After saying what he wanted to say, Yuanying walked out and ordered the jailer to re-lock the cell door.
He walked with Dai Ting along the long and narrow corridor of prison and saw the back a familiar figure. It looks like he was standing there thinking about something and seems to be waiting for him.
This startled the boy and he stopped walking. The man turned around to face him with deep and dark eyes. It was none other than his brother, the Emperor.
Li Er came to check on his old friend Hou Junji but he unexpectedly heard a familiar voice coming from inside the cell.
His younger brother was talking to Hou Junji.
Li Er looked at Li Yuanying steadily and like Hou Junji, felt like it was the first time meeting his youngest brother like this.
It was already dusk and the golden sunset shone through the small window and landed on the open space between the two brothers. The atmosphere was weird and those around them stayed silent afraid of rashly breaking the silence of the moment.
Li Yuanying only paused for a moment before running towards Li Er and grabbed his hands dragging the Emperor.
“It’s going to be dark, the palace gate will be locked soon. Let’s go back quickly.”
The Emperor came here in secret. He waved his hand to signal to his men to not disturb tehm and walked with Li Yuanying through the narrow aisle.
Walking out of prison, they saw skies full of clouds dyed red.
Yuanying quietly held onto Li Er’s hand. Both not saying anything.
This remained until they enter the palace gate and was walking along the long stone path. Li Er finally stopped and looked at his baby brother, who was being rather silent.
“Why were you visiting the prison?”
“I heard from Dai Ting that old man Hou was locked up, so I wanted to go and see. I have nothing else to do anyway.”
“WHAT do you mean nothing to do? Didn’t teacher Kong complained that you haven’t attended class for days? Or do you think you’re too good for classes now?”
“Honestly I think I’m good learning by myself. If there is anything I don’t understand, I will ask the teachers for help. This way is much better than sitting in class all day.”
Li Er looked at him.
“Lord Brother, did you hear every word I said just now?.”
Li Er answered lightly: “I heard it all.”
If it wasn’t for the coincidence of visiting Hou Junji in disguise, he wouldn’t have heard his little brother’s words. This kid looked like a trouble-making fool, but in actuality is more crafty than he looks and does not show his little tail easily. If he weren’t there today, would Hou Junji tell him these things? He will not. Even if Hou listens to the boy, he wouldn’t speak well of Yuanying in front of the Emperor.
There aren’t many people like Li Yuanying, who think and wish for everyone to be well. Most people have selfish desires. With desire comes stance and with stance comes intention in action. In reality, there’s no way to achieve perfect harmony where every party prospers.
This is a reality that Li Er fully comprehends.
Li Yuanying remained quiet as his brother was staring at him with gloomy eyes.
Still holding onto his hands the boy said: “ Late sister-in-law once told me that the Crown Prince and Prince Jin already have too many uncles. She only wants me to be Chengqian and Zhi Nu’s uncle.”
Looking directly at Li Er…
“I think ‘Khan of Heaven” I loosely translated it to Khan of Heaven but in actual it’s Tengri Qaghan. An official honorific to address the Chinese Emperor in the Turkic & Pamir Mountains region during the Tang period has too many younger brothers too. I should just be Li Shimin’s younger brother.” Li Shimin = Li Er’s full name
“You damn kid! You’re getting more and more presumptuous!”
Is Li Shimin a name that he can simply call?
After Yuanying finished speaking, he loosened his hand and said: “Mother is waiting for me, I should leave now. Lord brother you walk slowly.”
Finishing his statement the boy quickly ran away regardless of the Emperor’s reaction in fear that his older brother will initiate a heart-to-heart conversation.
This kind of emotional talk is so weird. Yuanying doesn’t like it. If he hadn’t bumped into Li Er by chance, he definitely wouldn’t want to talk about it.
Being a manly man you should just do what is right. Why should you need to tell about it to others?
The Emperor stood still and watched Li Yuanying run away. After a while, he said to the servants lighting the lanterns: “This guy said very nice things but do I need it?”
Looking at each other, they saw the smiles in each other’s eyes and said respectfully, “Your Majesty, you care.”
The Emperor glared at them and then laughed. All the troubles of the past two days were swept away.
Such a small little brat who dares to proclaim that he doesn’t want to be the younger brother of the heavenly king but just the younger brother of Li Shimin. Who gave him such courage?!
Still, this boy has a broad heart. Hou Junji badmouth him in daytime and still he is still willing to talk to Hou Junji like that. This isn’t just giving lip-service.
During court session, everyone was surprised to find the Emperor in good mood, no longer irritable and annoyed like the previous two days. When everyone impeached Hou Junji again, he even nodded his head in agreement.
After the criticism round was over, it was time for the defending team to take the stand. Among the representative is the deputy head of the legislative bureau Cen Wenben. He listed out all of Hou’s achievements saying that while he is indeed in the wrong this time, it’s not severe enough to wipe out all of his previous contributions and allow him to suffer the humiliation of prison.
As a follow-up, Hou Junji’s self refection letter was presented to court. He has reflected and admitted that his actions had a negative impact. He’s hoping to be given the opportunity to make his wrongs right and continue to contribute to the greater good of Tang Empire.
The words are all clichés but said very nicely. At least it serves as a peaceful pact after all the heated debate that has been going on for several days. In terms of merit, the general has done well. After all, warfare is bound to have many uncontrollable circumstances. It’s impossible to expect the Emperor to kill his beloved general over such a matter.
