After two years of careful preparation, the Great Yan was all set to launch an attack on Fuyu.
Before the army left, Wei Su repeatedly discussed with Wei Zhao and others the specific matters of the expedition. Sometimes when it was too late, Wei Zhao would stay directly in the palace. Wei Chongrong had to go to the palace to study every day. When he saw Wei Zhao staying in Yongfu Palace, he would naturally not return to the residence and stay with him.
When Wei Zhao was in the Eastern Camp, they could still see each other two or three times a month, despite their busy schedule. But once the army left for war, even if everything went well, it would take three to five months for Wei Zhao to return, so Wei Chongrong couldn’t help but cherish the short time they had together.
That day, Wei Chongrong got out of class, returned to Yongfu Palace and was about to write his homework when he heard a slight sound of footsteps approaching him. He pretended not to hear, picked up the ink stick and began to grind the ink, his movements gentle and moderate, his expression not anxious or impatient.
The visitor walked behind Wei Chongrong, saw that he still hadn’t noticed him, couldn’t help but smile, and shouted, “Rongrong!” If it weren’t for his insufficient height, he would definitely stretch out his hands and cover Wei Chongrong’s eyes. Unfortunately, he was too short to reach even while standing on his tiptoes, so he had to give up on this idea.
Wei Chongrong sighed helplessly, put down the ink stick, turned around and said, “Sixth Imperial Uncle, what brings you here?” The visitor was none other than one of the emperor’s youngest sons, the Sixth Prince Wei Hao.
Wei Chongrong wasn’t annoyed with Wei Hao. The child was smart and cute, lively and generous. Anyone who saw him would like him, and he was no exception. There was only one thing, Wei Hao was very insistent on his status as an elder in front of Wei Chongrong, never allowing him to be perfunctory.
Wei Hao’s seniority was there, and Wei Chongrong didn’t mind calling him Uncle, but his ranking made him a little uncomfortable. Why did Wei Hao have to be the Sixth Prince? That was Wei Yang’s ranking in his previous life, and Wei Chongrong was a little upset when he called him that.
Wei Hao opened his big round eyes and said innocently: “Rongrong, I’m here to play with you.”
Wei Chongrong pointed to the brush, ink, paper and inkstone on the table, showing a helpless expression: “Sixth Uncle, I have a lot of homework to write. If I can’t finish it, my teacher will be angry, so I don’t have time to play with you.”
Wei Hao’s smiling face immediately collapsed as he muttered: “No one wants to play with me, and Rongrong won’t play with me either.”
In normal times, Wei Chongrong would definitely have paid Wei Hao some attention, but not now. Wei Zhao would leave for Fuyu in a few days. He had to take advantage of the time Wei Zhao spent with Wei Su to finish his homework, so that when Wei Zhao came back, father and son would have time to talk and say goodbye properly.
Seeing Wei Hao’s small face wrinkled with unhappiness written all over it, Wei Chongrong asked, “Sixth Uncle, why don’t you play with Seventh Uncle?” The sons of the Crown Prince were not little anymore, but the Seventh Prince Wei Yang and Wei Hao had only three days of difference in the age, and the two brothers could just play together.
Wei Hao jumped around, chasing his shadow, and said while jumping: “Seventh Brother is too cowardly, crying at every turn. Like a girl, not fun at all. I don’t want to play with him.”
Wei Chongrong sighed helplessly again. He didn’t know how Zhao Ji raised her son in the previous life, but in this life, it was a real eye-opener. A good little prince, raised to be even more delicate than a little princess, he really didn’t know what she thought about.
Wei Chongrong once thought that when he saw Wei Yang again, he would have to grit his teeth with hatred and would want to strangle him to death. Who knew that when he saw the child with a completely different personality except for the same name, his heart would be absolutely calm; there were no ripples at all.
To expect him to take revenge on a child who knew nothing, Wei Chongrong didn’t think he could do it; but to ask him to be close to Wei Yang was also obviously impossible. The only choice Wei Chongrong could make was to stay away from Wei Yang and never take the initiative to provoke him, so that they could be at peace with each other.
