When old friends met again, if they adhered to the rule of “eating without saying a word”, it would obviously be a bit funny. But Wei Zhao and Jiang Che didn’t know what to say, so they talked about the matters of the court. In this case, at least they would not be cold, let alone silent.
Wei Chongrong suspected that his existence was a bit superfluous and affected Wei Zhao and Jiang Che’s mood of conversation, so he hurriedly finished the meal and ran out to play. Who knew that Wei Zhao and Jiang Che would still be the same, not knowing what to say. Wei Chongrong hid at the door, looking anxious.
Jiang Che picked up a glass of wine, drank it all, pretending to be calm, and finally said, “Ah Zhao, how have you been all these years?” As soon as he said these words, he regretted mentioning something that shouldn’t be talked about.
Wei Zhao laughed when he heard it, and laughed so much that he seemed to be unable to stop laughing. He looked at Jiang Che and murmured, “Ah Che, are you drunk? How could I have lived a good life?”
“Ah Zhao, I’m sorry, I said the wrong thing!” Jiang Che looked at Wei Zhao’s tears of laughter, panicked, no longer calm and collected as before.
Wei Zhao shook his head and said indifferently: “You have seen it all, I have a son, the son of Helian Zhuo and me…”
Jiang Che didn’t wait for Wei Zhao to finish speaking, and said categorically: “Ah Zhao, it doesn’t matter, I know he is your son, that’s enough.”
“Ah Che, let me finish.” Wei Zhao made a gesture of silence and continued: “The title of the Jiang family needs a heir, and you also need a wife and a son. As for me, it’s enough for me to have Rong’er, he is very good.”
Jiang Che didn’t believe it and questioned: “Ah Zhao, that’s not what you said before.” At first, when the young prince told him that he liked him, Jiang Che was happy and worried.
Happy because the person he admired had the same feelings as him, and worried that their too noble origin gave them absolutely no chance to be together. Wei Zhao was a favoured prince with no possibility of marrying into another family. He was the only son of the hereditary Wang Yong’an, and it was impossible for him to enter the palace.
Even so, Wei Zhao still took the Suyun pill, saying that there was never anything he wanted that he couldn’t get.
The first three months of taking the pill were the most painful and difficult, but Wei Zhao kept it secret from the people in the palace. Except for the opportunity to vent in front of Jiang Che, he had to grit his teeth and endure it.
Several times, Wei Zhao was in so much pain that he couldn’t stand it. He hugged Jiang Che and cried. As he cried, he said that he would only have two sons in the future, one surnamed Wei and the other surnamed Jiang, so that he could inherit the title.
Facing Wei Zhao like this, Jiang Che was distressed and proud, and couldn’t say anything to persuade Wei Zhao to give up. His little prince would do anything for him and suffer for him, how could he not be satisfied with it?
But now, Wei Zhao said he was going to give up…
The corners of Wei Zhao’s lips curled slightly, and a meaningful smile appeared on his face: “Ah Che, I’m not a child anymore. I already understand that when one lives in the world, it’s impossible for everything to run according to one’s desires. To get something, one must give up something.”
Jiang Che looked straight at Wei Zhao, as if to find out the truth from his eyes. After an unknown amount of time, he stood up and walked over to Wei Zhao, kneeling on one knee and cupping his hands, “Whenever Your Highness needs me, I will definitely go through the fire and water until I die.”
Wei Zhao picked up Jiang Che, looked at him levelly and said, “I don’t need you to die, I want you to live well.” The more Wei Chongrong listened, the more confused he became. While frowning and thinking, he was discovered by Jiang Che who went out, and then he was carried back to the palace by the angry Wei Zhao.
On a half-day trip out of the palace, Wei Zhao discovered that Wei Chongrong had a very bad habit of eavesdropping on adults, so he gave him a serious lecture and locked him in a small dark room for the whole night.
If a real child who used to sleep with his nanny and maids suddenly was locked up in an empty room alone, he would definitely be frightened and cry, but Wei Chongrong didn’t. With no one around, he slept more soundly than usual.
