Wei Chongrong couldn’t bear to see Wei Zhao’s sullen expression and tried to cheer him up. Who knew that Wei Zhao wouldn’t be interested and wouldn’t want to talk to him at all.
“Daddy, at least say something!” After being brought into the palace by Princess Yuankang that day, Wei Chongrong followed Wei Zhao to live in his old residence in the palace, Yongfu Palace.
Yongfu Palace was located on the right side of Weiyang Palace and belonged to the Six Eastern Palaces. According to the original plan, the Six Eastern Palaces were the residence of the male concubines of the third rank and above, while the Six Western Palaces were the residence of the female concubines of the third rank and above, with a clear separation between them.
But in fact, Yongshou Palace and Yongfu Palace, which were closest to Zichen Palace and Weiyang Palace, often become temporary residences for various princes, such as Wang Yong during the reign of Emperor Taizong, Wang Changning during the reign of Emperor Shizong, and Wang Qi during the reign of Emperor Xianzong.
Wei Zhao glanced at Wei Chongrong lazily and said solemnly: “Go out and play, don’t bother me!” That old guy, the Minister of the Imperial Clan, was not doing his job properly and only bothered him, and even his father supported him. The more Wei Zhao thought about it, the angrier he became.
Wei Chongrong knew that Wei Zhao was still caring about his name, and shook his arm coquettishly: “But no one plays with me.”
Compared to Fuyu’s royal palace, the Great Yan’s imperial palace was many times larger. Wei Zhao’s Yongfu Palace alone could directly crush its rival. It was just that most of the people in the palace were unfamiliar to Wei Chongrong and busy, so he was bored.
Probably because Wei Zhao also felt that he was being mean to his son, he sat up from the couch and said in a soft voice, “Rong’er, where do you want to go to play?”
Wei Chongrong wasn’t very receptive to the name “Rong’er”, but Wei Zhao didn’t like the word “Chong”, and “Ah Rong” felt weird again, so he reluctantly accepted it. He looked at Wei Zhao and asked, “Daddy, can we go out of the palace?”
Suddenly hearing his son say that he wanted to go out of the palace, Wei Zhao was taken aback for a moment, and then asked, “Rong’er, do you want to go out of the palace to play, or do you want to move out of the palace to live?”
Wei Chongrong opened his eyes wide in amazement. He didn’t expect that there were two ways to interpret this sentence, which was greatly beyond his expectation, so he said: “Daddy, I want to go out of the palace to play, but also want to live outside the palace.”
In his previous life, Wei Chongrong spent most of his life in the palace, which left behind only unpleasant memories. If possible, of course he didn’t want to live in the palace, even if Wei Zhao’s Yongfu Palace was much more exquisite and gorgeous than the place he had lived before.
Wei Zhao thought for a while, and said affirmatively: “Rong’er, if you want to go out to play, we can go now, but if you want to go out to live, I guess that you will have to wait for a while. When we return to the palace later, I will ask Mother Empress when my residence will be cleaned up.”
“Huh?!” Wei Chongrong was stunned. He just asked casually. He didn’t expect that Wei Zhao would really have a plan to leave the palace, and didn’t he say that he didn’t have a residence outside the palace? Why did he suddenly have it again?
Wei Zhao didn’t look at Wei Chongrong’s astonished expression and continued: “Before I went to Fuyu that year, Father Emperor asked the Ministry of Works to build a residence for me. And since I came back, I will also be able to take charge of the fief.”
“The fief?!” Wei Chongrong couldn’t keep up with Wei Zhao’s thinking anymore. It was not that he didn’t know the rules of the prince’s fief.
For the prince of the Great Yan, the fief was both a good thing and a bad thing. The advantage of it was that your personal safety would be guaranteed since then, while the disadvantage was that you had to stay away from the political centre of the Great Yan and could only be a wealthy family living happily.
You must know that the princes and county lords of the Great Yan were not allowed to interfere with the power and military authority of their fiefs, and the only thing they could enjoy was the taxation of their fiefs. In this aspect, there was actually no difference between living in the capital or in the fief. However, Emperor Taizu once explicitly stated that unless a prince served in the court, he had to take up the fief after coming of age and before getting married, and this rule couldn’t be disobeyed.
