The tip of Li Ying’s tall nose was facing him.
Yun Qingci was not surprised by Li Ying’s first words. When he took Li Ying to destroy the Empress Dowager that day, he realized that she was probably not his birth mother.
He had never heard of any mother who would arrange such an initiation for their child.
But the second sentence really surprised him. At that moment, his mind was full of thoughts, but it quickly became empty. The information he got was too little, and there was no way to infer what Li Ying wanted to convey through this passage. .
“Let’s talk about my eldest brother first.”
Yun Qingci said, “What do you mean, even you didn’t know anything?”
He was confused. Li Ying sighed slightly and said, “Because when your eldest brother ‘died’, I was not yet born.”
When Li Ying ascended the throne, he secretly took over an organization directly delegated to the Son of Heaven, named Qi Renwei. He had been the crown prince for many years, but he didn’t know until the moment he ascended the throne that there was a group of such people under his father.
Qi Renwei had an intelligence department, as well as a torture and killing department, and the screening of the personnel was very rigorous. But as long as it was Qi Renwei, they were collectively referred to as “odd people”. Some of these people were very old, and they were unknowingly doing something for Qi Renwei, admitted only after proving that they were absolutely trustworthy.
And some, like Yun Qingci’s eldest brother, had been admitted since they were young and sent away on secret missions, due to the unconditional loyalty of their families.
Yun Qingci grabbed the corner of his clothes and asked, “What mission?”
“He is in Beichen.”
A Jing man lying in wait in Beichen, it was almost self-evident what he was doing. Li Ying said: “I have never met him, but I exchanged many letters with him until one day I learned that his identity was exposed and he was captured.”
Then there was torture and sacrifice.
It was as if he had never existed, except in those letters that gave a vague glimpse of what kind of man he was.
He had no funeral and no corpse left. Li Ying secretly sent someone to Beichen to retrieve his body, but failed.
“Later, your father told me that it was your eldest brother. Because he wanted it to be absolutely secret, he always used a fake name in his identity file.” Li Ying said, “Your father said I didn’t need to know who he was or where he was born. As long as I knew everything he had done for the country, it was enough.”
Yun Qingci blinked his wet eyelashes and asked, “Then why did he tell you?”
“This involves another matter.” Li Ying recalled and said, “That time I drove you out, and you forced teacher to come and beg me, in fact, that night, we talked the whole night.”
Yun Qingci was stunned: “So, you guys, at that time…”
“Already made peace.” Li Ying looked at him and said, “That’s why he was willing to tell me later that that person was your eldest brother.”
Yun Qingci felt a little awkward and asked, “Then how is my eldest brother now?”
“I have sent someone to deliver a letter and told him not to act rashly. There may be a spy from Beichen mixed in the palace.”
In a flash of lightning, Yun Qingci understood what Ruan Lian had asked him: “So, so Ruan Lian…”
“I’ve got him under control, but your eldest brother was captured in the previous life, and he was definitely not targeted overnight. His identity most likely has been suspected. Even if he does not do anything, it is not safe to stay in Beichen.”
“You will save him, right?”
Yun Qingci stared at him insistently: “Li Ying, will he be okay?”
“He will.” Li Ying held his hand and gave him a positive reply.
Yun Qingci lowered his eyelashes, and after a while, he said, “What did you talk about with my father that night? Why didn’t he tell me, why didn’t you tell me? I always thought that he caused your anger because of me… that’s why you arrested him.”
“He probably hoped that you would understand his painstaking efforts. You refused to communicate with him at that time. He might have wanted to use this matter to make you understand that your family loved you very much and even didn’t hesitate to offend me for your sake… Moreover, he always wanted you and me to be separated. If things became more serious, perhaps you wouldn’t want to be with me anymore.”
“What about you?” Yun Qingci said, “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“You were like water and fire with the Yun family at that time. If you knew… that I talked with your father all night, what would you do?”
What would he have done?
Yun Qingci thought he’d probably feel that in Li Ying’s heart, his father was more important than him. He could accept that Li Ying was afraid of the Yun family, but he couldn’t accept that Li Ying was close to the people he hated.
