Wei Chongrong thought that his expression should be very deep and serious, but he forgot one thing, that is, his meat dumpling face with such an expression was as bizarre as it could be.
Wei Zhao watched from the side and couldn’t help but chuckle: “All right, all right, get down, don’t always lean on your uncle, I don’t even want to think about how heavy you are.”
Wei Chongrong glanced at Wei Zhao with an aggrieved look, slid down to the ground and stood up, thinking in his heart: you are my own father, you’re not allowed to make fun of your son.
Wei Ming, who was obviously more sympathetic than Wei Zhao, touched Wei Chongrong’s fleshy cheeks and said with a smile, “You should be happy that Rong’er is growing well. If he were weak and frail like Mao’er, you would be worried sick.”
Wei Zhao curbed his smile, took his son into his arms, kissed both of his cheeks and said seriously: “Rong’er has suffered a lot since he followed me. With a little less luck, you might have never met him.” When the old events were mentioned, Wei Zhao not only didn’t feel relaxed, but felt scared.
Wei Ming raised his hand and patted him on the shoulder, comforting: “Ah Zhao, everything is over, don’t think about the unhappy things anymore.” Wei Chongrong followed Wei Ming’s example and patted Wei Zhao as well.
Five days later, the emperor set off for Shanglin Park. Wei Zhao took Wei Chongrong with him and accompanied him on his journey.
Travelling by imperial carriage was a grand affair, but the speed was definitely not fast. Wei Chongrong sat in the carriage and recited the contents of the teacher’s book three times. There was really nothing to do, so he asked Wei Zhao: “Daddy, can I go out and ride a horse for a while?”
When he was in Fuyu, he often went out on his own on a pony but when he returned to Yujing, he didn’t have such an opportunity. Occasionally, he would ride with Wei Zhao, but he had never ridden alone. He missed the taste of being on horseback.
Wei Zhao glanced at the winding procession outside the window and couldn’t see its head or tail. He shook his head and said, “Not now. Your pony is at home and you haven’t brought it. Let’s talk about it at Shanglin Park.”
Wei Chongrong lay on top of Wei Zhao and blinked: “I don’t want to ride a pony, I want to ride Liuyun(1).” His eyes were shining, obviously full of expectation.
Back then, Princess Gaochang gave her younger brother two Wusun divine horses, and Wei Zhao named them Liuxing and Liuyue respectively. Liuxing followed Wei Zhao to Fuyu, and was killed when Wei Zhao was captured. Liuyue gave birth to a foal, and then went on hunger strike and died. When Wei Ming heard about this, he ordered someone to take good care of the foal, and after Wei Zhao returned, he gave the horse back to him. It was named Liuyun. Wei Chongrong especially liked Liuyun, who was tall and mighty, and extremely powerful. It was a pity that Wei Zhao wouldn’t let him ride alone, so it was useless for him to beg.
“No way.” Wei Zhao refused his son’s unreasonable request without even thinking about it. It was true that Wei Chongrong was a far better horse rider than ordinary people, but he was a child after all. A pony was just fine, but how could he dare to let him ride a horse as fierce as Liuyun alone?
Wei Chongrong had expected such a result and wasn’t very disappointed. He just tugged at Wei Zhao’s sleeve and said coquettishly: “Daddy, just let me ride for a while. Liuyun is very good and I won’t fall. Daddy, will you?”
Liuyun was violent by nature, and when he was raised in the Eastern Palace, no one could ride on him except Wei Ming and Wei Xuan. But he seemed to have a natural affection for Wei Zhao and Wei Chongrong. Since Wei Zhao brought him back, Liuyun was very close to them and changed his previous grumpy temper.
Wei Zhao couldn’t see Wei Chongrong’s thoughts, pinched his cheek and smiled: “Liuyun is definitely out of question. It’s useless for you to be coquettish. Wait until you are as tall as a horse’s back before you talk to me about him.”
Wei Chongrong expected Wei Zhao’s words and pushed the boat along the water: “Liuyun is out of question, other horses should be fine.” Advancing while retreating, it seemed to have been mentioned in Sun Tzu’s Art of War. That day when Wei Zhao told Huo Qingyang about the Art of War, Wei Chongrong also listened to it.
