Unexpectedly, Wei Zhao turned his words around and said: “It’s just that I think that now is not the best time for sending the troops.”
“Oh?!” The emperor was startled slightly and asked rhetorically with a wry smile: “When does Wang Qin think it is suitable?” He was not surprised that Wei Zhao would volunteer to fight, but he didn’t expect that he would say something about the timing.
Wei Zhao pursed his lips and said with a stern expression: “Answering Father Emperor, I have checked the records of the Ministry of Revenue and the Ministry of War. If you send troops now, the support that the court can provide is only comparable to that of the 39th year.”
Wei Su was silent for a moment, and then said, “Do you think it’s not enough? In the autumn of the 40th year, Li Kang restored Youzhou to its former glory.” Eight years ago, Li Kang was able to take back Youzhou with 100,000 troops. Eight years later, Wei Su was going to give Wei Zhao the same number of men, and Wei Zhao thought it was too little…
Wei Zhao stared straight at the emperor, his eyes fearless: “Father Emperor, this time is different from the past. At the beginning, Youzhou was owned by Fuyu. Our infantry was the main force and the cavalry was the auxiliary force, and it was enough to deal with them. Today, Youzhou is divided into two, and the Wusu Steppes are in the hands of Tiele. If we have the same strength configuration, we have no chance of winning, so we might as well not start. Retaking the Wusu Steppes from Tiele is impossible without having enough cavalry, that’s why I said that the time to send troops was premature.”
Wei Su nodded slowly and asked in a deep voice, “How many cavalry do you want?” In the early years, Wei Su had used the cavalry against Tiele for many years, almost consuming all the horses in the country, and had so far failed to regain the numbers.
Wei Zhao replied without thinking and without hesitation: “20,000 people, 40,000 horses, at least not lower than this number.” If Tiele could not be effectively held back, there would be no end to the fight between the Great Yan and Fuyu.
As soon as Wei Zhao’s words left his mouth, a chorus of gasps rang out in the courtroom. What Wang Qin was asking for seemed modest, but what he wanted was pure cavalry, the kind that didn’t care about anything but attacking, and behind them, there had to be several times their number of logistics personnel.
Wei Su thought for a while, and said: “Give me two years. I will give you 20,000 elite cavalry and 100,000 foot soldiers. If you…”
Before the emperor could finish speaking, Wei Zhao knelt down on one knee and said, cupping his fist: “This child and subject hereby makes a military oath. If I cannot expel the Fuyu people to the north of the Arslan Mountains, I will ask Father Emperor to deal with me by military law.”
Hearing this, the court officials were speechless. North of the Arslan Mountains was a truly bitter cold place, with long winters and no summers, where the sky was cold and the earth was frozen. Wang Qin was trying to drive the Fuyu people to extinction. But when one thought about what had happened to him during his years in Fuyu, who dared to say anything against it?
Even Wei Ming just sighed softly and stopped talking.
He could see that the emperor and Wei Zhao had long reached a consensus on the conquest of Fuyu. Their dispute was only about when to send troops and how to do so, all of which were negotiable and did not influence the overall situation.
After the end of the court session, Wei Su summoned Wang Qin Wei Zhao, Ping County Wang Wei Chang, Wang Changning Ji Xin, the Minister of Revenue and the Minister of War to talk in the imperial study, apparently to discuss the preparations for the expedition to Fuyu.
It was not surprising that Crown Prince Wei Ming, who had always been a peacemaker, was not among those summoned, but it made no sense that General Xiao Feng of the Western Camp was not summoned. Even if he was just a figurehead, so was Ping County Wang, who still went to the imperial study. For a while, there were many different opinions, and there was no consensus.
The more reliable story was that Ping County Wang and Wang Qin were working well together, while Xiao Feng and Ji Xin were obviously having some problems getting along. Otherwise, since the spring of the previous year, why did the Eastern Camp defeat the Western Camp in every exercise? The disagreement between the commanders had to be one of the reasons.
Wei Zhao came out of the Xuanshi Hall and saw that there was still plenty of time, so he went to Weiyang Palace to greet the empress and chatted with her for a while.
When Ji Wan saw Wei Zhao, she habitually talked about his marriage again, saying that he was twenty-five this year and couldn’t delay it any longer. If he married a wife quickly, he could also add a younger brother or a sister to keep Wei Chongrong company. If he liked men, it was also possible to marry a lord consort.
