Stunned for a moment, Wei Chongrong asked, “Yingying, did Father find out anything before you left the capital?”
Huo Yingying shook her head and replied, “Wang Qin sent us off overnight, saying that there should be no delays on the road and that we must get to Qingjia as quickly as possible. He asked me to tell you that no matter what happened next, you must not leave Qingjia without receiving his personal letter.”
“What?!” Wei Chongrong was stunned again. Wei Zhao actually wouldn’t let him return to the capital; had the situation in Yujing reached such a serious level?
Seeing that Wei Chongrong was somewhat unconvinced, Huo Yingying said emphatically in a very meticulous tone, “Wang Qin did indeed order this, and repeated it more than once. He also told me not to go back for the time being and to stay in Qingjia to follow your instructions.”
Jun Hua had previously been quietly listening to Wei Chongrong and Huo Yingying’s conversation, and at that moment he asked, “Brother Rong, do you think that the dowry lady’s condition could be the same as that of the Third Prince back then, and both were being controlled by someone?”
Wei Chongrong didn’t say anything and pondered seriously. Huo Yingying frowned and said, “Young Shizi, are you talking about gu?”
Jun Hua nodded. That was what he meant. Wei Chongrong couldn’t even defend himself against Wei Mao who was being controlled; if Wei Kou’s dowry lady was also like that, Wei Xuan would certainly find it hard to defend himself against her, he wouldn’t be on guard against her at all.
Huo Yingying thought for a moment and gently shook her head: “Wang Lu’s Lord Consort examined the corpse of the dowry lady who killed herself and said that there was no sign of any gu. The empress also said that the dowry lady was thinking clearly and speaking in an orderly manner, not like she was being controlled.”
Jun Hua was a little disappointed when he heard this, but Wei Chongrong instead let out a long sigh. Gu compulsion wasn’t omnipotent, and the kind that Tuya used to manipulate Wei Mao last time was, according to Baili Pei, very advanced, by no means possible of being done by an ordinary gu master. Even so, the time that Tuya was able to control Wei Mao’s mind was limited. She must have cast the spell on Wei Mao shortly before Wei Chongrong arrived at the Valley of Ecstasy, and when Wei Chongrong saw Wei Mao, Wei Mao wasn’t very clear-headed and talked nonsense, but Wei Chongrong was distracted and didn’t pay enough attention at the time.
The same couldn’t be said of Wei Kou’s dowry lady. She had come all the way from Nanyue, and if she had been infected in advance, the people accompanying her would certainly have seen the signs. And if the mission of the entire Nanyue envoy was to assassinate the Crown Prince, there would have been no need to infect her alone.
Only, from the standpoint of Nanyue, there was absolutely no need for them to harm the Great Yan in such a way, that would be simply asking for death. From Wei Kou’s standpoint, there was even less reason to harm Wei Xuan; there was no logic to that.
All the questions that should be asked had already been asked, and when Wei Chongrong saw Huo Yingying’s tired face, he recalled that she had had a hard time over the past four days, so he said, “Yingying, you should eat and rest early, we won’t bother you.” After saying that, he led Jun Hua out of Huo Yingying’s room.
When the two arrived at the study, Jun Hua saw that there was no one around and asked in a low voice, “Brother Rong, do you think it could be Wang Zhao?”
Wei Chongrong snorted lightly and sneered, “You mean Wei Lan, ah, of course he’s the most suspicious, but I’m worried that he wouldn’t leave any evidence behind, otherwise he wouldn’t dare to do it.”
“How is that possible?” Jun Hua’s eyes widened, a question gleaming in them, “If you want people not to know, you have to do it yourself.”
“Huaixi, don’t forget Wei Lan’s identity. He is the second son of Uncle Emperor. As long as something happens to Crown Prince Brother, he is the biggest beneficiary and at the same time the biggest suspect. If he didn’t have a sureproof arrangement, how would he do it so easily? It would be just making the wedding dress for the Third Brother(1). Think about Qingcheng, we just suspected him of being Li Jing, and before we could confirm it, he was played to death by Tuduo, just at the right time. I’ve always suspected that Wei Lan holds some power in his hands that you and I don’t know about, but I can’t figure out how he got it.”
At the mention of Qingcheng, Jun Hua fell silent; the news of his death came so suddenly, and without a corpse, that it was hard to believe that it wasn’t a cicada shedding its carapace(2). Due to Wei Chongrong’s suspicion of Qingcheng’s identity and his sudden death, Jun Hua feared that Ji Xin’s intelligence network in Zhuxia would be faulty, so he told his father the whole story. Not daring to take the matter lightly, Ji Xin conducted a thorough overhaul from top to bottom, and the results were shocking.
Judging from the early information, there was no problem with Qingcheng’s origin; he was an orphan and had been trained from the age of six, while Li Jing was still in the capital at that time, so the two could never be the same person. The problem was that after the 3rd year of Tai’an, the information that Qingcheng passed on began to have omissions, a mistake anyone could have made. After all, he didn’t lie about the military affairs, he was just not comprehensive enough in his intelligence gathering. Looking back, it was clear that Qingcheng’s performance before and after the 3rd year of Tai’an was too different.
When you think about the fact that Qingcheng had been seriously injured for half a year during the 3rd year of Tai’an, Ji Xin and Jun Hua had every reason to believe that it was that year that Li Jing replaced the original Qingcheng. The undercover agents who infiltrated Zhuxia were all single-line contacts, and Li Jing was able to replace Qingcheng unnoticed, and he had more than one person around to cover for him. It was only then that Ji Xin realised how deep Shangguan Yi’s roots were in Yizhou. He had been dead for so many years and Li Jing was still able to come and go under his flag, followed by a thorough cleanup.
