"Li Xiao flipped a page of the book, finding the last place where Xu Lingyun had stopped -- the night battle of Feng Pass."
Editor(s): namio, jelly
That night, after Li Xiao finished his meal, he had the eunuchs bring the accounts books to his sleeping chambers so he could review them.
The moon was bright in the sky, and the scent of cassias filled the courtyard. When Li Xiao lifted his head and glanced seemingly uncaringly towards the room tucked in the corner across the courtyard, he saw that the light had been extinguished.
“Your Majesty.” Lin Wan had an embroidered robe draped over her shoulders as she came out from the side hall.
Li Xiao lowered his head to look at the accounts books, and he said easily, “The door’s open, no need to close it.”
Lin Wan originally wanted to command the servants to close the doors, but she hadn’t expected Li Xiao to speak first, so she could only let it be. After Li Xiao looked at the accounts books for a while, he couldn’t help but lift his gaze towards that room across the courtyard, only to see Xu Lingyun quietly closing the door and turning to tiptoe out.
Li Xiao raised his voice. “Where are you going at this time of night?”
Xu Lingyun froze, and from afar he responded, “The empress dowager has summoned this subject to go chat with her for a bit.”
Li Xiao saw that far in the distance, at the doors across the courtyard, stood an old eunuch holding a lantern in his hand. He knew it was someone from the empress dowager’s faction, but he said mildly,
“If gonggong could deliver a message in response to Mother Empress: the night is deepening, and since the Yingnu is a man, it is not appropriate for him to walk about in the palace. He will visit tomorrow instead.”
The old eunuch pitched his voice higher and responded, “Before I came, the empress dowager said that with her age, she could even be the Yingnu’s grandmother, so there isn’t anything inappropriate about it.”
Xu Lingyun began to laugh loudly. When Li Xiao saw that his entire scheme had been accurately seen through by the empress dowager, he could only say unhappily, “Then go ba, come back soon.”
Xu Lingyun went with the old eunuch to pay a visit to the empress dowager, and they left in the direction of Yangxin Hall. Li Xiao ducked his head back down to stare at the accounts books. Lin Wan seemed to have guessed what Li Xiao was thinking, as she smiled and said, “They say that a birth mother is most clear on her son’s thoughts.”
Li Xiao’s heart thumped at that - Lin Wan’s words had touched upon some matters, and the two words of “birth mother” caused him to think of something.
A long time ago, before the last empress had returned to the heavens, the princes all knelt in order of age in front of the bed. Li Xiao was sixth in the line, but he had been specially called over by Empress Zhen.
That woman whose body had been ravaged by sickness was so haggard she didn’t look human, but she still couldn’t let go of the things she hadn’t finished yet - she regretted that she hadn’t ended Li Xiao and his mother completely back then, and that her own son had been given to who knows who.
“Not similar… not similar,” the empress mumbled.
Her fingers scratched against Li Xiao’s arm until they almost drew blood. She repeatedly muttered that to herself, before fixing her gaze on Li Xiao. “You aren’t a dragon’s seed... you aren’t even like that woman, whose seed are you…”
“Your Majesty?” Lin Wan asked gently.
Li Xiao came back to himself, and he said casually, “You all look down on this king. Even a normal bodyguard dares to make jokes at this king’s expense.”
Dragging her words out, Lin Wan spoke, “Your Majesty is a wise ruler. Since ancient times, it has only been in times of prosperity, under the rule of a good man, that a subject would dare to make fun of the Son of Heaven. Originally… when I heard that Father wanted to send me into the palace, I was a little terrified, but seeing Your Majesty today, I believe that Your Majesty is a kind individual.”
Mildly, Li Xiao said, “Is that so? Then in your eyes, what kind of a person is this king?”
Lin Wan smiled, and Li Xiao closed the accounts book as he spoke. “To tell my beloved wife the truth, this king’s temper has never been very good, but in recent days it has been a little more moderate.”
The palace maids brought up a covered platter, and Lin Wan personally lifted the lid and moved it aside. On the platter was a large bowl of woodfrog stewed in rock sugar.