Sure enough, Wei Zhao didn’t argue anymore. He sat up with Wei Chongrong in his arms and ordered the entourage outside to find him a docile mare. He could see that if he didn’t let Wei Chongrong go out to ride, he wouldn’t have a moment of peace.
The horse was quickly brought, and Wei Chongrong jumped off the couch and asked Wei Zhao excitedly: “Daddy, do you want to go out for some fresh air?” It was uncomfortable to sit in a carriage, especially this kind of slow-moving one.
Wei Zhao waved his hand, indicating that he didn’t want to go, so Wei Chongrong climbed onto the back of the horse by himself. He lightly tightened the bridle, stretched out his hand and patted the horse’s head, and the horse started at a cheerful pace.
“Your Highness, the little prince, he, he…” The groom was so frightened that he couldn’t speak clearly. He had been raising horses in the palace for many years. Who among the emperor’s sons and grandsons of Wei Chongrong’s age didn’t have their horses led by someone, riding by themselves! It was really unheard of.
Wei Zhao said dismissively, “It’s okay, let him go, Rong’er can ride a horse.” After saying that, he let go of the curtain, leaving the servants and the groom outside to look at each other. His Imperial Highness Wang Qin was a little too reckless.
Shanglin Park was built north of the capital. It was magnificent in scale, with many palaces and halls, and covered an area several times that of the Imperial City. Because of its unique scenery and gorgeous buildings, it was a favourite place for emperors of the Great Yan to visit.
From the imperial palace to Shanglin Park, there was a straight and wide imperial road. Due to the old age of the emperor, the imperial carriage travelled extremely slowly and smoothly. Wei Su reclined on the wide imperial seat, hardly feeling that he was on the move.
Suddenly, the neighing of a horse came from the side, awakening the sleepy emperor. Wei Su said, displeased: “Who is making a noise here?”
Huangmen Ling(2) Su Wen knelt and said, “Replying to Your Majesty, it’s His Imperial Highness Wang Qin’s little heir riding outside…” When they first saw it, they all thought they were seeing it wrong.
Wei Su snorted softly: “Has Wang Qin asked for the title of heir for him that you call him that?…” It turned out to be that brat. He didn’t want to see him.
Su Wen hurriedly pleaded guilty: “This slave has made a mistake, begging to be punished, Your Majesty.” Before he finished speaking, the neighing came back, causing Su Wen’s face to change in fright.
Wei Su smoothly lifted the curtain and saw Wei Chongrong alone on the back of the galloping horse. He couldn’t help but look puzzled, and then said, “Summon Wang Qin over, I have something to ask him.”
Su Wen didn’t dare to look up at the emperor’s expression and said anxiously: “Your Majesty, do you want Wang Qin’s little son to ride a horse elsewhere, so as not to…”
“No, just let him be.” Wei Su waved his hand with a smirk on his face. That little wolf cub was less than five years old. When Wei Zhao was his age, he couldn’t ride a horse alone. It was interesting.
After Wei Chongrong got out of the carriage, Wei Zhao was a little sleepy, so he lay on the couch to take a nap. As soon as he was about to fall asleep, a eunuch came to deliver a message, saying that the emperor had summoned him.
Wei Zhao woke up in an instant, sorted out his clothes a little, and hurriedly followed, wondering why his father suddenly called for him. Could it be that Rong’er was too reckless riding a horse, shocking the emperor?
Entering the imperial carriage, Wei Zhao first performed the greeting ceremony, saying, “This son pays respects to Father Emperor, wishing Father Emperor endless happiness.”
Wei Su raised his chin and motioned to Wei Zhao to be free of ceremony. Wei Zhao got up calmly and stood with his hands lowered. Wei Su said: “Come here and sit down.”
Wei Zhao moved over and sat down on the footrest in front of the imperial seat. Wei Su raised his hand and touched his face lightly, saying after a while, “You have lost some weight compared to when you were in the palace. What did Duanmu Hui say?” He obviously knew what Wei Zhao was doing after he left the palace.
Wei Zhao didn’t dare to conceal it and replied truthfully: “The muscles and veins are damaged and need to be carefully recuperated. If the method is correct, they can recover for more than four fifths.” After saying this, he put his head on the emperor’s lap, just like when he was a child.