Everyone looked at each other in agreement that this is a great platform to step back and exit the argument.
Li Er ordered that Hou Junji be released immediately. This solved one of his problems.
Whatever the circumstances, they did conquer a new land. Although it’ll be difficult to hold a big banquet to celebrate as originally planned, Li Er still summoned several close confidants to celebrate.
Li Yuanying got an invitation too because he promised to supply good wine and entertainment. Yuanying remembered that grand-nephew Li Xiang didn’t follow them out of the palace the last time and quickly ran to make arrangements with Chengqian to bring Li Xiang along for the banquet.
Although Chengqian felt that it was inappropriate to bring his child without prior approval, he was no match for Li Xiang’s stubbornness as he was holding on tightly to Li Yuanying’s thigh not willing to let go.
Seeing Li Chengqian nod, Li Yuanying picked up Li Xiang and ran out.
Li Xiang is not afraid of being carried high and laughed happily. He doesn’t even miss mommy & daddy who were getting further and further away from him.
The Crown Princess secured a jade pendant on Chengqian’s waist and said: “Young uncle is quite strong. It’s a little difficult for me to carry Xiang Er but he lifted him easily.”
“Since he was a child, he liked to climb trees and jump over walls to play with slingshots. Being a wild child of course he has strength.”
Wild child Li Yuanying carried Li Xiang and ran around looking for the Emperor. Li Er saw him carrying his grandson from a distance and freaked out. He quickly went over and pulled Li Xiang off Li Yuanying’s shoulder.
Since playing with Li Yuanying a lot, Li Xiang is also now not afraid of the Emperor. He sat his little butt firmly on the Emperor’s lap.
Li Er gave Yuanying a sideways glance and patted Li Xiang’s bottom.
“Don’t play wildly with YaoYao. You’ll cry if you fall.”
Li Xiang boldly retorted: “He won’t drop me.”
YaoYao will never drop me!
With the wholehearted trust of his grand-nephew, Li Yuanying smiled smugly.
Finally Li Chengqian reaches and they entered the banquet together.
Civil officials present were Wei Zheng, Fang Xuanling, Zhangsun Wuji, and so on while military generals present included Yuchi Jingde, Cheng Zhijie, Li Jing, and so on. Hou Junji and Xue Wanjun who won the war were also naturally present.
His Majesty Li Er arrived and they all stood up to pay their respect. This looks like a lively occasion.
Li Er motioned everyone to sit and signaled Yuanying and Chengqian to sit next to him. Li Yuanying’s appearance at this banquet was quite sudden but he didn’t feel uncomfortable. He even managed to coax Li Xiang over to his side and was teasing him. When someone came to pour him a drink, he handed the glass to Li Xiang and coaxed, “This is delicious, if you don’t believe me, try it.”
Li Xiang convinced, opened his mouth and licked the wine Li Yuanying handed to him.
As soon as his tongue touched the wine, Li Xiang’s whole face wrinkled into a ball and he choked on the smell of wine. He then burst into tears.
“This is not good to drink, YaoYao is a liar!”
Li Er was toasting wine with his officials when this sudden cry made the atmosphere quiet.
Li Er turned his head and instantly knew what good deeds his younger brother has done.
“You b*stard, put that wine down!”
Yuanying became even more proud: “Lord Brother, you tricked me to drink wine when I was young too. This is called a gentleman’s revenge is not too late even if it’s ten years later. “
Since his brother lied to him, he’ll lie to his grandson. Consider this score even!
The Emperor instructed that wine be removed from Li Yuanying’s side.
Li Xiang doesn’t hold grudges like his Yao Yao. After crying for a while, he was coaxed by Li Yuanying, and was friendly with him again. He would not leave Yao Yao’s side even when his grandfather or father called for him.
Soon, adults interacted with adults while children played with children. The atmosphere returned to its original harmony.
When the dancers came on stage, Yuanying coaxed Li Xiang to go dance with them, saying that his aunty Sizi has also learned dancing from them. Li Xiang believed him and so the little toddler ran out and followed after the dancers. Li Er was amused by his little dance and clapped his hands. He then asked Wei Zheng and the rest to join in.
During the Sui Dynasty, dancing was the highest etiquette for courtiers toward their king. Whether it’s formal or informal events like court sessions, banquets, or hunting, dancing can be involved. When the previous Emperor established the Tang Empire, he continued to adopt Sui’s dancing culture. He often came on stage, played the pipa, and danced with his ministers.
Therefore, dancing is a basic skill needed when being an official. Since the Emperor has spoken, the officials naturally got up and move with the exotic music.
As the banquet progresses, everyone started to relax. Li Er even came off stage to picked up Li Xiang and raised him high up to tease him. Li Xiang was not afraid and laughed happily with Li Er.
As for whether the wine Li Yuanying took away was the best or whether the beauties he took away were the most beautiful, no one cared to investigate anymore.
Li Er brought Li Yuanying to the banquet for obvious reasons: everything this younger brother has done is known by him, the Emperor. And he, the elder brother, is taking care of this younger brother!
The people from Gaochang followed Li Yuanying voluntarily and the things were also given to Li Yuanying voluntarily. What else more can they say? Let’s just drink and dance happily!
Notes from the author:
Little Prince: There are too many younger brothers of Khan of Heaven, I will be Li Shimin’s younger brother!
His Majesty: What should I do? I’m a little touched.
Little Prince: This way, I am the most special and can do whatever I want!
His Majesty: ? ? ? ? ?
His Majesty: Get out!