Chapter 178: A Sharp Contrast
Yuwen Jin’s father in front flicked a backward glance at them and gave an affected cough.
This time it was Yuwen Tong who shut up.
Ling Zhang at a loss for words.
Yuwen You had long ago moved out of the residence of Yuwen family to maintain an independent house, but his family was now much larger than Yuwen family. The reason for this was known to everybody – too many members of Yuwen family had died on the battlefield. Even Yuwen Zhi had only two sons left. In the large residential compound of Yuwen family, a lot of courtyard houses had stood unoccupied for years, which was quite a poignant contrast to the liveliness in Yuwen You’s family.
Thinking of this, Ling Zhang couldn’t help but feel sad for Yuwen Tong, but Yuwen Tong seemed to have long ago got used to this kind of scene and didn’t feel upset at all.
‘It would be so nice if Yuwen Zhi were not out of tune with Yuwen Tong. At least things wouldn’t have ended up like this – Yuwen Tong wasn’t even willing to go back to his own home first after returning.’ Ling Zhang thought a lot. Even he himself was startled by some of his thoughts after they occurred to him, but after flicking a glance at Yuwen Tong, he still didn’t dismiss those thoughts from his mind, for he didn’t have the heart to do that.
“What’s wrong?” The moment Ling Zhang’s mind wandered away, Yuwen Tong noticed it.
Ling Zhang collected himself and shook his head in an effort to keep Yuwen Tong from guessing what he was thinking. Nobody wanted other people’s sympathy in this kind of circumstances, especially Yuwen Tong.
“I’m just surprised that you’re on such good terms with them.”
Yuwen Tong gave a smile. “They don’t stir up trouble.”
After having been fighting enemies at the front risking life and limb for so many years, he was fully aware of which ones had never been a drag on him, and which ones had never made trouble for him.
Ling Zhang heaved a sigh. He could fully empathize with Yuwen Tong.
On the other side, Yuwen Hong and a couple of others, seeing Ling Zhang and Yuwen Tong whispering to each other, exchanged knowing winks and dissolved into snicker.
“It never crossed my mind that some day our cousin would end up like this as well,” observed Yuwen Jin under his breath.
“Previously, when he came back here and saw me talk with your sister-in-law for just a short while, he would always say that we were saccharine. Now I think he himself is much more saccharine than us,” said Yuwen Hong.
“This is so weird. Do you think by any chance our uncle’s father’s spirit is really at work? Otherwise, how did he come to get it into his thick skull that it’s time he found himself someone and got married?” commented Yuwen Han.
Yuwen Tong and Ling Zhang, who had exceptionally good hearing, heard each and every word of the three brothers’ private conversation.
Embarrassed, Ling Zhang immediately stepped aside, keeping a certain distance away from Yuwen Tong.
But the expression on Yuwen Tong’s face was extremely natural and unhurried. ‘How could Yuwen Hong and his wife compare with me and Ling Zhang?’
They entered the living room and sat down. Yuwen You first asked Yuwen Tong about the situation in border areas, and then asked Ling Zhang about the situation in his family. After hearing the replies of Yuwen Tong and Ling Zhang, he inquired of them, “Do you have any specific plans? Have you fixed a date for your wedding?”
Yuwen Tong replied, “There are still many things I have to make arrangements for in the capital city. I have to have these things handled first before making preparations for our wedding. There’ll be many complex ceremonies which require prior arrangements. Besides, Younger Brother Zhang’s family are all still in Tanyang. Things that our two families need to consult with each other about have to wait until they come, so I think we’ll have to take this step by step.”
All others were somewhat surprised to hear Yuwen Tong’s words. Yuwen You looked at him, “Are you saying that you are going to stay in the capital city longer than usual?”
It would take half a year even a full year to make preparations for all these miscellaneous things. Judging from Yuwen Tong’s remarks, there were also some other things he needed to deal with, so Yuwen Tong had to stay in the capital city for at least a year.
From the day Yuwen Tong was assigned to the border areas until this day, he had always been in haste when he returned to the capital city or left it. Seldom had his stay lasted longer than half a month, but this time he was going to stay in this city for such a long time, which greatly surprised Yuwen You and others. But soon their surprise was replaced by delight.
