Wei Zhao practised from dawn to noon, his fingers were cut by the bowstring, dripping blood, and finally one of his arrows hit the target crookedly.
Upon seeing this, Wei Chongrong cheerfully clapped his hands. The sound was too loud, and Wei Zhao found out and glared at him fiercely, but didn’t scold him.
Wei Zhao took up his bow and arrow and wanted to practise again but Huo Qingyang stopped him and persuaded him: “Your Highness, if you want to do it quickly, you won’t achieve it. You can take it one step at a time. In less than half a year, you will be able to return to your original level. Don’t rush for a while.” After a glimpse six years ago, he had no doubts about Wei Zhao’s strength.
Wei Chongrong took Wei Zhao’s hand and carefully wiped it with a clean handkerchief: “Daddy, your hands are injured and bleeding a lot. You have to bandage them. Don’t practise yet…”
Seeing Huo Qingyang’s firm attitude and Wei Chongrong’s pleading expression, Wei Zhao hesitated and then asked: “It’s getting late, you are all hungry, let’s go have lunch?” It was rare for Huo Qingyang to have a vacation, so it would be better to accompany him for half a day.
Wei Chongrong happily hugged Wei Zhao’s arm and said expectantly: “Daddy, from tomorrow, I will accompany you to practise, okay?” Wei Zhao was a little too eager to achieve his goal; Wei Chongrong had to keep an eye on him, lest he rush too much and hurt his body instead.
Wei Zhao had no problem with it, he just said seriously: “If you follow me to practise, you are not allowed to complain.” In Fuyu, due to the limited conditions, Wei Zhao only taught Wei Chongrong the basic skills. When he returned to the Great Yan, things happened one after another, and he didn’t have time to teach him, so Wei Chongrong practised by himself.
Wei Chongrong nodded hurriedly and said, “I’m not afraid of hardship, don’t worry, Daddy.” Huo Qingyang twitched his nose and expressed envy. He also wanted to follow Wei Zhao. It was a pity that Ji Xin said that Wei Zhao used to be in the Eastern Camp and would go back there after his body recovered.
In the afternoon, Wei Zhao said that he would accompany Huo Qingyang, but instead of having fun with him, he took out the military books and gave him a refreshing course. The war was not just a matter of personal bravery and fighting, but also of leading and commanding the troops. It was not right to talk about soldiers on paper, but it was not right not to talk about them either.
Wei Chongrong followed along and listened with great interest. The lack of systematic theory was not only Huo Qingyang’s deficiency, but also his. After all, Wei Yang wanted him to join the military camp not because he expected him to command the army, but because he wanted to have someone of his own in the army so that he would not be deceived.
Huo Qingyang was also a diligent student and an inquisitive person. If he hadn’t only had one day off and had to go back to camp before dark, he would still be asking Wei Zhao questions.
In his previous life, Huo Qingyang started as a soldier and went through a lot of hardships before finally climbing to the position of a general. In this life, he was favoured by Wei Zhao and Ji Xin early on, and Wei Chongrong had a reason to believe that he would get ahead earlier.
On the 23rd day of the tenth lunar month was the empress’s birthday. It wasn’t a round date, so there was no need for a big event. Only a family banquet was set up in the Changqiu Hall of Weiyang Palace, and the whole families of Crown Prince Wei Ming, Wang Qin Wei Zhao and Princess Yuankang were invited to the banquet.
Wei Zhao had no errands at the moment, and Ji Wan sent someone to urge him to hurry up, so he took Wei Chongrong into the palace early. When they arrived, only Princess Yuankang arrived with her two daughters. Neither her husband Xie Bai nor her son Xie Qiu arrived yet, and the Crown Prince’s family was nowhere to be seen.
Wei Zhao knelt down in front of the empress and said respectfully: “This child and subject pays respects to Mother Empress and wishes her happiness of the Eastern Sea and longevity of the Southern Mountains.”
Wei Chongrong knelt down with Wei Zhao and copied his movements, saying, “This grandson pays respects to Grandmother Empress and wishes Grandmother Empress the blessings of the flowing water of the Eastern Sea and the longevity of the ageless pines of the Southern Mountains.”
Ji Wan had always loved Wei Zhao, and although she didn’t love Wei Chongrong as much as Wei Xuan and his siblings, she still had some love for him, and when she saw the father and son singing in unison, she couldn’t stop smiling and hurriedly asked them to get up.
