Before dark, Wei Chongrong and his party arrived at Haila City, the county centre of Wusu County.
Since Wei Chongrong sent a letter to Lu Ming with an eagle in advance, Lu Ming specially brought his men out of the city to greet them.
Seeing Jun Hua, Lu Ming was very happy. He kept praising that Jun Hua had grown tall and well-behaved, and said that he looked so good that no matter how long he hadn’t seen him, he would recognise him; besides, Jun Hua was clearly the spitting image of Jun Qing and bore no resemblance to Ji Xin.
Wei Chongrong sweatdropped. Why didn’t he think Jun Hua was well-behaved? If he was really well-behaved, he wouldn’t be driven to Youzhou by Jun Qing to find him because of taking Suyun Pill. As for Jun Hua’s looks, Wang Changning probably would be heartbroken if he heard what Lu Ming said.
Unexpectedly, Jun Hua looked quite smug. He said that compared to him, Little Tiger gathered all the advantages of his two parents, unlike him, who had picked up all the advantages and disadvantages of his daddy. However, his father and his daddy clearly loved him more, so there were still benefits to looking like Daddy.
Wei Chongrong was even more speechless. Were Hou Zhaoyang and Wang Changning the kind of people who would be biassed because of their children’s looks? The reason they favoured Jun Hua was obviously because he was too jittery and not as calm and understanding as Ji Hui, who was very reassuring.
Lu Ming laughed loudly when he heard these words and couldn’t bear to let go of Jun Hua in his arms. There was obvious joy in his blue-grey eyes.
After Jun Hua briefly explained the situation in his family, he asked, “Uncle Lu, where is Aunt Lu? Where’s my younger brother? Where are they?”
“They are all waiting at home, let’s go, let’s go to the city.” Lu Ming hurriedly welcomed them. Most of the troops stationed in Youzhou camped outside Haila City, but Lu Ming, as the chief commander and a family man, naturally had a house in the city.
Jun Hua nodded with a smile and turned to look at Wei Chongrong: “Brother Rong, let’s go quickly.” He swung his whip.
Hella City was a new city that only started being built a few years ago. Although it was a county centre, the size of the city was not as big as many county towns in Guanzhou.
In the early years, the Wusu Steppes were the territory of the Fuyu people, but later they were taken by the Tiele people. Tiele was a purely nomadic people. Fuyu was mainly fishing and hunting, but also nomadic and farming. When the Wusu Steppes fell into their hands, they only needed to live by the water, and there was no need to build a city.
After Wei Zhao had recovered Youzhou, on the one hand, Wei Su allowed the surrendered Tiele people and Fuyu people to get assimilated, and on the other hand, he moved a lot of people from Guanzhou. Only when people’s hearts and minds truly surrendered, the two places of the Great Yan, Youzhou and Lingzhou, could be regarded as completely stable.
Needless to say, Lingzhou had the fertile Songhe Plain and Alihe Plain, which were the most suitable for farming. Youzhou was bounded by the Arslan Mountains, and Hecheng County and Baihe County to the east were located in the Baihe Plain, which was also a good place for farming. Most of the people who moved from Guanzhou were concentrated in the Sanhe Plain. As for the vast Wusu Steppes, except for the Tiele and Fuyu people who submitted, there were only a small number of Gaoche people who used to be caught in the gap and struggled to survive.
Someone once suggested to the late emperor that it was better to forcibly relocate people to Wusu County, otherwise the vast grasslands would be full of foreigners and too unsafe. If one was not careful, they might rebel.
But Wei Zhao dissuaded Wei Su. He said that this was not necessary; not to mention whether the Han people were willing to leave their fields to graze on the grasslands, even if they were willing, once the Great Yan’s national strength declined, the Han people who had adapted to nomadic life would also turn against the Great Yan, like other ethnic groups living on the grasslands. Since the Hu people had already submitted, they were now the Great Yan’s people, so why bother to forcibly relocate someone, causing grievances and public discontent.
It was precisely because there were few Han people on the grasslands that Wei Zhao wanted Lu Ming to station his troops here, not only to act as a warning, but also to train the best cavalry for the Great Yan in case of future needs.