Wei Zhao joined the army as a young man, determined to make great achievements, and he and Helian Zhuo still had unresolved grudges. How could he go to the fief and give up his future and hatred from then on?
Seeing that Wei Chongrong was stunned, Wei Zhao couldn’t help laughing, and teased him: “Rong’er, what are you thinking about? Scared silly?”
Wei Chongrong didn’t dare to say what he thought, so he hurriedly asked, “Daddy, where are we going?” As soon as he finished speaking, he wanted to call himself a fool. Wei Zhao could go wherever he wanted. He was Wang Qin, and his fief directly surrounded Yujing, okay?
In the nearly three hundred years since the founding of the Great Yan, only two princes’ fiefs were near the capital. One was the only son of the founding Emperor Wei Lu and Empress Xiaolie, Wang Yong Wei Yin. During the reigns of Emperor Taizu and Emperor Taizong, Wang Yong was unstoppable in his power and was buried in the Zhaoling Mausoleum after his death, with infinite sorrow and honour.
And the other one was Wei Zhao. Just by looking at how much the current Crown Prince loved him, one could imagine that his future power would never be less than that of Wang Yong in the past. After all, while Emperor Taizong and Wang Yong were the sons of two empresses, Wei Ming and Wei Zhao, respectively, were full brothers.
Looking at Wei Chongrong’s annoyed expression with satisfaction, Wei Zhao, who was in a good mood, smiled and said, “Where can we go, Daddy’s residence is in Shangguan Li. If there is time, we can go and have a look later.”
Wei Chongrong puffed his cheeks unhappily, thinking to himself what kind of habit Wei Zhao had. Was it fun to tease your son for no reason?
Wei Zhao asked someone to send a message to the empress, and then took Wei Chongrong out of the palace. They travelled alone and didn’t even bring an attendant with them, which made Wei Chongrong, who wasn’t used to being followed, feel better.
“Daddy, where are you taking me to play?” Holding a bunch of tanghulu forcibly stuffed by Wei Zhao in his hand, Wei Chongrong had nothing to say. He had lived in Yujing for nearly twenty years; how could he not see that Wei Zhao was taking him on the road to Hou Zhaoyang’s residence?
Wei Zhao wasn’t as reserved as his son. He swallowed a bunch of tanghulu, clapped his hands and replied, “Let’s go to Hou Zhaoyang’s mansion and see what’s going on with Qing’er.”
Wei Chongrong nodded blankly. From the time they entered the capital, they had heard that Jun Qing wasn’t well and Wei Zhao had even said that he would go to see him; but during the half month that he stayed at Wang Changning’s residence, Wei Zhao had not left the house at all. After Wei Zhao returned to the palace, he was seriously ill and almost died. Jun Qing hadn’t even entered the palace to see him. If it weren’t for his severe illness, with his friendship with Wei Zhao, it seemed a bit unreasonable. But seeing the expression on Wei Zhao’s face, there seemed to be no worry, and Wei Chongrong couldn’t understand it.
The two of them walked a short distance ahead, and Wei Zhao spotted the five-flavoured flaky pastries, asking Wei Chongrong, “Rong’er, the pastries from this shop are particularly delicious, let’s buy some and try them?” Without waiting for Wei Chongrong’s answer, he went straight to the queue.
Wei Chongrong was still holding a tanghulu he hadn’t eaten, and the expression on his face was about to collapse. Could anyone tell him why Wei Zhao had such a soft spot for sweets? Wei Chongrong didn’t like sweets at all. If it was sweet and greasy, he would feel uncomfortable.
When Wei Zhao came back with the pastries, he saw that Wei Chongrong had only eaten one of the tanghulu and glanced at him with displeasure. Wei Chongrong blinked and said, aggrieved: “Daddy, my teeth hurt, I don’t want to eat candies anymore.”
Wei Zhao didn’t speak, but stretched out his hand to take the tanghulu from Wei Chongrong and solved it for him. Wei Chongrong was thinking that when Wei Zhao was a child, the emperor and the empress must have had a terrible headache trying to save his teeth. These years in Fuyu should have been really difficult for him.
The residence of Hou Zhaoyang was adjacent to the Imperial City, not far from the Baihu Gate. It was a fairly good location, not far from Wang Changning’s residence either. Because of Jun Hua, Wei Chongrong had been to Hou Zhaoyang’s residence several times before and was no stranger to it.
