Nightfall Chapter 820
The Night Hall was very silent and the candlestick within it swayed lightly. Ning Que looked into the Empress’ eyes and said, “Shame will bring courage and anger. If this anger can be released, then what has been left will be courage. You said it and I quote, Your Majesty. What we need to consider now is who would bear the Tang’s anger.”
The Empress did not answer.
Ning Que continued, “Ceding the Xiangwan Plain, and the the war-horses issue will be settled by the Academy.”
The Empress shook her head and said, “No matter how strong the Academy is, it cannot create something from nothing.”
Ning Que replied, “Everything I lost, I will take back.”
The Empress did not understand why he was so confident, but in the end, she was convinced by his determination. After a moment of consideration, she said with a grave expression, “Since this is so, I will sign it.”
Ning Que said, “You can’t sign it because I cannot allow you and His Majesty to bear the anger of the people.”
The Empress replied, “But you have once said that the Academy cannot sign it because we will renege on this agreement.”
Ning Que said, “The West-Hill Divine Palace has made sufficient preparations, and will definitely request that I or even Senior Brother do the signing. As for the imperial court, Ye Hongyu was right, we still have one more way out.”
The Empress was very intelligent and immediately understood what he meant. She said in agreement, “The one on the throne is my son, so I have to bear the relevant responsibilities and do the tasks. There won’t be any difference whether it’s me or anyone from the Li family to sign the agreement.”
“At least it will form a certain buffer,” said Ning Que. “As a member of the Li Royal Family, you can only die to pay for signing this agreement that will shame our nation. This is the only way to appease the anger of the people. And in such a current situation, you cannot die.”
“The Academy is more and more closely bound with the human society, and Mr. First has agreed to mentor my son. The Royal Court is no longer fighting. Now that we think about it, I am no longer important to the Tang Empire.”
The Empress smiled and said, “Furthermore, to me, death is no longer frightening.”
Of course, Ning Que would not push the Empress to do it. He rushed to the prince’s residence in the night.
The candles in the study were dim but Li Peiyan was just as handsome. He smiled warmly, but there were many more wrinkles by the corner of his eye. His eyebrows which were once sharp as swords had become extremely gentle.
“I do not have much ambition in my life. I just want to make up for what my royal brother is lacking. I want to represent the royal family in bettering the relationship with Haotian Taoism, and at the most, wanted to be known in history as a good prince.”
Li Peiyan looked at Ning Que who was sitting across him. He smiled self-mockingly, “Now that I think about it, if I had not been born in the royal family and been sent to a county to be a prefecture governor, I might’ve been more useful than I am now.”
“This is where your Highness’ problems lay.”
Ning Que said, “You think of things that are too trivial in the grand scheme. And over the years, you have given the Divine Hall too many concessions. His Majesty does not like it and neither does the Academy or the people.”
Li Peiyan said, “It seems that I am indeed useless.”
Ning Que said, “This aligns with the role your highness will play, so I think you can still make some contributions to the Tang royal family before leaving the world.”
Li Peiyan looked at the candlestick on the table and looked at the wax streaming down the candle. He sighed and said, “You have ignored me ever since you killed Xiahou. I always thought it was the Academy that put pressure on you on behalf of my royal brother, or that you had killed enough people and your resentment subsided. Or you just wanted me to be trapped in the fear of not knowing when I’d die, but I didn’t expect you to be here waiting for me.”
“No one can work out what will happen years or even decades later like Haotian. I can’t think so far out in the future either. But just like what my Third Sister once said, some people are more useful alive than dead.”
“They are useful… in dying at the right time?”
“Ning Que, you are indeed the most cold-blooded person in the world.” Li Peiyan lamented, “The Tang Empire is in danger now, and it needs someone who’s cold-blooded and practical like you to protect it.”
Ning Que said, “Everyone but you has the right to say that I’m cold-blooded, your Highness.”
He had not slept for a night, not because he was tossing and turning in bed, but because he was wandering within Chang’an City.
Ning Que left the prince’s residence and went back to the house at Yanming Lake to meet Ye Hongyu. He said, “Neither the Academy nor the royal family can go to the West-Hill Divine Palace to pay homage to Haotian.”
Ye Hongyu said, “Yes, they can. You can send a diplomatic envoy.”
Ning Que said, “No.”
Ye Hongyu thought about it for a moment and said, “Just like what you have done for the South Jin Kingdom, letting the House of Red Sleeves dance at the Divine Hall.”
Ning Que answered, “That might work, but they have to do it without any official representation. I also have to ask if they are willing.”
Ye Hongyu said, “Go on.”
Ning Que continued, “We can agree to all other conditions, but the Divine Hall has to guarantee the absolute safety of the Great River Kingdom. No matter whether it is Yuelun or the South Jin Kingdom, if they take a step across the great river, we would deem it as them reneging on the contract.”
Ye Hongyu answered, “That is not a problem. And to reciprocate, the Tang Empire has to guarantee the safety of Qinghe County.”
Ning Que said, “The Divine Hall’s had already made that requirement.”
Ye Hongyu shook her head and said, “It is the safety of everyone in Qinghe County. That includes the people of Qinghe who stayed in Chang’an during the war. The Tang Empire has to release them.”
