Hanging in the autumn sky, was a half-moon as clear as water.
(From Feitian) This chapter has BxG bridal chamber and so on, readers can just skip over this chapter.
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And speaking of Xu Lingyun, his low fever had already gone down when he woke up in the early morning. Recalling last night, he couldn't determine when he had fallen asleep; he could only vaguely remember reciting a paragraph of a book before he became muddle-headed and talked deliriously in his sleep. After questioning the eunuch outside the room, he learned that Li Xiao had been reading a book for the whole night until Lin Wan came looking for him, and they returned to the hall to get a rest.
Xu Lingyun ate his morning meal and stood in the imperial garden, lost in thought. With nothing to do, he wandered all over the place under the high wall on the Yanhe Hall's outer courtyard.
Yanhe Hall was divided into two courtyards, inner and outer. The inner side was where the emperor and the empress stayed, while the outer courtyard had several vacant rooms to provide temporary lodging for eunuchs waiting for their working shifts. The residence given to Xu Lingyun was one of those rooms.
Originally, according to the etiquette and standards set by the previous dynasty, every emperor, empress, prince, crown prince, and even empress dowager, all without exception, weren't allowed to live together with the palace people as they had their own servant quarters located behind the hall. Imperial guards weren't even allowed to randomly visit the inner palace during their shifts, and if they were off-duty, they had to return to their secluded courtyard and stay there.
However, since Yu Country's Taizu came from a family of martial artists, he didn't attach much emphasis to etiquette and such. Moreover, the reconstruction of the imperial palace in the capital city happened at the same time as the founding of the country; plenty of standards inside the palace set by the previous dynasty were abolished soon afterward. It went until the point when Chengzu Li Qingcheng succeeded the throne, the inner palace was even more out of order. Over time, these newly established standards spread; everyone followed various major rules but didn't completely adhere to the minor ones.
It wasn't until ten years ago that the Grand Secretariat Fufeng personally solved the corruption of those court eunuchs. He handed over an accounts book in the court containing the petition to purge the inner palace. Li Xiao put on an act, driving the already sparse court eunuchs away and punishing them, and since the palace population didn't prosper, the atmosphere turned cold and cheerless.
According to the rules, as a bodyguard —— a fully-grown, male imperial bodyguard at that, Xu Lingyun, in principle, shouldn't have lived in the palace. Yet, since his status was special, Li Xiao gave out an imperial decree; even the empress dowager thought this arrangement was proper and as it was meant to be. Ever since the Tongli Period, the Yingnu had always been a remarkable official post, and Zhang Mu, as the first person appointed as the Yingnu, was as inseparable as a shadow from the emperor, eating and drinking in the same place every day. As the shadow of the emperor, what was strange about the Yingnu living outside the Yanhe Hall?
Since the empress dowager didn't comment, nobody else dared to. However, Xu Lingyun was aware of the importance of this matter.
There was a passage on both the inner and the outer courtyard of the Yanhe Hall. Xu Lingyun had made up his mind and dared not to look for trouble by going inside the second gate; he was also very well-behaved on ordinary days and only moved about between the outer gate and the imperial garden. Without any matters to attend to, Lin Wan was also unlikely to come out. If she wanted to have a walk to the imperial garden, there would also be eunuchs opening the way and maids following behind, so once Xu Lingyun saw them from afar, he could avoid them first.
He might have not looked for trouble, but the trouble still looked for him.
Xu Lingyun stood under the wall. With his back against the high wall, he gazed at the dark-blue dome of the autumn sky, lost in thought. When he saw the vast sky turn bright and thousands of geese fly south, an unspeakable warmth welled up in his heart and gave delight to his eyes. Behind him was the inner garden of the hall, and from inside, Lin Wan's low voice traveled through.
Lin Wan: "Go and inform Assistant Minister Ting that he should not keep finding excuses to come into the palace again and again."
Xu Lingyun was alarmed at once.
In a low voice, a palace maid replied, "Yes."
Xu Lingyun looked left and right; there was no one. He knew that Lin Wan had many eyes and ears inside the hall. Since there were a lot of eunuchs and palace maids ready to serve inside the hall, she avoided them in the morning and brought her trusted aides to the corner of the garden to deliver some words, daring not to even write a letter to prevent people from using the information against her. However, despite her thousands upon thousands of meticulous calculations, she didn't anticipate that on the outer side of the hall, which was only separated by a wall, someone was actually listening.
Lin Wan continued, "Even if he comes, I will not meet him again either."
