Wei Chongrong felt that he was wronged. He was really wronged. Didn’t he just accidentally tell Wei Mao who Huo Yingying liked? As a result, he was kicked out of the capital and had to go to a ghostly place like Dongshan Town where he nearly starved to death.
You see, he didn’t know that Uncle Emperor was choosing the wife for Wei Mao. He didn’t know about Wei Mao’s desire to marry Huo Yingying. He didn’t know the empress called Wei Zhao into the palace for questioning and his father never told him the content of their conversation. Wei Mao asked him if he knew who Huo Yingying liked – of course he would tell him, just to make him back off. A woman like Huo Yingying wasn’t someone Wei Mao could control at all. Wei Chongrong told him the truth, completely with the idea of saving Wei Mao from the sea of suffering.
How could he have thought that Wei Mao was so fragile! And his escape plan was quite comprehensive, as if he used everything he had learned in his life. He chased after Wei Mao from Yujing to Honghe County, losing track of him several times, and the distance between them grew wider and wider.
Honghe County was located in the southwest of Yizhou, next to Nanyue in the east and Zhuxia in the west. And if you travelled down the Honghe River for a few dozens of li, there was Xiaoluo. Dongshan Town was the southernmost town in Honghe County. The loss of Wei Mao’s trail here posed a huge problem.
Autumn was warm, dry and cloudless; standing on the top of Dongshan Mountain, you could see the territory of the three countries at the same time. If there were no other clues, it was impossible to guess where Wei Mao had gone. Wei Chongrong looked around for a long time, and then suddenly said, “I think Third Brother has planned it for a long time.”
Dongfang, who sat on a big stone on the top of the mountain with a foxtail grass in his mouth, asked curiously: “Why does Master Shizi think that? If Miss Huo hadn’t rejected the Third Prince, there would be no need for him to run away from home. Just a few days can’t be considered for a long time, right?”
Wei Chongrong patted Dongfang on the shoulder, motioned to him to move a little to the side, and explained in frustration: “If Third Brother hadn’t planned, how could we encounter so many false trails on the road? And this place, Dongshan Town, he definitely wouldn’t have thought of it without studying the map specifically.”
Dongfang listened to it in a daze, sighing: “The Third Prince really knows how to make a wrong choice. He wants no one but the Eldest Miss Huo, needless to say, even if the Eldest Miss was willing, His Majesty and the empress might not agree. Now if it was Second Miss Huo…”
Wei Chongrong interrupted Dongfang without hesitation: “Second Miss Huo is even worse. She hasn’t been weaned yet.”
Dongfang shrank his shoulders and didn’t dare to speak anymore. His master shizi was really hard to serve. He didn’t know that Wei Chongrong was also complaining in his heart that Dongfang wasn’t as good as Tuoba Xianhan in anything but martial arts. He had to explain everything to him, so it wasn’t easy to use him.
It was a pity that the last person Wei Mao wanted to see right now was Tuoba Xianhan, and Wei Chongrong could only leave him in Yujing to help him keep an eye on other matters.
The master and servant waited on the top of the mountain for a while, and a grey pigeon flew over from afar and landed accurately on Wei Chongrong’s shoulder. Wei Chongrong grabbed the pigeon, took off the note tied to the pigeon’s leg, unrolled it and read it quickly, with an expression of “sure enough” on his face.
“Little Dongzi, I guessed it right, Third Brother didn’t go to Nanyue, he went to Zhuxia.” Wei Chongrong jumped off the stone.
Dongfang jumped down and retorted weakly: “Master Shizi, I have said many times, Dongfang is my surname, not my first name.”
Wei Chongrong wasn’t impressed, raised his eyebrows and smiled, “But you have never told me what your first name is.”
Dongfang immediately shut his mouth and stopped discussing this topic with Wei Chongrong. Compared to his awful name, Little Dongzi was nothing.
