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When Li Ying changed his clothes and came back, Yun Qingci was already asleep.
For him, it was already a great surprise that Yun Qingci agreed to stay today thus he did not bother the other party.
That night, Yun Qingci did not dream.
There was no court session in the morning. Yun Qingci was lying in bed, but he didn’t hear the sounds of sword practice. He sat up and saw Li Ying practicing calligraphy at the table. His fingers were slender and powerful, and he always looked very calm and leisurely when he was holding a brush.
But today, he seemed a bit strained.
Yun Qingci walked over and said, “Is it too hot inside?”
The brush smeared the paper suddenly, like a knife against a rough stone surface, leaving a long mark.
Li Ying sank back in the chair as if boneless.
Yun Qingci saw it and chuckled: “Why, did I scare you? It’s just calligraphy. Didn’t you practice enough in your previous life, why are you so focused?”
He seemed to be in a good mood and without waiting for the other party to respond, he ordered someone to prepare water to wash.
He sat down at the table to eat without waiting for Li Ying and said when he saw him coming, “What are you doing, going so slowly? Are you an old man, huh?”
Li Ying quickened his steps, sat down and said, “If you have any place you want to go, I can accompany you today.”
“You accompany me?” Yun Qingci said, “You want to ruin my mood?”
Li Ying nodded and did not answer.
“I hope Your Majesty understands that my promise not to leave for the time being does not mean that I will not leave at all. My promise to stay does not mean that I have forgiven you. I accept all your explanations, and yes, it all makes sense, but I still want you to think carefully about what is going on between us.”
He paused and asked casually, “The Qing Division, do you still need it?”
Li Ying’s words yesterday made him feel that the Qing Division was redundant, as if it was just a brightly lit Qi Renwei, nothing more than a smokescreen for those ‘odd people’.
“Qi Renwei doesn’t do what the Qing Division does,” Li Ying said slowly: “At the beginning, I was worried that you would be wronged in the palace. Even if you didn’t have good relations with your father, you needed to have trusted subordinates. Therefore, I encouraged you to create the Qing Division for it to collect intelligence and let you see more things outside.”
“Got it, you coaxed me to play.” Yun Qingci said with a smile. Li Ying could only say, “No, the Qing Division did play a very important role later.”
“Yeah, otherwise you wouldn’t cheat it away from me.”
“…I didn’t cheat you.”
Explain it as you like. Anyway, Yun Qingci didn’t care about the words he said. He scooped up a spoon of yam porridge and put it in his mouth, then said, “I still want to live at home.”
He wondered if that strange dream could only be continued if he went home, otherwise how could he sleep in Jiangshan Palace for so long without dreaming of anything?
He had a weird hunch that there might be something very important in that big box.
He needed to climb up and take a clear look next time.
“As long as there is no peaceful separation, I will comply with you.”
“Really? Can I stay in the Prime Minister’s Mansion?”
“…” Li Ying didn’t speak, but his tight compressed lips curved slightly into a very sad arc.
Yun Qingci’s mood suddenly improved.
“By the way, you said before, the two dark guards sent to protect me… are they still serving you?”
“Yes,” Li Ying said, “I’ll give them to you if you want.”
“No, no need,” Yun Qingci said, “Be kind to them.”
Li Ying looked at him.
Yun Qingci: “…I mean that after all, they were sacrificed to perform their task for you. Shouldn’t you treat them kindly?”
Something flickered in Li Ying’s eyes, and then he nodded: “I know.”
“Well, then I will go back after dinner. I want to live in my mother’s courtyard when spring comes.”
He went there every year, from the time the peach blossoms budded till the time the peach blossoms were gone. Although it would be a few more days before the peach blossom budded, he mainly didn’t want to stay with Li Ying.
Li Ying agreed, and Yun Qingci said again: “These things between us, you can take some time to think about them.”
“Tell me when you’re done thinking.”
“…” Li Ying stopped talking.
Before leaving, Li Ying asked him, “Are you going to see Ruan Lian?”
“No,” Yun Qingci said, “But I am curious about one thing, when did you start suspecting him?”
