Looking at Wei Chongrong’s deep, quiet eyes, Jun Hua’s uneasy mood calmed down a little bit. He took a deep breath and said slowly: “Brother Rong, not long after you left, the monkey fishing for the moon that Guo’er wanted to see started. The children present seemed to like this show very much. They all squeezed forward. When Guo’er saw it, he had to follow. I was afraid that he would get lost, so I held his hand tightly, but… But when I squeezed to the front, I realised that it was not Guo’er’s hand that I was holding but a little child whom I didn’t know.”
Wei Chongrong thought for a while, and hurriedly asked, “Who is that little child? Is his family nearby?”
Jun Hua hurriedly replied: “Yes, it was right next to us, but Guo’er was not there. There were too many people around, he couldn’t go far. Could it be…” Jun Hua couldn’t find Guo’er, and he was afraid that someone with an ulterior motive had done something he didn’t dare think about, so he rushed to Wei Chongrong.
Wei Chongrong frowned slightly, blew a whistle and summoned Dongfang, who was wandering nearby. He asked Dongfang to inform Lu Ming and immediately block the city gates. If Guo’er was really abducted, he had to give the other party no chance to take the child out of the city.
Dongfang took the order and went away; Wei Chongrong said to Jun Hua: “Little Monkey, let’s go in and have a look.”
Jun Hua blinked in confusion: “You mean Guo’er is still in there?” He had already looked for him just now, and no one had seen Guo’er.
“Closing the city gates is just in case, my intuition tells me that Guo’er is still inside.” Wei Chongrong said with certainty.
“Why?” Jun Hua was dubious, “Brother Rong, is your intuition accurate?”
Wei Chongrong smiled but said nothing, holding Jun Hua’s hand and returning to the circus venue. Jun Hua’s palms were sweaty from nervousness. Wei Chongrong glanced around and walked backstage with Jun Hua.
There were many cages, large and small, behind the stage, holding all kinds of birds and beasts used for the show. Wei Chongrong listened and walked straight to the corner. Jun Hua didn’t know why he did that, so he followed him every step of the way. After a few steps, he heard the sound of the monkey squeaking.
When he took a closer look, there was a small figure squatting in front of the cage containing the monkey. Who was it if it wasn’t Guo’er?
The little guy was squinting at the monkeys jumping up and down in the cage, not knowing that he had been discovered.
Wei Chongrong walked over lightly, grabbed Guo’er’s by the collar and picked him up. Guo’er shook in fright, looked back and saw that it was Wei Chongrong, and immediately begged for mercy with a pitiful face: “Uncle, Uncle, I know I was wrong, don’t tell Daddy, okay?”
Seeing that Guo’er was safe and sound, Jun Hua’s nerves that had been tense for a long time began to relax, and he didn’t even have the strength to be angry.
“Not okay!” Wei Chongrong shook his head with a solemn expression. It was necessary for a disobedient child to be taught a lesson.
Guo’er still didn’t give up and begged in a small voice: “Uncle, I won’t dare do it again, just let me go. If Daddy knows, he will beat my ass. Uncle, I know you are the best, please help me.”
Wei Chongrong remained unmoved and said calmly: “Little Guo’er, I’m sorry, you’re too late.”
Guo’er didn’t understand what Wei Chongrong meant, and seeing that he was not at all as nice as Jun Hua, he ignored him and stretched out his hands towards Jun Hua, “Brother Hua, hug.” He had a lovely jade and snow look and spoke in a soft and sticky tone that was hard to resist.
Jun Hua had previously sided with Wei Chongrong, thinking that Guo’er was too naughty and should be taught a lesson, but when he saw his pitiful little appearance, his heart softened again, and while picking him up, he tentatively started, “Brother Rong, how about…”
Wei Chongrong knew what Jun Hua was going to say and reminded him, “The city gates are blocked, can Hou Dingyuan still not know?”
Jun Hua could only give Guo’er a sympathetic glance, stroking his soft golden hair, “It’s not that I don’t want to save you, there’s really nothing I can do.”
The soldiers guarding Haila City were probably the most baffled people today, first receiving orders to block the gates and strictly check anyone leaving the city with children. They didn’t know what was going on, they just did what they were ordered to do, and unfortunately it was a market day and there were a lot of people coming in and out of the city, which caused a lot of discontent among the people. What was even more puzzling was that before they could meet anyone with children who wanted to leave the city, a new order came that the gates didn’t need to be blocked and that everything could continue as usual. So confusing!
After causing such serious consequences, as the culprit of the whole thing, as soon as Guo’er returned home, he was taught a severe lesson by Sanal. First, his ass was spanked so hard that he couldn’t sit down, and then he was grounded for three months, having to stay in the house every day to draw large characters.
Jun Hua was speechless when he heard the news. ”Aunt” was really fierce, even more fierce than his daddy. When he was a child, he loved to get into trouble, but his daddy never punished him much. If he really had to be punished, it was also very gentle, and he wouldn’t be as miserable as Guo’er.
Wei Chongrong heard Jun Hua’s muttering and secretly groaned in his heart: it’s not that Hou Zhaoyang didn’t want to punish you, it’s because you were protected by Wang Changning. And at times when he couldn’t fully protect you and you were really punished, when didn’t I help you complete your homework?
Jun Hua also asked Wei Chongrong how he could guess that Guo’er went backstage instead of somewhere else.
Wei Chongrong smiled without saying a word, insisting that it was intuition. He thought Jun Hua might have forgotten that he had done the same thing when he was a child and he was inspired by this memory to guess where Guo’er was.