Before the Shenchuan Dynasty, only the northern twenty-five counties of Yizhou belonged to the Central Plains; the southern twenty-four counties had been snatched from indigenous people by the heavenly and gifted Emperor Shenwu and remained this way until the end of the Yuanzheng Dynasty, when the Zhengao people came to rule.
At the end of the Yuanzheng Dynasty, the world was in chaos, and Zhuxia, located in the southwest, took advantage of the opportunity to send troops and invaded fourteen counties in the southwest of Yizhou.
For a long time, the main enemies of the Great Yan were the Tiele people who crossed the desert and repeatedly violated the northern border. The Great Yan was really unable to take care of the loss of land in the south. In the early days of the previous emperor’s reign, Zhuxia crossed the border twice. When the imperial court was unable to send reinforcements, Hou Zhennan Shangguan Yi not only defended Yizhou, but also forcibly snatched back six counties. Honghe County was one of them. Zhuxia saw the Great Yan’s national strength and no longer dared to act rashly, so the border remained peaceful for decades.
After Wei Ming ascended to the throne, he changed the late emperor’s aggressive and expansionist approach to the route of lighter taxation and rest for the people.
After all, the late emperor had been fighting in the north and south for decades, and the results of the war were certainly fruitful. A lot of lost land for the Great Yan was regained and Lingzhou was created. At the same time, the late emperor also emptied the treasury accumulated by several generations of emperors. If Wei Ming didn’t change the late emperor’s policy, he would definitely be seeking his own death.
In the year when the late emperor died, Zhuxia invaded Yi’an County of Yizhou, and Wei Ming sent Wang Changning Ji Xin to the south to defend against the enemy. After successfully neutralising Zhuxia’s attack, Ji Xin stayed in Yizhou, and although the king of Zhuxia wanted to regain the six counties he had lost, he never found a suitable opportunity to do so.
In the 1st year of Tai’an, Hou Zhaoyang Jun Qing took his seven-year-old eldest son Jun Hua and his second son Ji Hui, who had just turned one year old, to Yi’an County to reunite the family.
For six full years after that, Wei Chongrong and Jun Hua hadn’t met, relying only on a few letters a year to keep in touch. Looking for Wei Mao this time, Wei Chongrong also thought that if he went to Yi’an County, he would have a chance to meet Jun Hua. Who knew that Wei Mao would go to Honghe County.
Due to the special geographical location of Honghe County, the situation was very complicated, and Wei Chongrong had a very bad feeling when he received the news. However, Wei Mao seemed to be born to make his life difficult; he didn’t stop when he arrived in Honghe County. Instead, he left Dongshan Town and went directly to Zhuxia.
“Master Shizi, are we going to just chase after him like this?” Back in town, they bought some Zhuxia clothes.
Wei Chongrong looked at the colourful clothes and jingling jewellery in a very unpleasant mood and said grumpily: “What else? Do you want me to fight my way there with a thousand soldiers?” He didn’t mind, but on the side of Uncle Emperor it would be impossible to send troops to him.
Seeing that Wei Chongrong misunderstood what he meant, Dongfang hurriedly explained: “Master Shizi, that’s not what I wanted to say. I mean, have you ever considered that the Third… Young Master, he didn’t go to Zhuxia voluntarily but…” He was tricked into going, or simply taken captive.
Wei Chongrong sighed and said with emotion: “Of course I have thought about it. But no matter what the situation is, we must conceal our identities and enter Zhuxia to quietly inquire about the whereabouts of the Third Brother. Also, if you remember that Third Brother is the Third Prince, why don’t you remember that I am the Fourth Prince?”
Initially, Wei Chongrong had concluded that Wei Mao had gone to Zhuxia because he knew his character. Wei Mao had a strong rebellious mentality; the more you didn’t let him do something, the more he wanted to do it, and as long as his temper rose, he wouldn’t listen to anyone’s words.
