When Wei Chongrong read the letter, Jun Hua sat next to him, holding a newly compiled Lingzhou geographic atlas and looking through it with relish.
Don’t get him wrong, Jun Hua wasn’t going to study any mountain terrain, strategy or tactics. He just wanted to see what places in Lingzhou were more fun. When Wei Chongrong was free in the future, he would drag him around.
Unexpectedly, as soon as Wei Chongrong finished reading the letter, his whole face changed, becoming frightened and incredulous.
Based on Jun Hua’s understanding of Wei Chongrong, he knew that his character was always very calm. He would not be shocked if something happened and would not panic when he encountered danger.
Jun Hua put down the book in his hand and asked with concern: “Brother Rong, what happened? You seem to be worried.”
Jun Hua vaguely guessed whether something had happened to Wei Zhao, because Wei Chongrong didn’t seem to care about other people to such an extent. Only Wei Zhao’s importance in Wei Chongrong’s heart was so unique that no one could replace him.
Wei Chongrong sighed and didn’t speak for a long time. Then he slowly raised his head and stared at Jun Hua for a moment. Seeing his worried and puzzled expression, he handed over the note in his hand.
Jun Hua took the note and read the contents at a glance. He could not believe what he saw and opened his mouth several times, but didn’t know what to say, his face full of bewilderment and incomprehension.
The assassination attempt on the Crown Prince’s life was unbelievable, not to mention the fact that it happened at the emperor’s birthday banquet. The banquet was held in the Zhengyi Hall, which was the place where the small court sessions were usually held, and it was heavily guarded. How could the assassins get there?
Jun Hua’s heart turned a thousand times, and in just one instant, he envisioned several possibilities, and then he discarded them one by one.
The more he thought about it, the more he couldn’t figure it out, so he finally tentatively asked, “Brother Rong, how is this possible? Who didn’t want to live and dared to assassinate the Crown Prince at the emperor’s birthday banquet? It’s too arrogant and bold!”
Wei Chongrong had no more information than Jun Hua. The carrier pigeon could carry a limited weight and was easily intercepted. Wei Zhao only told him about this incident and didn’t tell him in detail what happened. Therefore, his thoughts were actually similar to Jun Hua.
To assassinate the Crown Prince, such a thing couldn’t be said to be impossible, but the place of the assassination attempt was the Zhengyi Hall. In addition to making people marvel at the boldness of the assassin, it couldn’t help but lead people to speculate whether the person behind the scenes had already found a good target to put the blame on, otherwise how would he dare to do such a thing?
Wei Xuan was the Crown Prince, and to assassinate him was a crime of regicide, and whether it succeeded or failed, it would involve all nine generations of the assassin with extremely tragic consequences.
After a long silence, Wei Chongrong sighed quietly: “Huaixi, I also think this is impossible, but it just happened.”
Some people could have bad intentions towards Wei Xuan; this matter was not incomprehensible. After all, there was only one position of the Crown Prince. As long as Wei Xuan occupied it, his younger brothers had no chance. Wei Lan and Wei Mao were also the sons of the emperor, so it was also possible for them to have crooked thoughts.
However, Wei Xuan was appointed the Crown Prince as the eldest son, which was more than justified. If he didn’t make any mistakes himself, neither Wei Lan nor Wei Mao would be able to pull him off the position of Crown Prince.
In the past few years, some people had been bringing up the issue of the Eastern Palace’s lack of sons in the court, but it hadn’t caused much of a ripple.
It was true that Wei Xuan had no sons, but he still had three daughters, which proved that the Crown Prince and his wife’s fertility was not a problem. Wei Xuan and Xie Xiang were still young; as long as they continued to have children, they would always be able to give birth to a son. This matter was not insurmountable.
The emperor had never upset the Crown Prince with this matter; even when the Eastern Palace refused to accept any concubines, he never said a word.
Wei Ming was a generous and benevolent emperor, and he also cared for his children a lot. Wei Xuan was his eldest son and was most valued by him. Since Wei Xuan was a child, he was trained according to the standards of being Wei Ming’s successor to the throne.
