In the 3rd year of Yongjia, Ji Wan, Second Young Lady of Wang Changning’s family, entered the palace, named Concubine Dun at first. On the eve of the wedding, Wei Su summoned Ji Yang into the palace.
Ji Yang looked at the emperor’s reluctant face, and her heart couldn’t help but be on fire as she choked out, “Your Majesty, you are the one who ordered my sister to enter the palace. No matter what your reasons are, can you have a little bit of joy on your face that the bridegroom should have…”
Wei Su raised his head lazily, glanced at Ji Yang and said indifferently: “It doesn’t have anything to do with Ah Wan. I just think that everything we do now seems to be under the control of the Empress Dowager. It’s quite meaningless, even my marriage.”
At the beginning, when he returned to the palace with Wang Chu’s letter, the Empress Dowager read it impassively, and then it was as if Wei Su’s private departure from the palace had never happened.
Everything went back to the old days. Wei Su went to and from the court every day and reviewed the memorials like a puppet being manipulated. No matter what, it was the Empress Dowager who had the final say, and the emperor’s objections were ignored by the civil and military officials.
When he was desperate, Wei Su asked Ji Yang what he should do. Ji Yang’s answer was only one word: survive.
Xie Yi’s power came from Emperor Xianzong. The previous emperor had reigned for 22 years and had never really been out of Xie Yi’s control. Wei Su ascended the throne at a young age, what could he do? The military power of the Ji family could only guarantee that he would continue to sit in that position but could do little to help him regain power.
Fortunately, the Empress Dowager was already very old, and his only biological son, Wang Chu, still had a bad relationship with him. Wang Chu had been in his fief for decades and never returned to Yujing. Unable to resist the Empress Dowager head-on, Wei Su could only bide his time, accumulate strength, and wait for the right moment.
In order to ease the relationship with Xie Yi, Wei Su didn’t hesitate to agree when Gong Song Xie Ning proposed to marry Princess Chongqing to his son Xie Zhou, even though he knew very well in his heart that his sister had only loved one person since she was a child, Wang Changning Ji Qing(1).
When the emperor needed to get married, Empress Dowager Xie and Empress Dowager Sun had a disagreement about the choice of the empress and sought Wei Su’s opinion.
Wei Su thought for a while and said Ji Wan’s name. He didn’t want to marry a woman who had a relationship with the Xie family. Did Xie Yi still think he didn’t have enough control over the harem? As for the Sun family, that was not necessary. Could his mother’s family support anyone but him?
Hearing Wei Su’s answer, Empress Dowager Xie wasn’t surprised and only said that it was good if the emperor liked Ji Wan. Empress Dowager Sun was a little dissatisfied, but it was the emperor’s will, and Empress Dowager Xie agreed. No matter how much she objected, it would be useless, so she didn’t say anything and acquiesced.
Seeing Ji Yang frowning and silent, Wei Su said again: “Every time I see the way the Empress Dowager looks at me, I feel like he is telling me: I know what little games you are playing, but I don’t care. You can toss whatever way you like, but you can’t get out of the palm of my hand. This feeling is terrible.” There were some things that the emperor couldn’t say in front of others, including his mother, Empress Dowager Sun. On the contrary, Ji Yang, who he had always disliked since he was a child, became the best person to confide in.
Understanding that Wei Su’s displeasure wasn’t directed at Ji Wan, Ji Yang secretly sighed and said unhurriedly, “Your Majesty, don’t be upset, I have just received a piece of news that can be considered good for you. According to the latest secret report from Zhuozhou, Wang Chu is seriously ill and may not last much longer.”
“Really?” Wei Su raised his eyebrows, his eyes obscure and uncertain. He had no ill will towards his imperial uncle he had only met once, but Wang Chu was Xie Yi’s only son, this was an indisputable fact. If Wang Chu died, it would be a very heavy blow to the Empress Dowager.
Ji Yang nodded silently, her face calm. She knew more about Wang Chu than the emperor. As early as many years ago, when Wang Qimin was killed by the Empress Dowager, his heart had already died, so he had never been the emperor’s true opponent.
In the spring of the following year, Zhuozhou sent a funeral report that Wang Chu passed away. After some thought Wei Su gave him the posthumous name “Shen”(2). As Ji Yang expected, the death of Wang Chu was a heavy blow for the Empress Dowager. Xie Yi fell seriously ill and then began to delegate power to the emperor, seemingly no longer attached to it.
In the autumn of the same year, Ji Wan gave birth to the eldest daughter of the emperor, and Wei Su, who had become a father, was overjoyed. Ji Yang, Xianyou County Lord, married Sun Yu, the son of Gong Guo.