When the maid didn't reply, Lin Wan added, "Also tell him that this heart for him... has died. The fifteenth of the seventh month has passed; that night, he dared not to come and take me away. In this lifetime, there's no need for me to keep this little bit of delusion anymore. Lin Wan wishes him a lifetime of glory, splendor, honor, and prosperity, as well as a beautiful wife and a loving family blessed with many offspring."
Lin Wan sighed before instructing, "Go ba. If my guess is correct, today he will most likely go to the imperial study and wait by the pool outside the Minghuang ."
The maid answered. The sound then disappeared from inside the garden, and slowly, Xu Lingyun stood up.
"Lord Xu!" a eunuch from far away called.
On the inner and the outer side of the wall, both Lin Wan and Xu Lingyun's facial expressions changed. Xu Lingyun hurriedly motioned for the person to keep silent, but it was already too late. He walked over to the pavilion by the Taiye Pond at a fast pace and asked, "What's the matter? You're making such a big fuss this early in the morning."
"The Empress Dowager asked Lord Xu to come to have a talk."
Xu Lingyun's heartbeat quickened as he immediately followed the eunuch to the Yangxin Hall. Lin Wan's complexion turned deathly pale; she stood in the corner while gasping for breath for quite some time before she, baffled and bewildered, returned to the hall.
In the afternoon, Xu Lingyun came out of the Yangxin Hall carrying something. When he passed over the imperial study, he saw Ting Haisheng talking with a palace maid behind the rock garden. At the moment he hastily took a glimpse, he became unaware and nearly bumped into a person.
"Going somewhere?" Li Xiao coldly said.
Xu Lingyun was scared out of his wits when he heard Li Xiao's voice. He immediately clenched his hand, pressing the fist to the ground, and knelt on one knee. "This subject had just come over from the Yangxin Hall."
Li Xiao said, "Get up ba."
Li Xiao brought along two imperial bodyguards; it was obvious he had just finished discussing some matter in the imperial study and was about to return to the Yanhe Hall. Xu Lingyun gave a meaningful glance, and the guards consciously moved back, letting the two left behind, the monarch and his subject, walk in front.
Li Xiao said, "Why are you sneaking around, is there a matter that shouldn't be seen?"
Xu Lingyun smiled. "No."
Li Xiao suddenly turned around and asked, "What do you have in your bosom? What did Mother Empress bestow to you? Take it out, this king wants to have a look."
Xu Lingyun was stumped at first. He then raised his eyes to measure Li Xiao's complexion before awkwardly taking out a thing from his bosom —— two chi-squares of white silk to be spread on the bedding.
Li Xiao: "?"
Li Xiao couldn't understand. He took the white silk and examined it, asking, "What matters were you talking about before?"
Xu Lingyun squeaked out, "Your Majesty has been married for three nights, but still hasn't... hasn't consummated the marriage. The eunuchs dare not speak about it; the Empress Dowager asked what was going on and made this subject come..."
"You..." Li Xiao became so angry with nowhere to vent his anger, so he turned around and left.
"Your Majesty!" Xu Lingyun hurriedly caught up with him. "Your Majesty, please listen to what this lowly subject has to say."
The more Li Xiao thought about it, the angrier he became. He halted his steps and spoke, "How many things have you disclosed to the Empress Dowager?! This king is going to cut your tongue!"
"Your Majesty is clear that this subject hasn't spoken a single word!" Xu Lingyun felt wronged. "Your Majesty, please think about it carefully, isn't it obvious?"
"Impudent!" Li Xiao angrily roared. "Does this king need you to interfere with his matters? You really don't know the immensity of heaven and earth!"
Xu Lingyun tactfully didn't utter any more words. Li Xiao said, "Does the Empress Dowager think you're close to this king? Since other people dare not say it, she made you come and talk? Or is it that you have the courage of a dog that is enough to cover the heaven, assuming responsibility on your own and intending to persuade your master out of devotion to consummate his marriage? Hey, Xu Lingyun, your skin is pretty thick."
Xu Lingyun knelt down on one knee, ready to be punished. Li Xiao continued in a cold tone, "You relied on favor and turned arrogant. The saying 'unable to differentiate good from bad' is indeed suitable for you, you bootlicker official! One word from this king can lift you up, but one word can also send you to your doom! Why are you kneeling like that! Do it with both of your knees!"
Xu Lingyun softly said, "Your Majesty, the Yingnu's way of kowtowing to their master, has never used both knees. This is a rule set by Chengzu."