“That day when he said he came from Lingzhou. I remembered that later, it was after you were gone, I personally led an army to conquer Beichen, and from a captive, I found out that your eldest brother’s identity was leaked by a spy who claimed to be from Lingzhou. I just didn’t expect that he had actually infiltrated the palace so early.”
Yun Qingci recalled for a moment, looked at him and said, “Will you keep your promise?”
He meant that the eldest brother would come back alive.
Li Ying raised his head; his eyes were deep and firm: “I will.”
Yun Qingci left the Forbidden City, while Li Ying went to the dungeon. After a round of interrogation, Ruan Lian was covered in blood, his long hair scattered, and his handsome face was also bloodied.
“Lord Empress, Lord Empress…” he murmured unconsciously, and immediately someone stepped forward and poured a bucket of water on him.
Ruan Lian woke up, raised his eyes to meet Li Ying’s gaze, and his expression overflowed with familiar sarcasm: “Your Majesty is so jealous, using his power to slander this Ruan and not hesitating to lower himself to personally force a confession. You are so despicable and shameless, if only the Lord Empress knew ……”
“You don’t have to work this hard to irritate me.”
Li Ying sat down on the chair, his expression looking a little lazy: “You know perfectly well what you did. You want to harm his eldest brother, and you still think that he will come to save you. Dream on.”
Ruan Lian said weakly: “I didn’t… I just asked casually, I didn’t know…”
“Pei Yue,” Li Ying said, “Third prince of Beichen, did your father not love your mother that much that you actually had to personally go deep into the enemy camp?”
“Your Majesty, this Ruan doesn’t understand what Your Majesty is talking about.”
Li Ying looked through the papers in his hands and said, “I already know the urgent news. In June last year, the crown prince of Beichen died and was greatly mourned. As soon as he died, your father would have to appoint a new crown prince. The imperial family of Beichen was in turmoil and all your brothers wanted to become the crown prince. Your mother was just a slave and died early, and you have no family by your side. In order to avoid the limelight, you went straight into danger to gather intelligence, but in fact it was not entirely to avoid the limelight.”
“You knew very well that as long as you uncover the secret informants that Jing had buried in Beichen, you will be reappointed, and this was the only way for you to free yourself from the title of the son of a lowly servant girl,” Li Ying said, “After all, your father likes to say that heroes aren’t asked about their origin.”
Ruan Lian slowly raised his head.
His eyes became dark and gloomy, and his face that was said to be like a bright moon and clear wind also became terrifying.
Li Ying looked at him raising the corners of his mouth, then suddenly got up and said lightly: “There is no need to interrogate again, give him something to eat and drink.”
“How could you know, how can it be possible, why did you…”
Li Ying went out of the dungeon and threw the papers he was holding to Liu Ziru; not a word was written there.
He did catch a captive in his previous life. At that time Beichen had already re-appointed the Crown Prince, and it was Pei Yue. What the captive said was not that the spy had infiltrated deep into Shangyang, but that the Crown Prince of Beichen had infiltrated into Shangyang alone.
Li Ying asked about the details at that time, but in the end the prisoner could only tell the place of origin Pei Yue used when he was undercover. He didn’t say that the spy had settled directly in the imperial palace.
In his previous life, Li Ying had never paid attention to this musician in the palace. After his rebirth he was investigating the people from Lingzhou around the Zhang family. But he didn’t expect the spy to have the courage to enter the palace.
If Yun Qingci hadn’t taken a glance at him, Li Ying wouldn’t have noticed him.
Previously, he had only heard of Pei Yue’s ‘bright moon and clear wind’ looks and how enamored the Beichen women were with him, but he had never met him.
The man was sinister; this was how Li Ying felt when he fought him.
After Yun Qingci left, he reorganized his memories of his previous life and backtracked carefully. When he spoke to Pei Yue, the man was cautious and alert, and he did lie about his identity.
Pei Yue cared very much about the fact that he was born to a maidservant, and because of this, he always had the noblest demeanor, making him stand out among the Northerners, and he was even more conspicuous among his rugged brothers.
After Yun Qingci had praised him for his good manners, Li Ying felt weird. He was just a musician, so who could teach him this demeanor?
He really wanted Yun Qingci to look at Pei Yue’s dark and terrifying face and to see what the man he thought to be pure like ice and clean like jade really looked like.
