Jiang Haitao, the Marquis of the Eastern Sea’s capable successor, was skilled at naval warfare, possessing a loyal and brave character. Taizong loved him as a son. In the second year of Great Yong’s Longsheng era, he mobilized the Eastern Sea’s military and surrendered to Great Yong. In the campaign to conquer Southern Chu, he repeatedly made military contributions. In the ninth year of Great Yong’s Longsheng era, he was enfeoffed as the Duke of the Tranquil Sea. His first wife, Lady Yue, was renowned for her virtue, but had a strict and proper temperament. It was rumored that Haitao was afraid of her. Lady Yue had an abundance of ability and wisdom. Some even claimed that her husband’s memorials and documents were under the control of Lady Yue.
—Yong Dynastic Records, Biography of the Duke of the Tranquil Sea
In the hazy darkness of night, Lin Bi stood before the window of her guest room, gazing up at the dim, starry sky. Behind her, a middle-aged guard was reporting the intelligence that he had gathered.
“When the turmoil erupted in the wedding hall, all of the guests, and attendants and guards like us, were all tightly surrounded by the Marquis of the Eastern Sea’s subordinates, impossible to break out. As expected, the Marquis’s training methods are not ordinary. The Yue family’s ship was very quickly and heavily damaged by the Marquis’s navy. We went to take a look … the sea was filled with bodies and the shattered fragments of the ship. Without repair, that ship will never sail again.”
Lin Bi sighed. “This is, after all, the territory of the Marquis of the Eastern Sea. Only if a massive army were to attack … for just over a hundred men to cause chaos, they are no more than another’s catspaw. If Yue Qingyan had not employed the long thought extinct Heart Toxin Insect, it would have been impossible for them to take any advantage. Speaking of this, We admire the one who planned this all out. If they had been successful, they would not only have seized control of the Eastern Sea, and the Hai and Yue families, they would have also caused Great Yong and Southern Chu to suffer disastrous losses. As for us, although we would not have obtained any practical benefits, we would also not suffer any losses. Those people probably even want us to take advantage and invade Great Yong … Who would have expected that at such an ideal wedding, not only increasing marital ties, but also the union of a perfect couple, the bride would be hiding the intent to murder without rhyme or reason? The behind-the-scenes plotter truly has extensive schemes. If the Prince of Qing, the Marquis of the Eastern Sea and his son, and Lu Can all perished, the world would likely instantly fall into chaos. And to think that they were able to find someone willing to nurture the Heart Toxin Insect, especially someone who has natural endowments like Yue Qingyan. Reportedly, raising the Heart Toxin Insect, the requirements upon the host are demanding to the extreme.
“However, what leaves Us shocked is still Jiang Zhe’s response. In a short period of half a month, he employed all of the resources that he could mobilize. He took drastic measures to contact Lu Can to remove the need for the death of the Yue family brother and sister. With one cylinder of Divine Heavens-Soaring Fire, he ensures that he can nimbly respond to any situation. So many people came to the Eastern Sea, making it difficult to tell friend from foe. However, that man has the ability to force all of us to follow and cooperate with the execution of his plan. Sir Xiu, tell me, what can we do to extricate ourselves from that man’s threat?”
The middle-aged guard hesitated momentarily before responding, “Your Royal Highness, this time, my esteemed master dispatched us with the purpose of helping Your Royal Highness eliminate the outsider. However, with the present situation, the Eastern Sea has already been disturbed. It will be very difficult for us to make our move. We also saw that Li Shun. That man’s martial arts skills are extremely great. We do not have the ability to fight him. Aside from my esteemed master, there is likely no one who can be sure of victory. Moreover, even if we were barely able to execute an assassination attempt, we likely would fail to assassinate Jiang Zhe himself. Instead, we would have incurred a deep grievance with him. The man’s schemes are sinister and insidious. If he pledges his life to retaliate, our losses will likely not make up for our gains.”
“I understand this principle as well,” said Lin Bi with a sigh. “However, if the man were to return to service, he would become our enemy. I am deeply worried that Tingfei will fall into the man’s crafty schemes.”
