Phoenix’s Requiem - Chapter 167
Chapter 167: Really Getting Better
A servant came knocking on Yun Moxiao’s door as he was contemplating how to tell his father that he was temporarily leaving the army.
“Young Master, you’ve been summoned to Master Yun’s study.”
“I’ll be right over.” Yun Moxiao immediately got out of bed: Yun Lan would never summon him frivolously, and he undoubtedly had something important to inform him.
The moment Yun Moxiao stepped through the door to the study, Yun Lan called out, “Daring to leave the army without discussing it with me beforehand? Do you still treat me like your father?!”
“I wouldn’t dare, Father,” Yun Moxiao replied respectfully. “I’ve been wanting to broach the matter with you but haven’t found a suitable opportunity to do so.”
Yun Moxiao was quite shocked that Yun Lan had found out—he’d only divulged his plans to Yun Ruoyan and his master, no one else. Yun Ruoyan naturally wouldn’t have told Yun Lan, so could it be his master?
Yun Moxiao frowned, his face weary. Master, master, must you make life so difficult for me?
“Look at this letter.” Yun Lan handed his son a folded sheet of parchment, still slightly curled up. Yun Moxiao unfolded it and noticed his master’s handwriting at once.
Apparently, General Huang had thought that Yun Lan knew of his son’s decision. After expressing his regret, he had submitted a recommendation to Yun Lan on Yun Moxiao’s behalf.
As a high-ranking court official, Yun Lan controlled the appointment, nomination, and transferral of officials within the capital. General Huang had recommended Yun Moxiao as the general of the troops garrisoned at the capital, and was writing to inform Yun Lan that he had submitted such a recommendation to court.
Although Yun Lan was high-ranking, Yun Moxiao was his son. To appoint him to such a position out of nowhere would surely be seen as nepotism. The general of these troops had a rank roughly equivalent to that of a third-rank court official. Yun Moxiao would have been remarkably young for such a position; even if he had the talent, he lacked the experience.
And whereas the army focused on talent and achievement, the court was a far muddier place. To obtain such a high appointment required experience, connections, and the favor of all sorts of high-ranking personages connected by a sprawling, complicated web of benefits and self-interest.
Yun Lan had been in the limelight these last few years. If he were to suddenly appoint his own son to such a high-ranking position, it would surely incite the ire of those factions that opposed him. In particular, the head of the Rong family would likely be the first to critique this decision.
But with General Huang’s recommendation, things would surely proceed more smoothly.
Despite Yun Lan’s obvious bad mood, he didn’t harangue Yun Moxiao or force him to return to the army, slightly easing Yun Moxiao’s concerns.
“Father, since Master has already agreed, you won’t forbid me from staying, will you?” Yun Moxiao probed.
Yun Lan snorted. “Asking for permission only after you’re already committed? Is this the sort of disrespect you’ve learned in the army? When I have a chance, I’ll surely be discussing this matter with your master.”
“This is unrelated to my master, Father. It was my own will,” Yun Moxiao hastily added.
“It’s for Ruoyan, isn’t it?” Yun Lan’s tone was severe and pointed. “The reason I forbade contact between you two siblings was exactly because I feared you would sacrifice your own future as a result.”
“I won’t deny that part of the reason is because of Ruoyan.” Worried that Yun Lan would get angry at his sister, however, he continued, “But also for my own benefit. I’ve been living in the barracks ever since I was a child, and I’m unfamiliar with the capital and the court. It’s quite clear to me that my own success has been because of my master’s protection and yours, Father. If not for your help, I would hardly have advanced at such a rapid pace. I want to be able to understand the court and the capital in order to establish the groundwork for my future career.”
Yun Moxiao’s analysis was spot-on. In fact, Yun Lan had been considering having Yun Moxiao be sent back to the capital in the near future. But before he could think about how he would arrange this transfer, as well as what he would have his son do afterwards, Yun Moxiao had done it for himself.
“So you’ve thought it through, have you?”
Unable to judge his father’s thoughts from his cool expression, Yun Moxiao’s heart began thumping faster.
“As the future successor to the Yun family, with the weight of the family’s future on my shoulders, I have to be thinking ahead, Father. I hoped to return to the capital in order to obtain more experience and in order to help bring the family to greater heights.” Yun Moxiao bowed.
His words truly resonated with his father, and Yun Lan’s icy demeanor cracked a little.
“Xiao’er,” Yun Lan looked stonily at his eldest son. “Don’t forget what you’ve said today, and always, always remember that the family’s interests reign above all—more important than me, than you, than any other member of the family.”
Yun Moxiao disagreed with these words; to him, the family was simply the collection of people it comprised. If some of these people had to be sacrificed for “the greater good”, then what was this greater good really worth?
But he knew that it wasn’t the time to express this dissenting viewpoint, so he clamped his mouth shut, breathed out, and replied, “Yes, Father.”
He stood still as he awaited his father’s final verdict.
“Since things have developed in this manner, and you have your own reasons for staying, we’ll leave it at that.” Yun Lan sat back down behind his desk.
“Thank you, Father!”
