The emperor was too ill to govern, so the Crown Prince had full authority to handle the political affairs of the dynasty, while Wang Qin was in charge of the defence of the border.
Wei Zhao was afraid that the situation in Youzhou and Lingzhou that had just been recovered would be unstable. He sent three urgent letters to Huo Qingyang, asking him to be careful and not only to guard against the Fuyu people who had already moved away, but also to pay attention to those who had submitted. The court was in the midst of an eventful year and couldn’t afford to make any mistakes.
In addition, Wei Zhao also sent Lu Ming to Shuozhou to keep an eye on the movements of the Tiele. He absolutely didn’t trust Vaziri. If he was given the opportunity to take advantage of the situation, the consequences would be difficult to predict, so Wei Zhao had to be prepared for all changes in advance.
In theory, when the emperor was unwell, his sons and grandsons should have taken turns attending to his illness, just as they did two years ago. However, Wei Su didn’t summon any of his sons except Wei Zhao; not to mention asking them to attend to his illness, the others couldn’t see the emperor at all.
Crown Prince Wei Ming was so busy with political affairs that he had no time to be distracted. Wang Lu Wei Xiao has no real job and his main task every day was to take care of the child, so he had plenty of free time, but he didn’t see the emperor nearly as often as his Lord Consort.
Wei Shi was still underage and was still studying at the palace school. He and Wei Lan were classmates. The emperor didn’t summon them to attend to his illnesses, so the normal order of teaching at the palace school wasn’t affected.
The two little princes Wei Hao and Wei Yang were even younger, and they were not even old enough to enter the palace school to study. They heard that their father was sick and they were clamouring to go to pay respects. They couldn’t see the emperor, so they cried non-stop outside Zichen Palace.
Wei Hao was lively and cheerful, and Wei Yang resembled the emperor, so Wei Su had always loved these two sons born at his old age. However, this time, he only summoned them once, and sent someone to tell Yan Li and Zhao Ji to keep an eye on the children carefully and not to let them disturb the emperor.
In this way, Wei Zhao became a target of public attention, and everyone was speculating about what the emperor was saying when frequently summoning him.
Most people would state that the emperor favoured Wang Qin over the Eastern Palace, but it didn’t seem like the emperor was going to replace the Crown Prince. Wei Su didn’t see the Crown Prince much, but Wei Ming was given full authority over all the major and minor matters in the imperial court, without Wang Qin interfering.
Besides, although Wei Su didn’t ask much about the court, he occasionally summoned Sun Shu, Jiang Che, Shangguan Xuan and other important officials when he felt better. They all said that they were asked to assist the Crown Prince, and Wang Qin wasn’t mentioned.
Apart from Wei Zhao, the one who had the most opportunities to see Wei Su was Hou Zhaoyang Jun Qing. The emperor sometimes summoned the two of them separately, and when the opportunity was right, he would see them together. Wei Su still didn’t like Wei Chongrong, and Wei Zhao wouldn’t take him with him when he was summoned. But the emperor liked Jun Hua very much. Whenever Jun Qing came to the palace without bringing him, Wei Su would specifically ask why he didn’t bring Jun Hua.
Facing the emperor’s questions, Jun Qing calmly explained: “Little Monkey likes Rong’er, and he naturally doesn’t want to come if he can’t see him in the palace.” No matter how much the emperor loved him, the environment in the palace was relatively restrained, and it was normal for a child not to like it.
Wei Su frowned, showing dissatisfaction: “Hua’er is about to go to school soon, why do you still call him Little Monkey this, Little Monkey that? It’s really outrageous.” No matter how smart and handsome a child was, with such an inappropriate nickname, it would make people think he was wild.
Jun Qing pursed his lips and smiled slightly: “He was a little Monkey to begin with, so it’s a friendly name.”
Wei Su shook his head helplessly and teased: “The one born in the Year of the Monkey is called Little Monkey. What’s the next one? Little Tiger?” Next year happened to be the Year of the Tiger. In Jun Qing’s simple and crude way of naming, it was foreseeable that the second boy in his family would be called Little Tiger(1).
Jun Qing was slightly stunned and unconsciously reached out to put his right hand on his currently invisible abdomen. Then, after a moment of reflection, he stopped. Although his heart was turbulent, his face was still calm, so that the emperor couldn’t see the ups and downs of his heart.
