Dongshan Town was a little-known place. There was a low mountain outside the town. Because it was located to the east of the town, it was called Dongshan(1). The name of Dongshan Town also came from it. Dongshan Town was not big. There was only one main street, with dozens of shops of all kinds on it. The villagers from all over the countryside came here to the market. There was a small market day every five days and a big market day every ten days. Every market day was extremely lively, the street crowded to the extreme
The Drunken Immortal House was the most famous restaurant in Dongshan Town. In the private room facing the street on the second floor, Wei Chongrong looked at the dazzling array of dishes in front of him with a sad expression on his face.
All along, Wei Chongrong thought that he wasn’t a picky eater. He was never fussy about what he ate and was very good at eating. Now that he arrived in Dongshan Town, he realised that his previous cognition was wrong. It turned out that there was still food in this world that he couldn’t stand.
The people of Yizhou were addicted to spicy food. Wei Chongrong had heard of it a long time ago, but he didn’t care much. After all, there were restaurants opened by Yizhou people in the capital and he had eaten in them. Although he didn’t like the food too much, it was acceptable. This time, in order to track down Wei Mao who had run away from home and whose whereabouts were unknown, he went all the way south to Honghe County, the southernmost part of Yizhou. Then, Wei Chongrong tragically discovered the fact that the so-called Yizhou cuisine he tasted in Yujing wasn’t the real Yizhou cuisine at all. The dishes made by the locals in Yizhou were just too spicy for him to eat.
Before coming to Dongshan Town, Wei Chongrong had stopped in various counties and various prefectures. As long as he explained to the waiter that the dishes shouldn’t be spicy, he could always get the food that was palatable. Sometimes it tasted weird, but at least he wouldn’t have to go hungry.
According to the spy’s report, the last place Wei Mao appeared was Dongshan Town. Wei Chongrong rushed over as soon as he heard the news. It was a pity that Wei Mao had been in Dongshan Town three days ago. Wei Chongrong came a step late and had no clues.
Wei Chongrong originally planned to have lunch in town and then continue to inquire about Wei Mao. Unexpectedly, the boss of The Drunken Immortal was determined to make things difficult for him. Wei Chongrong had clearly said that he didn’t want spicy food, but every dish served by the waiter was so spicy that it was impossible to swallow a single bite.
Wei Chongrong couldn’t stand it anymore and slapped his chopsticks on the table with a snap: “Little Dongzi, call the boss over for me.”
The imperial guard sitting by Wei Chongrong’s side put down his chopsticks and said, aggrieved: “Master Shizi(2), this subordinate’s surname is Dongfang, not Little Dongzi.”
“Are you going or not?” Wei Chongrong glared at him irritably, “Also, when you are out and about, don’t call me that casually. Be careful, the walls have ears.”
Dongfang didn’t say a word, rolled his eyes, got up and went out. Just looking at his walk, one could say he was a martial arts expert.
Not long after, the boss of The Drunken Immortal followed Dongfang upstairs. As soon as he entered the room, he said politely, “Young gentleman, what other requirements do you have?”
Wei Chongrong looked up at him with unfriendly eyes: “Didn’t I tell you not to put spices into the dishes? Didn’t you hear it or something? Every dish is as spicy as hell…” He was already in a bad mood, but now he was even more displeased.
After listening to Wei Chongrong’s complaint, the boss looked innocent and said blankly: “Young gentleman, our Drunken Immortal House always puts the customer first. If you don’t want spicy food, we will definitely not put the spice in it. Our chilli is authentic, ten coins for a tael(3), it will never be wasted.”
“What did you say? Are these dishes not spicy?” Before Wei Chongrong could say anything, Dongfang interfered first.
Although he wasn’t like Wei Chongrong, for whom the dishes were so spicy that he couldn’t eat a bite, he still felt that the food was spicy enough and very enjoyable to eat. Who knew that the boss would tell him there was no chilli put in the dishes; so where did the spicy taste come from?…
The boss thought for a while and asked cautiously: “Young gentlemen, are you from out of town?” Wei Chongrong nodded silently without denying it. Although the search for Wei Mao was confidential, he and Dongfang were not locals at first glance.