Wei Su looked down at him and pondered: “Ah Zhao, you don’t have to force yourself too much to lead an army into the battle. The important thing is to strategize, and you don’t need to do everything yourself.” The Ji family had led the army for generations, and not every Wang Changning had been a good fighter.
Wei Zhao responded softly: “I understand, thank you for your care, Father Emperor.”
Wei Su stroked his cheek and said: “After the New Year, I will ask some old men from the Imperial Hospital to take a look at you. If they all say there is no problem, you can go back to the Eastern Camp.”
Wei Zhao raised his head and said, “Thank you, Father Emperor.” His voice revealed a slight excitement.
The Great Yan’s military system was inherited from the Shenchuan dynasty and was divided into the capital army and local troops, with the capital army divided into three parts: the Forbidden Army, the Eastern Camp and the Western Camp.
The Forbidden Army was the force guarding the Imperial City. Its head was the commander of the army, under whom were the South Palace Guards, the North Palace Guards, and the Left and Right Guards. It was also known as the “Northern Army” because they were stationed in the north of the city.
The Eastern Camp and the Western Camp were the elite parts of the Great Yan’s army. According to the bequest of Emperor Taizu, the Eastern Camp was under the control of Wang Ping and Wang Jing, while the Western Camp was under the control of Wang Yong’an and Wang Changning.
Since Wang Jing’s title was removed because the last Wang Jing died without children and the Wang Yong’an family changed to the civilian route, for many years, the power of the Eastern and Western Camps had basically been in the hands of Wang Ping and Wang Changning.
The first Wang Ping, Wei Shang, was the uncle of Emperor Taizu. He made immortal contributions for the founding of the Great Yan. His title was originally hereditary, but unfortunately his descendants were incompetent and made several mistakes, resulting in this title rising and falling, and currently resting in the position of Ping County Wang.
When a prince of the Wei family joined the army, he always went to the Eastern Camp, and Wei Zhao was naturally no exception. It was just that his mother’s family was Wang Changning’s family. Some people had raised objections to this, saying that the Western Camp had always been under the control of the Ji family and was about to become their private army. If the prince from the Ji family went to the Eastern Camp again, it would seem to be detrimental to the emperor. The emperor was furious when he saw this memorial and scolded the courtier who submitted it, downgrading him for three ranks and demoting to guard the border.
At that time, Jun Lin was gone, and Ji Qing and Ji Yu, father and son, were gone while Ji Xin was still an ignorant child. The Ji family had influence in the army but no leader; Wei Zhao appeared at the right time, and the courtier made a fool out of himself.
Wei Zhao entered the Eastern Camp at the age of twelve. His roots in the army were all there. Wei Su was willing to let him go back, so it was the first step for his revenge plan.
“Ah Zhao, do you want to make the little wolf cub your heir?” Wei Su still had no affection for Wei Chongrong. This aversion came from his bloodline itself and had nothing to do with whether he was personally good or not.
Wei Zhao raised his head, looked straight at the emperor, then nodded and said, “Yes.” It was customary in the imperial family that the eldest son of the wang or county wang would be named the heir when he reached the age of ten. If there was no son from the main wife, the concubine’s son had to wait until he reached adulthood and pass the examination of the Minister of the Imperial Clan before he could be named the heir.
Wei Su frowned, his eyes deep and unpredictable, and asked rhetorically: “You don’t plan to marry anymore?” If the position of the heir was gone, no noble family would be willing to marry their daughter to Wei Zhao, and the wife of the Great Yan’s prince couldn’t be a woman not from a noble family.
“I don’t think about it for the time being, let’s talk about it later.” His feud with Helian Zhuo had not been settled, how could Wei Zhao have the heart to think about marriage and children, not to mention that the person he loved… it was no longer possible for them to be together.
“The Minister of the Imperial Clan will not pass your request.” The Minister of the Imperial Clan had opposed Wei Zhao on the matter of Wei Chongrong’s name alone. For Wei Chongrong to become the heir, even if Wei Zhao had no other son, Wei Chaongrong would have to wait till adulthood and then it would depend on his ability.
The corners of Wei Zhao’s lips rose, and he said with certainty: “Rong’er will be fine. He has no shortage of talent and he is hardworking.” He had already thought about it a long time ago. Only Wei Chongrong could inherit his title, not anyone else.