After a long silence, Wei Chongrong slowly said, “Huaixi, let’s stop guessing and wait for the news from my father.”
Jun Hua let out a soft “en”. Just a few days ago, he was happily thinking about the places he would go to with Wei Chongrong and how to get his daddy and his father’s approval for their marriage. Now he didn’t have those thoughts at all. It would be good as long as everyone was safe.
Compared to Jun Hua, Huo Yingying was even more pitiful. Her marriage to Tuoba Xianhan was scheduled for the end of this month, and everything was ready. Who would have thought that such a thing would happen during His Majesty’s birthday, causing them to be separated from each other, with no date for their marriage in sight.
It was nothing to be separated. Huo Yingying was not an ignorant little girl, but Xianhan was left in Yujing by Wei Zhao. The task he had to perform might be very dangerous, but she couldn’t be by his side and help him. She really regretted it.
The time passed slowly in anxious waiting and reverent expectation. Wei Chongrong didn’t get Wei Zhao’s letter, but got the bad news of the Crown Prince’s death. It was as if his mind exploded and instantly went blank, as if he was struck by lightning.
Crown Prince Brother…
Was he gone just like that?…
Seeing Wei Chongrong standing in a daze, with no expression on his face, Jun Hua couldn’t help but rush over and hug him tightly from behind.
Jun Hua had just turned seven years old the year he left Yujing and had not had many opportunities to meet Wei Xuan, but he had the impression that the Crown Prince had always been a good and gentle man, and whenever Jun Hua went to the palace to play with Wei Hao, Wei Xuan would smile, kiss and hug him.
Hearing the news of Wei Xuan’s death, Jun Hua felt that his heart was stifled, as if he couldn’t breathe.
If he felt like this, and Wei Chongrong and Wei Xuan were far closer, Wei Chongrong’s sadness must have been unspeakable.
“As long as I find a shred of evidence, I will definitely not let him go!” Wei Chongrong clenched his fists, his fingernails sinking deep into his palms, the veins on the backs of his hands visibly swelling, and a deep chill that couldn’t be dispelled filled his eyes.
The Crown Prince’s death was a national mourning, but the emperor, the Empress Dowager and the empress were all alive, and the Crown Prince had left ahead of them, so naturally the mourning rites had to be simpler. The people were required to wear plain clothes and weren’t allowed to marry for one month, unlike during the mourning rites of the emperor and empress, when the term for wearing plain clothes and not marrying was a hundred days.
Before the first seven days after the Crown Prince’s death were over, the news came from the palace that the Crown Prince’s wife was pregnant. Xie Xiang’s pregnancy was diagnosed by the imperial doctor after she fainted from crying.
Wei Ming was silent for a long time upon hearing the news, and said to Wei Zhao, “Ah Zhao, if Ah Xiang gives birth to a boy, I want to make him Taisun(3).”
When Wei Zhao heard this, his expression was slightly stunned, and he said after a long time, “Brother Emperor, this matter must not be rushed.”
In Wei Zhao’s opinion, Wei Ming’s decision was very unwise. How could a newborn baby, without a father, be able to hold the position of Taisun? His uncles would try to pull him down.
Even if Wei Ming really had this in mind, he should still be patient and raise his grandson until he was old enough to take on the responsibility and then talk about making him Taisun. Otherwise he would be putting both Xie Xiang and her son into danger.
However, the child had not yet been born and its gender wasn’t yet known, so Wei Zhao didn’t say too much. So soon after Wei Xuan’s death, Wei Ming’s grief was unbearable and he wasn’t in a particularly good state of mind. When the child was born, he might not think the way he did today.
If Xie Xiang really did give birth to a son and Wei Ming was really anxious to make him Taisun, it wouldn’t be too late for Wei Zhao to try to dissuade him.
Wei Ming waved his hand, indicating that Wei Zhao didn’t need to say anything: “Ah Zhao, how is the investigation of the matter I entrusted you with?”
Wei Zhao looked embarrassed, and said solemnly: “All the people in the Nanyue mission have been interrogated separately, and they all say that they don’t know anything about this matter. I have read all their testimonies and found nothing wrong with them. Unless it was all conspired in advance, there should be no problem.”
Wei Ming was silent for a long time before he said, “What about Kou’er’s dowry ladies and their families…”
Wei Zhao’s expression became more hesitant as he said, “The dowry lady who killed herself, there is indeed something wrong with her family, but the identity of the person behind the scenes has yet to be further confirmed. I don’t want to let the real culprit go, nor do I want to wrongly accuse the good people.”
Wei Ming let out a long sigh and waved his hand, “Ah Zhao, you can go. Report whenever there is something.”
Wei Zhao saluted and said, “I will retire. I ask Brother Emperor to take care of his health even in his sorrow.”
When he came out of the Xuanshi Hall, Wei Zhao unexpectedly saw Jiang Che, who waved to him, as if he was deliberately waiting for him. Without hesitation, Wei Zhao walked over. If Jiang Che was waiting for him, he must have had something to say to him.
“Your Highness Wang Yong’an.” Wei Zhao greeted Jiang Che in a soft voice.
“Your Highness Wang Qin, let’s talk when we leave the palace.” Jiang Che’s voice was lowered, as if he was afraid of being overheard.
Wei Zhao understood and without another word, quietly left the palace with Jiang Che.
- To benefit someone else instead of yourself
- An idiom meaning a crafty escape plan
- “Emperor’s Grandson”, the title of the heir to the throne, similar to the Crown Prince, but given to the emperor’s grandson; most often given to the Crown Prince’s son if the Crown Prince is dead – but there are also cases when the title is given to the grandson even when the Crown Prince is not dead or deposed (and you will see an example in the next chapter :))