He would have been disheartened and hit hard. After all, the person who drove him out was Li Ying, and the person he respected more than him was the murderer who indirectly killed his mother.
He would probably resist his father even more because of this, and with Li Ying, they would definitely quarrel again.
“But it’s my fault.” Li Ying stared at him and said, “I should have confessed to you. I shouldn’t have given up telling the truth because I was afraid of making you angry. It was because I didn’t pay attention to you. If I could communicate with you more… we would definitely not get to that point.”
Yun Qingci glanced at him, his eyes reddened slightly. Li Ying’s heart ached, he said dumbly: “Ah Ci, it doesn’t matter if you stab me but… don’t, don’t cry.”
Yun Qingci looked away, his clear eyes filled with translucent tears, as he said, “Tell me about Empress Dowager Zhang, when did you know about her?”
“After what happened to your eldest brother, our relationship with Beichen became tense. I was sure that Beichen must have planted a spy in Shangyang. When I started the investigation, I found out that it had something to do with the Zhang family.”
“I told teacher about this, and he told me that he also found something… It concerned my origin. If nothing else, your father likely started getting suspicions when you and I got married. At first, everyone was confused. Everyone thought that the Empress Dowager arranged this matter to counterbalance the Prime Minister’s Mansion. In fact, what else was it if not a disguise to make me wifeless?” He said and then looked at Yun Qingci’s expression, adding softly, “I am talking about dynastic affairs now, this is just an analysis, not really about marrying a wife.”
Now that he’d learned to be careful, Yun Qingci glanced at him and said, “I am not a child, I can understand what you are talking about.”
Li Ying’s gaze was fixed on his face, and it took him a while to continue: “In the past four years, you have become more and more domineering, but the Empress Dowager had no intention of stopping you. She was very close to you. Your father also noticed that something was wrong. In addition to using you to provoke the relationship between us, she was also using you to prevent me from trying to have an heir.”
“She didn’t know you…”
Li Ying shook his head, “Before, I was the only one to know. Now, it’s only you and me.”
With a secret buried in his heart for two lifetimes, Yun Qingci deliberately said, “It’s not a secret if you tell it. In the future, I will let everyone know about it.”
Li Ying curved his lips gently: “As you wish.”
He was so calm. Yun Qingci felt a little uncomfortable. He kicked Li Ying under the quilt and said, “Continue.”
“After discussing with teacher, I started to investigate, but too much time passed, it was not easy to find out anything. There was nothing special about medical case files.” Li Ying said: “The Zhang family’s affairs had to be dealt with, but it was not the time to deal with them yet. After that, the frontier was attacked. There was war and internal and external troubles. I could only deal with them. In those days, you should remember, I was in the council chamber every day, I didn’t even have time to eat. Your third brother volunteered to go to the battlefield, and Zhang Siyong went with him.”
Yun Qingci nodded.
Li Ying said: “The day you showed me the porcelain, I was busy with these things. Later, I went out in person to invite experts to design military drawings… Of course, I don’t want to say that I was very busy, so I should have ignored you, but that time, I really didn’t mean it.”
Yun Qingci looked at him for a while, nodded slowly and said, “Why didn’t you tell me that your mother probably was not related to you by blood?”
“One thing was that there was no evidence, and the other… I told you once by chance but you didn’t take it to heart. I thought I could handle my own affairs by myself. I didn’t need to make you worry about me, and you have been learning things during that time. It was rare for you to calm down, and I didn’t want to bother you.”
As soon as Yun Qingci opened his mouth, Li Ying said, “But this is still my fault. I am self-absorbed and self-righteous, causing you to act like a fool without knowing anything… It’s all my fault.”
Yun Qingci: “…”
Li Ying summed up everything he was going to say, making him choke on his words.
Li Ying observed him for a short while and said, “Later, after you returned to the palace, we didn’t get along very well. I would yield to you in anything you wanted… Except for Ning Rou. I tried to tell you about Ning Rou’s affairs but you were always getting angry, or I was at fault.”
Yun Qingci took in too much news at once and couldn’t make sense of it: “Ning Rou, what?”