Wei Xuan’s temperament was the same as Wei Ming’s, he was also gentle and benevolent. In the context of the Great Yan’s current policy of rest and recuperation, it couldn’t be more suitable. The father and son were in harmony both in state affairs and family affairs and there were no irreconcilable contradictions.
Therefore, the relationship between the father and son was more intimate than that of Wei Su and Wei Ming in the past. In everyone’s opinion, it was a logical thing for the Crown Prince to ascend to the throne after Wei Ming and no changes would occur.
Not everyone was looking forward to a smooth transition of imperial power; at least Wei Lan was not. If something happened to Wei Xuan, Wei Lan would be the first candidate for the position of the Crown Prince if Wei Xuan didn’t have a son.
But it was precisely because of this that Wei Lan had to be more careful than anyone else if he wanted to attack the Crown Prince. Simply because his motives were more sufficient than those of anyone else, even if he didn’t do it, he was also the biggest suspect to be investigated first.
Wei Zhao gave too few clues; except for the time, place and the party concerned, he didn’t reveal anything. Therefore, Wei Chongrong and Jun Hua racked their minds but couldn’t come up with anything feasible and could just guess wildly.
Jun Hua really couldn’t figure it out, so he simply gave up and instead asked, “Brother Rong, what do we need to do now? Are you going to tell Lord Shangguan and Tanhua Gu about this?”
Wei Chongrong frowned in deep thought, his thick dark brows knitted together. Wei Zhao had specifically said that Wei Xuan’s condition was “critical”, so it was clear that the situation was very bleak and they had to be prepared for the worst.
After a moment of deliberation, Wei Chongrong mused, “Father used a private letter to tell me about this, so I don’t need to say anything to Lord Shangguan for now, I think he will know soon. The most important thing at the moment is to improve the combat readiness level of Lingzhou. In case there is unrest in the capital, the border is the most vulnerable to instability, especially in a new province like Lingzhou. We must be extremely careful.”
Jun Hua nodded in understanding; he already had a rough idea of what he was going to do. Even if he could not help Wei Chongrong, he would definitely not add to his troubles. Seeing that Wei Chongrong’s face still looked worried, he said, “There are some things that are not convenient to say in the letter, but Wang Qin will surely send someone over soon. Brother Rong, don’t worry, instead of thinking about it, you should wait for the news from Wang Qin.”
Wei Chongrong’s eyebrows were still knitted as he said anxiously, “I am worried about Crown Prince Brother’s injury, and I don’t know what happens if, if…” He couldn’t go on.
When Wei Chongrong first returned to Yujing, there were many people in the palace who didn’t like him. Never mind those who treated him coldly like the previous emperor, Wei Lan and Wei Mao, even the Empress Dowager and the current empress looked polite on the surface, but the only one they really accepted was Wei Zhao and they treated Wei Chongrong with nothing more than superficial friendliness.
Only Uncle Emperor and Princess Yuankang, as well as Wei Xuan and Wei Kou, sincerely accepted him.
Now, Wei Xuan, who had always treated him so well, was seriously injured, but Wei Chongrong didn’t know the specific situation. How could he not be anxious?
Jun Hua had heard Wei Chongrong talk about Wei Xuan’s kindness to him, and hurriedly comforted him: “Heaven helps the worthy people, His Imperial Highness Crown Prince will be safe.”
Wei Chongrong smiled, but there was no smile in his eyes: “Huaixi, I hope your good words will come true and Crown Prince Brother will be safe.”
Jun Hua nodded repeatedly and said in a very determined tone: “It will definitely be like this, Brother Rong, let’s not scare ourselves. Let’s do what we should do quickly and without delay.”
Wei Chongrong focused and said solemnly: “Huaixi, you are right. No matter what happens, what needs to be done must be done. I’ll go to the camp first, and I’ll trouble you to go to Xiao Gu and talk to him.” Jun Hua nodded, and the two went out separately.
Although Wei Chongrong had not asked anyone to tell Shangguan Yuan about the Crown Prince’s assassination, his niece, Shangguan Cha, was Wangfei Zhao, so he would not be slower than Wei Chongrong in getting news from the palace, and might even know more about it.
Wei Chongrong and Shangguan Yuan had a tacit understanding. They didn’t mention what happened in the palace, but everything they did was planned according to the worst result.