“Your Royal Highness, do not worry,” proudly stated the middle-aged man. “The Grand General’s military strategic ability is unmatched. In addition, he has our protection. Regardless of what machinations are employed, as long as we ignore them, how would we be fooled? On the battlefield, it is upright and blunt hand-to-hand combat. What use will that man be? Moreover, Great Yong has its own problems. The younger princess has stated that the Prince of Qing, Li Kang, has quite a deep hatred of Li Xian. Indications of their disharmony are extremely obvious. If we were to help them along, it may be possible for us to cause Great Yong to inflict wounds upon itself.”
Lin Bi sighed again. Just as she was about to speak once more, the sound of Lin Tong’s voice came floating over from outside. “Little sister, why have you come?”
Lin Bi’s heart leapt, and she bent her ears to listen. From outside, the sound of a little girl’s young and tender voice could be heard to answer, “Roulan is here on my father’s orders to invite the Princess of Jiaping and the Crimson Clouds Princess to be a guest at the Tranquil Sea Manor.”
The sound of Lin Tong’s hesitating voice could be heard to ask, “Little sister, who is your father?”
Proud of herself, the little girl answered, “My daddy’s surname is Jiang, his given name is Zhe.”
Lin Bi was not shocked by this revelation, only feeling carefree internally. She had long suspected this little girl’s identity. Unfortunately, Northern Han’s intelligence on Jiang Zhe was limited to important information, knowing little about Jiang Zhe’s personal matters. As a result, Lin Bi was simply not sure. Hearing this, she opened her door. With a smile, she declared, “Little sister Roulan, receiving your esteemed father’s invitation, Lin Bi is deeply honored. We will definitely attend.”
Roulan happily replied, “That’s great!”
Lin Bi looked carefully, seeing that Roulan still had several invitations in her hands. She smiled and asked, “Does little sister still need to deliver invitations?”
“That’s right,” answered Roulan. “There’re still invitations I need to deliver for Grand General Lu and His Imperial Highnesses, the Princes of Qi and Qing.”
Lin Tong inquired with curiosity, “Roulan, you’re so young. Why aren’t you having someone else deliver them for you?”
Cocking her head, Roulan responded, “This is a mission that Daddy assigned to Lanlan. It is only natural that Lanlan can’t let anyone else finish it.”
Gazing at little Roulan’s naïve, childish nature and seriousness, Lin Bi could not help but laugh. She thought, I definitely need to pay a visit and see this Jiang Zhe, capable of raising such an adorable daughter.
Under the same starry sky, Lu Can was weighed down by anxiety.1 Fu Yulun had already been placed under house arrest. It would take only the slightest of efforts2 to have him killed. However, remembering that this man was Prime Minister Shang’s son-in-law, Lu Can wavered in making the decision.
Just before he was about to depart, Lu Can had received a letter from Jiang Zhe. There were only a few words on the letter, merely informing Lu Can that a high-ranking minister of Southern Chu was conspiring to seize the Eastern Sea, taking this opportunity to set up Lu Can. The letter further had Lu Can seek out where the Yue family head was being held, mentioning several potential locations. As expected, Lu Can’s subordinates found the Yue family head in the royal guard encampments. After years of campaigning, Lu Can was no longer a naïve child. He wouldn’t follow Jiang Zhe’s instructions and damage Southern Chu’s interests. At the time, after thinking it over, he felt that, although Shang Weijun wanted to conspire to murder him as he was warned beforehand, it would be easy for him to preserve his own life. In addition, if the plan were successful, then the benefits to Southern Chu would even arouse Lu Can’s interest.
However, after some consideration, Lu Can discovered that he could only play the role of Jiang Zhe’s pawn. Since Jiang Zhe had already received intelligence, he would definitely set a trap. When the time came, Southern Chu would definitely fail, enraging the Eastern Sea. Instead of the spoils of success, the likely losses would be disastrous. Moreover, relying upon the remnants of the Fengyi Sect, Shang Weijun had become increasingly arrogant and rampant these last two years. Although the Fengyi Sect had already become targets of scorn, they were still a formidable force. To Southern Chu, the Fengyi Sect was a double-edged sword. Properly employed, it could be used to confront Great Yong. But if used improperly, it would likely result in internal strife within Southern Chu. Even if they had been lucky enough to succeed, it would likely be detrimental and not of benefit to Southern Chu. As a result, Lu Can still adhered to Jiang Zhe’s proposal and rescued the Yue family hostages. Although they were held under house arrest by the royal guard, based upon the Lu family’s authority and influence in the Southern Chu military, they were still rescued by Lu Can. Moreover, Lu Can was able to prevent the information from spreading. In addition, Lu Can had managed to have the current decision maker of the Yue family, Yue Wenhan, acknowledge his favor. As a result, it would be unlikely for the Yue family to immediately pledge allegiance to Great Yong. Furthermore, by giving the Yue family face, the Eastern Sea would not be overly hostile towards Southern Chu. Even though, when it came to it, the Yue family was unreliable. However, it was unlikely that they would pledge allegiance to Great Yong and act up behind Southern Chu.