But then Wei Chongrong thought about it and felt that something was not right. Wei Mao’s skills were far inferior to his, and it was a very serious practical question of what to do to protect oneself after leaving the Great Yan’s territory. If Wei Mao went to Nanyue, he would have his elder sister to protect him, so his safety would be guaranteed. But if he went to Zhuxia, once his identity was discovered, the consequences would be unthinkable. Wei Chongrong didn’t think that Wei Mao could be so capricious as to do that; even if he was rebellious, he wouldn’t play with his own life.
Therefore, when Wei Chongrong received the pigeon letter, he had already envisaged the worst case scenario, namely that Wei Mao’s actions might not be voluntary. Yet no matter what, the orders given to him by his uncle emperor were to find Wei Mao, and there was no way he was going to stop halfway.
Seven days later, the capital of Zhuxia, Yisha City
Yisha was located in the south, with all its four seasons being like spring. Even in late autumn, the entire city was bathed in the warm sunlight.
Following Wei Chongrong, Dongfang turned from the main street into a small alley and walked for a while before coming to a quiet mansion.
Seeing Wei Chongrong stop in front of the house, Dongfang hurriedly stepped forward to knock on the door, but no one answered for a long time. He wondered if they had gone to the wrong place, turned his head and glanced at Wei Chongrong, but saw him nod slightly, so he knocked on the door harder.
After a long time, the door finally opened with a squeak, and a charming middle-aged woman stood behind it, chuckling softly, “I’d say, young gentlemen, our Hundred Flowers Garden is always open at night to welcome guests. Aren’t you in too much of a hurry to come here early in the morning?”
Dongfang’s face was puzzled; he didn’t know what she was talking about at all until he smelled the rich smell of fat powder coming from the house and then thought of the sentence “open at night to welcome guests”. His face and ears went red with a sudden realisation that made him speechless.
Wei Chongrong stepped forward, took out a red incense sachet from his sleeve and handed it over, saying quietly: “Please give it to Madam Lingxiao and tell her that an old friend is visiting.” The woman took the sachet and looked at it closely. After telling them to wait a moment, she went inside and closed the door.
Dongfang turned and looked at Wei Chongrong. His whole person didn’t feel good. He had never thought that Master Shizi was such a guy. Of course Wei Chongrong saw Dongfang’s contemptuous gaze, but he couldn’t explain anything right now, so he could only give him a fierce glare.
Dongfang lowered his head, thinking in his heart that he didn’t want to be associated with Master Shizi.
Not long after, the door opened again, and the same woman as before, but with a much more polite face, said to Wei Chongrong with a pleasant smile, “Please come inside, Madam asks you to wait in the Qiushui Courtyard.” After saying this, she led the way ahead.
All the way to the Qiushui Courtyard, the entire Hundred Flowers Garden seemed to be very quiet, with only a few servants entering Dongfang’s line of sight.
When they arrived at the Qiushui Courtyard, the woman who led the way asked the servants to extinguish the burning incense, served them a pot of tea and excused herself.
Dongfang, who never drank tea, held a teacup in his hand and spun it around, but not a drop of tea fell out of it. He knew it was inappropriate to say much here, but he was really curious and couldn’t hold back, so he asked Wei Chongrong with his eyes if there were any of their people here.
Wei Chongrong was sitting upright, holding a cup of tea and tasting it slowly. When he saw Dongfang frowning, he smiled and asked, “Little Dongzi, have you got sand in your eyes?” Dongfang was so angry that he couldn’t speak, so he didn’t even remind Wei Chongrong that his name wasn’t Little Dongzi.
When Wei Chongrong started drinking the second cup of tea, Madam Lingxiao finally arrived. She smiled without saying a word and apologised: “I’m really sorry to keep you two waiting for a long time.” Madam Lingxiao looked very young, in her early twenties, and had a sweet smile.
Dongfang looked a little dumbfounded. It wasn’t that he had never seen a beautiful woman, but the temperament of this Madam Lingxiao was completely different from that of a woman of a certain profession. Then he felt a tap on his right shoulder, and Wei Chongrong said to him, “Little Dongzi, keep watch outside.”