He thought that no matter how the world developed, it was impossible for him and Wei Yang to repeat the experience of their previous lives. Neither was the same person anymore. It didn’t make sense for him to cling to the hatred he once had, so he might as well let himself go and walk the road ahead.
Seeing that Wei Chongrong kept silent, Wei Hao suddenly asked, “Rongrong, where’s Little Monkey, why doesn’t he come to the palace to play with me?”
Wei Chongrong blinked and asked deliberately: “Didn’t you say that Little Monkey was too fierce? Wouldn’t it be in your interest for him not to come to the palace?”
Wei Hao propped his head with both hands, shook it and said, “Little Monkey is very fierce, but he is more fun than Younger Brother!”
Wei Hao and Jun Hua’s “feud” had to be traced back to the empress’s birthday last year. With the cold temperament of Jun Qing who didn’t like to join in the fun, unless it was the emperor’s order, he was unwilling to enter the palace, let alone bring his son. But the emperor had seen Jun Hua twice and liked him very much. When he summoned Jun Qing to the palace, he would specifically remind him to bring Jun Hua with him.
The war of the 48th year of Yongjia didn’t happen, Jun Qing and Ji Xin were still alive, and Jun Hua was loved by both parents, so his character was naturally very different from the withdrawn and suspicious one of his previous life, and he was much more cheerful and spontaneous.
Although there was no explicit provision, according to a long-standing custom, men who married a husband were not allowed to work as officials. Therefore, the sons of the main wives from noble families rarely married a husband. Even entering the palace as an empress was not as attractive to them as entering the court as an official.
Counting the posthumous titles, the Great Yan had three male empresses in history, namely Gu Ting, the Empress of Emperor Gaozong, Xiao Yu, the Empress of Emperor Xuanzong, and Xie Yi, the Empress of Emperor Xianzong. The three male empresses had one thing in common, that is, they were all born of concubines, without exception.
Although Jun Qing had an indifferent temperament and had no intention of pursuing a career as an official, he was the son of Jun Lin and had inherited the title of Hou Zhaoyang. If he married someone rashly, even if that person was Wang Changning, it was likely that many people would not accept it, especially the current emperor.
Jun Qing and Ji Xin didn’t formally marry, and the two usually lived separately, but Ji Xin ran to Hou Zhaoyang’s mansion when he had time. Jun Hua’s surname was Jun, so he naturally was recorded under Jun Qing’s name. He was in the Jun family tree and was considered a member of the Jun family.
Jun Qing surely loved his son whom he had carried for nine months and given a difficult birth to, but with his temperament, it was unrealistic to expect him to dote on his son. On the contrary, Ji Xin, who stayed in the Western Camp all the year round, usually had relatively few opportunities to see Jun Hua. So every time he saw his son, he was full of guilt and trying to compensate, never hesitating to give his son whatever he wanted. In addition, there was Wei Chongrong, who was even more extreme than Ji Xin, spoiling Jun Hua to the point that he was overbearing and willful and couldn’t be controlled by anyone.
Jun Hua rarely went to the palace and wasn’t familiar with the people in it. The ones he had seen the most were Wei Zhao and Wei Chongrong.
When Wei Su called Jun Qing and Wei Zhao to talk, Jun Hua couldn’t understand them, so he looked around. Suddenly, he saw Wei Chongrong and rushed towards him habitually. But as he got closer, he noticed that there was a child beside Wei Chongrong who looked a little younger than Jun Hua himself.
Wei Chongrong was very kind to that child, just like he always was to him. Jun Hua was quite upset. He frowned, walked forward without hesitation and pushed Wei Hao down, then took Wei Chongrong’s hand and pulled him to his side.
If it had been Wei Yang, he would have cried on the spot, causing everyone to have no peace. Instead of crying, Wei Hao looked straight at Jun Hua and asked curiously, “Who are you? How come I haven’t seen you before?”
Jun Hua took Wei Chongrong’s hand and raised it as if to proclaim sovereignty, looking at Wei Hao without saying anything.