To speak of it, Southern Chu did not lose out. However, Lu Can was still gloomy, depressed, and restless. Sir’s stratagems were increasingly bold and imaginative. In the future, when Great Yong and Southern Chu went to war, would he be able to deal with it? After thinking for some time, Lu Can whispered, “Sir, you are especially fond of using the discord ploy. I wonder if it’s possible to sow discord between you and the Great Yong court?”
Rising to his feet, Lu Can walked to the guest room next door. This guest room had two of his bodyguards standing at the door. This was where Fu Yulun was being held under house arrest. When Lu Can entered the room, he saw Fu Yulun seated in a chair with his complexion pale. Seeing Lu Can arrive, Fu Yulun promptly kowtowed and begged, “Grand General, this lowly official was acting on my father-in-law’s orders. Grand General, please spare my life!”
With a tranquil and calm expression on his face, Lu Can replied, “Get up … I know that you aren’t the one making the decisions. However, since matters have reached this point, tell me, how should I punish you?”
In alarm, Fu Yulun answered, “I only ask that the Grand General can spare my life. With my life spared, this lowly official will obey all of your orders.”
“I want you to go back and tell Prime Minister Shang,” stated Lu Can, smiling slightly, “That I, Lu Can, have no intentions of getting into a power struggle with him. However, I will not allow anyone to take unfair advantage of me. I know that the remnants of the Fengyi Sect are hidden by Prime Minister Shang’s side. I don’t care about Prime Minister Shang’s methods, however, I want you to remind him that the Fengyi Sect has always been rebellious. They can be used, but they must also be guarded against. If Prime Minister Shang uses them to eradicate dissent, Southern Chu will likely one day be theirs.”
Fu Yulun was overjoyed, realizing that his life was finally preserved. He promptly pointed to the Heavens and made a vow, promising to lobby Shang Weijun. Lu Can mentally sighed, thinking, If I were to kill this man, it is likely that the only path left to me is to rebel. Although it was possible that this man would try to retaliate in the future, I cannot create irreconcilable differences with Shang Weijun right now.
Walking out of Fu Yulun’s room, Lu Can ordered his personal guards, “Take care of Fu daren properly. Do not allow him to have contact with any outsiders.” Before returning to Southern Chu, Lu Can did not want anyone to influence Fu Yulun, causing him to change his promise to help alleviate the problems between the Lu family and Shang Weijun.
Just as he had taken a few steps, he caught sight of a little girl bouncing vivaciously as she walked into the courtyard. In her raised hands was a large red invitation. Behind her were two guards of the Marquis’s household. Seeing Lu Can, the little girl smiled and cried out, “Senior apprentice brother Lu! Lanlan has come on Daddy’s behalf to deliver an invitation!” She gazed at this youth with curiosity. She had learned from others that this young man was her daddy’s first disciple. As a result, she had taken advantage of delivering the invitation to come see this eldest apprentice brother of hers.
Lu Can had long known that this little girl was his master’s daughter. Although he did not when his master had such a daughter, it did not prevent Lu Can from looking for indicators of his master on this little girl. Gently, he walked forward, reaching out and picking Roulan up. He looked carefully. This little girl was alert, graceful, clever, and beautiful. Although still young, her countenance already had a measure of his master’s depth.
With curiosity, Roulan asked, “Senior apprentice brother Lu, are you also a general who has led troops into battle?”
Revealing a sincere smile, Lu Can answered, “That’s right. I’ve led troops before.”
Pulling a face, Roulan declared, “I had always thought that generals would be like little brother Lin’s father, awe-inspiring and majestic. However, Princess Bi is beautiful, while senior apprentice brother Lu seems so refined and cultured. So it seems like generals do not have a specific model.”