In the 6th year of Yongjia, Empress Dowager Xie died at the age of 70 and was given the posthumous title of “Duan”(3). Even before this, Wei Su had basically taken control of all the powers in the court, and from then on he became an iron-willed emperor whose words weren’t to be denied.
Whether it was the court or the harem, as long as the emperor spoke out, few people dared to question it.
Perhaps, there was one exception.
In the Xuanshi Hall, Wei Su smiled gracefully, as if he wasn’t surprised by Ji Yang’s arrival: “Xianyou County Lord, you are here.”
Ji Yang’s beautiful eyes stared at him, her expression furious as she growled in a low voice: “Don’t get all intimate with me. Tell me honestly, did you do it on purpose?”
Wei Su’s eyes narrowed slightly and his expression seemed quite innocent: “What did I do on purpose? County Lord, you should make it clear.”
Ji Yang didn’t give the emperor any face at all. She stomped her foot on the imperial writing desk and said angrily: “Don’t tell me that what happened between you and Lin’er wasn’t planned by you in advance.” Hearing the rumours about Wei Su and her son, Ji Yang was really speechless. She strictly guarded all these years to avoid further developments between the emperor and her elder brother, but her success was short-lived. Turning her head, she saw that her son had been snatched away. Was this the case of repelling a tiger at the front door and attracting a wolf at the back door?
Wei Su didn’t consider Ji Yang’s behaviour the loss of decorum. He just smiled softly: “Xianyou County Lord, you are right to be angry, but it was Lin’er who really took the initiative. If it weren’t for him… I would have never thought about it.” Wei Su felt that what he said was true. He loved Jun Lin since he was a child, doting on him wholeheartedly and giving him everything he wished for; but he had never thought about taking Jun Lin for himself.
On the contrary, it was Jun Lin who first had the strange thoughts about him. The emperor had always lacked self-control in the face of beauty. It was only natural that something like that would happen later.
Knowing that Wei Su wouldn’t joke about such a thing, Ji Yang was so furious that she couldn’t speak. If the emperor had taken the initiative in this matter, she could still yell at him. But if her own precious son recommended himself to the dragon bed, she really didn’t know what to do.
Her marriage to Jun Ya wasn’t well received by everyone from the start, but they didn’t care. In the face of external pressure, two equally proud and stubborn young people showed rare self-control and resilience. They finally convinced their families.
After the wedding, all the talk about Jun Ya and Ji Yang faded away. No matter how strange their match was and how different their family traditions were, the marriage had been consummated and Xianyou County Lord had indeed entered the Jun family, so there was nothing more to say.
People guessed the beginning, but not the end. When the pressure from the outside world ceased to exist, the conflict between Jun Ya and Ji Yang over their different personalities erupted in full force, shaking both families. In the end, Ji Yang left the Jun family in sadness, and Jun Ya never tried to make her stay.
When she left the Jun family, Ji Yang didn’t even know that she was pregnant, but after a little thought, she decided to keep the baby.
Jun Lin was surnamed after Jun Ya and was in the Jun family tree, but from the day he was born, he had never set foot in the Jun family’s house.
Jun Lin grew up in Wang Changning’s residence. At that time, Ji Yang was helping Wei Su reorganise and train the shadow guards. Ji Wan had already entered the palace and Ji Qing returned to the capital and stayed in the Western Camp much more than in his residence. It was not that Jun Lin was unattended, but how could a nanny and maids be as attentive as his mother and aunt? Ji Yang simply took her son with her to the palace; wherever she went, Jun Lin followed.
Since Jun Lin could walk, he had been practising with Wei Su’s shadow guards. Of course, he made rapid progress. Ji Yang proudly told the emperor that her son would definitely surpass his teachers in the future.
Sometimes, when Ji Yang was too busy, she would leave Jun Lin at Ji Wan’s palace to play with Princess Yuankang.
Princess Yuankang was the emperor’s eldest daughter, and because she was the first to arrive, she was naturally favoured, whereas her six younger sisters didn’t get such treatment. The emperor wanted a son so badly that he almost went crazy, but unfortunately there was no son born in the harem.
The emperor didn’t have a son, and Jun Lin spent time with Princess Yuankang all day long. Wei Su was inevitably moved and favoured him a lot.
Ji Yang’s second husband was Sun Yu, the nephew of Empress Dowager Sun. Sun Yu didn’t mind Jun Lin’s presence and treated him as his own child, just like his two sons, Sun Shu and Sun Ye. However, Jun Lin’s surname was Jun, not Sun, and his biological father, Jun Ya, was still alive, and it wouldn’t be good for the Jun family to have the child living in his stepfather’s house for years on end. So more often than not, Jun Lin stayed at Wang Changning’s residence.
