Perhaps Wei Chongrong was too fierce that day and scared everyone. Since then, no one at the palace school dared to provoke him. It was said that the boy who was most badly beaten was a child of the Wei clan. His grandfather was so angry that he complained to the emperor.
Wei Su was not angry when he heard the news, he only replied indifferently that it was normal for children to fight and they would be fine after the fight, so adults should not get involved. It dawned on everyone that the emperor was still protecting his grandson, otherwise he wouldn’t defend him for beating people like that.
In fact, the emperor still couldn’t say that he had a good impression of Wei Chongrong, but it was his grandson, he could dislike him, but others were not allowed to.
Besides, Wei Chongrong was still young, less than five years old, but when someone bullied him, he could fight back by himself instead of crying and running home to Wei Zhao to complain. This performance was pretty good.
The children who attacked Wei Chongrong were all older than him. There were many of them and he was alone, they were older and he was younger, and they still couldn’t beat him. Was there any reason to talk about it? The emperor felt justified.
After this incident, Wei Chongrong’s biggest gain was the addition of a little tail named Gu Chuan. In the past, Gu Chuan treated him well, better than any other classmate, but their relationship was always polite and a little distant and there was no in-depth communication.
After the fight, when Gu Chuan looked at Wei Chongrong, his eyes were full of admiration. No matter what Wei Chongrong did, Gu Chuan followed suit. Although Wei Chongrong was not good at dealing with children, Gu Chuan stuck to him so tightly that outsiders would look at them and think they were best friends.
Gu Chuan was the eldest grandson of Gu Yao, Guogong Qi. Of the twenty or so people in their class, apart from Wei Mao and Wei Chongrong, the two grandsons of the emperor, he was the one with the highest status, and since he and Wei Chongrong were on good terms, it was impossible for the others to remain unaffected.
Wei Mao had no idea about Wei Chongrong and Gu Chuan being chased and blocked by someone. He only saw that Wei Chongrong was good at everything. The teachers at the palace school liked him, and the classmates in the class liked him. Even his father was full of praise when it came to Wei Chongrong.
Wei Mao was not a fool. He wouldn’t just look at the appearance and not delve into the reasons. Since everyone said that Wei Chongrong was good, he had to see how really good he was. After several comparisons, Wei Mao was convinced. He had to admit that he was really inferior to Wei Chongrong.
His father said that knowing shame was close to courage(1); his father also said that it was not too late to make amends. Wei Mao took Wei Chongrong as a target to catch up with and began to strive for excellence. When Wei Ming and Jun Feili saw that their youngest son had finally learned his lesson, they were deeply relieved, and even more grateful to Wei Chongrong.
It was not that Wei Chongrong didn’t see Wei Mao’s changes, but he didn’t care. As long as Wei Mao stopped coming to trouble him, he would appreciate it. Otherwise, their constant conflicts would have an impact on Wei Ming and Wei Zhao’s relationship.
At the end of the fourth month, a major event happened at the court. Shangguan Ao, the head of the Central Secretariat, died of illness.
Shangguan Ao was the most trusted minister in Wei Su’s life. He had taken the post of the Grand Chancellor in the Chancellery in the 15th year of Yongjia, and since then had worked diligently and conscientiously.
In the 30th year of Yongjia, Shangguan Ao was transferred to the Central Secretariat and remained there until today.
The Great Yan did not have the post of Prime Minister, and the power that formerly belonged to the Prime Minister was shared by the three departments, namely, the Chancellery, the Department of State Affairs and the Central Secretariat.
The division of labour among the three departments was as follows: the Central Secretariat was mainly responsible for discussing the proposed laws and edicts with the emperor. The Chancellery was responsible for reviewing the content of the imperial edicts and returning them to the Central Secretariat as appropriate. These two departments were the decision-making bodies, and the edicts that passed the examination were handed over to the Department of State Affairs for implementation.
As a result, although the head of the Department of State Affairs was a high ranking official, he had no real power, and it was the head of the Central Secretariat and the Grand Chancellor who actually exercised the power.
Shangguan Ao had served in the Chancellery for fifteen years and in the Central Secretariat for sixteen years. Wei Su, who was suspicious by nature, had a lot of trust in him, so it was obvious how capable he was.