Lu Can laughed. Setting Roulan down, he organized his emotions and accepted the invitation. After taking a look, he stated, “Junior apprentice sister, please inform Sir that it is inconvenient for Lu Can to go and offer my congratulations. Please ask Sir to forgive me.”
Baffled, Roulan asked, “Senior apprentice brother Lu, why aren’t you going? My little brother is really cute! Do you not want to meet him?”
A faint, wry smile appeared on Lu Can’s face. If he were to truly go, it would likely incite unnecessary criticism. Although he himself didn’t care, however, if he were to leave such a pretext to others, how would he continue to lead troops? Right now wasn’t the time for him to return to civilian life. It was impossible for Shang Weijun to justly and forcefully blame him from what happened in the Eastern Sea. After all, nominally, the remnants of the Fengyi Sect could not appear in Southern Chu. However, if he were to pay a visit to Jiang Zhe, then it would be nigh impossible for him to explain away suspicions of communicating with the enemy. But how was he going to explain this to this little girl? Therefore, he only placidly explained, “Please pass this message to Sir that Can solemnly expresses good wishes upon my little apprentice brother, a life filled with happiness and longevity. However, please ask Sir to understand that it is inconvenient for Can to visit and forgive me.”
Roulan cleverly replied, “Oh … when I go back, I’ll inform Daddy.” Finished speaking, she vivaciously departed from Lu Can’s courtyard.
Gazing at her departing figure, Lu Can thought, What is the reason for Sir inviting me to take part in little apprentice brother’s grabbing test right now?
Lu Can revealed a slight, wry smile. Lu Can understood that regardless of whether he went or not, it would be impossible to completely eliminate Shang Weijun’s suspicion and jealousy towards him. His own intentions now were to ensure that Shang Weijun did not have a legitimate reason to act against him. Were it not for this, Lu Can truly wished to go and see what Jiang Zhe was up to. Even if he were to fall into a trap, it was better than knowing nothing. Suddenly in his mind, a thought appeared. He was faintly aware of the secret alliance that Shang Weijun had formed with Northern Han. Before, he had never shown an interest in these things. However, having run into an important member of the Northern Han’s military here in the Eastern Sea, the Princess of Jiaping. If he could come to a mutual understanding with her, then it would benefit both Southern Chu and Northern Han. Although it was rude to seek a meeting this late at night, it was unlikely that the Princess of Jiaping would keep the door closed and refuse to see him. Moreover, regardless of the result, everyone would misunderstand and believe that Lu Can had already reached an agreement with the Northern Han military. This would only be of benefit to him. Gazing at the concealing darkness of night, Lu Can’s heart felt extremely agonized. Before, he had been completely filled with thoughts of attacking the enemy and dedicating himself in service to his country, loyal to the end and performing his duties. Who could have thought that I, Lu Can, would one day go to so much trouble to preserve my life?
In another guest courtyard, in a comfortable set of plain robes, Li Xian leaned on a soft couch. His heads were clasped behind his head, serving as a pillow. He seemed to be carefree and relaxed. However, in reality, there was worry on his countenance. He was not a dullard. He had clearly seen the hatred and jealousy in the Prince of Qing’s eyes. This time at the Eastern Sea, he had completely stolen the Prince of Qing’s limelight. Li Xian was unsure about this third brother of his temperament. Was he grave or extreme? That year, although Li Kang had displayed his determination and courage to fulfill his vow to exact retribution by attempting to assassinate Noble Consort Ji, it was a bit of a joke to attempt to assassinate an expert from the Fengyi Sect and a noble consort. This incident made clear that Li Kang wasn’t sufficiently calm and too excessive. However, Li Xian was suspicious. If Li Kang had not committed this seemingly reckless act, would he have had the opportunity to garrison the Hanzhong region? Moreover, Li Kang had clearly and publicly revealed his irreconcilable hostility towards the Fengyi Sect. However, because of his status as a prince, it was impossible for the Fengyi Sect to deal with him. If something were to happen to Li Kang, then the Fengyi Sect would be the greatest suspect. As a result, over these years, although Li Kang was always suppressed by the Fengyi Sect, he not only remained safe and sound, his forces had also steadily increased. If Li Kang had foreseen all this long ago, then it would not be enough to simply call his scheming “profound.”