Two years ago, the empress had the idea of passing Wei Chongrong for adoption, which made Wei Zhao so unhappy that he didn’t even return to the palace for a while. Thanks to Princess Yuankang’s intercession and the empress giving up this idea, the relationship between mother and son was restored.
Wei Zhao told Ji Wan more than once that he did not plan to get married. The empress never listened to him, and every time she saw him, she would inevitably mention the same old things again. Fortunately, she just talked about it, and she wouldn’t really plug him a wife or a lord consort, so Wei Zhao would just let her talk; anyway, he didn’t listen to her either.
The same was true today. The empress spoke in a painstaking manner, and Wei Zhao listened dully. Seeing that the time was almost up, Wei Zhao said that he was going to the palace school to pick up Wei Chongrong from school, so he left Weiyang Palace.
Seeing that her son was so obsessed with her grandson of impure blood that he was unwilling to get married, Ji Wan sighed. What else could she do?
When Wei Zhao arrived at the palace school, Wei Chongrong hadn’t finished class yet, and Wei Zhao watched a bunch of little carrot heads moving as they followed the teacher to read.
He stood outside and peeked at them through the window. He had to admit that Wei Ming’s words were very reasonable. With the company of his classmates, Wei Chongrong was obviously more serious in class than when studying at home, and sometimes even asked the teacher his own questions.
Wei Zhao occasionally suspected that what his son liked was not studying itself; the reason was Wei Chongrong’s character, the kind that would never admit defeat. No matter what he did, he liked to be the first, and if there was someone in front of him, he would be uncomfortable, so he had to work hard.
The teacher was saying that “the way of the Great Learning lies in the highest virtue, in being sensitive to people’s needs, and achieving the perfect goodness.” Wei Chongrong suddenly felt a little fidgety, as if someone was staring at him from behind, so he turned his head and glanced out the window while the teacher was not paying attention.
But he never expected that that person was actually Wei Zhao, and the eyes of the two would meet…
Wei Chongrong smiled at Wei Zhao unconsciously, then reacted, turned away quickly, and continued to listen carefully.
Seeing his son’s expression of “being caught doing something bad”, Wei Zhao was happy and chuckled.
To be honest, Wei Chongrong’s performance at the palace school was much better than Wei Zhao thought, and he would not care if Wei Chongrong was occasionally a little negligent.
Not long after, the teacher finished speaking about today’s content and announced that the school was over. Wei Chongrong hurriedly said goodbye to his classmates and rushed straight to Wei Zhao.
Before he could rub against Wei Zhao, there was a flurry of “Greetings to His Imperial Highness Wang Qin” around him, and there was a sentence “Greetings to Fourth Uncle” mixed in the middle. Wei Zhao smiled and raised his hand, motioning to the children not to be polite.
Wei Chongrong curled his lips unhappily. Since Wei Zhao returned to the Eastern Camp, he had been living a miserable life where he could only see his father once every ten days or half a month. It was so rare for Wei Zhao to come to pick him up, and Wei Chongrong was really upset to be interrupted by someone.
Wei Zhao had just praised his son for being sensible in his heart, but before he could say anything, Wei Chongrong showed his childish side, and Wei Zhao couldn’t help but sigh.
The classmates dispersed one by one. Wei Chongrong took Wei Zhao’s hand and walked slowly in the direction of the Baihu Gate. As he walked, he asked, “Daddy, are they telling the truth? Have you made a military oath in the Yuanyi Hall?”
Wei Zhao was taken aback when he heard these words, as if he didn’t expect the gossip in the palace to spread so quickly. It took only this long for the children at the palace school to know. He recovered, nodded and said, “It’s true, I did say that.”
Wei Chongrong frowned, hesitated slightly and said, “Daddy, are you sure you will win?” The military oath was no joke. If Wei Zhao couldn’t defeat Fuyu, he would have to die for his country.
Wei Zhao stretched out his hand and stroked Wei Chongrong’s forehead, saying with a chuckle: “You’re a child, don’t always frown, you’ll get wrinkles.”
Seeing that Wei Zhao did not answer his question positively, Wei Chongrong held his hand and insisted: “Daddy, I am asking you very seriously, don’t give me a perfunctory answer.”