The boss nodded in understanding: “No wonder. Three days ago, a young gentleman was also like this. He said he didn’t want spicy food. We didn’t put chilli. In the end, he left without paying for the meal. Fortunately, I was considerate enough to show him the way when he asked for directions.”
Three days ago?! Wei Chongrong’s eyes lit up and he hurriedly asked, “Boss, what did that young man look like? Where did he go?”
The boss stopped talking, took two steps back vigilantly and looked at Wei Chongrong and Dongfang up and down with examining eyes.
Wei Chongrong blinked and immediately put on a gentle smile: “Boss, we are not bad people. I’m looking for my younger brother. My brother is 18 years old this year, and he has reached the age of marriage. The family has found him a wife, but he doesn’t like her and refuses to marry. And the girl he fell in love with, her family background is a bit low and she is a bit unworthy of our family… Ahem, he ran away from home in anger. My brother is the youngest child in the family and has never been far away alone. As soon as he left, all the elders in the family panicked…”
Seeing that Wei Chongrong’s words were sincere and reasonable, the boss relaxed his vigilance. Indeed, both the young gentleman in front of him and the one three days ago – just by looking at their clothes and manners, one could say that they weren’t from an ordinary family, so such a reason made perfect sense.
Wei Chongrong saw that there was a way in and continued to work hard: “As soon as my brother left, my grandmother fell ill. My father was too anxious and sent me out to find him. He said that as long as my brother was willing to go back with me, he could marry whoever he wanted as his wife, and the family would have no objection.”
The boss was obviously moved by the story of “lovers get married at the end” and immediately said: “That young gentleman is seventeen or eighteen years old. He is shorter than you, about half a head shorter. He is also paler than you. His nose and mouth are a bit like yours, and his eyes…”
“The eyes are long and narrow, don’t look like mine at all, right?” Hearing this, Wei Chongrong could already be sure that that man was Wei Mao.
The boss clapped his hands and said excitedly: “Yes, that’s it, that’s right.” Before Wei Chongrong asked him where Wei Mao had gone, he immediately said anxiously: “It’s all over. What your brother asked me was the way to Nanyue. It’s been three days, and he might have already crossed the border.”
“It’s fine, it’s fine, as long as there is news, thank you.” Wei Chongrong finished speaking and motioned to Dongfang with his eyes.
Dongfang took out a silver ingot from his pocket and handed it to the boss. It was more than enough to pay the bill for them and Wei Mao. The boss accepted the silver and said politely: “Young gentlemen, wait a minute, I will ask to bring out a new unused pot and make some dishes for you again.”
Wei Chongrong waved his hand and said, “No, no, just bring us some white rice and a dish of soy sauce.”
The boss took the order and went away, and Wei Chongrong sighed faintly: “I hope he really went to Nanyue instead of diverting our attention.”
Dongfang was so hot from the spicy food that he panted, saying as he breathed hard: “Third… Young Master, it is not surprising if he went to Nanyue. The Eldest Young Lady is married there.”
Wei Chongrong picked up his chopsticks, knocked Dongfang on the forehead and said, “I say you are stupid, you still don’t believe me. Why did the Third Brother run away from home? He just didn’t want to be found. If he went to Nanyue to his sister, would his brother-in-law send him back? If it were me, I would definitely not go to Nanyue.”
Dongfang was aggrieved but couldn’t refute it. He could only wrinkle his nose, catching the irregularity in Wei Chongrong’s speech, “Obviously you said he’s your younger brother…”
As they talked, the waiter delivered a new meal. Wei Chongrong tasted it. The spicy taste was still there, but it was within his acceptance range, so he asked the waiter to withdraw the original dishes. Then he and Dongfang dedicated themselves wholeheartedly to offering sacrifice to the five viscera temple(4).