Ning Que said, “It seems like this is a condition the Qinghe River warlords raised to the Divine Hall when they swore fealty to the Divine Hall.”
Ye Hongyu said, “If the Divine Hall can’t even do this, how can we gain the trust of millions and billions of believers in the world?”
After a moment of silence, Ning Que replied, “I promise you, that once the agreement has been signed, and as long as the West-Hill Divine Palace Coalition Army leaves Qinghe County, I will send back those people in the Qinghe County Guild.”
The spring rain started once more early in the morning, and an agreement was made.
The Tang Empire agreed to most of the conditions set by the West-Hill Divine Palace and Prince Li Peiyan signed his name on the agreement solemnly. He was, at the same time, signing his name on the pillar of shame in history.
The news spread and a furor started in the royal court and the commonalty. No one knew what had happened in the long night and why the bigwigs in the Imperial Palace would dare to sign the agreement despite it being so shameful.
The Tangs gathered in front of the imperial city could not control their emotions and cursed angrily. They spat at the vermilion-colored palace walls and then, the old rumors started spreading in the crowd.
The old rumors were not really rumors but were things that everyone knew. For example, the massacre in the Yan territory, the Prince’s secret relationship with the Hierarch of the West-Hill Divine Palace and the massacre in Chang’an that had involved Haotian Taoism; leading to the previous Emperor being banished to become a commoner and only rejoining the royal ranks after Li Peiyan ascended the throne…
The palace gates opened slowly, and Li Peiyan walked toward the crowd. He was wearing a dark robe of black red and gold which stood out in the light spring rain falling in the morning.
Countless people looked at him with disdain and anger in their eyes, and some even tried to beat him.
A lowly-ranked official in the government questioned why the court ceded Dongshan County and the Xiangwan Plain. The official sounded as if he was in extreme pain, as if he was bleeding.
Countless people were asking him and were berating and scolding him. Did the imperial court not want to regain Qinghe County? Why are they sending the traitors in the Qinghe guild hall back?
The front of the Imperial Palace was filled with blood-smelling voices.
If not for the heavy protection of the Yulin Royal Guards, Li Peiyan would have already been torn into shreds.
Li Peiyan suddenly stopped, and looked at the angry masses.
His expression was very calm and the look deep in his eyes was complicated.
The crowd gradually quietened.
“Why? The world isn’t that reasonable. The Tang Empire needs time, so I have fought for time for you all. The Tang Empire needs peace, so I have fought for peace for you all. The world had fought against the Tang Empire, so how will the Empire deal with itself? Can we really fight against the entire world? If you think that I am wrong, then prove it to me in the future.”
His expression was dispassionate, but his hands hidden in his sleeves trembled incessantly.
Li Peiyan returned to his residence.
The angry people of Chang’an surrounded it.
Students from the front yard of the Academy and students from the imperial academy were assisting the Ministry of Workers in repairing homes damaged during the war in the city. After hearing the news, they carried numerous pieces of bricks and stones there.
The Yulin Royal Guards and soldiers were guarding the residence, buttheir numbers were too small and were not enough to deter the angry crowd. Angry calls echoed around the prince’s residence.
Some even carried oil and lit their torches.
And at the most critical moment, a disconsolate cry rang out from within the walls of the prince’s residence.
A white flag was raised from behind the prince residence’s door.
The Tang Empire Prince, LiPeiyan, was dead.
The street became very quiet as the people looked at the bleak white banner in the spring rain. People put down the bricks and stones in their hands, and the newly lit torches gradually died out.
Ning Que silently watched from the alley at a distance.
His face remained emotionless.
Li Peiyan signed the agreement on behalf of the Tang Empire. This, to the West-Hill Divine Palace, was not the end of the negotiations, and neither was it the final victory. That was because they needed the Academy’s signature.
If possible, they would want the renowned Mr. First, or the gentleman, Mr. Second, to sign. But only one person from the Academy had entered the human realm, and that was Ning Que.
Yanming Lake was shrouded in the misty spring rain, but it did not seem mournful. All the members of the West-Hill Divine Palace’s diplomatic corps and all of the Tang Empire’s Grand Secretaries were inside the hall. No one spoke, and they all felt different emotions. It was unnecessary to mention the West-Hill Divine Palace, but Grand Secretary Zeng Jing and the other Tang officials all bore solemn expressions.
Everyone was waiting for Ning Que to return and sign the agreement. Ye Hongyu was also waiting in the plum garden, but Ning Que arrived very late, because he had gone somewhere else before returning to Yanming Lake.
In front of the Qinghe County Guild Hall was a straight street, and behind it was a lake and mountains. The spring rain cast a fog over it and the scenery was beautiful.
Several bodyguards and over 20 members of the Fish-dragon Gang were watching the guild hall warily.
The descendants of Qinghe County’s warlords had tried to escape from the guild hall the night of the battle in Chang’an. They had all been captured through a lot of effort, and they did not want a repeat of it. If they found out that the people in the hall were about to be sent back to Qinghe County, they would be enraged.
And at a moment like this, Ning Que entered the Qinghe River Guild Hall. He took ahandkerchief and wiped his hair that was dampened in the rain. Then, he flicked off the water droplets on his clothing. He behaved so naturally, it was as if he were at home.