On the contrary, Li Xiao didn't say a word. His dragon boots made a rhythmical tap as he looked left and right, seemingly thinking about a word to deride Xu Lingyun. However, holding the white silk with both hands, Xu Lingyun earnestly said, "Your Majesty, forgive this subject for not knowing the immensity of heaven and earth, but this matter will have to be done sooner or later."
Li Xiao: "You... are really daring."
There was a hint of a smile in Xu Lingyun's eyes as he softly spoke, "This subject isn't afraid of death. Since ancient times, Yingnus have always been doing works that tantamount to courting death. This subject thinks that at that time, General Zhang had also said to Chengzu......"
Li Xiao's tone was gloomy and cold. "Say what?"
Xu Lingyun: "If you don't get married, I won't go into battle."
Li Xiao was silent. Xu Lingyun added, "After Chengzu's marriage, General Zhang Mu still dared to say, 'You must consummate the marriage. This matter will have to be done sooner or later.' This subject deserves to die a thousand deaths for his crime of bumping into Your Majesty; this subject is loyal and willing to die for Your Majesty. Asking Your Majesty to please punish this subject for his crime."
Li Xiao took a deep breath and thought about it before instructing, "Guards."
The guards at the back had heard some words, but they didn't know what was going on and just came over to obey the order. Li Xiao brushed off his sleeves and said, "Put Yingnu on death row. Tomorrow at the wu period, escort and chop off his head. No need to tell this king."
Saying so, he looked at Xu Lingyun with a meaningful gaze and coldly added, "This end suits you; this king enters the bridal chamber while you go to the execution ground. See you in the next life, Xu Lingyun."
After that, he turned around and left, while Xu Lingyun was dragged away by the two imperial guards.
Passing over the imperial garden, they came across Lin Wan's trusted maid who had finished talking with Ting Haisheng. In a low whisper, Xu Lingyun told that maid, "Go back bringing this message. That thing inside the small box from the fifteenth of the eighth lunar month, there is still another copy of it. Please remember by all means."
That palace maid's complexion turned deathly pale as she saw Xu Lingyun being dragged to death row with her own eyes. Staggeringly, she rushed back to the Yanhe Hall.
Xu Lingyun was taken to death row. A jailer had fetched a prisoner garment, but no one dared to finish the job, for fear that the temperamental Son of Heaven would change his mind, implicating and killing their group of people instead.
Xu Lingyun said, "I won't change ba. I have to go out again tomorrow." Saying so, he personally picked up a wine cup from the jailer's table, fiddling with the cup while entering the prison, then poured himself a drink inside.
Li Xiao was like a mandrill that couldn't sit still. One moment he would get up and sit in the garden, and next he would return to the hall and pace around. Finally, inside the hall, he poured himself a drink and drank a lot of wine.
"Get out!" Li Xiao was drunk as he expelled people.
Frightened to the point their bodies jumped, the eunuchs looked at Lin Wan who was sitting in front of the couch. Lin Wan pursed her lips, her delicate face turning crimson.
Li Xiao was truly very angry. He originally hadn't had enough sleep last night, and early in the morning, he had been impeached by Lin Yi and those officials. Lin Yi confiscated the accounts book containing the details for the Autumn Hunt, while those officials knelt down in the palace courtyard, refusing to get up as each and every single one of them cited classics —— they rained sentence upon sentence that seemingly pointed at the mulberry tree while actually cursing at the locust tree, secretly criticizing and pouring dog's blood on Li Xiao.
The Ministry of Revenue even clearly stated there were severe droughts and crop failures in Jiangnan, and that this year, the national treasury was empty. The grand wedding had cost a lot of money, and if His Majesty wanted the Autumn Hunt to happen, then he would be asked to pay for it himself.
Li Xiao was muddled-headed after drinking wine, and he just wanted to lift the table and smash things up; he really didn't know how he must act as an emperor. He wasn't willing to get married, while the Autumn Hunt was the one thing he always constantly thought about. But in the end, the marriage was inexplicably and bafflingly done, and the money was still put on him. On the contrary, he hadn't been out of the palace gate for six years, yet for the Autumn Hunt that he had been looking forward to for a long time, there was actually no budget.
This was simply more than he could bear!
By the time he returned to the hall, there was yet another Xu Lingyun who made him feel even more stressed; he was even frank and straightforward this time! Tomorrow, the Yingnu's head would be chopped off and nobody would even dare think about it again, and the arctic gyr, which had been raised for 200 years, would also finally be released.
No, Li Xiao's anger didn't subside.
"Someone!" Li Xiao drunkenly said.