Li Xiao said, “When I was young, Mother Empress also liked to drink this stuff.”
Lin Wan smiled. “It’s something the people of Jiangzhou often drink.” And saying this, she ladled out a smaller bowl. As Li Xiao lifted the bowl, he seemed to think of something else.
Lin Wan said, “The royal kitchens prepared two portions, and one of those is to be bestowed upon the Yingnu for him to drink.”
The smile slid off Li Xiao’s face. Whatever he thought, Lin Wan always seemed to be able to guess it. But even though that was the case, Li Xiao still continued mildly, “A guard who won’t stop chattering away, being bestowed a reward like this? This is showing him too much favor.”
Lin Wan’s eyes curved upwards. “Since Your Majesty spoils him, then this is a duty that falls to this wife.”
After Li Xiao drank that bowl of frog, he said lightly and swiftly, “When has this king spoiled him? It’s no more than fondness for him.”
Lin Wan said, “Since it was fated…”
Li Xiao interrupted. “Enough.”
The night breeze of autumn blew over, ruffling the pages of the books on the table. Li Xiao watched Lin Wan, before reaching out a hand to stroke her jade-like one. Lin Wan lowered her eyes. When she was touched by Li Xiao’s burning hot manly skin, she stiffened slightly.
Li Xiao had a sudden thought in his mind -- Lin Wan didn’t like him. His gaze was scorching like fire, and his pupils had a kind of fierceness like a falcon’s. Lin Wan lifted her head, and when their gazes met, she ducked her head down again like she had been burnt.
He realized something.
Lin Wan’s heart beat wildly, as if it was about to leap out from her chest. After a short while, she called her attention back, forcing herself to remain calm, and smiled. “When this wife was to be betrothed, she often heard of Your Majesty’s valor, and it’s a little…”
Li Xiao rose, and Lin Wan hurriedly lifted her head.
“This king will not force you,” Li Xiao said, before walking out of the bedchamber.
The crisp scent of autumn permeated the courtyard, and Xu Lingyun carried a lantern in his hand as he returned alone from Yangxin Hall.
Li Xiao stood in the darkness under the tree, and when Xu Lingyun passed by, Li Xiao suddenly spoke. “There’s a stewed dish that the empress has bestowed upon you as a reward.”
Unable to help being greatly startled, Xu Lingyun almost fell into a clump of grass.
Li Xiao asked coldly, “Is this king that frightening?”
Xu Lingyun managed to lift up his lantern as he gasped. “What a surprise… what a surprise…”
Li Xiao, “...”
Xu Lingyun smiled. “It would not matter for anyone else, but this subject had not expected that Your Majesty would be outdoors. The autumn air is chilly, why isn’t there even an attendant with Your Majesty?”
A young eunuch hurried over with a robe, but Li Xiao indicated that he didn’t need it.
“What did Mother Empress say to you?” Li Xiao lifted the edge of his robe as he sat down by the side of Taiye Pond. It was the sixteenth day of the eighth month, and the moon was just right, casting a silver glow over the water.
Xu Lingyun handed the lantern to the little eunuch as he took up a standing position behind Li Xiao. “She asked about what Your Majesty spoke of recently, and what Your Majesty has done.”
Li Xiao said, “Elaborate.”
Xu Lingyun stood behind Li Xiao, so he couldn’t see his expression, but from his words Li Xiao could hear the mirthful undertones. “The empress dowager asked where Your Majesty had gone today. This subject responded that Your Majesty went to the imperial gardens, to the imperial study, and Your Majesty stayed by the Taiye Pond for a little while to admire the flowers before returning to Your Majesty’s bedchambers to listen to this subject continue telling the story.”
Li Xiao’s eyebrows twitched a little. Xu Lingyun continued, “The empress dowager then asked, did Your Majesty not admire the flowers usually? This subject responded that recently Your Majesty’s been in a good mood.”
Li Xiao’s only desire was to call people over to drag Xu Lingyun away and give him a good beating.