In addition, Li Xian understood his present situation well. If imperial brother, Li Zhi, became even a tiny bit suspicious or afraid, then he, Li Xian, would be attacked on all sides. When the time came, the loss of his military authority would be light. He would likely be placed under house arrest until his death. At this moment, he had grievously offended third brother, the prince who had the highest and most respected status in the court. In fact, Li Xian very clearly understood that as long as he was to personally pay a visit to Li Zhi, sincerely apologizing and acknowledging his mistakes, then it would be very possible for this situation to be reversed. However, whenever he thought about having to bend his knee to Li Zhi, Li Xian would always be filled with gloom. The elder brother who he had been chasing to surpass was now the Emperor of Great Yong. If he were to bow his head towards Li Zhi, wouldn’t he be a servile weakling seeking to preserve his life, riches, and honor? The more he thought, the more vexed Li Xian became. I need to see Jiang Zhe as soon as possible. He could feel that the only one capable of allowing him to extricate himself from this impasse was that weak and feeble scholar.
Thinking of Jiang Zhe, Li Xian felt a burst of warmth well up in his heart. That man … They had met for the first time in Southern Chu, Jiang Zhe had been aloof and distant, on his guard. However, Li Xian did not know why, but he was always felt that Jiang Zhe’s weak and scholarly build was hidden a terrifying power. The second time they had happened upon each other, they had met as enemies and yet Jiang Zhe had saved his life, probably preparing for the eventuality that he needed to disengage himself from the Prince of Yong. Although he had let Jiang Zhe off, Li Xian was nevertheless full of regret. Afterwards, Jiang Zhe had been brought back by Li Zhi to Chang’an, treating Jiang Zhe as a brother and teacher in hopes of recruiting him. However, Jiang Zhe had actually instead accepted the recruitment offer of him, Li Xian. At the time, he was filled with an indescribable joy. However, that ultimately was a farce. When he wrathfully departed the Prince of Yong’s residence, Li Xian hated that he could not kill Jiang Zhe.
However, when Jiang Zhe was nearly assassinated, the first thought that came to Li Xian’s mind was to save that scholar’s life. Later, when the crown prince and the Prince of Yong became irreconcilable, causing the disastrous events of the Hunting Palace, he had been placed under house arrest. For all kinds of reasons, he had attempted to seize Jiang Zhe, whether it was to protect his life or to take the scholar hostage. However, he had still saved Jiang Zhe’s life and had no intentions of having Jiang Zhe repay him for his kindness. As a result, when the coup d’état failed and he had been placed under house arrest by the Prince of Yong, Li Xian did not hope that Jiang Zhe would save him.
However, the man actually returned a minor kindness with a great one. First, Jiang Zhe invited him to serve as a hostage to the Fengyi Sect Master, giving him the opportunity to redeem himself for his crimes. Afterwards, when Northern Han seized the opportunity to invade, it was Jiang Zhe again who left behind a message recommending him, giving Li Xian the opportunity to don his battle gown and return to the battlefield. Li Xian had already considered Jiang Zhe to be close friend. Although Jiang Zhe’s schemes were profound, he was someone who valued friendships and morality. If he considered someone as one of his people, then there would be no worries of betrayal.
As a result, Li Xian had risked accusations of misconduct and come to the Eastern Sea in the hopes of acquiring the assistance of that man, allowing himself to escape from his current predicament. Before he had conquered Northern Han and pacified Southern Chu, he, Li Xian, was unwilling to be so framed and killed. A man ought to give his life on the battlefield, dying upon it. How could he die in a prison cell under the machinations of vile characters?
Just as Li Xian was worrying about personal gains and losses, one of his personal imperial bodyguards walked in to report, “Your Imperial Highness, young Miss Roulan has come on Sir Jiang’s behalf to deliver an invitation, inviting Your Imperial Highness to the Tranquil Sea Manor to attend the little young master’s first birthday celebrations.”
Li Xian’s jaw trembled, excited that he finally was receiving the formal invitation. Smiling, he said, “Allow Roulan to come in.”
