole; he hurriedly changed his clothes and had a quick morning meal before heading to the imperial study.
The author has something to say:
A few days before, the Lord had asked Lin Wan a question.
By the way, this empress is not a cannon-fodder villain.
WHY ARE THEY SO CUTE TOGETHER I CAN’T
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Elestrea.