Xu Lingyun, “The empress dowager then asked if Your Majesty had severely scolded this subject when Your Majesty was reviewing the accounts books. This subject said that such a thing has not happened in recent days. The empress dowager also asked if Your Majesty had asked me about anything in recent days, to which this subject responded, Your Majesty asked this subject whether he was from the Xu family of Jiangzhou, and had even bestowed a dish upon this subject during the noonday meal.”
Li Xiao, however, had been successfully diverted from his original train of thought, and he said, “Your father was originally an important official of the salt and iron manor of Jiangzhou, which can basically be counted as aristocracy.”
Xu Lingyun bowed. “My grandfather came to the capital to attend the examinations, and thankfully he was looked upon favorably by the previous emperor, and happened to take the test in the same year as Grand Secretariat Fufeng. Afterwards, several lords involved themselves in my family’s matters, and the family estate was seized. When this subject was six years old, there was a succession of funerals, and it was only the next year that the case was reopened.”
Li Xiao said, “Who is still left?”
Xu Lingyun said, “The family had fallen on hard times, and no bystanders were left who could help. When this subject was young, he had been sent to the imperial academy, where he was taken in by Grand Secretariat Fufeng.”
Nodding slightly, Li Xiao asked, “Mother Empress was discussing this with you?”
Xu Lingyun shook his head, and Li Xiao seemed to come to a tacit understanding. A moment later, Xu Lingyun realized that he was standing behind him, so the emperor couldn't see him, and he added, “The empress dowager didn’t ask anything more.”
Li Xiao nodded. “What else did Mother Empress say?”
Xu Lingyun said, “This…”
Rising, Li Xiao stared into Xu Lingyun’s eyes, and Xu Lingyun stammered and stuttered. He said unhappily, “Just say it.”
“Your Majesty… this…” Xu Lingyun’s handsome face actually had two spots of bright red.
Li Xiao said, “Dragging it out for this long, what exactly do you want to say?”
Xu Lingyun bowed, and he cupped his hands as he said, “The empress dowager said that Your Majesty has finally… sunk into that… sunk into the river of love.”
Li Xiao, “...”
Xu Lingyun, “...”
Li Xiao yanked Xu Lingyun’s collar, shoving him backwards as he said darkly, “What did you say? Say that again?”
“With… the empress, that… this subject believes that, Your Majesty, please quell your rage, this subject believes that the empress dowager wanted to say… Your Majesty finally, to this subject, no, no, to Empress Lin, finally has a heart filled with adoration... en…”
Xu Lingyun kept backing up, and in the next moment his body was suspended in the air as he tripped over the railing.
Realizing that he had used too much strength then, Li Xiao subconsciously hurried to change that shoving motion into a yank, afraid that Xu Lingyun would fall into the water. But Xu Lingyun immediately felt the force of that yank on his collar, and in that instant, a sliver of sentimental attachment and warmth appeared in his gaze.
The moonlight scattered over the rippling waters, and emotions were exchanged as the gazes of the lord and the subject met.
“Impudent!” Li Xiao’s face was bright red, and with that he loosened his grip. Xu Lingyun fell into Taiye Pond with a splash.
“Your Majesty… this subject deserves death for his crimes.” Xu Lingyun clambered out of the water, completely drenched, but Li Xiao had already turned and walked away.
Xu Lingyun rubbed his sodden collar, looking at the ground, as if he was recalling something. He closed his eyes and stood there, completely still, for a long time. Water dripped down his eyelashes, and the corner of his mouth quirked upwards.
A wind blew, and the shrubs rustled quietly.
The next day, the imperial study.
Li Xiao, “Today, this king specially read over your accounts books, so you were summoned. According to you and Grand Secretariat Lin Yi, you plan to use the Jiangnan region to test out this new method, is that correct?”
Ting Haisheng said, “Yes.”
Li Xiao, “Who thought of this new strategy?”
Ting Haisheng opened his mouth, but he didn’t make any sound.
