Phoenix’s Requiem - Chapter 116
Chapter 116: Hidden Words
Yun Moxiao was direct and uncompromising, so when he claimed he would bring Yun Ruoyan to the barracks, both Yun Lan and the Yun matriarch looked at him in consternation.
“Nonsense! Do you think you can do as you want in the army?”
The reason Yun Lan refused to let Yun Ruoyan and Yun Moxiao make contact was because he was worried that Yun Moxiao would do something ridiculous in defense of his sister.
Four years ago, when Yun Moyuan had laughed at her, Yun Moxiao had beat him up so harshly that he was bedridden for over two weeks. If Yun Moxiao were to find out about what had happened to her over the last few years, he would certainly upheave the entire household.
“I’m not joking around. I promised Mother to take good care of Ruoyan after her death, but I’ve clearly failed all these years.” He looked grimly at Yun Lan, criticizing both himself and his father.
When Lin Yuemei had passed away, he could clearly remember how she had begged her husband to take care of the two siblings.
But the second year after her death, he was marched off to the army while Yun Ruoyan had been bullied severely at home. How could Yun Moxiao not be disappointed in his father?
“That’s why I’m going to atone for my guilt,” Yun Moxiao continued. “Father, how do you think Mother would feel about your treatment of Ruoyan? Are you at all apologetic to her?!”
Yun Moxiao criticized his father directly.
“You dare…!” Yun Lan slammed his palm against the table before pointing a crooked finger at Yun Moxiao, so angry that he couldn’t get any words out.
In one fell swoop, Yun Moxiao had both broken with tradition and formality, the two tenets of the Li kingdom. Not only did he disrespect his father by calling him out, he had even challenged his authority.
“Well, aren’t you something, Young Master?” Seeing Yun Lan get angry, Madam An began, “Challenging your elders in public—is this the kind of decorum you learned in the army? I really must speak to General Huang one of these days!”
The General Huang that Madam An mentioned was Yun Moxiao’s direct superior, as well as his mentor at cultivation. He was a man whom Yun Moxiao deeply respected.
“Master taught me to discern right from wrong, to fulfill my promises, to protect my kingdom!” Yun Moxiao suddenly turned to Madam An. “On the other hand, Madam An, bullying an orphaned girl and colluding with an outsider to frame your family… is this the kind of etiquette you were taught in the An family?”
Yun Moxiao’s words were serious: he had denigrated not only Madam An herself, but also her entire family.
“You… you…!” In her fury, Madam An actually became as speechless as her husband.
“Yun Moxiao!” When Yun Ruoyao saw her mother become so angry that she was turning pale, she spoke up again. “How dare you disparage Mother and the An family! Don’t forget that you’re the eldest son of the Yun household, and your words matter!”
Yun Moxiao scoffed, not even sparing Yun Ruoyao a glance. “You don’t have to tell me who I am, but don’t you forget your place. A concubine-born daughter, daring to address me by my full name? Is this the courtesy your mother taught you?”
Yun Moxiao turned back to Yun Lan, disappointment and disdain flickering through his eyes. “Or has Father already tacitly accepted you as Ruoyan’s replacement?”
“What nonsense are you speaking? You’re doubting Father himself?!”
Yun Lan had never experienced such a severe breach of respect, and his icy demeanor finally cracked.
He stood back up, calling out, “Housekeeper Wu!”
Housekeeper Wu hurriedly rushed in. Before he could inquire as to the matter, Yun Lan commanded, “Bring over the Yun family commandments! It seems that I’m going to have to discipline my son well today.”
“Father, please calm down,” Yun Ruoyan finally interjected, afraid that things were taking a turn for the worse. “Brother must be worn out from rushing back to see Grandmother. As soon as he returned home, he received news that I had been abducted, so he clearly isn’t in the right state of mind at the moment. Father, please forgive him for his offense.”
But Yun Moxiao broke her off. “Ruoyan, don’t beg him for forgiveness! I didn’t do anything wrong. He didn’t take care of you, and he’s the one at fault!”
As soon as Yun Moxiao began to speak, Yun Ruoyan tugged on his sleeve to no avail. When he heard his son’s words, Yun Lan thundered again at Housekeeper Wu, “What’re you waiting for? Get the commandments!”
Housekeeper Wu raised his bowed head, seeing that Yun Lan’s face had gone from white to red, before nodding and heading off to fetch it.
“Enough!” The Yun matriarch called out. “It’s been decades since we last made use of the commandments! This is not a matter of such importance. Housekeeper Wu, stand down.”
Housekeeper Wu peered up at the Yun matriarch before bowing and retreating to the side.
“When did my Yun family become so at odds with itself? When did we start accusing and scheming against each other?” The Yun matriarch thumped on the ground with her cane as she spoke, emphasizing her words. “Everyone present will copy down the family’s commandments two hundred times over!”
After she made her pronouncement, the Yun matriarch gazed at her family, a complicated series of expressions flashing through her face. “Xiao Lan, I’m tired. Help me back to my rooms.”
