Chapter 673: You betrayed this crown prince
The dart on the ground had already revealed the identity of its owner, but she didn't want to believe it. Nor did she dare! But looking back forced her to confront reality!
Walking towards her now was none other than the head of the Tang Clan, her older brother Tang Zijin! Perhaps it wouldn't have been so bad if he was the only one present, but Long Feiye was right behind him. He was a full head taller than the other man, his form stalwart and proud as his black robes blended in with the shadows of the prisons. His cold face revealed itself by degrees as he walked forward. There was no mercy in that frosty mien! Nothing but the visage of an infernal night god radiating strength and power!
Aunt Ru had watched Long Feiye grow up. Despite their secret relationship as master and subordinate, she had always seen him as her junior and nothing more than a child. Now she realized for the first time that Long Feiye wasn't the boy who used to call her 'Aunt Ru' anymore. Nor was he simply a nephew of the Tang Clan and a junior would could be disciplined. The blood of royalty could never be destroyed. His monarch's air left her dazed and with a newfound feeling of reverence and respect!
Very soon, Tang Zijin and Long Feiye stopped before Aunt Ru, while Chu Xifeng appeared to stand behind his master. Aunt Ru was still gaping at them both while Jin Se was gasping for breath as she backed away. She accidentally tripped over her feet and fell to the ground, startling Aunt Ru back into her senses.
"You've all…so you've all come. I, I–just then, I was…" Although Aunt Ru could more or less guess what was up, she didn't dare to consider the possibility. She still strove to calm herself down and explain her actions. "Grandmother Kong…was sleeping, so I dropped by first. I–I didn't get to ask many questions before this girl…" She didn't know how to continue, but Tang Zijin and Long Feiye were both watching and waiting with cold eyes.
"This girl was stubborn enough to insist that she didn't know a thing, so I wanted to give her a scare," Aunt Ru finally finished.
Tang Zijin waited for Long Feiye to speak, but he only smirked and kept quiet. Tang Zijin's expression turned ugly at that, like a host of clouds about to explode in rain. He had been brought here far in advance by Long Feiye to witness everything from the moment Aunt Ru stepped into the prisons. Chu Xifeng's words were only meant to lure the snake out of its hole. What old lady next door? What secret messages via assassination weapons? Even the message slips were a sham!
Chu Xifeng was only able to track down Jin Se via the specialized needle grinding house needle found amongst the articles of the deceased Kong Xi. It took him day to track the thing back to its source. Aunt Ru was the traitor after all. She mistakenly thought that Jin Se knew everything, and so hurried here to silence the witness! Now she grew uneasy when Tang Zijin remained mute.
"Big brother, shall we…begin the interroga–"
"Enough!" Tang Zijin roared, slamming a fist towards Aunt Ru. It stopped just short of her face!
At a time like this, she's still trying to explain herself? Hilarious, she's acting like a clown! He relied heavily on Aunt Ru as the Tang Clan's unofficial second in command! How could she have colluded with their enemy and betray the Duke of Qin? Moreover, she hadn't told him anything when he asked her about it in the past. Now that Long Feiye had trapped her in his plot, he had no excuse to help her even if he still wanted to.
Despicable! Infuriating! Absurd! A complete imbecile!
Tang Zijin's breathing grew labored as he raged, close to losing control. Aunt Ru was so scared that her face turned green. Her brother's expression told her clearly that she was doomed. Explaining herself any further would be useless. She had avoided Han Yunxi's snare, but not Long Feiye's all-encompassing net. Chu Xifeng's words weren't perfect and had gaps in the story, but…why did she jump on it so quickly?
Now it was too late to repent.
Looking at Tang Zijin's face of dissatisfaction, her mind grew blank as despair over took her. Slowly, she bowed her head. Tang Zijin's fury was still boiling. Gradually, the fist in front of her face stretched open to a palm before he gave her a resounding slap.
Chu Xifeng jumped at the sight while Long Feiye remained expressionless. Aunt Ru was startled. Even her father and mother had never hit her. Now she was being slapped by her older brother at this age. She cradled her cheek before a self-mocking smile rose to her lips. Then she fell on her knees and cried, "Yiru knows her wrongs! I'm willing to accept the punishment!"
Tang Zijin laughed coldly. "You speak such words so easily! How am I, as clan head and older brother, supposed to face the late emperor and my little sister? How do you want me to explain things to His Highness?"
Tang Zijin's 'His Highness' didn't refer to His Highness Duke of Qin, but His Highness Crown Prince, master of the Tang Clan and East Qin Dynasty's imperial prince. Aunt Ru finally looked at Long Feiye and declared, "Yiru will die to repay her sins!"
How lightly she spoke such words. Long Feiye was about to speak when Aunt Ru was suddenly choked with sobs. "Big brother, everyone should take responsibility for their own actions. Once I'm dead, I'll explain myself to the Tang Clan ancestors and ask for forgiveness from the late emperor. I'll tell older sister that…I'll explain everything to her! Haven't I done all this for Feiye's good? In what way does the dignified and upright Western Zhou princess, favored disciple of the sword sect, pale in comparison to Han Yunxi for her birthright, looks, and martial arts? Of all the woman he could choose, it had to be a damned nobody! Moreover, she only knows ways from heretical sects and still thinks she's all that."
