Halfway, when Wei Chongrong saw that there was no one around, he suddenly stopped and asked, “Daddy, did you find something?” Wei Zhao was not a fool. If he had nothing to rely on, he would never treat Su Wen like this.
Wei Zhao raised his eyebrows and smiled, then glanced at Wei Chongrong, pursed his lips and praised: “Son, you are not stupid, you finally figured it out.”
Wei Chongrong thought for a while, still puzzled, and then asked, “Daddy, what did you find? Don’t keep listeners in suspense, okay?”
Wei Zhao picked up Wei Chongrong, flew up the rockery and sat down on the top before he said in a low voice, “Rong’er, what you said that day, Daddy asked someone to check it out. It’s all true.”
Wei Chongrong immediately smiled: “I knew I could help Daddy.” His age and status limited his behaviour. Even though he knew many things, he couldn’t deal with them. He could only let Wei Zhao do it.
Wei Zhao sighed helplessly: “Rong’er, do you know? Imperial Brother also knew that Su Wen was slandering him behind his back, but he actually…”
“Actually what?” Wei Chongrong said curiously. He always thought that Wei Ming was unaware of being framed by Su Wen and the others. But if he knew what Su Wen and the others were doing, why didn’t he take measures?
Wei Zhao pondered: “Imperial Brother said, as long as he didn’t do anything wrong, why should he be afraid of Su Wen and the like? Father Emperor is wise and will not believe in evil slander, so there is no need to worry.”
Wei Chongrong was speechless for a moment. His uncle, the Crown Prince, was fine in every way. One thing, though, did he think of Wei Su too highly? He thought that no matter what happened, Wei Su would trust him just as much as he himself trusted Wei Su.
Wei Zhao paused for a moment and continued: “Serving the emperor dishonestly is an unforgivable sin. Imperial Brother’s approach can’t be said to be wrong, but the emperor’s heart is unpredictable. You can do no harm to others, but you should guard against them… The matter of the palace maids was harmless, but that Chang Rong, the eunuch you mentioned – who slandered the Crown Prince as unfilial in front of Father Emperor… It is good that Father Emperor is discerning. He looked at the Imperial Brother’s face and saw that there were tear marks on his face even though he insisted on smiling and talking as usual. After secretly inquiring, Father Emperor learned the truth and dealt with Chang Rong. They all say that if you stand straight, you shouldn’t be afraid of a slanting shadow, but who can guarantee that they won’t wet their shoes when they walk by the water? Villains like Su Wen do such things, and Imperial Brother is a gentleman and disdains to take action. Fine, then I’ll be the wicked man.”
Wei Chongrong’s original idea was to let Wei Zhao step in and do things that he knew about but couldn’t do by himself. However, when Wei Zhao really made a move, Wei Chongrong was very worried. Could Wei Zhao handle an opponent that Wei Ming couldn’t handle?
“Daddy, is it dangerous?” Wei Chongrong tugged at Wei Zhao’s sleeve and asked weakly. He was hesitating whether to tell Wei Zhao everything he knew.
Wei Zhao hugged his son tightly and said indifferently: “It’s just a mere castrate, nothing to worry about. What Su Wen wanted was nothing more than to avenge his nephew. I told him who his enemy was and helped him avenge his nephew’s death. He couldn’t thank me enough, where’s the danger…”
Wei Chongrong’s eyes widened. He instantly felt that his brain wasn’t enough. Su Wen, whom he found so difficult to deal with, was a castrate not worth mentioning in Wei Zhao’s eyes, and in just a few days, Wei Zhao found out about the Shangguan family’s framing of Su Wen’s nephew, and made Su Wen believe him.
Wei Chongrong sighed, buried his head in Wei Zhao’s lap, and kept rubbing it. He had truly lived for nothing for two lifetimes, how could he use his own ideas to substitute for Wei Zhao? Wei Zhao was at a height that he could never reach.
“Okay, okay, don’t be coquettish, it’s getting late, let’s go back for lunch.” It was rare that Wei Su had someone to accompany him today, so Wei Zhao could keep the company to his son. Wei Zhao hugged Wei Chongrong and jumped down the rockery.
