Chapter 179: Point at Me Again and I’ll Make You Regret It
Yuwen Tong simply gave a bob of his head in response to Zheng shi’s words and then blandly greeted them. “Uncle, Aunt.”
“Nice to meet you, Lord Yuwen, Madam Yuwen,” Ling Zhang also said.
“So you are Ling Zhang.” Zheng shi, as if she had just noticed Ling Zhang, sized him up from head to toe and then remarked, “It must’ve been quite an ordeal for you to travel thousands of miles with them from Tanyang to the capital city. Situation in a small place like Tanyang is uncomparable with that in the capital city. If a brick falls off a building in this city and hits three men, one of them would be an official of some description. Given that you have no knowledge of how things are done around here, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll offend someone. Now that you’ve already come, why don’t you move here to live with us? People won’t dare to pick on you if they know you live in Yuwen family. And when you decide to go back to Tanyang, we’ll be able to have you sent back in one piece. You may take it as a favor in return for what Old Master Ling did for our family that year. What do you say?”
Zheng shi was sitting there with grace and decorousness, but there was a sarcastic and tart undertone in her words, which made her presence rather hollow.
Of course Ling Zhang was angry after hearing these words, not because Zheng shi was picking on him but because Zheng shi showed a total disregard for Yuwen Tong’s feelings. ‘Yuwen Tong and I have just come here and not even taken a seat yet. Does Zheng shi really have to be so anxious to pick on me? She’s Yuwen Tong’s aunt and, in a sense, the mistress of this large residential compound of Yuwen family. What harm could it do to keep up a pretence? What harm could it do to save her nephew’s face? Even if she wants to pick up on me, is it really so difficult to at least wait until we sit down? Yuwen Tong had just returned home, is letting him take a sip of tea first really too much to ask?’
Ling Zhang was indeed very angry, feeling that Zheng shi literally couldn’t hold a candle to his aunt, Fu Caiwei.
“Those considerations of yours are unnecessary, Madam Yuwen. I’m an uneducated countryman and not used to living in a noble family. I find small houses more comfortable to live in. Besides, Yuwen Tong and I are engaged to be married. It would be somewhat awkward if I move in here just like this. Even if I’m to move in some day, we should wait until after the wedding day of Yuwen Tong and I,” replied Ling Zhang.
‘Zheng shi didn’t even mention the engagement between me and Yuwen Tong, yet she wants me to leave the capital city? Fine. What she doesn’t want to talk about is exactly what I’ll bring up!’
As expected, Zheng shi’s face darkened. ‘What is wrong with this Ling Zhang guy? Does he not understand my words? He really thinks he could marry into Yuwen family?’
“Pooh, Ling Zhang, do you really not understand or are you just pretending not to? You are not welcome here in Yuwen family, so stop drea–”
Yuwen Qi’s tone was sarcastic from the first word, but unfortunate for him, he hadn’t finished his sentence when Yuwen Tong gave him a kick sending him flying.
“Ah!” Yuwen Qi’s pained cry mixed with Zheng shi’s scream. The living room was instantly thrown into confusion.
“Qi’er! What are you doing, Yuwen Tong? He’s your cousin. You want to kick him to death?!” Zheng shi nervously helped Yuwen Qi to his feet, drew him behind her and rebuked Yuwen Tong coldly.
Yuwen Zhi smacked his hand down onto the table and reprimanded Yuwen Tong, “How dare you throw you weight about like this!”
Yuwen Feng hurriedly walked to the middle and tried to persuade them. ” Father, cousin, we can discuss this. Don’t be impulsive.”
Yuwen Tong, face frosty and sullen, appeared very angry. In a tone of voice not as polite as before, he said to Yuwen Feng, “Even His Majesty is staying out of my marriage. You are in no position to interfere. If you hold any differing opinions about the marriage between me and Younger Brother Zhang, we may discuss and work things out. If there are any misgivings, we may figure out a solution, but if all you are capable of are sarcasm, pointing fingers and making trouble, I’ll stop being nice to you.”
