After leaving the palace, Wei Zhao and Jiang Che didn’t return to their respective imperial residences, but went to one of Wei Zhao’s houses located outside the city.
The house was quiet and not many people were there, with only a few old servants guarding it. Wei Zhao usually wouldn’t come here even once a year.
Wei Zhao took Jiang Che to the pavilion in the backyard to sit down. The old servant, who was a bit surprised by the sudden arrival of his master, brought tea and was then sent away with the orders that no one should disturb them.
The backyard was open, with some common flowers and plants in the flowerbeds under the courtyard wall. The pavilion was built on top of the steps, and sitting inside it was a good place to talk, with a clear view of the movements around.
Jiang Che had been here before, but it was many years ago, and his relationship with Wei Zhao wasn’t like today’s. Looking at the déjà vu scene, he coughed lightly, as if he wanted to say something.
Wei Zhao glanced at him silently and said in a low voice, “Wang Yong’an has been waiting for this wang for a long time, so he must have something to say to this wang.”
Jiang Che withdrew his gaze from the vines on the wall and looked a little hesitant, then slowly said, “Wang Qin was ordered to investigate the assassination of the Eastern Palace, I wonder…”
“You wonder if anything has been found? Is that what you want to ask?” Wangfei Yong’an Xie Xiu was the sister of the Crown Prince’s wife Xie Xiang, so Jiang Che’s concern with the progress of his investigation wasn’t surprising for Wei Zhao.
Unexpectedly, Jiang Che shook his head, and when he saw Wei Zhao’s puzzled look, he completed what he hadn’t said before, “I was going to ask if Wang Qin had found something wrong.”
Wei Zhao was startled when he heard his words and said vigilantly, “What do you know, and how do you know it?” He would have been very reluctant to believe the facts that he had already found out, had the evidence not been conclusive.
Jiang Che looked a little melancholic and sighed lightly, “The Crown Prince passed away suddenly, his wife is grief stricken, and she is pregnant. His Majesty and the empress were both worried, so they ordered Wangfei Yong’an to come to the palace to look after her, hence…”
Xie Xiu was in and out of the palace all the time and she must have been well informed. What she knew, Jiang Che would definitely know as well. Wei Zhao thought of this and his expression eased slightly, “May I ask Wang Yong’an, what do you feel is wrong?”
Jiang Che’s eyes became even deeper, seeming almost bottomless. Wei Zhao looked straight at him for a moment, completely unable to see what was in his mind, and couldn’t help but feel a little lost.
After a moment of silence, Jiang Che said in a very certain tone, “Wang Qin doesn’t believe that Wang Xiang could be the mastermind behind the murder of the Crown Prince, does he?”
Wei Zhao nodded in silence. He indeed didn’t believe it. Wei Mao plotted to kill Wei Xuan, how could this be possible? Not considering whether he had the motive to do so in the first place, the most crucial thing was that with Wei Mao’s performance since he was a child, it was impossible to see that he was capable of devising such an elaborate scheme.
Jiang Che smiled slightly bitterly, “I don’t believe it either. But it’s useless for us to believe in Wang Xiang. His Majesty believes in evidence, and so does the Crown Prince’s wife.”
Wei Zhao sighed softly, his eyes showing even more worry, and he didn’t speak for a long time. Jiang Che was right, they needed evidence to speak, but all the evidence known so far was against Wei Mao.
During the period of national mourning, there wasn’t much Wei Chongrong and Jun Hua could do on a daily basis. Apart from being vigilant and strengthening their guard, they were waiting for a letter from Wei Zhao. They shared a common feeling that time was passing very slowly, and that days felt like years.
There were times when Wei Chongrong couldn’t help but wonder if these things that he had not thought might have happened before were caused by his rebirth. But if he had not been reborn, Wei Zhao would have died in Fuyu, and if Wei Zhao had not been able to return to Yujing, Wei Ming’s whole family would have died from the scourge of witchcraft, just as they did in his previous life. He himself, too, would die a tragic death ten years later, with no happiness in his short life.
In his previous life, the Wei siblings had died at a young age, the eldest being Wei Xuan, who was only eighteen years old, and there were very few records about them. The impression Wei Chongrong had was that they all loved each other deeply.
But he never thought that from the moment Wei Ming ascended the throne as the emperor, all his precognitive advantages had disappeared.
There were few people whose mindset wouldn’t change when they were upgraded from the emperor’s grandson to the emperor’s son. The temptation was simply too great.
After all, all they had to compete for before was the attention of their parents; a little more or a little less was not a big deal. But now, it was the unique supreme throne that was at stake, and the difference between winning and losing was huge.
Usually, in families with three sons and more, the eldest son is the most valued, the youngest is the most favoured, and the sons in between, the more there are, the more they are like adopted.
Wei Ming and Jun Feili had three sons and one daughter, which just about fitted this pattern. Of course, they could only be said to have treated Wei Lan with neglect when compared to his brothers and sister, rather than really treating him like adopted.
Wei Xuan was the eldest son, the rightful heir, Wei Kou was the only daughter, the jewel in the palm of her parents’ hand, and Wei Mao was the youngest son, born frail and sickly, naturally taking up most of Jun Feili’s attention.
With such objective conditions, even if Wei Ming and Jun Feili didn’t have any subjective bias, Wei Lan could easily become the most neglected person in their family. There was no other reason for this: people’s energy was limited, and he happened to be a triple miss.