The eunuchs, still trembling with fear, came in once more. When Li Xiao was about to open his mouth, Lin Wan suddenly said, "Your Majesty."
Li Xiao raised his eyebrows, signaling to Lin Wan that if she had something to say, then just say it. Lin Wan softly said, "Since ancient times, we have only had a period of prosperity and virtuous monarchs. Officials have never dared to make fun of the Son of Heaven. This lowly wife doesn't know what the Yingnu has done to offend......"
Li Xiao cut the conversation. "What my beloved wife said is correct. This king won't behead him. Transmit this king's order, bring the Yingnu over."
Li Xiao planned to look for something to vent out his feelings, intending to give Xu Lingyun a beating with his own hands. He made a circle around the room and suddenly lost interest, letting out a sigh and sitting on the couch.
Lin Wan said in a low voice, "Your Majesty, spare him ba, it's already the third night period." With that, she gently undid Li Xiao's collar.
Li Xiao was so drunk, he also didn't know what he was doing.
This matter had to be done sooner or later, else it would drag on and on; he also didn't know when it would end. Li Xiao had been living for 22 years, and this was the first time he thought that becoming an emperor was thoroughly senseless.
Li Xiao hastily took off his robe and went to bed. Not a moment after, his face and ears turned crimson. He rigidly stared at the floor, gasping for breath and lost in thought.
"Your Majesty......" Lin Wan's soft voice said.
Li Xiao's eyes were filled with sorrow, and he knew that he couldn't vent his anger on Lin Wan, so he turned around and said, "Did this king hurt you?"
Lin Wan shook her head, and Li Xiao simply pulled up the quilt for her. When he was about to get up, he suddenly remembered something and turned his head.
"You... Lin Wan," Li Xiao said in a deep voice. "This king doesn't remember what your father had said..."
Lin Wan bit her lower lip in silence. A short moment later, she stretched out her hand under the pillow, where there was a sharp iron hairpin lay hidden beneath. Her finger made a rustling sound as she touched it in preparation for her to cut her own finger, but when she was still trying to figure out how to uncover the white silk on the couch, Li Xiao heaved out a long sigh and said, "That's all."
Lin Wan looked up in disbelief, only to see that Li Xiao had gotten up and was wearing his robe and carelessly putting on his belt. When the eunuchs came up to serve him, Li Xiao coldly said, "Withdraw, all of you, we'll talk about it tomorrow."
The eunuchs bowed and withdrew. Still feeling agitated, Li Xiao turned his head and said, "This king is going to take a walk, you go rest ba."
Lin Wan was still scared shitless when she lay down. Li Xiao added, "Regarding the Empress Dowager, this king will personally go and say it."
Only at this point did Lin Wan finally breathe out a sigh of relief; she was tired to the bone.
Li Xiao pushed open the door and stepped into the garden. Outside the door, a guard suddenly raised his head, his eyebrows slightly furrowed.
Li Xiao: "When did you get here?"
Xu Lingyun: "Just now. This subject has been keeping watch."
In a small voice, Li Xiao asked, "Did you hear all that?"
Xu Lingyun nodded his head.
Li Xiao didn't expect Xu Lingyun would actually be this close at hand. He took a deep breath, and as he frowned, he spoke in a whisper, "This king still doesn't want to have a fall out with the Lin family. Xu, Ling, Yun. If you dare talk nonsense in front of the Empress Dowager again..."
Xu Lingyun took out a neatly folded yet stained-with-blood white silk. Furthermore, there was an inconspicuous scratch on his arm which wound had already closed up.
Li Xiao stood quietly, and Xu Lingyun looked at him and said nothing either.
Li Xiao took the white silk. "Thank you, beloved minister Xu."
"Beloved minister?" The corners of Xu Lingyun's mouth gently curled up. He shook his head and turned around to leave. "If Your Majesty has no more instructions, this subject requests to be excused; he will return to the prison and stay there."
Li Xiao sighed. "Keep this king company while he's walking ba."
The two people stopped by the Taiye Pond during the third night period. Li Xiao said, "You also sit, this king permits you to have a seat."
Xu Lingyun also didn't refuse and sat down. The monarch and subject sat side by side, yet neither was opening their mouth to speak.
After sitting for a long time, Li Xiao got up and left. Xu Lingyun again showed a stupefied expression before going back to his room alone.
People dispersed, and hanging in the autumn sky, was a half-moon as clear as water.
I AM SAD I AM SAD I AM SAD I AM SAD I AM SAD I AM SAD I AM SAD I AM SAD I AM SAD I AM SAD I AM SAD
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Elestrea.