Long Feiye's face chilled at her words.
Aunt Ru noticed this, but kept talking. "I may have colluded with Duanmu Yao, but I have a clear conscience! I didn't expose a single bit of the Tang Clan or East Qin's secrets! I only told here the location of the Yaoshui estate. If this was wrong, then I, Tang Yiru, will admit to it! I have no regrets. Even if I die here today, I'll still accept it all!"
Despite his anger, Tang Zijin could understand Aunt Ru's motivations from her words. After all, both of them had disapproved of Long Feiye's choice in Han Yunxi. A complicated look passed through his eyes before he asked in a heavy tone, "How was Duanmu Yao supposed to trust you based on the location of the Yaoshui estate alone?"
"Duanmu Yao is interested in Feiye. Everyone in Cloud Realm Continent knows that. I gave her an idea to seek him out to treat her injury and told her the location then. She agreed to take care of Cang Qiuzi in return and spare Tang Li's life."
"And the incident at the mountain pavilion?" Tang Zijin asked next. Long Feiye had just told him about that.
"I gave Duanmu Yao a warning ahead of time to distrust any probing from the Tang Clan. She was only there to act out a play with that servant girl." As Aunt Ru spoke, she sighed. "Big brother, I'll admit my wrongs, but I don't accept the label of traitor. I haven't betrayed the Tang Clan!"
Tang Zijin was waiting for these words. This would be his only way to lighten Aunt Ru's punishment. He could just watch her be put to death. But Long Feiye spoke up before he ever had the chance.
"You didn't betray the Tang Clan, but you did betray this crown prince!"
This crown prince?
Tang Zijin, Aunt Ru, and even Chu Xifeng were stunned by those words. They had never heard the Duke of Qin refer to himself as "crown prince." Was he going to use that status to deal with the problem today?
Chu Xifeng immediately fell to one knee. Seeing this, Tang Zijin took a step back and made a respectful bow as befitting of an official to his monarch. Aunt Ru's heart beat wildly in her chest. Once again, she felt the inviolable air of a monarch emanating from his form. She tried her best to ignore it, however, because she'd have no more chances to explain herself after today.
"Your Highness, Yiru didn't commit any acts of treason. Yiru was only thinking of–"
"Tang Clan Head, if revealing this crown prince's secrets to the enemy doesn't constitute as a betrayal, then what does?" Long Feiye demanded coldly, ignoring her altogether. "You better give this crown prince a thorough explanation!"
How was Tang Zijin supposed to explain?
"It's certainly treason! But I implore Your Highness to deal with the offender leniently for this old man's sake. Yiru has neither caused great losses nor harbored any ill intentions."
"This crown prince has already spoken of East Qin's laws. A traitor must be executed along with her family according to the nine familial exterminations." Long Feiye's voice was ice. "The Tang Clan can count as descendents of the royal clan, so we can skip the nine and put your direct family to death."
Tang Zijin immediately fell to his knees at the words. He exchanged glances with Aunt Ru, both of them gaping. So Long Feiye was this vicious!
"Feiye, do you know what you're saying? For the sake of a single woman, you want to destroy the Tang family! Do you even remember what your imperial mother tasked you with before she died?" Aunt Ru asked loudly.
Tang Yiwan had been very clear about her instructions. Should any of the other noble clans try to revolt, the Tang Clan was the most loyal option! She'd left Long Feiye in Tang Zijin's care.
Long Feiye finally lost his temper. "Then do you know what you've done?"
"I do!" Aunt Ru wouldn't budge an inch. Before Tang Zijin could stop her, she exclaimed, "It's you who doesn't know what you're doing! That woman Han Yunxi has bewitched you! Did you forget how your imperial mother died?"
"Tang Zijin, drag her out to be executed! Otherwise, don't blame this crown prince for showing no mercy right here and now!" Long Feiye said.
Perhaps his words were only meant to intimidate before, but now he was playing in earnest! He wouldn't really kill off the Tang Clan, but he was definitely capable of killing Aunt Ru! Tang Zijin knew he needed to give an explanation or else things would turn worse.
"Your Highness, please calm your anger! This came about because I wasn't strict enough as clan head. May Your Highness allow this one to withdraw from his position and give the title of Tang Clan head to someone more competent." This was Tang Zijin's biggest counter.
"Big brother!" Aunt Ru cried.
"Shut up!" Tang Zijin roared. Yiru might be an idiot, but not him. Long Feiye only lost his temper because Aunt Ru was targeting Han Yunxi. He'd told her long ago to take her time when dealing with that woman, but Aunt Ru just wouldn't listen. Now look–not only was Long Feiye on guard, but even willing to take her life.
Because Long Feiye had no confidence in the Tang Clan, he had no choice but to yield his position to fix the problem.
"Your Highness, this matter concerns the face of the Tang Clan. Please keep it a secret above all else," Tang Zijin's eyes flashed with calculations before he added, "Your Highness might have wanted to conceal events since esteemed wangfei isn't present today. How about this…"