It was a pity that Yun Qingci didn’t care about him.
Yun Qingci… didn’t care about him.
The pain was unrelenting, but Li Ying’s eyes suddenly softened.
On the first night Yun Qingci returned to the Prime Minister’s Mansion, he dreamed of the underground palace again.
This time he came prepared, and he climbed up the high platform without hesitation, grabbed the edge of the box and carefully looked into it.
There was a person lying in the box, the one Yun Qingci was very familiar with; but if two of them met one day, Yun Qingci would shiver with fright.
This man was dressed in a silver robe made of unfamiliar fabric. It glowed with a divine light under the illumination of the radiant pearls in the dome. His clothes were adorned with countless pearls and gold thread. It was graceful and dignified, yet it was still a bright and striking outfit.
Yun Qingci stretched out his hand to touch that person’s face and it passed through his palm.
This was his face.
He looked up at the dome above him again and understood in a daze that this underground palace might be his mausoleum.
It was a double sarcophagus, and a very large one. He occupied one side of it, with the lid half-closed. His body was supposed to turn into ashes but instead, it was very clean as if someone came to wash it from time to time.
Why didn’t I rot?
Yun Qingci climbed in and observed himself from head to foot. He couldn’t smell anything and he didn’t know if his body smelled. It was difficult to tell how long he had been dead like this, although he looked like he’d just died.
He laid down on his back for a while and then got out to see the underground palace. It was quite big, with several niche rooms, but its stone gate was closed and he couldn’t get out; otherwise he would look at some other places.
Suddenly there was a sound, and Yun Qingci immediately ran over to see someone carrying a dim lamp walk in.
“Li Ying.” Yun Qingci was startled for a moment.
It was Li Ying but it didn’t seem to be Li Ying. His hair was gray. If it weren’t for his face, Yun Qingci would almost think that he was old.
He put the lamp in the groove in front of the sarcophagus, then naturally slipped into the coffin and laid inside.
Yun Qingci immediately followed, grabbed the coffin and looked in: “You are not allowed to touch me, do you hear me?!”
“What are you pretending for, what do you have to pretend for when the person is dead? Did you cherish me when I was alive?” Yun Qingci cursed nastily, even though Li Ying couldn’t hear a word of it. He watched the man’s hand reach to his face, then he tumbled in at once, trying to push Li Ying away, to no avail.
He was furious, but saw that the other man only vaguely brushed his cheek, not really touching it.
Yun Qingci became even angrier: “You dare to dislike me?”
Li Ying withdrew his hand restrainedly.
“If you were here, you wouldn’t want me to touch you, would you?”
“Yes.” Yun Qingci muttered, frowning. He saw Li Ying lie on his side, his breathing slowing. He observed Li Ying’s expression and began to wonder again: “Do I stink?”
“Don’t sleep with me.”
When Yun Qingci woke up, Yinxi had already opened the curtain of the bed and looked at him blankly, “Lord Empress, what did you just say?”
“…did I say anything?” Yun Qingci got out of bed, touched his mouth and said, “I didn’t say anything.”
He got up and went to the main hall. His father was drinking tea in the courtyard. Yun Qingci thought for a while, then walked over and called, “Father.”
“You’re up,” Prime Minister Yun said, “Why are you so late, you child, your brothers have all gone out early.”
“I’m used to it.” Yun Qingci thought for a while. He moved a chair, put it next to his father and said, “Father, let me ask you something.”
Prime Minister Yun looked lazy and said, “What’s the matter?”
“Have you really never visited my mother once?”
He stared at his father and suddenly realized that there was a faint trace of guilty conscience on his face. Prime Minister Yun straightened up slightly and said, “You won’t let me go, and she won’t let me go either. I… naturally I haven’t been there.”
Yun Qingci smiled.
He thought, if you really like Mother so much, how could you hold back from visiting her.
Prime Minister Yun glanced at him and said, “What are you laughing at?”
“Nothing.” Yun Qingci picked up his tea and suddenly said, “I was near the small ancestral hall that day. Did father know I was outside?”
“…” Prime Minister Yun was silent for a while.