So far this year, Shangguan Ao has been home sick, and the eyes of the courtiers immediately focused on the Shangguan family.
After all, official positions above the third rank were always of the kind “every turnip in its hole”. If there was a turnip in the hole in front of you, you wouldn’t be able to move up no matter how capable you were.
Once Shangguan Ao was gone, the vacant position was not just his position, it was a hair that made the whole body move(2).
Those who could replace Shangguan Ao would either be the head of the Department of State Affairs, or one of the two shilangs of the Central Secretariat. In that case, their positions would be vacated and someone would have to take their place. Therefore, everyone was concerned about the death of Shangguan Ao.
In the fourth month, the Crown Prince and the emperor visited the Shangguan family one after another, and everyone immediately understood that Shangguan Ao was dying.
Sure enough, on the fifth day after Wei Su had seen Shangguan Ao, news of the death of Gong Yue came out.
Shangguan Ao had no sons and adopted Shangguan Xuan, the eldest son of his younger brother Shangguan Xiang, as his heir. After his death, the title of Gong Yue was inherited by Shangguan Xuan, which made sense. However, Wei Su had not announced the candidate for the new head of the Central Secretariat.
During Shangguan Ao’s illness, the daily affairs of the Central Secretariat were the responsibility of the right shilang Jiang Che. Jiang Che had a steady personality, was cautious in doing things, and handled everything properly and flawlessly.
Of course, Jiang Che’s abilities couldn’t be denied, but his age was too young for the position of the head of the Central Secretariat. The Great Yan had been established for more than two hundred years, and there had never been a head of one of the three departments who would be less than thirty years old. Even if Jiang Che wanted to take the top position, he likely would have to wait.
If what Jiang Che lacked was seniority, then Xue Rui, the left shilang of the Central Secretariat, lacked ability. The more popular choice was Gu Yao, the current Grand Chancellor, or Sun Shu, the current head of the Department of State Affairs, both of whom were currently active in the court, and it would not be surprising to see either of them take the top spot.
Wei Chongrong’s classmates, except for the children of the noble families, were all descendants of high-ranking officials. The shock in the court caused by the death of Shangguan Ao was closely related to each of their families.
Although parents should have told their children not to talk casually outside, they still couldn’t stop the children from talking in private. Wei Chongrong and Gu Chuan never participated in this kind of discussion for different reasons.
Wei Chongrong knew everything, so what else was there to say? Not only did he know that Gu Yao would be the successor to the head of the Central Secretariat, but he also knew that Shangguan Xuan would be the successor to the post of the Grand Chancellor.
Wei Su’s trust and dependence on the Shangguan family was simply outrageous. As soon as Shangguan Ao’s first seven days passed, he let Shangguan Xuan cut short the mourning period for fear that the Shangguan family would have no place in the centre of power.
The most annoying thing for Wei Chongrong about the Shangguan family was that they were completely different from the Xue family that relied on flattery to move forward. The three Shangguan brothers were all capable. It was a pity that their ambitions were as great as their abilities, and the Wei family couldn’t afford to give them what they wanted.
Let’s not talk about Shangguan Ao. He had been a great official for decades. His two younger brothers, Shangguan Yi and Shangguan Xiang, were also dragons and phoenixes among people.
If it could be said that if during the Yongjia era, the lost land recovered by the Great Yan in the north depended on the contribution of Wang Changning, then the six counties recovered in the south were the credit of Shangguan Yi and Li Kang.
Shangguan Xiang was also known as a miracle doctor, who was said to be able to “bring the dead back to life”, so who would dare not to respect him?
However, Shangguan Ling, who entered the palace as a concubine, brought limited benefits to the Shangguan family. The son she gave birth to was frail and sickly, and his ability to live to the age of marriage depended on Shangguan Xiang’s medical skills. Now that you thought about it, for the Shangguan family it was a blessing in disguise. Wei Su had never had the same scruples towards them as he had towards the Ji family.
When Wei Xu was choosing a wife, all the major clans avoided him. No one wanted their daughter to be a widow in the future, but Shangguan Ao sent his only daughter into the palace. His reasoning was very solid. Shangguan Chanjuan was the Second Prince’s cousin via the female line and was sure to be able to take good care of him and make a good impression in front of Wei Su. Wei Xu died at the age of twenty with no children, and Shangguan Chanjuan lived the rest of her life in the company of a green lamp(3) and an ancient Buddha; how cruel it was.