Wei Chongrong was afraid that the two little ancestors would fight and it would be all his responsibility at that time. He hurriedly led Jun Hua over, pulled Wei Hao who was sitting on the ground up, smiled and said to him: “His name is Jun Hua, just call him Little Monkey.”
Wei Hao was happy, and said with a smile: “Little Monkey, you are a little monkey, so funny!”
Wei Chongrong turned his head and said to Jun Hua: “Little Monkey, this is the Sixth Prince, just call him His Imperial Highness.” Even though Wei Hao was a year younger than Jun Hua, his seniority was very high, and he was considered Jun Hua’s grandfather’s generation.
Realising that Wei Chongrong didn’t mention his name, Wei Hao hurriedly added: “Little Monkey, my name is Wei Hao.” Wei Chongrong was speechless. So what if they knew his name was Wei Hao, who among them dared to call him by his first name?
Who knew that Jun Hua would look confused, raise his head and ask, “He called me Little Monkey, can I call him Little Rat?”(1)
Wei Chongrong looked up at the sky speechlessly, and then saw Wei Hao wave his hand and say, “I am not a little rat, because there is a little cat in the palace.” Jun Hua thought for a while; rats were afraid of cats, so he didn’t insist on calling him Little Rat, but called him His Imperial Highness Wei Hao.
Wei Chongrong wanted to laugh but didn’t dare to. He knew very well that the little cat Wei Hao was talking about wasn’t a real cat, but Wei Mao.
It was strange to say, Jun Hua didn’t like Wei Hao at first and pushed him to the ground, but Wei Hao loved him and pestered him to play with him. For his part, Jun Hua thought that Wei Hao couldn’t pester Wei Chongrong if he played with him, so he gladly agreed.
Although the reason was unknown, Wei Chongrong was the happiest when the two children played together and he no longer had to worry about them fighting. Back then, when the emperor favoured Jun Hua and Wei Yang was jealous, he felt tired and panicked watching them fight and compete.
After that day, Wei Hao often asked about Jun Hua, but unfortunately, Jun Qing didn’t like to enter the palace, and Jun Hua couldn’t come. Wei Chongrong promised Wei Hao that when he left the palace and saw Jun Hua, he would ask him to come to the palace to play with him. Wei Hao thought for a while and agreed, and obediently followed his nanny back to his palace.
After sending the pestering little ancestor away, Wei Chongrong continued to do his homework, but unfortunately, Wei Zhao came back before he finished.
When Wei Zhao saw Wei Chongrong, he was a little hesitant to say something, but after a moment of silence he said, “Rong’er, do you still remember Fuyu?”
Wei Chongrong nodded; naturally he remembered the place where he had lived for more than ten years, how could he forget it?
After a pause, Wei Zhao asked, “Would you like to go back with your daddy to see it?”
Wei Chongrong was startled, and then said in surprise: “Daddy, are you going to take me to the battlefield with you?”
Wei Zhao laughed, shook his head and said, “Rong’er, if you want to go to the battlefield, you have to wait at least another five years.” Wei Chongrong was embarrassed, yes, it wasn’t like their family was short of men. Even if they were, they wouldn’t let a nine-year-old child participate in a battle, he was really thinking too much.
Seeing his son silent, Wei Zhao continued: “Although you can’t go to the battlefield, I plan to take you with me.”
“Really?” Wei Chongrong almost jumped up with excitement, although he didn’t understand what exactly he was excited about.
“Of course.” Wei Zhao said softly, a faint light flashing in his eyes.
Although Wei Chongrong seemed very happy, there was some guilt in Wei Zhao’s heart. After all, he had the intention of using his son for realising his plan that would be the most effective when coming from Wei Chongrong.
Wei Chongrong didn’t even look at Wei Zhao’s expression. All he could think about was how wonderful it was that not only did he not have to be separated from his father, but that they could be together all the time. Imagining himself on a horse, he asked, “Daddy, is there any armour I can wear? Are you going to customise a set for me? I want the same as yours.” He had seen Wei Zhao’s armour, red and black, it was astounding. Wei Zhao looked particularly handsome and particularly imposing in it; no wonder Huo Qingyang remembered it for so many years and from time to time even talked about it to Wei Chongrong.