Seeing that Jun Qing hadn’t spoken for a long time, Wei Su sighed and said, “Fine, fine, let me just give Hua’er a courtesy name. With you two, I don’t know what strange and wonderful things you will come up with to make people laugh.”
What an honour it was for the emperor to give the child a courtesy name. Jun Qing bowed and thanked him: “Your Majesty, thank you on behalf of Hua’er.”
Wei Su waved his hand, and his face, haggard after a long illness, showed a bit of a smile: “The character Huai represents longing, and the character Xi means light. Hua’er’s courtesy name is Huaixi.” He paused, then asked, “What will be the surname of the second kid? Do you already have a name?”
At this point, Jun Qing finally understood that the emperor wasn’t joking with him but was discussing this issue very seriously. He couldn’t help feeling dumbfounded and didn’t know what to say for a while. He raised his head, looked straight at the emperor and murmured after a long time: “Your Majesty…”
Wei Su was half lying down, leaning on the pillow; he interrupted Jun Qing and said, “You two, you have been hiding for all these years, and you have made enough of a mess. If you are not tired, I am tired when I look at you. Don’t hide anymore, I will give you a marriage, from now on you can be together openly. It’ll save Hua’er from seeing Xin’er and calling him Wang Changning, no need to be awkward…” The emperor waited for many years but never had Ji Xin and Jun Qing come to him. Finally, he couldn’t help it and took the initiative to give them a marriage.
“But…” Jun Qing didn’t show the happy and surprised expression that Wei Su was looking forward to, but hesitated: ”If I become Wang Changning’s Lord Consort, then Hou Zhaoyang…” Jun Qing was not someone who cared about fame, but the title of Hou Zhaoyang was the only thing left to him by his father, and he had to keep it.
Wei Su chuckled when he heard these words: “Silly boy, if you become Wang Changning’s Lord Consort, why can’t you be Hou Zhaoyang any longer?”
For a long time, there had been no precedent for the eldest son to marry into another family and inherit the title. But this in no way meant that a person who had inherited the title would lose the title if he married as a Lord Consort. It was just that nothing like this had happened before.
Jun Qing was stunned, only to feel that his mind was in a mess and he didn’t know what to say. That day, the shock he received was too great. The emperor knew about him and Ji Xin, gave them a marriage and gave their son a courtesy name. Everything was unexpected.
Seeing that Jun Qing was silent for a long time, Wei Su said: “When I look at you like this, I know you must have never thought about it, and now you don’t need to. I’ll just give a name to the second boy, so that you don’t have to clasp the Buddha’s feet in a hurry(2).”
Jun Qing finally reacted and stammered, “What if it’s a girl?”
Wei Su chuckled, and then said, “Just call him or her Ji Hui, whether it is a boy or a girl, you can use it.”
Jun Qing thanked him again, his mood fluctuating. The emperor was so strange today that he didn’t look like himself anymore.
Wei Su was true to his word, and within a few days the decree for the marriage was issued. The two parties given the marriage were really surprising. They were actually Wang Changning and Hou Zhaoyang. When many people heard this news, their first reaction was: did they hear it wrong? This couldn’t be true.
The emperor specifically said in the decree that although Hou Zhaoyang married into Wang Changning’s family, his title would be retained and could be passed on to his descendants in the future.
Wei Chongrong heard Wei Zhao talk about this marriage. His first thought at the time was that the emperor’s physical condition was no longer optimistic, so he was anxious to arrange everything. And Jun Qing could almost be regarded as the child Wei Su loved the most purely.
Under normal circumstances, the procedure for marriage at the level of prince, wang or county lord would be very cumbersome. From the time of the marriage decree to the day of the wedding, for many people two or three years passed. However, Jun Qing and Ji Xin were in a special situation, and the emperor asked the Minister Steward to complete their marriage within a year.
Compared with other people’s surprise or sadness, Jun Hua was undoubtedly the most excited. He first happily told Wei Chongrong that he was going to be an elder brother, and then excitedly told him that his daddy was going to marry his father, and the whole family could live together from now on.
The wedding of Wang Changning and Hou Zhaoyang was officiated by the Crown Prince himself; its specifications were supposed to be as high as the Crown Prince’s wedding back then. Unfortunately, shrouded in the shadow of the emperor’s serious illness, the originally festive marriage also carried a bit of vaguely sad aura.