The scent on Yun Qingci’s body was brought out of the palace and it was easy to distinguish. Prime Minister Yun did not know about him in the beginning, but after he stood there for a long time, Prime Minister Yun naturally smelled something different.
His sentence ‘If I ask him, will he let me come to see you’ was actually deliberate.
“Hey.” Yun Qingci touched the sachet on his body and said softly: “I want to go to see mother later. I wonder if Dad wants to go with me?”
For fear that he would regret it, Prime Minister Yun stood up at once and ran inside with his eyes red: “You wait, I’ll change clothes.”
Yun Qingci smiled, picked up the teacup on the table and poured himself a cup of morning tea.
In the past, Yun Qingci went there alone, or the three brothers went together, or Prime Minister Yun went secretly by himself. To the outside world, he said that he had never been there once.
Who knows if he was adhering to some principle or if he was afraid that Yun Qingci would find out and say some cruel things.
Perhaps the latter was more likely.
In his previous life, if Yun Qingci heard that his father secretly went to visit his mother’s grave, he would probably rush to the Prime Minister’s mansion to lash out with sarcastic remarks. He would laugh at Prime Minister Yun’s breaking his word and would harp on the things that might seem harmless to others.
To everyone, that kind of Yun Qingci might be making a mountain out of a molehill, but he never changed his mind on the things he had decided, nor would he think about them from another perspective.
The thing is when you hate a person, no matter what they do, it can be interpreted as malice.
Now, Yun Qingci didn’t think much about it and suddenly even felt a little bit of warmth at the thought of his father secretly visiting his mother.
Prime Minister Yun did not just go by himself, but he also ordered his three other sons, asking them to go with him.
As the family rode in a carriage along the official road, Prime Minister Yun’s expression was sometimes heavy and sometimes anxious, his eyes always moist. Yun Qingci gave him a handkerchief and then gave him his second brother’s handkerchief. “Are you happy or unhappy?” he asked.
“Your mother, if she knew you asked me to visit her, would she be angry?”
“I don’t know.” Yun Qingci mused for a while and said thoughtfully: “But I think she wouldn’t want to see me like I was before.”
To see that I wanted to die for a man and finally lost my life for him.
In fact, Yun Qingci hadn’t thought about what his mother would think of his temperament in his previous life. Li Ying treated him well, so he forgot everything else.
Li Ying hated his extremes, but Yun Qingci hated his indifference. Li Ying loved his gentleness, while Yun Qingci longed and cherished his thoughtfulness.
He both loved and hated Li Ying in his previous life. If he loved more, Li Ying… would probably hate him more.
As the wife of Prime Minister Yun, Qin Feiruo remained his wife even after her death. They did not formally divorce, but just lived separately. Therefore, she had a mausoleum, which was not as large as the underground palace seen in Yun Qingci’s dream, but its size and the funeral items there were not to be underestimated.
The children stepped forward and lit incense, and after that, they let Prime Minister Yun stay there alone.
When their old father came out, his eyes were swollen, but his expression seemed to be much calmer. He choked and said, “It can be regarded as a family reunion.”
“There is still…“ Before Yun Qingci finished speaking, he remembered that Li Ying had said Qi Renwei was a top-secret matter. Under the puzzled stares of his elder brothers, he suddenly jumped on the second brother’s back and said loudly: “Carry me! I’m exhausted, hurry up, take me to Jinyalou to eat delicious food!”
Yun Qingxiao sneered: “You’re so heavy, let them carry you.”
“You didn’t even carry me when I was a kid…”
“Father never carried you either.”
“He is getting older.”
“Okay, okay, second brother is not strong enough, I will carry you.” Yun Qingsu patted the small of his back; and the next second, he saw Yun Qingxiao lift Yun Qingci without saying a word and walk out of the mausoleum.
Yun Qingsu, who was squatting on the ground: “?”
Yun Qingjue patted him on the shoulder: “How can you say that second brother can’t do it?”
“No.” Yun Qingsu hurriedly caught up: “Second brother, I’m not saying that you can’t do it, I’m saying that Xiao Ci is too heavy…”
Yun Qingci snorted. Yun Qingsu closed his mouth and said, “I want to help you.”
Yun Qingxiao said coldly: “No need.”