Afterwards, Wei Zhao cupped his hands to greet Princess Yuankang and said, “This younger brother has seen Imperial Sister.”
Princess Yuankang accepted his salute half-way and greeted him in reply: “Younger brother is exempt from the salute.” Wei Zhao also side-stepped, not daring to accept the full salute.
After that, it was the nephew who had seen his aunt and the nieces who had seen their uncle. Wei Chongrong was once again dizzy from the cumbersome etiquette of the Great Yan imperial family. Do you really want to be so complicated?
Princess Yuankang’s eldest daughter, Xie Xiu, was only two years younger than Wei Zhao and had yet to be married. Every time Princess Yuankang saw the empress, she complained that her daughter couldn’t get married. In fact, how could a princess’s daughter be worried about getting married? It was just that the person Xie Xiu had a crush on was unwilling to marry a wife, and she refused to settle for anyone else, so she was wasting her time so far. In the Great Yan, not to mention the princesses of the Wei family, there were few women who were over twenty years old and still unmarried. No wonder Princess Yuankang was so anxious. She didn’t want her daughter, who had been brought up with great pride and dignity, to be married off as a concubine.
Wei Chongrong couldn’t remember who Xie Xiu married later. He only knew that during the witchcraft incident, Xie Xiu lost her life in order to save the Crown Prince’s only granddaughter, and that poor little girl still didn’t survive in troubled times after all.
Xie Xiu’s younger sister’s name was Xie Xiang. She was fourteen years old this year. She looked a bit similar to her elder sister, but she had a more childish and naive look.
Princess Yuankang and Wei Ming intended to marry Xie Xiang to Wei Xuan(1), but Xie Xiu wasn’t married and Xie Qiu wasn’t married, so it wasn’t appropriate to make the matter public and the marriage wasn’t formally arranged. They were going to wait for two more years for the marriage of Xie Xiang’s siblings before Xie Xiang’s marriage was settled and the two families could go through formal procedures.
Princess Yuankang’s children were all grown up and she had no grandchildren so when she saw Wei Chongrong’s naivety and sweetness, she loved him so much that she hugged and kissed him. Xie Xiang was sitting next to her mother, and she also thought that the chubby little cousin was very amusing, so she gently squeezed the flesh on his face and had a lot of fun.
Wei Chongrong didn’t dare to show how aggrieved he was and tried to beg Wei Zhao for help with his eyes, only to find that Wei Zhao had been pulled to the window by Xie Xiu to talk and couldn’t see him at all. So he could only grimace at Xie Xiang in order to make her laugh and let him go as soon as possible.
“Youngest Uncle…” Because of their similar age, Xie Xiu played with Wei Zhao a lot when they were children. They were called uncle and niece, but their actual relationship was similar to that of brother and sister. There was nothing they couldn’t talk about. But they were separated for too long, and Xie Xiu hesitated for a while before calling Wei Zhao.
Wei Zhao smiled and nodded, looking at Xie Xiu and saying softly: “Ah Xiu, how are you? You told me to come here, do you have something to tell me?” Just looking at Xie Xiu’s expression, he knew she had something to say.
Xie Xiu lowered her head and looked at the ground. After a long time, she raised her head and asked, “After returning to the capital, has Uncle ever seen Wang Yong’an?” After speaking, she lowered her head again and didn’t look at Wei Zhao, as if she was a little scared.
Wei Zhao was a little startled when he heard her words, and nodded subconsciously: “Naturally, I have seen him. Ah Xiu, why do you suddenly ask about Wang Yong’an?” Whether it was Gong Song’s family or Hou Yichun’s family(2), the relationship with Wang Yong’an could only be described by the word “mediocre”.
Xie Xiu bit her lower lip, as if she gathered all her courage, and whispered, “Youngest Uncle, next time you see Wang Yong’an, can you ask him a question for me?” Her voice trembled slightly from nervousness, and her hands were tightly twisted together.
“What are you talking about? Say it slowly.” Wei Zhao looked puzzled. Xie Xiu and Jiang Che, what could they have in common? He really didn’t understand.
Xie Xiu was silent. Seeing Wei Zhao staring straight at her, she said in a low, almost inaudible voice: “Please ask Wang Yong’an for me, if he wants to marry a wife, can he consider the Xie family’s Ah Xiu first?” If Wei Zhao didn’t have a keen ear, he wouldn’t have been able to hear the second half of her words.
