From the village to the county town, Huo Qingyang hired an ox cart from the official’s family. The price was very fair, only fifty coins. When he arrived at the county town, Huo Qingyang originally wanted to buy two horses for transportation, but Wei Zhao looked at them and didn’t like any of them, saying that their quality was too bad.
Huo Qingyang had no choice but to hire a carriage and go from the county town of the border city, where the quality of horses was slightly better than in the county town. Sure enough, although Wei Zhao was still picky and thought the horses were not good, he chose two in the end.
Leaving the border city, Huo Qingyang smiled and said, “Compared with Young Master’s Liuxing, all the horses in the world are not good.” Huo Qingyang originally called Wei Zhao His Imperial Highness, but Wei Zhao asked him to change his way of addressing so as not to arouse suspicion; so he changed it to Young Master, leaving Wei Zhao speechless.
When it came to Liuxing, Wei Zhao’s expression darkened, and he said in a low voice: “Liuxing and Liuyue(1) were both given to me by my fifth sister. They were only half a year old when they arrived in Yujing. I bathed and fed them every day, never leaving them to others. Before I set off for Fuyu, Liuyue was pregnant, so I only brought Liuxing. Unfortunately, he accompanied me to the end of the battle and died, pierced by ten thousand arrows. I don’t know what Tuoba Naigang did with his body.”
Huo Qingyang remembered the god-like horse that was flying like the wind back then. Yi Yin looked at Wei Zhao’s sad expression. Neither of them knew what to say. The war horse raised since childhood was really no different from a relative or a friend, so there were no words of comfort that could be said.
After travelling for more than half a month, Wei Zhao and his companions finally arrived in Yujing. Yi Yin felt nothing for this prosperous capital that had never welcomed him, while the expression on Wei Zhao’s face was near-dead calm.
Yi Yin pulled Wei Zhao’s sleeve and called softly, “Daddy, aren’t we going in?” They were near to home, and Wei Zhao loved this place.
Wei Zhao recovered and said in a low voice, “Of course we’ll go in, Ah Yin, let’s go.” As he said that, he dismounted, leading the horse in one hand and Yi Yin in the other into the city. Huo Qingyang silently led the horse behind them.
After entering the city, Wei Zhao took them to the entrance of an inn, stopped and asked, “Qingyang, do you still have any silver left?”
Huo Qingyang was puzzled and nodded hurriedly: “Yes, yes, what does Young Master want to buy?” In fact, Huo Qingyang once said that he would give Wei Zhao all the money to take charge of, but Wei Zhao refused to accept it. Wherever the money was used, he would inevitably seek Huo Qingyang’s opinion first.
Wei Zhao pointed to the counter of the inn and said softly: “Go and get two rooms, book them for two or three days.” Yi Yin was stunned and raised his eyes to Wei Zhao. Why did he want to stay in the inn? Didn’t Wei Zhao have his own residence?
Huo Qingyang didn’t say much. Wei Zhao told him to book the rooms, so he went right away. Then he turned around and asked, “Young Master, the innkeeper says that there are no individual upper rooms left, should we have a suite?”
Wei Zhao originally wanted to say that there was no need to waste money. The room didn’t matter, he had even lived in a woodshed. But on second thought, he had already returned to the capital, why save? He had spent Huo Qingyang’s silver, so he would pay him back later. He nodded in silence.
After they registered at the counter, their horses were taken to feed by the servants of the inn, and the innkeeper led Wei Zhao and the others to the rooms. When he left, Yi Ying asked, “Daddy, why do we want to stay in the inn? Aren’t you the prince? Where is your imperial residence?”
Wei Zhao laughed quietly, rubbed Yi Yin’s hair and said, “Where can we stay if we don’t live in an inn? Could we go straight into the palace?” He was the son of the emperor. He was given the title of the wang when he was ten years old, but he didn’t have a fief. He had always lived in the palace, and there was no residence outside the palace.
Yi Yin suddenly looked dumbfounded; judging by Wei Zhao’s expression, he seemed to have made a common sense mistake. But when Yi Yin lived in the palace, there were no adult princes in the imperial family, and he didn’t go into detail about where they should have lived.