After eating and drinking enough, Wei Chongrong and Dongfang left the town and came to the foot of Dongshan Mountain.
Seeing no one around, Wei Chongrong couldn’t resist knocking on Dongfang’s forehead again: “If I say I’m the younger brother of Third Brother, no one will believe me, right? Besides, the Third Prince left the palace and ran away. How big is this? If someone knows about it, there will definitely be a problem.”
Dongfang rubbed his forehead and complained: “You say it’s confidential, but you’ve pretty much explained everything.”
Wei Chongrong glared at him and said helplessly: “If it weren’t for Xianhan being unsuitable to intervene in this matter, I would have never taken you along to poison my ears.” After he finished speaking, he turned and walked up the mountain. Dongfang didn’t dare to say much and followed him up the mountain.
Speaking of the reason why Wei Mao ran away from home, Wei Chongrong had no words. When he found Wei Mao, he would have to beat him up.
There was no shortage of affectionate emperors in the dynasty, but there was no other example before Wei Ming of an emperor like Emperor Yingzong, who loved only Empress Xiaosi for the rest of his life. Usually, as long as the emperor had a son, the courtiers would have no problem with him favouring the empress and not having concubines.
In Wei Ming’s harem, there was only Empress Jun Feili; it was much more deserted than in the times of the previous emperor. Fortunately, the princes had come of age one after another, married and had children, which added a lot of vitality to the large palace. Crown Prince Wei Xuan was married to Xie Xiang when he was still Wang Linzi. The two had been married for more than ten years, and their love had never diminished. The only regret was that Xie Xiang had given birth to three daughters in a row and the Crown Prince had no sons so far. Wang Zhao Wei Lan was married in the 4th year of Tai’an. His wife was the eldest daughter of Gong Yue Shangguan Xuan, and the two already had a son.
The two elder brothers were married, and it was naturally Wei Mao’s turn next. Wei Ming and Jun Feili weren’t stubborn and unreasonable parents, and they didn’t designate a candidate for their youngest son, saying that he was allowed to choose whom to marry by himself. As long as it was a girl from a noble family, they had no problem with anyone he liked.
Wei Mao was very happy when he heard this. He didn’t hesitate to report a name that made the two of them frown when they heard it: Huo Yingying.
Huo Yingying was the niece of Huo Qingyang, Hou Wu’an, and had grown up with her uncle since she was a child. Hou Wu’an was a newcomer at court and had the trust of the emperor and Wang Qin. He had been guarding Lingzhou for more than ten years and made the Fuyu people so afraid that they didn’t dare to act rashly for a long time.
If Huo Yingying was Huo Qingyang’s daughter, Wei Ming and Jun Feili would never hesitate to accept her as their daughter-in-law. It was a pity that Huo Yingying was a niece, and she was not an orphan girl who took refuge in her uncle’s house in the ordinary sense. Her mother, Huo Qingyue, had been taken captive by the Fuyu people and was only found by Huo Qingyang after Wei Zhao had conquered Fuyu. No one knew who her biological father was. The only certainty was that he was a Fuyu man.
Wei Mao originally thought that since his father and mother had promised him, his marriage with Huo Yingying wouldn’t be hindered in any way. Unexpectedly, they kept silent, so he couldn’t help being a little anxious. Then Jun Feili asked his son what he liked about Huo Yingying. Was it because of her life-saving grace during the spring hunt that year?
Wei Mao replied that the cause was not important, the important thing was that he hoped that Huo Yingying could become his wife.
Jun Feili wasn’t very receptive to Huo Yingying’s origin, but he couldn’t bear to disappoint his son, so he tried to reason with Wei Mao: “Mao’er, this news is so unexpected. Your father and I don’t know what to think for the time being. Let us discuss it, and I will tell you the answer after the discussion.”
Seeing that there was still a chance, Wei Mao nodded and agreed. After Wei Mao left, Wei Ming asked Jun Feili: “Do you want to fulfil Mao’er’s wish?”