Wei Zhao basically didn’t return to his residence anymore. He took Wei Chongrong to live in Yongfu Palace, which was closer to Zichen Palace than the Eastern Palace where the Crown Prince’s family lived. No matter what life, the relationship between Wei Chongrong and Wei Su couldn’t be said to be close. Wei Chongrong didn’t have the heartfelt sorrow and dismay of his father and uncle about the imminent death of his grandfather. His sadness came more because of Wei Zhao’s sadness.
Every time he returned from Zichen Palace, Wei Zhao’s mood would become very depressed. Wei Chongrong tried to comfort him, but found that it was of little use and gave up. Indeed, the words of comfort were too pale at this time, and the only thing he could do was to stay by Wei Zhao’s side.
One day, when Wei Chongrong returned to the palace after class, he was stunned to see Wei Zhao playing the qin. He never knew that Wei Zhao had such a skill, and he had never seen him show it before. With curiosity, Wei Chongrong stopped at the door of the study.
A quarter of an hour later, the heir of Wang Qin deeply regretted it. Because Wei Zhao’s qin skills were so bottom-breakingly bad that he, his son, couldn’t even say a good word with a clear conscience. Wei Chongrong left on the spot, which was already the greatest encouragement he could give Wei Zhao.
However, after listening to such an out-of-tune song, Wei Chongrong still was able to pick up a somewhat sorrowful note in it. In order not to touch Wei Zhao’s sore spot, Wei Chongrong didn’t ask him about this song, and Wei Zhao never played it again afterwards.
When the New Year came, the emperor’s condition had reached the point where he was too ill to rise. The New Year’s Eve banquet was cancelled, and the sacrifice to ancestors and heaven was done by the Crown Prince. Sun Ye told Wei Zhao in private that it was just a matter of time for the emperor and it was hard to say whether he would survive the first month.
In the first month, Wei Su no longer saw Wei Zhao and Jun Qing alone. He summoned all his children in the capital to him, from the little ones to adults, one by one. The person the emperor met in his last moments of clarity was the Crown Prince. He entrusted to Wei Ming many things, firstly state affairs and then family affairs.
Wei Su said that he had spent his life conquering and exhausting the country, but had recovered all the lost land in the north and created Lingzhou, so he had finally lived up to the legacy of Emperor Taizu. At present, with the borders having been settled, the national treasury was empty, and there was still a need for rest and recuperation before the country could gradually recover its strength. After his accession to the throne, Wei Ming should focus on stability and forget about the lost territories in the south. If he could stabilise Youzhou and Lingzhou peacefully, his merits would be unlimited.
Wei Ming answered with tears in his eyes. In fact, even if Wei Su didn’t say it, he would do the same. Wei Su entrusted him with the many matters of the harem very simply. He believed that with Wei Ming’s heart and strength, he would take good care of his younger brothers.
On the 24th of the first month of the 52nd year of Yongjia, Wei Su, the tenth emperor of the Great Yan, died at the age of sixty-eight.
On the 25th of the first month, the posthumous edict of the late emperor was made public; he would rest in the Yuanyi Hall.
On the 26th of the first month, Crown Prince Wei Ming ascended the throne as emperor, and the following year was the 1st year of Tai’an.
On the 28th of the first month, the new emperor gave the late emperor the posthumous name “Chun” and the temple name Xingzu, not Zhongzong as Wei Chongrong remembered(3).
In ancient times, the temple name of those emperors who had merits contained the word “zu” for “ancestor” and of those who had virtue had the word “zong”. The temple name in any case couldn’t damage the reputation. In his previous life, Wei Su didn’t reclaim Youzhou until his death, and his achievements were no better than those of the previous emperors, so he couldn’t have “zu” in his name, but only “zong”. In his present life, Wei Zhao had reclaimed Youzhou and created Lingzhou, so it was only logical for Wei Su to be honoured with “zu”, given his achievements in gaining the new territory.
The author has something to say：
Grandfather Emperor is offline, Crown Prince Uncle is online, and Xiao Gong and Xiao Shou are getting old enough to fall in love…
However, due to the needs of plot development, I want to insert a few chapters about the old emperor, Ji Qing and Jun Lin…
- It sounds cuter in Chinese: Xiao Houzi (Little Monkey) and Xiao Huzi (Little Tiger)
- To take panic measures in place of timely preparation
- 纯 (chún) – pure; 兴祖 (xīng zǔ) – flourishing ancestor; 中宗 (zhòng zōng) – ~central ancestor