“What did you say?” Wei Zhao was so shocked that his voice suddenly rose as he stammered, “Ah Xiu, you, you…” Wei Zhao hesitated, so stunned that he couldn’t find the next words to say.
The palace servants nearby looked over at the sound. Wei Zhao didn’t want to attract their attention. He hurriedly pressed his clenched fist to his lips and pretended to cough twice. The palace servants turned their heads away again and stood straight, not looking at them.
Wei Zhao had heard Princess Yuankang mention Xie Xiu’s refusal to marry – she even asked him to persuade Xie Xiu if he had an opportunity – but he didn’t know the reason.
According to Princess Yuankang, she had never been strict with her children. Not to mention Xie Qiu, even the sisters Xie Xiu and Xie Xiang were not tightly controlled by her. Xie Xiu had a stubborn temperament. If she didn’t agree, Princess Yuankang wouldn’t dare to find a family casually and marry her out. If Xie Xiu ran away from the marriage or made trouble, wouldn’t it be bad for both families?
Princess Yuankang was very distressed about the marriage of her eldest daughter. She even promised Xie Xiu that as long as the man she liked was decent and had no wife, no matter who the other party was, she would go to the emperor and beg to fulfil her wish.
The conditions offered by Princess Yuankang were very generous. Even princesses of the Wei family did not have such freedom in marriage. Who knew that Xie Xiu still refused to speak and say who she wanted to marry, so Princess Yuankang suspected that Xie Xiu had a crush on a married man. Since the founding of the Great Yan, there was no precedent for a princess to force someone to leave his wife and remarry, not to mention that Xie Xiu was just the daughter of a princess. It was impossible for Princess Yuankang to marry her daughter to someone who didn’t even meet the conditions of “being decent and having no wife”, so Xie Xiu’s marriage was put on hold.
When he suddenly heard Xie Xiu’s words, Wei Zhao almost doubted his ears, wondering whether he had heard it wrong. The man Xie Xiu wanted to marry was actually Jiang Che. He had never expected that. But then, that was a good explanation as to why Xie Xiu refused to tell Princess Yuankang.
Jiang Che was one of the only two wangs with different surnames in the Great Yan. He was twenty-seven years old this year and had not yet married. He fully met the conditions set by Princess Yuankang. There was only one thing: Jiang Che’s marriage wasn’t something that Princess Yuankang could decide, and even if Wei Su issued a decree, it might not be useful.
Of course, it wasn’t that Jiang Che had to disobey Wei Su’s decree, but unless the marriage would bring more benefits to the imperial family than the Yong’an family itself, Wei Su would never force Jiang Che to marry if he didn’t wish to do so, as it wouldn’t be worth of creating an enmity.
There were many different stories in Yujing as to why Jiang Che refused to take a wife, both good and bad. It wasn’t that Wei Zhao wasn’t touched by Jiang Che’s persistence; but they had already missed it. He didn’t want Jiang Che to grow old alone, let alone have no heir in the Yong’an family.
But asking him to ask Jiang Che whether he would marry a wife and what kind of woman he would marry was really…
Seeing Wei Zhao’s delay in answering, Xie Xiu said uneasily: “Doesn’t Youngest Uncle want to? But, but you and Wang Yong’an… it is impossible for you.” Xie Xiu knew very well that the only person who could make Jiang Che change his mind was Wei Zhao.
Wei Zhao let out a long sigh and said solemnly: “Ah Xiu, I can bring him your message, but I can’t decide the outcome.” Although it was not his fault, between him and Jiang Che, it was him who gave up on the relationship first, so he was the least qualified to comment on Jiang Che’s future.
Xie Xiu pursed her lips and smiled: “Youngest Uncle is willing to help, Ah Xiu is very grateful. How can I dare to expect more?” As long as Wei Zhao delivered her message, the purpose she wanted would be achieved.
“Ah Xiu, what’s the point of this?” Even if Jiang Che agreed to marry Xie Xiu, Wei Zhao didn’t understand what she could get.
Xie Xiu was deeply in love with Jiang Che and she had some understanding of his temperament. She also knew about Wei Zhao’s past with Jiang Che before he went to Fuyu because she often came to the palace to play with him. Did she really not mind that Jiang Che had someone in his heart who could perhaps never be replaced?