Although he wasn’t afraid of Wei Zhao’s punishment, Wei Chongrong still conducted a deep self-reflection on what he had done, and came to the conclusion that he still had to listen behind the corner in the future, but he had to practise his kung fu so that he couldn’t be easily discovered and Wei Zhao wouldn’t be ashamed of him.
The next day, Wei Zhao got up early, saw that Wei Chongrong was already practising in the yard and looked at the sky speechlessly. He had a feeling that Wei Chongrong wasn’t afraid of him at all, but hopefully it was just an illusion. Otherwise, if he couldn’t discipline him at the age of four, how would it get better when he grew up?
For a long time after that, Wei Zhao didn’t take Wei Chongrong out of the palace again. It wasn’t that Wei Zhao was punishing his son, but that he urged Zhuang Yu many times, and Zhuang Yu finally agreed to remove the Fuyu medicine from his body.
Zhuang Yu didn’t deliberately delay treating Wei Zhao; but Fuyu’s secret medicine, which has its own unique features, required a two-way approach of internal and external application in order to remove it.
Previously, Wei Zhao was recovering from a serious illness and still needed to recuperate, so how could he start? Even now, Zhuang Yu felt a little reluctant, but Wei Zhao refused to wait any longer and urged him so much that he went ahead with it.
The internal application was simple; no matter how bitter it was, it was just a few bowls of decoction, pinch your nose and drink it down. It was the external application that made it very difficult for Zhuang Yu, because the most important medicine had to reach a certain temperature to work, but after the medicine had already been applied, how could it be warmed up?
Zhuang Yu racked his brains and finally came up with a way. He improved the prescription and changed the original external application to a medicinal bath. In this way, the temperature was not a problem, but Wei Zhao suffered as he had to soak in the weird-smelling bath three times a day for at least half a shichen(1) each time.
Wei Chongrong always stuck close to Wei Zhao, pestering him to kiss or hug him several times a day. But since Wei Zhao’s body was tainted with the lingering smell of medicine, Wei Chongrong would avoid him when he saw him. That smell was really unbearable.
When Wei Zhao saw this, he was so upset that he asked Zhuang Yu to give Wei Chongrong a prescription for a medicinal bath that would help his bones grow and be good for his martial arts training. Naturally, Wei Chongrong was reluctant, but Wei Zhao was unmoved by force or by persuasion; it was useless to be coquettish and resistance was ineffective, so Wei Chongrong could only accept it, aggrieved.
From then on, Wei Zhao had someone to accompany him in the medicinal bath every day, so he wasn’t too bored. And Wei Chongrong, who smelt of medicine even more than Wei Zhao, had no reason to dislike him, so the relationship between father and son returned to normal.
The treatment day after day was boring and tedious. Fortunately, when the summer ended and autumn came, Zhuang Yu finally announced that the medicine in Wei Zhao’s body had been cleared, and the rest was long-term recuperation. After all, he was drugged for almost five years, and there were always some sequelae.
The most unlucky was Wei Chongrong. Zhuang Yu prescribed him a long-term recipe he had to adhere to every day without slacking off. The thought of having to deal with the bitter medicinal concoction every day for at least ten years to come, even if he didn’t have to drink it, annoyed Wei Chongrong to no end; but unfortunately he couldn’t argue with it.
At the same time, Wei Zhao’s long-established residence was newly decorated and ready for occupation. Wei Su and Ji Wan were not too upset about Wei Zhao leaving the palace to live in his own residence. At any rate, Wei Zhao was in the capital and could be seen all year round. Compared to Wei Xiao, who lived in his fief, it was a lot better. Besides, Wei Zhao had already come of age, and it was only right that he should have had his own house, so there was no reason for him to live in the palace all the time. However, Wei Su also said that even if Wei Zhao left the palace, Yongfu Palace would still be kept for him, and he could go back to live in it during the New Year holidays.
Wei Chongrong was full of expectations about leaving the palace. The Great Yan’s palace was too big, and the people in the palace were too distant. With unpleasant memories of the previous life, living in it, he felt uncomfortable. He just wanted to move out as soon as possible.