Finding that Wei Zhao was much more reliable than he expected, Wei Chongrong was in a good mood and dragged him around the paths in the garden. As soon as they turned a corner past a pavilion, they came across a man who, judging by his attire, looked like the emperor’s male concubine.
When the man saw Wei Zhao, he saluted respectfully: “I have seen His Imperial Highness Wang Qin, wishing His Imperial Highness endless happiness.” His voice was low and gentle, indescribably beautiful.
Wei Zhao raised his hand and said with a smile: “Attendant Yan is exempt from courtesy.” Wei Chongrong knew the man; he was one of the emperor’s new favourites, Attendant Yan, or Yan Li.
Yan Li lowered his hands and stopped two steps away from Wei Zhao. Wei Zhao passed by him and said carelessly, “Didn’t you accompany Father Emperor on his walk around the park? Why are you here?”
Yan Li replied in an undulating tone: “I dare not make a fool of myself with Zhao Ji in front of me.”
Wei Zhao smiled: “If that’s the case, you should go back. It would be bad if our meeting was seen.”
Yan Li nodded in response and turned to leave. Wei Chongrong’s admiration for Wei Zhao couldn’t help but deepen again. It hadn’t been long since they returned to Yujing but Wei Zhao already had people by the emperor’s side. Compared to the Crown Prince Uncle who was living on the moon, his father was a natural palace fighting expert, ah.
When they returned to Daidang Palace, lunch was already prepared. When she saw them coming back, Qing Xiu immediately brought people to set up the table, full of Wei Chongrong’s favourite dishes.
Wei Chongrong ate with relish, but when he saw Wei Zhao frowning and thinking, he hurriedly picked some food for him and asked him if there was something else he wanted.
Wei Zhao subconsciously said: “What’s so extraordinary about Zhao Ji…” Suddenly realising that this topic was a bit inappropriate for a child, he stopped and seriously accompanied Wei Chongrong to eat.
Wei Chongrong buried his head in the food, but he was sighing in his heart. Wei Zhao’s observation was truly keen enough. Before Zhao Ji really demonstrated all her power, Wei Zhao already kept an eye on her.
But what exactly Wei Su saw in Zhao Ji that he favoured her so much was something Wei Chongrong couldn’t figure out. Wei Su was a good emperor, but not a good man, and his pursuit of beauty was rare among all the emperors of the Great Yan.
Wei Su had seen countless beauties, and most of the beauties were forgotten after being seen, the emperor not remembering them in his heart. You could call it a moment of exclusive favour. In Wei Su’s life, there were only four who were special to him, namely Empress Ji, Consort Xin, Concubine Yun and Zhao Ji.
The first three could be easily understood. When they were young, they were all rare and stunning beauties, and they had even more extraordinary family backgrounds and capable fathers and brothers. Wei Su was a pragmatist and for simply a beautiful woman it was difficult to gain a long-term foothold in his harem, even if she had a child.
Only Zhao Ji was an exception. She had no family background; she wasn’t even particularly beautiful, which was very puzzling. Of course, one couldn’t say that Zhao Ji was not good-looking, but compared to other beauties, her appearance was nothing extraordinary, and her origin was extremely humble.
When Wei Chongrong saw Zhao Ji’s portrait before, he thought that the artist’s level was limited and he couldn’t reflect her peerless style. It wasn’t until he saw the real person two days ago that he realised that she was just a pretty girl with clear eyebrows and delicate figure, a far cry from Yan Li’s magnificent appearance.
It turned out that Zhao Ji was very favoured. After Wei Ming killed himself, there were two brothers Wei Xiao and Wei Shi in front of Wei Yang, but she made Wei Su skip them and make Wei Yang, who was only seven years old, the Crown Prince.
“What are you thinking about? Hurry up and eat!” Wei Zhao was too diligent in picking food for him and Wei Chongrong couldn’t keep up with the speed of it, so his bowl was already piled up to the point of spilling over.
Wei Chongrong came back to his senses and hurriedly accelerated his speed of eating. Thinking of that guy Wei Yang was really unappetising. Wei Chongrong originally wanted to eat three bowls, but after eating two bowls, he didn’t want to eat anymore.
Su Wen was taught a lesson by Wei Zhao and didn’t dare to mention a word in front of Wei Su about it. When Wei Su casually asked what happened, Su Wen said that he lost his footing and fell into the pond, and Wei Su didn’t ask again.