When Wei Xu died, Concubine Yun from the Li family, who had been in the palace for many years but was never favoured, became a favourite in one fell swoop. Not only was she promoted for four ranks, but the Fifth Prince Wei Shi was born the next year. Concubine Yun was the younger sister of Li Kang, and Li Kang’s wife was Shangguan Pingting, the daughter of Shangguan Yi.
Wei Chongrong would never have believed it if someone said that there was no role of the Shangguan family behind the rise of Concubine Yun. Even Li Kang relied on the prestige of the Shangguan family to rise. However, Li Kang was already dead, and Concubine Yun was also dead, and the helpless Wei Shi became a pawn that the Shangguan family could discard at any time.
As Wei Chongrong predicted, Gu Yao became the new head of the Central Secretariat, but the vacant post of the Grand Chancellor was…
Was filled by Jiang Che?!
As for Shangguan Xuan, he stayed at home to mourn, and it was unlikely for him to come back within three years.
Wei Chongrong was dumbfounded. Why? Why was it different from his memory? Who was it? Who made the suspicious emperor change his original decision?
He thought about it for a while, and finally counted the credit on Wei Zhao. Because compared to the previous life, he and Wei Zhao were the only two extra ones, and he would definitely not be able to influence the emperor, so it could only be Wei Zhao.
Jiang Che had taken the place of Shangguan Xuan, which was an absolutely good thing for the Eastern Palace. What Wei Chongrong couldn’t figure out was how Wei Zhao did this. His influence on Wei Su couldn’t be higher than that of Wei Ming.
Wei Chongrong tried to find answers from Wei Zhao, but he was dismissed quickly. The task of children was to study hard, not to worry about the things they wouldn’t understand anyway.
Was this a question of how much you studied? This was unequal information! Wei Chongrong was a little frantic, but it was a pity that Wei Zhao was so tight-lipped that he really couldn’t get any answers from him, so he had to give up.
In the sixth month, there was “big news” in the palace that Wei Chongrong had known about for a long time. Zhao Ji was pregnant. When the news came out, the whole palace was shocked.
You know, the emperor was not getting any younger. It would be impossible not to be surprised by a new baby at his advanced age.
In the early years, the emperor was short of sons, and the male and female concubines gave him enough daughters before His Imperial Highness Wei Ming finally arrived. In the next ten years, Second Prince Wei Xu, Third Prince Wei Xiao and Fourth Prince Wei Zhao were added to the palace one after another.
When Wei Zhao was born, Wei Su already was not young. For more than ten years afterwards, no princes or princesses were born in the palace. Wei Zhao grew up as the youngest son, naturally loved and pampered by everyone, and developed a willful and arrogant temperament.
Fourteen years later, when Concubine Yun gave birth to the Fifth Prince Wei Shi, people marvelled at the emperor’s virility at his old age, but Wei Zhao’s status was not something Wei Shi could replace. It wasn’t until Wei Zhao was captured that Wei Su paid a little more attention to the young Wei Shi.
Now, Wei Shi was already nine years old, and the emperor still was able to add a younger sibling to him. Everyone had nothing to say except to admire Wei Su.
As for Zhao Ji, not many people gave her much thought. She was just a sixth-rank concubine, even if she was pregnant, what could she do? The best example was Concubine Yun, who had an elder brother who could fight in the battlefield, but with Li Kang dead, she and Wei Shi had nothing to rely on, and she died soon afterwards. Zhao Ji’s family background was far worse than Concubine Yun’s, and how long would she be loved for her youth and beauty?
Wei Chongrong didn’t think so. Zhao Ji’s son was Wei Yang, the one who inherited the throne after Wei Su, the person whom Wei Chongrong treated sincerely and who gave him a glass of poisoned wine in the end.
Wei Chongrong never believed that Zhao Ji, the biggest beneficiary of the witchcraft incident, had nothing to do with it. It was just that she had limited abilities, and she died in the second year of Wei Yang’s ascension to the throne – suspected of being killed by the Shangguan family – making Wei Chongrong unsure of her role in the whole matter.