Roulan walked in. Seeing Li Xian, she walked over and kowtowed. The last time they had met on the ship, as the Prince of Qi’s identity had not just been made public, naturally no one would inform Roulan of his identity. Although she had met him before within the Yong imperial palace, Roulan was still little and naturally had no memories of the Prince of Qi’s appearance. Now that the Prince of Qi’s identity had been revealed, Roulan abided by the proper ceremonies on this visit. From a young age, she had been raised by the Princess of Yong and had entered the imperial palace numerous times. She was highly familiar with the proper etiquette. Her kowtow was practiced and natural.
Smiling, Li Xian stated, “Roulan, quickly get up. You are now Changle’s daughter and should, by rights, call me uncle. There is no need for such ceremony.” So speaking, he picked Roulan up and placed her on his lap. He inquired, “Are your mom and dad both well? I have heard that they already have a son. Both of them have poor health. How is your little brother’s health?”
Excitedly Roulan responded, “Little brother is quite robust. Moreover, he is not fond of crying. Great Grandfather has stated that because mother was nursed to health, little brother is quite healthy. Daddy and Mother Princess are both well. They frequently take a boat out to sea. However, all of Daddy’s hair has turned a light gray. According to Great Grandfather, it’s because of the effects of the medicine that Daddy took. However, in the future, there is no need for Daddy to worry about his illness coming back again.”
With curiosity, Li Xian asked, “Who are you referring to when you say great grandfather?”
Roulan’s eyes sparkled, as she answered, “Uncle doesn’t know? Great Grandfather is surnamed Sang. Daddy and Mother both treat him as their own grandfather.”
“So it’s Sir Sang,” replied Li Xian with a smile. “I should have figured … When Suiyun left the capital, he was in desperately poor health. As expected, only someone with Sir Sang’s ability was able to rescue him.”
Shaking her head, Roulan related, “Great Grandfather said that only Daddy could cure his illness. The only difference is that it would take a few years longer and the effects wouldn’t be as good.”
Li Xian could not help but ask, “Has your dad also invited the Prince of Qing?”
“Uncle Shun has said that since His Imperial Highness, the Prince of Qing, is the Emperor’s emissary, it would be too inappropriate for me to deliver the invitation” responded Roulan. “As a result, Uncle Shun has gone personally to do so.”
Li Xian smiled knowingly. It seemed that in Jiang Zhe’s mind, the Prince of Qing was no more than an outsider. In the future, if he were to be attacked by the Prince of Qing, he would have backup.
At this moment, Li Xian saw from the corner of his eye a tiny figure hiding in the doorway of the room inside hesitating, too afraid to come out. Li Xian could not help but find it funny. Although on the surface Lin’er seemed to be somewhat indifferent and impatient, it seemed that he was extremely affectionate towards little Roulan. However, since the hour was growing late, it was time for Roulan to go back and rest. As a result, Li Xian could only pretend that he did not see his son. After gossiping a bit with Roulan, he had men escort Roulan back. After seeing Roulan off, Li Xian was full of expectation. It seemed that he would have a satisfactory result from this gathering at the Tranquil Sea Manor.
Within the bridal chamber, Yue Qingyan was deeply restless. Having shared the customary nuptial drink, Jiang Haitao went to deal with the aftermath of the Yue family’s disturbance. Moreover, Yue Qingyan understood that before the insect king was removed from her body, it would be impossible for the marriage to be consummated. However, she could sense that Jiang Haitao was somewhat indifferent while he was in the bridal chamber. She could not help but become anxious. At this moment, Xue Qiuxue walked in. Seeing Yue Qingyan’s anxious look, she smiled and said, “What? You’re that nervous? I’m here to help you remove your makeup. It is inconvenient for the groom to come over tonight. Aunt has asked that I come over and keep you company, ensuring that you don’t become lonely.”
With difficulty, Yue Qingyan forced a smile on her face. With Xue Qiuxue’s help, she removed her hairpins and phoenix crown. Apprehensive, she asked, “Sister-in-law, tell me, do you think that husband is still angry with me?”
Xue Qiuxue giggled. “Foolish child. Since the little Marquis did not decline to marry you to your face, it means that he still loves you. It’s only that before the two of you had entered the bridal chamber, you caused your groom to faint to the ground. It’s a bit embarrassing for him. Since the ceremony has already been completed and the two of you are married, the groom will inevitably remember what’s happened. All of these men are afraid to be embarrassed. Isn’t your elder brother sulking because I asked General Pei for help?”