In the blink of an eye, Wei Chongrong had been in Shanglin Park for more than a month. Because of Wei Zhao’s company, the shadow left by Daidang Palace had already disappeared. Just when he was thinking of continuing to live here, Wei Zhao told him that they were going back to the city.
At this time, it was the middle of the twelfth lunar month, and the New Year was approaching. The Crown Prince was handling the government affairs, but the emperor was due to return to the capital as he had to personally attend to all the matters of the New Year.
Wei Chongrong had no problem with going back to the city, but the thought of going to the palace made him unhappy, especially when Wei Zhao told him that there was a palace banquet on New Year’s Eve and an ancestral ritual on the first day of the year, so it was inconvenient for them to go back and forth day after day and they had to stay at Yongfu Palace for some days.
Wei Chongrong bit his lip and held back for a long time before he came up with a reason that wasn’t really a reason: “Daddy, aren’t you afraid that Third Brother and I will fight again?” Wei Chongrong said that he wouldn’t actively seek trouble with Wei Mao, but if Wei Mao himself sought death, he wouldn’t refrain from fighting back.
Wei Zhao didn’t think so, raised his eyebrows and said, “Do you think that Imperial Brother is as incapable of teaching children as I am and that after Mao’er messed up once last time, he can do it again?”
“Why not?” Wei Chongrong curled his lips, not believing Wei Zhao’s words. Wei Mao’s prejudice against them was so deep, how could one lesson from Wei Ming work?
“You don’t believe it, do you?” Wei Zhao saw through his son’s careful thinking at a glance, and said with certainty: “Mao’er is much better behaved than you. No matter what the Imperial Brothers says, he listens to it.”
Wei Chongrong raised his hand to cover his face, feeling ashamed of himself. Wei Zhao was clearly hinting at him and, in fact, criticising him in a roundabout way. Wei Zhao thought he wasn’t as obedient and sensible as his cousins. Not to mention Wei Xuan and Wei Lan, he was not as good as that little cat. It was really worth reflecting on.
After returning to the imperial residence for a short rest, Wei Zhao took Wei Chongrong to the palace. Yongfu Palace was fully equipped with all the facilities, and it could be seen that someone was tidying up every day, waiting for Wei Zhao to come back and live there at any time.
Learning that their fourth uncle and the younger cousin had entered the palace, Wei Xuan and Wei Kou came to greet them and play with Wei Chongrong. Wei Chongrong had never liked to envy people, but at this time, he was a little envious of Wei Lan and Wei Mao. They were really lucky to have such a good big brother and sister.
Wei Lan and Wei Mao had never been to Yongfu Palace, but Wei Chongrong met them twice at Weiyang Palace. Although the way they looked at each other wasn’t friendly, neither of them spoke or behaved inappropriately, so when outsiders looked at them, everything seemed quite brotherly and respectful.
Princess Yuankang often entered the palace to greet the empress. Since Wei Zhao returned to the palace, every time she came, she would call him over, saying that they had not seen each other for many years and deserved to have more time to talk.
Today was the same; when Wei Chongrong saw Princess Yuankang full of joy, he smiled and asked, “Eldest Aunt, what good things have happened to you? Look at you smiling happily.” Princess Yuankang treated people gently and kindly, and Wei Chongrong had always been fond of her.
“You little smart guy, your eyes are so sharp!” Princess Yuankang nudged Wei Chongrong’s nose, and her smile became even more obvious, “Ah Xiu’s marriage has been settled, can I be unhappy?” Xie Xiu’s marriage seemed to have become Princess Yuankang’s heart knot.
The empress was overjoyed when she heard this, and hurriedly asked, “Yuankang, which family is it? How could it be that the marriage was proposed at this time?” The New Year was coming soon, and every family was busy offering sacrifices to their ancestors, so how could they have time to discuss marriage?
Wei Chongrong looked at Princess Yuankang curiously, also eager to know the answer quickly. No matter which family it was, Xie Xiu’s fate would never be as miserable as in her previous life. He didn’t notice that Wei Zhao, not far from him, turned a little pale.