“Outrageous! I’m your uncle, your elder! Is this the way you are supposed to talk to me?!” Yuwen Zhi flied into a rage.
“From the moment I walked in here until now, I haven’t even been offered a cup of tea, nor a single word of greeting from you. I’m treating you in the exact way you’ve been treating me. During the past over twenty years, there hasn’t been a single day that passed when you did what an uncle should do, nor a day when I interfered in any domestic affairs of this family. Given that it’s been like this for so many years, I’d like it to stay this way,” commented Yuwen Tong coldly.
Yuwen Zhi’s face was dark with rage. “It’s me who’s the patriarch of this family. Are you challenging my authority, Yuwen Tong?”
His words struck Yuwen Tong as amusing. “Now that you want to make things clear, I’ll get this straight. There are some ridiculous rules that I don’t really give a damn about, but on this particular day, I think I might as well state my opinions of them. In every sense of the word, you are not the patriarch of this family, uncle. It’s true that my father passed away, but I still draw breath. You know very well who should be the rightful patriarch of this family. It’s just that I’ve always been in border areas and have seen too many deaths on the battlefield, so I don’t really care about these things. Since you live in the capital city, I think it’s not altogether inexcusable that you take charge of this family, but if you think that just because of this you get to interfere in my marriage, then you are mistaken. I can tell you, in a definite way, that I’ll be staying in the capital city for a very long time. You will not be the patriarch of this family if I don’t want you to be. And you certainly have no power over me.”
“How dare you!” Yuwen Zhi was infuriated by Yuwen Tong’s words so terribly that he almost passed out.
“Cousin, it’s not that my father is picking on you about anything. Your words are too hurtful to him,” remarked Yuwen Feng.
Yuwen Tong flicked a contemptuous glance at Yuwen Feng and replied, “Your thoughts are no secret to me as well. Given that you always know your position, I won’t make things difficult for you, but you’d better try to talk some sense into your father.”
Yuwen Feng’s face froze.
Yuwen Tong took Ling Zhang out of the living room, heading directly towards the ancestral hall.
After entering the ancestral hall with Ling Zhang, Yuwen Tong burnt joss sticks in front of the memorial tablets of his ancestors, quietly contemplated for a while in front of the tablets of his grandfather and parents, and then looked at Ling Zhang and said, “We haven’t got married yet, but if you don’t mind, I’d like you to burn some joss sticks for my grandfather and other elders. What do you say?”
Of course Ling Zhang didn’t mind. He inclined his head, took some joss sticks, lit them, deferentially bowed three times in front of the memorial tablets of the elders, and then stuck the joss sticks into the censer.
Finally, a hint of smile appeared on Yuwen Tong’s face. He said, “After we get married, I’ll hold an official sacrificial rite here.”
Ling Zhang laid no contradiction to his words about them getting married. Seeing smile had finally found its way back to Yuwen Tong’s face, he felt a sense of relief.
But when he thought of other members of Yuwen family, Ling Zhang’s heart sank again.
“Let’s go back,” said Yuwen Tong.
After a few moments’ thinking, Ling Zhang held his arm and stopped him. “Go back? But we just came here. Is it really okay to leave so soon?”
“You want to stay?” Yuwen Tong looked at him.
Ling Zhang replied, “This is your home. How could I not like this place? As for those regarding me as an unwelcome visitor, I can just ignore them.”
He didn’t want Yuwen Tong to leave this place in such haste. After all, this place, and this place alone, was Yuwen Tong’s home.
“I want to see where you live.” Ling Zhang looked at Yuwen Tong with an expectant look in his eyes.
Yuwen Tong was briefly surprised. Then he smiled, “I’ll take you there.”
Yuwen Tong’s courtyard house was very, very large. There was even a vast drill ground in it. Apart from the main house that he dwelt in, there were also some other buildings. ‘No wonder Yue Qi and the others stayed hidden in this place for such a long time,’ Ling Zhang thought.