Wei Zhao curbed his smile and said solemnly: “Before the war, no one dares to say that they are bound to win, but as long as one is fully prepared, can adapt to changes and wait for opportunities, one will most likely be able to achieve the desired results.”
Wei Chongrong looked straight at Wei Zhao and sighed for a long time. Wei Zhao should be very sure that he could say this, but the worry in his heart couldn’t be reduced at all.
Seeing that Wei Chongrong still had a grave expression on his face, Wei Zhao smiled and said, “There are still at least two more years before the war begins. Rong’er, don’t think too much about it, let’s go to Qing’er’s place for dinner first.”
“We’re going to Hou Zhaoyang’s residence? Why?” Wei Chongrong didn’t believe that Wei Zhao suddenly thought about going to Hou Zhaoyang’s residence on a whim. However, Wei Zhao was right; they wouldn’t fight unprepared battles and everything was possible. Opportunities only came to those who were prepared.
Wei Zhao raised his eyebrows and asked rhetorically, “Don’t you want to see Little Monkey? Not long ago, I heard someone say that he personally cut a wooden sword for Little Monkey or something…”
Wei Chongrong smiled: “Who said I don’t want to see him, I’m just curious why you suddenly thought of going to Hou Zhaoyang’s house for dinner?” No matter how good the relationship between the two families was, there was no reason to arrive uninvited.
Wei Zhao stopped teasing him and explained: “Xin’er told me during the court session to come over for dinner. Two days later is Qing’er’s birthday, and we probably won’t be free, so we get together in advance.”
Oh, so that’s how it was, Wei Chongrong nodded in realisation, and then exclaimed, “Daddy, isn’t the birthday of Hou Zhaoyang also your birthday?” He had not seen his father for so long that he had almost forgotten his father’s birthday, so unfilial.
“That’s right.” Wei Zhao smiled and nodded, and asked Wei Chongrong, “What’s the matter? You want to celebrate?”
Wei Chongrong puffed out his cheeks and said helplessly: “I’d like to, are you free to come back?” When Wei Zhao entered the Eastern Camp, it was as if he had taken root there. How could he celebrate his birthday when the military camp was so important and it was not good for him to go in and out?
Wei Zhao shook his head and replied honestly: “Not free.” He didn’t care about celebrating his birthday, and a birthday wasn’t a big deal for anyone but elderly people and children, but Wei Zhao was still a little happy that his son cared about his birthday.
Behind the Baihu Gate, the carriage from Wang Qin’s residence was already waiting to pick up Wei Chongrong home. As for Wei Zhao’s horse, he left it in the palace. After getting in the carriage, Wei Zhao sat leaning against the window, and Wei Chongrong lay down on the couch, resting his head on Wei Zhao’s lap.
The carriage swayed towards Hou Zhaoyang’s mansion. Wei Chongrong was bored, so he asked Wei Zhao a question he had been curious about for a long time: “Daddy, do you know who Hou Zhaoyang’s mother is?”
Since Jun Lin, the two consecutive generations of Hou Zhaoyang had unknown mothers, so it was impossible not to attract people’s attention. It was just that no matter how curious people were, the identities of the two Mrs. Hou were unknown, thus adding to the mystery.
Wei Chongrong knew about Jun Hua’s origin after he was reborn, but as for Jun Qing’s origin, he really had no idea, and he was full of interest.
Wei Zhao glanced down at his son. Seeing that he was purely curious, he couldn’t help laughing: “I’m as old as Qing’er, how can I know about his birth? The year I was born, my cousin Jun Lin went back to his hometown of Langya to visit relatives. When he came back, he brought two children, one was still in his infancy, and the other was his half-brother, the Crown Prince’s Lord Consort. Cousin didn’t mention a single word about Qing’er’s mother, so naturally no one else had any way of knowing about it.”
“You guys grew up together, you should have heard of something, right?” As soon as Wei Chongrong opened the chatterbox, he couldn’t stop talking, and he had a tendency to ask questions until he got to the bottom.
Wei Zhao shook his head speechlessly, picked up Wei Chongrong and sat him down on his lap, asking him, “Rong’er, do you know how many sisters I have?”
Wei Chongrong counted on his fingers and replied, “Thirteen.” His grandfather emperor was truly born to welcome sons-in-law. With the addition of the youngest Wei Hao and Wei Yang, the number of his sons barely exceeded half the number of his daughters.