After being pitted by Wei Lan last time, Wei Chongrong racked his brains to think about why Wei Lan looked at him so unfavourably, and finally came up with a not very reliable answer, namely that Wei Lan was probably jealous of him.
Before Wei Chongrong returned to the capital, although Wei Lan wasn’t as highly valued by his parents as his elder and younger brothers, the situation in their family had always been like this and everyone was used to it, and a corresponding balance had been formed.
Wei Chongrong had appeared out of nowhere, and if he had been incapable, Wei Lan probably wouldn’t have thought anything more than laughing at him. However, Wei Chongrong was good at both civil and martial arts, and had crushed countless people in the palace school. Even Wei Mao was defeated by him.
Wei Lan was four years older than Wei Chongrong, so the two should not have had the chance to compete directly, but Wei Ming loved his younger brother and loved his nephew, and often praised Wei Chongrong in the Eastern Palace, saying that he was good in every way.
Then there were the spring hunts over the years. Wei Chongrong’s performance was so outstanding that even Wei Su who didn’t like him also reluctantly had to say that the little wolf cub didn’t look much like Wei Zhao but was similar to him in his momentum.
Accumulated feathers sink ships, an iron bar can be grinded into a needle. No matter how small the dissatisfactions were, together they grew quite impressive, especially since Wei Lan was not an open-minded person to begin with. Wei Chongrong couldn’t think of any other reason, so he decided to treat his brainchild as a fact.
As soon as the news of Wei Xuan’s assassination reached Qingjia, Wei Chongrong decided that it was Wei Lan’s doing.
He was worried, however, whether Wei Zhao would be able to get evidence against Wei Lan. The charge of murdering the Crown Prince was too big, and once it was proved, even the status of the emperor’s son wouldn’t be able to protect Wei Lan’s life; at most, Wei Ming would be merciful and spare the life of his wife and son.
If he were Wei Lan, he would only take action if he was sure that he could lay the blame on someone else’s head, otherwise he would never act rashly.
Wei Lan was already a county wang. In the future, when Wei Xuan ascended to the throne, he would certainly be a qinwang. With Wei Xuan’s degree of care for his younger siblings, even if Wei Lan did not have Wei Zhao’s abilities, he would have the power and status not different from the ones Wei Zhao had currently.
And all this was based on him doing nothing. On the contrary, if Wei Lan laid his hands on Wei Xuan, if he wasn’t discovered, it would be a step to heaven. But if he was discovered, he would have nothing.
With Wei Lan’s current situation, he was far from the point of the last stand, so Wei Chongrong judged that he must have made perfect preparations, if not a hundred percent sure, then at least seventy or eighty percent, otherwise he wouldn’t have taken such a big risk.
Seeing Wei Chongrong’s worried look, Jun Hua comforted him, “Brother Rong, don’t look so sad all the time, have some faith in His Highness Wang Qin, okay? Maybe he will find out the real culprit in a couple of days.”
Wei Chongrong sighed and waved his hand, “It’s not a matter of having faith, but everyone is good at doing different things. If Uncle Emperor sent my father to lead the war, I definitely wouldn’t be worried at all, but this…”
He didn’t know if the previous emperor and the Empress Dowager were too successful or too unsuccessful in educating their sons. Wei Ming and Wei Zhao had different temperaments and looks, but their style of doing things was extremely similar, that is, they were dignified and upright and would never bend and stretch. This was not only true of the two brothers, but also of Wei Xuan, Wei Mao and Wei Chongrong; except for Wei Lan, who was unique and a bit of an anomaly.
Wei Zhao and Wei Chongrong had always been a little wary of Wei Lan, but Wei Ming and Wei Xuan had never had such thoughts, obviously very comfortable with their son and brother. Wei Zhao, even though he and Wei Ming were brothers, couldn’t say anything bad about Wei Lan without evidence, as that would be suspiciously like provoking the emperor’s father-son relationship. Wei Lan had the emperor and the Crown Prince as his backers, so if he wanted to do something, it would be impossible to prevent him from doing so.
Jun Hua didn’t know what to say, so he could only sit beside Wei Chongrong in silence, accompanying him in his fretfulness and worry.
Looking at Jun Hua’s innocent and pure profile, Wei Chongrong suddenly had a strange thought. It would be nice if the Jun Hua of his previous life was here, he could probably help him analyse what Wei Lan was actually planning to do. Wei Chongrong remembered that Jun Hua was good at such things.
This showed that the environment had a great influence on one’s character, and a child who grew up in the palm of his parents’ hand couldn’t and didn’t need to be as cautious and vigilant as a child whose parents had both died and who lived alone in a weird and unpredictable imperial palace.
Wei Chongrong had thought that Wei Lan wouldn’t leave any leverage to be caught, but when the results of the investigation of the Crown Prince’s assassination reached Qingjia, he was still completely dumbfounded, feeling that the world was filled with an intense sense of unreality.
It turned out that Wei Mao planned the assassination of the Eastern Palace. The elder brother of Wangfei Xiang, the father of the dowry lady who killed herself and the Crown Prince Ruan Shao, who hurriedly came from Nanyue to plead guilty, all united in their testimony, pointing at Wei Mao as the real culprit behind the scenes.