When he revisited the place, he looked at the beautiful Hou Zhaoyang’s residence, which was no worse than the palace, except for the limitations of the rituals. Wei Chongrong had to admit that Wei Su’s preference for Jun Lin was far beyond anyone’s reach. Even Wei Ming and Wei Zhao might not be comparable to him.
Except for the four wangs and eight gongs at the time of the founding of the country, in the Great Yan, the highest title that could be obtained by military merit was that of hou. However, there was a difference in the number of households that came with the title of hou. There were only a few hundred households at least, and one or two thousand households at most. Only Hou Zhaoyang was a rare master of more than ten thousand households.
When Jun Lin was alive, the number of Hou Zhaoyang’s households grew from the initial 800 households all the way up to 23,000 households. Jun Lin unfortunately died of illness, and his only son Jun Qing, who was only three years old, assumed the title. Wei Su transferred all his love for Jun Lin to Jun Qing.
Since he was a child, he had been raised with Wei Zhao by the empress’s side. Wei Su was afraid that Jun Qing would be wronged in terms of money and silver, and kept looking for various reasons to give him additional properties. By the time Jun Qing left the palace, his property had reached an astonishing 30,000 households. This was something that the Great Yan had never seen since its founding.
Wei Chongrong knew very well that this wasn’t the height of the Jun family’s prosperity. Before Wei Su’s death, Jun Qing’s only son Jun Hua was still under eight years old. Wei Su not only ordered the number of households of Hou Zhaoyang to be increased to 36,000, but also warned Wei Yang not to reduce the number of households in the Jun family for any reason.
Wei Yang had always had a grudge against Jun Hua, and it couldn’t be said to be without a reason. Wei Chongrong followed Wei Zhao while recalling the past and was so engrossed that he didn’t even notice when they stopped.
Suddenly, he felt someone nudging his shoulder. He raised his head and saw Wei Zhao staring at him, saying, “Rong’er, haven’t you seen Hou Zhaoyang?”
Wei Chongrong turned around and saw a face that was somewhat similar to Jun Hua’s face in his memory, but colder than his, and said hurriedly: “Greetings to Hou Zhaoyang.” According to his seniority, he should have called Jun Qing “Cousin”, but Wei Zhao didn’t say so, so Wei Chongrong assumed that he shouldn’t know it.
Jun Qing nodded slightly, then turned to Wei Zhao and said, “His eyes are particularly different from yours.” Wei Zhao rolled up his eyes and looked at the sky speechlessly.
After Wei Chongrong greeted Jun Qing, he lowered his gaze, otherwise he would have to keep his head raised and his neck would be tired. With Wei Chongrong’s current height, his eyes were on the level of the waists of Wei Zhao and others, and as he looked at Jun Qing, he felt in a daze that something was wrong.
After taking a closer look, he suddenly realised that the wrong place was Jun Qing’s belly that seemed to be slightly bulging, which didn’t match his tall and slender figure. Counting the days, Jun Hua should also be in his mother’s belly at the moment.
What Wei Chongrong didn’t expect was that Jun Hua’s so-called unknown mother would actually be the unknown father, because he was born to Jun Qing himself.
Despite the generous support of the emperor, the Jun family wasn’t a long-living family; Jun Lin was only twenty-four when he died, and Jun Qing was only twenty-five when he died in battle in Youzhou, leaving behind only Jun Hua, who was orphaned at an even younger age than Jun Qing.
In his previous life, Jun Hua had been raised by Wei Su’s side since he was two years old. At first, because of Jun Lin and Jun Qing, Wei Su loved him a lot, just like his own son or grandson.
In the 49th year of Yongjia, the witchcraft incident broke out, affecting the Eastern Palace. Wei Ming had to rise in order to protect himself. Princess Yuankang and Wang Changning Ji Xin were also involved in the incident.
The following year, Ji Xin died in a battle, the Crown Prince was defeated and killed himself, Princess Yuankang killed herself, the Crown Prince’s Lord Consort and three sons and one daughter were all killed, and even Wei Xuan’s daughter, who was less than a hundred days old, was also killed.