On the 19th day of the ninth lunar month, the auspicious day for marriages, rituals, enlightenment, travel, moving and bed-making, Wei Zhao moved into his new imperial residence with Wei Chongrong. Due to Wei Zhao’s stay in Fuyu for many years, most of the palace people who had served him in Yongfu Palace had been released from the palace, or were transferred to other parts of the palace by the empress. Only the four senior palace maids, Lu Yi, Qing Xiu, Lan Chang and Zi Sha(2), followed him out of the palace. In addition, the rest of the servants were carefully selected by the empress from the people of the Minister Steward.
In Yongfu Palace, Wei Chongrong lived with Wei Zhao. Although it wasn’t like sleeping on the same bed like in Fuyu, there was an inner room and an outer room and he could be taken care of at night. Only when he was punished, Wei Chongrong was thrown by Wei Zhao into the deserted side hall.
After moving to the residence, Wei Zhao gave Wei Chongrong a separate courtyard. He said that Wei Chongrong would be studying at the palace school next year but he had no foundation, so Wei Zhao was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to keep up with the progress and planned to hire a tutor for him in a few days to first refresh his basic knowledge. It was more convenient to have a courtyard by himself.
In the Great Yan, no matter whether it was the imperial family or the noble families, the young lords and young ladies were always taken care of by their nannies, and there were few mothers who would take care of their children by themselves. The ladies of the family were the ones who ran the household and had more than enough to do.
There was no lady in Wang Qin’s residence. Even though Wei Zhao cared about Wei Chongrong, the details of clothing, food and housing were not something he could think of. As for Wei Chongrong’s nanny, let’s not mention it. So, Wei Zhao gave Lan Chang and Zi Sha to Wei Chongrong and asked them to take care of his food and daily life.
Wei Zhao started practising martial arts at the age of three, and he practised diligently from then on, until he fell into the hands of Helian Zhuo and his martial arts were blocked. Since Zhuang Yu relieved him from the medicine, Wei Zhao wanted to resume practising martial arts, but Zhuang Yu repeatedly reminded that this matter should not be rushed. Wang Qin’s body still needed to recuperate and couldn’t withstand too vigorous activities in a short period of time. Lu Yi was ordered by the empress to watch Wei Zhao very closely. If he tried to do anything, it would spread to Weiyang Palace. Therefore, no matter how impatient Wei Zhao was, he didn’t dare to start practising martial arts in the palace.
On the second day after moving, Wei Zhao went to the training ground early in the morning. He tried to draw the bow, but his hands shook so badly that he couldn’t draw it at all.
Wei Zhao was stunned for a moment, his eyes full of disbelief. After being drugged for years and suffering constant injuries, Wei Zhao could imagine that even if the medicine was removed, his martial arts wouldn’t be able to return to their best state. But what he didn’t expect was that his physical strength and skills would degenerate to such a point that even the lightest of the bows couldn’t be drawn. This was a bow that he could use easily when he was less than ten years old. When he was hunting in the forest, he personally used it to shoot a white tiger for his father and was praised by Wei Su: “This son has Hou Zhaoyang’s legacy.”
Now, he couldn’t even draw this bow. Could he possibly return to the battlefield and kill his enemies himself? Wei Zhao held the bow and arrows, with an expression that seemed to be neither a smile nor tears. If you said that Wei Zhao was smiling, his eyes were sorrowful, as if tears could fall in the next second; but if you said he was crying, the corners of his lips rose slightly, as if with a hidden mocking sneer.
Lu Yi and Qing Xiu had been in the palace since they were young. They had been serving Wei Zhao since they were young palace girls. They had seen how heroic the Fourth Prince used to be. Seeing Wei Zhao now, it was inevitable that they would be sad and wipe their tears, hiding from Wei Zhao so that he wouldn’t find out.