Li Xiao said, “Hand over the rights of the land to the provincial government and have the local officials allocate them to all of the tenants equally. Once the tenants add their thumbprint on the documents, they will borrow the land from the government, and when the next year comes, they will pay back their dues in the form of taxes to the landowner. This kind of method can improve the taxation system, and it ensures that the tenants will have enough land to farm so that they can pay the local taxes in full and make sure that they have homes to return to. If the test is successful, then the method will be spread throughout the entire country; this new strategy sounds pretty good.”
Ting Haisheng hurried to be deferential. “This subject is undeserving, this subject does not dare.”
Li Xiao lifted his gaze up from the books. “Everything discussed here is good, and this was also done with the best wishes of the Jiangnan residents in mind, but this year’s harvest is not yet complete. With your actions now, you’ve only thought of the land tenants, and not of the other people.”
Ting Haisheng didn’t dare to respond. Li Xiao continued, “Unsatisfied? In past years, the tenants have rented land from the landowners, and if this family’s rates are too high, they can go find another family to rent from instead. At most, they’d take their family, with their children in tow, as they move somewhere else. But for you to have the land handed over to the government, and for the tenants to go find the government to rent land, would the officials in charge of this lease the land on the surface, but get some small benefits under the table? Did you think of that? If the landowners taxed too high, then the tenants could go find the government officials to report to. But if the government taxes too high, who can the tenants go to to report their woes?”
Ting Haisheng bowed. “Your Majesty’s scolding is just.”
Li Xiao said carelessly, “If you are unhappy with this, then speak.”
Ting Haisheng hurried to shake his head and professed that he didn’t dare to. Li Xiao continued, “State affairs are state affairs, while personal grudges are personal grudges; if you have any thoughts when political discussions are happening, directly contradicting this king is alright, this king will not have your head chopped off for that.”
Sucking in a breath, Ting Haisheng’s eyes darting about wildly, clearly trying to tread a very fine line. Before he had sucked in more than a few breaths and finally opened his mouth hesitantly , Li Xiao followed up where he had left off and said easily, “At most, after the matter, this king would find an excuse to get rid of you.”
Ting Haisheng’s voice dried up, and his expression grew extremely unpleasant.
Li Xiao began to smile, his eyes filled with an expression of playfulness, and he said, “Speak ba.”
Terrified by those words, Ting Haisheng naturally did not dare to elucidate the grandiose speech he had bottled up in his lungs, so he could only reconsider his words. A moment later, he said, "Your Majesty's scolding is correct."
Li Xiao nodded. “This line is spoken from the depths of your heart; since you want to test this new method, then use your Jiangnan’s Ting, Lu, and Qing Counties to test. The Ting family is large, so we’ll see how they do.” And saying this, he leaned back on the dragon chair and sighed, before continuing, “If this king’s predictions are not wrong, then sooner or later these three counties will become filled with complaints.”
Ting Haisheng’s expression was hesitant. Li Xiao tossed the accounts book aside, and he said, “Go try it, this king won’t assign crimes to your name for this.”
Ting Haisheng could only nod and leave carrying the accounts books. When he walked out of the imperial study, he happened to run right into the grand marshal of the Yulin troops, Tang Si.
Li Xiao glanced over, and when he saw Tang Si, he said, “Come in ba.”
Tang Si strode in, coming to a stop in front of the dragon chair, where he bowed and cupped his hands.
Li Xiao asked, "What did they say?"
Tang Si answered, “The major officials… didn't agree to it.”
Li Xiao said, "The arctic gyr has gotten more round, and the autumn hunt has been put on hold for six whole years. Now, this king has already married, is he to be trapped within the palace still?"
Tang Si shook his head helplessly. Li Xiao said, "Where are the accounts books?"
Tang Si was also suppressing his anger that had nowhere to go, and he responded, "In Lord Lin Yi's hands, he's detained them there. And this subject’s impeachment book will probably come in just a little bit."
Li Xiao's expression immediately darkened.
"This king is the ruler of the country, if I want to go hunting, who is he to stop me?!" Li Xiao said. "Go, pass the order along to the Yulin Army. We set off in three days."
