Chapter 1302: [Beiyue] Assemble
The scenery of the grasslands in late spring and early summer was no inferior to the waterside towns of Jiangnan. Gurgling streams, flourishing grass, plains full of patches of small, nameless flowers were beautiful up close or from a distance. The whole earth seemed to be paved in a carpet of them. Experiencing spring in the grasslands and its galloping horses was just as good as appreciating blossoms and poetry in the south.
Unfortunately, Han Yunxi was pregnant and could only ride in a carriage. As the emperor, Long Feiye was her personal driver while little Rui’er sat beside him, watching the eagles circling in the sky. Little Tang Tang was also sprawled in her father’s arms while Gu Beiyue and Qin Min each rode a horse side by side. Mu Linger and Ning Jing weren’t womanly at all, wielding whips and galloping recklessly in front to see who would be first to reach the hill ahead.
Han Yunxi moved to sit behind Rui’er and smiled. “Rui’er, do you think Auntie Jing or Auntir Ling will win?”
Rui’er didn’t even hesitate. “Imperial mother, want to bet?”
Long Feiye’s lips quirked into a silent grin.
“What to bet on?” Han Yunxi asked quifckly.
“Not betting,” Rui’er said.
“Why, afraid to lose?” Han Yunxi provoked him.
Rui’er didn’t answer.
“You’re really afraid? Your imperial father is secretly laughing at you, oh,” Han Yunxi smiled.
Rui’er still didn’t reply.
Long Feiye had long been laughing secretly. Although Rui’er was young, he had excellent judgment. Whatever he could do he’d do without hesitation, while things he couldn’t manage he adamantly refused to touch. When he couldn’t figure out how to answer his mother, he would choose to stay silent until the end. Unless one was familiar with his ways, they’d be hard-pressed to guess what he was thinking. Knowing her son’s personality, Han Yunxi didn’t babble and shifted her gaze towards Gu Beiyue and Qin Min.
Long Feiye and Rui’er were very similar when they sat together. Currently, father and son were both staring off into the distance, their expressions lofty and cold with their own dignity. Closeby, Tang Li and Tang Tang were completely the opposite, feeling very excited.
“Father, faster, faster! Charge, ah! Mother’s about to lose!” Tang Tang pointed ahead anxiously as she shouted.
“Quick quick quick!” Tang Li cradled his daughter as he whipped their horse to catch up. “With me here, your mother definitely won’t lose,” he added in a low voice, “Don’t worry.”
Tang Tang gave a start and looked up. “Why not?”
“My mistake. With your Aunt Ling here, your mother can’t lose!” Tang Li grinned. “Charge! Ning Jing, faster!”
Tang Tang looked ahead again. “Mother, do your best!”
Tang Li soon caught up next to Ning Jing and galloped side-by-side. Ning Jing distractedly glanced at them both before focusing all her attention on the target again. Tang Li and Tang Tang followed right by her side.
He said, “Jing Jing,” while Tang Tang shouted, “Charge, ah!”
When Tang Li said, “Ning Jing,” Tang Tang yelled, “Do your best!”
Then Tang Li said, “Wife,” while Tang Tang hollered, “Mother!”
“Wrong!” Tang Li corrected and Tang Tang fixed her phrasing. It was as if father and daughter were chasing Ning Jing to make a racket. She was focused on her riding and even left Mu Linger behind, but this duo made it impossible for her to focus. Gradually, Mu Linger began to catch up. Right as Tang Li’s passionate “Wife” rang out, Mu Linger overtook her instantly and left her in last place.
At last, Ning Jing looked back at the father and daughter, only to see Tang Li smiling. She wanted to hit him with her whip right then and there, but seeing her daughter so excited softened her heart and made her break into a helpless smile. Sometimes, Ning Jing would privately think that it was good not being able to have another child. With a big mouth like Tang Li and a little big mouth like Tang Tang, another child would make her collapse. She turned back and kept galloping, but there were almost at the goal. She didn’t catch up before Mu Linger ended up in first place.
Little Tang Tang was a little disappointed, but Tang Li caught up with her in his arms and laughed out loud. “Ning Jing, you’re second! Your daughter and I are last!”
Tang Tang gave a start before crawling to her feet atop the horse’s back. She turned to Rui’er and the rest and grinned. “They’re the last ones!”
Would Long Feiye take this kind of competition seriously? Impossible. What about Gu Beiyue? He could get first place even without riding a horse. Examining her daughter from head to toe, Ning Jing’s mouth could only twitch at her optimistic grin. She had no idea what kind of girl Tang Tang would grow up to be if she kept hanging out with her father.
Jin Zi had arrived at the hill ahead of time and long finished setting up a tent and fire. Currently, he was putting up an iron frame for grilling. Seeing Mu Linger win, he didn’t react much before casually throwing her a towel before ducking his head to roast meat.
“Thanks for the yield, Big Sister Ning!” Mu Linger beamed radiantly.
“Your horsemanship has improved a lot. Jin Zi taught you everything, right?” Ning Jing joked. Maybe it was because Mu Linger was married now, but she felt the lass was different than before, though it was hard to explain what.