At the same time, Wei Zhao also persuaded Wei Su to build the city of Haila at the foot of the Arslan Mountains on the edge of the Wusu Steppes for all kinds of trade, thus firmly controlling the lifeline of Wusu County.
Haila City was not big, and they reached Lu Ming’s house in just a stick of incense.
As soon as he walked in, Jun Hua curiously went to find his aunt and brother, full of expectations that he would meet a gentle and beautiful young woman and a cute boy not much younger than his Little Tiger.
“Are you Young Shizi of Hou Zhaoyang? So beautiful! I am becoming more and more interested in Hou Zhaoyang!” These somewhat oddly accented Han words came from a very handsome young man who didn’t look gentle at all.
Jun Hua was stunned. Who was this man? What did his good looks have to do with this man’s interest in his daddy, and who wanted him to be interested in his daddy? If his father heard these words, he would definitely not be happy.
When Lu Ming heard the man’s words, he frowned, walked quickly to his side and said quietly, “Sanal, don’t talk nonsense!”
Sanal was unfazed and argued: “Where do I talk nonsense? Young Shizi is really beautiful. You said that he and Hou Zhaoyang look very similar. It’s not surprising that I will be curious. Everyone has beauty in his heart.”
Wei Chongrong wanted to remind Sanal that “everyone has beauty in his heart” didn’t mean that(1), but on second thought, he didn’t think it was necessary, so he lowered his voice and told Jun Hua, “This is the ‘aunt’ you wanted to meet, and also my cousin.”(2)
“What do you mean?!” Jun Hua was even more baffled. He understood the relationship between Lu Ming and Sanal after watching for a while, but Brother Rong’s cousin, how could that be?
Wei Chongrong spread out his hands and put on a very helpless expression: “This is a long story, do you want to hear it?”
“Yes, yes.” Jun Hua nodded repeatedly; he liked to hear people tell stories the most.
Wei Chongrong had no choice, so he could only make a long story short, and start from the beginning: “At the beginning, in order to cooperate with Wusun and attack Tiele, the late emperor once married Princess Gaochang to Wusun Kunmo Liejiaomi(3). Later, Liejiaomi died, and Princess Gaochang married his son Yizhimi according to the custom of the Wusun people. Later, the late emperor removed the government of the Western Regions and established Hanzhou, which aroused Wusun’s dissatisfaction, but relying on Wusun’s national strength alone, they would definitely not be able to fight the Great Yan. It happened that at that time Tiele Khan Vaziri, who had been defeated in the north of the desert, was discontented and joined hands with Yizhimi to attack Hanzhou. The two countries formed an alliance, and as a proof of their alliance, they sent hostages to each other. The one Vaziri sent to Wusun was a son of an unpopular concubine, while Yizhimi sent his half-brother Sanal to Tiele.”
Jun Hua suddenly realised: “Sanal is the son of Princess Gaochang and the previous Wusun Kunmo?”
“Yes.” When it came to peace token princesses, Wei Chongrong sighed. In the face of national interests, their happiness and even their lives were not important at all. “The year after my cousin arrived in Tiele, Princess Gaochang died and he never returned to Wusun from then on.”
Wei Chongrong didn’t say anything about what happened next, but Jun Hua could almost guess. Within a few years of Sanal staying in Tiele, Tiele was completely defeated by Ji Xin and Lu Ming. He was the great-nephew of the late emperor and had nothing to do with Tiele. It was only natural that he surrendered to the Great Yan.
While Wei Chongrong explained Sanal’s identity to Jun Hua, the exchange between Lu Ming and Sanal also came to an end, and the two seemed to have reached a consensus.
Sanal retreated after speaking to Lu Ming, waving to Jun Hua before leaving. After a while, he came back from the backyard, holding a little boy in his arms, pink and white, looking four or five years old, blond, blue-eyed and innocent-looking.
When Jun Hua saw the little boy, his whole body froze. His first reaction after he came round was to rush over and ask in a flurry: “Little guy, what’s your name? How old are you this year?”
“My name is Guo’er and I am five years old this year.” The little boy replied in a milky voice, speaking much better Han than Sanal.
Sanal had half of the Wusun blood and half of the Han blood, and Lu Ming’s blood was too complicated to describe.