After hearing his son’s words, Wei Zhao laughed, eliminating his fancy thoughts: “You’re not going to the battlefield, what do you need armour for?”
Wei Chongrong thought about it. Armour was a heavy thing, right, who would want to wear it? He quickly stopped talking.
Even so, on the day of the departure of the army, everyone was still stunned when they saw Wei Chongrong following Wei Zhao.
Ji Xin asked without hesitation: “Your Highness, this is going to be war, not an autumn hunting trip. What are you doing, taking the little prince?” He also couldn’t bear parting with his spouse and son, but he never thought about taking them with him when he marched to war.
Wei Zhao didn’t elaborate, only said that he would have his own arrangements in the future, so Ji Xin stopped asking. He had seen Wei Chongrong’s archery and horse riding. It might not be enough to kill an enemy, but it would be no problem to follow the army on a trip. Wei Zhao had only one son, Wei Chongrong, who was more important than his own life to him. He must have had some purpose when he took him to Fuyu, and he would certainly make arrangements for him.
In the past two years, the situation in the Eastern and Western Camps had undergone some changes. The general of the Eastern Camp was still Wei Chang, Ping County Wang. He and Wei Zhao cooperated happily, one in charge of military affairs and the other in charge of logistics. The situation in the Western Camp was delicate. Xiao Feng had been completely reduced to a background. Ji Xin and Lu Ming were in charge of the specific affairs. It was only a matter of time before Xiao Feng was officially replaced.
On this expedition, the Great Yan’s army was divided into two routes. On the western route were 20,000 elite horsemen led by Ji Xin and Lu Ming. They left from Yanmen and Yuyang respectively and attacked the Tiele separately, involving their troops and making them unable to provide any help to Fuyu.
Wei Zhao led the main force northwards, stationed in Baicheng, and directly attacked Fuyu. Huo Qingyang tried hard, even citing as his advantage that he was familiar with Fuyu’s terrain, and finally persuaded Wei Zhao to transfer him from Ji Xin’s side.
Wei Zhao wasn’t surprised that Huo Qingyang would do this. After all, his hatred for the Fuyu people could be described as mortal. Huo Qingyang chose to join the army in order to avenge his family. Of course, he was more willing to fight the Fuyu people than the Tiele people.
When he arrived in Baicheng, Wei Zhao sent Wei Chongrong to the mansion of the governor Zhan Peng and strictly ordered him never to leave the city under any circumstances.
Wei Chongrong nodded and said solemnly: “Daddy, don’t worry, I won’t go anywhere, I will study in the mansion every day.” He was very self-aware, knowing that not being in trouble was the greatest support he could give to Wei Zhao.
Wei Zhao was still not at ease and admonished: “Rong’er, I know you have always been sensible, but the battlefield is not like other places. That’s not something you can get involved in now. If something happens to you…”
“I got it, I got it, you won’t survive if something happens to me, right?” Before Wei Zhao finished speaking, Wei Chongrong continued: “Daddy, anyway, have some confidence in your son. If I said I won’t run around, I really won’t. Don’t say anything.”
Wei Chongrong was nine years old this year. Due to his height and long legs, if someone said he was eleven or twelve years old, some people would believe it. Looking at his son who almost reached his shoulder, Wei Zhao smiled and said, “Fine, fine, let’s not talk about it, Daddy believes in you.”
After a moment of silence, Wei Zhao turned around to leave. Wei Chongrong stepped forward quickly, reached out and hugged him, saying in a deep voice: “Swords have no eyes, Daddy, be careful, if you are injured… huh!”
Wei Zhao smiled, raised his hand and patted Wei Chongrong on the shoulder before turning and leaving.
- I bet you’ve already guessed, “rat” is 耗子 (hàozi) 🙂
Translator’s note: Wei Zhao: “I’ve taken my nine-year-old son to the war zone, what could possibly go wrong?”