Princess Yuankang chuckled and said, “There was no formal proposal of marriage either, only that Dowager Wangfei Yong’an asked someone to come and inquire, saying that if we were interested, she would send someone later in the year. I asked Ah Xiu and she agreed, so I reckon, ah, it will work out.”
The empress smiled with satisfaction and said joyfully: “It turned out to be the Jiang family. It is really a good marriage. Ah Che is the grandson of Princess Guchang, and he is also Ah Xiu’s cousin. It is just right to marry him. He is also Wang Yong’an, so it can’t be better.”
Not to mention Xie Xiu, even if the princesses of the Wei family married into the two families of the wangs with different surnames, they couldn’t be said to be married down. Except for the eldest princess, whose rank was higher than the prince, the rest of the princesses were county lords(1) and if they married to a county wang with real power, they would be on an equal footing.
Princess Yuankang smiled from ear to ear, and her joy was palpable. Wei Chongrong understood her excitement, but he couldn’t figure out why Jiang Che was suddenly getting married. Didn’t he remain unmarried for life in his previous life?
Could it be that…
When they were in the study that day, Wei Zhao said something to him.
Thinking of this, Wei Chongrong turned to look at Wei Zhao, only to find that he was no longer in the hall but walked to the window at some point, standing alone and looking at the dead branches outside.
Wei Chongrong walked over gently, tugged at his sleeve and called softly: “Daddy…” He was very worried about Wei Zhao.
Wei Zhao put his hand on his shoulder and said nothing. The father and son stood in silence for a long time until the empress asked someone to go and call them.
The Great Yan’s New Year’s Eve palace banquet was much larger than Fuyu’s, and it was held separately for men and women. The emperor entertained the courtiers in the Zhengyi Hall, and the empress entertained the women in the Zhongren Hall.
Wei Chongrong had attended a New Year’s Eve banquet before, but he had never had such a good position with such a good view. At the top of the steps were the positions of the emperor and the imperial family, one seat for a person, and below were the seats of the courtiers, one seat for two people.
The emperor’s seat was in the middle, needless to say, and the seats of the Crown Prince and Wang Qin were to the left and right. Next to them were the seats of Wang Yong’an and Wang Changning, the only two on the platform who were not surnamed Wei, so it was clear that their status was very prominent. Below them were Wei Shi, Wei Xuan and others.
Wei Lan, Wei Mao, and Wei Chongrong were under ten years old and had no separate seats. Wei Lan sat next to his elder brother. Wei Mao and Wei Chongrong were leaning on their respective fathers. The positions of the two were across from each other, and they were very upset when they looked at each other.
Wei Chongrong didn’t want to talk to Wei Mao, so he turned away and talked to Ji Xin. Anyway, Ji Xin happened to be bored because Jun Qing wasn’t here. The two of them were more than ten years apart in age, but they were able to have a good conversation, and when Wei Zhao looked at them, he couldn’t help but be secretly surprised.
Wei Zhao and Jiang Che’s positions were also across from each other. As long as the two raised their eyes, they would bump into each other’s line of sight, which was quite embarrassing. Wei Zhao would avoid it at first, but then gave up. He didn’t think it was necessary. Jiang Che was very calm, smiling all the time, his smile only slightly bitter.
Although it was boring, it went smoothly; the annual New Year’s Eve banquet passed very uneventfully. Wei Chongrong harvested a number of golden ingots allocated by the Minister Steward(2).
On the first day of the New Year, all members of the imperial family would participate in the ritual Wei Chongrong had never participated in before. Now that his name was on the jade plate, he could be regarded as a member of the Wei family and he was qualified to offer sacrifice to his ancestors.
In the Imperial Temple, in addition to the tablets dedicated to the emperors of the Great Yan, there were also tablets of a number of princes and officials who had distinguished themselves and were worthy to join the Imperial Temple. Wei Chongrong looked at the string of familiar and unfamiliar names, and his heart was faintly throbbing, but he couldn’t tell why.
A few years later, Wei Chongrong looked back and felt that this sacrifice to ancestors should be the first time he realised his identity as a member of the Wei family.
- As strange as it sounds, a county lord is a female title
- The Minister Steward managed the palace treasury, i.e., the private finances of the imperial clan; was also in charge of disbursing the incomes of members of the imperial clan.