It was still unknown whether Wei Lan would benefit from the assassination of the Eastern Palace, but Shangguan Yuan was the governor of Lingzhou, and Wei Chongrong was the de facto top military officer. If something went wrong in Lingzhou during the critical period, the two of them would bear the brunt, and no one would escape responsibility.
After another two days, the people sent by Wei Zhao finally arrived in Qingjia. Judging from the speed of them, they should have been desperately rushing, changing horses along the way, otherwise it would be almost impossible to reach Qingjia from Yujing in just four days.
The leader was Huo Yingying. When she got down from the horse, her face was a little haggard and her hair looked messy. Fortunately, she looked in good spirits, worthy of having grown up on horseback since she was a child.
Although the few soldiers who followed her were all big, sturdy men, they were not in as good a shape as she was.
“Yingying, how come it’s you? Where’s Xianhan?” Wei Chongrong was shocked to see Huo Yingying; he had thought that Wei Zhao would send Tuoba Xianhan back to him, but unexpectedly Tuoba Xianhan didn’t come back and it was Huo Yingying who came.
Huo Yingying casually ran her hand through her messy hair and said, “Master Shizi, is there anything to eat? I’ve only had five dry steamed buns in four days and I’m already starving to death.”
Wei Chongrong was eager to ask about the situation but seeing Huo Yingying’s appearance, he couldn’t bear to treat her harshly, so he hurriedly got people to prepare food. Jun Hua didn’t need Huo Yingying to ask and brought her a large cup of hot water.
Huo Yingying took the cup and drank most of it in one gulp. Then she said, “Wang Qing left Xianhan in the capital. He said that there were some things he wanted him to do that I couldn’t do, so I was sent over to report the news.”
While they were greeting each other, Jun Hua sent out Huo Yingying’s soldiers and the servants in the house.
Seeing that everyone was gone, Wei Chongrong immediately asked, “How is the situation of the Crown Prince? Is the injury serious? Is his life in danger?”
Huo Yingying nodded, her face looking very solemn: “It’s not good, it’s very bad. At that time, the assassin was very close to His Highness and the attack was unexpected. The sharp hairpin directly hit His Highness’s vital point. What’s more terrible is that the hairpin was smeared with poison, and the imperial doctors were helpless and didn’t know what to do. Fortunately, Wang Lu’s Lord Consort was present. If he hadn’t taken action in time, His Highness would have lost his life at that moment. Even so, His Highness’s situation is grave. I heard Wang Lu’s Lord Consort tell Wang Qing that if His Highness were a martial arts practitioner and had deep internal strength to protect his body, he would be thirty percent sure to save his life but unfortunately…”
Jun Hua silently listened to Huo Yingying’s account of what happened at the emperor’s birthday banquet, but he was thinking in his heart, no matter how unexpected the attack was, if the Crown Prince had the skills of Wei Chongrong, he probably would not be assassinated at all.
But then he remembered what happened when Wei Chongrong was stabbed by Wei Mao. He couldn’t be so sure; the important thing was to look at the identity of the assassin.
Wei Chongrong listened to Huo Yingying’s words, and the more he thought about it, the more he felt that something was wrong. What did it mean “The assassin was very close to His Highness”? The guards in the palace were not for decoration, they were not ignorant or a waste, how could they let the assassin touch the Crown Prince?
He was about to open his mouth to express his doubts when there was a voice from outside. It turned out that the kitchen had prepared the food and delivered it. There were no servants in the room, so Jun Hua personally went to open the door and brought in four dishes and one soup.
“You can eat first, and answer my questions while eating,” Wei Chongrong hurriedly added, seeing Huo Yingying standing still, and then said, “Who is the assassin? How could he approach the Crown Prince so easily?”
Huo Yingying just scooped the soup into her bowl when she heard Wei Chongrong’s question and raised her head, “The assassin was an envoy from Nanyue, sent by Princess Yunmeng and her husband to present birthday gifts to His Majesty.”
Before she finished talking, Wei Chongrong hurriedly exclaimed: “This is impossible!” It could be anyone else, but Wei Kou and Wei Xuan were brother and sister, close since they were young. What was the need for her to do this to him?