Most likely, there was someone else behind Zhao Ji. She was just a pawn and she was discarded when her purpose was achieved. If Zhao Ji did not die, she would be able to take the regency as the mother of the emperor, and Princess Wanchun would not need to enter the palace to raise Wei Yang. Then the Shangguan family’s control over the inner palace would not be so strong.
Unfortunately, until the 16th year of Taiping, the Shangguan family had all the say in the court and the information about the witchcraft incident had been almost destroyed by Wei Su, so Wei Chongrong had no way to find out when the Shangguan family had started the plan and how it was manipulated.
All he knew was that the woman who knew how to claim that she “dreamed of conceiving the sun” must have been scheming enough, but it was a pity that Wei Su believed her words, and Wei Yang’s name came from this dream(4).
Less than ten days after Zhao Ji’s pregnancy was announced, the harem was blessed with the good news again. Attendant Yan was also pregnant and said that he “dreamed of conceiving the moon”.
When Wei Chongrong heard about this, he was surprised and amused. In his previous life, he didn’t know that there was a person named Yan Li in Wei Su’s harem, so it could be seen that he was extremely inconspicuous in the palace. Who could have imagined that now he would be pregnant almost at the same time as Zhao Ji.
It couldn’t be that Wei Zhao had something to do with this too, could it? Although he and Yan Li really had a special relationship unknown to anyone, in this case, wasn’t the scope of Wei Zhao’s intervention too wide, including both the harem and the court? Wei Chongrong found it a bit unbelievable.
The funniest thing was that Zhao Ji said that she “dreamed of conceiving the sun”, and Yan Li immediately “dreamed of conceiving the moon”, making the original magical statement sound like a child’s play.
Back then, the empress was pregnant with the Crown Prince, but she didn’t dream of anything. Why were the two little sixth-rank harem members so blessed by Heaven? The emperor was originally sceptical but felt that there was no harm in believing in the blessing. But now he refused to believe it.
According to usual practice, the low-ranking male and female concubines of the harem were promoted to the first rank if they were pregnant. Wei Su was so annoyed by Zhao Ji and Yan Li’s jealousy that he didn’t promote anyone but only rewarded them with gold and silver and let the empress and the Lord Servant Ling take care of them separately.
Zhao Ji was very dissatisfied and always felt that Yan Li had messed up her achievements, otherwise she would already be promoted to the noble concubine. Yan Li gave as good as he got and said that if she was allowed to dream of the sun, wasn’t he allowed to dream of the moon? If it weren’t for the fact that the Six East and West Palaces were not connected, who knows what trouble would have followed.
Just like with everything, if there was more than one, it wasn’t unique anymore, and “the son at the old age” was no exception. Wei Su couldn’t be said to be tired of Zhao Ji and Yan Li, but he was not as ecstatic as he was at first. There was no shortage of sons and daughters, and there seemed to be nothing special about these two.
The following spring, Yan Li gave birth to the Sixth Prince Wei Hao three days before Zhao Ji. Zhao Ji was half a beat behind, and Wei Yang became the Seventh Prince.
Not only did the emperor get another son, he got two, and Wei Su’s joy was natural. He promoted Yan Li and Zhao Ji to the ranks of a noble attendant and a noble concubine respectively, which was much worse than the rank of the Imperial Concubine Hui that Zhao Ji had in Wei Chongrong’s memory.
Faced with a world that was increasingly different from the one he remembered, Wei Chongrong had gone from being shocked at first to being used to it later.
In terms of influence on the Great Yan, he and Wei Zhao were not on the same scale at all. From the day Wei Zhao returned alive, many things were changing, perhaps for the better, perhaps for the worse, but in short, they were different from the original.
Shangguan Xuan had to remain in mourning for three years, and no one could guarantee what position he would have when he came back. The current head of the Central Secretariat Gu Yao, the Grand Chancellor Jiang Che and the head of the Department of State Affairs Sun Shu couldn’t be said to be sympathising with the Eastern Palace, but they were not opposing the Eastern Palace either.
The aggressive behaviour of Xue Rui’s son and Xue Rui’s inability to discipline him was well-documented. If it weren’t for the Taoist monk that Xue Rue recommended to the emperor, whom the emperor still found pleasing, he would have lost his position as the left shilang of the Central Secretariat.