There was hardly anybody inside. After going through a wood, they had scarcely seen any servants walking around. It was very quiet and cheerless.
Ling Zhang, who didn’t have the heart to walk too quick, kept looking around, scrutinizing this place that Yuwen Tong had grown up in.
“I don’t like servants touching my stuff. On top of that, sometimes Yue Qi and the others would secretly go back here, and they have to stay out of the sight of servants, so I ordered nobody get in without my permission, which is why this place has always been very quiet. Only when I return, when Yao Yi and others are also present, will this place be a little more lively,” explained Yuwen Tong.
Ling Zhang nodded. “That drill ground is so large. Has it always been there?”
Yuwen Tong gave a bob of his head. “Yes. It was the very place where my grandfather taught me kung fu when I was young.”
Yuwen Tong took him to the drill ground and showed him all kinds of marks on it, telling him how that groove had been caused, and when he had accidentally left those cuts in the giant rock on the side during a training session, and which of those weapons had previously been used by him and survived the years.
After hearing Yuwen Tong talk about so many things, Ling Zhang gradually had a vague picture of Yuwen Tong’s childhood.
“I’ll show you my chambers.” It lifted Yuwen Tong’s spirits to see that Ling Zhang was very interested in his past. He took Ling Zhang to the main house that he lived in.
To Ling Zhang’s surprise, Yuwen Tong’s main house was very simple and plain, and most of the furnishings served the purpose of being practical. Next to the bedroom was a commodious study, where there was a broad bookshelf behind a desk. On the bookshelf were ranked books of various descriptions, most of which were about military strategy and tactics.
“I put away those important ones. I read all these books in those years,” Yuwen Tong informed him.
Ling Zhang conveniently took one of the books, opened it and saw that there were all kinds of annotations on every page. Judging from the style of handwriting, those annotations must have been made in different stages of Yuwen Tong’s life. Some of them were tinged with immaturity, and some others were sharp and strong. Reading those words, Ling Zhang felt as if he was seeing images of Yuwen Tong at different ages, who was fired with enthusiasm.
Ling Zhang couldn’t help but smile, “I can see why you are now a marshal.”
Annotations on each page seemed to be more incisive than those on the last.
Naturally, Yuwen Tong was happy to hear the compliment.
And then Ling Zhang looked at the wall on the side. There were some special decorations on it, which gave him a general idea of what this wall was used for – hanging maps.
“When I’m at home, I hang the maps I need to read on this wall,” Yuwen Tong explained.
Ling Zhang spent a lot of time in Yuwen Tong’s study. He skipped Yuwen Tong’s bedroom, for he was too embarrassed to go inside, but he was just about to turn around to leave when Yuwen Tong held him and asked beside his ears, “This is an important place. Why not go and take a look?”
A flush rose to the tips of Ling Zhang’s ears. “What’s worth seeing in it?”
Yuwen Tong playfully bit the tip of his ear and lowered his voice. “You tell me.”
It was the two of them that would be living in this place in the future.
Eventually, Ling Zhang was still led into the bedroom by Yuwen Tong. As Ling Zhang had expected, the furnishings in it were just as simple, but they manifestly displayed Yuwen Tong’s style and preferences. Ling Zhang even had an illusion that there was Yuwen Tong’s smell lingering inside this room.
Ling Zhang looked around and said, “Okay, I’ve seen it. Now let’s go.”
Yuwen Tong was standing right behind him. After hearing this, he put his arms around Ling Zhang from behind, affectedly pondered for a few moments and then said, “Actually there’s something else of great importance.”
“What is it?” Ling Zhang was perplexed.
Yuwen Tong whispered something in his ear and then carried Ling Zhang to the bedside. The two of them lay down on the bed.
Both the bedding and the mattress were clean and tidy. Yue Qi and some others had some time ago got these things ready in the knowledge that Yuwen Tong would soon return.
After lying down, Ling Zhang felt Yuwen Tong’s smell fully envelop his whole being. “Hey!” he called.