Tang Si said, “Your Majesty, as for the empress dowager’s matter…”
Li Xiao's hand trembled a little. Tang Si knew that the emperor was truly enraged this time, so he hurried to add, "This subject will immediately go to prepare."
Li Xiao said darkly, "Tell him that not only does this king want to go, I'm bringing his daughter along. Send these orders to the Yulin Army: for this year's autumn hunt, remember to bring along the empress's phoenix carriage. This king wants to see who exactly he'll try to impeach!"
He then issued an order to the eunuch by his side. "Cancel the morning court sessions for the next three days."
The eunuch’s expression changed. “Your Majesty, please reconsider!”
Li Xiao's expression wavered, and he rested his forehead in his hand as he said slowly, "Tang Si."
Tang Si hurried to say, "This subject hears and obeys."
Li Xiao watched him. The commander of the Yulin Army was one of the rare few that had earned Li Xiao’s trust, and back then when Fufeng had washed the palace clean in blood, he had borrowed Tang Si’s father’s support. Li Xiao had been emperor for many years now, and because of his father’s accomplishments, Tang Si had never been punished by His Majesty. No matter what he had done, it would be easily swept under the rug.
In recent years, there were only two people who hadn't roused Li Xiao's anger: one was Tang Si, and the other was Xu Lingyun.
Tang Si's background was special, and Li Xiao didn't dare to take his anger out on him; Xu Lingyun was a slick one, and he was as slippery as an eel, always able to avoid Li Xiao's fists.
“What do you think?” Li Xiao said coldly.
Tang Si said, “This subject believes that Your Majesty has acted in the good interest of the people.”
Li Xiao said, “Not only is this king going on the autumn hunt this year, this king is even planning on bolstering the ranks of the falcon squad.”
Tang Si nodded. “This subject also said likewise; the accounts books have all been reviewed, and… they have all been detained at the Office of External Affairs. The books of impeachment for Lord Xu and this subject are going to come any time now…” Tang Si’s tone belied that he too was unable to take this lying down, and he was openly preparing himself for retaliation, and/so he couldn’t help but take a jab at Lin Yi.
Li Xiao said, “With this king here to support you from behind, are you still afraid of being impeached? What general of your Tang family hasn’t been impeached from youth until old age, from entering the court until retirement? In the coming year, when it comes time for the martial arts selection, pick a few young fellows that are sturdy and strong, and assign them to Xu Lingyun, for them to be under his command. This king is issuing these orders at this moment, so just carry them out. You’re not allowed to be this fussy and hesitant over it.”
Tang Si raised his gaze. “This subject believes that there cannot be many each time.”
“Not many?” Li Xiao asked coldly. “This king is planning to expand the falcon squad into…”
Slightly shaken upon realizing that Li Xiao was about to take action, Tang Si shook his head faintly, his eyes darting towards one of the eunuchs behind Li Xiao.
Li Xiao said, “Ah well, this matter will be discussed further in the coming days.”
Tang Si retreated out of the imperial study. Li Xiao said, “Send for the Yingnu.”
The eunuch outside the door bowed hurriedly. "Responding to Your Majesty, Lord Xu reported that he was ill today, and is resting outside of Yanhe Hall."
Li Xiao said, "Send the royal physician to look after him."
The eunuch then said, "Responding to Your Majesty, the empress has already sent the royal physician to check on Lord Xu already, and he said that it was only a slight chill. In two or three days, after it has dissipated, he will recover without any issue."
Li Xiao nodded, no longer paying any attention to that matter. Before noon he had finished reviewing the accounts books, and he went back to Yanhe Hall to take his meal.
Lin Wan had just sat down when she spoke. "Is Your Majesty worrying over the Yingnu?" The royal physician already took a look at him today."
Li Xiao hummed, allowing Lin Wan to lay out the dishes. He didn't ask, nor did he nod his head.
She then said gently, "He said that he fell into the water last night, and he didn't change his clothes before going to sleep for the night, leaving a damp puddle on his bed. In addition, his wounds from a few days ago had yet to heal fully, so he caught a slight chill. This wife had the servants stew some medicine for him to drink. After a few days, he will recover."