“You always say that I made her an imperial concubine in order to restrain you. This was not my intention.” Li Ying had never said so much to him. He ordered someone to bring tea, took a sip and said, “Ning Rou was the best person in the entire harem. You always say that other concubines are silent and afraid of you, but they are not as good as Ning Rou. I promoted Ning Rou to contain those concubines. They thought I was using Ning Rou to deal with you, so they would watch from the fence.”
“Everyone would look forward to Ning Rou climbing on your head and becoming a thorn in your flesh. The two of you would fight and they would reap the profits. Only when you’re evenly matched, do they take action. You have seen them like that today; when they were about to leave the palace, their true characters were revealed.”
“So, I promoted Ning Rou. I told you this many times, because she was a straw puppet, she… couldn’t be your opponent.”
He paid attention to Yun Qingci’s expression, and when he saw him frown, he immediately admitted his mistake: “But this is also my fault. You didn’t believe me because I always hurt you. Ah Ci… these things are really my true thoughts.”
He glanced at Li Ying. He understood that Li Ying was telling the truth now, there was no point for him to lie anymore. He said, “I am thirsty too.”
Li Ying was taken aback for a moment, then turned around and poured a glass of water and handed it over. Yun Qingci didn’t take it. Li Ying held it with one hand and fed it to his mouth.
After drinking a glass of water, Yun Qingci was a little satisfied and said, “Okay, no matter what, you have your own reasons, and I won’t argue with you.”
It was useless to argue. These past things were entangled in all kinds of messes. If you wanted to say who was right and who was wrong, you needed to waste a lot of words.
Everyone had their own position. Since Li Ying was willing to tell him, he would listen as long as he felt happy. And if he felt unhappy, he would say a few words to him.
“I won’t forgive you anyway,” Yun Qingci said, “Is there anything else to say?”
Li Ying didn’t expect him to forgive so easily.
He lowered his head and said softly: “Then, after a few years of fighting, it was chaotic outside. I couldn’t dispose of the Zhang family till the great victory at the border and the return of your third brother with his troops. Then I began to formally collect evidence of the Zhang family’s guilt.”
“I discovered that the Zhang family had colluded with Beichen and wanted to usurp the throne.”
“This discovery shocked me extremely, so I could only continue to investigate in depth. Beichen was probably infiltrating Shangyang through the Zhang family for a long time, and so it took a long time and energy to find all their dens one by one.”
In order to ensure that it was foolproof, he demonstrated absolute patience until……
Li Ying lowered his eyelashes and said, “Until, teacher and I decided to create a scene to lead the snake out of the hole.”
“So, what is the reason why you didn’t tell me?”
“Because this matter was complicated, and if one more person knew it, it would be more dangerous. Also, I was selfish.” Li Ying’s tone became heavier: “Teacher and I both thought that this kind of play would be more realistic.”
“So you threw me into the Cold Palace?” Yun Qingci raised his eyebrows and said with great interest: “There was no shortage of clothing and food. Was it also because you were afraid the other party would not believe your play? After all, the Empress Dowager knew very clearly what the feelings between us were.”
“It was one of the reasons, but also, you have been clothed and fed well since you were a child. I couldn’t treat you badly at least on this point.” Li Ying’s eyelashes trembled as he said, “I sent someone to protect you secretly. I also visited you secretly to make sure you were all right. In order to allow time for the Zhang family to start with their plans in the palace, I went to the imperial mausoleum on the grounds of having a dream of my father, but when I came back… I didn’t know that the people who protected you were killed on the very day I left the Forbidden City. And I learned that a few days later you…”
He closed his eyes, his temples throbbing frantically.
“I don’t know who killed them. Those two people were my personal guards. Their skills were not small. What kind of people could make them unable to fight back… Me, I don’t know.”
Yun Qingci’s eyes widened slightly.
His face suddenly became weird.
“You sent someone to protect me?”
“Yes, I sent two secret guards.” Li Ying’s expression was very painful. That incident was a memory that he didn’t dare to touch. When he mentioned it, his head ached: “I thought… when this matter was over, I would find a day to tell you everything.”
However, what he arrived at was bad news.
He held his head tightly; the pain was so excruciating that he couldn’t pay attention to Yun Qingci’s expression at the moment.