Lu Ming’s father, Lu Ziqian, was originally a slave of the Tiele people. He couldn’t even tell which ethnic group he belonged to. He could only rule out the possibility that he was a Han because of his appearance. In the 18th year of Yongjia, the sixteen-year-old Jun Lin went on his first expedition with Wang Changning Ji Qing. He went thousands of li behind the enemy lines, killed countless enemies and captured a number of them. Lu Ziqian was one of them, but he wasn’t called that name at the time. Later, Jun Lin learned that Lu Ziqian was a slave, not a Tiele, and saw that he was proficient in archery and horse riding, so he took him to his side.
No one remembered Lu Ziqian’s original name. His name was changed by Jun Lin. The reason why he was surnamed Lu was because his original name meant Deer in the Tiele language. For the next seven years, Lu Ziqian followed Jun Lin to the north and south, and made countless achievements.
Lu Ming’s mother was born to a Central Plains merchant who travelled to the Western Regions and married a woman from Loulan, and the only quarter of his Han ancestry came from there. In the 33rd year of Yongjia, Lu Ziqian suppressed the rebellion in the Western Regions, captured the king of Loulan, defeated Jishi and Jingjue, and was named Hou Dingyuan.
Jun Hua hugged the little Guo’er and couldn’t bear to let him go. Fortunately, the child also liked him very much, answered all his questions and kissed him warmly. Dinner time was spent by the two of them entangled and unwilling to let go.
The guest rooms arranged by Sanal for Wei Chongrong and Jun Hua were next to each other, but Jun Hua didn’t go into his room and followed Wei Chongrong directly to his room.
When they were outside before, Wei Chongrong had some things to say, so he closed the door and said, “Little Monkey, last night there was no extra tent, so we had to make do. You’re not going to squeeze into a bed with me tonight, are you?”
Jun Hua shook his head gently, “Brother Rong, I’m not going to eat you, don’t keep rejecting me, all right?”
“Do you like Guo’er a lot?” Wei Chongrong didn’t want to discuss this issue with Jun Hua, so he changed the subject.
“En en.” Jun Hua hurriedly nodded, “Guo’er is especially cute, with cute looks and an even cuter character. Unlike Little Tiger, who is as stable as a little old man and not at all interesting.”
Wei Chongrong raised his eyebrows and said with a smile: “That’s what they call ‘Similar things group together, similar people fit together’.”
“Really?” Jun Hua smiled brightly, not minding that Wei Chongrong put him and Guo’er into the same category, “Brother Rong, if we have a baby in the future, will it be as cute as Guo’er?”
Wei Chongrong didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry, and said after a long time: “Little Monkey, you think too far ahead!”
Seeing that Wei Chongrong had no intention of discussing this topic with him, Jun Hua blinked and asked, “Are there any interesting places in Haila City? Brother Rong, let’s go out for a stroll tomorrow and see if there’s anything we can buy.”
“Little Monkey, I think you’re probably going to be disappointed.” Wei Chongrong was not deliberately trying to discourage Jun Hua but telling him the truth, lest his hopes be too high and his disappointment even higher. “You also saw it when we entered the city today. Haila City is not big, it is far worse than Yao’an, not to mention Yujing. I guess there is hardly anything in the market, but if you want to see the customs of the northern frontier, I can accompany you around.”
As long as Wei Chongrong was willing to accompany him, Jun Hua didn’t care what he was doing. He had been tossing on horseback for a whole day today and he had been tired a long time ago. If it weren’t for Guo’er to accompany him to talk during dinner, he would have probably fallen asleep over the bowl. Right now he was so sleepy that he was unable to hold on.
Since Jun Hua hogged his bed in a big way, Wei Chongrong sat on the kang by the window, keeping a subtle distance between them.
When he didn’t hear Jun Hua’s voice for some time, Wei Chongrong thought he was dissatisfied with his arrangement, so he turned his head to look. He was stunned when he saw that Jun Hua was lying on his bed, still dressed and fast asleep.
How much energy Jun Hua had in the past, Wei Chongrong knew from an early age. Even when they rescued Wei Mao two years ago, he had never heard Jun Hua complain in pain or fatigue, always in good spirits.