Wei Zhao took a deep breath and said with emphasis: “I’m asking about my full sisters, how many are there?”
Wei Chongrong didn’t use his fingers to count this time and said without thinking: “Three.” The emperor had many daughters, and apart from the first daughter, Princess Yuankang, the rest were generally not valued.
Wei Zhao rubbed his head and asked, “How many do you usually see?”
Wei Chongrong whispered: “I have only seen the Eldest Aunt, but I have never seen the Third Aunt and the Fifth Aunt.”
“Do you know where they have gone?” Wei Zhao’s tone unconsciously became heavier as he spoke of his two unfortunate sisters.
Wei Chongrong bit his lower lip and said, “The Third Aunt is dead, and the Fifth Aunt is married far away.” Princess Suining and Princess Gaochang were rarely mentioned in the palace, and he couldn’t show that he knew their situation well.
Wei Zhao sighed and said, “Third Imperial Sister killed herself on the day of the death of Cousin Jun Lin. I once heard my nanny say that Third Sister loved Cousin, and Father Emperor and Mother Empress also thought they were a good match. They wanted to betroth Third Sister to Cousin Jun Lin, but he refused.”
Wei Chongrong’s eyes widened as he looked at Wei Zhao without saying anything, but in his heart he was thinking, Jun Lin had really too much of a temper. The emperor was giving him a princess in a marriage, and he said he wouldn’t marry her without any hesitation.
Wei Zhao paused and continued: “Among my three sisters, Third Sister was the most stubborn. Cousin rejected her, but she still refused to give up. Perhaps it was because of her that Cousin refused to announce the identity of Qing’er’s mother. Of course, it was also possible that their relationship had gone awry and they separated after Qing’er was born. In that case, there was no need to tell the world. Although it is not Cousin Jun Lin’s responsibility, Third Sister died for him after all. My mother has a grudge in her heart, and she never mentions them in front of me and Qing’er…”
Speaking of which, it was all Wei Zhao’s speculation. Wei Chongrong couldn’t help asking: “Daddy, is it possible that Hou Zhaoyang is Hou Huan’s own… son…” Since he knew about Jun Hua’s origin, he had this idea.
“Own son? Of course Qing’er is Cousin’s own son!” Wei Zhao said subconsciously, and then understood the meaning of Wei Chongrong’s words, and added: “This is impossible. In the summer of the 22nd year, Uncle and Cousin attacked Tiele in the north and fought the decisive battle in the north of the desert. Qing’er must have been conceived by Cousin with someone before he left for war…” Finding that the topic was a bit inappropriate for children, Wei Zhao immediately shut up and refused to talk about it anymore.
Seeing that Wei Zhao didn’t know more than he himself knew, Wei Chongrong didn’t continue to ask. He rubbed against We Zhao, still thinking that even if he didn’t have a chance to celebrate, he needed to personally prepare a gift for his father’s birthday.
Originally, Wei Chongrong thought that he and Wei Zhao were the only two guests today. Only when he arrived at Hou Zhaoyang’s residence did he find out that there were also Sun Shu, Gong Guo, and his son Sun Jian. These two were sitting in the reception pavilion, teasing Jun Hua for fun.
Wei Chongrong was taken aback for a moment, then realised that Sun Shu was Jun Lin’s half-brother, and it was not surprising that he came to visit on Jun Qing’s birthday. He couldn’t help but sigh; Jun Lin had so many younger half-brothers and they could be encountered everywhere. The Crown Prince’s Lord Consort was also his younger half-brother, but from his father’s side.
Jun Hua was already more than two years old, looking chubby, pink and cute, with a pair of moist, slender, very eloquent eyes. What made Wei Chongrong even more happy was that his legs were intact and he could run steadily.
“Little Monkey, come here quickly and see if you remember who I am?” Seeing Jun Hua running around the room with a small wooden sword, Wei Chongrong beckoned him to come to him.
Jun Hua stopped, looked at Wei Chongrong and blinked, probably wondering who he was. After a while, he recognised Wei Chongrong and ran towards him with a sword on his two short legs, very energetic.
When he reached Wei Chongrong, he suddenly thrust his sword at him and shouted, “Look at this move!”