When the empress heard the news, she committed suicide. The emperor was furious and took away the titles of Wang Changning, Gong Song and Hou Yichun. The adult males were chopped in half at the waist(1), the females were sent to the palace as slaves, and the young sons were exiled for three thousand li. For a while, there was a river of blood in Yujing, even worse than during the previous military disasters.
Jun Hua was only four years old at the time and was raised in the palace, so he wasn’t involved in this matter. Within a year, Wei Su suddenly came to his senses and realised that he had wronged the Crown Prince and issued an edict of guilt, but the Crown Prince and Princess Yuankang’s families could not be saved.
Wei Su and Empress Ji had been married for nearly fifty years and had two sons and three daughters. The eldest son, Wei Ming, and the eldest daughter, Princess Yuankang, both died in the witchcraft scourge; the second son, Wei Zhao, in captivity in Fuyu for many years and later killed himself; the second daughter, Princess Suining, killed herself after the death of Jun Lin; the youngest daughter, Princess Gaochang, was married to Wusun and was never heard from again after the two countries became enemies. In addition, Ji Xin had no children when he died in a battle, which meant that the Ji family, who had done so much for the Wei imperial family, only left a trace in Jun Hua’s blood(2).
In fact, Wei Chongrong, who was brought back to Yujing by Lu Ming, could also be considered a descendant of the Ji family(3), but Wei Su didn’t like him, and even less wanted to see him. As a result, Wei Su compensated Jun Hua with all his apologies to the Crown Prince and the Ji family, treating him even better than he treated Wei Yang.
In the year of Wei Yang’s change of era name, his birth mother, Empress Dowager Zhao, passed away. Although the medical case in the Imperial Hospital seemed to be flawless, Wei Yang firmly believed that his mother was killed by someone, and Princess Wanchun, who had entered the palace to raise him, was related to the Shangguan family, whom he suspected.
Wei Yang didn’t trust anyone, except Wei Chongrong and Jun Hua, because they, like him, had no relatives in this world. Wei Chongrong was very good to Wei Yang at that time, giving him his heart and soul. He was so good that Jun Hua occasionally warned him, but Wei Chongrong thought he was small-minded and made trouble for no reason.
Subsequent facts proved that Jun Hua was right to have reservations about Wei Yang. People like Wei Yang were not suitable for deep friendship. It was best to keep his distance; just like Wei Yang had always disliked Jun Hua, but the relationship between the two maintained a delicate balance.
On the contrary, Wei Chongrong was too good to Wei Yang, too good to the point of overdoing it. It was not that Wei Yang couldn’t trust Wei Chongrong, he just didn’t allow himself to have any weaknesses. Wei Chongrong knew him too well, and Wei Yang was scared, scared to death, so Wei Chongrong had to die.
Wei Yang watched Wei Chongrong drink the poisoned wine and left, and no one else dared to come in. Wei Chongrong lay on the cold marble floor, laughing mockingly. He felt that his life was a complete joke. He was a superfluous existence, and no one needed him.
Jun Hua came in at this time. There was something wrong with his right leg. If he walked fast, he would limp. Therefore, he usually paid great attention and tried to walk as slowly as possible to prevent people from noticing the abnormality in his leg.
But that day, Jun Hua walked very fast and his right leg was obviously lame. He didn’t care, he just wanted to get to Wei Chongrong as soon as possible.
At that time, Wei Chongrong’s vision was already very blurred, but he still clearly saw that Jun Hua’s expression when he looked at him was indescribably sad.
Jun Hua said something to him, but Wei Chongrong couldn’t hear him anymore. But he was still very happy, because before he died, there was someone willing to grieve for him after all.
After Wei Chongrong had finished thinking about it, he stretched out his hand to touch Jun Qing’s stomach. Anyway, he was still a child, so no one would probably say that he was rude.
Unexpectedly, Jun Qing turned out to be someone who didn’t like physical contact with people very much. As soon as Wei Chongrong’s hand touched him, he stepped back unconsciously, his movements so agile that he didn’t look like a pregnant person at all.
- The kind of capital punishment
- From maternal side: Ji Yang (Empress Ji’s sister) was Jun Lin’s mother, Jun Qing’s grandmother and Jun Hua’s great-grandmother
- Ji Wan, the empress, is his grandmother