There was never any evidence that Xiao Feng had been plotting against Ji Xin, but five consecutive exercises between the Eastern and Western Camps ended in a complete victory for the Eastern Camp, which made Wei Su consider whether the general of the Western Camp should be replaced.
As for Su Wen, every time he saw Wei Chongrong, he was extremely polite, more amiable than he was to the emperor’s grandsons from the Eastern Palace. Wei Chongrong reckoned that the real culprit who had harmed his nephew had already been solved by Wei Zhao.
There were two sides to everything. If there was a good side, there had to be a bad side. The external environment of the Eastern Palace was gradually improving, but the internal contradictions were brewing.
It was not so much that the brothers Wei Ming and Wei Zhao did not get along, but that they had a clear disagreement over their political views.
Wei Su devoted his life to regaining all the lost territory in the northern frontier. He had once done it, but unfortunately, Youzhou was gained and lost again, and all the work was in vain.
If Youzhou had never returned to the Great Yan’s territory, Wei Su might not be so obsessed; if he really couldn’t get it back, he could leave it to future generations.
It was a pity that this was not the case with Youzhou. It was regained and then lost once more, thus becoming the deepest thorn in Wei Su’s heart. In his lifetime, he had to take back Youzhou, he couldn’t go to the ancestors of the Wei family bearing the crime of losing the land.
Every time the emperor said that he wanted to reclaim Youzhou, the Crown Prince would speak out against it. Both sides disagreed, and neither could convince the other.
Although Wei Ming’s arguments were reasonable, Wei Chongrong knew very well that he could not persuade Wei Su. Otherwise, where would the fiasco of the 48th year of Yongjia come from and why would Jun Hua become an orphan at a young age?
In his previous life, Wei Su asked Jun Qing to lead the troops into this battle because he no longer had a suitable general, so Jun Qing was a last resort. Nowadays, Wei Zhao and Ji Xin were both well, so it probably wouldn’t be Jun Qing’s turn to go to the battlefield.
However, although Jun Qing’s character was not decisive enough, his skills in moving and arranging troops were the same as Wei Zhao’s, and he was taught by Wei Su himself. The main reason for the failure of that war was not him, but the lack of preparation in all aspects.
Therefore Wei Chongrong was worried that if Wei Su insisted on fighting Fuyu, even if Wei Zhao led the army, the result would not necessarily be much better than that of the previous life’s Jun Qing. If that happened, Wei Zhao would never be able to move on with his life.
As soon as the spring military exercises ended, Wei Su put forward a proposal during the great court session to use the troops against Fuyu. Wei Ming opposed it, arguing that this move would hurt the people and cost a lot, and the gains would not outweigh the losses.
Wei Su’s face was expressionless for a long time before he said: “Crown Prince, how can we recover all the territories lost during the Shenchuan period without using the troops?”
Wei Ming was speechless. No matter how many realistic reasons he could give, as long as Wei Su brought up Emperor Taizu’s legacy, he had no way to refute it.
After a long silence, Wei Zhao stepped forward and cupped his fist: “This child and subject is willing to lead the troops to recover the lost land for the Great Yan.”
As soon as he said that, everyone was shocked. The Crown Prince and Wang Qin opposed each other?
- From the Book of Rites
- From the expression “pulling a hair makes the whole body move”
- A metaphor meaning living a lonely, hard life
- 阳 yáng, one of the meanings is “sun”
Translator’s note: This chapter is the translator’s nightmare… Never mind those departments and their heads, dear author, why do you need so many Shangguans? They all coagulated into a mess in my mind. Anyway, let me repeat it 🙂
Shangguan Ao (big official, died in this chapter). Had no sons, adopted his nephew Shangguan Xuan who did great in the previous life but remained in mourning for three years in this life. Shangguan Ao’s daughter is Wangfei Zheng (to whom the empress wanted to pass Wei Chongrong for adoption).
Shangguan Xiang (medical god). Biological father of Shangguan Xuan (which is important, because evil medical skills apparently pass with the genes even over generations :))
Shangguan Yi (military commander, recovered lost territories in the south). His daughter Shangguan Pingting is the wife/widow of Li Kang (the general who betrayed Wei Zhao).
Shangguan Ling (their sister, died, the emperor’s consort, the mother of Wang Zheng Wei Xu, who also died). Also the mother of Princess Wanchun who raised Wei Yang in the previous life after his mother died/was killed.