Wei Zhao smiled and patted Yi Yin on the shoulder, then turned to Huo Qingyang and said, “Qingyang, help me deliver a letter to Hou Zhaoyang’s residence later.”
Huo Qingyang nodded in response, and then asked, “Young Master, if I run to their door, won’t people drive me away?” Hou Zhaoyang was the master of ten thousand households, personally appointed by the emperor, and the prestige of his family must be very high.
Wei Zhao chuckled and said, “It’s okay, if you take my letter to the door, they will recognise it.” Huo Qingyang asked no more questions, and Yi Yin guessed that there must be some kind of special mark on Wei Zhao’s letter.
Writing a letter was not difficult for Wei Zhao, but he had not touched a brush and paper for many years, and the words he wrote were obviously not up to standard. He sighed and tore up the letter he had just written.
Huo Qingyang, who couldn’t read much, was puzzled when he saw it: “Young Master, it was so good, why don’t you want it after you have written it?”
Wei Zhao responded blankly: “I wrote it wrong.” After saying that, he picked up the brush and wrote again.
After a stick of incense, Wei Zhao tore the second sheet of paper, tearing it into such little pieces that one couldn’t see a complete word.
Huo Qingyang was even more bewildered: “Young Master, did you write it wrong again?”
Wei Zhao didn’t say anything and nodded silently. Yi Yin didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry; he knew that Wei Zhao was dissatisfied with his own writing.
After writing the letter for the third time, Wei Zhao still frowned, but he didn’t tear it again. He folded the letter and stuffed it into the envelope, handed it to Huo Qingyang, and drew him a simple map on another piece of paper, indicating the location of Hou Zhaoyang’s mansion.
Huo Qingyang took the letter and hurriedly left. Wei Zhao sat at the table, lost in thought. Yi Yin walked over and asked in a small voice, “Daddy, who is Hou Zhaoyang? Why did you write to him?”
Seeing that his son was asking seriously, Wei Zhao explained to him: “The current Hou Zhaoyang is called Jun Qing. He is the son of Hou Zhaoyang Huan. He was born on the same day as your father. We grew up together and have the deepest friendship.”
In fact, Yi Yin knew everything that Wei Zhao said, but he didn’t want him to dwell on his thoughts, so he pulled him into the conversation. Yi Yin had never seen Jun Qing, but his son Jun Hua had grown up with him since he was a child. When Yi Yin was given the poisoned wine by Wei Yang, only Jun Hua came to see him.
The residence of Hou Zhaoyang was not far from the inn where Wei Zhao was staying. Huo Qingyang was so quick that he returned before Wei Zhao had finished telling Yi Yin the funny stories about his childhood with Qing’er.
Wei Zhao stopped talking and asked Huo Qingyang: “Has the letter been delivered? Who have you seen?”
Huo Qingyang replied: “I gave the letter to the gatekeeper. I was going to leave, but they stopped me, saying that Master Hou had read the letter and would definitely reply. Later, a man who looked like a housekeeper came out. He looked quite old. He asked me where I lived, and I told him, and he asked me to go back.”
Wei Zhao nodded and said with a light smile: “Qingyang, you have worked hard.”
Huo Qingyang said, “You’re welcome, it’s a small matter, why bother?” Afterwards, the three of them ate and rested, not mentioning this matter for the time being.
As night fell and the lights were on, someone knocked on the door softly. Huo Qingyang opened the door and saw a young man about twenty years old standing at the door. The man had a high nose and deep, grey-blue eyes, looking as if he was of the Hu descent.
Huo Qingyang froze. He couldn’t tell whether the visitor was an enemy or a friend, and he didn’t know if he should let him in. He heard the man lower his voice and say, “Master Hou sent me to see His Highness.” Only then did Huo Qingyang step aside and allow the visitor to enter the door.
When Wei Zhao and Yi Yin heard the knock on the door, they also came out of the bedroom. When the visitor saw Wei Zhao, his face was full of excitement and he could hardly contain it. Then he bowed and said, “I, Lu Ming, pay my respects to His Imperial Highness Wang Qin.”