What’s more, Wei Kou was a princess who was married to a foreign country. She was the wife of the Crown Prince of Nanyue and the future queen. Among the countries around the Great Yan, Nanyue was regarded as the most obedient, never causing any trouble to the Great Yan in the past three hundred years since its founding, paying tribute and having a good attitude.
If this were not the case, when Ruan Shao, the Crown Prince of Nanyue, proposed to Princess Yunmeng, how could Wei Ming, who had always loved his daughter, agree? The marriage was for the sake of good relations between the two countries, but he also needed to be sure that Wei Kou would not suffer if she married to Nanyue.
Wei Kou was Wei Ming’s only daughter and was loved dearly since she was a child. As long as Wei Ming was in power, no one in Nanyue would dare to neglect her. If Wei Ming was no longer there, Wei Xuan would be Wei Kou’s biggest backer and her position would remain supreme.
Princess Yunmeng had absolutely no reason to harm the Crown Prince. She was a daughter and had nothing to do with the throne. All three princes were her full-blooded brothers and whoever was on the throne didn’t have a great influence on her.
If you wanted to compare their closeness, Wei Xuan and Wei Kou were the closest. They were similar in age, and the Crown Prince had been a good elder brother who loved his sister since he was a child. His wife Xie Xiang was also Wei Kou’s cousin. The two played together since they were young and they were much more familiar with each other than the two younger siblings.
Huo Yingying hurriedly took a few mouthfuls of food and said: “At the beginning of the year, the empress sent a letter to Princess Yunmeng, hoping that she would come to Yujing to visit her family. The princess replied and agreed, and said that she would come back with the children to congratulate His Majesty on his birthday. Both His Majesty and the empress were very happy.” In the 3rd year of Tai’an, Wei Kou married to Nanyue. After that, she had not returned to Yujing for five years. Now she was coming back with her children; Wei Ming and Jun Feili’s joy was completely understandable.
“Unexpectedly, in the fifth month, Princess Yunmeng found out that she was pregnant and couldn’t come to visit. She wrote to the empress to explain the situation. His Majesty and the empress both love their daughter, so naturally they didn’t blame her. They wrote to her to nurture the baby with peace of mind, and later they would talk about visiting relatives again. The princess was so apologetic that she deliberately made the gifts for His Majesty’s birthday richer than in previous years, and had her two accompanying ladies come as envoys to the capital, so that His Majesty and the empress would have a better idea of her recent situation. Who would have thought…”
Wei Chongrong was dumbfounded: “You, you mean, the assassin who attacked Crown Prince Brother is, is the dowry lady of his sister?”
“Yes.” Huo Yingying nodded solemnly, with a very serious expression, “The empress is a man. After His Majesty ascended to the throne, His Majesty’s birthday banquet and the New Year’s Eve banquet are no longer divided between men and women but are located in one place. At that time, the empress called Princess Yunmeng’s two dowry ladies to ask some questions. The Crown Prince cared about his sister and nephew and went over to ask them something too. Just as he was about to turn around and leave, one of the ladies suddenly pulled off the hairpin on her head. Her movements were so fast that no one reacted, so she took the hairpin and stabbed the Crown Prince.”
There were eight ladies in Wei Kou’s dowry, all of whom were carefully selected by the empress. How could one of them harm the Crown Prince?
Wei Chongrong paced back and forth, thinking for a while before asking, “How is this matter handled? Who is in charge?”
Huo Yingying replied: “The dowry lady who tried to assassinate the prince took poison and killed herself. The poison was hidden in her teeth in advance. Seeing her choke on blood, the guards reacted too late and failed to stop her. All the envoys from Nanyue were detained, and the families of the two dowry ladies were also imprisoned. His Majesty handed the matter over to Wang Qin and asked him to be solely responsible for the matter, making sure the truth was uncovered. It is about the diplomatic relations between the two countries, and it also involves Princess Yunmeng, so it’s a difficult task for Wang Qin. It will be hard to satisfy His Majesty unless he can find out the real culprit.”
“What?!” Wei Chongrong never expected that Wei Ming would trust Wei Zhao to such an extent that he would be given the task of investigating the assassination attempt on the Crown Prince’s life.