Li Xiao said, "That dumb fool, no need to pay any attention to him. Let him live or die of his own accord."
Lin Wan smiled a little. Li Xiao reached out to pick up a piece of fish, but he didn't eat it. Instead, he sat there, staring off into space.
A little earlier, he had just given the order for the autumn hunt to set off three days hence, but Xu Lingyun hadn’t gotten sick earlier or later; he had to get sick right now, at the worst of times. Li Xiao couldn’t help the bellyful of rage he felt at that.
At this time, Lin Wan continued quietly, “Today, this wife went to Yangxin Hall, and when she returned she saw that the Yulin troops were practicing their battle formations to surround prey. Is Your Majesty preparing to go on the autumn hunt?”
He answered coldly, “Has the news spread this quickly through the palace? What did Pavilion Elder Lin want you to say? Say it all now, don’t eke it out in fits and spurts.”
Those words were extremely harsh, and Lin Wan immediately lost all color in her face. She was so frightened that she didn’t dare follow up for a long time.
Lin Wan didn't dare to touch her chopsticks, and the hall was filled with the sound of Li Xiao chewing. After he finished, Li Xiao rinsed his mouth, ignoring her as he went forth to change into a martial robe before heading towards the corner room.
Xu Lingyun was wrapped in blankets as he laid on the bed, sleeping. Just as the eunuch was about to clear his throat and announce in a sing-song that the emperor had arrived, he was instantly hit with a slap, and he fell to the floor.
The people that were following in his steps wore similar expressions of horror at that, sensing that today, their lord was in a very bad mood.
Li Xiao's face was set in a quiet, cold expression, and he pushed his way into the room, pointing towards the outside. The people that had followed him self-consciously waited there, not daring to take even one step in.
Li Xiao was like a lion emitting rage from every line of his body as he tore aside the hanging curtain. The scent of the medicine that had been stewed in the morning had yet to dissipate, and Xu Lingyun laid on the bed, sleeping quietly.
Taking one look, Li Xiao raised a hand and lifted the blankets off. Xu Lingyun's upper body was bare, and he only wore a set of thin inner pants. He bleary woke up, having been startled badly, and he hurried to clamber off the bed.
“This subject… greets Your Majesty,” Xu Lingyun panted out.
Xu Lingyun had practiced martial arts for more than ten years, and his musculature and youthful physique was even more beautiful than Li Xiao’s. His back and abdomen were covered with scabbed over whip marks, and because his fever had yet to recede, his face had a hazy sheen of red over it.
“Go back and lie down.” Li Xiao unblinkingly watched Xu Lingyun, and when their gazes met, Xu Lingyun self-consciously averted his eyes. But in that brief instant, the span of a wild goose taking flight, Li Xiao saw a little bit of remorse in Xu Lingyun’s gaze.
“What regret weighs on your mind?” Li Xiao commented casually. His anger had dissipated somewhat.
Xu Lingyun climbed onto the bed, but his eyes closely followed Li Xiao as he answered, “When this subject was ill, he could not serve Your Majesty.”
“Lay back down,” Li Xiao said.
Ever since he was young, Li Xiao had a birthmark on the side of his face, and it destroyed his handsome visage and made him feel shame. Because of this, he was also even more sensitive to the actions of those around him. In these twenty plus years, this emperor had become used to being wary of every action of those around him, maintaining a primordial, bestial attitude, and at every moment, he was constantly trying to figure out who sincerely respected him, and who put on a visage of respect but treated him coldly in their hearts; who cared about him, and who was mocking him behind his back.
After experiencing this kind of reflexive screening layer by layer, he was already used to grasping the other’s mood from their gaze alone. In these twenty plus years, those who were uncaring of his side profile and his fierceness, who wholeheartedly were willing to interact with him, were only four in number: the empress dowager, Fufeng, Tang Si, and Xu Lingyun.