The place where Wei Chongrong practised wasn’t far away from Wei Zhao. Naturally, he saw his abnormality and was frightened. Wei Zhao’s psychological state wouldn’t be so fragile, right? He had been either sick or injured for years. What was wrong with not being able to draw the bow? It was normal, just practise slowly.
Wei Chongrong wanted to come forward to comfort Wei Zhao, but he knew that Wei Zhao would definitely not want to see him now, so he watched from a distance to prevent Wei Zhao from discovering his presence. He himself didn’t feel like practising.
Huo Qingyang had arrived at some point, patted Wei Chongrong’s shoulder and said softly, “Little prince, there is no need to worry, His Highness just can’t adapt for a while, he will adjust himself.” His footsteps were so light that Wei Chongrong didn’t even react when he got behind him.
Wei Chongrong turned around, looked in surprise at Huo Qingyang who appeared out of thin air and saw his eyes shining brightly. Huo Qingyang had complete trust in Wei Zhao, and Wei Chongrong calmed down unconsciously. Wei Zhao would definitely not be so fragile, because he was Wei Zhao.
After a long silence, Wei Chongrong said, “Brother Qingyang, when did you come, how come I didn’t know?” The gatekeeper should have informed Wei Zhao that he had a guest at the door, probably without a message sent in advance.
Huo Qingyang glanced at Wei Zhao intently, raised his eyebrows and said, “I arrived in the middle of the night yesterday. Someone slept like a pig, of course he wouldn’t know.”
Wei Chongrong was aggrieved. What did it have to do with whether he slept well or not? Wang Qin’s residence was much larger than Yongfu Palace. His and Wei Zhao’s courtyards were said to be next to each other, but the main rooms on both sides were far apart. Unless someone came to report, who would know what was happening outside the courtyard?
Such a reason wasn’t a good excuse, so Wei Chongrong simply asked, “Brother Qingyang, why did you come over in the middle of the night, is there something urgent?” When they were still in Wang Changning’s residence, Huo Qingyang had followed Ji Xin to the Western camp and they had not seen him since then.
Huo Qingyang sighed and said helplessly: “His Highness moved, I wanted to congratulate him, how can this not be an urgent matter? Besides, I only have one day off. If I went out this morning, I’m afraid I could only catch up with lunch when I arrived at the residence. Wouldn’t it be a waste?”
In fact, Huo Qingyang had long wanted to see Wei Zhao, but the Western Camp was strictly controlled. He only had one day off a month, and Wei Zhao lived in the palace, so he couldn’t see him even when he had time. A few days ago, he heard Ji Xin say that Wang Qin was about to leave the palace, so Huo Qingyang asked for this month’s leave.
When Wei Chongrong thought about it, he nodded and turned his gaze back to Wei Zhao on the training ground. Huo Qingyang stopped talking, his movements repeating Wei Chongrong’s.
Sure enough, as Huo Qingyang said, Wei Zhao quickly calmed down and continued to practise, over and over again, undaunted.
After practising an unknown number of times, Wei Zhao was finally able to draw the bow fully, but the arrows he shot were disobedient, either too high or too low, none of them hitting the target. He continued to draw his bow without giving up.
Seeing this situation, even though Huo Qingyang was mentally prepared, he couldn’t help sighing. Back then, His Imperial Highness Wang Qin could draw the heaviest bow and shoot three arrows in a row hitting the bullseye. Now with such a light bow and such a close distance, he couldn’t…
Hearing Huo Qingyang’s sigh, Wei Chongrong raised his head and said, “Didn’t you say that you believed Daddy could do it?”
Huo Qingyang nodded and said affirmatively: “I naturally believe in His Highness, I just… feel a little distressed.” Wei Chongrong had never seen Wei Zhao at his best, but he had; how could he not feel distressed?
Wei Chongrong pursed his lips and didn’t say anything. Since the day they escaped from Fuyu, the trajectory of fate had been separated from their previous lives. Wei Zhao’s path had to be walked by himself, and the same was true of his own path.
- Shichen ~2 hours
- Not really important, but their names mean “green dress”, “green/blue sleeves”, “blue skirt” and “purple muslin”