Xie Xiu calmly said with a chuckle: “If it’s not me, it will be someone else. Instead of that, I would rather be the person by his side myself.” She didn’t want much, so she wouldn’t regret it.
Wei Zhao frowned slightly, looking at the sycamore leaves falling from the trees outside the window, not saying anything else. Xie Xiu stood beside him silently, also not saying anything. In the depths of her dark eyes, there was a faint starlight flickering.
Not far from them, Xie Xiang giggled, amused by Wei Chongrong, still refusing to let him go. She even snatched him from Princess Yuankang’s arms. Looking at his lively and cheerful little cousin, Wei Chongrong didn’t dare to think about her future in the previous life.
In all the information Wei Chongrong had read related to the witchcraft incident, no one mentioned Xie Xiang’s death, not at all. They even talked about Xie Xiu’s death, but not Xie Xiang. But Wei Chongrong felt that for Xie Xiang at that time, death would have been the best ending, even if she died in another place, unknown to anyone. With her husband’s family wiped out, her mother’s family destroyed, and her infant daughter killed, Wei Chongrong really couldn’t imagine what meaning there was for Xie Xiang to live under such circumstances, unable to take revenge.
Fortunately, he and Wei Zhao were back. As long as the brothers Wei Ming and Wei Zhao joined forces, those tragic stories would never be repeated. After all, Wei Ming and Wei Zhao were natural allies. If something happens to the Crown Prince, Wei Zhao would not be spared either. They had to save themselves.
Xie Xiang was having fun; Wei Chongrong’s resistance was ineffective and he had already given up on himself and let her do whatever she wanted. At this moment, Wei Xuan came from the Eastern Palace with his younger brothers and sister.
Seeing Xie Xiang momentarily lost in thought, Wei Chongrong leapt down from her lap, jumped to the floor suddenly, ran to Wei Xuan and saluted, “Greetings, Wang Linzi.” Xie Xiang returned to her senses and hurriedly followed with a salute.
It was customary in the Great Yan that the emperor’s sons and daughters would be given the titles of wangs and princesses when they reached the age of ten, but the grandsons and granddaughters were different. First of all, it depended on their father’s title. For example, Wei Xuan and Wei Kou were the eldest son and eldest daughter of the Crown Prince, and were named Wang Linzi and Princess Yunmeng respectively soon after reaching the corresponding age; for example, Wei Ruo was the eldest son of Wang Lu Wei Xiao, and after he reached the right age, Wei Xiao would also be able to ask for a title for his son; as for Wei Chongrong, because his “birth mother was unknown”, he could only be regarded as an illegitimate child and unless he made great achievements in the future, there would be no title for him.
Wei Xuan hurriedly took his younger siblings to greet the empress and Princess Yuankang, and then was pulled aside by Xie Xiang to talk. The two were making out enthusiastically without any intention of avoiding suspicion. The empress and Princess Yuankang looked at it and said nothing.
Wei Chongrong was happy to be out of Xie Xiang’s clutches. When he saw Wei Kou, he hurriedly saluted her, “Greetings, Princess Yunmeng.” Compared to Xie Xiang, Wei Kou was a true lady, and Wei Chongrong liked this gentle cousin very much.
Wei Kou smiled and helped Wei Chongrong up, then pulled out the two boys hiding behind her and introduced: “Rong’er, these are my younger brothers Ah Lan and Mao’er. Just call them Second and Third Brothers.”
Wei Chongrong called them honestly, and the older Wei Lan smiled haughtily with an arrogant expression, while the younger Wei Mao snorted, ignoring him completely.
In a flash of intuition, Wei Chongrong realised the fact that he and Wei Zhao had lived in the palace for two months, and Wei Xuan and Wei Kou had been to Yongfu Palace several times, but Wei Lan and Wei Mao had never been there once. The reason was not that, as Jun Feili said, Wei Lan and Wei Mao were naughty by nature and would disturb Wei Zhao’s recuperation, but that these two brothers seemed to have a clear sense of rejection for him, or perhaps for Wei Zhao.
- Yes, they are cousins. In Ancient China it was okay for cousins with different surnames to marry (absolutely not okay for cousins with the same surname).
- I bet you’re asking who those guys are again… Ahem, Gong Song is the title of the Xie family; the current Gong Song is Xie Bai’s elder brother, while Xie Bai himself has the title of Hou Yichun