Wei Chongrong and Jun Hua stayed in Haila City for two days, and then returned to the Wusu Steppes to hunt. The two of them gained a lot from this trip. Jun Hua sent all the prey he caught to Guo’er to express his sympathy for him, and then followed Wei Chongrong back to Qingjia.
Qingjia was the provincial capital of Lingzhou, and the original royal palace had been converted into the official residence of the General Governor. In terms of rank, the provincial governors and the general governors were all of the same third rank, but in the border provinces, the influence of the general governors usually exceeded that of the provincial governors, because the enemy was too close.
The current General Governor of Lingzhou was Huo Qingyang, and Wei Chongrong was a lieutenant-general under his command. But Huo Qingyang returned to Yujing a year ago, and all the troops of Lingzhou were under Wei Chongrong’s command. No one dared to really regard Qin Wang’s Shizi as an ordinary lieutenant-general.
Jun Hua heard that this was the place where Wei Chongrong lived as a child, so he was particularly interested and dragged him around. While accompanying him, Wei Chongrong introduced him to where he had been hit by Xianhan’s slingshot and where he had been frightened by Pei Di with a vicious dog…
Jun Hua was surprised when he heard it: “Brother Rong, you have such a good memory. You still remember things from when you were three or four years old.”
Wei Chongrong was speechless. This was not the point, okay? He obviously wanted to show his “mighty and indomitable” spirit, but Jun Hua didn’t realise it at all. It was a waste of his efforts.
The tenth day of the seventh month was Wei Ming’s birthday. Because Tuoba Xianhan was about to return to Yujing to marry Huo Yingying, Wei Chongrong specially asked him to take a lot of specialty products to the capital. For the Great Yan’s emperor’s birthday, gifts had to be given by each member of the imperial family. Although Wei Chongrong’s share would definitely be prepared by Wei Zhao, Lingzhou’s ginseng, deer antlers and other things were famous all over the country, so how could he not show his heart by sending some?
It was the Qixi Festival a few days after Tuoba Xianhan left. The naturalised Fuyu people originally didn’t have this festival, but the Han people who moved from Guanzhou celebrated it. After a few years of assimilation, it became a joint celebration. As they say, enjoying the music alone is not as good as enjoying the music with everyone.
Jun Hua was also full of expectations for the Qixi Festival. He had thought about going out to see the lanterns with Wei Chongrong at night. Unexpectedly, when he got up in the morning, he didn’t see Wei Chongrong. When he asked the servants, they all said that Master Shizi went out before dawn, and no one knew where he had gone.
Jun Hua suddenly felt dejected. It was the Qixi Festival, what could it mean? A few days ago, Wei Chongrong said that he needed time to figure the things out and treated him as usual since then. Jun Hua thought he would soon figure it out, but it turned out Wei Chongrong was just too embarrassed to reject him.
After having breakfast alone, Jun Hua went back to his room listlessly and was about to catch up on some sleep, when he suddenly found that there was an exquisite mask next to his pillow. The style was very special and the workmanship was also very fine. It was not something you could buy for ten coins on the street.
He picked up the mask curiously and found a piece of paper pressed under it, with two columns of big, flying characters, “The moon is on the tip of the willow, and the people meet after dusk.”(1) That was Wei Chongrong’s handwriting that could hardly be imitated by anyone else.
Jun Hua raised his hand and rubbed his eyes. He couldn’t believe what he saw. He looked at it several times before he dared to confirm that it was not that he had read it wrong, but that Wei Chongrong really gave him this mask and asked him to watch the lanterns together at night.
After a long time, Jun Hua picked up the mask, clutched it tightly to his chest, and suddenly smiled, as bright as a star.
For a whole day, he didn’t know how time passed and he didn’t remember what he had done. It seemed that he had just gotten the mask in the morning, but in the blink of an eye, the sky outside gradually became dark.
It turned out to be so easy to wait until the evening; Jun Hua ate just a few bites during the dinner and then went out with the mask made by Wei Chongrong himself.
Seeing his hurried back, Dongfang couldn’t help but smile secretly. Young Shizi was really defenceless when he fell into the hands of his Master Shizi.
Because it was the Qixi Festival, lanterns were hung everywhere in Qingjia City, and hawkers were yelling on both sides of the street to sell qiaoguo and colourful masks. Jun Hua glanced at them, feeling that no one’s mask was as good as his own, and the smile on his lips became brighter.
The street was full of people, all wearing masks, some made by themselves and some bought on the street.
Jun Hua put on his mask and walked in the lively crowd with a slight sense of anticipation. He had a hunch that he would meet Wei Chongrong at the most unexpected time and he hoped that he would not be overwhelmed by surprise, otherwise he would be laughed at for the rest of his life.
Jun Hua walked very slowly. As he walked, he looked at everyone who passed by. The long street was about to come to an end, but he still didn’t see Wei Chongrong.
Just as Jun Hua hesitated which way to turn, someone patted him on the shoulder from behind.
Jun Hua stood still, but didn’t turn around. He heard his heart thumping wildly, completely chaotic.
Seeing that Jun Hua didn’t move, the man felt a little helpless, held Jun Hua’s shoulders and turned him around.
“Brother Rong?!” The moment he was turned around, Jun Hua closed his eyes in fright, before slowly opening them.
- A line from a poem by Ouyang Xiu, used to express the desire to go on a date, particularly to watch the lanterns together