Wei Su knew that Ji Qing wasn’t at home much, and when he was there, his gloomy temperament wasn’t suitable for taking care of a child, so he often invited Jun Lin to the palace. Ji Yang considered Wei Su an elder and didn’t worry too much. By the time she found out that the situation was wrong, it was too late.
Ji Yang pondered over the emperor’s words carefully and couldn’t help but sneer: “Your Majesty, you were shaping Lin’er into the image of my elder brother that existed only in your imagination. But after all, Lin’er is not a clay sculpture, he will not be whatever you want to make him into.”
Wei Su was silent and didn’t deny Ji Yang’s words. As early as the 3rd year of Yongjia, soon after Ji Wan entered the palace, he transferred Ji Qing back to the Western Camp. As the opportunities for contact between the monarch and the subject increased, Wei Su gradually discovered that the real Ji Qing and the one he imagined were simply two different people. He couldn’t say that he was disillusioned, just a little disappointed; no matter what, Ji Qing’s loyalty to him was genuine, and that was enough.
On the contrary, Jun Lin, who had been raised by his side since he was a child, faintly let Wei Su see the person he was looking for. Wei Su actually never thought about deliberately cultivating Jun Lin, but under his subtle influence, Jun Lin still grew into what he hoped for.
Wei Su was silent for a moment, then sighed: “Lin’er is in the palace right now. If you see him, don’t beat him and scold him.”
Ji Yang rolled her eyes: “When have I ever touched my son with a finger? But you, Your Majesty, since you provoke people who shouldn’t be provoked, you must be prepared to pay a price.” After speaking, she flung her sleeves and said nothing more to the emperor.
Today, Jun Lin had a day off and was playing with Wei Ming in Weiyang Palace. After watching him finish a set of swordplay, Wei Ming clapped his hands vigorously, his face flushed with excitement, “Brother Lin, you’re so good! Can you teach me?”
Jun Lin put down his sword, led Wei Ming to the table and sat him down, pinched his cheek and said softly: “Little Ming’er, you will be the Crown Prince in the future. What you need to learn is to know people and govern the country. Marching to war and fighting enemies, others will do it for you.”
Wei Ming nodded blankly. He didn’t understand what Jun Lin said very well, but his father said that Brother Lin was the best and it was right to listen to him, so he dropped the matter of learning martial arts and pulled Jun Lin to talk about something else.
There was no way Ji Wan wouldn’t have known what happened in Weiyang Palace. She heard the palace servants talk about the conversation between Jun Lin and Wei Ming and smiled lightly, her smile extremely beautiful. She was the empress; her son would be the Crown Prince soon. And as for the rest, she didn’t care.
Starting from the 12th year of Yongjia, Wei Su used his troops against Tiele for ten consecutive years without stopping, beating Tiele like a wretched dog.
That summer, Wei Su intended to launch a final attack against Tiele, completely eliminating their threat to the Great Yan’s northern border.
“After this battle, I never want to let you go to the battlefield again.” Stroking the scar on Jun Lin’s shoulder, Wei Su sighed faintly.
Jun Lin lay on the floor looking at the map, his right shoulder feeling itchy. He turned his head and glanced at the emperor: “Your Majesty said the same thing the previous time.”
Wei Su was ashamed, only to hear Jun Lin add: “The two counties of Youzhou and Yanzhou are in the hands of Fuyu, how can Your Majesty stop?”
Wei Su couldn’t help being startled for a moment, then said with a bitter smile: “Fuyu must be fought, but it will have to wait for two years, not now…”
Jun Lin turned over, lay on the map and crossed his arms under his head: “Your Majesty, when I return from Tiele, I need to go home.”
Wei Su was stunned and puzzled: “If you want to go home, you can do it anytime, no one is stopping you.” Why report such trivial matters to him?
Seeing that the emperor misunderstood what he meant, Jun Lin added: “Not Wang Changning’s residence, I’m going back to the Jun family’s house in Langya.”
“The Jun family? What are you going back for?” Wei Su was curious. He had never heard Jun Lin take the initiative to mention the Jun family.
Jun Lin swung his leg and guessed: “I don’t know, my father wrote to me and said he wanted to see me, but he didn’t say why.”
Wei Su didn’t ask further questions. Although Ji Yang had left Jun Ya, Jun Lin was a member of Jun Ya’s family. Jun Ya wanted to see his son, and he didn’t need a reason. When the decisive battle with Tiele was over, he gave Jun Lin a three-month vacation and let him go home and have fun.
After the battle in the 22nd year of Yongjia, the Tiele were completely banished to the north of the desert, and Wei Su was overjoyed and gave rewards to the meritorious people.