Han Yunxi was immediately drawn by the fragrance of roasting meat when she arrived. She couldn’t move her eyes from the sight. Although the same roast meat had caused her to vomit in the past and revealed her pregnancy, it now only stirred up her appetite. She had just drawn near when Gu Beiyue spoke from the sidelines.
“Esteemed Empress, you cannot.”
Han Yunxi glanced over but didn’t have time to reply before Long Feiye took her hand and murmured, “Go rest in the tent. You’ve been sitting in the carriage for half the day. Xu Donglin’s already prepared lunch to be delivered to you, so be good and listen. If you let Xu Donglin cook privately for you again, I’ll cut off his hands.”
Although Long Feiye’s voice was very small, everyone heard his words. They all looked at Han Yunxi, Jin Zi included. She wished she could hide in a crack in the ground. Ever since getting pregnant, she had lived the life of a “waste” back in Yunning. Long Feiye asked Tang Li for a book that recorded various taboos and dietary restrictions for expectant mothers and followed it precisely. No matter whether it was in the palace or beyond, her three meals had never varied. Why was this the promised compensation and companionship she got?
Admittedly, this pregnancy was much easier than her last one. Maybe she was older, or maybe she had eaten too much and slept too often, but she felt stupider now. She was only about five months in but her stomach was obviously protruding and swollen; she had to use a hand to support her waist even when she walked.
“Big sis, I’ll keep you company inside,” Mu Linger quickly came to support her.
Jin Zi suddenly asked, “Grand Tutor Gu, what else can’t a pregnant woman eat besides roast meat?”
Alarmed, Mu Linger subconsciously glanced at her own belly. Although she didn’t eat roast food often, she liked fried, deep-fried, marinated, baked, and especially spicy foods. While making medicines, she needed to eat a mess of things to get full before she could focus on her work.
Gu Beiyue said lightly, “Fried, deep-fried, marinated, and baked things. Best to keep the palate light, nothing too sour or spicy.”
Jin Zi nodded and said nothing, but Mu Linger felt unwell all over. After Jin Zi had tormented her last night, she told him how she hoped the child would come soon. Now she had to seriously reconsider the issue.
Seeing her expression, Ning Jing thought back to her words at Tiger’s Prison and couldn’t help laughing. She went to help Han Yunxi as well. They were about to enter the tent when Han Yunxi turned back and said, “Qin Min, come and rest. Don’t just stand there!”
After dismounting from her horse, Qin Min had been standing quietly by Gu Beiyue’s side the entire time. “Yes, Esteemed Empress,” she bowed, her manners identical to Gu Beiyue. Han Yunxi had told her to relax the formalities a few times from Yunning to Northern Li, but by now she was too lazy to care.
The womenfolk all went in the tent with the intent to chat and gossip. Naturally, this made it inconvenient for Long Feiye and the men to join them. Tang Li scooted next to Jin Zi to learn how to roast meat while Long Feiye and Gu Beiyue sat watching from the side and speaking in low tones. Little Rui’er and Tang Tang had long ran off chasing Lil Thing.
As Long Feiye and Gu Beiyue chatted, the former looked up at the snowy mountains in the west and remarked, “Your Excellency Jin, how about crushing the slave trader camps of Wintercrow Country next year?”
Wintercrow Country had slave camps from the nobility to the commoners, all filled with countless slaves. Jin Zi’s memories began with the cages of those camps. His hand shook slightly before resuming roasting meat. He said, “How many men and horses will Your Majesty give this subject?”
“How many do you want?” Long Feiye asked.
Jin Zi finally looked up and said seriously, “I’ll report it when I figure it out.”
Inside the tent, Han Yunxi, Mu Linger, and Ning Jing were all sitting lazily on the ground, leaving Qin Min the sole woman still maintaining proper posture. Her back was straight and every inch the image of a proper young lady from an established household.
Han Yunxi and Mu Linger had just finished telling Ning Jing about Qin Min’s legs and how they’d been poisoned. As for her miscarriage, both Han Yunxi and Long Feiye were still pretending to be ignorant of anything. Everyone else assumed Qin Min had lost the child and was recuperating, and that she and Gu Beiyue had fostered a son instead, nicknamed Shadow (Yingzi).
Han Yunxi thought Qin Min would get acquainted with everyone after sitting a while, but she simply sat there quietly without saying a word. The three of them were chatting and laughing out loud, but she only smiled and never interrupted. Finally, Han Yunxi had enough and arched her brow at Qin Min. Mu Linger wanted to speak, but Ning Jing stopped her with a look. Han Yunxi examined Qin Min with interest, but the woman didn’t panic. She only felt a bit uncomfortable and asked, “Is there something on my face, Esteemed Empress?”
Han Yunxi shook her head silently.
Qin Min grew doubtful. “Does Esteemed Empress…have something to tell me?”
Han Yunxi shook her head again.
Qin Min couldn’t help smiling and asked directly, “Then why is Esteemed Empress looking at m e?”
Han Yunxi replied, “Qin Min, why do I think you resemble Gu Beiyue more and more?”