The empress dowager and Fufeng were members of an older generation who had watched him grow up, and Tang Si still dreaded him a little at times; only Xu Lingyun’s attitude was completely natural, just like a family member he had known for two lifetimes.
Aside from this, even Lin Wan who shared a bed with him at night, when their gazes met occasionally, Li Xiao could feel that she didn’t like him at all. In the palace, she was in a constant state of fear, as if she was treading on thin ice, trying her utmost to get on his good side and curry his favor while she secretly worked towards some unspeakable goal.
This made Li Xiao not want to interact overly much with her. That kind of gaze that entreated him constantly caused him to feel very frustrated.
Li Xiao walked to the edge of the table, only to see that on the table was a bowl of medicine, an inkstone and ink stick, a piece of paper, and a book.
That book was exactly the one that Xu Lingyun usually read from, The Historical Records of Yu, and the spaces between the lines were crammed with tiny words. The red ones were notes taken by Grand Secretariat Fufeng, and Li Xiao recalled that many years ago, it was Fufeng who had compiled this book. He also saw that on the sides, where there was blank space, there were a bunch of words in black ink that he didn’t recognize the handwriting of.
“The black words were written by you?” Li Xiao asked.
Mustering up his strength, Xu Lingyun responded, “Yes.”
Li Xiao, “Not like the style of the current court.”
Xu Lingyun coughed a few times, before answering, “The samples that Teacher Fufeng found were written by the famous Tongli era calligrapher, Zhang Xin.”
Li Xiao, “His name is unfamiliar.”
Xu Lingyun said, “He is the patriarch of the Western Plains’ martial artists’ families, the father of the Yingnu Zhang Mu. Many years ago, that pair of plaques hung on Yanhe Hall that read “A flourishing realm, a beautiful landscape” were written by the great calligraphy master Zhang Xin.”
Seeming absorbed in thought, Li Xiao slowly nodded his head. “What pair hangs there now? This king has never noticed it.”
Xu Lingyun said, “Now, Zhang Mu’s words have replaced them. ‘Shining spears and armored horses, to keep the peace of the realm’.”
Li Xiao flipped a page, and he asked, “Zhang Mu’s family has this kind of background?”
Xu Lingyun coughed a few more times, and he managed to eke out a few words. “Zhang Mu was… the son of Zhang Xin, and the Zhang family was a respected family of martial artists. When Yu Country was first founded and Taizu conquered the fifteen provinces, though peace had been restored within the borders, the Xiongnu to the north still eyed the new country with hostility; at any point, they could fight their way through the mountain passes and enter the Central Plains to loot and plunder. The capital had been in a state of war for many years, and everything was broken down and had yet to be repaired, so Taizu sent the young Chengzu to his old friend Zhang Xin’s family. At that time, Zhang Mu was fifteen, and Chengzu was four… but no one had expected that in the dead of the night, a fire would break out…”
Li Xiao said, “No need to say any more, this king will read on his own. This king has no interest in listening to a sick patient tell the story.”
Xu Lingyun then coughed again without stopping, and as he coughed he chuckled.
“It’s… cough cough, it’s towards the end, Your Majesty probably won’t be able to flip to that spot any time soon…”
Li Xiao said, “This king will just keep reading from that point on, and wherever this king reads to will be alright. You keep sleeping, and three days later, once you’ve recovered, you are to accompany this king on the autumn hunt.”
“Really?” Xu Lingyun almost got off the bed again.
Li Xiao said, “Impudent. A gentleman never goes back on his word, what kind of a question is that? I’ve really favored you too much on a daily basis!”
With this, Xu Lingyun finally stopped.
Li Xiao flipped a page of the book, finding the last place where Xu Lingyun had stopped -- the night battle of Feng Pass.
Coughing a few times, Xu Lingyun paused for a little, before suddenly opening his mouth and continuing, “That day Zhang Mu…”
Li Xiao, “Be silent.”
Xu Lingyun grinned a little, and then he said, “The book did not record this very clearly.”
and with that, happy new year to our impudent readers! – the (impudent) yingnu tl team
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), moon.