But what he didn’t expect was that Jun Lin didn’t even return to Yujing and went directly back to Langya. Wei Su was a little angry, but there was no one to get angry with. Anyway, Jun Lin had gone home, so he might as well let him have fun. If there was anything to discuss, wait for him to come back; if there was any score to settle, wait for him to return to settle it.
Wei Su miscalculated again. He thought that Jun Lin would be back in two or three months, but unexpectedly, the year was about to end and there was no news from him. Just as Wei Su was thinking about whether to send someone to Langya to remind him, Ji Yang sullenly entered the palace.
Ji Yang threw a letter to Wei Su – written by Jun Lin himself – and asked with suppressed anger, “Your Majesty, what are you going to do?”
Wei Su hurriedly read the letter, his face shocked and happy, and he said excitedly after a long pause, “Don’t worry, I will make the right arrangements. I guarantee it will be done properly.”
Ji Yang shook her head, the sorrow in her eyes far exceeding joy. She really couldn’t understand how things got to this point.
In the 23rd year of Yongjia, the Fourth Prince Wei Zhao was born, and the eldest prince Wei Ming was named the Crown Prince. Soon after, Jun Lin returned from his hometown of Langya with two children; one was his half-brother Jun Feili and the other was his son Jun Qing.
Although Wei Ming had already been named the Crown Prince and moved into the Eastern Palace, he stayed in Weiyang Palace most of the time except for sleeping at night.
When Jun Lin took Jun Feili into the palace to greet the empress, Wei Ming was a little curious to see Jun Feili and waved at him. Jun Feili noticed Wei Ming’s movement, but as it was his first time in the palace, he didn’t dare to act rashly, so he could only turn his head and look at Jun Lin.
Jun Lin patted his younger brother’s shoulder and signalled that he could go. Jun Feili smiled and ran over immediately.
Wei Ming took Jun Feili to sit down beside him and asked, “Who are you? Why haven’t I seen you before?”
Jun Feili replied: “I am the younger brother of Hou Zhaoyang and I just came to Yujing from Langya.”
Wei Ming nodded with sudden realisation: “It turns out that you are Brother Lin’s younger brother! So am I.”
When Jun Lin came out of Weiyang Palace where he paid his respects, Wei Ming ran over, accompanied by Jun Feili, and took his hand affectionately, showing off: “Brother Lin, I’ll take you to see my little brother. Zhao’er is so beautiful.”
Jun Lin’s expression froze. He paused and asked, “Does the Crown Prince like his little brother?” Some emotion that Wei Ming couldn’t understand flashed in his eyes.
Wei Ming nodded and said without hesitation: “I like him, I like him much more than I like Xu’er and Xiao’er.”
Jun Lin smiled blandly and said nothing as he followed Wei Ming towards the side hall. On the exquisite, gorgeous carved bed, the little prince who had just woken up from a nap was yawning widely and looking at the approaching people with curious eyes, showing a toothless smile.
- If you remember the list of characters, Princess Chongqing did become Ji Qing’s wife eventually (second wife) – probably divorced Xie Zhou or was widowed
- Careful, cautious
Translator’s note: Wei Su, Wei Su… the guy is so morally unscrupulous that I don’t even know what to say. Not bedding your fifteen-year-old nephew even if he throws himself at you? Impossible, right? 🙁
But I would also like to say… I saw some reviews accusing Wei Su of grooming. I can’t agree with it. The definition of grooming is “the action of attempting to form a relationship with a child or young person, with the intention of sexually assaulting them…” and it is absolutely not what happened. Yes, Wei Su was trying to shape Jun Lin into his ideal – but there was no sexual intent in it, I believe him when he says that to Ji Yang. He was sincerely doting on Jun Lin, not raising a future lover. Of course, he is still a scummy guy for not turning Jun Lin down even if Jun Lin was the one who fell in love with him first.
As for why Jun Lin fell in love with him… it is pretty understandable. Wei Su was extremely handsome, very kind to Jun Lin – and his militaristic ideas of recovering the lost territories probably called to Jun Lin’s heart.
Another point I would like to mention: it sounds a bit like Jun Lin decided to go to the battlefield pregnant and then go to his father’s house to have a baby under the pretext that Jun Ya summoned him. It’s not like this. Jun Lin most likely didn’t know he was pregnant when he went to war (it seems to be a tradition in their family – doing dangerous things unaware of being pregnant). And his father did summon him to ask him to take Jun Feili to the capital because Jun Feili was a son of a concubine and the Jun family of Langya was so special they frowned upon children born from concubines…
Anyway, the author doesn’t divide the book into volumes but if she had, the first volume would have ended here. Starting from the next chapter, Wei Chongrong is 17 or 18, Jun Hua is 13 (and as clumsy and annoying as 13-year-olds are – ah, where has my little cute baby gone?), there is a new enemy and a new villain…