Today they had just ridden for a little longer, and he saw Jun Hua start to doze off while eating. It was obviously a lack of energy, and Wei Chongrong couldn’t help feeling a little distressed. Suyun Pill really had a great impact on the human body.
It was obviously impossible to say that Wei Chongrong was not moved by what Jun Hua had done, but he really couldn’t tell what his feelings for Jun Hua were. He even recalled the feelings he once had for Wei Yang, but was surprised to find that the two were very different.
For Wei Yang, his mentality was to sacrifice, sacrifice, a moth to the flame, dying nine deaths without regret…
As long as Wei Yang was happy, he could do anything for him, but he never thought about asking him for something in return.
For Jun Hua, his mood was to owe, to compensate, to take good care of, to dote on…
As long as Jun Hua was happy, he would also do anything for him, and he hoped that those unpleasant things that had happened to him in the previous life would never happen.
However, when Jun Hua wanted his feelings and his love, he hesitated. He was afraid that he could not afford it, and he was afraid of hurting Jun Hua.
Wei Chongrong walked gently to the side of the bed, took the quilt and covered Jun Hua. Jun Hua rolled over and muttered something. Wei Chongrong thought he was about to wake up and was so scared that he didn’t dare to move. As a result, Jun Hua didn’t wake up, hugged the quilt and continued to sleep.
Wei Chongrong took a long breath, crept out of the room, and went to the room Sanal had prepared for Jun Hua next door.
That night, Wei Chongrong had a dream. He dreamed of his previous life.
At that time, Wei Yang had some evidence against the Shangguan family in his hands. It was a pity that Jiang Che and Gu Yu remained neutral and neither would interfere. Shangguan Xuan controlled the court for many years and if someone other than them came forward to impeach him, it would be of no use at all.
Wei Yang knew that Jiang Che had always regarded Wei Chongrong differently, so he asked him to persuade him. Although Wei Chongrong was not sure, he still agreed to give it a try for Wei Yang’s sake. When Jun Hua learned of this, he advised him not to go and just say that Wang Yong’an didn’t agree.
Wei Chongrong didn’t listen to him. Although he also felt that it was unlikely that Jiang Che would help, he couldn’t give up without trying.
Jun Hua sneered: “How sure are you?”
Wei Chongrong said with a wry smile: “Less than ten percent.” Shangguan Xuan was the head of the Central Secretariat, and Jiang Che had never fought with him.
“Then you’d better pray that this less than ten percent chance will not become a reality.”
“What do you mean by that? Hey, don’t go, make it clear!”
Jun Hua left after saying that sentence, without explanation, leaving the baffled Wei Chongrong behind. Later, he realised that Jun Hua’s words were right, and that was the beginning of Wei Yang’s murderous intent against him.
Wei Chongrong woke up in a cold sweat, and it took a while to understand when and where he was.
He couldn’t sleep anymore, and when he saw Qiming Star(4) hanging on the eastern horizon, he simply got up. Wei Chongrong went to Jun Hua’s room first. Jun Hua was still in the dreamland, curled in a ball on the bed with the quilt in his arms, not in a very graceful position.
Wei Chongrong sat sideways on the edge of the bed and watched Jun Hua’s quiet sleeping face. His uneasy heart gradually calmed down.
Not long after, Jun Hua woke up and opened his eyes to see Wei Chongrong’s face close at hand; he couldn’t help being taken aback.
“Brother Rong, why are you here?” Jun Hua asked suspiciously; could it be that they slept together again last night?
Wei Chongrong didn’t expect Jun Hua to wake up so early and was a little surprised. Then he said with an expressionless face: “Little Monkey, didn’t you want to go shopping? Why don’t you get up early, today the city market is a bit more lively than usual.”
- Sanal means it in the way “everyone cares for beauty” while it means that the beauty is in the heart of the person, not in the appearance
- Do you even need to say it, Rong’er? It’s not like we ever meet anyone who is not a cousin in this or that way 🙂 🙂
- Kunmo is a Wusun Khan, and Kunmo Liejiaomi is actually a historical/folklore figure who did have a Han princess as a wife, but the author likely just uses the name for the historical atmosphere. Princess Gaochang, if you remember, is the sister who once sent Wei Zhao two horses as a gift.