Xiao Lan walked off with the Yun matriarch, but as she passed by Yun Ruoyan, the Yun matriarch paused. “Come to my quarters with me. I have questions for you.”
Yun Moxiao followed behind Yun Ruoyan as she left with the Yun matriarch. He’d wanted to accompany her in, but Xiao Lan stopped him outside the outer chambers.
“Xiao Lan, don’t stop me!”
“Young Master, the old madam won’t make things difficult for Miss Ruoyan.”
Within her chambers, the Yun matriarch was reclining on a soft mattress. Unusually, however, her muddied yellow eyes weren’t closed, but instead staring straight at Yun Ruoyan.
Yun Ruoyan’s actions were beyond her expectations. She was a sensible girl, and surely knew better than to act up while Yun Moxiao was home. She was clearly aware of his personality, and she knew what airing this dirty laundry would do to the relationship between him and his father. So what was the cause of her actions?
The Yun matriarch mulled it over silently, and Yun Ruoyan likewise remained silent.
“Ruoyan.” After a pregnant pause, the Yun matriarch finally started talking. “I know well the grievances you’ve suffered all these years, and your father and I also want to compensate you. But airing out your grievances in this manner will hurt your brother’s relationship with his father, and surely this isn’t something you want to see?”
Yun Ruoyan’s decision didn’t appear logical, but she had done so with a plan in mind. However, this wasn’t something she could reveal to the Yun matriarch, because no one but Yun Ruoyan herself would understand the meaning behind her actions.
As a result, she thought up a reasonable excuse. “Grandmother, I don’t want to see Father and Brother angry at each other, but Madam An truly tried to kill me. If I remain as passive as ever, there’ll surely be a second, then a third attempt. This time, it was only the Slaughtering King’s fortuitous presence that saved me. In the future, I may not be so lucky.”
The Yun matriarch sighed. She knew that Madam An had to be dissatisfied at having to give up her position as Yun Lan’s rightful wife so many years ago, and this was one of the reasons she had always been so lenient to her.
In partial recompense to Madam An, she had intended to have Yun Ruoyao take over Yun Ruoyan’s position if Yun Ruoyan proved herself underwhelming.
But now that Yun Ruoyan appeared fully capable of taking on the responsibilities of a wife-born daughter of the Yun family, Madam An’s actions were only hurting the family.
“Ruoyan, don’t worry. As your grandmother, I promise you she won’t dare to hurt you again. This won’t happen a second time. However, if you push this matter further, you’ll cause a schism between the Yun and An families. You’re surely aware that your mother had, in some sense, taken over the position of your father’s rightful wife from Madam An, and our relations with the An family have been strained as a result.”
The Yun matriarch sighed. “Neither your father nor I want to worsen our relationship with the An family.”
When the Yun matriarch was finally done speaking, Yun Ruoyan replied, “Grandmother, I understand your intentions, and I know that there’s more than my future at stake. I won’t pursue this matter further, and I’ll persuade my brother not to, either. But if something like this were to happen again, I hope Grandmother and Father will give me my rightful justice.”
And even if Madam An doesn’t provoke me, I have to provoke her, or who knows when this justice will be meted?
After finishing her conversation with Yun Ruoyan, the Yun matriarch next called Yun Moxiao inside. Under their combined persuasion, his anger was finally quenched, and he promised not to pursue the matter further.
As they left their grandmother’s quarters, Yun Moxiao told Yun Ruoyan, “Ruoyan, if you’re ever tired of the capital, join me at the army barracks. Out there, the wilderness will be your enemy, not any of this stuffy political intrigue.”
“The barracks are full of men, aren’t they? What good would I be there?”
Sensing Yun Ruoyan’s ‘interest’, Yun Moxiao immediately perked up. “My master said that women aren’t worse cultivators than men, so why can’t they be soldiers?”
Naturally, the master that Yun Moxiao referred to was the General Huang that Madam An had brought up earlier.
“That’s why the army’s preparing to field female soldiers. If you’re willing to go with me, I’ll be sure to get you a position as a female general!”
Yun Ruoyan wanted to laugh, but when she saw Yun Moxiao’s expectant expression, she responded seriously, “Brother, I’m going to be a student at Kongming Academy, so I really can’t just go to the army with you.”
“What!” Yun Moxiao hadn’t heard about this. “You’ve been accepted by Kongming Academy?!”
Although Yun Lan had been hiding the fact that Yun Ruoyan had been expelled from the academy, Yun Moxiao did know about his sister’s cultivation regressing. As a result, he had only hoped that his sister would find a good spouse and remain happily married for the rest of her life.
What Yun Moxiao hadn’t expected, however, was that she would actually pass Kongming Academy’s recruitment examination and obtain the qualifications to enter Kongming Academy.
“Ruoyan, I’m sure Mother would have been overjoyed to learn about this.” He looked at her with gratification.
But instead of filling up with delight, Yun Ruoyan’s eyes misted over. Her brother’s words reminded her that it was time to tell him about Lin Yuemei’s poisoning.