Dongfang nodded and got up to do as he was told. The conversation between Wei Chongrong and Madam Lingxiao didn’t take a long time. Before Dongfang could figure out the relationship between the Hundred Flower Garden and the Great Yan, Madam Lingxiao came out and motioned for him to go in. Wei Chongrong was waiting for him inside.
“Master Shizi, where are we going next?” Since he knew that Wei Chongrong was here on business, Dongfang’s perception of him improved.
Wei Chongrong stood up lazily, walked to the couch by the window and lay down, saying comfortably: “Sleep and wait until it gets dark.”
Dongfang slid over, lay down on the edge of the couch and used the voice transmission technique to ask: “Is anyone coming at night?”
Wei Chongrong also used the voice transmission technique: “In the evening there is the Flower Empress Banquet, the annual banquet to introduce the Hundred Flower Garden’s courtesans.” Seeing Dongfang’s expression sink and contempt reappearing in his eyes, he continued: “Many of Zhuxia’s nobles will be here, including their Second Prince Tuduo.”
“Tuduo? What a strange name, like a woman’s(1).” Unlike Nanyue, Zhuxia had little dealings with the Great Yan and Dongfang had been on missions in the north before, so he knew very little about the south. Wei Chongrong also apparently thought that silence was golden, which confused Dongfang even more.
Wei Chongrong closed his eyes to rest and said seemingly inadvertently: “Little Dongzi, don’t blame me for not warning you. Don’t say this sentence in front of Tuduo. He hates people saying that he looks like a woman the most. The face of a beauty, the heart of a snake, it is about people like Tuduo.”
Wasn’t it too coincidental? Dongfang was quite taken aback; he clearly said that Tuduo’s name sounded like a woman’s, but Master Shizi told him that the Second Prince also looked like a woman, which was really weird. Fortunately, Dongfang was not interested in women, and he was not interested in men who looked like women.
Hearing no sound from Wei Chongrong, Dongfang thought he had fallen asleep and sat cross-legged on the floor, intending to practise for a while. Who knew that Wei Chongrong would whisper faintly, “Little Dongzi, I find that you seem to care a lot about the purpose of my visit to Hundred Flowers Garden. Are you secretly in love with me?”
The blow came so suddenly that Dongfang almost reeled and it took him a while to calm down. The culprit, Master Shizi, had really fallen asleep. Staring deadpan at Wei Chongrong’s good-looking profile, Dongfang added in his heart: I’m not interested in men who look like men either.
When Wei Chongrong woke up, it was already sunset. As soon as he opened his eyes, he saw Dongfang coming in with a tray in his hands. Wei Chongrong tidied up his clothes, had dinner with Dongfang, and then left the Qiushui Courtyard to see the courtesan banquet.
There were ten new courtesans introduced, each with their own distinctive features.
At first, Wei Chongrong’s interest wasn’t on them at all; he was more concerned about the bidders, finding Tuduo among them.
Before the auction began, the candidates had to show their talents on stage, some playing qin, some singing, and some dancing…
Although the beauties were all wearing veils, their sweet singing and graceful dancing were mesmerising.
Just as Wei Chongrong was thinking about how to approach Tuduo, he heard a melodious sound of flute and immediately turned his head to look at the stage.
Just after one look, his eyes changed and became extremely fierce, causing Dongfang beside him to shiver with fright.
In Dongfang’s impression, Wei Chongrong was a very good-tempered person. Although he liked to tease people sometimes, he rarely got really angry. Even if some of his subordinates made a mistake, he would punish them clearly and would never take out his anger on someone on a whim.
However, at this moment, Dongfang could feel that Wei Chongrong was extremely angry. Although his expression seemed to be no different from usual, there was an obvious outrage burning in his eyes that he was almost unable to suppress.
The only thing that made Dongfang feel lucky was that Wei Chongrong didn’t show a trace of murderous intent; he was simply angry.
- Seeking flowers