“I’ll mediate your court appointment,” Yun Lan continued as he noted something down. “But don’t get your hopes too high; the position of general of the garrisoned troops in the capital isn’t an easy one to secure.”
“Everything in moderation, Father. I don’t dare to be too greedy.”
Yun Lan nodded, not saying anything further. Seeing that his father appeared to be concentrating on his writing, Yun Moxiao was about to excuse himself when his father spoke up once more.
“You’ve been away for so long that you’ve likely forgotten about the family’s commandments.” He paused and looked directly at his son. “To disrespect your elders goes against the eighth commandment, and the appropriate punishment would be to have you kneel in the ancestral hall for three days and nights. But because Qianying’s marriage is only two days away, I’ll have you kneel there for the next two days and copy down the commandments three hundred times over.”
As Yun Lan doled out the punishment, he folded up the letter he had just written and handed it to Yun Moxiao. “This is a response for your master. Hand it to Old Wu and have him send it out.”
“Yes, Father.” Yun Moxiao took the letter, accepted the punishment, and happily left his father’s study.
The next day, when Yun Ruoyan found out about the punishment, she was naturally worried for her brother. Because there were guards stationed outside the ancestral hall preventing entry, Yun Ruoyan headed to her grandmother’s quarters to try to understand the situation.
Unfortunately, Madam An, Yun Ruoyao, and Yun Ruoyu were all present.
“Allow me to pay my respects to you, Grandmother.” Yun Ruoyan walked over and bowed to the Yun matriarch, before turning to Madam An and doing the same. “And to you, Madam An.”
“No need for the courtesy, Second Miss.”
Ever since the Yun matriarch’s banquet, Madam An and Yun Ruoyan had been on such poor terms that they had dispensed with calling each other ‘Mother’ and ‘Daughter’ entirely. But because they were outwardly polite and respectful to each other otherwise, Yun Lan and the Yun matriarch didn’t intervene.
“Come sit with me, Ruoyan,” the Yun matriarch waved at her and said, and Yun Ruoyan went over to her side with a smile. “It’s been so long since you last came to visit. What have you been busy with?”
Yun Ruoyan smiled. “I’ve been trying to improve my cultivation in preparation for the upcoming trial upon entering Kongming Academy, Grandmother. Do you miss me?”
Yun Ruoyan’s good appetite had caused her cheeks to fill out, and she looked particularly cute and endearing when she smiled.
The Yun matriarch pinched her cheeks as she too smiled. “Oh, you dear girl! How could I forget you when I’m drinking the tea you send to my quarters daily?”
The tea that Madam An and Yun Ruoyao were happily sipping suddenly seemed to turn bitter before their very eyes, and the mother and daughter immediately put down their teacups at once.
“Madam Qin was hoping to go out with Sister Ruoyu a few days ago, but the family’s lightest and most convenient carriage was being occupied by Sister Ruoyan and Brother Moxiao,” Yun Ruoyao suddenly interjected. “And yesterday, when I was hoping to go out to get some supplies in preparation for the academy, the carriage still wasn’t there. Might I ask where you’ve been these few days, and whether Ruoyu and I could join you in the future?”
Right after Yun Ruoyan claimed to have been cultivating in her quarters, someone had to interject with claims to the contrary. Yun Ruoyan’s nature wouldn’t allow her to back down; if Yun Ruoyao was deliberately targeting her, then she would target Yun Ruoyao back.
“I went to my grandfather’s manor.” Yun Ruoyan knew that the Yun and Lin families weren’t on very good terms because of her mother’s affairs, but she had had enough of trying to repress herself for the benefit of others. “I’ve mentioned that Grandfather made me some salve for treating the birthmark on my face, but it wasn’t too effective.”
She turned to glance at Madam An and Yun Ruoyao as she continued, “Afterwards, Grandfather helped refine the formula, and I’ve been testing out the improved salve these few days. The effect really has been far better than before!”
Both Madam An and Yun Ruoyao began to frown. Yun Ruoyan had mentioned that Lin Zainan was trying to help her treat her birthmark, but Madam An believed that to be nonsense. Now that Yun Ruoyan was bringing it up once more, and in front of the Yun matriarch no less, Madam An and Yun Ruoyao couldn’t help but begin to doubt her. Was she trying to fool even the Yun matriarch?!
“Really?” Madam An forced out a smile as she asked, “Does that mean that your birthmark really is getting fainter, Second Miss?”
“Sister Ruoyan, could you remove your gauze patch and show us?” Yun Ruoyu asked, opening her eyes wide. She had grown far less boisterous in the intervening period.
“Yes, Ruoyan, do show us the progress.” The Yun matriarch really was happy for her granddaughter. Having developed feelings for Yun Ruoyan, she was more pitiful than ever about the unfortunate birthmark on her face. The disappearance of that birthmark would be wonderful news for the entire Yun family.
Yun Ruoyan nodded shyly and removed the gauze patch, revealing her hidden right cheek.
As the Yun matriarch looked at her birthmark, the wrinkles on her face drew together. With a quavering voice, she murmured, “It’s gotten better, it’s really getting better!”