Seeing Wei Zhao’s obviously proud and ostentatious expression, Wei Su inexplicably felt heartbroken. He used to show off his son in front of others, but now Wei Zhao actually showed off in front of him. It seemed that the little wolf cub still had some merit.
“Is that so?” Wei Su narrowed his eyes and said blankly, “Then I’ll take a look at him again.” He was different from the empress. If Wei Zhao didn’t want to get married, he wouldn’t force him.
Wei Zhao was overjoyed and buried his head in Wei Su’s lap, rubbing gently. He learned this trick from Wei Chongrong. Sure enough, Wei Su was very satisfied with his son’s behaviour of getting close to him, and chatted with him about the family matters.
When Wei Chongrong had had enough, he slowed down and wanted to wait for Wei Zhao to get out of the imperial carriage and return to their carriage with him.
Who knew that after waiting for a long time he still wouldn’t see Wei Zhao coming out. Wei Chongrong was shivering with cold, so he had to wrap his clothes tightly and climb back into the carriage. While shivering, he thought about what Wei Zhao was doing on the imperial carriage. Thinking about it, he fell asleep.
Wei Zhao stayed with Wei Su for a long time, and it wasn’t until the emperor took his lunch break that he retired from the imperial carriage. When he returned to his carriage, his son was already asleep, curled in a ball, like a cute little pig. Wei Zhao laughed quietly, took Wei Chongrong into his arms, and slept with him.
Shanglin Park was not far from the imperial city, just a little more than two hundred li, and it could be reached in half a day by horse, but the imperial carriage was heavy and was driving slowly, so it was not unusual for the trip to take two days.
Because Wei Su let Wei Zhao accompany him along the way, the rumours about Wang Qin’s fall from favour disappeared unconsciously. Only Wei Chongrong was very dissatisfied with Wei Su’s behaviour of occupying Wei Zhao all day long. Except for sleeping at night, he couldn’t see his father anymore.
When he arrived at Shanglin Park, the emperor stayed at Linguang Palace as usual. Linguang Palace was located in the east part of Shanglin Park. It was built by Emperor Taizong to enjoy the dawn in the mountains and forests first thing every day, hence its name(3). Its interior and exterior furnishings were by no means inferior to Zichen Palace in the Imperial City.
Wei Zhao and Wei Chongrong were placed in Daidang Palace closest to Linguang Palace. In the eyes of others, this meant infinite grace, but Wei Chongrong put his arms around Wei Zhao’s neck and refused to go down to the ground.
Daidang Palace was the place where Wei Yang gave him the poisoned wine in his previous life. To say that Wei Chongrong had no shadow at all was definitely a lie.
Wei Zhao thought that Wei Chongrong was tired from riding during the day, so he carried him into Daidang Palace. He was very satisfied with this residence. Because Shanglin Park was large enough and there were many palace rooms, Daidang Palace would rather be empty than be occupied by others unless it was the closest person to the emperor.
Daidang meant soothing and delightful. Daidang Palace was named like this because it was the place where the scenery of Shanglin Park was most beautiful in spring, according to the expression “the palace is full of the spring scenery”(4).
Since the spring scenery was the most beautiful, it was inevitable that the winter here would be a little dreary. As soon as Wei Chongrong entered Daidang Palace, he felt that the chill here was more intense than elsewhere, and he couldn’t help but hug Wei Zhao tighter.
Perceiving his son’s abnormality, Wei Zhao said softly, “Rong’er, what’s wrong today? Are you feeling unwell? Let Daddy take a look…”
Wei Chongrong shook his head and said coquettishly: “Daddy, can I sleep with you tonight?” After returning to Yujing, it was rare for father and son to sleep together again, and he didn’t know if Wei Zhao was willing to do so.
Wei Zhao patted Wei Chongrong on the back and said, “Okay, Daddy will sleep with you.” That night, Wei Chongrong slept in a particularly bad position, wrapping his arms and legs around Wei Zhao’s body.
- Flowing Cloud
- Chief Eunuch, in short
- “Forest light”
- The word “dài dàng” is often used to describe the scenery of spring; the quotation comes from an ancient geography book