“Cousin, you’re really going to stay in the capital city for a long time? Does this mean that you’ll have enough time to fulfill your promise of teaching me military strategy and tactics?!” asked Yuwen Jin excitedly.
Yuwen You uttered “Um?” and then gave Yuwen Jin a dirty look and said, “Behave yourself.”
Yuwen Jin replied, “Grandfather, haven’t you already approved of it?”
“There’s a whole lot of matters your cousin has to attend to. You think everybody is as idle as you? Keep out of mischief and focus on your study when you are in the Imperial College,” commented Yuwen You.
Yuwen Jin was unreconciled, but seeing the severe look in his grandfather’s eyes, he had no alternative but to sit back into his seat.
Ling Zhang was somewhat confused. ‘Are there by any chance any members of this family disapproving of Yuwen Jin learning military strategy and tactics?’
After Yuwen You and Yuwen Jin finished speaking, Yuwen Tong said, “Just like grandfather said, I’m indeed going to be fully occupied for quite some time. Let’s talk about this when I’m at my leisure.”
Yuwen Jin’s eyes instantly became expectant again as he detected in Yuwen Tong’s words the implication that there was still room for maneuver. “Then I’ll wait until you’re available.”
This time Yuwen You didn’t say anything, as if he wouldn’t raise any objections to Yuwen Tong’s opinions.
Ling Zhang believed there was definitely something behind this that was unknown to him.
The two of them stayed for lunch. Yuwen You showed great appreciation of the for jars of wine brought by Ling Zhang. The old man drank a lot, his cheeks glowing. If, before drinking, his attitude towards Ling Zhang had been tinged with politeness, then after drinking, there were no civilities whatsoever. He called Ling Zhang “Xiao Zhang” in a very natural way, and also asked Ling Zhang to take him back to Tanyang to find out how the best wine there tasted.
Of course Ling Zhang consented without much deliberation. It struck him that Yuwen You, when half-drunk, bore some resemblance to his own grandfather, which naturally further deepened the rapport between him and this old man.
After lunch, Yuwen Tong and Yuwen You went to the study to have a talk, while Yuwen Hong and the other peers of Ling Zhang stayed to keep Ling Zhang company.
“Elder Brother Zhang, I heard about what happened last night. I think what you said in there was absolutely right,” said Yuwen Jin.
Yuwen Hong gave him a dirty look. ‘This guy’s airing dirty laundry again. Why is he bringing this up at this time?’
Yuwen Jin, feeling that there was no harm in talking about this, ignored his elder brother.
After this short amount of time’s acquaintance with Yuwen Jin, Ling Zhang had got a general idea of what kind of person he was, so he replied, “It’s okay. Lord Yuwen has already said what happened back there last night was a mere misunderstanding. We cleared the air, so there’s no hard feeling.”
Yuwen Hong smiled, “I’m glad you see it that way. Actually, though Second Uncle is somewhat arrogant, he is always good to family members of the younger generation. Give it some time. I’m sure you two will get along well.”
Ling Zhang also gave a smile. If Yuwen Zhi was really willing to stop picking on him and live on good terms with him, he might not necessarily find it difficult to come to reconciliation with him. It was just that he feared Yuwen Zhi wouldn’t change his mind.
Ling Zhang recalled those thoughts that had crossed his mind when he came here in the morning, and with that some other ideas occurred to him.
“Humph. If only that would be the case.” It was Yuwen Jin who made a remark on that.
Yuwen Hong shot him another dark glance, warning him to guard his tongue.
Having seen all this, Ling Zhang came to a general realization that Yuwen Hong and some others had no intention of getting involved in domestic affairs of Yuwen family.
Yuwen Jin, who had been warned several times, stealthily made faces at Ling Zhang, expressing his displeasure with Yuwen Hong.
Ling Zhang inwardly gave a smile. He didn’t really mind this, and he could understand what Yuwen Hong was thinking. The kind and gentle attitude that Yuwen Hong and his brothers had towards him indicated that they were on the side of Yuwen Tong and him. This was enough for him. The situation would be thorny if they fell out with Yuwen Zhi on account of him and Yuwen Tong.