Yue Qingyan bashfully replied, “Sister-in-law, elder brother is just being jealous. Were it not for this method that you thought of, our entire family would likely have been split apart, dying unnaturally. Elder brother won’t fall out with you over this for long. Thinking back to when elder brother was desperately wooing you, he practically ripped his heart out of his chest to show you.”
Bashfulness and happiness flashed across Xue Qiuxue’s eyes. However, her expression remained proper, as she said, “Qingyan, there is one thing that your elder brother has told me to warn you of. At present, the Yue family’s crisis has still not passed. Although most of those loyal to Yue Wujiu have died here in the Eastern Sea, he still has plenty of supporters alive within the Yue family. Moreover, the Family Head and Elders are in the hands of Lu Can. Having been granted a favor by Lu Can, we will have to repay it sooner rather than later. Great Yong and Southern Chu will never be able to peacefully coexist. When the time comes, our Yue family will still have to make a choice. When we go back this time, your elder brother will take over the family. A purge must happen within the family, while Southern Chu’s influence in southern Fujian will increase. Although your elder brother has already reached an agreement with the Hai family, obtaining the ship design and the sea maps, he was also forced to yield a part of the ocean trade to them. With this, even within a couple decades, it will be impossible for us to overtake the Hai family. Your elder brother is not worried about this. However, once Great Yong and Southern Chu begin to fight, the Hai family can concentrate on following the Eastern Sea, while we will be forced to wobble between the powers. Ultimately, we may still be forced to cut our losses in order to preserve the Yue family. As a result, going forward, the Yue family’s road is exceedingly difficult.”
Her expression gloomy and filled with worry, Yue Qingyan asked, “Then what does elder brother want me to do?”
“Qingyan, your elder brother has said that he only wants you to do one thing,” answered Xue Qiuxue firmly. “Be a good and proper daughter-in-law to the Jiang family. Do not do anything to help the Yue family that would damage the Jiang family. In addition, do not seek to try to win benefits for the Yue family. These are the affairs of men. You have already done everything you can as a daughter and younger sister. Right now, you are a daughter-in-law of the Jiang family. In the future, you will be the mother of the children of the Jiang family. You must ensure that everything you do is for the Jiang family.”
Yue Qingyan’s luminous eyes were brimming with tears, as she asked, “Sister-in-law, you can’t have me simply watch on as elder brother endures hardships?”
Comfortingly, Xue Qiuxue responded, “Foolish child, you’re forgetting that the Jiang family and the Yue family are in-laws. As long as you gain their respect and love, on your behalf, they will naturally look after the Yue family if needed. However, if you were to lose your husband’s love, then you would be of no help to the Yue family. Therefore, remember. You only need to be a wife. Beyond all this, it’s not that easy to cripple or destroy the Yue family.”
“Sister-in-law, do not worry,” replied Yue Qingyan, ferociously nodding her head. “Qingyan will definitely not be exploited by anyone else. If the Jiang family remains resentful in the future and is unwilling to aid the Yue family, at most, Qingyan will die along with the Yue family. Qingyan will definitely not do anything that is in violation of a wife’s duties.”
Xue Qiuxue smiled, continuing, “We have already received an invitation to attend the gathering at the Tranquil Sea Manor. When the time comes, you will accompany Haitao to pay your respects to his master. Moreover, the insect king in your body will have to rely upon his help. As such, you must rest properly. That man’s status is unique and special. If you gain his recognition, it will be of enormous help to your position within the Jiang family.”
A look of longing flashed across Yue Qingyan’s eyes, as she said, “Sister-in-law, I really wish to see Sir Jiang and Princess Changle. Are the rumors true? Are they really immortal companions?”
Laughing, Xue Qiuxue answered, “You will be able to ascertain for yourself very soon. However, don’t forget. That man is resourceful and intelligent without compare, and can be considered to be the most terrifying individual in the world.
愁肠百结, chouchangbaijie – idiom, lit. hundred knots of worry in one’s intestines; fig. weighed down with anxiety
举手之劳, jushouzhilao – idiom, lit. the exertion of lifting one’s hand; fig. a very slight effort