“All right, all right,” Yun Qingjue said, “Take turns carrying. Second brother, if you are tired, just say it, don’t hold back.”
They kept bickering, none of them questioning why Yun Qingci couldn’t walk but needed to be carried on someone’s back.
Yun Qingci didn’t argue with them either. Anyway, his physical strength was really not good, and he would start to gasp for breath when he walked too far.
He slumped on the back of his second brother and turned his head to look back. Prime Minister Yun walked there, lagging far behind.
When they reached the carriage, his second brother put him down, straightened his back and said solemnly: “Next time you want me to carry you, you have to be lighter.”
“It’s fine,” Yun Qingci said, “In the past I used to accompany His Majesty to see the late emperor. The imperial mausoleum is so big, and he carried me back and forth, and he didn’t say that I was heavy.”
Yun Qingjue pushed his head: “Do you want to separate or not?”
Yun Qingci said seriously: “I’ll be frank, it seems that second brother’s physical strength is just not good.”
Yun Qingxiao looked at him solemnly for a while. Yun Qingci’s face was full of innocence and bewilderment. The next second, Yun Qingxiao picked him up with one arm and walked back without looking around.
Yun Qingci, head hanging down: “?”
“Second, second brother?” He was a little uncertain. Yun Qingsu said loudly: “Don’t be afraid, second brother just wants to put you back so that you can walk back by yourself later! Just a little way, you can do it!”
Yun Qingci didn’t know his second brother was such a person: “Second brother, second brother, I was wrong…” he said hastily. “I was wrong. Second brother, don’t go so far, brother, father –!!”
At last he called for Prime Minister Yun, who glanced at his second son’s indifferent face and said, “Did he provoke you? ……If so, it’s his first offense, give him a chance.”
Yun Qingci already started gasping for breath, saying, “I am in pain, the injury has relapsed, it hurts, I can’t breathe.”
Yun Qingxiao finally let him down. Yun Qingci clutched his chest and leaned against his father weakly. After being helped by Prime Minister Yun, he stood with a pitiful expression on his face: “Why is second brother so serious?”
Yun Qingxiao flicked his sleeves, but when he turned and walked towards the carriage, there was a smile in his eyes.
They asked for the best room in Jinyalou, and the waiter ran up to list the dishes. Yun Qingci loved his fast-talking, like floating water, and even couldn’t help but applaud when the waiter breathed out.
After the waiter finished, a piece of broken silver was suddenly thrown towards him.
Yun Qingjue said, “You pleased our family so much, I’m rewarding you.”
“Thank you third young master for the reward!” Then the waiter looked at Yun Qingci: “Next time the little young master comes here, I will list you the dishes in another way!”
“All right.” Yun Qingsu didn’t have any more patience: “Finish the order and get out.”
He often came to this place and had a good relationship with the waiters here, so he obviously joked a lot. The waiter didn’t get angry, he laughed a few times and complimented him before leaving, “Fourth young master is really sharp today, even more suave and elegant.”
Prime Minister Yun stroked his beard and laughed. There was a lot of excitement in the private room.
The family talked a lot. Yun Qingci quickly discovered that his third brother was very cheerful; although his temper was irritable, it came and left quickly. His fourth brother wasn’t good at talking and was somewhat dashing and unrestrained, but also content and happy. As for his second brother… he looked cold as if he didn’t take anything seriously, but he was careful and quickly got serious in certain matters.
His second brother couldn’t be offended, his fourth brother could be bullied, and his third brother was deceitful. Yun Qingci nodded, raised his head and took a sip of fruit wine.
Being not at home, in order to avoid gaffes they drank just a little. Yun Qingci couldn’t drink much, so he quickly folded his hands on the table, pressed his chin to the back of his hands and began to listen.
There was a sound of storytelling downstairs, and Yun Qingci’s body quickly felt like it was floating.
He was carried downstairs by his third brother.
In fact, his brain was still very clear, but maybe because today was so complete, he was filled with immense satisfaction.
“I have always liked… my brothers.”
Yun Qingjue suddenly remembered the little brother who returned to the mansion when he was seven years old. If their father hadn’t liked him so much that he even took him along when traveling with the emperor, maybe everything would have been different.
His mouth trembled uncontrollably and his tone was soft: “I know.”