“Elder Brother Zhang, when are you going to the Imperial College?” asked Yuwen Jin.
“In a few days. What about you? When will you go?” Ling Zhang inquired of him.
After a few moments’ thinking, Yuwen Jin replied, “I think I’ll go with you. I’m in no hurry anyway.”
Unsurprisingly, this time Yuwen Hong raised no objection. He also said, “Someone from the Imperial College will come and send you an official notification. They’ll have to make some preparations as well.”
After Yuwen Tong and Yuwen You finished their talk, the two of them took their leave. They still had to pay a visit to Yuwen family.
Ling Zhang asked Yuwen Tong, “This time around you’ll stay and live there, right?”
Yuwen Tong responded, “It’s too soon to make a decision. Let’s go there and take a look first.”
Soon, Yuwen Tong and Ling Zhang’s visit to Yuwen You came to the knowledge of everybody who had been paying attention. Now they were all waiting to see what the two of them would do next.
As the carriage of Ling Zhang and Yuwen Tong left, the two of them sensed that some people were staring in their direction. They both knew very well whom those people worked for.
“They really care much about your every act and every move,” observed Ling Zhang.
When they arrived at the gateway of the residential compound of Yuwen family, they saw that Yuwen Feng was waiting, but Yuwen Zhi and others were absent.
Yuwen Tong’s face gave little away, but Ling Zhang knew that Yuwen Tong actually was not very happy about it.
“Cousin, Childe Ling, it’s nice of you to finally show up.” Yuwen Feng gladly walked up to their welcome. “A moment ago my parents were waiting for you at the gateway as well, but I could tell they were tired after a long wait, so I had them go back to sit and have some rest. I never expected you’d arrive right in the next moment.”
‘Yuwen Feng seriously expects us to believe that Yuwen Zhi and Zheng shi were here waiting for us?’ Ling Zhang was very skeptical.
“Let’s go inside,” Yuwen Tong said.
“Yeah, yeah. Let’s go back right now. We didn’t dare to enter your house, so we cleaned a courtyard house nearby. You and Childe Ling may make whatever arrangements you like, cousin. My mother has been bustling around in the kitchen since noon. She prepared a lot of dishes you like. I’m sure you’ll be surprised at dinner. None of us have any knowledge of Childe Ling’s tastes in food, so we hired a chef from Tanyang and had him cook some courses of Tanyang flavor. I hope you’ll like them, Childe Ling.”
Yuwen Feng appeared hospitable but also showed a sense of propriety; his tone of voice was amiable and didn’t strike people as unpleasant. Servants of Yuwen family, seeing Yuwen Tong return, were all submissive and deferential to him, which was an unmistakable indication of Yuwen Tong’s absolutely dominant position in this family.
However, after Ling Zhang saw Yuwen Zhi and Zheng shi, his fairly good mood was ruined to some extent.
These two people were sitting in host seats facing the doorway of the hall. Seeing Ling Zhang and Yuwen Tong walking inside, the two of them seemed to have no intention of standing up to welcome them. ‘From the perspective of elders, they are not doing anything wrong, for Yuwen Tong is their nephew and indeed should pay respect to them, but they are kins after all, and blood is thicker than water. On top of that, they haven’t seen each other for such a long time, and it’s the battlefield that Yuwen Tong has returned from. Is it really so difficult for them to show a little affection, to stand up, walk over and say something nice? Do they really have to sit upright in host seats?’ Ling Zhang thought.
It was not that Ling Zhang was a fault-finder but that after he met Yuwen Tong’s father’s uncle and his family, the attitude of Yuwen Zhi and Zheng shi really made Ling Zhang feel sad for Yuwen Tong, for it was such a stark contrast.
“You are back. I’m so glad. No place compares with home. Look at you, you seem thinner after staying elsewhere for one day,” Zheng shi said with a smile but still didn’t rise from her chair.
After hearing the last remark of hers, Ling Zhang was secretly amused. ‘What did Zheng shi mean by the last remark? That Yuwen Tong had been subjected to abuse during his stay in my place? Besides, had she met Yuwen Tong before that? She knows how much Yuwen Tong weighed in the past few years?’