At the sound of Lu Ming’s name, Yi Yin’s spirit lifted and he immediately raised his eyes. In his previous life, the man who brought him from Qingjia to Yujing was Lu Ming. Yi Yin was a little excited to meet his old acquaintance again in this life.
Wei Zhao reached out, helped Lu Ming up and said with a smile: “There are no outsiders here, Youyou, why are you so polite? If Qing’er knew, he would blame me for bullying you.”
Yi Yin was a bit tired of the corny name of “Qing’er”(2), but after thinking about it, he realised that Jun Qing was Jun Lin’s son and Jun Lin was Wei Zhao’s cousin. Although Jun Qing and Wei Zhao were born on the same day, they were one generation apart in seniority. It was not surprising that Wei Zhao called Jun Qing this way.
Lu Ming stood with his hands down, his expression quite helpless: “Your Highness, I’m no longer a child, can you… stop calling me by my nickname?” Lu Ming’s nickname “Youyou” was given by Wei Zhao. Since his name was Lu Ming, calling him Youyou was natural(3).
When Yi Yin heard this, he laughed out loud. Compared to the melancholy and desperate Lu Ming he had seen before, Lu Ming, who would be teased by Wei Zhao to the point of being at a loss for words, was much cuter.
Wei Zhao ignored him and asked directly: “Youyou, where’s Qing’er, why didn’t he come to see me?” Based on his friendship with Jun Qing, it was a bit strange that Jun Qing didn’t come to meet him as soon as he learned the news of his return to the capital.
Lu Ming frowned and glanced at Huo Qingyang and Yi Yin before apologising and saying, “Master Hou is unwell. The doctor won’t let him go out, saying that he has to stay in bed and rest. Begging your forgiveness, Your Highness.”
“Qing’er is sick? Is it serious?” Wei Zhao’s voice suddenly rose, not in anger, but simply in worry that Jun Qing was so sick that he couldn’t even leave the house.
Seeing that Wei Zhao was worried, Lu Ming hurriedly said, “Master Hou is not seriously ill, but he just needs to rest. Your Highness doesn’t have to worry too much. If Your Highness has any orders, just tell me directly, I will definitely do my best.”
Wei Zhao thought for a while, and said casually: “There is nothing else, I’ll just trouble you to go into the palace and help me tell my imperial brother that I am back, along with my son.”
It was not that Lu Ming hadn’t heard all kinds of rumours about Wei Zhao earlier, and he was even more surprised to see Yi Yin, but none of these shocks were comparable to Wei Zhao’s own admission that Yi Yin was his son.
After a long silence, Lu Ming knocked on his head and said, “Your Highness, Your Highness, do you really want me to say that?” Lu Ming had never believed that Wei Zhao would give birth to Helian Zhuo’s child. Even if he did, it would be impossible for him to bring the child back when he escaped.
“Of course I want you to say that.” Wei Zhao’s tone was extremely affirmative, “Youyou, you see how nice I am to you, I’m just asking you to tell my imperial brother, not my father, but if you…”
Lu Ming’s face was bloodless with fright in an instant, and he said solemnly: “It’s late today. I will enter the palace tomorrow morning and go to the Eastern Palace.” Lu Ming knew that he certainly didn’t have the courage to tell the grumpy emperor Wei Su that Wei Zhao brought back his son. Such a difficult task should be handed over to His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince, who was one of the few people in this world who dared to challenge the emperor to his face.
Wei Zhao nodded in satisfaction: “Youyou, go back and take care of Qing’er and tell him that I will visit him when I have the opportunity.” Lu Ming nodded in agreement, bidding farewell to Wei Zhao, and quietly went away.
After Lu Ming left, Huo Qingyang asked, “Your Highness, was that Hou Dingyuan just now?” Although he said it as a question, his tone was very affirmative.
- ~ Moonlight
- “Er” is a diminutive marker; in a name used as a term of endearment
- Lu means “deer”, Ming means “cry” (of a bird or an animal); “Youyou” is the sound a deer makes 🙂