Jun Feili was silent and pondered for a long time: “She is going to be the wife of the prince. Miss Huo’s family background is not bad, but…” In the Great Yan, the boundary between the clan and the humble family was too obvious. Jun Feili was the first empress ever born in the humble family, and he knew what it tasted like. Besides, although the Jun family was not a clan, it was not a humble family in the true sense, not to mention that he had a brother like Jun Lin who was beloved by the emperor.
Huo Yingying was said to grow up with her uncle, but Huo Qingyang was in the military camp all year round, and she spent more time living in Wang Qin’s residence. In order to understand Huo Yingying’s temperament and personality, Jun Feili specially summoned Wei Zhao into the palace. If Wei Zhao also said that it was fine, Jun Feili was not going to object.
Unexpectedly, when Wei Zhao heard this, he shook his head and said, “Your Majesty, this marriage is not a good idea. I don’t approve of Yingying entering the palace.”
“What do you mean?” Wei Zhao’s answer was completely unexpected to Jun Feili, and he didn’t know how to react.
Wei Zhao frowned and thought for a while before speaking: “Yingying has someone in her heart, but that person is not Wang Xiang.” Wang Xiang was Wei Mao’s title. When Wei Ming ascended the throne, he named Wei Xuan the Crown Prince, gave Wei Lan the title of Wang Zhao, and Wei Mao the title of Wang Xiang.
“Someone in her heart?” Jun Feili frowned slightly, as if he hadn’t expected that his son was actually in unrequited love, and subconsciously asked, “Is it Rong’er?” Huo Yingying was raised in Wang Qin’s residence, and she and Wei Chongrong were childhood friends; it was normal for the two of them to have affection.
Wei Zhao was taken aback when he heard the question. He said with a wry smile as he regained his senses: “No, Rong’er and Yingying are like brother and sister, there is no love of man and woman between them.”
Jun Feili waved his hand, indicating that Wei Zhao didn’t need to say who that person was. Originally, he thought that if Huo Yingying wasn’t bad, and since she and Wei Mao were in love, he would grit his teeth and approve this marriage for his son’s sake, so that Wei Mao was happy.
But who would have thought that the girl didn’t think about it at all, it was purely Wei Mao’s wishful thinking?
What happened afterwards was actually quite simple. Jun Feili told Wei Mao straight away that he wouldn’t allow his marriage to Huo Yingying.
Wei Mao stubbornly asked why. Yingying was so good, much better than the Shangguan girl and not worse than Xie Xiang.
Seeing that his son was obsessed, Jun Feili had to tell the truth. Huo Yingying was indeed good, but the problem was that she didn’t want to marry him.
How could Wei Mao believe it? Huo Yingying was so gentle to him, how could she not love him? It must have been that Jun Feili sent someone to say something to her, which scared her, so she didn’t dare to agree to marry him. He would go to her personally and explain the situation to her, and Huo Yingying would definitely agree to marry him.
Wei Mao found Huo Yingying, and no one knew what they said to each other. Anyway, Wei Mao had a devastated expression on his face when he returned to the palace.
Huo Yingying refused to enter the palace, and Wei Mao had no one else he liked, so Jun Feili personally picked the candidate for Wangfei Xiang.
Wei Mao was very conflicted when he heard the news, saying that he didn’t want to marry anyone, how could he agree to Jun Feili’s suggestion? After a heated argument, Wei Mao left the palace.
As a result, the task of finding the Third Prince fell to Wei Chongrong. First of all, he was the son of Wang Qin, so there was no need to worry about confidentiality; secondly, he was highly skilled in martial arts, so his safety was guaranteed; and last but not least, there was still a little connection between him and Wei Mao’s departure.
- Eastern Mountain
- 世子 (shìzǐ) – a heir to a noble family; it is the title Wei Zhao was fighting so hard for Wei Chongrong to get
- Tael ~60 g
- Metaphor for filling the stomachs